Thursday, February 12, 2015

DIY Headboard - Iberian Style

After painting our bedroom, Salva and I thought it would be nice to buy a decorative headboard. We asked in several stores and went "whaaaaaaa?" at the prices. Four hundred euros for a simple headboard? Are you kidding me? At that point, we decided it was time to take matters into our own hands...with a DIY project!

The following is a DIY project Salva and I successfully completed Iberian style. That is, without using the materials we should have used. We simply couldn't find most of them in stores. Did that discourage us? Noooooooo!

For a simple headboard, we needed:

1) Thin plywood cut to desired size (they cut it for us at the store).
2) Foam filling. We couldn't find the typical couch cushion filling we wanted so we went with the ugly grey one you can see below. It's not very floofy.
3) Padding to go over the filling. Again, we couldn't find it so we *ehem* bought a fluffy blanket from Ikea *ehem* and used it as padding. A month after completing this project, we found a store that sold the padding... Typical.
4) Some nice fabric, which will be the final touch. We bought the fabric at Ikea.
5) Staple gun and staples. Finally! Something we do have!
6) Extra strong glue. Make sure it's a type of glue that doesn't eat away at the foam. We went with the marvelous "No Más Clavos", which is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME.

Materials (excuse the cats; they're everywhere and I've given up):


1) Cut the foam to size. Salva, being a thoroughbred Iberian male, cast aside scissors and saws and razors and opted for the largest kitchen knife we have. (Absolutely no kitty was harmed during the process.)

2) Glue the foam onto the board. Let it sit for a little bit before moving on to the next step. We put a stack of dictionaries on top to weigh down the foam.

3) Pull the fluffy fabric over the foam. Begin the stapling process. First, we cut the blanket to size, leaving about four extra fingers on each side, and spread it over the table. Then we laid the headboard on top, wood facing up.

To correctly staple fabric to wood, first you must staple the center of each side while pulling the fabric tight. Pull tight on the front side, staple the center, release. Repeat on the center left, center right, and center bottom. Once the four main staples are in place, you can continue stapling working your way out towards the corners. Always keep your fabric taut to avoid wrinkles.

4) Staple the corners. This is the final stapling step and the most complicated one (though not so complicated you can't pull it off). I don't even have a picture of myself doing this step because Salva and I, plus my mother who was helping out, were all trying to do the same thing at the same time in the same place.

To staple a corner, simply fold in the sides, as if wrapping a present. Pull tight and staple. You can also cut off excess fabric so there isn't a big bump at each corner. Staple as many times as necessary until the fabric is taut and presents the minimum amount of wrinkles possible. There will always be some wrinkles at the corners.

5) Repeat the stapling process with the final cloth. Be extra careful because this will be your headboard's final look! If you choose a striped pattern, make sure your lines are all straight as you staple. You don't want wonky stripes!

Finished! Now to hang this baby up on the wall. This is the bed without the headboard:

It looks like it's missing something, right?

There we go! Much better!

The beauty of this is that whenever we get tired of the design, we can just buy new fabric and stable it over the old one!

And that's how we make a decorative headboard--Iberian style.

Note: "Iberian style" = do what you can with what you have. ;-)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Meet the Feline Family

After blogging (on and off...) for over two years, it's about time you met the feline family. You might have caught glimpses of them in some photos. Here they are, in order of appearance.

Mixa ("mee-shah")

It was hard to find a nice picture of her.
She's extremely UNphotogenic.
Mixa is the oldest cat in the house. She turned 10 in September 2014. Don't let her age fool you, though. She can be just as chirpy and silly as the rest. She's a beautiful traditional Siamese (or Thai) with a very cuddly and at the same time cranky personality (she can purr and growl at you at the same time). Like most Siamese cats, she's extremely talkative and after so many years with her you reach a point in which you actually understand what she's saying.
Mixa disciplining kitten Pebre.

