Friday, December 28, 2012

The "Holy Crap" stage of Scenery Production

We are now solidly into the Holy Crap stage of scenery production for The Little Mermaid.  In case you've never heard of the Holy Crap stage, it's the point at which you examine your list of things that still have to be done, and then you look at the available dates left on the calendar, and you are completely speechless except for the words, "Holy Crap!" which you keep uttering to yourself during your waking as well as your sleeping moments.  I reached the Holy Crap stage while I was at work today.  When I did, I took a moment to run down to the green room and snap a couple of pictures so I can help move the others I'm working with into the Holy Crap stage as well. Most of them won't take more than a nudge to get there, but one in particular seems throughly ensconced in the "we have PLENTY of time" stage.  He even offered to help me complete my tasks, which is more than just a little ironic, because he is one of the primary reasons I'm floundering in the Holy Crap stage right now.

For your amusement, here is a run-down of the situation as it stands at this moment...

The Separate Scenes, and their stages of development:

The Ocean - this mainly consists of fabric waves, which will be awesome when completed, but...  they're not.  The plan calls for two separate lines of fabric waves, one in the pit just in front of the stage, and one on the stage, further back - probably somewhere around the mid-curtain.  Each wave line will have 4 or maybe even 5 separate pieces, each held vertically by 2 actors.  the blue ribbons of fabric you see in the picture above is one of the fabric waves.  I have 1 completely done, and 3 more mostly done. that means with 5 in a row, I need 6 more... plus the extra tall one to conceal Ariel as she walks up the stairs and onstage from the side door.  Here's  a picture of the finished wave on the stage floor...

...can you say Holy Crap?

oh yeah, and this scene will also have a BOAT in it.  Kids will carry this boat onto the stage and then set it down behind the waves where they will then go about their sailorly duties, such as swabbing the deck, etc.  Here's the boat:

This boat is hinged in the middle so that when the kids cross the stage and arrive backstage on the other side, they can fold it up in order to get the whole thing behind the curtains until we need it again.  This is a cruddy brown color because this was OOPS paint that I got at Home Depot - 10.00 a gallon for paint is a vast improvement over 35.00 a gallon for paint that is not an ugly color... and who cares on the primer color, anyway?  It still needs a second (real) coat of the good brown color, and then I roll on faux wood grain on top.  Wondering - do you think we should paint the back side as well?

The Beach - This plan is for sand dunes on one side, with maybe a beach fence, some grasses, and a couple of rocks.  The rough interior of a rock is here:

See the curved wire on top of the plywood?  It's just sitting there because we need some hammer-in staples to attach the wire to the wood.  Or we need an air staple gun to shoot the staples into place.  Then I cover the wire with the screening I purchased, then we spray insulation foam onto that to make it look rock-like. THEN we paint it.  Notice all the times I used the word THEN?  Each "THEN" is a separate day.  Just saying.  And I need about 4 of these rocks.  Holy Crap.   If I really run out of time, I am going to cancel the dunes altogether and blame it on Hurricane Sandy.

King Triton's Court - This is a full cast scene, so there's not a whole lot of scenery, unfortunately, me and my big ideas - I made the planned on pieces elaborate and huge.  King Triton's throne will go on the platform shown in the top picture, I'll add it again here below just for clarity...

See the large box in the center?  You can't see the steps cause they're in the back.  In a perfect world, I would have painted this numerous times with lots of shades of coral and pink but THIS IS NOT A PERFECT WORLD.  I had this paint, and I showed four girls how to dab it on, and I think it's good enough.  There will be two additional side pieces so that king Triton can walk up one side of his platform and down the other side, so he won't have to look ungainly while maneuvering his merman tail.  I was also thinking, these platforms will be ALL THE WAY BACK by the back curtain, and the audience probably won't see much of them.  What they WILL see HASN"T EVEN BEEN BUILT YET.  That is, a seat made of tubes with an open clamshell on top.  And his seat will be flanked by two 8 foot pillars, painted to look round, and each one topped by a repurposed Starbucks-like mermaid traced into foam core.  Now everyone say, GREAT PILLARS of HOLY CRAP!

Triton is also supposed to carry a trident that lights up for when he casts impressive spells, but I'm hearing that Hurricane Sandy may have shorted out his Trident.  We'll have to see...

The Palace Hall - I'm not even sure what goes in this scene except for a large dining room table and some chairs.  We have a smallish dining room table in the basement prop room, and a can scrounge up some chairs, but they don't match, so I might have to staple some fabric chair covers on them.  oh, and the director wants windows with curtains on them in this scene.  Here is my one window in it's current state:

Sad, right?  and Calico curtains don't really belong on a palace, do they?  Which means I'm either making them or taking a trip to the cheap curtain store.  In all seriousness, I think it might be better to have the lighting guy project a very large bank of window shapes onto the back curtain instead.  Go ahead and google "Little Mermaid Palace Hall Scene" and tell me that's not what you find as well.  

Palace Kitchen - this is more prop heavy then scenery heavy.  I originally thought I had to make a freestanding oven for the chef to run around while he chases Sebastian, but thank GOD I don't have to do that.  I just have to make a extreme fish-dishes - you know, the kind where the fish look exaggeratedly large and sad, stuck between two pieces of bread.  Yeah, fun stuff.  I'll save this for last.  when I am at my witt's-end.

