castles

It’s weird to see my castles out in public:

They’ve been my personal property for months, and now they are hanging out at the Bryant Library on the north shore of Long Island for all the world (or the tens of library patrons) to see:

People who know where to find me (hint: in the used book store on Fridays from noon – 3pm, and on Saturdays from 1 – 4pm) have asked me about certain aspects of their construction and I honestly can’t remember a lot of the details of making these things.

I also have to think hard to remember the order in which I made them. That’s my first castle on the left, and my second castle on the right:

There was a time when I wanted to give each castle a name and a back-story, but I like this austere display better. This floor-to-ceiling case is very modern and uncluttered, and it leaves each viewer free to make their own interpretations.

Speaking of interpretations, when I was in Las Vegas in October, I crossed paths with an interesting cake display in the pastry shop at the Aria casino:

Now I know the size and shape of my next castles.

Five feet tall, with tiers.

And I have to make two, of course. One with colors, and one in monochrome (because I can’t decide which I like better).

What is up with all the hoopla about Bush 41? I do not remember him being such a beloved figure during his presidency, which gave us the first bullshit Gulf War and then he left Saddam Hussein in power so he could kill a million Iraqi and Kurdish civilians, and he continued Ronnie Reagan’s apathy towards the AIDS epidemic, and then he gave us Bush 43 and don’t get me started on that.

Let’s remember that Bush 41 was a mean, lying, race-baiting (Willie Horton) Republican who puked into the lap of the Japanese Prime minister at a state dinner (January 8, 1992).  I don’t care that when he became decrepit he was a nice old fart who wore zippy socks. He’s still a creep in my book.

This just in: LinkedIn, the website where everybody is a CEO of something, and they brag their “dynamic” leadership and how they went to Harvard because they took a three-hour seminar at the Kennedy School; yeah, that LinkedIn…anyway, I got an email from LikedIn this morning telling me that my resume/profile was searched three times yesterday.

Naturally, I had to click. Were the people at the MacArthur Fellowship looking for me so they could finally give me my big fat Genius Award?? I mean, have you SEEN my castles???

Well, no, it wasn’t a $625,000 payday for me.

It was the Leicestershire (England) Police. They searched my LinkedIn profile three times yesterday.

So I googled Leicestershire News and did not find out that there has been a multitude of unsolved outbreaks of genius in the East Midlands and the authorities are looking for a really hot 62-year-old American with a knack for making paper castles.

I found this.

If this isn’t proof that mirrors don’t work in the UK or else that lady would never go out in public with hair like that, then, maybe she’s a vampire.

I’m sorry that today’s post lacks the usual amount of cute kitty porn  photos of my cats  being hilarious  napping. It’s a good thing that I had pre-loaded photos of my castles a few days ago because Lo, when I sat down to type today I discovered that the WordPress elves have fucked with the editing interface and all the pedals and levers and cog wheels that I use behind the scenes to bring you this MacArthur Genius-quality  blog have disappeared, and in their place there is a baffling new array of counter-intuitive buttons that I have no idea how to work.

You know how our favorite thing in the world is to learn new technology, especially when it means that we have to first un-learn the old new technology that we learned, like, last week?

Yeah. That’s where I am today. I’m so fed up with this pace of learning and un-learning that I could puke in a Japanese Prime Minister’s lap.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I will figure this shit out and see you back here next Friday with  cute kitty porn  cat pix and uplifting tales from my molehill life.

XXOO

Read more

 

“When we think back to two years ago, and we saw that puny inauguration, and it was followed by that massive women’s march, we wondered could that passion, that commitment, that energy be sustained for the marathon ahead of us? For two years? Well, now that two years has passed and that question has been answered with a resounding yes!”

Those are the Election Night words of  Adam Schiff, the man who was vowed to make life hell for Trump, newly re-elcted to Congress from California’s 28th congressional district . .

. . . the man who, riding the fabulous Blue Wave into the majority party in the US House of Representatives, will become the next Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. This, to me, is the best part of Tuesday’s victory, because Adam Schiff now has the power to protect Robert Mueller‘ and his FBI nvestigation into Trump’s collusion with the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign AND he has the power to subpoena the tax returns that Trump has been hiding for two years.

Even sweeter is the fact that Schiff takes over from that pustule, Devin Nunez, Trump’s most slobbering boot-licker in the House. Even more glorious is that Schiff has that killer instinct that most Democrats lack, and he will go after Trump, Trump spawn, and Trump enablers.

I love Adam Schiff.

As Dear Reader Margot Commented last week: We got a Deep House Cleaning and how.  I love all you Democrats who turned out to vote and dumped 26 Republicans from their House seats and gave America a fighting chance to not become a shit hole country. From the depths of my heart and soul, Thank You, my beloved fellow patriots.

And now, because I know you mostly come here for the kitty porn, here’s what the elation on Election Day liked like at my house:

That’s Taffy and Bibs, napping head-to-head, and that’s the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, whooping it up like the crazy Democratic cats they are. Dennis’s people work long hours so, as I am a work-from-home kind of girl, Dennis thinks I’m his day care provider. But look at those toes! How can you not want him to hang around?

The only reason I leave the house is to go to work at the used book store at our local library and for some unforeseen reason, business has been very slow this month. I worked six hours on Saturday and only made $15.00. I was SO BORED. So, what would you do if you were bored out of your mind and were  surrounded by books?

This is what I did:

I didn’t count the number of books I used so I can’t quantify this Book Tree other than to tell you that it is over 5 feet tall and it took me three hours to build. Thankfully, someone had, the day before, given us a huge donation of utter garbage, so I saved a lot of books from going into the landfill by putting them into this tree. Even the crappiest book looks OK if you take off its dust jacket. And when you get to the tippy top of your Book Tree, you have to use paperbacks and luckily, this garbage donation contained a lot of Danielle Steele mass market paperbacks — the ones with gold foil on the covers. Festive!

Dear Reader Alex (who is a comrade in the trenches of Library Used Book Store-dom): Wait until you see what this baby looks like when I put on the twinkle lights!

