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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #20: Marge Simpson

What do broken sunglasses and Marge Simpson have in common? (Everything, clearly. Where do I even begin?)

If you’ve read my blog before you know that I almost always have a back story to my costumes. Today is no exception. Allow me to explain how broken sunglasses led to a Marge Simpson costume. If you’re like me, and you haven’t watched The Simpsons many times, it’s likely that you at least recognize the characters. The Simpson family is everywhere. You may be wondering why I am dressed as a character from a show I haven’t watched much. Excellent question. This is how my brain works:

Several months ago I decided that the broken sunglasses I’d been keeping for years would make a cool dress. I planned to make a dress from fabric printed with sunglasses, to which I would attach my broken sunglasses. But by the time the online seller got back to me about not having the fabric anymore, my idea had morphed.

The new idea was to make a hat from broken sunglasses parts. (This is obvious, of course. It’s the most natural reaction, upon breaking sunglasses, to say, “These clearly should become supplies for a hat.”)

Then the sunglasses hat idea morphed yet again. Instead of a hat, the sunglasses would become a giant blue beehive hairdo, like Marge Simpson’s.

When I first began typing notes for this post (months ago when my sunglasses hairdo was to be a dress), this post started with the confession of a secret. Here’s what I wrote:

I have bags of broken sunglasses in my art studio.

I have at least 24 pairs, maybe more (it’s hard to know since some of them are broken into pieces).

Some of them have been sitting there for more than a decade, waiting for a purpose.

(Now before you call 1-800-HOARDER to stage an intervention, I can explain.)

We artists sometimes keep things that other people might throw away. Part of it is that I don’t want to throw tons of stuff away. The landfills are plenty full, I think. But most of it is that many everyday objects talk to me.

(Please, wait. Don’t call for a straightjacket yet. I can explain.)

These objects whisper their secrets to me, things like, “You know, I could have a second life someday. I could come back as wonderful art supplies. Don’t throw me out. I have potential…”

So that’s why I have broken sunglasses in my studio. I’m not a hoarder. I’m a planner. And the good news is that this week these broken sunglasses have been given a new life.

Want to know what this costume cost to bring to life? I already had chicken wire (for the hair’s structure), paint, necklace materials, felt, hot glue sticks, thread and shoes.

Total cost: $2 for a skirt (thrifted), which I turned into the dress. This is the skirt before my scissors got near it:
For anyone who is interested in how to make your own Marge beehive, I’m sure there are various ways, but here’s how I did mine. I made a tube using chicken wire. I cut and bent the top of the tube inward so that the top would be closed, and rounded. This is how it looked at that point:
Then I covered the chicken wire with foam, which I reused from an insulated package. You can attach the foam with hot glue or needle and thread. I used both. Then I hot glued blue fabric to my beehive. Here’s the view of the inside of the beehive:
After this, I hot glued sunglasses to the hive and painted everything Marge blue. Voila!
A word about sunglasses. I tend to buy very inexpensive sunglasses. Partly this is because I’m frugal. And partly it’s because I seem to break them constantly. So why spend more than $10 on a pair? Usually less. Now, one might pose this question: is it possible that the sunglasses break easily because they are cheaply made? To which I might reply: yes, possibly. Do I buy cheap glasses because I know they’ll break? Or do they break because they’re cheap, which leads me to buy cheap ones the next time (because they’ll break)?  We have a chicken and an egg and there’s no way to sort this out. So I’ll take it as a sign that I’m supposed to buy the cheap ones. I can’t tell you how often the arms of my sunglasses have broken. Lenses, too. And this is maddening because with my big head and asymmetrical nose, I can’t just wear any old pair of sunglasses. I need to try on 20 pairs before choosing one.

Some of the 24+ pairs I have were ones I found. People tend to leave broken sunglasses on the steps to buildings. (Litterbugs.) Which I interpret as a sign that I should gather them for future art projects. Remember: it’s not hoarding. It’s planning. Plus, it’s not even my fault that I gather weird objects. It’s a gender thing. It’s imprinted into my double X chromosomes. Men are hunters and we women are gatherers. And so I gather.

