Archive | July, 2012

peacock tutu tutorial

29 Jul tutucompleted - close up

tutucompleted - close uppeacock tutu tutorial. say that three times fast!

For O’s birthday I knew I wanted to make her some dress up clothing. Not being in possession of a sewing machine, nor any discernible sewing skills, I knew this might be problematic.  I don’t know if anyone has looked recently, but nice dress-up clothing is expensive!

When I was little, my parents enrolled me in dance classes. Having a body type more like a pigeon than a swan, I’m not really sure why they did that, but apparently I loudly announced that I didn’t need the lessons, I already knew how to dance. I was there for the costumes that sat, glittering forlornly in the corner of the downtown studio. If I could just get my hands on those costumes, my five-year old self thought. My time at the dance studio was brief, but those tutus made an impression on me.

I see a bit of that in O, as she reaches for anything sparkly within her reach, swinging necklaces around shouting, “play momma’s beads!”.   After she stated, completely out of the blue that she was now a ballerina, or as she says, ballerweena, I decided that it was tutu time.  Her birthday is in September, so I thought I should get a head start on the tutu, in case my meticulously planned project didn’t work out, like what usually happens. This time though, everything came together, and I am done (gasp) ahead of time!

O loves peacocks. It was one of the first animal names she said and always one of her favorite animals at the wildlife park. It was our visit to the Zooquarium last week that gave me the concrete idea of making her a peacock themed tutu. We saw a peacock, plumage out, displaying to protect his mate from encroaching ducks. I think next I’ll make her a pink flamingo one and a swan version so she can share with friends for dress up. Because really, is there such a thing as too many tutus?

The process was very straightforward, and seriously requires absolutely no sewing skills. You don’t even have to thread a needle. I suppose if you want to use elastic instead of ribbon for the waistband you could, but that’s beyond my depth at this point. The tutorial is below.

Supplies needed to make one 2-year-old sized peacock tutu.

tutu supplies

tutu supplies. please ignore the embroidery floss. not sure how that got there.

  • 5 yards of tulle (1 yard in each of the following colors: light blue, royal blue, peacock-blue, lime green and brown).
  • 1 spool of blue ribbon. I used grosgrain 7/8” x 18ft.
  • Felt squares, 9 x 12”. 5 lime green, 4 brown, 3 turquoise and 1 royal blue. This made 20 felt peacock feathers. If you want more, make them smaller or buy more felt. E the math genius bought 5 sheets of each color, so I have leftovers.
  • Gold fabric paint. Anyone else remember when this stuff was called puff paint? Nice try at rebranding though. Dried plums are still prunes. Not fooling anyone.
  • Fabric glue
  • Paper and pen
  • Permanent or fabric marker, your choice.
  • Some really sharp scissors. I recommend having a pair that you only cut fabric with for this project; it just makes it go faster.

Step 1-Create your template for the felt feathers. I made my feathers in the 4 colors of felt listed above. You could go with more or less, I somehow managed to rein myself in and only do 4, but purple would make a nice addition to this. I drew my master feather template with all 4 colors based on Google images of peacocks, and from there, traced out each individual template and cut them out. I labeled them as to the color they corresponded to because I have a way of forgetting those things.

paper templates

labeled paper templates for the felt leaves on highly professional paper towel background. annie lebowitz, eat your heart out.

Step 2- Trace your feather pieces onto the corresponding felt colors. Get permanent marker all over hands like a 5-year-old. Seriously all over. I’m not even sure how I did this. So, if you are at all inclined to be a bit of a spaz or a messy worker, maybe back off the sharpie for this one.

base for the felt feathers

base for the felt feathers

my hand after tracing the peacock feathers onto the felt.

my hand after tracing the peacock feathers onto the felt.

more fingers

my other hand, covered in permanent marker. you would never know I was responsible for a whole other human being looking at this. where did I put her again?

Step 3- Cut out felt shapes. Feel grateful this does not involve as much cutting as the paint chip circles project.

Step 4- Glue felt feather pieces together using fabric glue.

Step 5- Realize that O’s nap is over and that the feathers are lacking that certain something.

assembled felt feather

the assembled felt feather. It doesn’t look as happy as it should.

Something like gold puff paint. After purchasing the puff paint, I added some vertical lines to the feathers to make them look more feathery (and to think, I went to college as an English major. English as a second language. Hahah, I’ll be here all night folks).

felt feathers with puff paint

they look snazzier now, don’t you agree?

Anyway, after O tasted the puff paint (not good, if you were wondering), I set aside the feathers to dry safely out of the grasp of her little mitts.

