Thursday, January 27, 2011

Guess what this is...

      If you guessed balloons, covered with paper mache, drying in front of the wood stove, you're only partially correct. Actually, it's the initial stage of the Mad Hatter's tea pot and six cups. Stay tuned for updates... (by the way, his UnBirthday Cake is assembled and waiting for frosting)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

     I'm switching from giant mushroom production to scenery for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  It's not because I've lost interest in the mushrooms, but because the set construction guy may be somewhat of a procrastinator.  On Monday, I think I'm going to give him a list of what I need, and the dates I need each piece.  So this weekend I'm beginning work on decorations for the tea party's chairs, and possibly the UnBirthday Cake and the teapot.

     I found these chairs at school in the prop room downstairs.

     I love the three that don't match - they're just what I had in mind.  The other five all came from a set, and the seats are VERY loose, and when you move them around, it seems like they might fall apart.  The actors are supposed to play musical chairs at the tea party, so these 5 chairs might be too rickety for our purposes.  I asked around, and I think I can rustle up 5 more chairs.  I even thought of one in my own basement that I had high hopes of refinishing, oh, about 10 years ago, when my schedule was a little less packed.

     Don't you LOVE it?  It still needs a little more tender loving care, though.  I have to cut a plywood seat and substitute that for what was supposed to be a cane seat. The specks of paint that are still on it shouldn't be really noticable on stage, and if they are, it should just add to the nutty ambiance of the tea party, right?

     I bought a few yards of coordinating fabric to make seats and chair skirts, and maybe a couple of bows for the backs of a few chairs.  I want every chair to look different, but I want them all to coordinate.  Here's my fabric. 

     The print was my inspiration fabric (yeah, I sometimes watch those HGTV shows).  The yellow fabric is heavy, so I'll use it mostly for the seat covers if I need any, and the green and orange are accent colors.  I also have some darker green satin leftover from the woman doing the costumes. I might add some flowers to the backs of the seats, too. 

     I thought I could make the teapot, teacups and UnBirthday Cake some combination of bright blue, hot pink and lime green.  That is a paper mache issue, and most certainly the subject of a future post.  Oh, and I also need a tablecloth or two (as you can see, I'm in charge of props as well).  FESTIVE!  I want this tea party to look like a somewhat-coordinated, eccentric, happy, nutty mess. I should need sunglasses by the time I'm done.

     What do you think??

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Teetering on the Brink

     At the beginning of the week, I was dithering about what to write next… should I write about my great day trip with some friends to see Mary Poppins on Broadway?  (I don’t know, I forgot to ask my friends if I could post their pictures, and posts are always more fun with pictures) Should I write an update on the set design for the play at my school? Not too much progress there, except for the giant mushroom, which is still only a skin…
     And then my little 8th grade friend, “Rose,” came into the office looking for an administrator.  She sat down and was more than willing to talk to me while we waited for the AP to arrive.  Was something going on with another student? No.  A teacher?    “No, I’m just so stressed out,” she said,  “I can’t take it.  I want to get switched out of school and get home tutored.  I’m tryin to do my homework, and come to class, and not talk back and it’s HARD when these teachers are gettin in my face, askin me stuff.”
     No one, it seems, ever taught her appropriate coping skills.
     And trust me, a lack of appropriate coping skills is the least of the problems she’s inherited from her home environment.  We talked about when she told off an adult a few weeks ago.  I suggested that there are times in life when you disagree with someone, but it just doesn’t serve your purpose to say anything about it, especially using your most colorful language.  She said she truly believes that, although she has been trying to keep her mouth shut when necessary, if she doesn’t speak her mind, then she’s not being “true.”
     I nodded.  I could see her point, but in this case, being “true” was working against her.  Something about her use of the word "true" bothered me… as if choosing not to speak in this case would make her “false,” as in, a liar.  It seems that she has much experience with liars.
     The AP came in, and she poured her heart out to him, too.  Ironically, all this from a girl who professes to not want to talk to anyone – not want to tell anyone anything about her life or her family.  He listened patiently, and validated what she was saying by summing it up every so often.  I could hear quite clearly through the door.   She was trying really hard to continue doing the right thing.  She said she never was in school this long before, but she was trying really hard because “you all are so nice to me, and you made my birthday the best ever” (a few of us gave her small gifts), “…and you don’t want to disappoint us,” he said.  She dissolved into tears.  I heard sniffling from my side of the door.  I could tell she was nodding.  He is a good listener.
     He told her to try being like a racehorse with blinders on… keep focused on the goal, and don’t look to the sides and get distracted.  She has a tough situation at home, but she can get there, she just has to stay focused.  He told her that he was there to help.  She came out of his office wiping her eyes.  I told her to come down at lunch time any day she wanted.  She went to class when the bell rang, but I couldn’t get her out of my mind for the next two days.
     If I could just WILL her to succeed, I would.  If I could explain to her that her life can be anything that she wants it to be, I would do it tomorrow, but in reality, all I can do is be there, watch, and wait.
    Rose, I’m rooting for you.          

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

     We had a snow day today.  I always think I'm going to get extraordinary things done when I'm home for a snow day, but I always forget that when it snows, much of your day is taken up with mopping up chunks of snow from the floor and drying everyone's wet clothes.  It was very picturesque outside, but over a foot is a lot of snow!  Just trudging from the back door to the chicken coop to feed the girls this morning was a leg work-out.  (It reminded me of some of those karate warm-ups.)