I think that everyday objects can be used in unusual ways and can become art, not just broken stuff. The movement of turning used materials into wearable art is called trashion. There are limits to how much one should collect, of course. I really don’t want to become a hoarder, and I don’t think I’m anywhere near that. I can throw things out. I recycle a lot of things. I donate to the thrift store monthly. Of course, I collect found objects every single week, so the influx of new (old) stuff weighed against the outbound old stuff means that the volume of stuff I own is not decreasing. However, it’s not increasing, either. So clearly, I do not have a problem. I am not a hoarder. I’m a collector

And isn’t there a song that justifies my collecting? It’s a famous song written by John Lennon (or, by some accounts, John Lennon and Paul McCartney). I believe it goes like this: “All we are saying…is give trash a chance…”


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #19: Rorschach Inkblots

Are you familiar with the Rorschach inkblot test? If not, I will summarize it in one sentence, which may not give justice to all its nuances but I’m trying not to lose my readers! This inkblot test was developed in the 1960s by Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach as a method for analyzing people’s thoughts based on what they said the inkblots looked like. I am intrigued by the idea of inkblots showing who we are and how our brains work. Then it struck me: inkblot cards would make a fun costume. I wondered what people would see in the blots. One man said he saw a teddy bear on one of the cards, and my friend Andrea saw a Chargers lightning bolt. (To which I replied, “But Andrea, you are a passionate Chargers fan. You’d see a bolt in anything!” She couldn’t deny it…)


Reading inkblots is a technique still used today. But to tell you the truth, I’m not sure if I buy into the notion that you can tell a lot about a person based on what they see in an inkblot. We humans are complex and I don’t think we can be boiled down to a few responses to shapes on cards. I’ve always hated being labeled. Nobody really fits neatly into one label or another. Yet something about these images and the idea that they can reveal your personality—it’s oddly fun to me. It reminds me a little of the costume I made about fortune cookies. I find it funny that our futures could be predicted by a few words inside a cookie or that our personalities can be summed up by a quick glance at an inkblot. But these concepts are ones that make for creative costumes…

In case anyone is wondering, I whipped up this costume for next to nothing. Sometimes I share this part as encouragement, because creating something cool does not need to cost much. Poke through your local thrift stores. Go to garage sales. Cut up empty cereal boxes to use as materials. For this costume, I already had paint, elastic and thread, so I all I need to buy was one thing:

Total cost: $1 (white bed sheet from a garage sale, which I cut into six squares for inkblots and a dress)

Here are the blots I created before attaching them to my dress. Five of the blots are my original designs, based on the splotchy, curvilinear shapes Rorschach used.
Card 1: This is the only blot I made as a copy of Rorschach’s inkblots.
Card 2:

Card 3:

Card 4:

Card 5:

Card 6:


How do you Rorschach?

Let’s all be Zombies!

Calling someone a “zombie” may become the newest slang accolade. At least, I think it should be. Yesterday I heard about a group of kids who call themselves “The Zombies.” They’ve done something amazing, through courage and team work. The Zombies are a group of fourteen teens who go to Arch Academy in San Diego and train as a team for difficult swim challenges. Their name comes from an inside joke about how waking up at 4am to swim turns them into zombies each morning.

In June the Zombies swam the English Channel in thirteen hours. Yesterday each member of the team was presented with a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award by Congressman Scott Peters, signed by President Obama.

What’s especially impressive and meaningful is that these kids have special needs and have had to work especially hard to achieve their goal. Team captain Diana Linney talked to San Diego news teams, smiling as she recalled that the Zombies came in first out of nine teams attempting the swim. The team didn’t listen to those who said it couldn’t be done, and trained hard during pre-dawn swims in the cold waters of La Jolla.

Swimming the English Channel was a 21-mile journey in water as cold as 55°F in some places (and the swimmers did not use wetsuits or fins). Each swimmer swam an hour, some enduring windy conditions, significant swells and white caps. The route took a curvy path, as opposed to a direct line across the channel, due to tidal movement.

I’m inspired by this tenacious group of young people. It’s rare for me to watch the news on tv, so catching this segment yesterday was pure luck. For me, it feels like a gift to have learned about these teens and their bravery. Young people often are told to listen to their elders, to learn from older people with more experience. But moments like these remind me that you don’t have to be a certain age to have something valuable to share with others. This group’s spirit is reminding me not to be afraid of daunting odds but to give new challenges a try.

Zombies, consider me the newest member of your fan club.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #18: Flamingos

This week I am channeling my favorite animal: the wiggly-necked, feathered, fabulous flamingo. They are such fun-looking creatures, with those twisty necks, pencil-thin legs and oodles of cheery feathers in my favorite color: pink. I’m not becoming a flamingo (I didn’t think my neck would stretch out that long). But I’m celebrating flamingos with my costume today.