Step 6- Cut a length of ribbon large enough to be the tutu and to tie in a bow in the front to fasten on your little munchkin’s waist.

Step 7- Cut out strips of tulle. Mine ranged from 2-5” wide. As far as length, maybe 1.5 ft or so? Long enough to be able to fold in half and get the designated length of poof for the tutu. I wanted the tulle strips to be applied to the ribbon in a random order, color wise, so I jumbled mine into a pile.

Step 8-Find the middle of your ribbon- this will be the back point of the tutu.

Step 9- Take one piece of tulle and fold it in half. I simply looped my tulle over the ribbon waistband and pulled it taught. This accomplished two goals- not to sew and to make the tutu easy to repair (given it’s intended owner). I am going to assume that if you are reading this, you are like me and cannot visualize what someone means when the say “loop the tulle over the ribbon and pull it taut”. So, I will demonstrate with a series of well thought out, artfully taken pictures.

  • First- Fold tulle in half.
tulle folded in half

tulle folded in half. on carpet. as still life.

  • Second- place tulle behind ribbon. I forgot to take a picture while I was doing this for real, so in this recreation, just imagine that the pen is the ribbon. Use your imagination, just like I do when I imagine that I am not typing this sitting on the floor, wondering why my back hurts, but instead, in an airy, well-lit studio, somewhere in London. Wearing an arty scarf.
tulle behind waistband (pen)

tulle behind waistband (pen)

  • Third-Loop the fold over the ribbon, bringing it towards you.
looped tulle

tulle looped over waistband (pen) from behind

  • Fourth- Pull the ends of the tulle through the loop, creating a knot-like-thingy.
tulle looped/knot

Tulle looped over waistband from back, loose pieces pulled through loop to create knot-thingie.

  • Fifth- Pull tight. Repeat.
tulle knot

tulle knot thingie pulled tight. if there is a name for this, please enlighten me.

This is what it looked like after I had looped a dozen or so strips onto the waistband.

tutu waistband in progress

tutu waistband in progress.

I found it easiest to work from the back (middle) of the tutu up to the front, adding tulle evenly to each side. That way, I ensured that the length of ribbon I had to fasten it was equal on both sides. No one likes lopsided tutus.

Step 10- Cut lengths of ribbon to attach the felt feathers to. I wanted some to hang lower than others, so I cut three differing lengths. I attached those to the waistband in the same manner as the tulle once I had used up all the tulle, just right on top. These won’t get quite as taut, and I would think that if this becomes a problem, you could add a few drops of fabric glue or super glue to solve that.

Step 11- Glue the feathers to the ribbons in a pattern that works for you.

Step 12- Let dry, safely out of reach of little people.

Step 13- Present to your favorite toddler and watch the twirling begin!!


the completed tutu, a back view. The tulle poofs out and the feathered ribbons drape over the top.

If you liked this and would like a peacock (or flamingo, or swan) tutu for your very own little ballerweena  send me a message at my etsy shop The TInsel Tree. 


28 Jul

Written while on Cape Cod.

blue hydrangea

blue hydrangea

I’ve forgotten how green it gets here. Green unlike the tentative light green of the desert, small leaves in perpetual spring, each hopefully unfurling, extending to grasp any shred of moisture lingering in the atmosphere. No, this species of green is a snap your neck back, verdant green, the green the desert can only dream about in those bone dry months of waiting. A nearly sinful green, languidly dripping from ancient ivy cloaked oak trees, mammoth droopy-headed hydrangeas and boisterous daylilies rioting by the roadside.

yellow daylily

yellow daylily

beach rose

beach rose

seven things series- seven songs stuck in my head.

26 Jul records
Record Store Day

Regrettably, none of these are on the list.  (Photo credit: aurélien

I like a good project. and lists. I love, love, love lists. Whenever I make a list that’s not related to groceries or stuff to get done, I am always reminded of John Cusack in High Fidelity (good book, better movie).

It’s in that spirit that I am going to be posting seven things on Thursday. I realize that seven things on Saturday, or Sunday as a nicer ring to it, but I like Thursdays. Thursday’s always held the most promise to me. The work or school week was nearly done, the weekend just peeking over the fence, ready to play. Thursdays are hopeful, Thursdays are one more exit til the beach.

Thursday’s seemed appropriate for a series of posts that tackle subject matter of little to no consequence, unlike my normal bipolar posts on either depression or happy scrappy art. So, every Thursday, I am going to list seven things I….(insert verb here). A list of ten seemed too Letterman-esque, three too few, five is just kind of ehh, and nine seemed arbitrary, so I picked my favorite number, seven.

Seven songs I have stuck in my head constantly.