We got another strange donation of rather nice books this week. I say “strange” because the donor had an unusual habit of ripping out little book marks from the end papers of almost every book he read, like this:

This is an autographed copy of Ball Four by Jim Bouton. I showed this to one of our customers, who collects autographed copies of books, but he rejected it on the grounds that the condition was creepy and he wasn’t interested in baseball. I think that was a nice way of saying that he was too young to remember all the hullabaloo around Ball Four, or the career of Jim Bouton. Well, I remember…and I left the autograph in, and the book is for sale for $1.00.

Last week, Dear Reader Jeanie was concerned that our feral front stoop cat, Steve, would be provided for this Winter, so I want to show her, and all you D.R.’s, the latest upgrade to Steve’s quality of life:

His ultra-snuggy, heating-padded straw cubby under the eaves of our front stoop has a new overhang that will give him cover from blowing snow and blizzard conditions, and I couldn’t be happier. This overhang structure will save Steve from this:

Improper A-framage from 2017. Never Again.

(On a side note, to both Dear Readers Jeanie and Marilyn: I, too, never wanted to go to Death Valley. But Top Cat let me drag him to London two years ago, so to be fair I had to let him haul me out to the desert and let me tell you: it was wonderful.

The scenery is breath-taking, and a lot of it is easy to visit by car on a very nice paved road. People take their big-ass, monster 20-foot-long RVs all through and around Death Valley — and by “people”, I mean a German soccer team that unloaded an entire veranda and awning onto the rest area at Dante’s View and had themselves a fine old luncheon complete with a worrying amount of beer.)

As for me and the coming snow, I might take Dear Reader Rachel’s suggestion and investigate those Heat Holder socks she mentioned last week in her Comment. Keeping one’s ankles warm in a stylish way (no sweat pants!) is a real challenge here in the Northeast of America. . . or in Austria, for that matter. Dear Reader from Australia Kirra is prepping for her first WINTER in the northern hemisphere, in Salzburg, which for the record is further north than  Montreal, Canada. Brrrrrrrrrrr. Can any Australian actually fathom a real Winter?

Kirra, honey, I fear that you do’t know what you are in for. It’s the darkness, and the cold, and the lifelessness that gets to you in ways that are insidious, devious, and pernicious.

To combat the Seasonal Affective Disorder that is a way of life for all of us north of the 40th latitude in the New World, I recommend getting a SAD Therapy Light. Mine is very portable:

It emits a light that contains the complete spectrum of color that Winter sunlight lacks, and it makes the lizard part of your brain happy. I put mine on the side of my desk so that the light comes at me at an angle, in my peripheral vision.

If that doesn’t work, you can always fall back on the folk remedy of copious amounts of booze to lift the spirits.

Or you can take up watercolor and paint Summer flowers to escape reality! this is my segue to answering Dear Reader Leslie’s question about my Giverny book:

It is still in manuscript phase because I am still tinkering with it. the centenary of Claude Monet’s death will happen in 2026 and I’m thinking that that would be a dandy time to come out with an odd little illustrated book about his garden. I will have more time to do that now that I have completed my 10th and final castle for the Book Art exhibit next month.

Would you like to see the 10th and final castle for my Book Art exhibit?

This is it:

It’s my Kate Spade Blank Book Castle (I really must concentrate on getting better names for these things):

I know what you’re thinking. It needs more snowy stuff. I’m on it.

Steve: Thanks for the laugh last week. Top Cat loves your rationale for getting rid of the reference desk in our library, in this age of the all-powerful Google. A cash bar could be an outstanding revenue stream!

I’m a little wrung out today, my Dear Ones, having been on pins and needles and nervous energy these past two years. We did good this election Day, and now I think I will go take me a long, long nap and dream of a President bro O’Rourke.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

XXOO

 

 

Read more

Last week I was too lazy to finish the Candy Nap story, so let me make amends this week. If you remember, it started like this:

This was Candy on Monday:

This was Candy on Tuesday:

This was Candy on Wednesday:

And now you get to see how it all ends!

This was was Candy on Thursday:

And finally, we can finish this up with Candy, on Friday:

So now it’s a new week and Candy has not gone near her little nap patch. This week she has decided that there is a new perfect nap spot. It’s the coffee table in the living room, and she sleeps half underneath it and half (her butt half) sticking out from under it. So this between-the-flower-pots thing was a one-week wonder, and nothing more.

I used to have boyfriends like that.

This week, I wish I could join Candy under the coffee table. I’ve been trying to get my head into a Trump-free zone but lordy, it is not easy. There’s just so much to hate about him, his progeny, his enablers, and his wife, who we have now scovered is every bit as delusional as her husband and they both have the I.Q. of mold.

Being distracted by an ever-present sense of doom and despair is the only way I can explain how I managed to think, long and carefully, about the form for my Winter Scene Castle from the Kate Spade blank book that we got in at the used book store a few weeks ago:

Yep, you see it, what I should have seen long before I got to this stage. I forgot to draw the back wall of this form. I connected the floor to the gable, which is an impossibility:

So I just cut off the offending gable. . .

. . . and rescued the form by inserting a new wall, and then I added the roof:

If you remember, I had alreadymade a “sketch” of a castle that I thought I’d use for this blank book:

But I wasn’t excited about making this little homey castle, so I looked around the inter webs some more and I came up with the famous pink castle in Aberdeenshire, called Craigievar:

I love the height, and the proportions. I riffed on it and came up with this:

I’ve put three trees in the front bit, but they are really hard to see in photographs:

I have glued the verso pages in place so they make a hill, because i was dying to make a half-moon bridge for this castle. BTW,if you ever build a castle, don’t do this. It was murder to get the bridge to fit the angle of the “hill”, if you know what I mean. I had to make three bridges before I got it right:

The next time you see this scene, the whole thing will be covered in trees. I think. That’s the plan, for now.

My advise is, Never make an all-white castle. You have to constantly wash your hands to make sure the surface stays clean, and your hands will feel raw by the end of the day. Also, every tiny flaw seems to light up from within when there is no surface decoration (like, text, or color, or images) to distract the eye. In an all-white construction, there is no forgiveness.

When I’m finished, and this will be The End. Ten castles. DONE.

