Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas 2009
The Holiday Store

The back stock in my domain
Just a fraction of the prepared food boxes

The site, in prep mode. Please note the lovely electric blue walls.

Cap knitters. The lady in the middle is our long-time volunteer Maxine.
Who just retired, at 84, to knit more caps.

Infants and Under-3's Table

Adult and Family Table

All set up and ready for shoppers
Anatomy of an Enchanted Forest
The table

The trees, ready to be unfurled.

The fixin's

Bare trees

More fixin's
Add one granddaughter, several 'discussions', lots of mind-changing and

The finished result!

With an added improvement by V.


The Nativity scene, waiting
White Christmas.
On Christmas Eve morning, Target and I were in the sewing room, finishing up one of her presents. She had just flown in the previous evening from Michigan.
I looked out the window and said "Oh, look- it's snowing."
"No, it's not," she said.
Um, yes- it was.
She was furious.
In spite of our worries about the Yarb's air trip to Florida, we enjoyed this unexpected Christmas treat.

Christmas Eve
In a big departure from tradition and to accomodate the Yarb's plans- we had a family dinner on Christmas Eve, then went to their house for the kids' presents. After that, we returned home to open our presents. Contrary to someone's predictions, the world continued to spin on its axis. Plus, she got some great presents, like a DVD/video player and a vacuum and a mixer from her Nanna.
Target, in spite of the snow

Morgan and her G-daddy. The children wore their pj's to dinner.

I don't know how to cut this. Ignore.

A little confused.

O and Bubs with their Santa gifts. He had come and gone when we were having dinner
as a special favor, because of the trip.

Romo in his present from Mimi- fat man in a little coat.
O: He must like it, Mimi- he's not biting at it.
Me: Darling, I don't think he can move his head.

Sarah, in her work shirt, and Bubs

Mass at the monastery
When celibates decorate...

The founding monks were escapees from Hungary. This lovely cloth was the table cover for the Nativity scene.
A lovely rest of Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
-John Betjeman

A blessed and merry Christmas to everyone.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Dear Madam,
I realize that it is your prerogative to mutilate your body with as many tatoos as you like, but could you please refrain from lifting your shirt to show your friend the newest one on your stomach in front of a lobbyful of parents waiting for the elementary school Christmas program?
Thank you.

Dear Sir,
If a small child is standing and watching a performance, would you please not kneel in front of him, completely blocking his view?
Thank you.

Dear Virgin Wireless Phone,
While you may think your new ads are so very clever, hip and with-it ("My hot boss is going to be there. Oh, who cares if he's married?"), I think they convey that yours is the network of sluts and morons. As I am neither of the above, please consider our business association at an end.
Thank you.

Dear Young Male Cast Members of "A Christmas Story" (and you know who you are)
Seriously, guys- is it that hard to put a shirt on a hanger? Do you really want to go on stage looking like an un-made bed? Do you want - no, you know what? Never mind. Last two days- not really worth it.
Miss S.

on the other hand:

Dear Yes!, Ode, Newsweek, Mother Jones et. al.
Re: Anthropogenic Global Warming


Yes, I was laughing out loud at you at Barnes and Noble.

Not so grumpy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Which Americans are Great. Again.

So, Friday was my last official day working at the Holiday Site- but I went in on Sunday after Mass to snap a few pictures of the set-up before the store opened. I found Dru and Cathy there as well, who announced that they were in a panic because, according to our gifts expert, who's been in charge of that program for fifteen years or so, there were enough toys to last through, oh, Tuesday. When Fran tells you there aren't enough toys, you listen. And panic.

So, they had raised the points on all objects and converted stuffed animals, which are usually free into point items as well. Which meant that each family would still get toys, just not so many.

I decided to divert some of the kids' "in honor of" charity monies to the agency and promised to call back on Tuesday to see what was needed.
"Toys, of course," said Cathy, yesterday morning.
So, using V.'s genius suggestion that I shop at Big Lots, where they have the same Barbies and Fisher Prices as W-M, but cheaper- I got several bags of stuff and delivered it to the site.
Where everyone was much more relaxed because corporate volunteers and old friends had e-mailed all their families and friends and gotten out the word that we were hurting for toys and they had responded with the generosity that makes this such a great country.
No one's going to get a lot- but everyone is going to get something. Something good, too- not dollar store junk. Because that's how we are.
No one involed will see this- but THANK YOU!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


That's the only word for the home of the theater family who hosted the cast party on Sunday. Imagine a suburban custom home already decorated in a cozy cottage style. Then imagine it full of every Christmas decoration you can think of. Then double it.

