Quick Project: Cat Toy

After one too many hours of looking at cat videos, I started searching online for environmental enrichment devices (for your cat they’d probably be called “toys”).  Before I dropped too much cash, I realized that I could repurpose an old shipping box we had kicking around the apartment.

First, the stats:

  • Difficulty: 🙀 / 5 frustrated cats
  • Success: 😻 😻 / 2 happy cats

You’ll need packing tape, something for cutting cardboard (I used a cheapo steak knife), some small cat toys, and a cardboard box that isn’t bigger than 2x the length of your cat’s arms (legs?) in any dimension.  I used a medium sized Amazon shipping box.

Take your box and cut the shorter flaps off one side.  Tape that side closed.  Submit to a cat scan.

Opal inspects the box; the shorter flaps on the inside have been removed.

Cut one of the flaps you removed into 4 long thin rectangles.  Score a right angle into the rectangles using the corner of the other piece.  Cut a few chunks out of the other one.

Bend each of the 4 small pieces as shown below.

Use the small pieces to reinforce the inside of the top and bottom of the box so that it will hold up to 20 lbs of cat at a time.

Tape the flap with the chunks cut out of it to one of the remaining flaps, fold the remaining small flaps down and tape them to the reinforcement pieces. Trim one into a large triangle, and the other to match the de-chunked piece. This will be the top side of the cat toy.

Sorry this is like 3 steps in one.

Tape the box closed. Keep the tape-eating cat away from the sticker shreds.

Now the fun part: cut a bunch of holes in the top and sides of the toy, trying to avoid the double-thickness parts on top and using a variety of hole sizes.

Grab a handful of your cats’ favorite small toys and stuff them in the box.  These mice are basically the best cat toy ever – other mouse toys don’t compare, even if they LOOK the same, the cats know the difference (available from Amazon).

Fern inspects the mousies.

Put the box out somewhere the cats will find it and enjoy the show.

10 minutes later:


The Gallery of Half-Finished Projects

It’s always good to take stock at the beginning of a new endeavor, so here’s my current list of half-finished projects and half-baked ideas.

Half-Finished Projects

Waffle-Knit Scarf:

I was on a knitting roll for a while last winter, and managed to actually finish a (too-short and wide) scarf in an incredible shade of blue.  In my hubris, I decided that my next project would be something more interesting… but not SO interesting I wouldn’t be able to do it.  Since I’m always looking to expand my collection of colorful scarves that can be wrapped around my head several times (give me a scarf pulled up to my eyes over a hat any day), and I’ve pretty much got knitting and purling under control, I decided to try to make this basket-knit scarf.   Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account the fact that it requires meticulous counting and I don’t know how to un-knit.  So when I mis-counted a row and had to try to back up, I ended up unraveling about 8 hours of work, and rage-quit the whole thing.  I think I’m almost over it.

The stats:

  • Current Progress: about 5%
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝 / 5 busy bees

Digital Weasley Clock:

This is a collaboration with my husband the Electrical Engineer.  We’re working on making a status clock in the style of the Weasleys from the Harry Potter books (it shows the location of household members rather than the time).  He’s putting together an LED board that we can use to display various icons, and I’m contributing the stuff that can run on our phones and show where we are.  I’ve been casually fiddling around with options (I’m playing with If This, Then That right now), but haven’t gotten really serious about coding yet.

The stats:

  • Current Progress: about 1% (of my part)
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝/ 5 busy bees

Colored Pencil Monogram:

My favorite crafting media are paper and colored pencils, so when I was bored a few weeks ago I started making a decorated monogram, inspired by The Bloggess.  The stuff is still sitting out on the dining room table, but I’ve lost interest (at least for now).

The stats:

  • Current Progress: about 40%
  • Desire to finish: 🐝/ 5 busy bees

Be Musical:

If anyone asks, I play the piano and guitar, but I also own a bass guitar because they’re awesome.  I took almost a decade of piano lessons in grade school, and I’m just good enough that if I apply myself I can play songs you’ve actually heard of (if we’re being honest, mostly Beethoven 😍 😍 ).  I picked up the guitar living in Spain, so I can play a few classical pieces, plus your usual chord-strumming stuff (“…anyway, here’s Wonderwall”). The music stuff is tough for me, because I love it, but if I practice every day (especially guitar), it tends to aggravate the typing RSI pain in my wrists and elbows, but if I don’t practice every day, then I can’t seem to form the habit of practicing more than once a month.

The stats:

  • Current Progress: will never be done learning
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝/ 5 busy bees

Apartment Decor and Organization:

We’ve been living in our current place for a little over 2 years, and I’m mostly happy with how we have it set up, but there are a few problem areas that I’d like to improve even more.  I’m thinking a closet inventory and purge, reviewing and editing my knicknack collection, and figuring out some more functional furniture arrangements, especially in the kitties’ room/spare bedroom/home gym/craft room (that second bedroom in the 2br apartment sure has a lot of jobs).

The stats:

  • Current Progress: about 80%
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝/ 5 busy bees

Half-Baked Ideas

Alter Clothes:

I have a good-sized pile of clothes that I would wear if I just tweaked them a little bit (hemming, taking in the sides, shortening straps, etc.).  I’d like to get around to actually making those changes so I can wear the things.

The stats:

  • Difficulty: 🤕 /5 pains in the butt
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝/ 5 busy bees

Learn a Language:

One of my favorite intellectual challenges is learning a new language (yes, I’m a super nerd).  I’ve lived in Spain and Germany and (more or less) speak those languages, so I’m ready for something new – the most practical option would be Japanese (since conferences are frequently held there), but I’ve also got my eye on French, since I managed to pick up a decent amount in a few weeks in France, so I’m hopeful it would be relatively quick and painless to learn.

The stats:

  • Difficulty: 🤕 🤕 🤕 /5 pains in the butt, depending on language
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝🐝/ 5 busy bees

Holiday Gifts:

Pretty soon here, I’ll start looking for some cool papercrafts and cookie recipes to send out to family as gifts.  Last year I made some awesome paper star ornaments (like this), and they’ll be tough to top.  For cookies, I usually bake 3-5 kinds, mostly the Traditional Family Recipes, with one new recipe thrown in to keep it interesting.

The stats:

  • Difficulty: 🤕 🤕 🤕 /5 pains in the butt
  • Desire to finish: 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝/ 5 busy bees

A complement to the academic lifestyle

You might not think of academic computer science as a creative discipline, but the best thing I’ve done for my career so far has been to treat it like one.  I’m always on the lookout for advice for writers and other creative people (why yes, Ask Polly is a particular favorite of mine),  and try to incorporate those ideas into my life and career.  Recently, I’ve been feeling a tug towards blogging (The blog is dead! Long live the blog!) as an exercise in looser, more open-ended writing and as a way to help me prioritize the creative side of my life.

At the moment, my plan is to use this blog as a record of my adventures in cooking, fashion, interior decor, crafting, and yes, technology (maybe there will even be a link to my github page eventually… maybe).  If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to rope some of my amazing friends into guest posting or co-blogging (friends reading this, you’re on notice!).