A few years ago when I got her neutered, the vet discovered she had several tumors in her ovaries. That alone wouldn't have been a big problem, since he took them out. The vet, however, also noticed a strange lump on her spleen. He sent a biopsy to the lab and, yup: it was also cancerous. Barely two weeks after her neutering operation, Mixa went back to the OR to have her spleen removed. It was such a traumatic experience that she completely stopped eating and drinking. She had decided to let herself die, but Salva and I wouldn't have any of that. After a couple weeks of intensive care at home, Mixa recovered and was soon back to her chatty bossy self.

Pebre (Catalan for "Pepper")

Pebre was a bit silly-looking as a kitten.
Pebre is a gorgeous three-year-old European black tabby. He might look solid black, but I assure you he's covered in stripes! He's the largest and most photogenic of my four cats, but he's almost always in a bad mood--especially in the summer. Pebre CAN'T STAND the heat. Even though he growls a lot and hisses, he doesn't attack. Come winter, he's in a much better mood and he likes to cuddle up with us on the couch or in bed. He's the most cowardly feline in the house (if you just go "cht!" at him he'll run for his life), which is a real shame because he's huge and could be very strong and powerful if he for once decided to be assertive. When he was a kitten, he fell off our balcony (just a one-storey drop into our neighbor's patio--he didn't get hurt or anything), and I think that fall smacked all the courage out of him.

VERY silly-looking.


Pirate is the first cat we rescued from an extreme situation. As you can see, he lost an eye. He used to belong to some ex-friends of ours (I wonder why we're not friends anymore...), who constantly neglected him and allowed his eye to
Pirate as a kitten.
His eye was already a lost cause.
burst. When this happened, they decided not to tell anyone and let nature run its course. In other words: they didn't have money to pay for the vet so they decided to abandon the animal in the garden and let it die an excruciating death. Luckily for Pirate, Salva saw him and we took over from there. Once Pirate was better things turned ugly and the old owners began stalking us. Of course: the bills had all been paid and now they wanted their neglected cat back... It's a long and complicated story. In the end, the police had to come and give our ex-friends a briefing on the Catalan animal protection law. The cops told us to microchip Pirate fast, so that these people couldn't claim him again.

Pirate is now a little gangster. He's cocky and loves to wrestle with Taques, and he follows me everywhere and watches me as I go to the toilet, as I get dressed, as I cook, as I watch TV... Sometimes I feel bad because we might be on the couch and I can tell he's very comfy and doesn't want to move, but the moment I get up he feels the imperious need to follow me.

He also got fat.

Taques (Catalan for "Spots" or "Stains")

A month later, Taques was practically cured.
Taques is the newest addition to the feline family, and our second extreme rescue kitty. I found Taques on May 28 2014 in the middle of the sidewalk--dying. A thick layer of pus covered both eyes and he could only gasp for breath. He hadn't eaten in a very long time; he had absolutely no muscle, only dry skin covering brittle bones. I picked him up then and there and ran to the vet (who, luckily, was just one street away). The vet wasn't too optimistic, but he knows I cry over anything animal-related so he didn't dare tell me to put the kitten to sleep. Instead, we spent weeks feeding Taques with a syringe every two hours, giving him his medication, cleaning his eyes, trying to clean the buildup in his tiny nose...

Taques has a wonky tail.
One (late) night, he scratched his eye and ripped off part of his third eyelid. It scared us so much that we ran him straight to the twenty-four-hour vet hospital. That day marked the beginning of his new life. The vet on duty spent over an hour with him carefully cleaning his eyes, ears and nose--and it made a huge difference. From that night on, Taques began to react much quicker and actually started to gain weight. It still took him a long time to recover, but he made it in the end and now he's an absolute banshee. He loves Salva and me to death. He's talkative, funny, quirky and hyperactive. He always needs to be the center of attention and he purrs so loudly it sounds like he'll take off at any moment.

And that's the feline family! Too many cats! Toooooo many cats! But that's how life went, and I'm happy we have them. :-)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 RR - The Hounds of Hell

Oh, happy day! Today I finished the second book from my 2015 Reading Resolution list!

The Hounds of Hell: Stories of Canine Horror and Fantasy, edited by Michel Parry, receives a solid four-star review from me.

