Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Mysterious and Troubling Illness of the Goose

This past month has pretty much sucked.  Some months do, especially because my goal is to be left alone by the world and to be allowed to get on with whatever it is I'm creating.  The world doesn't work that way, and it has ways of letting me know I'm being unrealistic

Our big old Goose.
One of our three cats - Gustav Ignatius ("Goose") suddenly became ill.  He was fine one day and the next morning he was twitching, pawing at his face, scratching himself all over, twitching, sneezing, and coughing.  He was obviously in utter misery.  An emergency trip to the vet revealed nothing much.  Our vet - who is a good guy as vets go, but vets don't know much at the best of times - said it was either "an allergy" or "a spider bite."  He gave Goose a shot of Depo medrol, took some blood and sent us home, telling us the shot should take effect within a couple of hours. * 

Six hours later Goose was still twitching all over, and the vet then told me "perhaps I was a bit over-enthusiastic in my time frame."  Yeah, or perhaps you were just wrong.  The blood work, which cost over $200, showed nothing much except moderate elevations in values that show allergic reactions.  

I held Goose on my lap continually, talking to him, trying to soothe him.  Every now and then he'd jump down as if bitten (no fleas, honest) and run a few steps, shake his head, and scratch his body.  He seemed utterly out of it and confused.  I was crying most of the time, intensely frustrated, wanting to make him feel better but not having any clue how to do that.  

Of course I did a lot of research online.  Turns out Depo medrol has a lot of side effects in cats, which is a thing my vet didn't mention.  It also turns out that cats in this area are in danger from two spiders - the black widow and the brown recluse.  We have no black widows.  We almost certainly have no brown recluses, and if we did Goose would never go near it.  He points out insects now and then, but is otherwise wary, only wanting us to get rid of them.  The search for allergens was utterly unfruitful.  We hadn't changed anything at all in the weeks prior to his attack.  We were using no new products.  He hadn't gotten into anything.  Of course he's never been outside.  No one had visited.  He'd had no new foods.  

The Depo medrol masked his symptoms and did a real number on the poor guy.  At one point he had some seizure-like activity, with his head arching back in a strange way and his neck twisting.  I wrote to my vet.  "Sounds like it's neurological," he replied helpfully via email.  Well, duh.  All I could do was hold Goose while he dreamed and twitched and scratched.  I had no idea whether he was about to die any second.  

Mr. Sprockets holding Annabelle
Marie and Gustav Ignatius at
three weeks old.  
At times like these you try to not anticipate the worst, but at 14 years he's an old cat, and all lives end sometime.  His sister died several years ago.  We raised them from three-week-old kittens (they had lost their mother), bottle-feeding them many times a day.  And if I am honest Goose is my favorite.  We have routines. We have rituals.  He likes Mr. Sprockets, but he adores me.  I am his Person.  So his loss, whenever it happens, will be profound.

The main question I had was whether he was suffering, and if so to what degree.  Obviously he was uncomfortable, but he was still eating (a lot, thanks to the steroid) and drinking quite a bit, still using the litter box, and so on.  It did seem to me at one point that he was suffering badly, so I had to think about when it would be time to end his pain.  It was such a sad time.

Gradually, over seven or eight days, Goose's symptoms cleared up and the Depo wore off.  As of today he is normal, or what passes for normal in his case.  He is old and has some form of Alzheimers.  He jumps on my lap and stands there, confused, until I pat him down.  He howls and needs to be called, as if he's forgotten where he is or where I am.  Sometimes he just howls regardless, as if he is the world's worst and most enthusiastic yodeler.  He chatters back at me whenever I talk to him, and if I'm not where he wants me to be he lets me know about it by grumbling.  He naps with me in the afternoon, in a certain position, with me holding his hind feet.  He is a remarkable, special cat and I adore him.  

