Of Paper Cuts and Blessed Things, Of Luggage Racks and Bling.

If you haven’t read about our dear sweet half-cat Dennis (Top Cat and I shared him with our neighbors) you can catch up with the him in the post that follows today’s usual blather about terribly important things such as weather, other cats, champagne, books, and stuff you can make out of books. We love Dennis to infinity and beyond.

Let’s start today’s drivel with Taffy on Wednesday morning, when that little brain of his, which is attuned to all the vibrations of this wondrous cosmos, detected an exciting snow storm barreling towards us here on the north shore of Long Island and celebrated with a roll in his favorite patch of dirt:

That’s Taffy’s mortal enemy, Bibs, watching him, thinking, How is it possible that this idiot is the boss of me?

A few hours later, here’s Taffy surveying the same spot:

And then his little brain sparks joy and he dances upon the flakes. It’s SNOWING!!

Meanwhile, on the front stoop, here’s Steve emerging from his super-cozy heated cubby to let me know that he’d like something along the lines of a nice turkey pâté, please:

And now, Dear Readers, due to a severe lack of snow here on the north shore of Long Island in the months of December and January, here is your very first Winter of 2019 Champagne-O-Meter!!

12:30 PM:

1:30-ish PM:

A little after 2:30 PM:

3:31 PM:


Just before 5:30 PM:

6:45 PM:

It was an underwhelming blizzard, but the next morning, the Champagne-O-Meter was perfection:

There is nothing better than a bottle of bubbly that has been cooling deep in Nature’s ice bucket for ten hours. I wish I drank champagne for breakfast but I’m not that much of a degenerate, yet, so the Champagne-O-Meter been moved to the fridge, counting the hours until 5 o’clock.

So let us move on, from cats and champagne, to cats and books and stuff that you can make out of books.

I know you know what’s happening here:

And I know you know that I’m going to be making this tree and this cat out of paper and the books that I slaughter in the name of art.

To begin, I chopped a derder that I got when I used up the last of my paper towels:

Yes!! Did you know that that cardboard tube inside a roll or TP or paper towels is called a derder?

Now you know.

Then I inserted a taller, slimmer roll of bond paper inside:

This tree is going to be tall and top-heavy, so I need the double-stegnth of the two rolls, one inside the other, to make the tapered trunk. But I had to figure out how to make the inside roll stay in place and I have to confess, this is the part of making stuff out of paper that I LOVE.

I LOVE McGuyvering solutions to really stupid problems. So I came up with this:

BTW, that’s my diamond-grading tweezers. You need the needle-like tips to grasp a loose diamond and, it turns out, it’s also really good for grasping tiny bits of paper.

You see how the O-Ring slips over the inside roll, down to meet the top of the derder?

Now I have to stabilize the two rolls:

This is how I make the tree trunk into a taper:


(With the taper. We have a long, long ways to go until we done with the tree.)

While you wait for the taper to dry (it’s loaded with Elmer’s glue), you can make some various size rolls and flat sticks that you will use for tree branches:

When the taper is dry, you take your scalpel and hack a hole into the side of the tree trunk:

Insert one of your small paper rolls:

This is OK if you want your tree branch to shoot straight out of the tree trunk. But if you want to make a bendy tree branch, you have to cut a little nick into the side of the paper roll like this:

Now you can fold the roll to make a bendy tree branch. You have to slather it with Elmer’s glue and sit holding it while it dries. and this is boring, but you can pass the time rehearsing in your head the scathing comments or bitchslaps you would give to any of the bullshit Kardashians if you would meet them in a dark alley or on a talk show:

Or you can use the time to compose sonnets. It’s up to you:

I don’t have any use for this page that I ripped out of little book that I cut up, except for the green bits in this illustration:

I am cutting out leaves (what a diamond grader would call a “Marquise cut”: ):

The Marquise Cut is a low-class cut in that it is shallow (a bad thing for a diamond to be) and is for people who want a lot of bling for the buck. It’s a showy cut, and is reserved for getting the most out of an inferior stone. I see a Marquise Cut (you pronounce the “S”) and I think, Tacky. It’s the diamond equivalent of riding a motorized scooter around a Walmart parking lot drinking wine out of a Pringle’s can, except that I definitely want to be best friends with that lady.