Some of these have been lodged in there for years. Others stay for a while, leave and then come back, like a cold sore in my brain. In no particular order.

1. This Is How We Do It,  Montell Jordan.
There is really no explanation for this. I am possibly the whitest person ever- my first name is literally a synonym for the island of drunken leprechauns, I never listened to rap or R&B,  I have no rhythm, and the very idea of dancing to this makes me break out in a cold sweat. Yet, here it remains.

2. Raspberry Beret, Prince.
I heard this song once as a kid, and that was it. It’s horrible and creepy and is sung by a midget with snidely whiplash facial hair and more eyeliner than a hooker on payday. I would pay money to have this driven out of my head.

3. Separate Ways, Journey.
It’s either this song or Photograph, always, and it’s because they are awesome. I have an inexplicable deep, abiding love of Journey, in all it’s hair banded glory and schlocky overemoting. I think it’s the 13-year old girl inside me. No, I take that back. I just love Journey and I’m proud of it. Until someone mentions it outside of this blog, then I will deny it and burn with shame.

4. You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You, Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin.
This is my drunk song.This song and I developed a relationship when I had my own apartment and was coming to terms with a lot of things. Frequently, well, frequently enough, I sang this song, loudly and surely off-key, while brushing my teeth, clutching my sink for support after a few too many at Harry’s Bar down the street. I’m pretty sure I would sing the song on repeat, like a stuck record, progressively getting more into it, until the final “loooooove”, stretching it out like a cat getting flattened by a taxi. Not surprising I never met any of my neighbors in the building.

5. Who Will Save Your Soul, Jewel.
Maybe I shouldn’t have put these consecutively as they make me sound like a lush. I dislike Jewel. I am sure she’s nice enough, but her song lyrics sound like crap pulled out of the recycling bin at Hallmark. That doesn’t mean I didn’t perform a solo rendition of this, accompanied only by guitar, to a dorm room full of equally hammered Northeastern students freshman year of college. Now, I would rather have my fingernails gnawed off by raccoons than sing in front of anyone other than my dogs, so I can safely say I was sliding off of the bed drunk. Ever since that fateful night, Ms. Jewel’s song has haunted me, as a reminder of my surely awe-inspiring performance.

6.Jump Around, House of Pain.
Played at every middle school and high school dance. It was rap suburban kids could keep up with, feel badass singing, and then pogo around too before Mom and Dad picked you up at 10pm when they turned the lights back on. Memories. I’m sure this has something to do with adolescence and since it’s been surfing the pit in my head for just about as long, I would rather this one just fade to black.

7. C is for Cookie, Cookie Monster. I have a kid. Also, Cookie Monster is a kindred spirit. He’s upfront about what matters. Doughnuts- not as good as cookies. The Moon – shaped like a cookie, but still not a cookie. Cookie Monster has principles. Fuzzy and Blue is gaining on this though (google it).

Anyone else have this affliction?

Thoughts while working on art- a meditation on the effects of depression on life choices.

23 Jul split rock
split rock

depression is always having a streak of other running through your whole self.

two, two posts in one day. ah, ah, ah. oh count von count from sesame street. how do I still find you funny after all these years? Probably because when O tries to imitate a bad Transylvanian accent when counting acorns, and announces “one, two, free  (3) acorns momma!”, I forget all the thoughts rattling around in my head like acorns off the wooden deck.

I wrote this post a while ago and only now am I screwing up the courage to post it. I don’t like to admit failure. I was that kid in school who went into a total panic spiral at the mere thought of a C, if only because of my own unattainably high standards.

So, I am posting this now as a challenge to myself. Also, O took a long nap today, so I’ve been able to work on the blog in more than 15 minute increments. Here goes nothing.

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While I was working on a paint sample piece, I had a thought. I guess doing this blog, and documenting my art when it happens is very similar to something I did in college. My crazy graphic design professor and major advisor had me create a process book documenting my final, yearlong independent study in design. A visual representation of the Queen Mab speech from Romeo and Juliet. Yup, because that’s something applicable to the workforce. It was another one of those ideas that just came to me and stuck in my head like gum to a toddler’s hair. Of course, she loved it. By the end of the year, I hated my project and profoundly regretted doing it. The process book was pretty cool though.  It was the last really creative thing I did.

In hindsight, I realize an internship would have been more valuable, but it was 2002 and the creative industry had taken a massive hit after September 11th. Actual graphic designers couldn’t even get decently paying jobs, let alone aspiring ones. Several of my instructors were laid off from their firms.  A few of my classmates had internships, but they were exclusively unpaid, and I had to have a paying job so I could buy overpriced groceries and afford my apartment. The fact that I was in an apartment my senior year with my boyfriend at the time was, again in hindsight, a direct result of some actions caused by my depression earlier in college, but that’s a story for another day.