The thing is, we still don't have any idea what caused the attack, and neither does our vet.  This means it could reappear at any time.  After telling me one morning that he was sure it was an allergy, in the afternoon the vet went back to "I'm pretty sure it was a spider bite."  Nice work, hot shot, but you have no evidence for anything.  And if you seriously think it was a spider bite, then our other cats are at risk, but it wasn't so never mind.  What ever happened to "I just don't know" as a valid response?  Because "spider bite" is next door to "extraterrestrial invasion" in my book.  As in didn't happen.

So we're waiting and watching, and hoping this doesn't return, hoping he'll stick around for a while. I try to avoid feeling dread, and I cherish every interaction with Goose even more than I did before.  I'm determined to be ready to let him go when it's time, and he will not suffer, because that is what I owe him.  

Afterward, I'll dissolve into a whimpering pile of sludge for as long as I need to.  


*This vet also went a bit spare when I mentioned Goose's shots weren't up to date.  I was concerned when Goose was about to be handled by the vet tech.  Goose isn't normally a biter, but he was in distress, so all bets were off.  The vet went white and said "but his rabies shot is valid, right?" He could have seen from the file that his last rabies shot expired many years ago, and when I told him no, he said "but it's the law."  The law is an ass, and in this case a rather remarkable ass, because I have far more chance of being bitten by a rabid animal than Goose does, and no one is chasing me around with a needle.  I see no sense in vaccinating against something that isn't going to happen.  I once had a vet tell me that "a bat could fly down the chimney."  In which case my chimney cap is faulty, and in which case thank you for giving me something else to worry about.  Except what the hell was wrong with him that he'd even thought of such a thing?  Any bat which flies down a chimney (did a bat ever do that?) is going to want nothing but to get away from me and every other creature.  So while Goose was there he was forced to get his rabies shot.  If he had bitten a tech he would have been put down.  Because - oh yes - that's the law.  Which we can all agree is a huge, flaming horse's hind end.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Oh, summer. I could quit you.

This being my 60th summer, you'd think I'd know what to expect.  And yet this year the heat has hit me so hard.  Whenever I have to be out in it I am in utter misery.  I feel like my vital essence is being siphoned off - and this from someone who grew up without air conditioning in the DC suburbs!  I went to college in southern Maryland without air conditioning.  All we had were fans.  It boggles the mind.  

Summer hasn't changed.  I have.  Hormonal disasters within my body have caused me to be utterly intolerant of heat.  I noticed this past winter that I was fine with the cold.  Not turn-off-the-furnace fine, but I never really got cold, even when I was out in it.  ("Out in it" for me means when I walked between my heated car and a heated building.)  I used to be freezing all winter, with the same exposure.  

Winter hasn't changed.  I have.  Maybe, if I could summon up the energy to move to another area, I could go to Maine, or Vermont, or Quebec - assuming the Canadians would let me in, which is doubtful.  What do people do in Canada, anyway? 

Thank goodness no one has to move north these days to escape the heat.  The most marvelous invention of all time, second only to the television and the internet, is air conditioning.  When I come in to our air conditioned house from the boiling swamp outside I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from me.  I can breathe.  I am happy.  All is as it should be.  

I know there are some purists out there who eschew air conditioning.  They talk about "getting used to the heat."  I happen to know that can be done, since I did it in my childhood.  After having air conditioning, it takes about two solid weeks of utter, intense misery to "get used to" the heat, and even then no one is comfortable in it.  Also, environmentalist though I am, I could care less what toxic chemicals are required to run the AC unit.  If it ran on the blood of virgins, I'd manage to look the other way.  I'd even try to find virgins, assuming they are available online, because I'm not going out in that weather.  I also do not care what it costs to keep the house cooled.  Whatever the price, it's a fair deal.  I can do without just about anything else, except internet.  

These days, we venture out in the early morning and late evening, to water the garden and get the mail.  We did a lot of work in the garden when the weather was cooler, and now it's on its own, suitable for viewing from inside the house.  The flowers, stupid, floppy showoffs that they are, seem to thrive on the heat.  So does all the lovely wildlife, and they are welcome to it.  

