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Cat Tinsel

The boys are in for an interesting December as we have decided to acquire a Christmas tree this year. I’ve googled what is likely to happen and I think this could be happening in a living room near me soon.

Transforming ugly paper into usable collage material

Transforming ugly paper into usable

Before (left), After (right)

OK, I am ashamed to admit that I have paper bearing glitter in my collage stash.

I know not from whence they came.

I suspect they were part of a mixed pack – they have been in my folders so long that I have quite forgotten.

These are scrapbooking papers. I am not a scrapbooker and have no interest in it. If people look down on mixed media art as not being particularly artistic, then scrapbooking is even further down the chain. Personally I remain delighted that scrapbooking became popular in the last decade because it gave me another source from which to collect papers.  That said, the lesson I have learnt is buy a ‘pack’ expecting that it will be about 2/3rds useful, 1/3 toss out. Hmm… ‘toss out’… not usually in my vocabulary when it comes to collage material. So it seems that I have kept these papers (left in each picture) and well… what a surprise… I’ve never used them.

I can’t imagine why I haven’t had call to use a prancing horse with glitter, but there you go.

So in an effort to justify these papers taking up room in my collage collection, I decided to transform them. The best part about an ugly paper is the gusto with which one can throw oneself at changing it as it can surely get no worse.

My main challenge was getting rid of the glitter as it is upraised. In the end I used a variety of media to extinguish it, including:

  • gesso over the top which ‘filled in’ the non-embossed areas and gave a new flattened surface
  • light molding paste (by Golden). This has to be one of my favourite gel / pastes to use as it is so lightweight that the paper tolerates it and it’s marshmallow finish just sucks in the colours of the glazes you put over the top.
  • opaque paints – with this you can still see the upraised pieces but at least the glitter is gone (see below)
Transforming Ugly Paper 3

Before (left), After (right)

The photographs don’t do justice the richness of colour in the reformed papers.

While I doubt that I could ever have found an artful application for purple paper with green glittered dots, the rich wine colour is something I most certainly will use. It has been completed using a number of glazes as well as some handwritten additions in my favourite crayons (Caran d’ache neocolor I’s) which shine through the subsequent layers. The greenish-glitter has now turned to an orange-gold courtesy of the quin crimson & quin nickel azo gold layers. It now has depth and intensity.

Last but not least is quite possibly the ugliest of all the papers I set about transforming this week.

Transforming Ugly Paper 2

Before (left), after (right)

The purple mermaid with green glitter. Oh, it’s just too stylish.

I had a lot of difficult photographing the piece after painting as it kept reflecting light – in particular in the bottom corner where there is some Clear Tar Gel giving it a gloss. A close up of the middle is featured below.

Of all the papers this one got the most gesso. It is also the one that looks most like a ‘piece’ rather than paper that I’m just going to put back into my stash to rip up another day. I suppose in all of this the question is, why bother transforming ugly paper… why not just start with clean paper? I think the close up below answers that well. While it looks nothing like the original, it got to where it is based on the original. The upraised elements are still present (without the sparkle), and the colour choices are in part informed by the purple as I needed something dark and high staining like the quin crimson to cover over the purple and some gesso where I wanted to knock it out altogether. Besides, there is no need to ‘cover up’ clean paper. Eliminating glittered tackiness from my stash is a good excuse to just spread paint around with abandon! I’ve got another 4 days before I go back to work and another 4 pieces of ugly paper. Fun!

Transforming ugly paper 4

Wordless Wednesday With A Weary Gesso


Cat smothers woman to death

Bondi Beach Ball GameI awoke this morning to find someone had washed the air overnight with smoke. All of Sydney is obscured by the haze as if an artist has taken Payne’s grey with a touch of white and airbrushed the entire city. You can smell the smoke everywhere and taste the heat. The weather forecast says 33 degrees. My poor lime tree was baked on the 39 degree day. I forgot to move him. He now looks like an giant tentacled stick insect. His branches are green but the leaves have curled up and mostly dropped. In the hope he may live, I’ve moved him today out of the light. I’ve shut up the blinds to try to stay cool, creating my own little bunker for the day.

