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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #42—Mylar Balloons

Mylar balloons need not be connected solely to birthdays. If you’re like me, you have saved a few of these shiny balloons over the years. You saw the potential in them, too, didn’t you…

There were a few of these balloons that you saved from the landfill after someone's birthday—a birthday you didn’t celebrate, but when you happened to be at a park hours after the party and there were Mylar balloons bobbing around on the grass next to the trash can, you thought, “Cool! Thanks for waiting for me. Now let’s get you home…”

These balloons are still festive and shiny month later. The latex variety shrivel to a fraction of their inflated size but Mylar balloons want a second performance. Balloons are the backup singers of the birthday world. They definitely enhance a celebration. But today is the day when they are the star of the show. And so I made a dress from them, thereby recycling and giving a new purpose to something, and also giving me a festive outfit to wear. Win, win.

Today I hit many of my usual spots in costume, as I often do on Wednesdays. Strangers wished me a happy birthday again and again. (I live in such a friendly city!) I responded, “Thanks, although today’s not my birthday.” Some people asked why I was dressed as I was, and of course I shared my story. It was a full day, and I have a few observations to share:

Balloon dress advantages:

1)      Lightweight to wear.

2)      Surprisingly comfortable to wear.

3)      Shiny and colorful (= cheerful).

Balloon dress disadvantages:

1)      The pieces of Mylar stayed intact all morning while I was out walking but a few pieces of my balloon dress tore while I was in sitting in the car. Maybe it was the seatbelt. Safety first!

2)      Noisy. The plastic material makes a crinkle-crinkle sound when I walk. This outfit is not recommended for quiet places like libraries, courtrooms and churches.

Last night as I was layering pieces of cut up Mylar balloons, this dress took on a distinctly 1980s vibe. I was pretty young in the 80s but I was aware of the flashy fashions on shows like Dynasty. I never saw the show, which started past my bedtime, but somehow I knew about Joan Collins’ outfits. The 80s was a decade that embraced the concept of More is More. The fashion world certainly bought into that idea. Shoulders had pads. Pants had pleats. Skirts had volume. Ruffles were big. Why be streamlined when you could be puffy and gathered and ruffled? Somewhere along the way today’s dress became very 80s. Maybe the Mylar’s metallic sparkle subconsciously led me in that direction, because before I knew it I was gathering and ruffling and creating an 80s masterpiece.
The cast of Dynasty was no stranger to sparkly, ruffled outfits…
This Norma Kamali dress from the 1980s illustrates the ruffled, flashy look of fashion back then:
But long before there were gold dresses on Dynasty or Mylar balloons, the original balloon was born, back in 1824. Scientist Michael Faraday developed the first rubber balloon while experimenting with various gases. Thank you, sir, for starting what has brought fun to kids (and grown up kids) all over the world…

Fast forward nearly two hundred years to this week, when a San Diego artist grabbed her hot glue gun, started slashing with her scissors and whipped up something new to wear. These shining sheets of fun have been sitting in my art studio for months, waiting patiently for their showcase. Get ready, world. Today is their day to shine…


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #41—Succulents

Succulents rock. If you’re not familiar, succulents are a variety of plant that holds water in their stems, roots and leaves, so they are drought tolerant. They’re efficient, but they’re really beautiful, too. I think some of them look like underwater plants or creatures from another planet.

Today’s costume features these plants I like so much. I have lots of succulents in our yard, so using cuttings from them is an easy way to create free accessories. Plus, afterward I can remove them from my crown and plant them, so this is literally an earth-friendly accessory. I may hang up the necklace outdoors and see if it grows with a little air, sun and water—a modern day Chia pet.

My succulent passion developed eight years ago. I’d been vaguely aware of them before that, since our friend Nils grows and loves succulents, although I didn’t catch the fever back then. But one day, as though someone flipped a switch somewhere in the universe, succulents suddenly were on my radar and I fell for them big time. I wondered why I hadn’t been seduced by their magic earlier. In any case, overnight I became a big succulent fan. I bought them off of Craigslist. I happily accepted cuttings from other succulent fans. On daily walks I stopped to ask other gardening enthusiasts about their plants. Seven years ago I met Herb while standing outside his gate, admiring his succulents. I was so enchanted by the garden that it took me a minute to realize that its owner was sitting among hundreds of plants, as still as they were. Eventually I interviewed Herb, and the article was published in a local paper. Herb has a succulent love on a different level than mine: he spends as many as thirty hours a week on his plants, although he says some of that time isn’t strictly necessary for their survival—it’s for the enjoyment he gets from the plants. So maybe the time with his plants is necessary for Herb’s survival. He’s onto something, I’d say—after all, he’s active and happy and in his late eighties…
Did you know that succulents don’t just come in shades of green? Some change color, like Sticks of Fire:

Others grow a colorful bloom:
I could go on for hours about succulents, but for now I’ll just share some photos of some of the plants that have given me such happiness over the years.