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If there was anyone who could whip my creative ass back into shape, instead of the shabby greying blob it is right now, it was Judith. Man I miss her. She’s still at the my college, teaching. But I haven’t contacted her since after graduation, when she asked my permission to put a copy of my final project in the school’s library collection and use my other work as a teaching aide for future classes. I’ve always felt that she would look at me not going into design as a massive failure, which wouldn’t be entirely wrong. I feel that she would look at me, and ask, where was the girl she knew? Where was that confidence and drive to be the best, the one who worked the hardest, stayed the latest and never gave up? I wish I could give her and myself an answer.

I think a lot of it has to do with the job I had during college and for a while after graduation. It was doing graphic design, primarily print, in a corporate marketing department. It wasn’t glamorous, but I enjoyed it. Something in my heart wasn’t there though, and I’m sure they could tell. Looking back at it, knowing what I know now about myself,  I think it was the start of one of my larger, multi-year boughts of depression. At the time I think I thought I was just tired and missed living in the city after graduation. I would go home and make angry paintings until all hours of the night, then trudge into work, zombie like, held upright only by massive amounts of coffee. Like I said before, my heart wasn’t in it, but then again, it felt like my heart wasn’t in anything at that time in my life.

I got laid off, along with all the other contract workers. As I lived on unemployment, and taught myself to cook, my previous employers assured me that it would only be a matter of time before I got my old job back, as a permanent employee. When the time came, I dutifully interviewed with my old co-workers and showed them my portfolio- work we had all seen before during my tenure there.

When I received the call from the HR department that they would be going in a different direction, I was, well, I don’t know what I was. Angry, shocked, confused. I didn’t get it. I called my old boss, who said he was very sorry and that he was more or less out-voted. They saw it as a chance to get someone with more web experience, an area I had only dabbled in at school and wasn’t overly crazy about. Too little control of what the piece looked like for me- this was nearly 10 years ago remember, they barely taught web design in college. Well, at least, my college.

After six grueling months of non-stop job searching, rounds of interviews for secretarial positions I was inevitably told I was overqualified for,  I finally found a job, and it was the one that kick started my career in the medical field. After maybe six months, I got an email from my old boss- hey- we’re expanding and we want you to come in for an interview.

I was so excited. They wanted me back! My new job was fine, but with the exception of the unfamiliar medical terminology, it was something I could do in my sleep and paid about as well as slinging French fries at McDonalds. (I was a word processor/editor at a small non-profit that worked in cancer research).

At the interview, my old boss and co-workers saw the same portfolio, said the same reassuring words, and even just chatted instead of really interviewing me.  They knew my current job wasn’t in design, or even marketing, but I tried to keep up on industry news the best someone with no money can do. No, I didn’t have the newest version of InDesign (as I had pennies in my bank account), but I was willing to learn! So, so willing to learn!

Once again, I waited. And once again, after two agonizing weeks, while I fantasized about Pantone paint decks, the smell of paper at a pre-press visit, and the awesome feeling you get when you realize you nailed exactly what the client wants — I got the call.

Sitting on my bed, sobbing hysterically, I just didn’t understand. Were they messing with me? Why would you call a previous employee back, specifically, twice for a job supposedly designed for her, and then drop the guillotine? I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what I did wrong. I didn’t know what I could have done better, could have done more of.

And that was it. I gave up. No one wanted me as a designer. It was clear I wasn’t as creative, or at least as half as good as I thought I was. School didn’t matter. I was not a designer. Period.

I was NOT an artist.

And with that, it was like a door shut in part of my brain. Closed up like Miss Havisham’s house, cobwebby with disrepair. Eventually, after moving through several apartments, I took the aging computer, zip drive and disks that housed my unwanted and untalented portfolio, and sledgehammered them into a dumpster. Irretrievable. No evidence that part of me existed. No contact with anyone from back then. Like a bad breakup. I didn’t make anything anymore. No painting, no drawing, and most of all, no design. I didn’t read about it, didn’t want to think about it. It hurt so much.  It was worse than any breakup I had ever been through, because it touched on something so integral to my sense of self. It was like walking by a mirror one day and realizing your reflection is completely different from the person you saw yesterday, the person you thought you always were.

And no amount of makeup can change it back. You need to learn to live with your new skin.