I say I awoke to smell smoke, the fact is, I’m surprised I woke at all. I can see the newspaper headlines now: a woman in Sydney’s Inner West has been found dead in her one bedroom apartment. Sheets were found drawn up over her head and her face was cat scratched. A 7 kilo lump of a cat called Licorice still sat upon the corpse still wailing for breakfast.

Honestly, Dr Google said if you want to stop your cat poking you in the face each morning to wake you up, then simply ignore said cat for several weeks. Do not talk to cat, do not push cat away. If need be, pull sheets over head and protect yourself from those kitty claws.

I am licorice, I am fatI assure you quite a number of weeks have passed. Licorice shows no sign of giving up. In fact the more I ‘bury’ myself under the sheets, the most she tries to uncover me; as if digging for treasure. Her foraging is characterised by persistence tangled with force. This is Licorice we’re talking about – she doesn’t do dainty. To be fair it’s hard to do dainty when you are 7 kilos and 11 years old.

Meanwhile at Chateau de Andrew, the boys are going to bed performing the Lumberjack song each night… whereby Andrew is the log. They seem to manage to stay on top of his hip / back, no matter how he rolls. Letting them in the bedroom at night was not the previous routine but Gesso seems to be enjoying the ‘protection’. Andrew has become the ‘peace’ between the two of them – quite literally with his body acting as a barrier between them in the bed. That said,  all aggressive behaviour from Pickle is completely gone; replaced with an over-enthusiastic sense of play. At first it was a very shaky truce. Gesso remained terrified of the playful ginger ninja. However, things appear to be on the up. I was delighted the other day to hear a report of Pickle chasing Gesso down the hall, only for Gesso to chase him right back. Only time will tell how these two fare. Pickle is almost 3 years old now… surely he has to slow down soon?


When cats don’t get along

IMG_3623Gesso has been pulling out his own fur. We thought we were doing the right thing by taking him to the vet to check for a medical cause before we decided it was an anxiety behaviour.

After visiting the vet, he came home to a very bad reception by Pickle. Apparently it can happen. One cat goes to vet, other cat acts aggressively when it comes home because he doesn’t recognise his scent. PIckle decided to attack Gesso, if poor Gesso wasn’t anxious before, after a vet trip and being jumped on repeatedly by Pickle, he certainly was now.

The following day, Pickle continued to behave very aggressively. So Pickle went for ‘cat time out’ – kind of like the naughty corner; for a week; at the mothership.

We researched the reunion.

We did the scent swapping etc. Pickle has lost all his aggressive behaviour but unfortunately Gesso has a memory. So when Pickle comes up to groom Gesso; or to play, Gesso runs away. He is just plain scared.

The situation is unresolved and rather stressful. Hence the lack of blogging. When there is a resolution, I’ll let you know!

Budgie Smugglers

budgie‘You might have to explain to your international readers what budgie smugglers are’ says Dad upon me entering the house.

Oh. Oops. Didn’t even think of that.

Then again, I know that my international friends seem exceptionally well read and would probably know what they are anyway. I on the other hand am still occasionally stumped. I had to write to Isobel (of Isobel and Cat fame) recently to ask whether ‘cream crackered’ was a term familiar to her, or whether it was well known. Cockney rhyming slang it turns out. Last week, I learnt about ‘Pinkertons’ on the back of watching Ripper Street. (There are times when wikipedia is really indispensable).

So, back to the budgie smugglers. In case anyone isn’t familiar, it’s a slang term of men’s speedos / swimming costumes and seems to be used often in reference to our now current Prime Minister given his fondness of sport. It takes a man with a good body (think well built surf life guide), to be able to get away with wearing budgie smugglers without looking pathetic. It’s something about the way they droop with water… the swimming costume that is. I refuse to even contemplate Tony’s actual anatomy. Ew. Sick. Now.

