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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #25: Keys

About a year ago my mom gave me the keys. This sounds like a rite of passage moment. But it was not, because the keys weren’t hers. They were found in my grandparents’ garage and were no longer needed. Mom gave them to me. Old keys? New art supplies. Win, win.

When I first decided to incorporate keys into a costume, I looked for key shapes online. The really old style appealed to me because they reminded me of fairy tales I read as a child, ones set in the days of castles and oversized, iron keys. I decided I would use some of the keys my mom gave me, and I’d make big, decorative keys for my costume. I bought metallic pleather, cut key shapes, and then aged them with paint. A purple background would make the metal pop, I decided. I’m not dressed as a queen, per se, but I’m channeling fairy tales and old keys. (If you insist on calling me Her Royal Funky-Fab Lady Sarah, that will be your choice…) Here is the key to royal costumes:

Visually, keys are interesting as an art material. They come in so many shapes and styles. They have history. They are an item we still use today, and unlike so many inventions that have seen lots of change to their design over time, keys are basically the same construction as they were long ago. Four thousand years ago keys and locks were made from wood and other natural materials. Metal eventually became the favored material. Keys signified wealth because it cost more to have doors with locks.

People all over the world have different lives, but keys are a common thread amongst many of us. Keys open mansions as well as subsidized housing. Keys allow access to a home you own or one you rent. Keys are functional but also symbolic: they show ownership or occupancy.

I remember the day I got the keys to my own apartment. It was the first place I chose, rather than simply making do with a place my roommates had selected. The symbolism of choosing your own place to live is big. I felt like an adult. As a starving artist I wasn't in a fancy neighborhood but I didn't care because making my own choice felt empowering. Holding the keys to my own place felt like holding the reins in my life.

Getting the car keys when you turn sixteen means you have gained maturity to operate a vehicle. Keys mean responsibility. Keys give access to your home or possessions. Keys symbolize safety because you can lock up and protect your things, and yourself. Giving someone your keys means giving them trust that they will not steal from you or harm you. Losing one’s keys is stressful.  

Keys mean answers, power, or importance. Think about how many sayings involve keys:

I’m all keyed-up!

The key to happiness…

The key to success…

The key ingredient…

The key to knowledge…

The key to life…

The key to my heart…

It’ll be a low-key party…

Being given the key to the city.

Florida Keys (derived from the Spanish word “cayo,” meaning “small island”). (Now I’m thinking of Key Lime Pie, and it’s all your fault for forcing me to talk about keys!)

If you’ve ever played piano, you know that it has eighty-eight keys. And music is written in keys so that musicians know which note to start on and whether to play flats or sharps. Saxophone buttons are called keys, too. Interesting how many different ways we use the word “key”…

Anyway, I thought that keys would make an interesting theme for a costume. They come in different shapes, sizes and looks. But they all have the same purpose. Keys are rich in meaning because they can represent different things, but all of their meanings show value, whether the keys mean access, responsibility, power, or significance.

To make this costume, here’s what I spent:

$2: purple shirt, turned into mini dress (thrifted)

$4: metallic pleather, cut into oversized key shapes

(Hot glue, thread, paint, which I already had, but if I had to put a price tag on it I’d guess I spent $4)

For ten dollars I created what I think is a fun and visually interesting outfit. I hope you found our chit-chat about keys entertaining. I liked pondering all the meanings of keys, but I’m obsessed with words and I don’t know if the rest of the world likes examining them as much as I do. On that note, I move that today should be International Key Appreciation Day. Have you thanked your keys today? Go ahead. Give them a high five. Jingle them on your key ring and tell them you love them. Even if you feel silly doing it, it’s good karma. You don’t want your keys running away from home, do you?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pumpkin Stops Here

There might be yelling, cursing, and even chair-throwing. But we both know it must be done. We need to have a frank discussion about all this pumpkin spiced everything.
You’ve noticed it, too, haven’t you? It’s everywhere. Halloween is five weeks from today, and yet it feels like the pumpkin people are doing the full-court press, assaulting us with pumpkin flavor. By the time Halloween week arrives, the air will be tinged orange. The nation will be permeated with the smell of spiced pumpkin. It will cling to our nostrils, saturate our clothes, and hover in our homes the way a smoky smell does, hours after you accidentally burned something in the oven. The pumpkin frenzy will be at a fevered pitch by the time October 31 finally rolls around. I love Halloween, but people, it’s only September. I’m already sick of the pumpkin-spice-this and spiced-pumpkin-that. This madness must stop.