But you and me, Dear Readers, we’re not DONE yet! Because I’m sure you all want to hear about the latest news from the one-room used book store (the one that I co-manage to benefit the William Cullen Bryant Library of Roslyn, NY):

Two weeks ago, this odd little book came in as a donation:

You can tell by the typeface that this book was, in its day, very groovy. If you recognize the author Avery Corman, it’s because he got famous later in his career for writing two novels that were made into movies; Oh, God! and Kramer vs. Kramer.

See my thumb? See how small this book is? If you can’t read the type, the “joke” is: Raquel Welsh dressed is the same as Raquel Welch undressed. ha ha.

This book was published by Simon and Schuster in 1969, and some of the “jokes” are very much of their time.

Throughout the book, the type and the illustrations are the same color. Which is brown.

Note the “I Am Curious Yellow” reference.

Some of the “jokes” are more timeless.

I’m thinking, it must have been really easy to get a book published in 1969.

My co-manager priced this book at 50 cents, but I’m thinking that if we get the right customer, we could get a whole dollar for it. Opinions?

And for my personal collection of The Most Boring Books in the World, this, too, came in last week:

Harper & Row published this book in 1966. I’m thinking, it must have been insanely easy to get a book published in 1966.

And this book is priceless.

Business at the used book store was a little slow this week because of the weather. It rained and got cold.

That’s the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, inside the old rabbit hutch in my backyard, and that’s Taffy, underneath it, out of the rain because he’s not stupid. But Dennis is smarter.

But then it got sunnier, but not warmer, and yesterday was a good day to perch on a rock and think about things:

I hope that you all have a great weekend, and that you, too, get the chance to drink think about things, but not too hard. And not on a rock.

Taffy sends his XX OO.

 

Read more

How I survived the Kavanaugh shit storm was by drinking a lot — LOT — of vodka. So much vodka, in fact, that I am getting concerned that I will come out of the Drumpf reign of terror with a serious drinking problem if I don’t do something about it soon, or eventually.

Along with vodka, of course, come potato chips. I went through a LOT of potato chips these past few weeks.  So, along with a devastating decline in my mental health, my health-health took a hit as things went from disgusting to deplorable to disastrous to downright dangerous for democracy.

Meanwhile, back at the used book store at the local library, someone donated a Kate Spade blank book which will figure prominently in this week’s blog:

So, getting back to my misery, two days ago I thought, hey, why not make myself feel even worse?, so I got on the bathroom scale to see how much  fat I had added to my woes (there are 3,830 calories in a Vivian-sized bottle of voddy, and 2,400 calories in a “pity party” sized bag of Lay’s potato chips).

And lo, I have lost five pounds in the past two weeks.

Talk about being conflicted.

Fuck you, Mitch McConnell, for slaughtering every American ideal that made us a light unto nations, but thanks for making my butt smaller?

Meanwhile, back at the used book store that I co-manage to raise money for our local library, someone donated a Kate Spade blank book. I had been hoping for a blank book because I want to book-art a Winter scene  that will be all white, and I’d been keeping my eye out for a blank book.

This Kate Spade blank book came in with an inscription on the end flap:

To Ali,

For Mexico and Barcelona, pls. fill in

Dad

Every single page of this blank book was left blank.

Discuss.

I was so excited about my all-white scene that I did not start building the castle right away. I began by making my Winter forest:

That’s my “sketch” tree there, the crappy one I made to work out my idea for Winter trees, which I will now show you how to make:

What I’m doing is cutting out several different sizes of snowflake-thingies, and I’m varying the patterns of the cut-outs.

I am using a lollipop stick to use as my guide in rolling up small tubes to use as the tree trunks

This is a terrible photo of three different sizes of snowfall thingies, each one with a little tube glued into the center:

This is what it looks like when the trees are assembled:

I made another variety of tree by cutting out two large snowflake thingies:

I put glue onto the “spine” of the first snowflake thingie (the fold, that is):

I attach the second snowflake thingie onto the first to make a snowflake-ball thingie:

Then I attach a flat trunk onto the snowflake-ball thingie:

So here’s the “forest’ so far:

And that’s as far as I got.

The reason I could get back to creating book art is because I quelled some of my blinding rage against Susan Collins by donating $20.20 to her Democratic opponent when she runs for reelection in 2020. It made me feel a lot better (but not as good as a huge V&T, which is the problem).

I looked out my upstairs bathroom window and saw this, on the garage roof, and it was a huge V&T for the eyes:

Yes, that is Taffy above. And this is Taffy (below) under the Adirondack chair during a light rain on Monday and yes, that small gray pile in the grass is Bibs during a light rain and yes, that’s Lickety, on the den patio table wondering, “Is it raining?”:

Dennis from next door had to get in on the nap party in the rain:

The next day, it wasn’t raining so Bibs and Taffy, who are mortal enemies, did this:

While Cindy and Candy did this on the living room couch:

And then Candy found a spot on the foyer floor that she preferred. This is Candy on Monday:

This is Candy on Tuesday:

This is Candy on Wednesday:

I took a photos on Thursday and Friday but I can’t find my camera and I really have to get this out to you but trust me, Candy on Thursday and Friday looked a LOT like Candy on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cats. They are a mystery.

Thank you all, Dear Readers Marcella, Alex, Megan, angry cat, Casey, Barbara Marie, Kirra, Mary, John, Leslie, Patricia, Elizabeth, Marg-o, Becky,and Margot, for your Comments last week. You all make my despair tolerable.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. We need each other now, more than ever.

XXOO

 

Read more

It was so very hot here on the north shore of Long Island last week that we all, humans and super-cats alike, had to conserve our energy lest we budge an inch and over-heat ourselves:

So, looking to keep myself as cat-like and cool as possible, whenI saw these itty bitty books for sale at the Friends of the Bryant Library used book store I knew that I had found the perfect hot weather challenge (just the right size for minimal exertion):

The books are all titled Flower Fairies, in yellow, lilac, green, and pink.

Miniature books are irresistible, don’t you think? I’ve never done this before, but I found a figure that I wanted to keep intact so I used my scalpel to extract the Lesser Celandine fairy:

And then I set to making some plant-like objects by cutting shapes out of cardboard and wrapping them in strips of text:

For the record, the Lesser Celandine is a real flower. It is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa and it abounds in the US as a wildflower, probably escaped from someone’s exotic garden. It is considered an invasive in New York State! To me, it is a very ordinary flower, nothing to get excited about, and it looks like this:

Illustration: Duna-Ipoly Nemzeti Park Igazgatosag, Hungary, at Dinpi.hu

 

OK, I cheated. I printed out this botanical illustration in black and white so I could use the leaves.