Summer.  It truly is for the birds.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Duck issues and eight pounds of potato salad

Bookmaking continues.  I'm making about one a week, so soon I should be knee-deep in books, unless people start buying.  I'm still enjoying it immensely, and there are a lot of different techniques I want to try.  My latest, listed just today, is "Knave of Hearts."

This little guy was a lot of fun to make, and the small size is intriguing to me.  I bought an antique copy of Chaucer's "Knights Tale," coincidentally enough, thinking I might be able to clean up the cover and use it as it was.  Unfortunately the ink came off as I was cleaning it, so my fallback position was to use it as a substrate.  I colored it with Inktense pencils and my own brown glaze, and then applied a reproduction antique playing card and some metal embellishments.  I left the original pencil writings on the inside covers, but added the original copyright information on the front inside cover and included a few bird stamps on the back inside cover.  The small size of the book enabled me to get two folios out of each sheet of letter-sized paper, which meant less excess paper to recycle.  All in all, a fun project.

We've been having Duck Issues out back by the pond.  We had thought our paired mallards were going to lead babies up to the bird feeder any day, as they have in previous years (undoubtedly
not the same pair each year), and at one point we saw the female with two babies, but we never saw the babies again.  Now there are sometimes five male mallards and the one female, and we assume all or most of them were born here in the last several years, because they get along just fine.  Their ability to coexist is an indicator that there is no breeding going on, and nothing to defend.  It could be that the feral cats around here got the ducklings, or a coyote or a fox.  Really, it's amazing any ducklings ever survive to adulthood.  I also think this female is young and/or demented.  She sometimes stomps around quacking nonstop, and running at the male ducks, only to veer off before a confrontation.  She's peeved about something, that's for sure.

These stripey petunias came from
the garden center.  
I'm not happy with progress in the front garden.  The annuals I started from seed are still not catching up, despite excellent weather, plenty of water, and great compost-enriched soil.  Their perennial counterparts, which have been in the garden for years, are doing great, so it's not an environmental thing.  I'm beginning to wonder if they will ever do their annual job.  I also wish I'd just gone to the damned nursery and loaded up on flowers.  There is an awful lot to be said for instant gratification, especially at my age.  Next year I'll rent a van and buy everything they have!

While I was out front I saw that there was a lot of volunteer dill, so I picked some of it and came in to make potato salad.  Now we have eight pounds of the stuff, and it's so good that it will soon be gone.

In no particular order, here are some photos I took this morning in the front garden.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Foxglove, milkweed, a mystery bulb and a rusty typewriter

Older chives and young lilies before bloom
I have just been taking pictures in the front garden.  The sun doesn't shine there directly until about 11:00, so the morning is the best time for photos.  Probably because we had such a mild winter, this year's garden holds some surprises.  For one thing, a snapdragon overwintered, which is unheard of here.  That's more of a Zone 7 thing, and we're in Zone 5b or 6a, depending on who you ask.  Apparently no one told this snapdragon.  I've surrounded him with snaps I've grown from seed, and they look outrageously puny by comparison, because they are now putting out roots before doing their jazz hands thing.  

I started over 140 seedlings under lights this year.  I used to do it all the time, but when we moved here and had some money I got lazy and started buying annuals from the garden center.  This year for the first time (because I'm slow) I realized how doused in all kinds of chemicals plants at the garden center are.  They are treated with a concoction to make them bloom fast, and another elixir to make their foliage grow slowly, and they are pesticided and fertilized beyond belief.  (How they still arrive with slugs in them is a mystery.)  Also, many of them are genetically modified, a practice which does no one but the growers any good at all.  They certainly don't contribute to our organic lifestyle.

So this year I ordered seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, which claims to sell only heirloom varieties, untreated with anything.  The marigolds I ordered are supposed to be extremely fragrant, "the way you remember them from childhood."  Well, nothing is the way I remember it because it never was that way to begin with, but I live in hope.  Right now the little things are still quite spiky and puny.  