"See" said our host, who also plays Ralph in "CS", to the set-building foreman: "this is why I was never able to stay late on Saturdays. I was getting all this stuff out of storage."

The focal point was the eight foot tall tree on a revolve, hung with hundreds of blown glass ornaments of all sizes, some of which revolved themselves. But everywhere you looked, there was a new delightful surprise. Like the row of little wooden angels on a ledge of the roll-t0p desk or the small tree trimmed with the vintage pasteboard village and little red elves that had belonged to our hostess's mother. Or the same type of nativity scene that was featured in our famous family photo. Etc., etc., etc. An extravaganza of color, frost, shine and glitter.

Now, decorating is not my sphere- the Enchanted Forest is my highest acheivement- but I can recognize the thought, time and effort that went into creating such a lavish visual treat for their family and guests.

So, thank you, H. family, for a wonderful evening that will be remembered for a long time.

Oh, and the cake apparently made of truffles? That was good, too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Daughter, the Junkman
Target calls from the Berkely of the North with her Christmas list and a little work-related story:
"So, we pick up the fridge in the house- where she hasn't lived in three years- and something falls out of the bottom-"
"Please don't tell me what -"
"- and it was a CAT SKULL! And she's like 'oh, I thought one of the cats had disappeared'. So, we're pulling away and she comes out of the house with a plastic bag and asks if we can throw it away for her and it's the rest of the cat!"
"So, she just swept Kitteh up in a dustpan and gave him to you?"
"Well, it was only bones and some fluff. But yes."

There better be some adorable piece of free furniture in a pick-up this week to make up for that.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

One Thing
I really enjoy about Christmas is the seasonal opportunity to write post after glowing post about all the volunteers we get at the Holiday Store. Even among those who are there sort of under duress- Boy Scouts, youth groups, Key Clubs, student councils- you seldom get a total grump. Plenty of Klass Klowns, or the somewhat inattentive among the kiddos, and possibly a guy who has a Bright Idea he's determined to implement among the grown-ups, but the vast majority are simply good folks who want to give to their community and are grateful for the chance to do something tangible for someone else.

If I stop and really think about it, the sheer size of our operation is staggering. We have 1000 + families signed up. Experience tells us that we might have a no-show rate of 20%, but we have to prepare as if everyone will be there. In my department, that means constructing 1400-1500 pre-made food boxes (about 40% of our families will qualify for two boxes).

This entails receiving the donations, setting up a sorting station, supervising the sorting crews who sort through the foodstuffs and box up not only the categories we'll be keeping on site to make boxes, but also the items we want to send back to the agency to use there. Besides the actual sorters, we have someone taping and lableling storage boxes, someone handling the trash from the donations- bags and boxes-, someone carting the filled boxes to their proper spot along the storage wall and someone handling the food we won't be using.

Filling the food boxes is the same, but in reverse: we empty the storage boxes onto tables, fill the boxes from a specified list, fold them shut and stack them in another storage area in columns of five ('cause it's all about the decimal system). And taping new boxes and handling the trash. The din created by twenty-five LDS Scouts and their leaders is not to be believed, but they made over 100 boxes in an hour.

It looks impossible on the surface. But dozens of people come through our volunteer program and it all gets done. Like I told the group this afternoon who sorted a pile of food about 8' x8' x5',
"This is like a holiday miracle." Even if I know it can be done- because I've seen it done so often- it still amazes and gratifies me.

Everyday people forming a small, short-lived community to benefit others. Other people being as generous as they possibly can, even in difficult economic times. Seems as if everyone is convinced that everyone else is worse off than they are- and they should do something about it.
We've been asked so often if donations are down and are so happy to say that they aren't. People who've worked hard for two hours hauling around canned goods checking to see if we have any more open volunteer spots because they can come back if we need them.

And that's just the food service. Don't get me started about the toy sorters, and the set-up teams who lay out and decorate the store, and the people who bag the stocking stuffers, and put together bikes and the dry-cleaners who cleans our gently-worn coats ( the only not-new items in the store) for free and the folks who stock the tables with gifts and shop with the families and carry their purchases and their food boxes to the car.
Because that's too much generosity for one post.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Busy? Oh my goodness...