Let's begin with the basics. The short stories in this collection all revolve around canines, be they good, evil, spectral, or even real pets. The book I own is the hardcover 1974 edition (I have a soft spot for older books versus newer editions). Most of the stories therein range from the early to mid twentieth century--probably my favorite decades for fantasy and horror.

Some of the stories are entertaining, some pull you right in...and others fall flatter than a pancake. Did I say pancake? No. Something even flatter. A crepe. Stick with me and you'll see.

Let's have a quick roll call, shall we? I'll include the story's title, author, and first sentence, along with my personal verdict.

The Hound, by H.P. Lovecraft
In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint, distant baying as if of some gigantic hound.

KVerdict: Not bad, although Lovecraft 's flowery style does get to me sometimes (I know, the time period...). I have several of his books, but sadly am not a great fan of his work. This story isn't an exception. It's just all right.

Staley Fleming's Hallucination, by Ambrose Bierce
Of two men who were talking one was a physician.

KVerdict: The first of many stories in this collection to have someone stalked by a phantom dog and ultimately get their throat ripped out. *Yawn.*

The Dog, by Ivan Turgenev
"But if you once admit the existence of the supernatural, and that it can enter into the ordinary affairs of everyday life, allow me to ask what scope is left for the exercise of reason?"

JVerdict: An excellent story with a rather slow opening. The Dog has the honor of being the only story to make a chill run through me. Once again, the character is stalked by a dog during the night. This dog, however, is warning him of what's to come...

The Hound of Death, by Agatha Christie
It was from William P. Ryan, American newspaper correspondent, that I first head of the affair.

KVerdict: A nun dreams of things which she believes never existed, but seem more real to her than life. Could she be remembering backwards?--Seeing what's to come? The symbolism, the premonitions, the signs... There is a distinct cult feel around this story, which nonetheless lacks something, as if it weren't completely fleshed out.

Dead Dog, by Manly Wade Wellman
They brought the rebel chief Kaflatala out of the jungle to Father Laboissier's mud-brick house, brought him in a tepoia because he still limped from a Portuguese bullet in his thigh.

JVerdict: Although Dead Dog repeats the premise of a person being stalked at night by a vengeful hound, the African setting, so different from the other stories in the collection, made for an interesting read.

The Dutch Officer's Story, by Catherine Crowe
"Well, I think nothing can be so cowardly as to be afraid to own the truth," said the pretty Madame de B., an Englishwoman, who had married a Dutch officer of distinction.

KVerdict: A ghostly hound wakes up sentries who are asleep on their watch, so of course someone higher up decides to see what happens if he shoots the creature. I don't understand why so many of the characters in these stories feel the need to shoot at dogs.

Vendetta, by Guy de Maupassant
Palo Saverini's widow dwelt alone with her son in a small, mean house on the ramparts of Bonifacio.

KVerdict: This is one of the few stories where the dog is a regular, living breathing pet--trained to kill.

Dog or Demon? by Theo Gift
"The following pages came into my hands shortly after the writer's death."

JJVerdict: Excellent storytelling by Victorian novelist Dora Havers (under a male pen name, of course). Probably what I loved most about this story is the fact that, even though it takes place in 1878 Ireland, the topic of eviction (with all its paperwork and personal drama) is so similar to what could happen nowadays--if you don't include the curses and the phantom killer dog (again).

Louis, by Saki
"It would be jolly to spend Easter in Vienna this year," said Strudwarden, "and look up some of my old friends there."

JVerdict: At first I was a bit disgusted. Murder your wife's beloved pet just to be able to go on vacation? However, once the murder plan is carried out and the truth is discovered, the story deserves a chuckle.

The Howling Tower, by Fritz Leiber
The sound was not loud, yet it seemed to fill the whole vast, darkening plain, and the palely luminous, hollow sky: a wailing and howling, so faint and monotonous that it might have been inaudible save for the pulsing rise and fall; an ancient, ominous sound that was somehow in harmony with the wild, sparsely vegetated landscape and the barbaric garb of the three men who sheltered in a little dip in the ground, lying close to a dying fire.