If you think cacti and succulents aren’t exciting, I dare you to visit the Cactus Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park and let’s see if you don’t change your mind…

If orchids and other plants can be made into leis and accessories, why can’t succulents? They’re heavier than some plants because of their clever water storage system, but I don’t mind wearing a weighty crown of succulents. In fact, I’m glad to give them the spotlight they deserve…


Post Script: I want to share something that is unrelated to today’s costume--but it is related to how we present ourselves every day. Last week when I was zipping around in my hummingbird hat a guy in his twenties passed me and said, “Someone stuck something goofy on your head.” To which I replied immediately, “I did,” and kept walking. It’s interesting to me how quickly our brains work. I had a mere second to decide whether to respond to his remark. In that brief time I considered my options. Ignoring him was one. But I quickly decided that this option didn’t work for me. Ignoring someone can be interpreted as not standing up for yourself and I didn’t want him to mistake a non reply for my feeling intimidated or shamed by him. I liked that my instinct was to own my choice to wear unusual creations I’ve made. No one put that hat on me, as he suggested. I make my own decisions. People can like my creations or they can find dislike them. That’s not my business and I’m not losing sleep over his comment. Most people seem to like my creativity. I can count on one hand the people who have made rude comments about my costumes in the last eight months. The only reason I’m mentioning that comment now is because I was delighted that (unlike in the past) my instinct was to speak up. My point is this: I hope that like me, you’ll feel comfortable expressing yourself. Not everyone will understand or approve, but that can’t be our concern. Be you, and own it, baby!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #40: Hummingbird and Hibiscus

Today I am wearing a fairly elaborate hat that shows a thirsty hummingbird and a thirst-quenching hibiscus flower.

A creation centered around hummingbirds is an idea that came to me months ago when I was at a huge yard sale and found something with hummingbirds on it. Instantly I knew it would become a costume one day. Fast forward nearly a year and plans have changed. Making the bird and flower took more time than I’d estimated so the hummingbird cards I bought that day will have to wait their turn. Eventually, I’ll use them for something. That's how it works in my studio...

My hibiscus flower is made from paper, tissue paper, paint, plastic mesh, hot glue, beads, wire, felt and pipe cleaners. The bird is made from felt, feathers, stuffing and hot glue. I like how the two parts of this hat work together. As a team they are much more interesting than they would be on their own. The hat tells a story.

I’m fascinated by hummingbirds—aren’t you? They are amazingly fast and you rarely get a chance to study them because by the time you see one, it’s darting off before you can get a good look. This increases the intrigue, of course.  

Nearly seven years ago a hummingbird tucked a nest into the Jasmine vine near our back door. She laid two teensy eggs inside it and we were lucky enough to watch her nest (from a distance) until the babies hatched. If you’re interested in reading the story of the mama and her eggs, here are two blog posts about her. The first was one I wrote before the eggs hatched, and the second post I wrote after hatch day. You can read those blog posts here  and here.
Like the hummingbird, it’s time for me to zoom off and take care of dozens of things before tucking myself into my nest tonight. Thanks for visiting, and I’ll see you next Wednesday, when I zoom back here with more stories to tell…


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #39: Rubik’s Cube

This is a rain-soaked, soggy week in San Diego, but that won’t stop me from creating a costume to wear for my weekly creative fun. Today I’m dressed as a giant Rubik’s Cube. If you grew up in the 1980s, as I did, you’ll remember the cube, and how big the Rubik’s craze was. Everybody was Rubiksing (yes, a new verb courtesy of yours truly). We had one, as well as a 1” version on a key chain.
The Rubik’s Cube was tricky. Yes, I know that was the point. But even within that context, let me tell you this: it was maddening. You got your brand new Rubik’s and on each of the six sides were square stickers, all the same color on each side. You were supposed to turn parts of the cube to mix up the squares and then turn it again and again and again and again and suddenly the cube would be back to how it was at the beginning: all the same colors on each side.

Except that it was tricky. (Did I mention that before?) I recall turning the sides only a few times and somehow all the stickers were mismatched beyond repair. At least it seemed that way to me. The solution? Keep turning! But turning didn't make it less mixed up, only more mixed up. It seemed to involve the same logic as making more and more knots in a rope, so as to un-knot your rope. Say, what?