A good round cut is a very fine cut, but an Emerald Cut is divine.

I glue these leaves on one at a time, using my diamond-grading tweezers to place them onto the branches:

It is a very delicate and thoughtful and time-consuming operation that might drive some people crazy, but I find it extremely calming and mentally absorbing. I LOVE doing this.

This is what the tree looks like from behind:

Then I had to leave town and go . . .

. . . to FLORIDA! I had to visit my favorite Florida kitties, Sammy. . .

. . . and Mabel, wo had never seen a Winter coat before so she had to test drive it for kitty compatibility:

I left sunny warm FLORIDA on a Delta flight that for some reason tracked us as if we were flying out of West Africa to JFK:

Sorry for the red herring. But if I ever go back to Africa, which I probably never will, it would not be back to my old stomping grounds of the west; it would be to South or East Africa to see gorillas and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

My theory is that the same computer glitch that had us flying out of the Gulf of Guinea also booked the plane with only 18 passengers:

There were 106 empty seats on this plane! It was the single greatest plane ride I have ever taken! No fights for the overhead luggage racks, no shoving for arm rests, and everybody got double free bevvies and snacks, and de-planing was a joy. A joy, I tell you.

And then I came home and finished the tree. . .

. . . except for the cat:

I did, I did vandalize a hard copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to get this cat, and then I put him in the tree whence he grins, and I saw that I ad made the tree too damn big. Bummer. Buuuuuuuummer.

P.S., I don’t mind that the tree looks very lumpy and home-made — that’s my esthetic — but in future I do want to concentrate on making more tree-like trees.

Well wouldn’t you know it — the used book store comes to the rescue!!

We got a donation that included this catalogue of all the best art and object sales in Christie’s showrooms for the year 1987 (and this is a shot of my work space because making book art is very messy). . .

. . . and I’m sure that we don’t have buyers for this book so perchance I opened it to check out the end papers to see if I should salvage them and OH MY GOD:

The universe must love me. I must be, like, one of its darlings. Don’t you always feel that way, when you take the time to count your blessings (and then use them as proof that you are indeed one way above-average and anointed being, or is that just me?).

Thank you, Great Spirit, for this 1987 record-breaking sale of original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel:

This Cheshire Cat is the right size, and it’s printed on nice heavy-card stock:

Here’s my new cat in the tree:

And that brings us to the end of this week’s installment of VivianWorld.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Count your blessings, Dear Readers, however small, because we are all beloved equally by a benevolent and beguiling universe.





32 Comments, RSS

  1. Barbara D.

    Another wonderfully delightful post that had me smiling from start to finish. Educational too. Gotta work derder into a conversation to impress the heck out of someone. What happens to your projects when they are finished being on display? How about taking them on a cross country tour? I think they are so original and creative. Think this one will will be my favorite.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Barbara. I wold love to send my castles and my golfing bunnies out on tour, but they are so tricky to transport that shipping them to and fro would be a nightmare. I am thinking about putting them all in their own blog, making an exhibit of them out in cyberspace. But seeing them unperson is very cute, too.

  2. Maryanne in SC

    Dear Vivian, you *are* one of the Universe’s Darlings, and after a line like this: “It’s the diamond equivalent of riding a motorized scooter around a Walmart parking lot drinking wine out of a Pringle’s can,” the classification is now Universe’s Darling-FL (flawless)

    Much love to Dennis and all his parents.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Maryanne, but I cannot take credit for thinking up a scoter-driving Pringles-can-wine-driking lady. She was real, and she was banned from theWalmart in Wichita Falls, Texas. But I will fill you in with more info in my Friday post, and we can all wish we had the joie de vivre it takes to, you know, ride a scoter around a Walmart parking lot while drinking a nice chianti from a Pringles can.

