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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #55—Gum Wrappers

I have hundreds of them.
Gum wrappers.

About a year ago I started saving the foil wrappers from my gum habit. I liked their shiny look and I suspected that they could become a dress. And now it’s time to let them shine. When you wear metallic stuff there’s always the chance you’ll end up looking like a giant, foil-wrapped baked potato. But I’m not scared of that possibility. There are worse things in life.

Several people asked me how long it took to make this dress. 1 year of collecting. Six hours of sewing and gluing.  

Total cost: less than $3 (zipper on sale, plus hot glue sticks).

I glued the wrappers onto a dress I made from fabric given to me by a friend of a friend (thanks, Rechelle). If you’re wondering why I used blue and white gingham as my base, there is no intended reference to Dorothy’s dress from Wizard of Oz. The fabric was in my stash, it was free, and all of it would be covered by the gum wrappers.

Many of my costume ideas begin when I see something that others might think of as trash, and I say to myself, “That needs to be a costume!” Things most people throw away (gum wrappers) can become something awesome to wear. To me it’s exciting to look at something ordinary in a different way…


Today is my 55th Wacky Wednesday post, and it’s the 52nd consecutive Wednesday that I’ve worn a costume I made myself. My first three WWs were not on consecutive weeks but on May 6th last year I started my weekly creations. I’ve done this every week for a year, and it’s been meaningful to me.

This whole thing started quite by accident. A little over a year ago I wore a costume I’d made and it happened to be on a Wednesday. A month later I wore another fun costume, by coincidence also on Wednesday. Those first few times were fun, but I hadn’t planned to do it every Wednesday--until I realized how happy it made me. Before long I began wearing funny things I'd made every Wednesday. Having a platform to show what I make has been wonderful. It’s been a good creative challenge. It’s been fun. It’s brought people laughs--and everyone needs that.

This year has taught me something about finishing projects. In my life I’ve sometimes been a procrastinator, leaving a project unfinished because I felt unsure of how to complete the last 5-10%. But over the last year--because I had a self-imposed deadline each week--I finished costumes, and that alone felt good. Even if the costume wasn’t exactly as I’d envisioned, completing something felt satisfying. I feel proud that I finished so much wearable art in the last year. I’ve loved hearing from friends and strangers that my humor and my creativity entertained them. Making kids laugh or smile each week while in costume has meant a lot to me.

But after today I’m going to take a little break from making costumes every single week. I’ll still make them, but not weekly. I need to recharge. Honestly, I hate the idea of disappointing people who read this blog each week and get a laugh. I still have more WW costume ideas so I’m not stopping—just taking a breath. I plan to keep blogging about parenthood, art, funny moments, and whatever else comes to mind. I have a public art idea that I want to bring to life this spring, and I’ll post photos and stories about that here. To my weekly readers, thank you for reading my blog over the last year. Thanks for giving me feedback in person, or emailing me or posting your comments and letting me know how much you liked my creations. It’s meant more to me than I can say…

Got gum?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #54: Flower Fields

Even if you don’t live in San Diego county, you may have heard of the famous Flower Fields in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. Today I am dressed as the flower fields, and I’m celebrating the arrival of spring. What’s that? You say it’s always spring in San Diego? You may have a point. We don’t get snow. But honestly, we do have seasons here and it’s clearly spring now. Flowers and plants and trees are all growing new leaves and buds and blossoms and it is beautiful.

Would you like to know more about my hat? It has several recycled elements and I like to share the back story to my creations. Several months ago I was walking past a neighbor’s house and noticed something on the ground next to the trash can. It looked to be in good shape and I wondered why they were throwing away a nearly new hummingbird feeder. I picked it up and brought it home so that I could make up a batch of red sugar water for the local hummingbirds.

Well, upon closer inspection I realized that this item would not feed hummingbirds or any other birds. Because it was a bottle drying rack. Oh. In my defense, there are three explanations:

1)      The bottom part of this stand had leaf patterns on it, which suggested that it was an outdoor feeder.