Ursula's Lair - Ursula's lair will be shaped like a whale skeleton, but each of the ribs will be free-standing and held up by a Poor Unfortunate Soul.  These are the poor slobs that Ursula took advantage of in her quest for power before the play starts.  They will be dressed in grey, and looking rather glum.  Ursula's tentacles will be intermingled with these bones.  Oh, by the way, did you know that Ursula has 8 tentacles?  Apparently, I may have told someone to make 4 tentacles, but even if, in a moment of idiocy, I did say that, wouldn't most people know that an OCTopus has 8 tentacles?

Oh, and I also have to make a bowl on a stand that has a fan and a light concealed inside of it so that she can mix her spells in there, and some fabric flames can shoot up in the air via the fan, and illuminated by the lights.  Cool.  But I may have to cut it out if I don't have time.

The Grotto - Ariel keeps her stuff in a grotto.  We have a shelving unit that I had great plans for, but then it was decided that what we really need is a SMALL piece, which is also fine.  But we need some way to show whole human-stuff treasures, and broken human-stuff treasures.  So I finally came up with the idea that the backs of the open shelving would spin to show broken stuff on one side, and whole stuff on the other side.  which means, construction man has to make this, I have to paint broken AND whole stuff, and then I have to round out the whole thing to make it look like a pile of rocks.

Finally, there's The Lagoon - The main piece in the lagoon is this dingy...

Which was loaned to us by the science teacher, Mr. K - he ROCKS! I think it looks awesome, and weathered and now I don't have the build a dingy.  Ariel and Eric sit in the dingy and almost kiss while the boat is surrounded by literally DOZENS of animal cut-outs, all painted and highlighted with florescent paint by ME.  There were supposed to be some overhanging trees as well, but you know with the hurricane and all... Holy crap.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Slacker Elf

I've been surrounded by elf-talk for the last few weeks, so I decided our house needed an elf, too.   We talked about all the fun stuff our elf would do, and we were looking forward to joining the world full of homes with Christmas elves.

However, all we could find was this guy.

He's a bit of a slacker.  There is no hanging from light fixtures, flirting with Barbies or making snow angels out of flour (by the way, to any future elves: I'll turn you into a dog-toy faster than you can say "Christmas cookies" if you attempt that one).  Our guy has no personality, or, as someone once said about me, he's a bit "flat."

I'm not amused by my elf's sluggish behavior.  Just a little while ago I caught him just lounging around on the couch, and I thought, maybe he's as new to this elf game as I am so I thought I'd give him a few suggestions on how to carry out his elf-ly duties:

Dear Elfie, 

You look bored, so I thought I'd offer a few suggestions on how you can spend your evenings.  You can start by unloading the dishwasher.

...and loading it up again with the dirty dishes.  Maybe you can teach some other people how to do it, too...

I could use someone to clean out the fridge.

Emptying the trash would be nice, too.  If you really feel the need to perform some acrobatic stunts, you can do a couple of back flips or get stuck in the pail or something.  I'm leaving that to your discretion.    I promise to laugh. 

I also have a WHOLE bunch of laundry that has to get done.  The kids will promise to find you amusing, too, if you put their folded laundry away so I don't have to ask them to do it. 

There's also a few strings of lights still sitting around, waiting for someone to hang them up.  We will all TRULY believe in elf magic if you can get those tacked up while we're all sleeping.

How about entertaining the dog?  That would be FABULOUS!!  Just be careful, Elfie!  She CHEWS EVERYTHING!  How do you think that piece of duct tape got to look like that?   

And last, but not least, if you fill the wood rack on the porch with wood, I will be happy to see you then spend the following day resting on a shelf near the fire.  

Welcome to our house.  ;-)


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

10 Rules for Re-Gifting

I'm not against re-gifting as a rule, although, every time I try to do it myself, it makes me squirm.  It IS a form of recycling, and recycling is good, right?   Still, I really think there is a time and place for everything, and that includes re-gifting, so if you're considering delving into this form of recycling, here are some rules to live by...

1.  The gift must fit the taste of the recipient.  Your brother and sister-in-law don't want a bright blue, foldable Chinese-themed waste paper basket when their house is decorated in a country theme.

Which leads to  rule number 2..

2.  The gift can't be hideous.  If it's hideous, throw it out.  Your niece may have loved Miss Piggy as a girl, but that does not mean she will appreciate a hand-lotion dispenser in the shape of a pig sitting upright and wearing an unbelievably large floppy-brimmed hat. Save her years of therapy, (or yourself years of being the butt of a secret Christmas laugh) by throwing items such as this one out before you are tempted to re-gift them.

3.  Make sure your re-gift will go undetected by the original gift giver.  If someone gives you a comforter set, for example, at a family gathering, don't regift it to another family member next Christmas.  It's just not cool.  And no, your postman probably doesn't want a comforter set.

4.  If you've complained about a gift, you've got to keep track of who listened to your complaints...  remember to cross that person off as a potential recipient next year...  "oh, so THIS is the obscenely fluffy bathrobe in the weird tie-dyed pattern that you talked about last year..."

5.  Be honest, when appropriate.  "Hey, Melinda, do you like Starbucks?" "Yeah!" "Do you want this 25.00 gift card?"  "Someone gave me this, and I don't like coffee." "Sure!" See, everyone is happy here.  Of course, this person didn't try to pass it off that he'd purchased this gift card just for me.