Ferny fennel
We've had a lot of fennels spring up, seemingly from nowhere.  Two years ago we planted a fennel from the garden center.  It never did very well and kind of withered away (perhaps due to the chemicals it came with) but apparently it managed to seed the surrounding area before it gave up the ghost.  This year we have about five strong, strapping gorgeous fennel plants.  They are the host plant for a whole lot of nice butterflies, so hopefully they will be found and used well.  

Hello, butterflies!
We are likewise inundated with milkweeds.  We have several native milkweed volunteers in our wildflower bed to the north, but last year or the year before I ordered one from Companion Plants in Athens, Ohio, which is a magnificent source for artisan-grown plants.  That one plant, like the aforementioned fennel, did all right the first year and then kind of petered out, but it obviously also seeded before dying.  This year we have four milkweed plants in that general area.  They are also vital to the lifecycle of various butterflies, and are very welcome.

digitalis very purpurea
The foxgloves have taken off, too.  Last year I collected and scattered the seeds from the foxgloves, and a few of them have sprouted.  These plants don't know they are bienniel, and they come up in pretty much the same place every year.  Originally I bought them in all kinds of hybridized shades, but as they reappear year after year they have lost their phony whites and yellows and are now back to the luscious pinky purple they should be.  These foxgloves are thugs, and most of the plants are over five feet tall already.  Once they start going to seed I'll slip some knee-high stockings over their seed heads and tie them down tight, and wait for seed harvest.  It's an interesting look for them.  

Probably garlic
We have a six-foot-tall garlic-type plant, which we believe to be garlic.  We're not going to dig it up to find out.  We almost remember planting it, and if we did it was an impulse purchase in the checkout line at the local garden center.  Right now it has this large flower bulb on the top, which bends this way and that depending on mood and whether Mercury is in retrograde.  The other day it was bent at 90 degrees, pointing south.  After a good rain it pointed west.  Several smaller flower bulbs adorn the plant lower down.  If we did have it last year - and again, we can't remember because we forget things - it was nowhere near this large.  If it is garlic, its underground bulb is the size of a dinner plate.

Finally, the old typewriter I put out on a stump earlier this year is rusting nicely.  It was light years beyond use or repair.  Fortunately, it is decorative.  For some reason I was surprised to find it is attractive to birds looking for a place to rest, as evidenced by a few whitish deposits.  Maybe we'll have a nice rain soon to restore it to its former pristine shabbiness.

Overlooking the pond

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Weigh Each Species Separately. It's important.

Here is my latest book.  It is 5.5 by 4.25 inches in size, and it was a joy to make.  It has 112 blank pages.  

As you can see, the assemblage elements are starting to creep in, as I should have known they would.  In this case, it's a vintage old frozen lock mechanism.  I adhered it with Golden's Heavy Gel and then used four sharp tacks as rivets, driving them through the cover, cutting them off on the other side and then spreading out the remaining ends with a hammer.  After that I was able to attach the inner front cover to the smooth surface.    

I am not piggy.  
The text on front and back is from a vintage bill of lading for shipping stock.  Apparently there are/were a lot of rules in this regard, some of them very unsavory.  I've thrown the icky bits away.  I wonder what the order to mark stock means.  Does it mean mark it on the bill of lading, or on the stock itself?  I also wonder what a "piggy sow" is.  Aren't all sows pigs?

Back cover

Add caption
I covered the salvaged book boards with crumpled brown paper, then applied color with Inktense pencils, India ink, white gesso, and my own proprietary glaze.  The insides of the covers were collaged with endpapers salvaged from a vintage children's book which was a favorite of mine when I was young.  

Inside front
The spines are covered with pieces of gold/ochre mulberry paper, and the front cover sheet is a section from an antique ledger sheet.  The inside papers are my usual ivory heavy bond, with a couple of other page colors thrown in randomly for variety.  

Gathered long stitches.

I bound the book with unwaxed dark brown hemp cord, in kettle stitch and gathered long stitch.  I had fully intended to wax the cord, but it didn't seem to need waxing so I conducted an experiment, which worked.  This is a very strong cord, without a lot of lumps or bumps.  