Since I’ve made my flamingo obsession public, people have begun giving me flamingos. So thoughtful. I decided to pose with some of my flamingos together for today’s photo shoot. (“Photo shoot” is an overstatement, of course, and makes me sound like a celebrity, which I am not. Does forcing my son to take my photo count as a photo shoot?) I have flamingos inside my house as well as in the front yard at our place, our personal flamingo habitat. Hey, the front of the house needs personality, too…

The back: 

My hat:

Want to know what I used to make this costume? Mostly stuff from my sewing stash (fabric, buttons, lace, pipe cleaners, drinking straws, marabou). But I did buy a few things to bring this costume to life:

·         A big pink t-shirt (thrifted), which I turned into the dress:                     $ 4

·         Felt, feathers and sequins:                                                                           $ 4


Total spent:                                                                                                    $ 8

As a side note, I want to share a few thoughts about all my Wacky Wednesdays:

If orange is the new black, I declare that Wednesday is the new Saturday. This is controversial, I know. It’s hard to compete with Saturday. For those of us with school-aged kids, Saturday is an oasis in the desert of the school week. On Saturdays I am free from a squawking alarm clock, rushing to get the kids ready for school, frantic last-minute searches for a missing shoe and nagging about homework. But in recent weeks Wednesday has become my new favorite day. Wacky Wednesday is the day I will make people laugh. It’s the day when I debut a costume I’ve worked during the week, one that is funny in its theme or funny because people aren’t expecting to see something like a giant parrot walking through the suburbs on a day that isn’t Halloween. Making people laugh is one of my favorite things to do.

There’s a senior at my gym who told me how much he appreciates my weekly wackiness. I was so glad. As I told him, everyone needs to laugh. I think most of us really like to laugh. Not only is it a stress-buster, but it just lightens the mood. There are many things (whether real or imagined) that divide people, but laughing is something that can unify us. Humor is an ice-breaker, too. Sometimes people on the street don’t speak as they pass but when I’m wearing a funny costume, almost everyone says something. I go to my local supermarket each Wednesday and the checkers love my creations. It feels great to make people happy.


Q: When did you realize that you are funny?

A: When I was 16. I started doing theater in high school and realized that I had ideas about what would make a line or a scene funnier. Comedic timing. A facial expression. And when I made people laugh, it made me happy. Humor is a way to connect.

Q: How long do you spend on most costumes?

A: Roughly 10 hours per week. Sometimes people comment that this seems like a lot of time to invest. I suppose that’s true but it makes me happy, it makes others happy, and I still manage to get (most of) the other stuff on my to do list completed.

Q: Do you get ideas on Pinterest?

A: No. Usually an idea pops into my mind and I sketch it before it can vanish. These ideas are generated in this busy bee hive of a brain of mine. I get ideas almost every day—just looking around at the world.

Q: What do people think of your wackiness?

A: Most people love it. I walk in my neighborhood every day and when it’s WW, people I don’t know wave to me from their cars, or compliment my costumes. People ask if I do this for work. Nope, I say. Just bringing some cheer to my community. Some people ask to take photos. Others thank me for giving people a boost.  It delights me to delight others.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

No Costume Required

This is the first blog post I’ve written in a while that isn’t about a costume I’ve made. Before I started blogging about my Wacky Wednesday creations, I blogged about a little bit of everything. Believe me, I’m having fun making something unexpected for each Wednesday’s reveal, but I’m also a little nostalgic for the blog posts that weren’t designed to fall on Wednesdays. So I’m here on (wow!) a Thursday to write a little about all the other stuff that isn’t Wednesday-esque.

It may be a little cliché to go here, but I’ll do it anyway: summer is going by way too fast. Sure, the days may be longer (in terms of daylight hours) but somehow they are passing faster than the short winter days. Not fair. Now, where do I submit my complaint form?

Summer is such a wonderful reprieve from the fast-paced school year. I love having a break from my post as Homework Cop. It’s a relief not having to scramble each morning to get the kids off to school. Summer means fewer rules. More freedom.

Of course, there is a downside to summer (it’s small but I’m trying to give time to both sides of this debate). With the kiddos around more, they’re arguing more. The older two appear to be trying to break a world record for how many sibling arguments can be had in a 24 hour period. There have been a few complaints about being bored--but apparently they’re not bored enough to clean the house (which is my go-to comeback). How convenient. The oldest seems to grow noticeably overnight. Welcome to the ‘tweenage years.

Summer is…

…reunions with friends we haven’t seen in a year.

…watching things grow at the community garden.

…hearing crickets chirp at night through the open windows.

…nectarines, berries and other seasonal fruit.

…no book reports.

…hearing the shrieks of happiness from my kids as they splash in my friend Angela’s pool.

…sunflowers taller than NBA players.