"A Christmas Story" opened Friday. All went well and almost all performances are sold out. V. was going to take O on Sunday, but they had another engagement with Granna, who was in town, so he and I went together- admiring his set, which I helped decorate, the costumes and our turkey.

I don't think I've mentioned the turkey: our director was hauling around a bag of great big styrofoam balls out of which he had to construct a prop turkey. So I volunteered Sarah, to relieve him of one job, and we all collaborated on the most luscious, golden brown fake turkey ever to grace the stage at TC.
I made the basic body out of carboard, large papiermache eggs and a cut up styrofoam ball to fill in the open spots and Sarah covered it with papiermache. V. made the drumsticks, out of medium p-m eggs and dowel rods. We taped those on and I swathed the whole thing in muslin. Once it had dried, I put on a base coat that I liked, but V. decided it was too orange. So he put on a glaze of brown and he was exactly right- it looked perfect! They loved it at the theater and we always enjoy it when they pull it out of the oven.
If I'd thought, we should have recorded the whole process in photos.

It occurs to me, that perhaps little boys do not hang up their costumes because they don't know how to hang up clothing. Don't laugh- one of our actors had never worn a shirt that buttoned before. I think there will have to be a lesson, as well as the usual CTJ about respecting the costume.

Holiday Store is underway. We open outrageously early - the 13th- because of Christmas falling on a Friday this year and depriving us of a weekend of distribution. That means that we will have to continue to fill food boxes during distribution, which means that the box-building station will have to stay up, along with enough back stock for however many boxes we need. We can estimate that fairly accurately, but it still entails taking up a lot of space we wouldn't otherwise.
A new wrinkle- we have lost our freezers, so we are giving out gift cards for poultry, instead of the actual birds.
The good news is that donations are not down, in spite of the economy.
And all the items we got as year-end tax write-off from corporations are good stuff.

More later- must go organize food sorter.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

America vs. The Narrative

Wow, this is good. In the same vein as Theodore Dalrymple on the psychodrama of El Quaeda, Friedman makes one of the problems of East Vs. West clear.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Family Food Network (updated)

Cell phone call overheard by Sis at the Target: "I don't know what she thought bringing that pumpkin pie- like it's the same as sweet potatoes. I mean, if you're gonna bring a pie- just bring a SWEET POTATO PIE!"

Target called me about a week ago to get the recipe for the Brocolli Rice casserole that's been a staple side at our Thanksgiving dinners, ever since my sister brought it home from her sorority at UT. It was one of those dishes that spread like kudzu through the kitchens of middle-class America in the '70's. Today we'd say it went viral.
After I read it to her over the phone, there was a short silence.
"So, this is the worst recipe ever, since it's a heart attack in a casserole."
"Well, sweetheart, it is over thirty years old."
"Ohmigod- there's Cheez Whiz, a stick of butter...Davy cannot possibly eat this."
"You could Google it and see if there's a lo-fat version. Just buy your Cheez Whiz early, or there won't be any left." I said, remembering the year I managed, in one of those slo-mo sequences, to snatch the last jar of that product off the shelf in the HEB before the other woman got it. I'm usually the least aggressive person in the world, but the thought of telling my extended family that there would be no B-R casserole because I wimped out spurred me to action movie lengths. If I'd had a bullwhip, I'd have used it.

She calls a week later to ask if she can use fresh steamed brocolli, instead of frozen and what kind of rice should she buy? It seems, searching the net, that someone has decided to jazz this up with wild rice. That is just wrong, people. It's basmati or Uncle Ben's. But steamed brocolli is okay.
She is also bringing two other things to dinner: Herb-butter bread and our new favorite appetizer. This is a jar of jalapeno fruit jelly, poured over a block of cream cheese, and served with crackers. That's the whole recipe and the boyfriend can't eat that, either.

But he can eat the Herb-butter bread, the recipe for which I copied from, I'm sorry to say, a 1971 copy of S2x and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. It's nothing but butter turned green with a variety of herbs and garlic salt spread on French/Italian bread. It evaporates the second you take it out of the oven.
It's my second party piece- the first being tacos.

We are going to my brother's for dinner. We will see how a walking Morgan likes the deer heads that terrorized Bubs year before last.
Grateful for so many things, you included. Have a wonderful Day!