6.  Try to be timely.  No one wants a Cabbage Patch Doll or a Pet Rock, or a Rubik's Cube now, even if they are still in their original packaging... unless, maybe they are the stars of a show called American Pickers...

7.  Don't unwrap your gift and try it out before deciding that you don't like it and you want to regift it.  Although, if you try to pass off an unwrapped, grungy looking gift as a real present, you may be beyond hope.

8.  Known re-gifts can be funny, and part of Christmas tradition if done right.  For example, if someone gets a very pointy Santa statue one Christmas and everyone else is envious and wants their OWN pointy Santa, you could start a tradition of re-gifting Pointy Santa every year - he can be something like the Stanley-Cup of Christmas.  

9. Don't give someone a re-gift that is just a sad reminder of a larger gift you got yourself.  For example, let's say you are a fan of expensive designer bags, like Dooney and Bourke, and you like to buy them from QVC, where they occasionally come with matching key-fobs.  And if you get yourself one of these nice handbag and keyfob combos, don't then re-gift your tiny little keyfob onto your poor secretary, who may have gone so far as to purchase all the items for your annual Christmas party, for which you got all the compliments.  Your secretary might not even give a rat's ass about Dooney and Bourke key fobs.  She will most likely open the key fob and think, "What the...?"
Just hypothetically, of course.

10.  And finally, if you are the recipient of a thoughtless re-gift, you can always rewrap it and give it back to the original sender next year.

Happy Holiday Shopping!  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fabric Ocean - Construction (for The Little Mermaid)

 As you may remember from an earlier post of mine, I thought we'd do fabric waves for The Ocean, which makes an appearance a few times in the play.  I showed this drawing to the director...

...but she wasn't really buying it.  I was bummed out about this, since she kept talking about wooden cut-out waves, and I thought my fabric waves would be so much better.  Finally, one night when I was at home I decided to make a miniature version of my fabric waves.  I scrounged up some blue fabric and cut it into long strips.  I cut a piece of cardboard into shorter strips and attached the long fabric strips with my scrapbooking ATG 700 gun (crafters, you seriously have to get one of these if you don't already have one).  

When I brought in my sample the next day, she loved it.  "Ohhhh..... That's what you mean.  Oh yeah, I think that will work!  that will be really nice!"  I'd post a picture of the sample I showed her except I can't find it.  I may have left it at school.  Anyway, at that moment, it dawned on me that many people can't picture things unless they have some concrete prompts to help them in the visualization process.  I tucked that little tidbit away in my memory bank for when I tried to sell the other scenes...

So luckily, the director's husband, who is one of the two people doing construction for the play, CAN picture things.  The three of us had an informal meeting last Friday night, and I pitched all of my ideas to him, and he gets them.  We worked out a concrete plan for the waves.  Here it is:

We're going to have 4 groups of two kids making up the front wave.  These kids will be standing in the pit in front of the stage.  Each set of two kids will have one "wave" that measures 24" tall and 10' long. Each kid will be holding it by a handle, and they'll hold it pretty much at eye level.  The bottom of it will cover the edge of the floor and it will be just high enough to conceal the feet of the actors from the audience as they come on stage.  Any higher and audience members in the front rows won't be able to see kids further back on the stage.  

I purchased 6 yards of each of the fabrics I've shown above.  I'm cutting them all into strips about 2 to 4" wide and 10 feet long.   See below...

I cut it on the floor and weighed down the fabric with a couple of heavy items so the fabric didn't shift too much when I was cutting it.  Then I mixed the fabric in random mixes of colors (oh, the white-ish fabric you see in the top picture is extremely sheer, so I may add that on top of the other fabric later or use it somewhere else - it's too sheer to stand on it's own).   Here's my planned mixture of fabric strips...

Once the fabric is mounted on the wooden strips with the handles, the kids will be able to pull it taught across the stage.  They're going to walk back and forth, giving the impression of water moving.  It should be really cool.  

I'll post more pictures when it's fully assembled.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012


In honor of Thanksgiving, I’ve made a list of things that I’m thankful for, as well as things I'm learning.  It’s broader than the typical list because I wanted it to encompass absolutely everything.  Here is my list, in no particular order.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  


When I was younger, I took family for granted.  As I’ve gotten older, I’m learning that just because someone is technically related to you, doesn’t mean they want to have a relationship with you.  Many times, this really can’t be helped.  You’ve been thrown into the same family by destiny and the rest can’t be helped.  I’m learning to appreciate my family members with all of their flaws.  A grown-ups we create families of our own, and they are flawed, but dear as well.  Every one of us is human, after all.


I am learning that friendship is fluid.  On the journey of life, friends come together and drift apart.  Some friends drift into your life and then back out again, based on circumstance.  Other friendships stand the test of time, and most likely you will drift together and apart, like waves on the ocean.  It’s all ok; all these friendships are valuable, each in their own way.  I am thankful for them all.


Change is not my forte.  I am learning that no matter how I resist it, some things are going to change no matter what I do.  I can cry and resist and carry on, or I can let the wave of change take me away from what I knew, and drop me off in a new land.  I might not like it as much as the old land, but it is not my choice.  If I accept this, I can adapt to just about anything.  Like a tree in the wind, the more I am able to bend, the less likely I am to break.  


