Oh Canada!

17 Oct

I’m feeling terribly guilty for neglecting my darling blog for so many days!  The truth is that most of my activities these days are booorrriiingg. The daily slog and fall, though my favorite season, have left me with nothing to write about. There is a light at the end of the tunnel friends! Last week I had the pleasure of an international adventure in wait for it, CANADA!

I took a vacation week from work to help my friend Leanne out with a conference held in Toronto.  It was great fun, tons of work, and totally inspiring. I was stretched way beyond my comfort zone and despite a huge lack of confidence excelled.

In the hardest part of the week I was having difficulty making a decision about what to eat (big surprise) so I went to the exact same place I’d been the night before, Toronto’s version of a “Texas Joint.”  I wanted to laugh at this place, and turn my nose up at the cheesy-ness of it all, but instead I found myself overcome with emotion by eating and drinking what was once so familiar and now such a rarity in my life.  I even jotted some notes:

Sometimes a person just needs to be comforted. I remember this feeling well from the college semester I spent in London.  My parents would send me care packages of Old El Paso taco kits so that I could replicate the dishes of home while living so far away. So here I am in Toronto for the second time at the worlds cheesiest Tex Mex place. But the country music and casualness of it all appeals to me. I’m bone tired. My brain is fried and all I can think is yes give me a beer that tastes like a fraternity party on a starry fall night. A good one. Where I’m young and cute and everything is ahead if me. Yep. That’s what I need most. That and sizzling fajitas that remind me of El Chico in the mall.

I don’t consider myself a “food person” and am certainly not a *gag* “foodie.”  I don’t really care what I eat and gravitate toward eating the same thing over and over and over again. I’m overwhelmed by endless food decisions and would rather just eat crackers and soy cheese than decide if I’ll have mashed or stewed potatoes, or lamb, or chicken, and then how do you prepare the lamb or chicken? Wait, should I have rice? I’m getting agita just thinking about it. Despite all of this, I’m interested in exploring food that connects me back to something meaningful, to a memory or lots of memories, like my grandmother’s squash casserole.  BUT how does one do this when they have terrible dietary limitations that basically ruin their lives? Just kidding. Sort of.

My last day in Toronto I visited a famous Farmer’s Market, “The St. Lawrence Market.”

St. Lawrence reminded me of a cross between the Amish Market in Lancaster, PA and Pikes Place in Seattle.

It had your straight-up farmers market fare mixed with tourist nonsense and just plain weirdness.

So that’s all for Toronto!  Let me know what inspiring activities you are up to.


Freebie Alert – Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day

21 Sep

Just a quick post to let you know about an excellent freebie. On Saturday, September 24th Smithsonian Magazine is offering free admission to museums all across the country.

To take advantage of this deal, simply visit Smithsonian Magazine’s Web site here, enter in your contact info, and choose the museum you wish to attend.

Last year,  I used my free admission while visiting cousin Krista in Indiana where she was performing in “Camelot” with her dear husband Tony. We decided to visit the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park  where we tried on children’s costumes, talked to kooky interpreters, and had a merry-old time.

What museum do you think you’ll check out on Saturday?

Thrift Store Review – Housing Works Warehouse

13 Sep

Church Lady Gretchen and I attended the “world-famous” (though I’d never heard of it) Housing Works Warehouse sale this past Saturday.  In the deepest industrial depths of Long Island City, Housing Works keeps a warehouse full of second-hand merchandise and will sell you, for $25, a brown paper bag to fill.  You could end up with Theory dresses, dirty bandanas, pillows, or vintage winter coats.  I’ve seen some crowds in my time but nothing like this!

There were pools of discarded clothes to wade through, and mobs of people ready to snatch items right out of your hands!  I saw some really great stuff: a pair of JCrew wool pants with tags, fantastic winter coats, scarves, and blouses; but for every one nice thing there were 500 terrible things!  I’m okay with this.  In fact, I excel at finding the needle in the haystack and of course: making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Another challenge is that there were only two mirrors in the place, rendering it impossible to take a good look at one’s self. Its important to bring along a companion that you trust!