Of course, you can’t abandon reality completely in summer. The laundry still piles up. The weeds continue to grow at warp speed. But this season is still hard to beat, in my book.

What’s your favorite part of summer?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #17: Pay Phone!

This week’s costume inspiration came when my pre-teen son held up a phone book and asked what it was. It had been delivered to our door (a surprise, as it’s been years since we’ve received one). A  conversation ensued about the days of phone books, telephones with cords, and pay phones.
Would you like to know the materials I used and what it cost to make this costume? Oh, good, because I was going to tell you anyway. The phone is made of cardboard, paint, hot glue, ribbon, pipe cleaners and felt. Most of the supplies I already had but here’s what I bought:

·         Black tank top (thrifted):                                              $2

·         Black felt and hot glue sticks:                                      $2

Grand total:                                                                     $4

(You may find it funny that I did not own a black tank top, which is a wardrobe staple. You may have a point. But most of my clothes are pink, polka dot, or pink and polka dot. Polka dots are my staple!)
Some of you instantly recognized the phone number written on the side of the phone. But for those who need the back story, here it is.  If you were listening to pop radio stations in the '80s, you heard the song "867-5309" by Tommy Tutone. It’s about a girl’s phone number written on a wall. It’s a very catchy tune and every time I hear it on the radio (at least once a month), immediately I am transported back in time to the 80s, an era of memorable pop tunes, vinyl record stores, feathered, teased hair and pay phones (and I remember this decade with major nostalgia. I love the 80s!).

The song “867-5309” made it all the way up to the #4 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982. Apparently fans of the song obsessively called this number in various area codes. Those with the phone number 867-5309 began changing their number so as to avoid hundreds of calls (some during the middle of the night) to their number, asking for Jenny.

Anyway, back to the present and a talk with my son about phones. “When I was a kid, phones were different,” I explained as I rocked back and forth on my porch rocker and adjusted the afghan across my lap. (Just kidding. I had to insert a Little Old Lady moment there. No porch. No rocker. No afghan. I’m 41, not even close to being a little old lady, but in telling my son about the days of corded telephones, I might as well be talking about a time when dinosaurs rambled around, looking for phone booths.) In 1999, I knew only a few people with cell phones. Everyone had a home phone, attached to the wall. Now, many of us use cell phones as our only phone. Sixteen years ago isn’t long in the earth’s history, but in phone history, a lot has changed in that time.

Even into my twenties, pay phones were ubiquitous—in restaurants, gas stations and on many corners. Some had phone books on a shelf under the pay phone, or dangling from a metal cord. These days phone booths are nearly extinct. Most had folding doors but here’s a photo of some cool cylindrical phone booths with curved doors at the former Central Library in San Diego, before it closed.

(photo courtesy of
We have a gigantic, beautiful new library now, which I like, but I’m nostalgic for the old-school one that reminds me of libraries I visited as a child.

Seeing a pay phone isn’t as rare as finding a phone booth, but it’s still unusual. Sometimes I see the empty metal shell where a pay phone used to live. Some of them have been removed from their stands. In the last few years I’ve tried a few pay phones, just to see if they still work. Some have no dial tone. Some do! I love them because they take me back to my teens and memories of using pay phones. I like that they required coins, not a credit cards. I like their push buttons and hearing an actual dial tone. Those were the days of memorizing friends’ phone numbers because we didn't have phones that memorized numbers for you. (My grandparents had a rotary phone well into the ‘80s—that could be a whole separate blog post. With rotary phones, you literally were dialing around a circle dial, not punching in numbers.)

In looking online for phone booth photos, I came across something that made my day. Phone booths are being made into mini libraries! These darling structures bring together several things I love: reading, community, and small houses. Phone booths are no longer needed, but they are getting new lives as mini libraries:
(photo courtesy of

What happy luck that the arrival of a phone book by our doorstep led to a fun costume that stirs up nostalgia for me. Communication is something all people can relate to, but pay phones are a cultural reference for those of us old enough to vote. I don’t ever want to be one of those people who starts conversations with “Remember the good old days?” The past, present and future have both good and bad aspects. But reflecting on something from the past that evokes happy memories is time well spent.

I hope you enjoyed our little trip down memory lane. This costume has a personal meaning for me, given all the pay phones I used during my chatty teens and twenties (which led to my chatty thirties and forties on cell phones). Some may think I’m too chatty, but I claim I’m exactly chatty enough. We humans are communicative by nature. So as the 1980s AT&T commercials advised, “Reach out and touch someone (by phone). Reach out and just say ‘hi’.” Give someone a call. Right now!