2)      The parts that hold wet bottles look exactly like the perches on my hummingbird feeder.

3)      It was very early morning when I walked by, so I may not have been 100% awake.

Once I understood that my neighbor was tricking me and this was not a bird feeder, I immediately saw that it could be a hat for a nature-themed costume. The plastic green parts look like flower stems. Problem solved. (And I already have a bird feeder, so really, this was all for the best…)

Most elements of my costume I already had. My dress is made from fabric in my sewing stash, felt, paint and buttons I already had. A neighbor left some silk flowers by the curb so I grabbed them for my costume. I did buy a few things to create this. Total cost of costume: $4 for hot glue sticks and felt.

It’s fun to make things from recycled materials. For this week’s hat most of my materials are recycled. I love how it all turned out!
These plastic caps are from shaving cream bottles. I’ve saved them for a year or so because they were such cheery colors and I had a feeling that they wanted to become art someday.

This daffodil started as a tiny take out cup of salsa. I took it home, washed it and sat it down for a heart-to-heart chat about how each small plastic container eventually will become a mature flower.

To make other flowers I used paper baking cups, pipe cleaners, glossy ads, magazine pages, felt, hot glue, cardboard food boxes, bottle caps and broken plastic spoons. 

And you know the famous saying: when life hands you broken clothes pins, make them into flowers.

To make this week’s experience authentic, I took a field trip to the flower fields yesterday. (I’ve chaperoned field trips for school that involved museums, theatrical productions, historical tours and visits to the library—no fields involved. I like putting the field back in field trips.) There are more than 50 acres of flowers there—mostly Giant Tecolote Ranunculus in thirteen different colors. They are shipped all over the world.

During my visit I decided to do some plein air painting, which means I painted on site. I want to do this more often--after all, I am an artist. And we have loads of great places in San Diego to paint outdoors. While there I finished one painting on water color paper, and also painted part of my dress. A good Tuesday.

I hope I’ve inspired you to go skip among the blooming flowers. Go! (Right now.) Happy Spring, y’all!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #53: Emojis


Emojis are a big thing these days. If you have spent any time on a smart phone or computer, you have seen emojis. (And if you haven’t been on a computer lately, you must be reading this on engraved stone tablets.) This blog post first took form a couple of months ago, when I tried to make a happy face stamp out of a recycled Styrofoam tray. I imagined covering a dress with happy faces. It didn’t turn out quite how I wanted so the idea sat on the back burner while I made loads of other costumes.
But a few weeks ago this costume returned to the front of my mind and morphed into a slightly different form. A friend who is a teacher emailed me a photo of something one of her students wrote. It was a helpful list of ideas for me for future Wacky Wednesday costumes. I guessed that this was a female student because she dotted each letter i with a heart. One of her suggestions was emojis, and this felt like a wonderful spin on the happy face idea I already had simmering in my mind. So, young lady in Ms. Doyle’s class, thank you for wanting to help me. Good job on using your imagination to come up with dozens of ideas. It seems to me that you are a creative soul, so run with that. I want to encourage you (and all young kids) to follow your heart when it comes to what you like to do. Don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether others think your interests are cool enough—do what you love, and I promise you this: you will be much happier inside.
And now back to emojis and today’s costume. At the thrift store I found two shirts that were similar shades of yellow (which many emojis are—the faces, anyway), and I decided to cut them and refashion them into an emoji shirt and skirt.
I pride myself on making fun costumes without spending a ton of cash. Here’s today’s costume total:
Button-down shirt (thrifted)        $3.50
Tee shirt (thrifted)                          $2.00
Total spent                                       $5.50
In my mind, that’s a whole lot of happy without a lot of hurt to the wallet.
(I already had thread, hot glue, permanent markers and paint so I don’t include them in my total).
How do you make a skirt from an oxford shirt? Cut a horizontal line below the sleeves. Voila.
My youngest wanted to help and surprised me with this winking emoji, so I made it into a bracelet.
Why are emojis so popular? I assume that one of the first emojis was the classic happy face, which certainly has appeal. No matter which language you speak, you understand what a happy face means. In 2016 many of us comment on other people’s images online—people who may live on the other side of the earth, speaking a language we don’t know. Using symbols gets around this challenge. Perhaps this is one reason that emojis—with their international set of symbols—have become ubiquitous. Or maybe emojis work well these days because many of us want to convey a sentiment quickly, rather than typing out a few sentences. A smiley face, or a sad face or a heart (or any one of hundreds of emojis) is a quick response to something, and it does convey a mood. Or maybe emojis are just a fun trend. Who knows? I use them daily. They are a way to communicate and they’re cute. Win, win.
I hope I’ve put a smile on your face today (and not a sad, crying emoji). It’s been fun, but it’s time for me to say goodbye. See you next Wednesday.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Back to the Swaddle Again