Update: my youngest brother's wife brought us a new appetizer: Keebler stackers topped with white cheddar, slices of Granny Smith apples and honey. There was an actual honeycomb, because it's about the presentation. Alas, jalapeno jelly on cream cheese has met it's match and lost.
She also brought this for dessert, to which she added some dried cranberries. Words fail.
Lucky day for us all when Chas needed a legal assistant.
"I don't know how good her skills are, Mom, but she sure is pretty."

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Gratitude

- That Sarah has the best sister in the world. Target has offered her her pick of the furniture she has in storage: "as long as you give it back and don't break it". So, she can use the money she would have spent on a bed, etc. on rent.

-This site. What a great writer. Send all your potential converts here.

-Good theater parents. One mom has sent me three e-mails with a zillion links to possible jammies for her kid.

-That the Yarbs garage sale went well. They made some $$$ and got everything else off the premises- a big load off their minds

-That when you slip up- like yelling at someone you love over a character trait you've consciously chosen to ignore- you can repent and start over again...and again...

-That I never have to play Mario Kart ever- the pace gives me vertigo and I fall off the couch. Someone else will have to deal with the obsession.

-That Bubs can read the whole alphabet and understands symbols, like the "No" sign. There was a little incident in which he asked his dad how to spell "Mom", which he wrote on the door blackboard and then added the symbol. He was mad at her about something- but grasping how that works- genius.

-That there was a spot at St. Catherine's pre-school for Bubs.

-That flannel looks like wool from a distance

and other things too numerous to mention.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CS update
Finished the Flying Monkey, except for the hat elastic. It is great- of course I stole from the best.
Found a leather ladies's jacket and some brown pants at the GW, so Ralphie's Soldier of Fortune costume will be Indiana Jones. One of the theater mainstays brought in a spare overcoat for The Old Man and a canvas fedora. We'll use the hat, add a white school uniform shirt, properly distressed, and - Instant Costume!

Scut Farkas is mostly done- I altered a fleece lumberjack shirt for his jacket and we have a coonskin cap. He'll get some thrift store jeans for himself. I found an ugly plaid fleece remnant at JA, which I might use for his muffler. We'll see- I might find something better.

Took up a coat that was left over from "Steel Magnolias" for an overcoat for Helen. So, she's complete, except for eyeglasses and a decision on her hair.

I'm using a lot of felt this show, in the fantasy sequences and the department store Santa scene- it has the right cheesy Depression-era feel to it.

Esther Jane, our ingenue character, was a challenge. I was resigned to making her a dress, and was making myself nuts searching for the right print, until I looked into the closet in the sewing room, of all places, where hung the perfect pale blue hand-knit pullover with a navy, white and pink Fair Isle yoke. I think it might have been a thrift purchase of Target's. It's a little large for her, but so what I wanted that we'll cope. She will have a blue flannel skirt to match, a dickey with a ruffled collar and a pink beret and scarf. A pastel heartbreaker.
I'm considering ringlets, but that may be more trouble than it's worth.

Today's goals- JA for fleece, flannel, corduroy, broadcloth, silky solid. Storage for mobcap and Sike's coat and any other useful shirts. Party City for glasses (?) and a white Cowboy hat.
Does Ralph need a western vest? Yes, for his big scene, as Red Ryder, I think.
Gratitude: Nov. 10

Bubs. No explanation needed.
Oh- and the U.S. Marine Corps. Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Days of Gratitude: Catching Up
The Fort Hood atrocity (like Robert Avrech of Seraphic Secret, I refuse to call it a 'tragedy') and the House vote on healthcare slowed me down. But still, I am grateful for:
  • Americans who have not succumbed to PC. Please see the One Cosmos archives for the best take-down of this pathology available.
  • Americans who will not surrender their personal liberties without a fight.
  • Smart people, who are also wise people. I am blessed to know so many on the Net. You know who you are...
  • Even though we have theological differences, being united with Evangelicals and non-lefty Protestants in the Culture War. I am especially grateful for their many excellent women's sites, which are so encouraging.
  • Goodwill, where I found a lot of useful stuff for the show.
  • No divas.
  • That the neighbors, after the death of their ancient kitty, who we would watch when they left town, have a new cat.
  • The creativity and handiness of Sissy- who put together a wonderful personal prop for me for the show. Her unerring eye is invaluable.
  • Every time I leave the house to get into the car, the garden lifts my spirits with its vibrant fall growth. (It also makes me feel a little neglectful, but that's a thought for another day.)
  • Getting to spend a couple of hours with just Miss O. We went to Joann's - oh, fun!- but she likes crafts and loves to discuss Mimi's costuming. She is simply the dearest little girl on earth.
  • Her sister, OTOH, is the funniest. How I treasure our walk up the block on Friday. She is tip-toeing over the acorns on the sidewalk in her little bare feet. (It wasn't that cool, and I refused to wrestle with their heinous baby-gate to go get her shoes. Yes, I'm a terrible grandmother.) "Morgan, let Mimi carry you." "NO!" "Sweetie, you're going to hurt your footies." "NO!" She can do that "NO!" thing for twenty minutes at a time. Miss Independence.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

