31 May 2012

A Queen's Cocktail: The Big Liz

In honor of The Queen’s diamond jubilee this weekend, asked my friend Beth to come up with a signature cocktail to mark the occasion. When I initially emailed her about it, I had three requests:
It must be pink and sweet – After all, she is a Granny.
It must be slightly sour – 60 years on the throne, y'all.
It must have gin – It’s The Queen’s hooch of choice.
Beth, who can make a good stiff drink out of lighter fluid if she had to, came up with something I think you will adore. It’s sweet and sour with a kick – just like The Queen.  I call it a Big Liz. The recipe below is in bulk format because you will want to serve it in good company.
6 cups of seltzer (that's roughly 3/4 of a 2 liter bottle)
1 can of frozen limeade (lemonade works in a pinch)
1 jar of maraschino cherries
1-2 cups of Gin (more or less to taste)
5 dashes of hot sauce
limes to garnish

Mix the frozen limeade, gin, cherry juice and hot sauce together at the bottom of a pitcher, gradually finishing with seltzer. Serve straight or on the rocks. Garnish with lime wedges and cherries on Union Jack cocktail picks. 

Don’t like booze? Serving children? Want it extra sweet? Try a Little Lizzy. If you have ever had a cherry limeade at Sonic (holla!) this will taste awfully familiar.

THE LITTLE LIZZY (The kiddo version)
1 two liter bottle of lemon-lime soda
1 can of frozen limeade (lemonade works too)
1 jar of maraschino cherries
Mix and enjoy.

PRINCE PHILIP (Sweet with some heat and an iron fist)
Mix equal parts Tabasco flavored tequila, cranberry juice and pineapple juice. Shake over ice and serve in a martini glass.

DUCHESS OF CORNWALL (Old fashioned with a touch of sass)
Single barrel vintage bourbon with a splash of sparkling lemonade. Garnish with mint.
 You have to see the collection of portraits over at The Sun. I'm especially fond of these portrait mosaics by Jane Perkins.

30 May 2012

Evening of Roses

There was a fire under the train tracks yesterday. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but my commute from downtown to Evanston went from 50ish minutes to 4ish hours. As you might imagine, the train car was packed, sweltering hot, and smelled of body odor and fried chicken. And not the good kind of friend chicken, either. 

By the time my feet hit solid ground, I was just about ready to explode.

...Lucky for me, my walk home included a stroll through a public rose garden. It's always a pretty little swath of park, but last night must have been the peak of the season. I'm telling you, no lie, there must have been thousands of roses in bloom, each of them beautiful than the next, each of them smelling so much better than fried chicken.

I always try my best to always appreciate whatever nuggets of beauty I can find in the course of my day, but yesterday, of all days, I have never been more grateful for those roses. 

The park has every color rose you can imagine, but I have a fondness for big fat pink roses!

29 May 2012

Have you ever seen strawberries this big?

Summer is here and strawberry season continues. My neighborhood market is selling them cheap; two pound boxes for $3.00. They are huge, meaty berries with glossy pelts that ripple and shine like snake skin. Firm too. They seem almost unnatural. When I was a kid and we went strawberry picking, we were lucky to come back with berries much bigger than marbles, most of which would melt in the car ride home, whereas, these strawberries appear hardy enough to withstand a round of flag football, much less 30 minutes in a warm car trunk.

Beautiful as they are, their near-bionic exterior makes me wonder…

25 May 2012

I love this project. 
It's fast, cheap, easy, AND it's fun to say aloud: obmre chrysanthemums. 

Chrysanthemum is one of my favorite words of all time. I like the way it requires you to scrape your tongue across the back of your teeth to pronounce it properly. Chrysanthemum.  Why people feel compelled to shorten their name to mums is beyond me. What’s the fun in that? 

And, for another thing, it is one of the few multisyllabic words I enjoy spelling. I like the way it breaks down: Chry-san-the-mum. For someone with lousy spelling skills, such as moi, this is a good one. There is a scene in Anne of Green Gables where Anne wins a spelling competition when Gilbert Blythe and Prissy Andrews fail to spell it correctly. In this way, I feel Anne and I are superior and kindred spirits in every way. Obviously. Never mind I still can’t spell catalogue to save my life, I feel very accomplished when I type out chrysanthemum and that indignant red wiggly spellchecker line doesn't pop up.