I've located a new paper shop, and I hope to visit it sometime this weekend.  I want to find a heavyweight bond with a higher cotton content.  All readily-available paper seems to be printer paper, which is not what I need.  I remember the days of 100% cotton bond, and I wonder if there is any of that left at a reasonable price.  I'd like to mix it with found and vintage papers.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hand Book

Hand Book is my first foray into home publishing.  It's a 32-page booklet bound with a 5-hole pamphlet stitch, measuring approximately 8.75 by 5.5 inches closed.  

I made the cover from doubled, folded and glued Tyvek, which I painted, stamped and overpainted.  I am very impressed with Tyvek, because it is strong, lightweight, pliable, and takes acrylic ink like magic.  This is no doubt because it doesn't contain one natural ingredient, but I'm overlooking that for now.  This booklet's cover might survive the End Times.  

I created Hand Book in MS Publisher.  It took me more than a day because I'd never attempted layout in Publisher before.  Turns out it's not very difficult, but of course there's a learning curve.  After writing and rewriting the text, I painted the images and applied collage embellishments.  The result is a nifty little product which anyone with hands, or who hopes one day to have hands, should find useful.  Here are some of the pages:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Adventures in Bookbinding: The Birth of Big Pink

My interest in bookbinding began in high school.  I worked a few hours a week in a used bookstore, and I became fascinated with the construction of older books.  For a period of several months, I was certain my wonderful future life would be spent making amazing hand-bound books.  I would do it professionally, and I would be world-famous.  Unfortunately, I caught this bug in the 1970s, when the adults around me had no idea how anyone would learn such a thing and there was no internet for research.  The local library had nothing.  My youthful bookbinding career was over before it began.  

I caught the fever again several years ago.  I made a simple pamphlet.  Okay, that was easy.  Then, while pursuing other art forms, I began collecting old books for their interesting covers, and I put them in a box.  Every now and then I'd buy something bookbinding-related, an awl or some waxed linen thread, and it would go into a drawer. 

One day I noticed a lot of new books at the store.  Most of them were about altering existing books, and I needed to learn how to do that.   There was a project that had been kicking around in my head for years.  

Pages from The Book of Isaiah
The subject of my altered book, The Book of Isaiah, was a mysterious family document.  I now know quite a bit about a young boy who was briefly adopted by my great-great uncle, then was given back to his birth parents.  He had a difficult life and became a Jehovah's Witness, although the two are not always related.  The project was intense and emotional and fun while it lasted.  I'm glad I did it, but it took a lot out of me.  I have to be very inspired for a very long time to do something like this.  All in all, it took a month of constant work.  

I own these.
After getting this family-related altered book out of my system, what I wanted to do was actual bookbinding.  This time, thanks to the march of progress, I was able to find much more information.  I studied methods online and I purchased several books about how to make books (now there's a lucrative enterprise).  I read about how very difficult the coptic stitch is, to the point that people need to take classes, and "even then, I can't remember it. . . ." I strongly suspected that Coptic stitch was just a chain stitch, and that turned out to be right.  I amassed the needed supplies and tools. I stirred up my courage. I began.

Big Pink is Born

Meet Big Pink

Inside cover

For my first endeavor I decided to use an old children's book about nothing much, a library discard.  I cut off the spine, leaving enough cover to turn under and glue along the long edge.  I covered the insides, front and back, with crumpled brown paper bag material, stained and sealed.  After drying the covers under weight overnight, I began.

Showing the pages
I chose some high-quality ivory laser paper for the pages.  This was going to be a blank book, maybe a journal or what we old-timers call a diary.  This project was about construction.  I cut the paper instead of laboriously tearing it.  I doubt I will ever have the inclination to tear all the edges off 45 sheets of paper just to make it look arty, but I might.