I am learning that positivity is a gift.  I work with someone who is, as I like to call him, a glass half empty.  I sarcastically joke with him that he just needs to look on the bright side.  He responds by calling me a Pollyanna.  I say that it’s all in the perspective.  He says, “but I’m a realist.”  I say that we are both looking at the same glass, with the same amount of water in it.  He calls the glass half empty, but I choose to call it half full.


Good health is another thing many of us take for granted. It needs constant nourishment to sustain itself, and I’m also learning that it’s interrelated with all of the above.  


Many of us Americans long for jobs we find fulfilling.  We want to do, as Oprah says, “what we LOVE”  Well, no offense, Oprah, but I’ve learned that not everyone can LOVE what they do.  But we can find things to love about what we do, and we can appreciate the usefulness of it... and the freedom that employment give us.  For example, I appreciate that my job gives me a nice steady salary that allows me to pay my bills, interact with other people, and allows me the time to be a mom who can be there for her kids...  all important things that are not to be taken lightly. 


I’ve learned that not everyone has it.  Everyone can nurture it in themselves, but when it’s naturally present in abundance, it is a true gift.  While everyone doesn’t need it for a happy life, most people want it.  When you’ve got it, I think it’s your duty to use it to make people happy.  You should use it to make people smile, appreciate life, others, and what it means to be human.  Creativity should be used for good and not for evil; it’s a gift and a responsibility.  I’m learning to use my creativity more freely, share it more often, and appreciate it  every day.  


Experience is the secret weapon of age.  I appreciate it as only a person with some life experience can.  As we age and our bodies show their wear and tear, our experiences only become richer and more nuanced.  While our stories were short and sparse when we were younger, now they are long and interesting.  I am learning to keep my mouth shut when someone with less experience tells me something as if they know the Complete Answer - they need to arrive at their own more nuanced conclusions on their own, in their own time.    


“I don’t know if I believe in God, because I’ve seen no concrete evidence that there IS a God,” a friend once told me.  “Well, if you had evidence, then you couldn’t call it faith, then, could you?” I replied.  I don’t know the facts.  I don’t know who is correct and who is not, I only know that I believe.  It is logical to me, even though this logic is not based on traditional logic.  I believe because it seems right to me, I feel its rightness.  I don’t have any empirical evidence, I just know it, and my knowing says, how could it not be so?  I am thankful for my faith, but I am learning just because I don’t want to push my views on others, doesn’t mean that they do’t want to push their beliefs on me.  This is true of religious as well as secular beliefs.   Some people think they know better than the rest of us.  I’m learning to take a deep breath, and listen with an open mind.  I just hope they learn to do the same. 

This Moment

This moment is the only one we can live in.  I’ve heard some version of this phrase for my whole life, but over the years, it’s taken on more meaning for me.  (see Experience, above).  The past is done, and unchangeable.  The future is a question mark.  The only time we have is this time... right NOW.  In each and every one of my This Moments, I have choices.  I can make good choices or bad choices.  If I live each moment independently of the other moments, then I can make changes in an instant (see Adaptability, above).  If I take each moment separately and independently of every other moment, then I have before me, a wealth of possibility.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ursula's Lair - another scene from The Little Mermaid Jr.

Ursula's Lair is another scene from The Little Mermaid.  If you remember, Ursula is the sea witch, and her hide-out is a dark, sinister place depicted in purples, black and pinks.  It's where she looks into her crystal ball and bosses around her two henchmen, the electric eels, Flotsam and Jetsam.

At first I thought I'd make the lair out of the turned-around and seaweed draped columns from King Triton's castle, but the more I thought about that, the more problematic it seemed.  I'd have to really disguise the columns so they wouldn't look like columns, and it would take a lot of doing to get hanging seaweed (my disguise of choice) to look like it was floating UP instead of hanging DOWN.  Hence, plan B, shown above, which I think might be even better.  It's a whale skeleton.

I take the platform with the step shown in the Triton's Court scene, and add another step or two on the back.  This can attach with some swinging latches on each side of the platform.  (Don't know what you call them, but there is a peg like thing on one side, and a swirling hook on the other side that swivels around and then loops over the peg.)  Big whale bones would be attached to the back, taller platform, but the front platform (also used for Triton's throne) would have square peg-holes in the top that the bones would slip into.  I think I'd have to make the whale bones out of 3/4 inch plywood so it stands upright.  There would be a pair of bones on the step, and two pairs on the platform.  They'd have to bow out quite a bit toward the front part so that the audience can see what's going on in the back, but it would make a nice creepy look and best of all, it moves the action UP into that problematic vertical space.  Ursula could climb up and down the stairs to accentuate her points, and she'd be framed by those whale bones.  In front of the platform there could be a pointy crystal-ball holder and get this - if I can find a clear, plastic ball shaped item, WE CAN MAKE THE CRYSTAL BALL LIGHT UP with our battery operated light packs we bought last year - Whooo HOOOO!!  LOVE IT!   You know what else I love about this scene?  It's not much work for me, other than designing it.  The painting is relatively easy.   Moving right along...  

Update:  I heard a little earlier today that instead of a crystal ball for Ursula, we're going to do a bowl with a fan hidden inside blowing some billowy fabric up in the air...  which solves my problem of locating a plastic bowl to use as a crystal ball.  I might still even be able to use lights in the bottom, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Little Mermaid Jr. - sketch of King Triton's Court

This is my sketch the King Triton's Court Scene.  This scene appears 3 times in the play.  Ideally, this is the layout I'd like to use, but as I'm sitting here sketching my ideal scene, I'm realizing that this stuff has to move on and off the stage VERY QUICKLY, because it changes in a matter of minutes between when the curtain closes one one scene and opens on another - yikes!

