Friday, October 29, 2010

How To Make A Halloween Costume With Minimal Disaster

Call me a crazy, but I thoroughly enjoy making my own Halloween costumes, rather than purchasing one of those bagged ones from the ubiquitous Halloween stores that pop up mid-September in pretty much every recently-vacated storefront. In previous years I've constructed a margarita costume, a space girl, and Devin's Max costume (from Where the Wild Things Are). Once I get going on the project, there's no stopping me. And I make few compromises in quality and accuracy (until it's like 2 am the night before I have to wear it, I'm sleepy and my fingers are covered in hot glue gun burns).

This year, however, we're not throwing a Halloween party so I'm kind of sort of not sure what the point really is as we have yet to nail down plans. Oh well.

The standard for ladies costumes seems to be to take something ordinary and slut it up. Slutty school girl, slutty nurse, slutty mechanic (why?), slutty Harry Potter (why? why?), and slutty Spongebob Squarepants (why? why? why?). And, y'know, I get the appeal of dressing like a slut. I really do. It's just never been my thing. I'd rather look like an idiot.

This year, I'm trying to start a new trend in ladies costumewear. Instead of the slutty version of everything, why not the sweatsuit version? Shouldn't we be warm and comfortable? It's practically November, after all.

Hence, my endeavor to make a sweatsuit Kermit the frog.

I wasn't without inspiration. Does this kid look cozy or what?

After a brief search it became quite obvious I was not going to find all pieces of my ensemble in a matching, Kermit-green. So, I decided I would purchase everything in white, and then dye it so they'd all be uniform.

Now, we begin.

Day 1:

First, we have a white hoodie. I cut the bulky arms off, with the intention of layering a tighter shirt underneath, because Kermit has such scrawny little arms.

Then, the pants. You might be asking, but doesn't Kermit also have scrawny legs? Shouldn't you wear leggings? Probably, but there ain't nothing scawny about my legs and I'll be damned if I'm going to walk around in leggings without rear coverage.

Lastly, a wrinkled, discolored, food-stained long sleeve shirt I yanked out of the bottom of my hamper. Also, 2 curious pets.

I threw all three items into the washing machine, as per the instructions of the package of Amazon Green dye.

With 30-40 minutes to kill, I could've started on the other parts of the costume. Instead I made some mozzarella sticks and watched the first episode of the new season of 16 and Pregnant. Did you see it? Who gets married in a freaking racing uniform? Or, I guess I mean, who lets a guy get married in a freaking racing uniform? And why live in a barn for the same price as rent in a normal apartment?

Aaand we're back. Time to mix up the dye. In a step I didn't quite understand, I was supposed to mix the dye powder in 4 cups of water. Expecting the solution to turn a pleasing kiwi green, I was alarmed when I instead whipped up a batch of swamp water.

Oh well, no turning back now. I then added the dye to a sink full of warm water + salt, and pushed in the clothes.

With 60 more minutes on the clock, it was time to get the rest of the costume pieces in order.

First, Kermit's eyes. This took some inventive thinking as I wandered the aisles at Michael's craft store. Eventually I purchased a clear Christmas tree ornament that came as two halves --meant to be filled with I don't know what. glitter? Realizing, however, that their thin rims might not be substantial enough to stay on the hood with glue, I also gathered some styrofoam balls to mush in.

Then I painted them white, which took a few coats, and cut the pupil shapes out of black paper.

To adhere the pupils to the eyes, and to give everything a uniform, shiny finish, I applied a generous coat of Modge Podge.

All the while, as I worked away, my assistant sat clear across the room, contributing nothing.

On to the neck triangles! Who knows what the heck these are meant to be, but they are totally necessary to distinguish a Kermit costume from a regular ol' frog costume.

Some snippy snips at a few sheets of felt, and we're in business.

The dying timer went off and I was relieved to discover that my clothes were exactly the right shade of kermit green! So, as per the dye package instructions, I rinsed them and then washed them in warm water.

40 more minutes of waiting, and it was time to throw them in the dryer.

Aw shark farts. They're the color of mint chip ice cream, but paler. This picture doesn't truly do justice to the level of failure. Now what?

Day 2:

Frustrated that 80% of my costume was all wrong, I vented to some coworkers, who all concluded that you cannot follow the package's instructions and wash the dyed clothes in warm water. I've been swindled!

After work I went to Joanne fabrics to "quickly" pick up another package of dye and try again. Apparently everyone else decided to go to the store at the same time. After fighting for parking spaces for 15 minutes, I found a spot on the street about a block away. Inside the store was a madhouse, and I wound up waiting in the kind of checkout line that has no business being in a craft supply store.