In Proper Order
What I've learned in the costuming biz, is that there is a Sensible Path from here to there.
First- search costume storage
Second- ransack the thrift stores
Third- Discount stores (Ross, Marshall's, et. al.) and Party City
Fourth- construct from scratch
Rentals are always an option, before Four. And there is Borrowing, but that is usually more trouble than it's worth.

So, I've completed One and am off to the Goodwill today.
From the photo album from the last production of this and what one of the previous cast said, it seems as if the last time they put this on, it was pretty cobbled together, re: costumes. We have a little more time this year and hope to do a better job.

So far, The Old Man and Ralph, who are repeating their roles and costuming themselves for the most part, are done. Ralph, whose daughter was Helen last time, generously donated her outfits, which fit and suit our present Helen perfectly. She needs a pair of glasses and a coat and I can cross her off the list.

There were lots of shirts, coats, hats, scarves and gloves in storage, so outfitting Ralphie and friends will be mostly running up some knickers and picking up some more sweater vests and pullovers. They will have to wear tights, I think, under their knickers, to prevent sock creepage, which they will hate, but Suffer for your art, boys!
Or maybe ladies's trouser socks. We'll see...

There were Elf costumes in storage, but they were not so great and huge. It's a long enough scene that I'm comfortable running up some new ones. Felt, so they look slightly cheesy, as befits a Depression-era department store.
Only one of the fantasy scenes needs a costume from scratch. I found a ladies jacket that will be a wonderful coat for the soap-blindness scene. He will also have a derby and will look like a little Magritte. Leftovers from Prince and the Pauper will be his Shakespeare costume, with a cape and a hat added. We're undecided if his Soldier of Fortune outfit should be Jungle Jim or Indiana Jones, but that can be assembled. So, the only thing we need to construct is the Cowboy suit. This will be only chaps and a Buffalo Bill jacket, but the extensive trimming will be the time-consuming part. This will be fun, and I may see if Joan wants to do it- it's right up her alley- if she has time after re-upholstering the little love seat.

There is a scene in which the Mom appears as a Flying Monkey, so she will need the little jacket and pillbox. I briefly thought about re-cycling the Sword Swallower items from Oliver!, but the vest won't fit: matron vs. teen boy. After four top hats and Luke's Luigi cap, I feel like I've got this hat business down. All in purple and black felt, because the witch is purple and black and the felt was in the materials closet.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Gratitude: November 4

1) Found encouraging amounts of usable items for the show in storage. Thanks, former costumers!
2) The ability to go to Mass any day of the week, if I want to. Went to the 12 noon one at St. Ann's today, since I was in the area.
3) Having know, on-line, this Raccoon. Rest in peace, Ximeze. You will be missed.
Gratitude- Nov. 3

I'm having a little trouble with these posts- not because I find it difficult to be grateful. Instead, I spend most of my time being thankful for things- I'm the type of person who goes to fill up the coffee maker in the morning and thinks "Look at that! Clean water is coming out of our tap! Thank you, Jesus!" "There are new morning glories on the vine!" "It's rained for nine days straight-the lakes are refilling. Whoo-hoo!"
For today:
1) I was able to step in and replace the costumer for "A Christmas Story", who had some family issues. The cast has some of my favorite actors in it- one of whom is almost totally costumed already.
2) We can go to the polls in America without being threatened by violence. In fact, that's so rare that it makes the news when it happens.
3) Grocery stores.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Month of Thanks
Stole this idea from Sis, who borrowed it from Clover Lane. Thinking of something(s) that make me thankful every day in November.

Nov. 1
1) Even though I had the flu/a bad cold for a solid week, I had access to all the healthcare I could need, if I'd wanted to use it. I refused to give them the satisfaction of being a stat, though, so I have no idea what I really had...
2) Speaking of health care, I have 1 Rep. and 1 Senator who listen to we the people.
3) I used the down time of flu/cold to finish a comfort shawl for church.