22 May 2012

Gift bow drawer pic

I am in the process of cleaning out my craft room. While I'm sorting things out, I decided to designate a drawer to ribbon...

.... then that drawer split and begat two more drawers, one for loose fabric ribbon, and one for spooled ribbon; then that drawer begat three drawers, one for curling ribbon, one for wrapping ribbon, and one for raffia .... and so on and so on through every type of arts and craft supply under the sun until I filled an entire wall of drawers (thank you Ikea Antonius). There was a lot of sorting and dividing. A lot of begats. It's practically the Old Testament up in here.

I had five or six bags of plastic bows floating around the house some salvaged off of gifts, most purchased at after Christmas sales for 50cents or so. Now that they are consolidated, it's quite the collection. The sad part is, even though I have made some into peonies, I don't even remember the last time I gave a gift with a bow on it. Why am I saving them?


18 May 2012

It's Friday

I was busy making a Friday Flower project last night when it took a turn for the worse. I am still hoping to resurrect it from the bowels of craft failure, but until then, the best I can give you is a sneak peek:

The extra large letters makes it seem purposeful, no? 

It’s orange. Almost Muppet-like. That’s as much as I will tell you right now.

You will have to forgive me for running behind. It’s been an odd week around here...

17 May 2012

Dear People Who Used To Live Here,

Thank you for planting the giant patch of purple zebra striped iris bulbs out back by the garage. Wow. I realize you did not plant them with me in mind, but I feel as though they were put here especially for me, seeing as very few people on the planet could, or would, appreciate them as much as I do. Let's face it: this is destiny. I don’t know where you live now, but if I did, I would secretly dig up your yard in the middle of the night and plant you something pretty just to repay the favor. Except that would be creepy. And possibly illegal.

Maybe I can make them into a hat and send your way instead?

Let me know,


16 May 2012

In the Pantry

I need to borrow a wide angle lens so you can take in all the Easter goodness at once.

I cleaned out my pantry.  While I was in there, I bleached down the baseboards, threw out 3 bottles of salad dressing, and made room for some of the baskets I picked up atTarget on clearance last month.  

 I’m not going to brag about the deal I got on these baskets and rub the price in anyone’s face...but let’s just say it started “35” and ended with “cents.”


Now, on one hand, I found a great alternative to all the pricey crap they sell at the Container Store. On the other hand, it looks like the Easter Bunny exploded all over my pantry.

This is the sacrifice of a bargain hunter.

14 May 2012

Shakespearean Insults

Partridge's Shakespeare Statue, Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL

I'm not saying I like to insult people, or that I'm good at insulting people, or that I attempt to insult people a lot. I am saying the term douche bag is getting really old and we could all stand to expand our vernacular. I'm thinking Bill Shakespeare might be a good place to start:

Courtesy of Tastefully Offensive

Is it wrong to have a favorite insult? If not; what is yours?

11 May 2012

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but around here, it's strawberry season.

In case I didn't mention it, I love strawberries. And strawberries on sale are even better. If I let myself, I could eat a whole box in one sitting. As is I probably polish off two boxes a week -- which is a lot for a single person.

And, since I hoard nifty food packaging, (and-not-so-nifty too), I thought I would find a new way to embellish the boxes.

Painting these clear plastic boxes from the inside out is a lot like painting sale signs inside windows, but far more forgiving. Start by drawing some basic shapes on the inside of the plastic with a permanent marker -- I chose flowers, but you could do letters or triangles or dinosaurs, etc. Unicorns might be cool...

...then it's just a matter of adding blobs of paint. I started with blobs of white paint over every flower, then let it dry and added yellow circles. Then that dried and added red. Then purple, then green, then used more white to fill in the blanks. Very little artistry involved; it's all about layering.

Boom, that was it.

These would make for nifty gift wrap, or a fun way to contain odds-n-ends around the house.

OK, now let's be honest; what sort of food packaging do you hoard?

09 May 2012

My mother, just like your mother, was big on giving unsolicited advice.  Some of it was good. Some of it, meh, not so much. But I will say, it was always memorable

Perhaps in the back of her mind she knew she would not live long enough to see me reach adulthood. She wanted her words to last. She wanted to make things stick. 