Some scenes will take place in front of the closed curtain, which is handy for me because there will be more time to move things behind the curtains - other transitions - we might need 20 very organized kids moving things on and off the stage to get things done.  At any rate, here's my plan for this scene:

The centerpiece of King Triton's Court is his throne.  I had originally sketched this out with the throne made of round cardboard cement forms with a cut-out piece of plywood for the back and for the seat as well.  When we went down into the prop room on Friday, we found a tall-backed wicker chair that the director wants me to turn into the throne.  So that means that I have to cover the wicker back and seat of the chair with fabric and shape it so that it looks like an open clam shell.  Maybe we'll use some of those cardboard tubes to cover the bottom of the chair, but I just don't know.  This whole chair will be sitting on top of the one step platform we used in last year's play - the one that I painted to look like bricks.  the advantage to that is that it is large enough, and it already has an appropriate step so that Triton can climb up easily to sit on his throne.  My plan is to cover the sides of the platform with some shaped wire and then spray foam so that it looks like the throne is sitting on a very regal pile of rocks.

The controversial parts here are the columns - I was aiming for something that fills the vertical space on stage.  It's not that easy to do, since although we have a pole hanging up and fly space above, the pole doesn't move.  My plan here calls for 4 (we can certainly cut it down to 2, but doesn't 4 look regal?) columns that are about 10 feet tall and approximately 2 feet wide.  They'd have triangular legs, kind of like chalkboards do, with wheels on the bottom.  We could cover up the legs with round pieces like columns would have - I tried to show it in the picture.

The top of each column would be graced with a nice mermaid cut-out.  I'm going to take a picture from the internet, copy it onto a clear sheet, and blow it up to the appropriate size using an overhead projector, and then trace it into some foam core.  Each one could be mounted on each column using  velcro, so they can be removed and the columns can be swiveled around to the back side for another scene.

I planned on using the columns to hold long pieces of kelp seaweed in another scene.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Little Mermaid Jr. - Sketch for The Ocean Surface

Of course, I should be doing 50 other things right now, particularly coming up with a craft project for Girl Scouts, which is tomorrow night, so that means I had to quickly sketch out this drawing of scene 1 from The Little Mermaid Jr. It's "The Ocean Surface."

The majority of the waves are made up of ribbons or strips of fabric stretching horizontally across the stage and held by stage crew kids on stage left and stage right.  There are kids holding one strip behind the main curtain, and another pair of kids holding a second set of wave strips behind the mid-curtain (is that called a traveler?  I think it might be...)

Kids can also stand in the "pit" in the front and hold wooden waves on sticks.  There is a glittery sun hanging at the ocean surface on the back curtain - we can leave fishing line strips with loops at the end, and there can be hooks on the back of the sun for easy attachment and removal.  OR, we can get the lighting guy to make us a setting sun of light - or we can do both.

Finally, if we are WAY ahead of schedule and full of ambition, we (notice I said we?) can make a flat ship on wheels that another stage crew pair can pull across the stage - yahoo!

Ariel can dance in between the waves and look like an expert swimmer - all without filling the stage with water.

Triton's Court next...

... and now back to chores...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

No electricity? No Problem!

As everyone not living under rock knows,  Hurricane Sandy made its way up the East Coast just about a week ago.  Not living in a flood zone and barring an ancient tree falling in an inopportune direction and hitting my house, hurricanes don't particularly worry me, after all, I'm not afraid of a little power outage...

So Monday afternoon, I was sitting here at my computer, uploading some photos and making a mental list of a few more things I wanted to do before the "real" storm hit.  The worst of it was supposed to hit my area between 5 and 11 p.m. I wanted to do another load or two of laundry, empty the dishwasher (which was running at that time) and fill up some empty containers with drinking water.  We have well water, so when the electric goes out, the water you have in the tank in your basement is it.  A few toilet bowl flushes will kill a full tank.  The wind was blowing the trees around, but it didn't seem like anything serious yet, and then that ominous HUMMMmmmmmmmm and suddenly...

Complete quiet.

It was 1:50 p.m.  Oh crap.  

So now we go into damage control mode.  No one opens the fridge without forethought and a concise plan as to exactly what is needed, where it is located, and a plan to get it out of there and get the door closed in less than 10 seconds.  No one runs the water at more than a trickle, and most importantly, NO ONE flushes the toilet.  Any flushing happens with a large pitcher of water filled from the rain barrel in the yard (thoughtfully filled by my husband BEFORE the power went out) and poured directly into the center of the toilet bowl... we don't care if you have to hold your nose while doing it.

While I am reviewing the procedures in my head, getting ready to impart them to my kids via the time-honored Lecture Method, my husband thoughtfully wanders through the house and into the bathroom, and in no time at all I hear him flushing the bowl...

"NO!"  I yell, "You flushed the bowl!"

"It was an ACCIDENT!" he yells back.  He stalks off to the refrigerator, and opens it, staring at what I can only assume is nothing, while he contemplates the cold air that rushes out and across his face and body.  I summon all my strength to keep my mouth clamped shut.  Ah... stress!  The silent killer.

This was quite different from the last "big deal" hurricane I remember - Hurricane Gloria.