Nov. 2
1) Morgan Jane was wearing the tiniest little pigtails in the world this morning. This was heart-crackingly adorable.
2) Sarah has another job at the same theater as before.
3) The agency is going to do Thanksgiving food box distribution on site, in the former Senior Adult Services part of the building.

I didn't necessarily say they'd be BIG things. Though there will be some of those, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


at the Hobby Lobby: "She said 'well, in my country anyone can eat whatever's in the refrigerator' and I said ' well, you're not in your country now, so don't be eating other people's food!'"
Annoying as they can be, sometimes you hear an interesting side of a cell phone call.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways-

Proof yet again that my kid is a genius. She has photoshopped up a wonderful card for their
anniversary- Sissy and Jas through the decades.
Mom, because she is something of a doof, didn't immediately get the joke. That the fourth girl pic looked just like Fan Target (they look exactly alike in photos) should have tippped me off, but I was too busy loving the captions. But I now bow to the utter hilariousness.
Oh, and check out who's driving the convertible...
Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Time to get cracking

on the H'ween costumes!
Umm, Sal, you say, it's not even the end of September yet.

Yeah. So?
As you may remember, last year we did an Animal Planet theme: flamingo, elephant and bumblebee.

This year, we're being more eclectic: Ni is an angel, Bubs is Luigi, the Mario brother and Morgie is a pumpkin, which is just an excuse for her to wear a big fluffy orange net and organza tutu with a green ruffled Empire bodice and an enormous-ass green bow in her hair. Which her mama has already finished, by the way. Because our otherwise most sensible daughter is a Halloween Crazy Lady.
and I'm her enabler.
I'm making Ni's costume, using this pattern, the bottom left view:

out of white satin, organza and tulle. The vest is a silver net backed with organza and she will have purchased wings and a halo.
And I'm also responsible for Luigi's cap. That should be fun- I love a challenge!

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Oh, me name is McNamara, I'm the leader of ...

the blog?
A wonderful serendipitous find. Every day a fascinating collection of Catholic history, quotes, saints, books, movies.
And baseball.
Go, thou, and check it out.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Doll Photos
Retreived the camera and took a few photos:

She looks a trifle snippy here, but her face is much more appealing in the top photo

Soft Dolls and Animals have a feature with photos of people's interpretation of patterns they've published, so I thought I'd send her picture in.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

You May Be A Winner,
if you're me and you entered the Texas State Fair Arts and Crafts competition.
Got the official notice that my Handspun, Any Item entry had won First Place. Which is very gratifying, indeed. Unless- and this is just a little niggling thought- I was the only entrant.
We shall see, at the Fair.
My character doll placed 10th in that class, so it will not be displayed. But O has her eye on it and it will join our large family of dolls at Mimi's and have a happy, useful life. Beautiful as they are to look at, and as absorbing as they must be as an art form, I admit I don't much see the point of dolls that you can't play with. We, OTOH, have gone a little crazy with the Waldorf dolls. They are so very appealing and come in so many sizes, skin tone and hair variations that the temptation to make 'just one more' is very compelling.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rallying at the local Rep's office,

who does not support Obamacare, we were approached by a lone woman who engaged the small group next to me:
"I can't wait until we have socialized medicine."

Debate ensued. She was somewhat combatitive and not really listening. Neither were the group members who were talking to her, frankly, as all she had were the talking points in her hand, most of which we knew were not true.

Noticing that she had a pronounced accent, someone asked where she was from, originally, and if she was an American citizen. Turned out she was from France and had dual citizenship.

If you want an effective counter-protestor, you might want to steer clear of people that can be told "Well, France is that way- don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

Not that we said that.

Our best speaker, Don, asked her why she wanted the plan. I missed part of her answer, because there was supportive honking, but whatever she said made him say, kindly, "Ma'am, you just don't understand Americans. We don't want to be taken care of, most of us. We want the freedom to make our own decisions."

As it becomes clearer every day, we have a lot of elected officials who don't understand Americans, either. Or if they do understand, despise and fear them. Despise them because they don't think the way they 'should' and fear them because they might strip them of their power.