I will admit that I’m not the biggest fan of pumpkin flavor. One bite of pumpkin pie is enough to last me a year. (I love carving pumpkins and decorating them and dressing up in pumpkin-themed clothes. I’m a costume lover, in case you don’t know, so my problem isn’t with Halloween. I just feel like I’m being hit over the head with pumpkin flavor.) I was in a store two days ago and noticed how many pumpkin flavored items there were. A blog idea started forming and the following day I went to another store to compare the availability. This is what I saw:

Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin scented candles, pumpkin cake mix, pumpkin coffee creamer and pumpkin Greek yogurt. Pumpkin flavored cream cheese. Pumpkin ale. Pumpkin cookie dough. Pumpkin tea. Pumpkin lollipops. Pumpkin spice chocolate bars. Pumpkin spice marshmallows. Pumpkin spice Peeps marshmallows. 

Apparently one major chain will have pumpkin body butter, pumpkin butter, pumpkin waffles and Pumpkin ravioli. Once I started digging online I found that in some places they sell pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin Pringles (really?), and pumpkin M&Ms. Enough’s enough.

Where will it end?

Pumpkin flavored toothpaste and mouthwash?

Pumpkin scented shaving cream and deodorant?

“Fall for Fall” Pumpkin Perfume, brought to you by the Kardashians?

Pumpkin flavored gum?

Pumpkin barbeque sauce?

Pumpkin potato salad?

Pumpkin salsa?

Pumpkin scented cereal?

Pumpkin flavored Craisins?

Pumpkin mozzarella?

Pumpkin Coke?

Pumpkin scented garbage bags?

Pumpkin scented cat litter?

Pumpkin scented baby wipes?

Pumpkin scented diapers? (When baby makes a mess in the diaper, the aroma of pumpkin wafts out.)

Sorry if I sound like Grumpy McGrumperson, whining about pumpkins. Hey, everyone should be able to use pumpkin scented or flavored items if they want to. It just shocks me how many products roll out the seasonal pumpkin theme this time of year. In March, no one is selling green mayonnaise or green whipped cream for St. Patrick’s Day. Nothing becomes egg flavored right before Easter. But the market researchers must have concluded that Americans are passionate about pumpkins and  we will buy orange, seasonal versions of the products we like. Who knew that Americans are so obsessed with pumpkins? Perhaps it’s the “seasonal” label. Maybe this creates an urgency in shoppers—“Fred!!! We must buy this NOW! It’ll be gone in two months. It’s a limited edition! I NEEEEED it!!!!!!!” Nothing like telling someone they can’t have something after a certain date to ramp up the desire for it. Limited availability? Gimme!

Well, I think I got out my aggression by writing this diatribe. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. No more pumpkin bashing. Pumpkins, I may have gotten a little mad, but I still like your cheerful orange color and visiting you at the pumpkin farm. I’ll still watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown next month. Pumpkins, you’ve never hurt me. Maybe I’m being too harsh. There’s just been an oversaturation of your flavor. But can we still be friends?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #24: Ladybugs

This week’s costume challenge involves the adorable little red bugs who get rid of other pests in your garden. Yay for ladybugs.