So dad reckons I need a glossary of terms for my blog. Really, there’s only a few you need to know to follow the plot. Here they are:

The Scroobious Pip.

That’s me.

Sometimes people ask me what exactly a Scroobious Pip is, I just reply – ah, that is the question! The story was a childhood favourite, written by one of the two great masters of nonsense – Edward Lear, an epileptic depressive who had a great love of his cat Foss.


My unconventional partner / boyfriend (depending on your preferred terminology). (Andrew associates partner with gay cowboy movies, I associate boyfriend with sounding 14 and temporary). Unconventional? Well, we don’t exactly fit the traditional model. We live separately. I work full time. He doesn’t. He’s domestically competent. I’m domestically challenged (except for light bulbs, I do those). I think the only thing traditional about us is he takes out his own garbage. My mum always taught me that men should do tyres and garbage.

Definition of Andrew? mischievous, Naughty. A 4 year old trapped in a 40-something year old body. An extremely talented artist (if only we could convince him of this) combined with a largely gentle soul. I say largely. He isn’t known for being a placid calm driver – especially if you take a disabled parking spot and you have no disabled parking permit.

Pickle sleeping as only Pickle can.

Pickle sleeping as only Pickle can.


The oldest of Andrew’s two cats and the most like him in personality – bloody naughty!

Andrew always said that if he couldn’t have a dog he didn’t want anything. Then after a while he decided a cat would be ok. As long as it was a girl cat. And black, or tabby.

So he adopted a ginger boy who certainly lives up to the tag Ginger Ninja. Andrew wanted a dog… well he’s doing his best to mould Pickle into a dog. Surprisingly, Pickle is mostly complying.

Recently, an ambulance officer referred to Pickle as a ‘caramel cat’. This has earnt him the title of ‘o Caramelle’ (said with a ridiculously corny French accent!)

Andrew and Gesso

Andrew and Gesso


Named after the white primer used in painting, Gesso has developed his own fondness for paint. While every other cat has stood in the paint just once, Gesso has done it at least three times… if not more.

Gesso is medium haired and deaf.

He makes you work for his affection but strangely we just seem to love him even more for it. When he actually lets me cuddle him for a little while, I feel that I’ve won a great battle / been included among a privileged few.

Gesso is frequently also called ‘the white cat’ (with the emphasis on THE), or squirrel.

And that’s half the fur family…

Licorice and Saffron

I don’t think it’s quite right for me to write about the two separately, for they really don’t separate you see.

Suitcase? What suitcase.

Suitcase? What suitcase.

That’s Saffron (8) on the top and Licorice (11) on the bottom. Two undeniably fat couch potatoes of cats with an everlasting number of hugs and smooches to give.

Licorice hates the vacuum cleaner. Licorice hasn’t figured out that each morning when I go to the fridge to get the food, she doesn’t need to follow me as I am just coming back with it. (Saff waits patiently in the bathroom). On the whole, Licorice is the gentle giant; except when at the mothership and it’s time to go back in the cat cage.

Saffron on the other hand, is reasonably ok with the vacuum cleaner but scared of all things new. Strangers / Visitors – check under the bed and you’ll find her.

PS: Mothership = home of my mum and dad a.k.a Cat Hotel.

So there you go dad. A glossary. Complete with pictures. Have I forgotten anything?


I couldn’t resist including one more picture of Pickle. Cheeky Pickle.

My boys

Gesso and Andrew in bed

Andrew and Gesso – being more than a bit cute!