Most of the treasures I brought home aren’t wearable as they stand.  I was on the hunt for raw materials to use in my sewing as well as fun vintage goodies.  Here is what I bought:

Looks like a mess, right?

1. Silk polka-dot dress (may end up being repurposed because it looks a little like a clown)

2. Striped men’s shirt (tag reads: Fraternity Prep 100% cotton)

3. Mid-century house dress

4. Plain bed sheet (to be used in sewing)

5. Men’s 70’s silk shirt (fabulous print – to be used in sewing)

6. Contemporary yellow sweater

7. Silk scarf

8. Red polka-dot shirt

9. Melbourne kitchen towel

10. Silk scarf part two

11. 70’s plaid teacher vest

12. Blue batik skirt

13. Mid-century black hat box

My favorite item is of course number 13.  I think the whole stunt was worth that!  I’ve already cleaned it up a bit and can’t wait to fill it with goodies – maybe my scarf collection could live there!

Below are the warehouse rules as listed on the Housing Works Web site:

This is a not your everyday shopping experience so its important to realize there are a few rules.

  1. Clothing is sold by the bag only; No individual sales
  2. Shoppers may line up beginning at 9am outside the building
  3. Strollers are not allowed-this may not be the best environment for children
  4. No horseplay, leave it at the ranch!
  5. Public restrooms are not available
  6. No loitering
Housing Works Warehouse 
4849 35th St., Long Island City, NY 11101
Saturdays Only 
(crowd begins forming as early as 9 am)

Sow’s Ear of the Month – Manners by Madonna

10 Sep

By now you’ve probably heard about Madonna’s major faux pas while promoting her new film, W.E.  To summarize: A fan gave her hydrangeas.  The fan walked away. Madonna made a nasty face and said “I loathe hydrangeas.”  This was of course caught on tape.  To make it worse, instead of apologizing or expressing genuine gratitude her rep (with typos) told CNN:

She’s entitled to like any flower she wants and she didn’t want to hurt the feeling of the hydrangeas of the world…No disrespect to the hydrangeas lovers of the world but she prefers different types of flowers.

Not only did Madonna sign up for a life in the spotlight, she’s been a world-famous celebrity for almost thirty years.  You would think in that time she would have learned that its easier to be gracious and kind than to be rude and thoughtless.

Eight years ago (fresh off the boat from Ohio) I met Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenowith at an event to promote  a special “Wicked” line of makeup.  It was thrilling!  The gals were signing CDs and little packages of expensive lipgloss at the Sephora store in Times Square.  When my turn came to meet Idina, I said, “thank you for all you do, you are an inspiration.” She looked at me, tossed her hair, and rolled her eyes. I could have cried it was so mean! Here I was, a little actress new to the big city and this extraordinarily talented performer that I admired made me feel like I didn’t exist. Of course, when I met Kristen Chenowith I received a big smile and most importantly a, “Thank you.”

I understand that it’s difficult to be a celebrity (I’m serious). Constant criticism of your hair, cellulite, and fashion choices must really get tiring. The difference is, when you sign up for the life of a performer and you are successful, you will be a public figure.  That means that part of your job is to be gracious and kind and smile and say thank you to fans who you may not feel like talking to. If you aren’t up for that challenge, then get out!

Madonna, its time to be put out to pasture, there is no excuse for your rudeness. I understand that the reviews for W.E. weren’t so hot. Too bad.

Lake George and Buttons!

7 Sep

Over the weekend my bf and I went to Lake George for some sight-seeing and relaxation.  I of course made him pull over at every garage sale sign we came across.  A thrift-store and garage sailing trick I swear by is to stop at any thrift stores or garage sales that you may encounter while on vacation.

Amazing things can happen when you get out of your thrifting comfort zone. Once I stopped by a gigantic Salvation Army store in Indianapolis and found mountains of polar fleece sweatpants (fail) but a huge supply of immaculate vintage linens for virtually nothing (score). The trick is to keep digging.

The Lake George garage sale was just my speed. Two older ladies and and tent. Heaven.  And almost everything was CHEAP.