This costume idea is the result of lots of reminders of ladybugs over the last month or two. Our cousin brought wooden lady bugs to us as a gift this summer. I participate in a community garden, where I see ladybugs. Hubby bought me a ladybug contact lens case. These various reminders of ladybugs clearly crept into my subconscious and eventually formed into a costume idea. Of course, there’s also the fact that ladybugs dress in polka dots, which I love. Polka dots are so cheerful and fun. Here’s what I created for my costume this week:

I decided it would be fun to make ladybugs of various sizes (this is an artistic liberty we get to take), from various materials. Here are some of the supplies I already had on hand and used to make the bugs:

·         Cardboard boxes (from Cheerios and pasta)

·         Wooden disk

·         Felt

·         Pipe cleaners

·         Buttons

·         Fabric

·         Acrylic paint

·         Jacaranda tree pods

·         Black jewelry wire

·         Red plastic milk bottle tops

·         Red plastic frosting container lid

·         Hot glue (of course)—My name is Sarah, and I am addicted to my hot glue gun. 
Several of the ladybugs were created from Jacaranda tree pods, which I’ve used before in my costumes and make wonderful supplies. They come in slightly different shapes, which gives the little critters extra personality.

In my studio I keep dozens of lids (not because I’m a hoarder, no—it’s because I know they can become art!). I had two red plastic lids that became earrings. I’m recycling, people. (Yes, noble. I agree.)

Two ladybugs had past lives as a pasta box and a Cheerios box. Everyone needs accessories made from pasta boxes--don’t you agree? I chose to keep some of the words on the red body because I find it more visually interesting to have that added texture.

If you’re wondering about my hat, here’s the story: I thought of making a pillbox hat but it ended up being a modified dome shape instead. I used an old Tupperware lid as my base, and then hot glued padding to it. Next, I covered the dome with red felt, then cut accents from black felt. It’s been quite a conversation-starter today. 

I already had a green skirt and green tank top, so this wasn’t a costume made completely from scratch, but some weeks will be like that, and it’s okay. I decided to make a big leaf for my front, and a big leaf for my back, where the ladybugs could hang out and decompress from the rigors of being ladybugs. I spent only $1 on this outfit, for Velcro to attach the bugs to the leaf. (Yay for the 99 cent store.) I may repurpose these bugs for something else so I didn’t want them to be attached permanently to the leaf. (And on a related note, the original design for Velcro was based on attachment properties found in nature. Biomimicry, y'all. Velcro was developed after a scientist noticed that plant burs had tiny hooks on their ends, allowing burs to grab onto other materials. This material seems quite appropriate to use for a costume that is about nature. Such symbolism. I’m so deep.)

Let’s take a minute to give a Hip-Hip-Hooraaaaaay for ladybugs. We’ll do a very short science lesson about ladybugs and their food choices. Aphids are bugs found in many gardens, and they suck the fluid and nutrients from plants, damaging them and at times, killing the plants. This is where ladybugs come in. They eat aphids, but the real benefit is that the ladybugs’ larvae eat a lot of aphids. I love it when something has both form and function, and the ladybug, with its cheery polka dotted coat and appetite for aphids, clearly has looks and purpose. (Win-win.)

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go chomp on some aphids. I hear they’re delish with a little sea salt…

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Just One Shoe

Last night I dreamt I was hunting for shoes.

At first glance, you might think I was having a typical woman moment, emulating Imelda Marcos with her shoe passion. But this is not the case. I’m not a woman who collects footwear.

Years ago I kept a dream diary, along with interpretations of the symbols. I don’t keep one anymore, but vivid dreams like the one I had last night rekindle my curiosity about why we dream what we dream.

What does dreaming about shoes mean? Shoes could symbolize wealth, control, health, protection—and these are just my own guesses, off the top of my head.

In my dream I could not find a pair of matching shoes. I was searching through a collection of shoes in a grocery store (yep, weird). I could find lots of shoes that almost matched. I was so close to a match! I’d find two in the correct size but upon very close inspection, they were not a set. The left had a higher heel than the right, or the straps were slightly different. Finding a matched set proved impossible. (Now I’m interpreting my dream as a quest for solutions, and in my dream I just could not find one.)