I discovered that it’s tricky to glue a leaf onto a stem (because, gravity) so I had to make this little booster to hold the leaf in place while the glue dried:

I got two more leaves in place so I could settle the fairy’s castle into place:

As you can see (above), the fairy’s castle is round. To make this castle I’m cutting up an old Horizon magazine from 1959, specifically a harmless article about the city of Vienna… or so I thought until I was making one of the elements that goes atop that crenellated roof:

Danger lurks in every word… you can’t have Hitler appearing on a fairy castle! So I had to cover up this obscenity:

And then it was hot and I was too fiddly to take more photos so let’s skip ahead a few steps and without further ado, here is the Castle of the Lesser Celandine Fairy:

Click onto photo to enlarge.

It’s very cloudy and misty here today on the north shore of Long Island as we are currently soaking up the remnants of Tropical storm Gordon that hit the Gulf of Mexico a week ago, and it’s so dark in the house that I can’t get a good photo so I had to take the castle outside to the den patio (on a dinner plate).

Yeah, I cheated and printed out some butterflies for extraneous embellishment.

Now, fairy castles are not my thing. I am only making any of these castles for a show in December, when I will display my book art at the Bryant Library to show off the many uses of the used books for sale at the Friends of the Bryant Library used book store, and cause a stampede that will see customers throwing money at us to buy out the inventory so we can raise thousands of dollars for the good work of the Friends of the Bryant Library.

I wanted to do this miniature castle for variety, to make the show like a box of chocolates. The flavor of this one is treacle.

But getting back to the heat wave we experienced last week here on the north shore of Long Island, let me tell you that it was brutal. I live in a 100-year old house that does not have air conditioning, and three days of 90-plus degree heat with 80 per cent humidity was almost more than I could bear.

One thing I did to beat the heat was hang out at the Bryant Library. Because I work at the Friends of the Bryant Library used book store a few days a week, I actually don’t spend much time at the library itself. But I took advantage of the taxpayer-funded air conditioning at the library and settled down one afternoon in the Periodicals section and caught up with the news from France by reading the latest Paris Match magazine.

And that’s how I learned that the leader of the French Green Party is a very nice guy who loves his cat:

Seriously. The article was all about how Yannick Jadot, an ecologist as well as a politician, loves his cat, Minouche (approximately “Kitty” in French). M. Jabot told stores about how Minouche likes to have her belly rubbed only by him, even though it was his kids who brought the cat home seven years ago (when Yannick says he got a instant crush on Minouche). Minouche walks all over his computer keyboard, sits with him every evening, and his kids complain that when he comes home from a business trip he runs to say Hi to the cat before he talks to them.

In other words, the usual Cat Person stuff.

That guy has my vote.

Temperatures have cooled off since last week and Candy is still hunkered down in my bathroom:

This photo represents progress in that she is no longer sleeping in her litter box and has allowed me to make her life more comfortable with nice soft bedding, and the anti-histamine that I give her once a day seems to have helped make her rash less bothersome. But she still refuses to budge from my bathroom so I may have to do something drastic (knock out pills?) to get her to a vet so we can cure her once and for all and I can stop using my husband’s bathroom because happily married people should not share bathrooms.

Hurricane Florence is heading towards one of my favorite places on Earth, the town of Oriental, North Carolina. Our friends told us that they took a long last look at their beloved coastal town and evacuated to Raleigh, not knowing if they would ever see their house again. This storm is huge and slow-moving, and the forecast is dire. Let’s hope for a thousand small miracles, and that everyone is prepared to get through this.

I am heading out to California for the weekend, while Top Cat stays home and rides herd on the herd.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you back here next Friday with my final castle.

Read more

Taffy is literally beside himself with excitement about this week’s blog post:

Ha ha. For the record, those are two separate cats. You know that’s Taffy on our patio chair with his back to you, and that’s our neighbor’s cat, Dennis, giving you the hairy eyeball. And they are both simply livid with excitement about today’s blog post!!!

Thanks to Dear Reader Alex, who alerted me to the existence of this book, I have a great new [to me] resource for  my latest obsession:

This (below) is not the prettiest castle in the book, but it’s got that certain something that makes me want to build it. Namely,  it’s got that twisty, winding path that climbs up a rocky cliff:

Twisty, winding path. I want to do that.

First, I made some sketches to figure out how I could make those rocky shapes and castle bits:

Speaking of rocks. On my kitchen table, where I tend to dump my various tote bags, I have two rocks: a Himalayan Rock Salt lamp and a smaller rock that I keep around because it looks like a potato:

You’ll notice that Lickety has the whole kitchen table to himself but he chooses to wedge himself in a hard place between a rock and another rock in order to nap on top of my lumpy black tote bag:

Same nap, different day — and yes, Lickety is using my potato-rock as a pillow:

*Sigh* Other people have gifted and talented cats. Mine just have good looks.

But back to the rocky cliff and the twisty, winding path:

All I did was cut out a path on light-weight cardboard using a pattern (there, in white bond [typing] paper) and then I glued little “pillars” of graduated heights underneath it:

Then I glued the pillars onto a sturdy base, and let the heights of the pillars do the dirty work of raising the height of the pathway:

Dear Reader Birdie asked me, last week, Who taught you to make castles? Nobody did, Birdie — I just sat down and figured it out myself, which is about 75% of the fun of this whole process: figuring how to make it possible. It took me a long, hard think to work out how to make this path, and I got a great deal of satisfaction in making it in real life just to prove that my thinking was right. When it works out it’s a real thrill.

So now I have my underlying structure. Now is when I cut out the book pages to cover up the path:

And then I enclose the entire path and pillars in more book pages, to make what I call the Form for the Twisty Winding Path. It looks simple, but thinking about and making this structure took all day:

Here’s the other thing that I accomplished on my first day of Building Castle No. 8:

As I work on these castles, I keep losing my two most important tools — my circle-making thingy (called a template, in green) and my big bluey ruler with the right-angle edge — they get lost under the pile of mess that this castle-making hobby produces in mucho quantities. So I simply hammered a nail into the front edge of my work table, where I hang these two tools and will never lose them again.