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As I glued my paint chip strips automatically to the poster board, I wondered, how do I get that me back? Or, perhaps more appropriately, how do I get that creative spark back, that confidence, after feeling beaten down for so long? How do I reconcile the effects that my depression has wrought on my life, my potential career and my well-being, and not repeat my past mistakes? How do I not look back on what I have brought on myself, not with bitterness, regret or anger, but with open eyes and a sense understanding for this demon I now know will always be lingering on my shoulder, hungrily tapping his fingers.

this was our house – part III

23 Jul dining room after



our dining room.

I realize this post is long over due, and by long overdue, I mean for the three of you not related to me that read this.

The dinning room was probably the room that we had the most success with renovating. When we bought the house, the dinning room was covered in pearlized vinyl floral wallpaper that oddly bothered me more than all of the other lovely wallpapers in the house. A ceiling fan with stenciled blades wobbly spun in the middle of the room, and a gigantic built-in china cabinet had been sullied with smurf blue molding and more wallpaper on the inside and ceiling. Like in the foyer, faux parquet peel-and-stick tile graced the floor, though mercifully, it was only on the perimeter of the room, ringing where a rug had been. Under that peel and stick tile in one corner, was an unsightly piece of Cabernet colored particle board, placed there by the previous owner so he could run wires or something into the basement. Why a simple drilled hole didn’t suffice we will never know. According to our neighbor who knew the dearly beloved owners, they were here for 50 years and the husband was a bit of a tinkerer. I would say that “bit” might have been a gross understatement on his part. The back door had a functioning dog doorbell when we moved in (the dog rang it with his nose) and a light that mysteriously went on in the attic when you opened the attic door, even though there were no discernible wires connecting the two. Such were the mysteries of Hastings Street. But I digress. Aside from outlet plates that covered holes and a bank of the world’s first cable jacks on the wall, the dinning room was fairly straightforward, as far as it went for us.

These are some of the befores and durings.

part of the dining room

part of the dining room when we looked at the house before purchasing. it had potential somewhere in there, we just knew it. we hoped. Note the blue shelving in the china cabinet.

the dining room floor

the dining room floor, with a border of peel and stick parquet tiles. such fun to peel up! Also, that AC left behind for us was non-functioning.

the during

renovation debris. nothing like vinyl tiles and skin melting glue stripper to make you think, maybe home ownership was not such a wise move.

floor surprise

oh hello random piece of wood in the floor, were you hiding under the peel and stick tiles? so nice of you to show up for the party!

stenciled fan

the precursor to the chandelier. a stenciled fan. in case you needed something else to distract your eyes from the cornea scorching hideousness of the wallpaper. also, the smoke detector next to the fan was apparently just for decorative purposes.

The floors were refinished, the ceiling replaced, the ceiling fan unceremoniously dumped in the rotting garage to be dealt with later. The mummified blinds and curtains came down, new sheers went up.

I think the wallpaper came down easily, but honestly, I don’t really remember as wallpaper removal was the husband’s specialty, considering my wallpaper scraping abilities stopped somewhere around the 5’6 mark and our ceilings started at 9ish ft. I got to do the detail work, like painting molding, and getting stuck inside the china cabinet inhaling paint fumes as I primed the inside wall, floor and ceiling. Repeatedly. The husband found it funny. At some point during their 50-year tenure in the house, the previous owners found it necessary to enlarge the china cabinet, depth wise, butting it into the kitchen. The original bottom part to it, sat, in all its long leafed pine glory, in the basement. I forever wanted to figure out what to do with it, since it was one of the few wood surfaces in the house that had never been painted. Alas, it was not to be.

I imagine when they enlarged the china cabinet was also the point in time which they decided why yes, let us slap up some cabbage rose chintz wallpaper on the ceiling of the china cabinet, and painted the plate rails a fetching Windex blue. This must have been the precursor to the rainbow kitchen. After climbing inside the cabinet, which by the way, was full old plates and things when we bought it, I discovered the wallpaper and decided to break our one dearly held rule of renovation. I painted over it. I was not going to scrape wallpaper off on an area of the house only a soup tureen would see. We (meaning me) had stupidly started this room a week or so before our planned New Year’s Eve party, and I was going to get it done if it killed me.

The first chandelier we purchased for the room did not work out quite as I had envisioned it. We found one we loved at Ikea and blindly bought it, not paying any attention to the chain used to suspend it from the ceiling.

As the husband and his father were hanging it up, they called me into the dinning room to assess. The links for the chain that hung the chandelier were so large, even with only one link in, the beast hung centimeters from our dinning room table. To this day, I still have no idea why he lets me pick out anything, as I do so with no consideration to scope and size. I was redeemed somewhat when the chandelier proved to be a good fit for our stairwell landing. Finally, after an emergency trip to the store, we had a chandelier hanging up that did not resemble something guests might see at medieval manor dangling in the front of their noses.