  3. Casey

    I’m taking the day off work so I had the pleasure of reading all this in my jammies. If I had champagne in my fridge I would definitely pop that cork and slowly re-read all about Taffy and the Cheshire cat and his tree and the Florida kitties and travels and diamond advise etc. There’s so much to love about this post.

    Of course DeBeers would think of a name like Marquise to sell an inferior diamond. It sounds classy, so it must *be* classy, right?

    And I also enjoyed that news story about the woman in Texas who was banned from Walmart for taking one of their scooters for a joy ride while drinking wine from a Pringles can. She sounds like a lot of fun, almost as much fun as Taffy making happy feet in the snow. I like people and cats who make their own joy.

    And OK, if you want to call gluing a thousand tiny leaves onto a paper tree “fun”, go for it. I’m glad that that’s your idea of a good time because I LOVE all the stuff you make from books. And I’m sure that the universe has you on speed dial. That Christie’s book was straight from the angels.

    P.S. I read your post about Dennis, and my heart is with you, and him, and his other family.

    • Vivian

      We laid sweet Dennis to rest in his own corner in my neighbor’s garden, and in the Summer we will have roses blooming in his memory.

      P.S. A lot of the time I am writing this blog in my jammies so, yay, we can jammie together.

  4. Patricia

    If people can write a book about how to clean out your closet (trust me, Amazon has a boatload), you could write a book about building your own castle or storybook. These need to be a book.

    And I thought I was lucky flying back from the other Amazon (Manaus, Brazil) … my husband and I each got our own row. I flipped up the armrests and spread out for a lumpy nap all the way to Miami. The next two flights were shoulder to shoulder…

    • Vivian

      Welcome back from the Amazon!! And three flights in one trip sounds like hell to me. You have super-endurance.

      I do hope to include my paper castles and trees in the book that I am taking notes for now, about managing a used book store. If I had not volunteered for this job, I would certainly never have discovered how much time I like to waste making stuff out of old books. It’s funny how things turn out.

  5. Disappointment is pouring out of my ears: I’ve been waiting all week to hear about your trip to Africa. Damn.

    Anyway I love your tree and the serendippy way you got your Cheshire cat.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    • Vivian

      I apologize for the red herring of my alleged trip to and from Africa, Mae, It was mean of me. From now on, I will be honest about not going to Africa. For me, travel to and from Africa has been only a thrice-in-a-lifetime thing. Never again.

  6. I love serendipity — what a perfect size cat for your wonderful tree. I can’t imagine having the patience to cut out and paste on all those leaves. Amazing work!

    • Vivian

      You know, I can’t knit worth a damn — I do not have that kind of patience. But, strangely, I do have the patience to cut out individual leaves for a paper tree, and I never saw that coming. I call it my super power.

  7. Adrienne

    Love love love this tree, especially the leaves!!! (ps Still miss the watercolor… Am hoping we will see some more soon. Any news about the Monet book?)

    • Vivian

      Thank you for remembering the Monet book. My agent couldn’t sell it to our first round of publishers, so I have taken it “off” until I can re-do the narrative. Right now, it’s a short biography of Monet and his family, but my publisher Bloomsbury wants more of me in there, more of the usual travel narrative that I write. So, back to the drawing board. The centenary of his death will be in 2026, so I’m shooting to have something in print for that.

  8. bunny

    Love the tree, it almost pains me to think about how long it took you to both strategize the logistics, and then put the plan into action. I see many many tremendous hours. (does that sound presidential in any way?)
    I just want to know one thing–Does the champagne taste any sweeter when you fetch it from the yard?

    • Vivian

      Yes! there is nothing frostier, sharper, or sweeter than champagne that has been cooled almost to the point of solid ice by Mother Nature.

  9. Kirra

    Yay! Champagne-o-meter! I had a bottle ready to do one in Salzburg but proved lazy in reading the weather forecast and never manage to get it outside before it snows a lot.

    Your tree is fabulous and I’m glad you got the perfect Chershire Cat via the second hand bookshop, it owes you one I’m sure!