I of course was instantly drawn to the $4 brooches.

And was able to get the salesperson to reduce the price to $3 a pop!

What a bargain!  Just what I was looking for to go with my new suit.  Did I mention that I had a suit custom made for me in China?  Well, that is a post for another day!

My second purchase of the day was a Ziploc bag of buttons.  How can a bag of buttons be exciting you may ask?  Well, friends, its all about imagining the person who put together this little bag of buttons.

Several of the lot were still attached to their original cardboard.

I know I’ll be able to use these on some upcoming projects.

I washed and organized the rest of the  buttons, separating the wheat from the chaff.  Damaged buttons were tossed out, and clean buttons were washed and put aside. There were some real hits in the bunch!

I decided to organize my buttons in one of the mason jars I had left over from my ill-fated salsa stunt.

But the best part of this whole exercise is what I found at the bottom of the Ziploc. A smaller plastic bag containing this note:

And these sweet buttons.

I imagine that some nice older gal or fella created toys for a Christmas craft fair and these little bug eyes are just remnants.  Maybe I’ll be able to use them someday…I smell a toy making stunt coming on!

Stunt of the Year: Pin-Up Class

26 Aug


A new term has slipped into my everyday speech: “stunt.” A few months ago church lady partner-in-crime, Gretchen and I were visiting a second-hand store in her neighborhood and stumbled upon Let’s Have a Good Time: Parties, Games, and Stunts by Olive Cameron, copyright 1938.  This book is chock full of homespun activities, party ideas, church games, and nonsense. The following is from the preface:

A “good time” now and then is relished by all normal men.

Play activity develops the children, gives vent to the adolescents’ excess “pep,” and restores the nerves of over-worked adults.

Properly conducted play contributes to every phase of life.

This book is sent forth in the hope that it may promote in some small way the kind of “good time” which builds people physically, intellectually and spiritually.

A “stunt” in my mind is a “good time” that builds you up in some way—just nice, clean confidence building fun! It can be as elaborate as a trip to Canada for a conference on handicrafts, or as simple as making a special jell-o salad for somebody you love! Usually its a new activity that requires some preparation and planning but it doesn’t have to be.

On Sunday, a few of us stunt-loving dames participated in a long-awaited pin-up class with world-famous burlesque beauty Bettina May.  I’m here to testify that it was without a doubt the top-notch best stunt of the decade!  Honestly, I wish every day was pin-up class day!  Bettina May is one of the loveliest gals I’ve met in ages!  She puts her students at ease with a combination of charm, sweetness, and a clever wit. How can you not love a gal who advertises for one of her classes with the claim, “Come learn all the tricks grandma used to snag grandpa with easy fabulous hairdos that last all night!”?

Miss Robin as a Real Pin-Up!

Class began with a make-up tutorial in which Bettina walked us through the classic pin-up face: rosy cheeks, a strong red lip, lined lids, and fake eyelashes.  I’d consider myself advanced when it comes to make-up, since I spent so many years doing my own theatrical make-up for shows, even still there were plenty of new tips for my beauty arsenal!

Next, Bettina taught us how to set our hair using the ancient and now nearly forgotten wet-to-dry method consisting of a combination of wire and sponge rollers, setting spray, a head scarf, several hours of waiting (usually done while sleeping), and a wink and a prayer. Bettina’s claim: she virtually hasn’t had a bad hair day in years. Fascinating stuff.  She also introduced us to pin-up styling techniques including the famous victory roll.

After donning our dresses, Bettina gave the group a quick lesson in pin-up posing and shot each of us in our own private photo session!  Church lady Gretchen and I of course had to bring props.  What’s better than canned produce?  We also had a Swedish hymnal at the ready that *sigh* wasn’t used. I also sewed a sweet little apron.

Oh Golly!

The apron was easy to construct, consisting of three major pieces, a heart-shaped bodice with lace trimming, waistband, and gathered skirt.

Apron Pieces

I used a pattern from Tipnut as a reference point, while adding some little flourishes of my own.

Wishing you many enjoyable stunts this weekend!