In front of  my parents' house Sept 27, 1985 - Hurricane Gloria

Way, way back in 1985, I don't remember much of the lead-up to the hurricane.  I just remember that there were extra people in our house (they lived near the shore and had to evacuate), and I remember my dad running outside to shovel trenches in the front yard so the water wouldn't go to close to the house (Was he kidding?  No, he was not!).  The eye of the storm was a weird, greenish, odd quiet when you were waiting for the other shoe to drop.   Oh, and one more thing.  I remember the nine days without electricity.  Yes, that's right, nine days. But no problem.  We could handle such set-backs.  We had grown up learning to perfect the "minimal flush method", taking "showers" with just one teapot of hot water to mix with the cold (a handy skill) and eating food in order of what might go bad first.

Back in 1985, when our electric went out, we knew it wouldn't be turned on for a while.  When it did come back on, I had already scoped out alternative showering locations and everyone else in the world had long since put Hurricane Gloria behind them.  Nine days, I tell you.  We had well water and no generator.  Bottled water was for drinking and cooking ONLY.  By the end of nine days we had drained a noticeable amount of water from our above-ground pool.

Surviving was not the most difficult of skills, however.  Refraining from killing each other - now THAT can be difficult.  When I watched my all time favorite PBS mini series, Frontier House, I remember in the wrap-up, the evaluators stated which of the families might make it through the winter.  They did not discount the hazards of "cabin fever" - being cooped up in a small space with the same people for days on end with not much to do.

As for us, we got a lot of sleep this past week... about eleven or twelve hours a night.   I have to say, I haven't had this much sleep since before I became a parent 13 years ago.   When it's dark, there are not a whole lot of family entertainment options.  Scrabble is one.  Cards might be another one, if my son had not recently gone through a phase of learning to flick cards with deadly speed and accuracy (ala, Mythbusters) and in the process, lost 3/4 of the deck of cards to the dog, who hunts down misdirected cards with deadly efficiency, and chews them to a fine pulp before you can spit out the words, "ZOEY, NO!!!"  So for us, a game of cards was out.  Sleep was our other option.

It's an odd thing when you can go weeks at a time feeling like you have no time to blow your damn nose, and then suddenly you're confronted with a solid week with nothing to do.  Nothing at all except wait for time to pass.  We did have some fun moments, however.  We made shadow puppets. We talked in funny accents.  We visited with some friends and some family members.  We joked about how hooked we were on modern conveniences (how many times did YOU walk into that darkened room and automatically turn on the light switch, even though you had no electric?)

Yesterday, when the electric came on, my son and I opened a bedroom window upstairs and yelled, "YAY!!  THANK YOU!" to the LIPA man.   Our next door neighbor laughed.  So long, pioneer life.

Now, if only I can fill up my car with gas...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blogger's Block and The School Play for 2012-2013

     There is writer's block, and there is blogger's block.  I have recently been afflicted with the latter, which is basically writer's block compounded by the fear of saying something that will somehow get you into trouble in the real world.  It's something of a conundrum.
     One of my worries has been, 'I know I signed up, but should I really do the play again this year?'  My friends and family listened to me whine that I didn't have enough time to make a Broadway worthy set for the play last year, even though I am not on Broadway.  After much internal dithering, I finally decided to go ahead and do the play again.  I admit, I think I have an addiction.  Admitting is the first step to recovery.  I have an addiction to making scenery (and costumes, too, but we won't go into that addiction in today's post).   I'm not fully ready for recovery yet, though, because I'm not ready to give up my addiction.  Yes, friends and family, I am GOING TO GO THROUGH WITH IT AGAIN.  I heard your advice, and I'm consciously ignoring it.

     ...and now, of course, I'm beginning to worry about it, as evidenced by the fact that I woke up at 3:30 am this morning, trying to figure out what set pieces I should start first, even though the director (one I have not worked with in this capacity before) told me, "it's not time to do anything yet..."

excerpts from a texted conversation earlier this evening... (WARNING:  Gratuitous use of a the word "asshole" ahead... Read at your own discretion.)

Friend:  I am an ASShole.  Not just an ass.  Asshole.

Me:       Why?

Friend:  I would love to tell you... but I'm too much of an ASSHOLE to explain it. 

Me:       Oh come on, I have a half hour to kill.  I'm an asshole too.

Friend:  I am just in a real asshole mood today.  We can be be assholes together... Want to go see the hs
             play tomorrow afternoon?

(interesting, since I'm thinking about a school play myself...)

Me:       - what time?

Friend:  2.  but assholes need to get there at 1:30.

Me:      I bet I am the bigger asshole.  I am looking at scenes of The Little Mermaid on the 
             internet right now.  There are 8 distinct scenes in this play. 

...other topics of conversation ensue at this point.  Nothing that screams asshole.  Clearly, we both are just enjoying our gratuitous use of that word today.  Suddenly, my friend realizes what I've said just a few texts earlier...

Friend:  You better not be doing that play!  I will use all my asshole martial arts tactics on you.

Me:       I am doing the play.  I am going to carve spray foam like a ninja...

Friend:  You are not.

              Stop it.

Me:       Yes, I'm going to carve shells out of spray foam insulation with an electric carving knife. 
              Like a ninja. (hummm - can you imagine a ninja wielding an electric carving knife?)

Friend:  I'm going to schedule a week's worth of meetings in the green room.

(... a theme from last year, apparently on the agenda this year.  I'm hoping to work around it more efficiently, but it is another of my worries...)