The last thing to do was to paint. We wanted to do a bold color in the room, but I was nervous because of the set-up of the house, you could see the dining room from every other room, so I didn’t want something that restricted our palette too much. We brought home some paint samples and put them up on the wall. It was like goldilocks and the three paint colors. One looked like mustard, the other looked like dried blood. The last one, a caramelly color, looked just right. Ironically, both of our parents ended up using a similar color in their houses, so I guess our choice wasn’t as bold as we thought.

When we finally stepped back and admired our work, it was, by far, this room, we preferred the most.

My mother said it looked like something out of pottery barn. Sweet, but I doubt that any pottery barn rooms have dog fur tumbleweeds rolling past the dinner’s feet.

the afters.

dining room after

the after. the lovely, lovely after.

dr completed

The chandelier that allowed us to have light in the room, yet still see our guests!

completed china cabinet

Goodbye wallpaper lined interior! We used the kitchen cabinet color on the inside to give it a pop of color and to tie the two rooms together as they shared a doorway.



16 Jul
English: Photograph of a prune that I took. En...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Old People (or elders, if you prefer)

This is an open letter to the retirement community I live near based on an experience I had during our early tenure in AZ.

I understand that the Safeway we shop at is not technically in your age-restricted turf, but it’s understood that it is mainly populated by those of the prune eating persuasion. I understand that when I whip through your store, hair a mess, shirt probably stained with O’s most recent snack and my most recent art project, sans wedding rings, that you make some assumptions about me and my kiddo, blithely kicking her heels in the grocery cart. I understand that when you see my dust encrusted Honda civic, with its multiple scratches, you don’t think that I got those scratches in the miniscule parking garage of a Cambridge biotech. You just see a hurried mother, with a child in need of a scrubbing, climbing into a sedan that, at least on the exterior, looks like it’s been around the block. Your assumptions are just that, assumptions, and given that we live in the land of the free and bravely ignorant, you are allowed to have them.

But really, old people, this is no reason to clip my ass with your GOLF CART as I lean into my car, strapping O into her car seat. I know, it’s not as small as it used to be, thanks to childbirth and a deep abiding love of carbohydrates. But really, I don’t think it was sticking out into your non-space, as you whipped in between my car and the hatch-marked area reserved for off-boarding wheelchairs from vans.  You’ll note, that is/was not a designated parking space. I never park that close to the store, but it was 120 degrees out, and I was tired, not wanting to lug O and arms full of groceries through the sneaker melting parking lot.  So I parked close to the front, and put myself in your crosshairs.  After you whipped into your space, hobbling into the store to purchase god only knows what, I stood, rooted to the spot, trying to determine exactly just what had taken place. You hit me. In the butt. With your golf cart.

And I stood there; mute, unable to process fast enough to come up with a witty rejoinder to your physical fat joke.

So I’ll stay mute, and smile sweetly as you scowl at me and my powdered doughnut covered child as we wait in line. I want to teach her to honor those that have gone before, and to treat the aged with dignity and respect. But I’ll teach her, years from now, should her bum ever get hit buckling her baby into a car seat, to smash their aarp-endorsed windshield with a tire iron.


16 Jul


Every so often, you go somewhere or see something that reminds you, magic does exist. Sitting at the edge of the sea, with my sand spray be-ringletted daughter, the way she turned and gaped at me as we watched the tide mysteriously inch closer to her swim shoes until, lapping at the soles, it finally took back the small patch of sand we had staked as our own.

Tomorrow we could dig another hole, build another castle, pretending we were kings and queens of our pebble strewn kingdom, then witness as nature silently reestablishes its ownership.


paint chip art part I — circles

12 Jul

In leaving Hastings street and moving into a rental, one of the things I was saddest to leave behind was the ability to paint the walls. I love the transformative power of paint, any kind of paint. I love the smell of paint, the feel of it, and I missed having a reason to wander around the paint departments of home improvement stores. Paint to me always symbolized potential, whether it was for a room (ahem kitchen), or for a canvas. 

I’ve also always loved paint chips, in the way that only a designer who has always coveted those Pantone chip decks can. The colors! So when I stumbled across the genius blog of the insanely talented Allison, I knew I had to put my own spin on her paint chip projects. They involved something I love, and the cost was minimal, something our budget loves.