Yes, I want my nose Licorice

Licorice does winter

Licorice – 11 year old Tortie from Cat Protection Society

Licorice’s habit of ‘poking me awake’ appears to be getting worse. I have tried very hard not to ‘reward’ her, by not getting up until the alarm goes off. Yet it seems like she is getting more persistent. So this morning I consulted Dr Google (as many people do). Hmm… I thought I was ignoring her, but I have sometimes ‘pushed her away’ and that seems like in cat terms that’s a response. As is any talking – even if it’s no. (This morning I’m pretty sure there was a loud ‘no’ when Licorice decided to ‘stroke’ my nose. I’ve checked and there isn’t a big scratch down it but it feels like it!)

Oh dear, I shall have to reaffirm to throw the covers over my head and do absolutely nothing to encourage her.


Saffron – 8 year old tortie from Cat Protection Society

Meanwhile Saffron was doing her morning routine – paper chewing again! Stupid me had left at piece of paper out in the bedroom.

While it may sound like I’m grumbling, I am still very happy to have them around today. Our family cat Pippy is quite sick at the moment and it’s meant the girls – and boys – have been getting extra cuddles.

Pippy has come down with a mystery illness. The vets are baffled. She is negative for FIV and ‘Feline Leukaemia‘ and it’s not cat flu either – certainly a relief; although FIV seemed very unlikely as Pippy doesn’t get into cat fights. Yet she is still a sick cat, although hopefully has turned the corner. Her temperature is slowly coming down and she is starting to eat again – if she is handfed by the vet nurse mind you! Mum, dad and I went to the vets on Friday afternoon to see her. She is sporting a new haircut – completely shaved underbelly and some off the sides too (I presume that was so they could do the ultrasound). Her eyes are still weeping, she is still snuffly and has developed a bit of a waddle when she walks, but there was a bit of spark. I put her down on the floor and she made a beeline for mum. It was very cute. Since Friday apparently her temperature has dropped a bit. She’s been sick for a week. Clearly a fighter though and I’m more optimistic now that she will pull through this. It was looking a bit grim on Wednesday / Thursday.


Pippy as a kitten in 2003 – RSPCA cat.

Since I’ve already put pics in of 3, I might as well feature the entire fur family. I never know how to answer the question, how many cats do you have? Especially while Chilli was alive. I tend to say 2, or 4, depending on the context.

If you are new to my blog, then here’s the quick version of why that’s a confusing question – I adopted Chilli in 2000. When I moved out of my family home (where Pippy and Poirot also live), I took Chilli with me. However, Chill was a bit of a special needs cat and for her well being went back to live with mum and dad. So I was catless. So in 2009, I adopted Licorice and Saffron (above). My fur family was complete. Then in 2010, I met Andrew (a man, not a cat!). Andrew didn’t have any pets. After swearing that he didn’t want one, he started to warm to my girls. So, with time, we adopted Pickle the ginger ninja and Gesso a deaf white cat. They live with Andrew but if they need to go to the vet etc, then I’m responsible. I guess you could say, it’s a shared custody arrangement! So you see, that’s why it’s hard to answer how many cats I have!


Pickle, age 2 1/2 and Gesso, about 1 1/2 – both from Cat Protection Society

Poirot June 2008

Poirot – aged almost 16 – RSPCA cat.


It’s been a week of coming home to just start work again. I’m preparing a 2 hour workshop for a conference – hence the lack of blogging.

In the furry circles it’s business as usual. I think Andrew is needing to negotiate his place in the bed. As I write this, Licorice and Saffron have placed themselves on my overcoat. No wonder when I was at the quilt show last week, one of the stall owners asked me if I had a cat! I looked down at my dress to find evidence of the awesome foursome.


A cat’s prerogative

I want to know why it is that a cat attempting to sit in your lap – especially when you don’t want it to – almost always manages to put it’s paw right where your bladder is? (For anyone interested I haven’t had children, my pelvic floor muscles are good so there has been no cat induced accident in this house)

Secondly, I want to know why when you sit on the couch doing nothing, the cat sleeps on the floor. As soon as you pick up a laptop, it’s anti-sharing instinct kicks in and the cat is determined to displace said laptop.