The signatures
Then it was simply a matter of following instructions, carefully and thoughtfully.  I wasn't used to working with such a long length of thread in the needle - over 100 inches for this book - and I found it tedious.  The thread kept tangling, even though it was supposed to have been waxed, and I had to run it over beeswax a couple of times.  I had anticipated that maintaining the correct thread tension would be a chore, but it really wasn't, even without using a specialized frame.  I did all the work on my lap and on the table.  I found out very early that the holes I'd made with the awl weren't large enough.  I should have stopped and made them a little larger, but I resorted to force instead.  It worked out fine, but I hope I do the mature, responsible thing next time.  

I very much like the look of the midnight blue papers cradling every other signature.  I have a large collection of endpapers now, which I cut from books I was recycling or donating.  I used a piece of heavy vintage twill tape for the ribbons, and I wish I had more of that, because it behaved wonderfully.  

I was a nervous wreck throughout.  At one point I overheated so much that I had to rip my shirt off.  It felt bizarre to be half naked while working, but after a while the task pulled me in so far that I was unaware of my body or my surroundings.  

Showing the stitches
And it all turned out fine.  The coptic stitch is no big deal, and I discovered that I do not need the recommended curved needle, because I can just open the book and go between the appropriate signature and back again (this will make sense if you do it).  The "true kettle stitch" is a no-brainer.  Like so many things, the diagrams and instructions I read made the process seem much more complicated than it actually was.  

The end result is outrageously and overwhelmingly pleasing to me.  I love the color of the cover.  I made no attempt to repair the cover's worn edges, other than to color them black and dab them with sealant.  Big Pink is 180 pages of ivory-colored goodness, and I think it's beautiful.  If it were offered for sale, I'd buy it.  For me, that is the acid test.

I now have several books in the pipeline, and many more in my head.  At some point I'll start thinking about adding content.  There are so many formats I want to explore.  There are papers and threads and stamps and inks and all kinds of wonderful binding stitches.  I love all the possibilities, the variables, and it seems to me at this moment that the sky is the limit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The making of "Winter Bonsai"

Winter Bonsai
I have just come across my work, Winter Bonsai, in my files.  I think this will be the first in a series of posts about pieces I live with each day, but often fail to appreciate because I'm so familiar with them.  

Concept and creation are my main joys.  Then comes the challenge of the mechanics of a piece, the hows of putting a piece together.  Once it is complete, I am done on an emotional level as well as a practical one.  I am more impressed with my work when I see it online than when I see it in my home, because my home is such an ordinary context.  When displayed on my walls, on my bookcases, in cabinets and on tables, my work is part of every day.  I frequently fail to notice it at all, and have to go looking for it when something reminds me I once made it.  

Early in my purchasing life on Etsy I'd found a seller in Japan who had some lovely bisque heads for sale.  These are almost always painted (black hair, red lips) and then fired again, but for some reason this lot was available in its unfinished state.  I was amazed by their open-mouthed beauty.  I bought them.  

Fukushima3, detail
The heads were on sticks.  I put them all into a jar on top of a bookcase, and there they sat for a year or more.   I used a picture of several of them in a section of another piece, called Fukushima3.  ( I want to talk about that piece, too.  Soon.)  In that work I think the women are talking to each other.  I see them bleached of color by the nuclear disaster and their losses, purified by their communal strength of purpose.  I see strength and tranquility in their faces.  They are the three women of Fukushima, the Fukushima3.  

Winter Bonsai was not an intentional work, which is to say I didn't think of it before I made it.  It wanted to be made, and it drove its own creation. It was conceived in a fury of creativity, when I was "in the zone," working on several different pieces at once, as I usually do.  When I was looking an element for another project, my eye caught on the heavy metal machine housing that now forms the base of Winter Bonsai.  It sprouted many earth-colored electrical cords.  When I played with the cords they wanted to rise up in a clump, and that clump wanted to be supported.  Suddenly it looked like a very lithe and spare body.  I devised a rod that would keep the clump upright (bamboo, as it turned out), and then looked for the right head.  There was my collection of bisque Japanese women, waiting patiently to be put to some good use.