Me:       Ninja...

Friend:  most sought after room in all the land.

Me:       ... and I will stand sentinel outside the doors with my electric carving knife.

              Can I post the play-part of this converstion on the blog?  I'm short on material.

Friend:   Just don't say ASSHOLES...

Me:        See, really this is a conflict between what I should be doing with my time, and what I 
              want to do with my time. No italics on texting...  see, I should be doing chores, cleaning, 
              organizing, perhaps getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night.  

Friend:   That's no fun.

Me:        Instead I WANT to carve spray foam with an electric carving knife and make a shell as 
               big as the one in Botticelli's Venus painting.  Wouldn't that be cool?  I could use it as a 
               bathtub when I'm done if only I can get it to hold water...

Friend:   Can picture the shell, but not the sea foam. That shit will hold water...

               You talking about Great Stuff on a can?

(What is Great Stuff in a can?  She used to work at Home Depot - maybe she knows about this spray foam stuff...)

Me:       Oh, have I missed a detail?  What about 1000 cans of Barbasol Shaving Cream  sprayed
              around the stage?  and mixed with judicious pieces of flotsam and JETSAM. 

              Did you know that the eel henchman, Flotsam and Jetsam will be illuminated?  

              I have a sickness, don't I?

Friend:   Flotsam goes upstream and jetsam goes downstream.  Yes, you do.

Me:        So, do flotsam and jetsam work together to make Scylla and Charybdis?  or whatever
              that whirlpool from the Odyssy is called.

Friend:   Yes, they do.  Scylla is allergic to flotsam though, so it gets complicated.

Me:        I am eating chocolate chips again.  Does Ariel eat chocolate chips?  Illuminated jellyfish.  
              Just throwing that out there... giant ones... just 2. Or maybe not.  I think that might be a 

              Ariel's grotto - decorated with lots of seaweed hanging from the pole that does not move 
              up and down in the flyspace. BWAAAaaaahhahahahaha!!!  I think I need a nice glass 
              of wine.

Friend:  You do.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Filming a shot from an episode of Royal Pains

     A few weeks ago, I was minding my own business at my place of employment when an unusual call came in.  A guy from a filming company called wanting to know if his film company could use my place of employment as a home base for the day for his company.  More specifically, he was calling to secure a location for them to park their trucks, and feed their staff lunch.  He may have, at that point, mentioned the title of the TV show Royal Pains, but to be honest, I don't watch much episodic
television (much to my husband's chagrin, I'm a reality television girl) and the name just didn't stick.

     Unfortunately, due to reasons unknown to me, the guy had to scout out another location, however, I remembered the date in question, and I resolved to look around town on my lunch hour to see if the filming was taking place nearby in a location I could find.

     Sure enough, I hit the jackpot immediately.

     The street leading down to the marina was blocked off by a village patrol car and guys wearing headsets and looking very important.

     Some poor guy on a bike tried to cross the street, and the guys stopped him (apologetically, I will admit) and told him that he couldn't cross because "we're filming and this street is visible in the background."

     Filming was taking place at a location I had actually posted a picture of just about a month and a half ago (see my post, Lunch Time - it's the restaurant with the American flags hanging from the porch)

     As you can see, I would not survive for long as a paparazzi.  I don't have the kahoonahs to go right up and ask for a photo, or to just walk right up and snap a shot without permission.  Still, there were some people just milling around (although, maybe they were part of the entourage) and still others walking on by like, Who cares? (unless, of course, they were extras).

     Oh, how fun it would have been to have them based in our building for the day - then I would not have had to feel sheepish taking a picture.

... and I might have scored some excellent lunch leftovers, too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Turn on the lights, Gilly Hicks!

     I took my first trip to Gilly Hicks a mere two weeks or so ago, and my first thought was, This is the most BIZARRE store I have ever been in. 

      According to Wikipedia, Gilly Hicks is owned by Abercrombie and Fitch and was inspired by the phrase "down under" which no doubt is what ties it into the Sydney, Australia location, which is a complete fabrication since it is and always was an American company.  Creators of the brand created the fictional character, Gilly Hicks. whose life is the one on which the store is based.

      For those of you who have never been there, here's a run down:

      Upon entering the store, which I had passed for years without really noticing it because it looks like someone's dark front porch, I saw this:

I got this image online, but the store in my local mall was set up similarly.

Someone turn on the lights!  And... where are the employees?

     Doesn't this look like a beauty counter at a high end department store (except for the fact that SOMEONE FORGOT TO TURN ON THE LIGHTS). Did the counter girl run off for an extended break before someone came in to cover her shift?  Does it make me a person of bad moral character if I immediately noted how very EASY it would probably be to steal things from the counter?  (And you know you're getting old when you discuss this issue with your peers and they comment on issues of personal safety as well.)

     There was no visible register.  No visible employees of any kind.  No signs, and you wouldn't see the doorways to the next room until you were right in front of them.   We walked back to the very front of the store and peeked into a room on the side, where a lone employee was folding bras in a room the size of a large bathroom, at what looked like someone's dining room table.  "Hi, welcome to Gilly Hicks, do you need any help finding anything?" No thanks, just wondering if I fell down the rabbit hole in Alice's Wonderland.

     We walked into an oval shaped adjoining room with a large drawing of a semi-naked man on the wall, at which point, my son seemed to begin having an allergic reaction to his surroundings.