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me, to have my tools so handy.

OK, having made the Form for the Twisty, Winding Path, I was pretty much gratified that I had conquered the hardest part of this particular castle. But I still had to go make the rest of the castle to justify the twisty, winding path. This next photo isn’t very explicative, but it serves to show you how I built the rest of the castle around that weird, centerpiece  Form I made for the twisty, winding path:

After three days, I was almost finished with this castle with the twisty, winding path and its bridge to another book (as theorized in last week’s blog post) but it was very ugly:

The bridge goes off at a gruesome angle due to my not thinking out the consequences of where I situated the castle on its book-base.

It does not make me happy to make an ugly castle. Although I made a darling little half-moon bridge (dedicated to Dear Reader Carol, who was very much looking forward to a cute bridge) with a cool-looking tower for the twisty, winding path, things fell apart when I assembled it all together. As an appendage, it was very awkward and ugly. I was very sad.

I actually had a bad night’s sleep over this. So  had no choice but to wake up the next morning and cut off the cute little half-moon bridge:

I couldn’t leave that twisty, winding path hanging out there as a dead-end. So here’s what I did to resolve my Ugly Castle Problem: I made another twisty, winding path that jigged to the right, where it terminated at a cute little tower glued into the corner of the book:

It doesn’t photograph well, but here’s maybe a better look at it:

No? Not better? Maybe this will show how I made a less ugly twisty, winding path for this castle:

Yeah, that’s probably the last time I carve into a book like that. It took forever. . . like, ten hours over two days . . .  and I really have to find a more joyous way to spend my ever-dwindling allotment of the time I have left in which I live and breathe and could be drinking martinis instead. Sitting in my dining room with two different kinds of scissors, hacking through 800 pages of Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy is not my idea of fun. I mean, I might get hit by a car tomorrow, and this is how I spent my last day on Earth??

Dear Reader Marilyn asked me, last week, whether I could find some kind of electric tool to use instead of using up my mortality by hand-cutting with scissors. I looked into that, Marilyn, by researching the work of book artists who carve deeply into their books. The most famous book-carver is a guy called Guy Laramee, you should google him, and he uses — wait for it — a sandblaster.

Other book-carvers use scalpels or exacto-knives. I think their carving looks too rough, for my purposes, and it looks equally as boring as using scissors. I think I’ll just limit my carving time by making less ambitious landscapes, or by learning how to scissor while loaded.

Castle Naming: Dear Reader Casey suggested Whimsy Towers for last week’s castle. I like it. Way back, a book reviewer wrote that the writing and illustrations in my first two books “are charming and whimsical, but can come very close to twee.” I was not insulted, and I did a whole blog post about it — in short, twee is a Britishism for appallingly cute. I work on the edge of twee. No brag, just fact.

And I am the first to tell you that these castles are all about twee, so Whimsy Towers is a perfect name. Because, by the way, people who like my work frequently call me whimsical, which is a surprise to me since in real life I am short-tempered, foul-mouthed, and opinionated. I eat whimsical for breakfast, as a sprinkle topping on the bloody beating hearts that I have ripped out of the chests of my enemies. But I make castles!

Thanks to Dear Reader Mae’s Comment last week, I now have a whole list of literary castles to inspire me to name my other castles with something that hints of mystery, portent, and whimsy. I hope to be free-associating soon, with a glass of ice cold inspiration if you know what I mean.

Or maybe I’ll just be celebrating a most excellent news cycle!

The Resistance has had a good week. Between Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, and that Anonymously agitating (but, in its own way, hilarious) New York Times op-ed about the moles working inside the White House, we have der Drumpf  lit up like something hideous that lights up a frothing, unhinged shade of orange when things are getting too close to the truth in Crazytown (I suck at similes).

Let’s have fun and watch as der Drumpf goes even more insane trying to tamp down this opening of the floodgates leak. Now that it’s a matter of national security, let’s watch as he threatens to bomb the New York times, sue Woodward for libel, declare a Code Red because YOU NEED ME ON THAT WALL, that’s where I had them, they laughed at me and made jokes, but I’ll prove beyond the shadow of a doubt, with geometric logic, that I KNOW WHO TOOK THE MISSING STRAWBERRIES.

Oh, this is going to be so good.

So let’s sit back and watch this unravel.

And to Dear Reader Margot, who hopes for a Blue Tsunami, I’m saying that this public meltdown will prove to be the cause of the mutiny that produces a Purple Tidal Wave in November.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones.

Here’s the most recent precious Blue Jay feather that I have found in the Summer of ’18.

OK. Maybe I am a little bit whimsical.

 

Read more

Taffy is super excited — and I mean he can hardly contain himself  — about today’s blog post:

Bibs, as usual, can’t figure out what’s going on, but anywhere Taffy goes, Bibs stays close to keep an eye on him:

It’s Friday, so there must be a castle in the works! Excitement galore!!

You can see what made me want to do this one:

See that fat round tower in the center with the two smaller towers popping out of it? I have NO IDEA how to make that, but I have to try. Also, I’ve been wanting to put a castle on a cliff and this one, well, that looks like a cliff to me.

I call my castle-making Book Art, because I use pages from old books as my building material (the Art part of Book Art) and I use books as things that prop up the stuff I build (the Book part of Book Art) but in my opinion these castles would be real, grown-up Book Art if I incorporated more of the Book into the Art. As, like, the book is a structural element of the building or scene, as if the Book were an integral part of the castle.

You now know for a fact that I’m getting fancy-thinking and artistically ambitious when I haul out the subjunctive.

Practically speaking, this means cutting up the book. (Look away, Steve. This is going to get graphic and yes, actual books were harmed.)