I’ve had many vivid dreams during my sleeping hours. Sometimes they involve people I know, or spiders, or locked doors or freeways curving in circles. Quite a variety. But one common thread amongst my dreams is the theme of searching. Maybe I’ve been searching for balance, or my plans for the future, or myself. I don’t think dreams are accidental—I believe they have significant information tucked into them.

So the shoe dream. I’ll put you on hold for a minute and go search online for shoe symbolism in dreams. Be right back.

(Hold music.)

This is what I found on (the website I used years ago):

·         Shoes represent your approach to life. They also can represent goals and identity.

·         Dreaming of wearing mismatched shoes implies that you are rushing into things and approaching them haphazardly.

Hmmmm. Definitely thought-provoking. Shoes as a symbol for identity? I can see that. My dreams telling me I’m racing along without a plan? Unflattering, although perhaps a shred of truth there. (Whose big idea was it that I’d search for dream meaning and get a critical interpretation? Oh. My big idea. Hmmmph.)

Funny how frustrated I felt in my dream when I could not match up the shoes (a symbol for the loose ends in my life?). I wonder if I was trying to fit all the pieces of my life together through the shoes metaphor. Fitting together the puzzle pieces of life certainly is an ongoing dilemma.

Have you ever seen just one shoe, laying in the curb or washed up on a beach? For me, it’s disconcerting. Shoes always come as a set and to see just one is unsettling. You know something has happened. You can’t even use one shoe without the other, so one shoe is as good as no shoes. Fascinating stuff. I think I’ll start my own talk show about topics like this! Who wants to be my first guest?

I’ll never be a woman obsessed with shoes. But my dream was so real. There are interesting lessons to be found in dreams, I think. Let’s meet back here again sometime and chit chat about dreams. I’m like Lucy, from the Peanuts gang: full of ideas. And because we’re friends, I won’t even charge you…

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #23—Aloha!

Aloha. It’s your Wednesday wahine, here in costume to celebrate Hawaiian flowers and decorations. Although I’m not trying to dress in authentic Hawaiian wear, my lighthearted approach is in no way intended to mock. I just like lighthearted, playful interpretations. Hawaiian culture is beautiful. I love the flowers, the music, the dancing…Not so much the poi, but hey, that leaves more for you, right?

Being me, I have to use materials in an unexpected way, so I’ve used these table skirts not on tables but on me. I hot glued the grass table skirt into a cape, so I am (obviously) a Hawaiian super hero(ine)!

Plumeria flowers conjure up a Hawaiian vibe so I made some from junk mail and magazine pages (I’m recycling!). In my hair I’m wearing real Plumeria flowers. My dress is made from upcycled leis hot glued onto a dress I made from my fabric stash. We have tons of leis from a Hawaiian party a couple of years ago, and (because I am from the “more is more” school of decoration) I’m going a little crazy with them. (In my defense, more color means more happy moods…) So this costume is definitely a mix-n-match of real and unreal: real flowers, flowers I made from other materials, and factory-made decorations. It may seem odd to some but my real/unreal approach is all about color and cheerful motifs and it works for me.

It also may seem hilarious that someone who doesn’t look one bit Hawaiian is dressing up this way. I don’t have long, flowing hair, dark, soulful eyes or a mellow wahine vibe. I am a short-haired, freckled-faced chatterbox. But it’s all good. If wallets can be labeled “genuine imitation leather,” there’s no reason why I can’t be a genuine imitation Hawaiian!

Almost everything I used to make this costume was from my sewing stash or supplies I already had, and the only thing I bought for this outfit was a $1 plastic grass table skirt from the dollar store. (Go, me!)