Perhaps she was just a good judge of character.

Perhaps she wanted to save me from the all grief and inconvenience that had come by her the hard way. Isn’t that what mothers do best? 

I don’t know.  But I’ll tell you this: I always carry pantyhose.


…on kids with weird names

Make a special effort to be nice to kids with weird names. It’s not their fault their parents are idiots.

…on food
Never trust a skinny cook. They are trying to make you fat.

…on wardrobe
Wear nice clothes to the doctor, the lawyer, the accountant, and any other office where they might deliver bad news. That way, they will treat you better and the news won’t sound so bad.

…on controversy
Avoid people who avoid controversy.  People who are scared of controversy are scared of keeping their own opinions and defending what they know to be true. Those people will never defend you. Stay away from them.

…on shopping
Buy underpants in quantity. Buy shoes in quality.

…on shellfish
Only eat oysters in months that end in R.

...on vacations
Everyone should take their kids on vacation. It keeps them from having more kids.

…on friendship
When you go to recess or lunch and you see someone alone, be proud to be the first person to sit down by their side. Invite them to play with you.  Because, 1. This means you will never be alone. 2. You might be the first person to discover why they are special. This is a great honor.

…on laundry
When in doubt, rub with toothpaste and let it set overnight.

…on love
You have to love someone when they deserve it the least. That is when they will need it the most.

…on marriage
Only marry a man who loved you before you loved him, otherwise he will wake up one day and think it was all a trap.  Men don’t like to be trapped. Let them hunt.

…on dating
Look for a man who is nice to animals and waiters. Avoid men who talk about their mother too much.

…on religion
Religions are like armpits – we all have them, but that’s no reason to flap our arms around and rub them in each other’s faces.

on the color purple (and our neighbor’s obsession with it)
Don’t trust purple people. They are clannish and strange.

on people who tan too much
Don’t trust people who tan too much. Anyone who looks like a rotisserie chicken on purpose isn't right in the head.

…on jewelry
The most beautiful women in the world never wear jewelry. They don’t need it. Roses do not need perfume.

…on grief
Grief goes better with chardonnay.

…on salty food
Salty food goes better with chardonnay.

…plane rides
Plane rides go better with chardonnay.

…on pantyhose
Keep nylons in your purse at all times. If you ever get lost in the forest, you can pull a thread, tie it to a tree, and keep walking. The thread will act as bread crumbs and you can be found or find your way back. (note: Mind you, I was about six when she said this and had no idea what nylons were, much less how to fit them in my Hello Kitty purse, or where to find a forest if I wanted one).

…on teachers
Expect 20% of your teachers to be bad at their job. This does not mean they are bad people, it just means they chose the wrong profession. Why should you suffer for their mistake?Learn to spot them and avoid them. For the other 80%, treat them as though they are the most important person you will ever meet. They probably are.

…on giving up
Remember, it is not over until nobody loves you, and I will always love you.

…on tipping
People who over-tip get treated nice. People who under-tip get spit on their steak.

...on other women
Look for women who are looking out for you as though it were their job. One day, that will be your job too. 

     …the list goes on.

Now I wonder; what advice did your mother give you?

I’ll bet, the best Mother’s Day gift you could give her this year is to follow it. Or better yet, write it down and send it to her.

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mommies, grannies, aunts, step-moms, godmothers, fairy godmothers, and any other woman who is hustling to make a positive impact on the life of a child. Sunday is for you :)

Update 5.14.12: Thank you to everyone for your kind words on these snippets from my mother. I can't tell you how pleased she would have been to see total strangers approve of her theories on life. I can see her waggling her I Told You So Finger right now. But seriously, if you have a sec, please take a moment to write down the best advice your Mother gave you. I'm hoping to revisit this topic down the line and would love your input. Thanks :)

08 May 2012

Mother's Day is on Sunday.

Know what Moms like? Thoughtful greeting cards.

Know what Moms like even more than thoughtful greeting cards? Thoughtfully homemade greeting cards.