So I took a good look at that castle on the cliff and knew that I had just the right book to cut to shreds:

It’s a good thing that books are bound with those blank pages called endpapers inside each coverso that my castle can perch on a clean, non-Nazi platform:

This was my first shot at cutting the guts out of book and I made a mess of it. But every castle-maker needs to practice a new skill, so I wasn’t too hard on myself, and it was only an old Book Club edition of The Goebbels Diaries, which we sold (to me) at the used book store for the bargain price of $1.00. I learned at lot about cutting the guts out of a book:

  1. Most importantly, you have to pick a book that has been aged so that the pages are really soft. You’ll be cutting 4,5,6 pages at a time, so make it easy for yourself.
  2. You can’t just hack away at random pages, as I did (see: photo, above). You have to pick up a set number of pages, over and over, and you have to cut as carefully as if you are cutting out a dress pattern.
  3. This takes time. Don’t hurry, because every hurried cut will show. Resign yourself to spending a half hour doing this incredibly boring thing, except for the end when all your scissoring will have been worth it.
  4. Don’t round the rectangle…don’t cut a circle out of the pages. Keep at least two corners, to retain that “book’ vibe because, otherwise, it looks like a cow pat.

Dear Reader Casey emailed me last week with a question about last week’s castle, about the open-book perch I made from an old copy of the plagiarized work of fiction called Roots:

“As I remember”, Casey wrote me, “Roots had some pretty violent content. How did you find a non-violent page in the middle of the book to leave open?”

Here’s the deal: When I use a middle-of-the-book as the platform for a castle, I can use any book for sale at the used book store regardless of its content because I never leave the original pages hanging out in the open. For last week’s castle, I cut four pages from a similarly-sized book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and I glued them over the pages from Roots, so that the book appears to be an old tome of German fairy tales instead of a plagiarized American folk tale. The rest of the text that is exposed by the cuts to the corners is impossible to read, so no cover-up is necessary.

However, when I cut into The Goebbels Diaries, I did have to watch out for the odd “Reich” and “Jew”  that popped out, which I cut out (Goebbles uses “Jew” a lot), but then I ditched the whole thing as a practice exercise any way so good riddance, Goebbels.

One more digression: I was sorting a donation that came in last week and came across these two YA novels (Young Adult, ages approx. 12 – 17):

That font on the left side practically screams 1972, doesn’t it? The other one, which shows two girls in a crappy bedroom with a sewing kit, is from 1977. As a rule, we toss any book published before 2000 unless it is historical fiction or a Newbury Prize winner, but I took these books home with me because of their titles. I’m tempted to start a collection of kids’ books with “Die” or “Death” in the title. Because what is life without a bit of whimsy?

I also found this in another pile of donated books:

I don’t know what to do with this letter, but I can’t throw it away.

So, where were we? Oh, right: we left me with scissors in my hand and an undated but probably 1980s era Book Club edition of Vol. I of Shakespeare’s plays. This is how that turned out:

This is its good side:

This is its bad side, as those two towers popping out of the roof of the fat tower were beastly hard to do but I’m pretending that I intended all along for it to look a bit wonky:

I always have the most fun finding bits and pieces to decorate with:

Top Cat asked me what I call this castle,and it had not occurred to me to give the castles names, but of course now that he’s put the idea into my head I am writhing with a castle-naming desire to find the best names in the universe for each construction.

My first tactic would be to steal from Paul Klee (1879 – 1940), the Swiss German artist whose highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. He was the rare fine artist who was never lazy nor inconsiderate enough to call any of his art works “Untitled”.

P.S. If an artist can’t be bothered to give a title to a work of art, then I can’t be bothered to give a crap.

Paul Klee showed up for his viewers and for his art and gave his watercolors and drawings — all abstract compositions, by the way — the most wonderful titles. Here’s a sample:

A Young Lady’s Adventure

Dream City

Twittering Machine

Separation in the Evening

Once Emerging From the Gray of Night

Heroic Strokes of the Bow

Fish Magic

And my very special favorite, on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, is this:

This is called: Mural From the Temple of Longing <Thither>.

I have already stolen this title for my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, on page 50-51:

So it would be bad form to steal this same title again.

If stealing from Paul Klee doesn’t lead to a brilliant castle name, my fall-back tactic is to administer a therapeutic dose of vodka and tonic and see what pops up in my head. It takes about a pint of booze to lighten up my persnickety Capricorn habits of mind and free-associate as well as a Swiss-German surrealist.

To tell the truth, my mind is very scattered these days. I have a sick kitty, and that wrecks my concentration. This kitty is the one who as lived in my house for ten years and has never let me touch her, so getting her to the vet is torture. I have pursued her all over the house by setting traps — TRAPS, in my own HOUSE —  in the basement, the living room, the hallway, the dining room…and she evades them all. She was caught (by me) in the same trap ten years ago and she’s smart enough to not fall for that again.

So, as a last resort, Candy has holed up in my bathroom upstairs:

You can see her dermatitis, where she has pulled out most of her fur because of some kind of skin irritation. I gave her a nice fluffy bed to sleep in and a new litter box to poop in, so of course she sleeps in the litter box and poops in the bed.

My vet did offer a Hail Mary in the form of an over-the-counter anti-histamine that can be used to treat skin rashes, and Candy gets half a pill every day, which she devours because I dissolve it in her favorite snack of diced clams in clam juice.

We’ve been at this for a week and I haven’t seen any more tufts of fur wafting in her wake, so maybe the anti-histamine is working.

I don’t know how long this stand off will last but I would like to have my bathroom back because for now, it is off-limits to me because I can’t go near Candy without her totally freaking out.

My brain is out of gear for another reason: I deny, I reject, I veto, and I refuse to accept that August is over and tomorrow it will be September. Nope. Not gonna happen, not on my watch. Every last shred of my intelligence is dedicated to pretending that for once, things will stay just as they are, here in the last fine days of endless Summer.

Please, Universe, please let that happen.

Or, Universe, and don’t act like You don’t hear me, please let October be worth it with a huge-ass report from special counsel Robert Meuller that details, irrefutably, that der Drumpf is the lying, treasonous, fake-billionaire con-artist turd-pile Anti-Christ (for all those shit-eating MAGA evangelicals) that we know he is. I can face Winter knowing that it will be awash in a Blue Wave. Please, Universe, please let that happen.

Amen.

Until then, Taffy and Bibs will be warming up our seats on the sunset-watching apparatus in the backyard.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. May all your Summer wishes come true, and all your cats not sleep in their litter boxes.