JJVerdict: The protagonists of this story, Grey Mouser and Fafhrd, are the protagonists of a series of short stories. The Howling Tower starts off a bit slow, and the point of view is so distant it's at times difficult to grasp, but once the action begins it's a tale full of imagination that I won't mind reading again.

The White Dog, by Feodor Sologub
Everything grew irksome for Alexandra Ivanova in the workshop of this out-of-way town--the pattens, the clatter of machines, the complaints of the managers; it was the shop in which she had served as an apprentice and now for several years as seamstress.

LVerdict: This is probably the flattest story in the entire collection. The beginning is all right and promises something like revenge or at least a good fight between Alexandra and a Tanechka, the youngest seamstress. What follows, however, is just awful. I'll just explain it, so if you don't want any spoilers please stop reading here. After being called a dog by Tanechka, Alexandra goes into a rage and returns home, where she ponders her existence and the round, full moon. There is ambiguity about whether or not she is a shape shifter. Driven by a force stronger than her will, Alexandra tears off her clothes and runs outside, where she lies on the ground and howls at the moon. Two neighbors see what they believe is a massive white dog, so logically (¿?) they run out and shoot it...

"The discharge of a rifle sounded in the night air. The dog gave a groan, jumped on its hind legs, became a naked woman who, her body covered with blood, started to run, all the while groaning, weeping and raising cries of distress. The black-bearded one and the curly-headed one threw themselves in the grass and began to moan in wild terror." THE END

Seriously? Put some Nutella on that crepe and serve it to me hot.

The Hound, by William Faulkner
To Cotton the shot was the loudest thing he had ever heard in his life.

KVerdict: I could have enjoyed this American South story more if the writing weren't so disjointed. There are several passages--especially descriptions of places and series of actions--where it seems the author just skipped over entire sentences. I don't know if this style is intentional to fit the protagonist, but it made for a confusing read.

The Emissary, by Ray Bradbury
Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees.

JJVerdict: An excellent story told in an excellent voice--probably, my favorite from the collection, in fact. Little boy Martin is perpetually sick and bed-ridden, but his faithful Dog tells him everything of the outside world through the smells and brambles (and other stuff...) he brings back in his fur. The ending had a very strong Pet Sematary feel to it, which was juuuuust fine.

The Hound of Pedro, by Robert Bloch
They said he was a wizard, that he could never die.

JVerdict: Another excellent story revolving around wizardry and black magic, this time in 1717 Mexico. The depictions of violence and cruelty are exceptionally vivid in this one, so it's not for the faint of heart.

The Whining, by Ramsey Campbell
When Bentinck first saw the dog he thought it was a patch of mud.

LLVerdict: Horrible! Awful! I never want to read this again! When I began reading this collection, I had some reservations as I was worried that some of the stories might depict cruelty to a "real" (not phantom, not satanic) dog. This story fed my fears. And of course, the protagonist loses his marbles in the last line or two. How convenient. Nope.

The Death Hound, by Dion Fortune
"Well?" said my patient when I had finished stethoscoping him, "have I got to go softly all the days of my life?"

JJVerdict: Once again, an excellent story told by an excellent storyteller, Violet Wirth, "the most influential female occultist since Madame Blavatsky." The Death Hound features occult detective Doctor Taverner, who uses his wit and a dose of white magic to thwart an attempt at mental assassination. How come I never heard about this author or this character before? *Runs off to find more Taverner stories!*

And that concludes my analysis of The Hounds of Hell. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, though the topic of killer dogs did become a bit repetitive (I can't blame anyone--it's a collection of stories about killer dogs!). The best result of reading this collection is that now I know more authors and more characters I can look up. Doctor Taverner, here I come!

Would you like to read The Hounds of Hell?

What book should I strike off my list next? I was thinking about reading The Vision by Dean Koontz, merely because it's completely different to what I just read. However... I remember the first pages being so sappy... I guess I'll have to soldier on through it, right?
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