Know what Moms like even more than thoughtfully homemade greeting cards?  A thoughtfully homemade greeting card that reacts when you shake it that she can hang on the fridge or show it to all her friends as if to say BET YOUR KID NEVER GAVE YOU ONE AS COOL AS THIS.


webcam to gif
Watch the confetti dance

Last Christmas, when I was fussing with window style CD envelopes to package my Holiday Jamz, it occurred to me that these little envelopes would make great tree ornaments. I was thinking, maybe little kids could use them as frames for their snowman drawings. Or their school picture. Or something cute. Then Christmas chaos happened and I was lucky to walk out the door in matching shoes. Another idea out the window. Until now...

Cute idea, no?

Let's kick it up a notch.

Let's embellish the outside and add some confetti to the inside.

That's better.

This is a great project for kids of all sizes (even adult sizes). The CD envelopes serve as frames to just about anything you can imagine and make for a perfect canvas for embellishment;

  • Window style CD Envelopes. Staples sells a pack of 100 for $10.99
  • A drawing or photograph trimmed to a 5" square.
  • Stuff to decorate the outside (paint, markers, ink, stickers, sequins...)
  • Stuff to float around on the inside (confetti, tissue paper, feathers...)
  • Glue or paste
  • Card slightly larger than the CD envelope (optional)

1. Decorate the outside of the frame with paint and a gold marker.
2. Add some sequins. Your Mom deserves some sequins, doesn't she?
3. Insert your photo or drawing, then add a pinch of confetti in front of the image.
4. Seal the envelope and glue the back to a card slightly larger than the envelope (or just treat it like a postcard and write on the back.)

That's it!

It's hard to photograph the confetti moving around in there, but trust me, it moves.

And don't worry -- it's sealed in good. No messy, exploding confetti all over your carpet, I promise.

Still nervous? OK fine. Be that way. Skip the confetti.

It's still pretty darn cute:

What about adding some feathers in there?

Look, Lola made one too. She loves those stickers.

What? No pictures for Mom? Too insecure to draw? How about her name instead?  Use letter stickers to spell her name (MOM, obviously) then paint over it and remove the letters. Boom. She will love it!

Happy Mothers Day :)

04 May 2012

I love hydrangeas. Blue hydrangeas in particular. It wasn't until a year ago that I learned that blue hydrangeas are not actually blue flowers, they are white flowers grown in acidic soil.

Acid soil= blue flowers. Alkaline soil= pink flowers. Normal soil = white or pale green flowers.

Don't ever say I never learned you nothin'.

  • Tissue Paper
  • Plastic Easter egg*
  • Thick White Glue**
  • Pipe Cleaner
  • Green Tape
  • Dowel, Pin Back, Headband, etc
* Note about Easter eggs: What, you don't keep plastic eggs laying around the house all year? If you don't want to buy them online, you can substitute the egg for the top of a plastic water bottle or paper cup trimmed to size. It need not be perfectly round, just a general dome shape is fine.

**Note about glue: You need a thick and hefty white glue for this project. I am especially fond Aleene's Tacky Glue. Regular white glue will stick but it will slide all over the place (molto frustrato!). Hot glue will also probably work, but exposing the plastic egg to intense heat will let off toxic gas. So, you know. There is that.

Assembly is very easy (read: munchkin friendly). 
  • Accordian fold tissue paper with 1" pleats.
  • Cut "B" shapes along the fold, creating stacks of four-point blossoms (you will need at least 15 blossoms per hydrangea, more if you want it big and full).
  • Individually wrap a blossom around the tip of a pen or pencil and dip into a blob of glue.
  • Stick it to the egg, working from the outside perimeter toward the center.

This part is a little hard to explain without an  in-person demonstration, so I'm hope you get the bottom line: use a pipe cleaner to loop through the  holes in the ends of the egg, then use the remaining pipe cleaner lengths to attach the flower to whatever you like. I used a wooden dowel rod here, but I'm probably going to rip it off and stick it on a headband as a facinator (The Derby is tomorrow, after all), or slip it on to a package, or the handle of a basket, etc..

Most plastic eggs come with two holes on each end, so this part should be pretty easy. If you don't like seeing the hollow bottom of the egg, use your tape to attach some green leaves to the inside perimeter.

That's it! 

In the family...

03 May 2012

You might recognize the cupcake liner lantern I made for "Disney Family Fun Magazine"

I picked up some foam rubber placemats in the dollar bins at Target a while back. They were too groovy to pass up! I just loved the 1970'sish graphic print. And although I think they would look fabulous on somebody's poolside spread, they would look odd on my old fashioned wooden dining table. Plus, lets be honest, I don't really use placemats very often. Most of my meals at home are consumed sitting on the sofa, on the floor, or standing over the kitchen sink. So yeah. These sat in drawer for a quite a while....