P.S. Here’s the books that I will defile for the next castle:

They are Volumes 1 and 2, published in 1971, worth $4.99 on amazon.com. Our used book store price is $1.00 each. But the thing I want to exploit is this:

I’m thinking: Bridge.

See you back here next week.

 

 

Read more

This is a castle:

This is a cat:

That is actually my cat, Taffy, lounging in the driveway, using a rock as a pillow. It doesn’t look comfortable at all, but that’s Taffy.

I was thinking about the qualities of Patience last week because I got a call from a friend of a friend, who had discovered four feral kittens, all black as night, on the loose in her neighborhood and needed help in trapping them. She knew that I’m a cat-catcher from way back, so the next evening I loaded up my traps in my car and drove six miles to meet her and several other concerned cat people  who wanted to get these kittens into safe homes. If you remember, trapping feral cats is how I got Taffy in the first place, him and every other cat who has called Top Cat Manor home. (Currently, there are eight cats ruling this roost, and I’ve trapped every one of them.)

So I set four traps and I ask everyone to back away, to give the kittens room to roam. As it turns out, they aren’t four kittens — they are three kittens and a very young mama cat.

For the first four minutes, the kittens sniff at the food that we use as bait for the traps, they pad cautiously around the contraptions, trying to figure out how to get the food. . .

. . . and nobody can stop talking and fidgeting, worrying about how the traps might not work, how the kittens might be too scared or too dumb to figure them out, how horrible it will be if we don’t catch them, etc etc etc, suggesting that we move the traps closer together, further apart, on the other side of the property, use different food, etc etc etc. Some people tried to entice the kittens with their own food,  to hand-feed them to grab them bare-handed. Someone ran home to fetch Portuguese tuna fish, which is supposed to be the very thing no cat can resist.

Everyone who had never trapped cats before (and no one there had ever trapped cats before) could not keep still, or quiet.

And that’s when I noticed that, contrary to what I’ve always thought about myself as a person always in a hurry, I do have great patience. You need great patience to catch cats. You need to watch, and wait, and be calm and careful, which I am, for however long it takes to catch a cat.

You need the same kind of patience to build a castle, as I am going to show you today.

You can see the obvious appeal of this little castle illustration that I found in a children’s book from 1924:

Those towers were a fun challenge to make:

And pointy roofs!

I must have spent an hour trying to get those side towers, because their roofs would not work until I figured out that they had to be faceted, and not smooth as in the illustration:

Beware the people who draw castles, for they are not limited by real life and real physics, so they tend to illustrate impossible constructions.

When the castle was complete, I put it on a small platform in the middle of its book-base:

Then I tried to come up with a way that the pages of the book could shape the hill on which the castle perches:

But I could not come up with anything that worked. So I pulled the castle away from its base, and I decided to cut into the book itself:

I didn’t feel bad about destroying this book. I chose the book because it came into our used book store in deplorable condition — the binding was shot (I had to glue it back in place) and the dust jacket was gone, and it was stained and shabby…which made it worthless as a collectible, but valuable to me as a perch for a castle.

It’s not a book that I would have liked much anyway, even if it had been in perfect condition. The book is a first edition, 1976 copy of Roots, which is a book I don’t like because I don’t like plagiarists and I don’t like liars. In 1978 Alex Haley lost in court in a suit brought by Harold Courlander, an author from Bethesda, Md., who contended there were substantial similarities between Roots and his own earlier novel, The African. The settlement was kept secret, but rumored to be several hundred thousand dollars.

Alex Haley also claimed that the story of Roots came from his maternal grandmother’s recollections of an ancestor’s journey from Gambia in West Africa to slavery in America, but when it was proved by the Times of London that hHaley had fictionalized much of the tale, Haley issued a mealy-mouthed statement that his book was truthful as “a symbolic history of a people.”

So I felt just fine cutting up this book:

Back:

Side:

Last week at the used book store, we got an old copy of The Goebbels Diaries. It’s a collection of the writings of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. I’m going to feel A-OK cutting up the words of a Nazi.

As for the cat catching, we caught the mama cat and two of her babies within 15 minutes. I took them home with me, and they were picked up the next morning by volunteers from a near-by rescue.

It took three more days to catch the last kitten, who was the runt of the litter.  We assumed it was a “she” because tiny as she was, she was able to survive on her own for those days so she was obviously was the smartest of them all. Oh! I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it was to watch her, day after day, come around looking for food and family, this teeny little thing alone in the world.

By the time we caught her she had become famous in the neighborhood, so she was immediately adopted by the daughter-in-law of one of the home owners in the area. She was taken to a vet, who confirmed she was a she, and she now lives with two other cats who treat her like their own babies and a very accepting Labrador Retriever.

She also as a new name. She’s called Velvet.

As if that weren’t enough to celebrate, the world was also gifted with the simultaneous conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen.

It’s been a great week for America and four black cats.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone. May all your quests have happy endings.

 

 

Read more

Move over, Lickety. I have to blog today.

Doesn’t this castle look delicious?

So, yeah, this is the castle that I made this week. But this is the castle that I wanted to make exploding, or otherwise rising fully-formed from the pages of a book like that goddess chap, Venus, rising from the sea. So my first order of business was to do this:

I made a box. For those of you Dear Readers who are sticklers for accuracy, it’s 8 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 2 inches deep.

Then I turn the box over . . .

. . . and cover it with, you know, pages of text (for camouflage):

You probably can’t tell that I made the cover with fancy corners (it’s a trapezoid). . .

. . . because this box has to squeeze tightly into sharp corners, which I will show you in the next photo. So now I know how to make a trapezoid box, another skill that is worth absolutely nothing in the real, non-castle world.

Here’s how the base fits into its exploding book:

And now, with as few words as possible, here’s how I built my exploded castle:

Side view:

And the arial view from 5 feet, 6 inches:

Those of you Dear Readers who are keeping count know that this is my 5th castle. I have immediate plans to make at least two more — one with Alexandra’s moat, and another one that reeks of Winter Holidays because I will have these castles on display this coming December at my local library. That’s the William Cullen Bryant Library in Roslyn, on the north shore of Long Island, if you want to stop by.