    How good is it to have a nearly empty plane! I’m impressed the computer told you that you were flying from Africa, ha ha.

    Your cats are great! Love seeing them. I agree with the others that the sentence about wine drinking on a scooter was entertaining to read and very well written.

    What tree is next!?

    • Vivian

      We have had so little snow here that sometimes, when it’s colder outside than in my freezer, I resort to putting a bottle out in the back yard anyway, just so the arctic air can do its magic. There really is nothing better than a super-cooled bottle of bubbly.

      I cannot take credit about drinking wine out of a Pringles can. As Casey noted, there really is a lady in Texas who took a joy ride on a Walmart scooter and, for some obscure reason, uses an empty can of potato chips as her go-cup when she drinks wine. I want to be friends with her.

  10. I have never in my life heard of a “derder.” That’s a new one on me. I hope I remember it!

    Your tree is AMAZING! And yes, the universe must love you, to have delivered unto you a perfectly-sized Cheshire Cat. And speaking of “unto,” what’s the book you’re using for the tree branches? Is it Shakespeare or the Bible or what? I’m seeing lots of Bible-speak.

    I’m glad your cat enjoys (or is freaked out by) the snow!

    • Vivian

      Your first guess was right — it’s Shakespeare and I did notice too late that the Bard uses “My Lord” a lot in his plays, so now I try to manouvre them out of sight. I will keep using it because the paper in my copy of the complete plays is just perfect, not too thick and not too thin and a tiny bit ochre, for wrapping around the forms I make for trees. I wish there were more common folk and less gentry in the work though.

  11. Mary

    Your imagination and ideas how to do it amaze me . I never saw a tree made from paper to LOOK like a 3-D tree. Clever ideas along the way. I look for yr blog every Friday.
    Florida cats look warm and fat. Your furries always add to your weekly story beautifully.
    You lead a nice life. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    And, the CASTLES! Beautiful work, Vivian. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

  12. Becky

    Just got caught up on the news about Dennis. He is so fortunate to have two families that love him so much. Cats or dogs bless our lives and remind us to enjoy the present….as Taffy knows perfectly.

    • Vivian

      We laid Sweet Dennis to rest this past Monday. He has his own spot in the neighbor’s garden, and we will plant roses there this Spring so we can see his spirit bloom.

  13. Leslie

    Dear Vivian, Definitely proof positive re: your status in the cosmos ( if there were any doubters.). The tree is great. I love the green leaves on the black and white branches. I’m glad you got to spend some time in the land of sunshine and butterflies.

  14. I always love the cat updates. Thanks so much!
    And the champagne update is good too. I am sure it was just perfect that evening.
    Your paper art just delights me soooooo much. I actually pulled up this post earlier today as I sat in a bookstore coffee shop. In a nearby table was a man creating paper flowers and I thought his flowers would have gone very well with your fantasy creations. People were even watching him create through the window.

  15. Why didn’t I comment here when I first read it! The conversation is so good!

    Loving the tree. Might it be one of your best? Although that Wild Things forest is pretty spectacular! And good to see the champagneometer again! I missed it. And especially seeing your desk, which reminds me of when I was doing loads more collage!

    That and Pringles. And reading the comments, Monet. I was thinking about that and wondering if there was any moving and shaking on it. There should be. 2026 is far too long for me to wait. I could be dead by then.

    Loved all the cat updates, too. Since I’m reading backwards, I’m still missing Dennis. Not nearly, I know, as much as you and his other people.

    • Vivian

      There is a Monet show currently in San Fransisco, moving to the Kimball in Fort Worth in June; 50 paintings from 1913 to Monet’s death in 1926. The show is called “The Late Years”. These are the only 2 venues for this show — there are FOUR other Monet shows traveling in the US in 2019. So, hoo boy, Monet is still the sure “get” in the art world.

      I know: 2026 does seem to be so far away. But I have lost interest in Monet for the time being. How does a book about what it’s like to manage a used book store sound?

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