Having wasted 45 minutes, I got home feeling the kind of pressure I normally experience the night before I take a trip and I haven't done laundry or packed.

When I walked in the door, before doing anything else, I mixed up another sink full o' dye and added the clothes again. Here's what's weird. This was the exact same shade, but the color was now wrong. Oh well.

There are no pictures of this because I was distracted baking cookies, drinking Pumpkin Ale, and supervising Devin's pumpkin carving. (Domestic goddess that I am.) So we'll skip ahead to the final product:

This doesn't rank as my favorite costume I've ever made, but it sure is the snuggliest. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pasadena Wine Festival

A few weekends ago, Devin's sister Meghan came to visit. And because, as a hostess, I'm tragically incapable of planning activities that don't involve drinking, I bought us all tickets to the Pasadena Wine Festival.

When a coworker mentioned this event to me I was instantly giddy as the name boasted Pasadena (where I live), wine (which I live on), and festivals (which I live for).

The set up of the event was simple enough. For the price of admission and an all-you-can-drink bracelet, you spend the day sampling, then re-sampling, then re-sampling, all of the various kinds of wine offered at each winery's booth. In between sips, participants can purchase snacks from food trucks, play badminton and horseshoes, or sit back and listen to live entertainment.

In addition to trying new things, I'm also trying to take advantage of L.A. area public transportation. Yes, it does exist. So I did a little research and found a metro bus that would pick us up down the street from our house and drop us off at the Los Angeles County Arboretum (in Arcadia, bordering on Pasadena), where the festival would take place. How perfect is that?

Shortly after 2pm we got our act together and headed for the bus stop. The bus ride over was relaxing and gave me a chance to see other parts of Pasadena I'd yet to explore. It was sort of like being on a tour. When we arrived at the arboretum I found that, as an added bonus, taking the bus meant avoiding the crowded parking lot and $13 parking fee. Huzzah!

The entrance. Promising.

Forgoing the food trucks, olive oil samples, and assorted other vendors, our first order of business was to get our drink on --- in the most sophisticated manner possible, of course. This is the Pasadena Wine Festival, after all.

We approached the wine garden (which may or may not have actually been called that) where booths were set up in a square, with the middle area left open for tables (and later in the day, long lines... but we'll get to that.)

The booth at the front handed each of us a wine glass --ours to keep, if we ever wanted to pour ourselves tiny glasses of wine at home-- and we were on our way.

Devin and Meg

We started off with some crisp white wines, and then tried to find a shady area to sit down and escape the ever-increasing heat. By the time we found a patch near the stage, I was out of wine, and then just had to march back over to the wine garden. I quickly concluded that trying to relax was a pointless task until later, when the sun went down and we could buy ourselves a bottle of our fave of the day.

While sipping on an Australian pinot blend, I noticed several people crouching through a small opening in the wooded area beyond the booths. Was this allowable? Were they in danger? What was in those woods?! I had to find out. Immediately.

Or, well, after we filled our glasses yet again.

So then we marched off toward the trees and, following another group of wanderers, we ducked through a branch archway and uncovered a lush Ferngully rainforest, complete with ponds, tropical looking plants, and adorable wild life. Who knew this was here?

The only way to hike

Just a buncha turtles, sittin on a log

As the day went on, we met up with friends, chilled out on the lawn for a while and continued our tastings. Sadly, with the much-anticipated nightfall came the should've-been-expected crowds. Instead of meandering from booth to booth, now everyone had to wait in lines for their pours. We'd get ourselves a sample, then immediately enter a new line so that by the time we'd finished sipping, we were at the table for the next pour. There was no time for careful consideration of the flavors, or musing "Yes I do detect the chocolate undertones... I think." It no longer felt like wine tasting, but more like a pub crawl.

By 6 or 7, I was completely starving and, having put off food all day ("I'll wait until I'm ravenous, then it'll be even more delicious!" Idiot.), I was desperate to buy a Korean taco or grilled cheese from one of the various food trucks. But guess who else wanted to grab a bite? The entire population of southern California. Lines stretched on and on. Someone toward the back of one of them claimed she'd already been waiting 35 minutes. She'd be lucky to get served before dawn.

So, that was out. And then set in the familiar "Why do I even bother leaving the house?" feeling. At this point all I wanted was to have something to eat while sitting outside and enjoying the cool night air. Seems like I could do this somewhere like, oh, my backyard.