It’s a good thing that I finished this castle the day before I caught my cold because since then all I’ve wanted to do is lie in bed and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy. I haven’t tuned into this show since Izzy’s boyfriend, Denny, died in Season 2 (in 2006). I didn’t stop watching it for any particular reason; I just got busy with life, I guess.

So it’s amazing to me how good the show is, and I’m only on Season 12. I really like the way Meredith, the main character, has evolved. She’s pretty dark, and now she’s (spoiler alert) a widow and the story is still surprisingly interesting.

One of my favorite moments came in Season 11, when Meredith’s husband, Derek, invites some co-workers to the house for a dinner party. Meredith, who is a loner, is annoyed and asks him “Why did you do that?

Derek says, “Because that’s what people do.”

And Meredith, exasperated, demands: “What people?”

That is such a realistic conversation, at least here in Top Cat Mansion, where my husband always wants to invite people over for a BBQ or some other get-together and I would rather not have to clean the house for company.

And, just as my cold was doing is wretched best to make me feel like an old gray mare, Aretha Franklin dies and Madonna turns 60. I haven’t kept up with Madonna since her Ray of Light album 20 years ago, and I know that I should applaud her for hanging in there, trying to stay relevant and sexy at her age, but. Not that I want to internalize the ageism of our society especially as it demeans females, but I wish she would just go away now.

And Aretha, sublime Aretha. . . you can google her song Gotta Find Me an Angel on you tube,and get out your hankies.  It’s my favorite Aretha song, even though there are a few questionable lines (“Keep looking’, and just keep cooking”). Oh, hell. Aretha could sing the list of ingredients on a box of Post Toasties and she’ll break your heart. Nobody comes close to her today. Nobody.

Speaking of things that people under the age of 30 will never understand, we got a dictionary donated at the used book store last week.

Nobody buys dictionaries these days so we at the book store usually toss them, but since I got on this Book Art jag I’m on, I am dying to do something with this 1973 Random House College Dictionary. Can’t you see horses, or a dragon, or a warrior princess climbing up those tabs?

The most important thing, though, when you’re doing dictionary art, is to choose a page that has interesting words on it, and it has to be from the first half of the alphabet. Any suggestions?

I am fading fast, Dear Readers. It’s going to be another hot and heavy day here on the North Shore of Long Island (85 degrees, 82% humidity) and I plan to do as little as possible, except feed my cold plenty of pizza  and watch bad things happen to good people on Grey’s Anatomy, Season 13.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Take a cue from Lickety (above), and find a cool spot with a sunbeam and dream sweet dreams.

XXOO

Read more

This is where we left things last week, when I was half-way to bringing this castle (above) into the real world:

This is where things get weird. Namely, what to do about the back-end of the structure:

You can tell that the person who drew this original illustration of a castle was only thinking in 2-D, that is, thinking only about jamming in a collection of towers without considering whether or not the castle was actually feasible.

The way I figured it, the only way to get all these towers together in a structure was to build them around a very peculiarly-shaped platform:

Trial and error, cutting and gluing and trimming, was the only way to come up with a template for this peculiarly-shaped platform. (Thank you, Dear Reader Sharon, for telling me about templates!) And this is how I turned that flat pattern into a 3-D platform:

I know. I’m a genius. I have all kinds of skills that are not worth a dime in the real world.

While this area is still exposed — that is, before I close it up by inserting the final two towers — I have to make sure it is safe for all the imaginary people who inhabit this castle. It needs a fence of some sort to go around it:

If you remember the design of this castle. . .  (here’s a reminder):
. . . the tall round tower in the back needs a topper, a cone-shaped topper. These are rather easy to make, if you get the size right. The trick is to draw a big enough circle. Here’s the pattern:

Cut along the blue lines.

For this topper, I used a jar as my tracing guide:

Wrap the circle into a cone, like this:

Voila: Topper, installed:

Oh crap. I just remembered that I didn’t take a photo of how I installed that second round tower next to the first round tower. All I did was glue it on top of the platform, which was about the easiest thing about this entire castle.

Wait. I changed my mind about this topper. I decided that this tower needed a snazzier topper, so I found an illustration that had a big blue sky and I made a new topper.  I also cut out a doorway from another illustration and glued it onto the topper so two little ladies could exit to enjoy the view:

I made a half-tower for the side bit (because it’s there in my original tower illustration inspiration) and that’s where I put the King and his valet:

The finished castle looks like this:

The fun part was finding the doo-dads to make windows and embellishments.

Which, except for its being well-made, is not a success. The original castle is tall and skinny and smooshed together. It had a quirkiness that appealed to me.  My castle is not smooshed together. The proportions are off. My goal for the next castle is to make it look more like the inspiration.

In the future, I am going to have to — heart be still — take measurements.

I decided that, since the castle was not a success, I had to make the display a lot more interesting. So now it looks like this:

Any old random book that has a loose binding will open nice and flat. . . or as flat as a book can get. You still have to make adjustments. This is the castle’s front door BEFORE:

And this is the castle’s front door AFTER:

I had wanted to make the castle look as if it were erupting from the innards of this book but that takes  — dare I say it?? — advance planning. I will devise that for my next project, the one were I also measure out the proportions ahead of time.

I did manage to drop the trees and the flower pot into the text by using a scalpel (available in packs of 20 from amazon.com and which I happen to have already because who doesn’t have scalpels laying around the house?) to cut into several layers of pages:

I have one more tid-bit of info about castle-making, if you can stand it, but first, let’s go get a cup of tea so we can take a break from Castles and Such.

And by  “Castles and Such”, you know I mean “The sense of failure that lurks behind every creative project which is why I will probably have to have another go at making this castle the right way “, and by “tea”, you know I mean “wine”.

I was in the library two days ago and I found this object at the water cooler:
Oops. I am holding it upside-down. THIS is how it should be seen:

Castle tower topper, anyone?

So of course I had to find out what made this perfect castle tower topper tick, so I un-wrapped it:

Now I have a template for all future castle tower toppers. Yay me.

I like the heat of Summer as much as the next person, but this weekend is going to be rainy and finally cool here on the north shore of Long Island. . . again, Yay me! You know where I’ll be: knee deep in paper and glue re-making the tall, skinny, smooshy castle. Or drinking wine. One or the other. I’ll let you know when we meet back here next Friday.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

XXOO

Read more