Of course it wasn't this easy or this quick.  I always ponder, consider and reconsider each decision.  I try things out to see if they'll work.  Then I scrap my final decision, which is often resurrected down the line. So the steps in the paragraph above might have taken hours or days, I don't remember.  The key is to let the process take as long as it needs to.  When I am stuck, it means I need to concentrate on something else, and I do. (This is one of the main things the how-to books don't tell you: things take time.) All the while, I listen to my inner voice, which says "that looks terrible," "wash your hands," "almost right," and "needs more black."  I need to stay focused on what I want to see when the project is finished.  Everything is about achieving that vision, no matter what it takes.

A rooted tangle.
After the base and head assembly were finished, the look was not complete.  It needed a further base, a kind of symbolic bonsai container.  I painted a wooden box lid in a red and black tortoiseshell approximation.  Then I went too far and became literal, trying to find exactly the right pebbles to fill the container.  Tiny gray ones?  Green shards?  When I talked myself out of that wrong-feeling idea, I realized the container needed nothing extra.  It was fine as it was, empty and displaying its underlying form.  Half of successful creation is knowing when to stop.  Maybe more than half.  As T.S. Eliot wrote in Ash Wednesday, "Teach us to care and not to care/ teach us to sit still."  

Names for my work usually come easily to me, and this one did as well.  Although this has a bonsai shape, it is sparse, and spare.  It is all gnarly trunk and no foliage.  It is unclothed.  Therefore, a Winter Bonsai.  This bonsai conserves her strength and waits for spring.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Deathcakes - the worst craft idea ever

Craft mags and websites are desperate - absolutely slatheringly, rabidly desperate - for new craft ideas that don't require the crafter to possess any skills or creativity.  First it was counted cross stitch.  Then it was adult coloring books.  Now it's. . . .cupcakes made from spray foam insulation.  

He should be filling out online job applications.

"Faux food can be used to beautifully decorate a dining table or kitchen counter. Try making spray foam cupcakes. Place paper liners in an old cupcake tin. Carefully fill them with spray foam to create faux cupcakes. If desired, before the material dries, top each one with a faux cherry. Allow the fluff to dry completely before removing. If necessary, file or cut it away for perfectly shaped treats. The material is easy to sculpt. Paint the cupcakes with acrylic craft paint, and coat them with clear acrylic sealer. They will look good enough to eat."  --The Very Very Crafty Crafty Crafter

I have never decorated my counter.  Have you?  Where do I shop for faux cherries?  This stuff is not "fluff" and it doesn't "dry."  It's a pretty serious chemical compound that cures.  It should never be filed, because that causes fine particles to be airborne.  It is not easy to sculpt.  And God help you and your family if these abominations look good enough to eat.

Dow is one of the primary makers of spray foam insulation, although any company with a warehouse full of toxic chemicals has jumped on the foam wagon.  Here's what Dow recommends in regard to safety precautions when using their "Great Stuff" spray foam:
  • Shut off all pilot lights and sources of ignition, everywhere in the house.  That includes furnaces, water heaters, gas ovens, etc.  Tell your neighbors to do the same.
  • Do not get on skin.  You'll scream for hours if you do.
  • Use in well-ventilated areas.  Wear gloves, safety googles, and protective clothing.  Hold your breath while using.  
Mr. Smartypants in the photo above is doing everything wrong, obviously.  Here's what he should look like:

I hope no one out there in CraftWorld is making these Deathcakes.  If you are thinking about doing it, don't.  They won't look right, anyway.  Spray foam is notoriously difficult to control. It expands to 100 times its original volume in five seconds and cures instantly to the consistency of concrete.  It will engulf your grandmother's fine china in the blink of an eye, and it will encase the cat in seconds. As an added bonus, spray foam is the gift that keeps on giving, because its component chemicals have half lives of approximately a bazillion thirty years.  

Does that sound yummy to you?

Very crunchy cupcakes that take forever to swallow.