This is what Licorice is doing at this very moment. Now consider this: I am attempting to type this post with an 8 kilo weight on my left hand wrist. I’ll show you. (My right hand is free to use the iphone camera and it’s within my reach).

IMG_3462Those are my fingers emerging from heavy cat. Do you notice the two empty cat beds on the right hand side of the photo. Those would be the beds they are NOT sleeping in, even though I have turned the heater on. If I want them to actually sleep in the beds, then I need to turn the heater off and then they will go close to those beds and look pitifully at me and meow their request for the heater to be turned on.)

Ah relief. Licorice has decided to get off my hand. My wrist thanks her.

Of course, this cat displacement technique is not just unique to the laptop. Any computer is fair game as illustrated by Gesso here, relegating Andrew to one hand typing, unless Andrew wants to risk Gesso slipping off and falling down his legs. Not really a good risk on careful consideration really. We all know how cats use their claws to climb trees.

Andrew and Gesso

Andrew and Gesso

And while I’m asking questions about my cat’s interpretation of her rights in this household, I have a few more to add.

Why does Saffron so confidently claim ownership of any ‘green’ shopping bag? Is there some title deed written into such bags via cat scent that upon returning home with one, your cat as the right to take immediate possession of it and not return it for 3 days? (Excuse any typos from here, Licorice is back on wrist…. and part of touchpad). The royal cat prerogative exempts her from having to give the bag back for it’s original use. It is as if Green Bags are subject to squatters rights.

And why is it that cats are never interested in fitting themselves into a suitable size box, green bag, cat bed etc. Perhaps the things I have heard about a cat using her whiskers to judge whether it will fit through a space is just bunk. I can assure you that my cats either have ridiculously long whiskers, or when their whiskers sent the alert signal to their brain, they just ignore it. When I bought the cheap cat bed recently (a $5 purchase in a two-dollar shop), I deliberately chose the smallest one I could find because I am so used to my girls turning their noses up at anything which is of reasonable size. And regular readers of my blog will know, what happened then.

Can't we share?

Can’t we share?

I’m not finished yet. I have a few more questions about my cat’s prerogative. I want to know why when it’s really cold and you want the cat to sit in your lap and act as a pseudo-hot water bottle, she just isn’t interested. Crank up the temperature to a Sydney hot day of 30 something degrees and my lap is the most desirable location in the house.

And why is it that I can buy a ‘covered’ litter tray so in theory when the cat kicks the litter around it will hit the ‘roof’ and land in the box, that I still seem to have a trail of kitty litter across my bathroom floor. Kitty litter is the cat equivalent of Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs, though I really don’t get why they need them. I would expect if the cat wanted to re-trace her steps she would only need to follow the smell back to the bathroom. Unless of course, I’ve been the obedient cat servant that I’m supposed to be and cleaned the tray within 5 minutes of usage.

And why is it that anytime I want to photograph something, a cat must help by inspecting it at the same time I’m trying to take the photo.

Pickle inspecting the subject of my photography

Pickle inspecting the subject of my photography

They have an inbuilt instinct which must say ‘quick walk on it now!’ And lastly, why is it that given all the trouble they cause with flea management and cat hair and little nail shards at the floor of the scratching post, that we still love them as much as we do? I’m sure many servants dislike their masters but I will not include cat servants among them. In fact, we humble servants seem to enjoy having a laugh at how much privilege our cats bestow upon themselves. Here’s one example of that that I saw via Facebook recently – it’s had a few million views so I’m sure that it’s done the rounds and you may have seen it. For those who haven’t, I’ve included the sad cat diary below.

Of particular note for me is one of the opening diary entries about cats and keyboards – I think Licorice must have heard that when I played it the first time and she is now just demonstrating the point. With that, I think it is time for me to stop blogging and give her a proper cuddle.