Within an hour of reaching this conclusion, we'd left, stopped at the store for provisions (frozen pizzas), and were resting comfortably at the patio table.

There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

But that forest was pretty sweet.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Late Summer Activity Extravaganza MegaPost

Whoops. I have a blog. Nearly forgot for a second. (And by "a second" I mean 2 months.)

Even though I may not have been writing about doing stuff, trust me I've been doing stuff. Loads of it. And when I haven't been doing stuff, I've been working too much. So how can I find the time to write about doing stuff if I'm so busy doing the stuff I want to write about? Looks like I've stumbled onto something of a "catch 22" (believe me, I hate using that term as much as you hated reading it).

So to try to get you caught up, I will now tell you the stuff that's kept me busy. And to prevent this post from getting too fat, I'll keep each activity's description to 100 words or less.

If you want to read a lengthier explanation on any of the below, let me know and I'll write another post with more details.

Item 1: A Return to the Rose Bowl Flea Market

This time, my friend Rachael was visiting, but Devin couldn’t come along because our dog got mysteriously sick so they went to the vet. I felt bad for Devin because the flea market is his favorite thing ever, so I spent the whole time shopping for a fun gift to cheer him. I wound up with an R2D2 toy chest that was the envy of everyone we passed on our way back to the car. People would ask, “Where’d you get that?!” Really?

Rachael, R2, and Me

Item 2: Adventures In Scrunch Butting

Splash Sundays market themselves as a “Vegas style pool party” at the Woodland Hills Marriott. The party atmosphere seemed a little forced, but I suppose it could be fun if you like pounding house music and 22-year-old girls dancing in bikinis. Apparently the trend now is the “scrunch butt” look, which sounds like a joke. The last thing my butt needs is a questionable adjective. Overall, it’s fun for a few hours of loudly judging other people while sipping cocktails. But I felt really old and out of place.

Item 3: The Mud Run

The L.A. Mud Run seemed like it was going to be a lot of fun, as everyone dresses up in costumes and then runs around in a muddy obstacle course. In actuality, the first 10 minutes of the run were spent being hosed off by race personnel who were yelling insults at us (WHY?), while we crawled through a slushy pit of muddy water and gravel (ow my knees). This was followed by a 4 mile run in complete silence (can’t bring ipod in mud water). As one fellow participant described it, “A lot of run, not much mud.”

I looked super gross in the Mud Run pics, so here's a picture of Sarge

Item 4: It's Gettin' Hot In Here

Because I like to approach my fitness regimen in a series of fits and starts, I stopped running and instead got really into Bikram Yoga. The idea of a 90 minute workout in a 105 degree room might sound awful to some people, and to those people I’d say, “You’re right, it is kinda awful.” BUT you don’t really notice how hot you are as most of the class is spent trying not to fall over and wondering how it’s possible for the human body to produce so much sweat. After every class I feel like I’ve lost 10 pounds.

Item 5: The Thing They Say About Riding Bikes Is True

Went on a Sunday excursion to Venice with Katie and Becca. After being in L.A. for 6 years I had yet to find the canals or ride a bike along the beach. This day, I did both. Riding a bike was surprisingly fun, and I didn’t collide with any tourists or small children! Afterward we had some beers on the deck at The Whaler, and this day drinking may have contributed to our being entirely too fascinated with the crabs we saw in the canal on our walk back to the car.

It's a good look for me

Who gets to live here?

Item 6: No, The Malibu Campsite Didn't Have A Starbucks

I really hate camping in tents. But this last trip wound up being a lot of fun. Maybe owing to the margaritas. Maybe it was because there were bathrooms with running water (huzzah!). Me and the other ladies on the trip set up the whole campsite ourselves, including 4 tents. As a bonus, our hippy campsite neighbors helped us start a fire and made us egg sandwiches for breakfast. Saw a shooting star. Stayed up really late.

Item 7: Tents Are Cool, But "Camping" In A Cabin Always Wins

Two weekends later, a bunch of us rented a sweet cabin in Big Bear for a weekend of something that can loosely be called “camping.” I brought along a bunch of tie-dye supplies and we had an artistic afternoon. Dying shirts is a lot like dying Easter eggs. You get all caught up in the fun of it without considering the product. Who wants 4 dozen hardboiled eggs? Hello pink-tinted egg salad sandwiches for a week straight! Also sat in the hot tub for several hours each night and ate entirely too much.

Nice automatic timer action, Barry

Jeesh, Seamus. You need to learn how to relax.