     So my grandiose plans for the day did not really work out.  I made the pot of tomato sauce minus the lasagna, and I also intended to sew at least one giant mushroom for the play today (please tell me, what was I thinking?), but since my compatriot, the set construction guy, did not yet construct the frame, I thought maybe I should hold off so I don't make my mushroom cap too small.  Last night, before the snow started, I DID finally buy some material.  Here's what I got:

     The red is for the mushroom.  The very light green is for spots on the mushroom and the beige (looks kinda white in this picture) is for the fins (flaps?  gills?) under the mushroom cap. The green was just barely a yard, and I got 10 yards each of the other two colors. With the elastic and the tax, it came to 21.00 and change.  Gotta love Wal-Mart for that!  Even so, I don't think I'm going to be able to make many mushrooms from this, since the mushroom I have in mind has to function something like a very large ottoman.  We'll see how it goes.  Hopefully, tomorrow afternoon I start sewing.    

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

     I am the set designer for my school's musical production.  I'm totally into this task, but also, a little intimidated. I've done a few things of this sort when I worked at the preschool, but you know, there is only so much comparison to be drawn betwen things made for a preschool, and things made for a middle school musical production.  Not a Broadway play, but still, a bit more than preschoolers performing a sign-language version of  "New York, New York." 

     Also, I'm used to calling the shots in this kind of thing - telling people (nicely, I always try to play nicely with others) "we're doing it this way," and now, I have to listen to more suggestions from others. Also, since I've never worked on a real stage production, some of the points the director made were things that never even occurred to me before, so I have to take them into consideration.  I'm fine with that, but it did cause me to revamp my original plan.  Which was may be a good thing, because my original plan was quite a bit more complicated than what the director had in mind.

      They don't really seem to be able to picture what I have in mind, so yesterday I spent a few hours making a few parts of the set for one of the scenes. 

     I didn't go crazy on this mock-up and add all the details (and as you can see, I didn't even do the left side of the backdrops, but I think you can get the idea) - the trunks of the trees are not all going to be the same color brown, and they won't be totally straight.  the green bushes in front of the platforms will reverse to have rosebushes on the backs, and there will be LOTS more mushrooms.  I originally wanted a mushroom or two to have a battery operated light inside that would shine down on the ground through the pleated underside.  But I know when to call myself absolutely nuts, so I'm scratching that idea already. 

     I'm going to show it to the director tomorrow, and hopefully, she gets the general idea, and likes my vision. 

     Any suggestions? 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


     Sometimes, once you start eating snack, you have a hard time stopping.  We just experienced the holiday season, so you know I’m right. 
     With that thought in mind…  We came home today, and my 11 year-old son sat down in the den to play video games, when he noticed some odd fluttering by the bird feeder outside the den window.  
“MOM!!”  He yelled.  “There’s a bird stuck INSIDE the bird feeder!”
     Sure enough, there was a little guy stuck inside the feeder, trying to get out by pecking at the glass around him. My son ran outside immediately to rescue him. 

“WAIT!  DON’T LET HIM OUT YET!”  I had to get my camera. 
     I’m such an altruist.
     Apparently, the little guy had been enjoying his bird seed so much, that he just couldn’t deal with the fact that the feeder was pretty much empty.  He must have kept reaching in… just another millimeter… one more seed... just one more until…
     Thwop!  He was the star of his own little animated snow globe.
     It was just a little seasonal overindulgence. 

     We opened up the top and he flew out immediately, landing on a nearby branch and fluffing his feathers against the insult of it all. 

     And I believe that, my friends, is how New Year’s Resolutions were born.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Resolutions sound like such a good idea, but who really keeps them, anyway? I believe that people who make drastic changes in their lives do it when the mood strikes, you know, when the iron is hot. I can think of a few things I hope to do in 2011, but I didn't have an official list for midnight last night. 

Instead, today, I made a list of things I'm looking forward to in 2011.

1.  Playing more video games with my kids.  We played Wii (Sports, and Just Dance 2) today, and it was a lot of fun.  Why don't I do this more often?

2.  Going to see the play, Mary Poppins, in the city with some of the best buddies in the world.  Again, what took us so long?

3.  Drinking good coffee, and eating great chocolate.

4.  Starting a garden again.  Every year I think I'll have a terrific garden, but then other things get in the way.  In January, the dream is still waiting.  My perfect, deer un-chewed garden still beckons in my dreams...

5.  Irritating my dad at dinnertime.  When I say irritating, I mean it in only the finest, "I love you" sense of the word. Maybe "ranking on, with love" is a better description.

6.  Designing the set for Alice In Wonderland (the play at the school where I work), even though I've never done this before.  I have paper mache mushrooms in my head that just won't go away. 

7.  Tolerating stress better.  An everlasting challenge for me.

   which brings me me to...

8.  Laughing with my husband.  Life really stinks sometimes, but it can be so much better when you can perform uneditted comedy in the privacy of your own home with your biggest fan.

9.  Making new friends.  When we're young in and in school, there are so many opportunities for making new friends, but as we get older, there are fewer opportunities for finding friends (you're no longer changing classes once a year) so when you do find a good one, it's like finding a gold coin in the sand.

10.  Seeing the last Harry Potter movie.  Sad for the story to be over, but I really just can't wait to the big finale in action. 

11.  Writing more.  It's fun, but slightly painful.  Like crunches.  No, more fun than crunches, but you get the idea.

12.  Becoming more efficient.  I don't know how I'm going to do that, but it sure seems like a good idea.

13.  Getting the kids to participate in the housecleaning.  This is really not a totally self-serving idea.  I want them to know how to clean house when they move out some day.  How are they going to know if I don't make them practice?  A lot.

14.  Ditch some unnecessary things.  Be they inanimate objects around the house or... not.

15.  Laugh, and make other people laugh.

16.  Spend a little less time playing Farmville.  Don't tell my husband I'm admitting to this one.  I take a lot of ribbing as it is.

17.  Listen to more books on CD or Playaways.  LOVE them!

18.  Take more, and better pictures.

19.  Scrapbook with my mom. 

20.  Always keep my glass half full.