Needless to say, I never mastered the Rubik’s Cube. Eventually it must have been donated to our local thrift store, where for a bargain price of 25 cents, some other kid could pay to be frustrated.

Fast forward three decades or so. A few years ago Hubby got it into his mind that he wanted to master the Rubik’s Cube. A few clicks on Ebay and he was the proud owner of a pre-owned cube. It came with a book about how to unlock the secrets of the cube. A hush fell over our household as he picked it up for the first time.

Fast forward a few days. Hubby solved the cube. He’s an analytical guy, and I think this puzzle really appealed to the side of him that likes planning a few moves ahead. Me, I’d rather create a giant Rubik’s Cube to wear. In case there was any doubt about that.

Would you like to know just how hugely loved this toy is? As of January 2009, 350 million cubes have been sold around the world, making it the top-selling puzzle game on the planet...

Wondering why the Cube costume was created this week? A few days ago I sat scratching my head, wondering what kind of costume I could wear this week during what was forecast to be the storm of all storms. My usual sleeveless costumes would not suffice. Anything made from paper would be turned into papier mache gluey slime within minutes. What to wear, what to wear?!? Clearly, I needed something durable and something that could be worn over other clothes (for warmth) without completely ruining the effect. I needed a costume that was easily identifiable. Eureka! The Cube!

I decided to fashion the cube out of plastic needlepoint mesh, which holds a shape but also is lightweight. I planned to use colorful felt for the different stickers (inexpensive, and it won’t fray). I’d wear Hubby’s Rubik’s Cube as a hat, not as a defense against the weather but because I’ve been wearing hats nearly every Wednesday for the last nine months. Nobody wears more tiny hats than I do—except maybe Kate Middleton. Hers are usually quite a bit more traditional than mine, but other than that, we’re nearly indistinguishable…

So there you have it, folks. A little pop culture history lesson. A costume. A crazy hat. Once again we’ve spent a few fun minutes together on a Wednesday. I’ll let you go now—I know you’re itching to go through your boxes of stuff from the ‘80s, and I’ll bet your Rubik’s Cube is nestled inside, right next to your Cabbage Patch Doll (oh, it was your sister’s? Sure, okay.), your Walkman, Polaroid camera, a can of Tab, your Stray Cats cassettes and an industrial-sized can of Aqua Net…


Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Step-by-Step Guide to Exciting Clean Up Magic

(Relevant background info: our two youngest kiddos share a room. It’s the biggest bedroom but our house was built in 1956, when rooms weren’t very big and closets were the size of a phone booth.)

1)      Convince self that cleaning up is magical and exciting.

2)      Failing to convince self, look around at the kids’ floor and decide that boring and overwhelming as cleaning it is, it must be done.

3)      Take shelf off wall using drill so that you can…

4)      Move bunk bed so that stuff to the left of the bunk bed is slightly easier to access.

5)      Install shelves between closet and bunk bed. (Pat self on back for reusing shelf supports we already had and shelves that have been in garage for over a year. Put blinders on and do not look around garage at all the stuff there, because this will cause a minor panic, which—although justified—does not help with the bedroom clean up.)

6)      Wonder why you didn’t install shelves in bedroom two + years ago when you moved bunk bed in.

7)      Have allergy attack #5.

8)      Trip on stuff on the floor.

9)      Curse.

10)   Feel slightly better after cursing.

11)   Blow nose for 954th time.

12)   Hang up clothes that have been on top bunk for weeks where a child once slept. (This takes hours.)

13)   Panic over amount of stuff still left to do.

14)   Notice that the Stuff Pile resembles size and complexity of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Wonder whether you need climbing gear, axes and extra oxygen to reach top of it.

15)   Organize books onto shelf. Smile at how tidy the books look, all in harmony, shoulder to shoulder.

16)   Sweep remaining floor stuff (and there is plenty) to one side and determine that it can wait.

17)   Sneeze.

18)   Blow nose.

19)   Panic over stuff to organize.

20)   Sweep.

21)   Repeat steps 17-20 many times.

22)   Vow that once this room gets clean (a relative term), you will consider dealing with messy garage.

23)   Consider whether being kidnapped by aliens is more appealing that dealing with messy garage.

24)   Shake head and lament fact that you did not train the kids to do more cleaning when they were little. Shake head again and remind self that feeding them seemed to take up most of the day and forgive self for dropping the ball on cleaning.

25)   Look for lamp with genie inside so that you can wish for instant clean up.

26)   Google origin of genie in a lamp tale instead of cleaning.