I love that “Aloha” is both a greeting and a farewell, as well as an attitude. The Hawaiian spirit seems to me to involve a sense of welcome, of appreciation, of enjoying nature and celebrating life, not just rushing through it. My costume has a commercial edge, no argument there, but it also encompasses the celebratory qualities I just listed, and I hope it brings cheer today—a happy, relaxed, welcoming Aloha spirit…

And on that note, I must go. I have leis to make, poi to stir, and grass to sew into skirts.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Bathroom

I’m supposed to be brushing my teeth. I came into this room (not the bathroom) for one second to check one teeny little thing online, and I’ve been here for at least twenty minutes, Googling semi-random stuff and promising myself that I will get up and brush any second.

After all, teeth are important. I’m past the stage of losing baby teeth so this set of teeth is the only one I’m going to get. Dinner is over and I really should brush.

But here’s the thing. The Internet has so many answers to my questions, and I’m a person with a lot of questions. So I get lost online at least once a day (usually more often than that). It’s so satisfying to type in a question and get answers! And then I get a little distracted because there are bold-faced phrases within the answers—and they beckon to me. They know that I can be tempted with the promise of answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. They’ve got me, these Internet people. And they know it.

Is there a patch for excessive Internet use? I think there should be. Smokers cut down by using a patch. But what about us Internet Researchers? (Yes, that is a title I’ve created myself, and yes, it does warrant capitalization. It’s very official, my research, and it deserves a fancy, capitalized title.) We Internet Researchers might be a little addicted to this endless buffet of information. I’m not saying the appreciation is at a catastrophe level, but should it become a full-on addiction, could we just get a patch? Please? We have cars that can be driven by remote. Smart phones can turn our lights on when we’re 2,000 miles away. If we can make this kind of magic, can’t we create an Internet Patch? And by “we” I mean “not me.” I am not a scientist. But you are. Or your neighbor is. Could you speak to your neighbor about this? I’d really appreciate it.

Now, where was I? Oh, teeth. But that can wait. Because I’ve been having a mind-blowing experience finding humor writers online. There’s so much good stuff to read! So little time! Is the library still open? Probably not, since it’s 8pm. (I LOVE libraries. We need 24-hour libraries here. Anyone? Anyone? Hook me up, please.)

Last night I went to a comedy show, in which a friend was performing. It was great fun. I laughed really loudly. A lot. Such therapy! Today I checked out a book from the library, a humorous memoir. I’ve been typing up notes for future funny blog posts and costumes. It’s safe to say that this weekend comedy is on my mind. Should I write more humorous accounts of this life I live—my own personal mish-mash of parenting, art, womanhood and life in the 21st century? I love reading about the crazy moments in other people’s lives. It feels so good to laugh about relatable moments, especially those that involve the three-ring circus of parenting, since I’m in the midst of it right this minute.

Anybody out there interested in hearing more about the back-stage mayhem of my life? The bead of sweat rolling down my back earlier today, when it was 90 degrees? The crabbiness of my youngest child, who isn’t used to 90 degrees and whose reintroduction to school has been a little dramatic? Would you like to know about an ant situation we have here at home? Or how I became the spider remover and cricket whisperer this summer? We could laugh about how tricky it is to find (semi-)matching socks for my kids each morning. Or why I struggle with the alarm clock during the school week and woke up at 6:30 this morning (Saturday), unable to get back to sleep? #irony.  How about our adventures with mouse traps? Refrigerator science projects? Mysteriously disappearing library books? Chores, ignored? Dust. Blogs. Neighbors. Laughs. How to pretend you’ve cooked a full meal but with waaaay less work. Friendship. Kids and their bickering. Kids and their messes. Kids who claim to be bored. The school parking lot, an asphalt-covered pit of quicksand from which you may never escape. Chocolate. Dental drama. Delaying aging by sleeping upside down, like a bat (after all, they age gracefully, as I’m sure you’ve noticed). Selphies. Laundry. Jealousy over people I Googled who seem to have fabulous lives with less complication than mine. Good tv shows. Lame tv. (I could go on, but I really should brush my teeth.)