O and I were headed to home depot anyway to try to find a light for the new house on the cheap, so I thought I would start on my paint chip project. The projects required two different types of paint chips- the single color kind and the chips that showed multiple tones on a card. We meandered around the paint department for a while, picking up some spray paint that I needed for another project- what’s with keeping it behind locked gates Arizona? Afraid someone might color a cactus?  I completely underestimated the difficulty in collecting enough paint chips without a- getting asked repeatedly by an increasingly suspicious  store employee if I needed help, and b- O pitching a fit because her goldfish supply was running low. We got our chips, paid for our light, and hustled out of there before anyone could ask why I had a dictionary-sized stack of paint chips jutting out from O’s diaper bag.

Some of my loot

Some of my loot. Thanks home depot!

To make art out of paint chip circles seemed the easier of the two options, so I started that one first. As soon as O went down for her nap, I started on my plan. First off, determine circle size.  Since I can’t measure for crap, I decided I would do a large-ish circle, a medium one, and a small one. Allison of the inspirational blog used various size punches to create her no doubt wonderfully uniform circles. Alas, I had neither the circle punches nor the money to justify purchasing them. I decided to trace my circles and cut them out. Easier said than done. After some serious searching of the house for the appropriate size circles, I ended up using a baby food jar cover, a film canister cover (remember 35mm film?), and a circle stencil I discovered on the ruler I had in my hand. I traced. And I traced. And I traced some more. Finally, I had traced my circles onto the back of all the paint chips, taking care to use the part of the chip that had the least amount of writing on it. Then- can you guess what comes next? I cut. And cut. And cut some more. My thumb went numb at one point and stayed that way for long enough for me to get concerned I may have pinched a nerve.

The husband, sitting next to me on the couch watching the DIY network, wondered out loud if perhaps I wasn’t a little obsessed. Must cut circles. Must cut circles.

The three sets of circles

Three sets of circles ranging from the size of a wine cork on the left, to the size of a baby food jar lid all the way on the right. and no, these are not all of them.

Finally, a couple of days later I was done. After a session of O “playing circles” with all the cut up pieces where she scattered them around the office like confetti, I was ready to start assembling them. I spread them out all over my kitchen table, as I wanted the color combinations to be as random as possible.

the assembled circles

some of the assembled circles

As soon as I started gluing them together, they started to curl up, being of a heavier weight paper. I sandwiched the glued-together circles between two cookbooks to press them flat. Where they promptly got stuck to the covers of the books.

After all the circles were dried, it was time to figure out their composition.

As the background for the pieces, I used three sheets of 11 x 17 paper I had kicking around. I knew I wanted to make three compositions. Why three? I like multiples of things and odd numbers are more interesting than even.

After trying out a few different compositions, I settled on a grid pattern, leaving a slightly larger margin of white space at the bottom of each piece.

Again, I put all the assembled circles in a pile so I would place them on the paper in a random order. Attaching the circles to the paper went very quickly, considering the amount of prep time the front end of the project took.

They looked awesome. There was something so graphic about them that I really enjoyed. Also, this project was not fraught with disaster as my endeavors normally are.

completed compositions

The completed compositions. pay no attention of the flash off the mirror I unwisely placed them in front of. Framed, they are 16 x 20 each.

A close up of a composition

A close up of a composition

Weeks later, after I had found frames for each piece, and lined them up to take a photo for the blog, it hit me. Kandinsky. They were evocative of a print of a Kandinsky painting I had in college. See for yourself.


FARBSTUDIE QUADRATE, Wassily Kandinsky, c.1913, courtesy of


I’ll post the other paint chip project as soon as it’s done. It involved even more precision cutting than this one! Fun!

leaving on a jet plane

11 Jul
view from above

the view from above

“I’m leaving, on a jet plane”

Sung out of key, stretching out the eeeeeeeaving in leaving. My dog wags her tail and barks at me when I sing. I can’t tell if it’s because she enjoys it, or because it’s making her ears bleed. Either way, her reaction is amusing.

“I’m leaving, on a jet plane.” I know when I’ll be back again. All right, enough of that.

Traveling always makes me think of college applications. I know this is a strange association, but it will seem less so in a few minutes.  I wrote one of my college essays about packing.  When I was getting ready to apply to college during my senior year of high school, I heard endlessly about the importance of extracurricular activities. Which, in the parlance of my high school, meant two things: student council or sports. I was involved in neither, being neither popular nor athletic. I was a yearbook editor, a job I went out for chiefly to ensure that there were photos of my friends in the yearbook, and not just the cool kids; and Girl Scouts, an obligation I dutifully attended for my mom. Girl Scouts was kind of like religion- I bought it, but I never brought it home. So, I was a little lacking on the extra curricular end of things and my lack of athletic ambition was frowned upon. Academically, I was stellar, but not on the National Honor Society (another black mark), due to an attendance-based technicality committed junior year (mono-thanks husband!), and my stubborn refusal to reapply senior year.