Mom - can we get out of here, please?

     My daughter, however, was on the hunt for a Gilly Hicks sweatshirt and would not be deterred.   In the adjoining room on the other side of the naked-man room, we finally hit pay-dirt.  Sweatshirts.  Nice ones - on sale for twenty dollars. But when she held up the dark one she liked, we couldn't tell if it was navy blue or black.  Seriously... couldn't tell.  We held it under the beam from the halogen light - blue?  Yes, blue... I think.

     My poor son was practically getting itchy at this point.

     MOM!!  Can we GO now?

     I think he was worrying that someone he knew would spot him in there and he'd never live it down.

     Sure, son, we just have to pay for this.

     And then, another first.  I could NOT find the register.

     It was just like this youtube video...

I actually had to ASK someone to give me directions to the register. 

How embarrassing!

     Yesterday, we went back to Gilly Hicks for more sweatshirts and matching sweatpants.  We managed to find the dressing rooms (due, in large part, to the numerous shoppers standing around waiting with clothes draped over their arms).

Check out the interior of this dressing room:

     Creating some ambiance, maybe? or do they actually think we're going to park ourselves in there and read novels? our underwear? the dark, no less?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ocean City, Maryland (Believe it... Or NOT)

We just got back from a somewhat spur of the moment trip to Ocean City, Maryland.  We had been there almost 10 years ago, when the kids were very small, and we had a nice time.

By coincidence, we stayed in the same place we had stayed when we went last time.  The hotel has become a bit run down, but the room overlooked the boardwalk, which was pretty cool.

I spent a fair amount of time looking out the window...  see the mime wearing gold in the lower left of the picture?  He was entertaining.

Another mime.  Or maybe just the same guy after changing outfits and moving to a new spot.

Then there was the sand art...  Some guy created The Last Supper out of sand...

... and he posted signs touting his religious beliefs and asking for donations.

Which I think is lovely, except I was a little disappointed, since we saw this exact same sand art when we were in Ocean City approximately nine years ago.  Can't this guy come up with some new material?  Is his stuff really made of concrete with a light dusting of sand on top?  I would be SO disillusioned to find that out! Come on, sand art guy, I want to see Moses parting the Red Sea in sand, or maybe Jesus walking on water in sand...  I was also wondering about the lights - how does he manage to plug all those extension cords in to light up his artwork?  Does he have a deal worked out with the city?


Here's a picture looking down the boardwalk at night.

I would have taken more pictures, except it rained (and I mean POURED) every day except the first.

The sightseeing highlight for us, though, was the giant shark head poking out of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. 

My son talked about this shark head the WHOLE time we were there last (he was 3 years old then)  and for years afterward.  The shark head and tail move back and forth, giving the shark that 

When you go inside for the museum tour, you can see how the parts work from the inside.  

Oh, and there's a bird nesting in the shark's mouth... BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Purging (painfully) and Moving On

my lesson plan book from teaching 7th grade, an article on Ben Franklin, and materials for a Chinese New Year lesson

I have two four drawer filing cabinets full of teaching stuff I'm most likely never going to use.  I had collected the stuff over years, from when I started my master's degree in 2001 all the way through 2008, when I had finally had enough of looking for a teaching job and I decided that I (and my family) needed some normalcy again.

But what to do with all that junk?

For a good six months, I couldn't even look at it.  The thought was depressing.  All that work.  (I particularly loved the props for the Chinese New Year lesson I did for my "Teaching Social Studies" class.)  All that time.  All those hopes...  I had put so much effort into making and collecting the stuff - getting rid of it is like acknowledging that it was a useless effort.

I guess in many circumstances, eventually, there comes a time when you feel the weight of all that "stuff," and you know you have to purge it from your life, but it's still difficult.  I have a friend who would most certainly tell me to not even look through it - "just throw it out,"  but there have been times in my life when I've done that, and down the road, I've regretted not looking through it first - the stuff almost gains more importance when you're not exactly sure what was in there.

For me, sometimes the "stuff" is proof that I was there.  "I have ____, therefore I am ______."  I am working on overcoming this belief, but to quote Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, "Slow going, eh?"

This weekend, I finally started on the filing cabinets.  Amid the tossing I took a trip down memory lane.  It was nostalgic, and yes, I am still a bit bitter over certain things, but I am ready to move on.  And you know, today, I do feel a bit lighter.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lunch Time

American flags on a porch 

I am still waiting to find out if my option of taking the summer off will really be an option.  I am hoping it's still on the table, since when I check in with the kids during the day, they tell me they are bored, and they ask me what we're doing when I get home.  (hummmm, how about cleaning the house, cooking dinner, eating dinner and cleaning up after dinner? with maybe some laundry thrown in...  whaddayathink?)  I am keeping my fingers, toes, and arms and legs crossed, hoping it will help.  In the mean time, I am appreciating things like lunch time.

I am lucky enough to work just a few short blocks from the ocean, and when the weather is nice, I like taking a walk to the marina and checking out the sights.  Yesterday, I brought my camera to work and took a few pictures on my walk.

boats in the marina

It was pretty hot, but there was a nice breeze, and the air smelled of wild flowers, and down in the marina, it smelled like salt air and fresh seafood...  the smell of summer.  Nice.

sailboats in the marina

sailboat near the playground

boats in the marina


playground in the marina

bicycles in the marina

It's a good life.


Happy Independence Day, everyone!