So! I have a few blog posts to write, I think. But not tonight. You’ve kept me from my teeth-brushing far too long and I need to go take care of these chompers. But I’ll be back another time soon, with more true tales from my life of shenanigans. Til then: good night from my computer to yours. Sign me Sweaty in San Diego.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #22: Back to School

I can’t say I’m 100% ready for my kids to be back in school. Sure, we have school supplies and my alarm clock is in use again for the early morning wake ups. In my head, I know that September means school. Of course, in my heart, I still want it to be summer.

However, I’ve got to face the music school bell and accept it. School. Is. In.

So I’ve created a thematic costume that shows that while I’m not truly ready for the school year, my wardrobe is trying to be prepared. Say hello to my pencil dress.

This isn’t the first costume I’ve made that has a dangerous aspect. Am I a little worried about stabbing myself with a sharp pencil or two (or thirty)? Yes. I’m accident-prone to the point that I injure myself tripping over my own shadow, so a dress decorated with points may be asking for trouble. But I like to live dangerously (well, not really)—I like to live creatively—so I’ll take the chance.

This idea came to me months ago and I decided to save it until September. As all the department store signs and ads have been proclaiming for months, it’s Back to School time.

It’s always fun to wear something that includes unlikely materials, like school supplies. With the pencils swinging like fringe, this dress has a Roaring 20s flapper vibe. Clothing from that era had some major style, so it’s a fun design to create. The flapper aspect was not in my original plan, actually. But once I decided to have pencils swinging like fringe, the dress took on a flapper feel. And I decided to run with it.

To make this costume, here’s what I used:

Two shirts (thrifted), that I made into a dress:                           $3.80

Pencils                                                                                                $5.00

Hot glue, buttons, ribbons, accessories                  (already had these)


Total spent:                                                                                       $ 8.80

I love surprising the students, teachers and parents when I arrive at the school parking lot in costume to pick up my kids. I hope they like my dress.

On a related note, teachers make such a difference in the lives of young kids. I am forever grateful to the hard-working teachers who have taught my kids, as well as the teachers who taught me. Have you hugged a teacher today? Go on. Do it!

And now…students: start your engines. Ready? Set? Write!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #21: Hot Air Balloon

My head is in the clouds today. (Well, not just today, if we’re being honest.) Today I’m honoring hot air balloons and the vast sky in which they float.

Before I go on, though, I want to be honest about this costume. The idea of using a Chinese paper lantern for a hot air balloon is one I saw online sometime within the last year. Usually my costume ideas come to me out of nowhere, but I found this idea while searching for something else. Funny how I feel such a need to explain this. Every other costume I’ve ever made has been 100% my idea, so I’m a little uncomfortable using someone else’s idea as a launching pad. Except for the paper lantern, everything else about this costume is my own idea. I added clouds to the balloon, put characters inside the basket, and made my own sky and clouds shirt. The earrings are my own idea, too.

The shirt is one I found at a thrift store. It had a logo on the front and back, so I turned it inside out so they wouldn’t be seen. Then I started painting clouds on the shirt so that it would go with my sky theme.

The grand total to create this costume is as follows:

Blue shirt, thrifted                  $2

Chinese paper lantern           $1


 Total spent:                              $3

Everything else I used was stuff I already had on hand, and some of it is recycled material. My earrings are made from plastic Easter eggs, paper, wire and hot glue. 

The basket under the balloon used to be a drinking straws box, and it is wrapped in paper that was used as packing materials. (Thanks, Mom! I love this stuff. It may pop up in future costumes, too.). The supports between the balloon and the basket are wooden kebab sticks inside plastic straws. The brave passengers inside the balloon’s basket are toys from our own giant toy collection.


Hot air balloons are beautiful with the sun streaming through their brightly-colored, patterned shapes. They’re cheerful. But truth be told, I’m scared of heights and I don’t think that climbing into one of them is on my bucket list. Likewise for skydiving. So unless I have a major change of heart, you won’t see me up in the sky under a balloon or a parachute. I’ve painted murals that included hot air balloons. And I’ll wear them on my head. But I have my limits. My head may be in the clouds but my feet are happiest on solid ground.