My sister and her husband just welcomed another baby. Everyone is thrilled. Even though babies are born every day, it still fills me with wonder to see newborns—so small, but completely formed little people. They are fragile and strong, simultaneously. I am full of awe, gazing at the tiny human being that my sister grew inside her body. Holding my nephew for the first time is something that’s hard to put to words. It’s beautiful. It’s deeply meaningful. I’m in love…

Now there are two little boys in our family: my older nephew is seventeen months, and my new nephew is only a couple of weeks old. Until the new baby arrived, my older nephew looked like a baby. Now he looks giant—a little boy who wears pants and shoes and has tons of hair and suddenly is the big brother, even while in many ways, he is still a baby.  But I suppose in life many things are relative.

I wrote a blog post when my older nephew was a few weeks old. At the time, my role as aunt was brand-new and I was still pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. These days, I’m accustomed to being an aunt: to noticing the small changes in my older nephew—the growth of his hair, the development of teeth, his milestones…I no longer pinch myself. It’s a dream to have nephews, but I’m wide awake.

It’s a joy to experience it all over again with my new baby nephew. I see photos of him swaddled snugly in a blanket, his body content to be curled up and cozy, as he was in utero for nine months. Swaddling involves wrapping a baby in a blanket, so that he or she is warm and feels safe. The swaddle technique comes back to you, even if it’s been years. I still know exactly where to position a newborn on the blanket, how to wrap, and where to tuck in the end of the blanket so it will stay closed. A lot of these skills bob right back up to the surface when you’re holding a newborn again. And some tendencies never seem to leave. I still find myself swaying at times while waiting in line—literally moving back and forth because I swayed while holding my own babies for so long. I don’t have babies anymore but I still sway. Go figure.

My sister and brother-in-law definitely have their hands full. They are blessed with two sweet, healthy boys, and are so grateful for the babies. But it’s a lot of work. Harder than when I had mine three years apart (and that was hard!). Still, as I tell all parents with newborns: it will get easier. It really will.

I’ve asked for advice for my sister from friends who had babies close together—eighteen months apart, or fifteen months apart. They don’t deny that it was tough at first, but they offer encouragement to parents in the same position. They talk about how emotionally close their kids are. The kids bonded well, played together, and shared so many stages. During those tiring months with a newborn, it’s important to have faith that the hard times now will give way to a close-knit bond between the kids. It will get easier, and it will be wonderful.

The title for this post came to me while I was out walking. For a few days I’d been pondering title ideas and this one surfaced when I wasn’t thinking specifically about it. Nice when that happens. Now, if you’ll sing along to the verse I’ve written, it’s to the tune by Gene Autry, “Back in the Saddle Again.”