So I turned them into bulletin boards.

If you didn't know, I like bulletin boards. A lot.

I keep bulletin boards all over the house, including above Lola's eating area. This may sound weird to you but I think it's a nice place to post pictures of her kitty friends and cousins. I strongly believe in ART FOR ALL. This includes cats!

You could use thumb tacks, but I like pearl-head dress pins. They are cheaper, spiffier, and stronger than regular tacks. But don't mind me. That's just my opinion.  

If you think I'm weird for setting up a gallery space my cat, you need to understand where I am coming from:

Yeah. It could be worse.

My dad kept a "litter box gallery" for as long as I can remember. He used it to post pictures of his least favorite people, news articles of interest, and cat themed comic strips. This meant Belly Dancer spent most of the 70's staring at his ex-wife and transcripts of the Nixon tapes.

Yes, she was a very informed cat.      

Side note: If you can't find rubber placemats, check out foam rubber rugs. I found five at Goodwill a couple weeks ago for 99cents a piece. These will go up in my studio. To be continued...

02 May 2012

What was the first movie you ever saw?

Mine was The Adventures of Prince Achmed. 

I was five. It was with my Grandnana. She wore her deep-pocket purple house coat to smuggle in two wax paper parcels of coffee cake, three pixie sticks, and a brown paper bag filled with gold fish crackers. She let me order an orange soda from the counter and drink it with a spoon. The whole thing. It was magical.

The specialness of the occasion was two-fold, because, not only was it my first movie, it was her first movie too. She had seen the original Prince Achmed as a teenager when it was released in the late 1920s, and that day, when the local theater showed it as a Saturday matinee, she used me as an excuse to see it again for the first time in more than fifty years. I know she pretended it was for my benefit, but if you ask me, she would have been just as happy to go by herself. Double the coffee cake for Grandnana.
I am glad Prince Achmed was my first movie and not some Mickey Mouse crap (no offense, Mouskateers). A movie theater is a transformative environment for anyone, children in particular, and for kids like me, who were/are especially fixated on visual stimulation, a movie like Prince Achmed was/is a mind blowing experience.

If you are not familiar with silhouette animation, you need to see what I mean. Warning, the transitional text is in German, but you won’t need it:

Prince Achmed is the oldest surviving animated feature film. It was created by Lotte Reiniger, who is arguably credited as the world’s first female motion picture maker. Most of her work was created using little more than paper, scissors and a simple camera on a multi-plane rig (Walt Disney later borrowed the idea to much success). She had an astonishing skill when it came to cutting – holding the scissors still in her right hand, and manipulating the paper with her left.
Exercise: Try cutting out the shape of a house or an animal while holding the scissors still (spoiler alert: it's Effing Impossible).
Because her technique was so simple, she was able to take her work on the road for most of the 1930’s, making a slew of short films while bouncing around Europe and staying in places as long as the travel visas allowed, avoiding her native Germany and the Nazi party. Film was a new medium back then, and animated features were unheard of. I suspect making a living at an art form like this must have been precarious for Lotte. It makes me that much more appreciative of her efforts.  
Click here for a fifteen minute documentary where you can seeing Lotte in action. Alone, the seriousness of the narrator’s voice makes it worth a looksee. Do they still make movies like this? Man, I hope so.
Coincidentally, the documentary shows Lotte making my favorite character – Papageno. The story and music are extracted from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which I had seen on stage twice, but never absorbed the story so well as when I saw Lotte’s version at Gene Siskell  a few years back. The birds are incredible. See what I mean – FF to 2:40 and watch how subtlety each parrot dings the individual bells: 

How? What? Holy crap.  

All done by hand.

**in a similar vein
  • Harry Potter fans will recognize the liberal inspiration on loan from Lotte in The Tale of Three Brothers, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
  • My other favorite paper artist, Michael Ocelot, made Les Trois Inventeurs, a short film made entirely from paper doilies. You need to see it. I warn you, there are no subtitles and it's sad. Not like Old Yeller sad; French sad. Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Happy Birthday Lola!

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