The more applications I completed, the angrier I got. My list of extracurriculars was so small, how could the admissions people possibly not think I was some reclusive, anti-social misanthrope? It wasn’t fair. In my mind, why should they pick some kid who was good at softball, which lets be honest, is silly, over someone with brains who trips over her own feet? If it was the end of the world, whom do you want on your team- David Ortiz, or MacGyver? I’d take brains over brawn any day of the week.

As I’ve gotten older, my take on this has mellowed somewhat, so if you are a former high school athlete who’s offended by this, I apologize. You may have mocked me in high school, so let’s consider this even. I know that some athletes are smart and some dorks are athletic. I get it. But that’s not what this story is about.

Anyway, as annoyed as I was by the college application process, I knew I had to play the game and win by whatever means possible. I had to somehow differentiate myself, despite my lacking record. I knew I could write circles around most people I knew, but couldn’t find a response to the question “Tell us something interesting about yourself”  that I didn’t immediately write off as total crap. I wasn’t about to write the standard drivel about wanting to change the world, or make a difference, because I had no idea if I even wanted to do either of those.

I knew I wanted out of my hometown and into  big city as soon as possible, but astutely understood that I probably shouldn’t write that on the application. Also, “I am applying because my parents made me” isn’t exactly acceptance material either- hello safety schools! Ironically, the school I ended up attending also fell into that bucket, but that’s a story for another day.

In my aggravation, I decided to write about an experience that was so embarrassing and silly, it felt like a big raspberry to the entire admissions process- I wrote about the time I forgot my underwear- all my underwear.

For several years in my later childhood and early adolescence, my family would spend several weeks on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, called Nantucket. Nantucket is very fancy and insanely expensive, but we were able to visit due to the generosity of my uncle, who had a cottage he let us stay in. Now, I’m not the type of person who says cottage and means 2,000 sq. foot house. See the room you are reading this in? It was that size, or smaller. But it was free and close to the beach and that fit the criteria.

As a kid, I had horrendous allergies. I think I was allergic to our poor dog.One summer, we were getting ready to head to the island for two weeks. I must have been fourteen or so. I took a bunch of allergy medicine so I could pack without sneezing every 40 seconds and remember passing out in front of our hall closet, looking for a windbreaker. I was woken up by my mother, continued packing, went to bed, got up, got dressed and got on the ferry to Nantucket. We got there, walked around town, went to dinner and went to bed. The first thing next morning- the beach!

It was only later that night, after showering, that I realized my terrible terrible omission. After ripping apart my and my brother’s suitcase (just in case), I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I had not packed any underwear. At all.

For two weeks, I had brought nothing but the pair I wore on the ferry ride over. I reported the issue to my parents, who were incredulous until they too, looked through my suitcase and came up empty-handed.

The worst part of this whole episode was purchasing new underwear and bras. Now, I haven’t been to Nantucket in years, but at that point in time the only place to buy underwear was the Marine Supply Store. Next to the fishing tackle. In old-lady designs.

There is no word in the English language that can accurately describe the agonizing sense of mortification that can only be experienced by pre-teen girls being forced to do something private in a very public place.  On top of the style of underwear being more suited to Angela Lansbury, it was insanely expensive. Like 28 bucks for a pair of panties. In a hardware store. In the early nineties. My dad was pissed.

I spent the rest of the two weeks (two weeks!) wearing my bathing suit as often as possible and rotating between my new hideous granny panties/bra sets a little as possible, because in addition to looking like they were made in the Depression, they felt like it too. I dared not mention this to my parents, as they were not very sympathetic to my plight, since it was completely my fault.

Ever since “the underwear incident” as my family refers to it, I have become a dedicated list maker and have very rarely packed for a trip of any duration without a highly detailed packing list.

I thought of “the underwear incident” when the other day, talking to my mother about mine and O’s pending trip, she jokingly asked me if I had packed my underwear.

I had not.

By the way, in case you were curious, I was accepted to all the schools I sent “the underwear incident” essay to.  Sometimes it pays to be a spaz.

random thoughts 07July2012

7 Jul

is there anything happier than a dog sticking its head out a car window?

do all Pop/Top 40 radio stations have a guy named JoJo as their man on the street reporter?

Also, I am pretty sure that I no longer own any t-shirts without paint or food stains on them. The idea of going out and having to look grown-up presentable strikes fear into my heart.

A sleeve of Saltines is a perfectly acceptable lunch.


update – thanks to the husband for letting me know that today is in fact the 7th, not the 9th, as I originally titled the post.

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