We’re back to the swaddle again
Out where the diapers never end
Where the newborns feed
At slow or fast speed
We’re back to the swaddle again

I love singing funny lyrics. But on a serious note, I feel so thankful that the baby is safely here, that he is doing fine, and is giving all of us a chance to experience again the joy that a baby brings. All of us are so happy to welcome this darling boy into the family. We are delighted to be back to the swaddle again… 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wacky Wednesday #52: Bowling

Let’s bowl! Today I am wearing bowling pins and a few bowling balls. (Not real bowling balls, of course—they weigh 6-16 pounds each and I’m not that much of a glutton for punishment.) How did this costume come about? I saw plastic toy bowling sets in two different stores and took this as a sign that I should turn them into a costume. They tick many boxes for my costume requirements: they’re colorful, they’re playful, they’re unexpected on a dress, they’re inexpensive, and hopefully they make others laugh.

Bowling is something I like to do but don’t do often. I’m not good at it but I think it’s fun. I like that it’s not an exclusive, costly activity that only the wealthy can afford to do. So while my bowling score could be mistaken for winter temperatures in a snowy climate, I’m okay with that. For me, the fun of an activity is not about high scores—it’s about laughing and camaraderie.
I love the 1950s neon signs outside some bowling alleys—they are bright and stylized and playful. Roadside signs from that era are eye-catching. Here are a few of my favorites:  

Village Bowl, via

The Aztec Bowl sign above was preserved after the alley was demolished in order to build housing. It is near where I lived once upon a time, and I was so glad that they kept the sign. It gives the complex more personality to have a piece of the past incorporated into its design.

One aspect of bowling alleys that I really like is that they don’t tend to get makeovers every seven years, like hotels and malls do. They look roughly the same way they did in the 1950s. It’s all about the game, not about fancy fixtures, and I appreciate that fact.
To make this costume, I hot glued plastic bowling pins to a hat I made of felt. The pins came with two plastic balls, but I gave them a makeover with sparkly nail polish. Bowling balls often have a sparkly or marbled look and I wanted to give them this effect. I made my necklace out of small plastic bowling pins, and my dress I made from fabric in my sewing stash. I painted the back with the word “BOWL” in a style I’ve seen on bowling signs from the 1950s. The front of my dress shows a bowling alley. The Internet had lots of photos for me to use as reference. I used permanent marker and acrylic paint to create the lanes. 

I always try to make costumes for as little money as I can. For me, it’s part of the challenge: making something memorable by using my imagination, not my wallet. Today’s costume is no exception:

Cost for this costume:

4 miniature plastic bowling sets:                                   $ 4.30

Dress (from fabric and paint I already had):                $    0

Zipper                                                                                 $ 1.50

Hot glue sticks:                                                                  $   .50

Total spent:                                                                        $ 6.30

People really liked this costume. The hat seemed to entertain people, and several people I didn’t know liked it so much they hugged me. I’m fine with that, and it moved me that my humor reached people in this way.
P.S.  I thought I’d finished writing this post earlier this week. But I had a fun conversation earlier today and I want to tell about it here. Today at noon I stopped by a local bowling alley to take a few photos of me in my bowling dress and hat. The place was packed. I was surprised because when I’ve bowled it’s usually been with my kids in the daytime, and we must have gone at their quiet times. Today there were more than one hundred bowlers--two senior leagues, I learned. Some people smiled as they saw my hat, and all the bowlers were chatting and having fun. A woman approached me, introduced herself as Jayne and asked about my costume. Jayne and her friends were celebrating Willy’s birthday and wondered about my outfit. She thought the birthday boy might like to hear the story of my costume, so I followed her and then I sang “Happy Birthday” to Willy (who was very surprised but said this certainly would be a memorable birthday!).   

I love it when people ask about what I’ve made or tell me they like it. I’ve said it before: humor is something that brings people together. Seeing people’s reactions to my creation gave me a big boost. It reinforces what I believe: that people are meant to be with others. We may not need other people the way we once did, in hunter-gatherer societies where team work was essential. But we benefit greatly from being around others. Making each other laugh, or just saying hi to someone, bonds people. Bowl together, if that’s your thing. Or sing together. Throw a ball together. Laugh. Talk. Connect.