Here are some of our group at the City Hall protest on the 17th. The "Social Security: Bankrupt" sign is one of ours. I didn't get to that one, so haven't had any contact with really organized pro-Plan supporters. They tend to stick to the Town Halls, I think.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Nancy and the Astroturfers
A photo essay linked from the Anchoress. Just doing my bit to spread it around...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Senator Cornyn Asks Why
Americans are being asked to turn in their fellow citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights?

I am not aware of any precedent for a President asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed "fishy" or otherwise inimical to the White House's political interests.
By requesting that citizens send "fishy" emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Our State Fair

is a great State Fair and it is coming up soon. I have less than three weeks to get my entries finished before delivery day at Fair Park. This year I'm entering three categories:
  • Infant Sweater Set, 2 or more pieces. This will be a sweater and hat in burgundy with a tan border embroidered with flowers (or appliqued knit flowers, haven't quite decided yet) and ruffled trim.

  • Character Doll which can either be a dressed purchased doll or made from scratch. I'm doing the latter and chose Anne of Green Gables as my subject. She will have hair of handspun yarn and fyi, the Kool-Aid recipe for 'decidedly red' is half a package of Orange with a teaspoon of Black Cherry. The pattern I'm using is one from Soft Dolls and Toys magazine- a re-working of an old Betsy McCall doll by Aletha Ike Putney.
  • Handspun, any item will be the Diva Scarf from Lion Brand in a pink, green, yellow, lavender blended colorway called "English Garden". I bought the wool from Jehovah Jireh Farm on eBay- they have some beautiful dyelots.
I'll try to post some photos once I get them finished.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bubs seems to be fine. His tox screen, CAT scan and MRI were all clear. The assumption now is that he had/has some sort of middle ear inflammation that was causing the motor impairment.
We are all very grateful that it was nothing more serious than that, though of course, we are keeping a close eye on him. Thank you so much for your prayers.
"Thank you for having me," he told the nurse when he hugged her good-bye.
Sweet little guy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Prayers, please
Bubs is at Children's Medical for the night, having some tests for some worrisome neurological symptoms. Your prayers for him, and all the Yarbs would be appreciated. I'll update as I know more.
Many thanks!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Morgan Jane
Who knew, a year ago,
when you were just a tiny little snippet

That you
would grow into the craziest, quirkiest, funniest, scary-smart toddler-girl we ever saw?
That's what you are, each and every day.
We love you, Morgie Jane.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I have the Oliver! photos, but don't want to post them until certain people have seen the show.

Target and Davy had tickets for Sunday, along with Sissy, Ni and friends. I had a frank talk with him at family dinner: "Look, sweetheart, if you're just going to this to be polite to the mom, it's really not necessary. I won't be offended and I can re-sell the tickets." Which I knew would be an important point, since one of his former careers was being a ticket-scalper in Chicago.
"No, no- I really do want to go. I was in Oliver! in like fifth grade. I got beat out for Oliver by a kid whose name was Oliver, but I was a gang member and know all the songs."
Well, okay, then.

Bubs found some of Ni's deadly magnet-n-rod toys, which I took home and threw away. Apropos of that, Marge told the story of how, when she was an R.A. for Governor's School at Hendrix, which is like summer play-college for high school students, one of the young men decided it would be a good idea to insert his testicles between two super strong magnets from the physics lab. It took a trip to the ER to remove them, after six hours or so. Good times.

I had just figured out how to operate the ice/water controls on the Yarb's new fridge and was getting some crushed ice when Bubs walked by.
'That's enough, Mimi" he decreed.

While decluttering the house after neglecting it for weeks, I found an American Scholar on the bedroom bookcase. I read an article on two author's correspondence and part of the critical article that followed. The next day, while browsing near the Dickens section at H-P Books, I found a slim volume by the same author on books and reading- a combination common-place book and book list. Synchronicity demanded that I buy it, along with an Annie Dillard and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Now I have to buy a lot of other new books, as well, as recommended by Mr. Dirda.
These buying sprees go in cycles- one idea trips another and off I go on Amazon and ABE, tracking down the pertinent texts.

Before that, I went to the Tea Party Gov't. Health Care protest at our representative's office in Irving. After the protest, we were invited in for some refreshments and had a long and informative talk with some of his aides.
What I wish? That in groups like the above, we could all just agree that indeed, we all think very decidely about whatever subject and just leave it at that. There's no prize for hating socialism, or Obama, or abortion or anything else more than everyone else present. Really. Conserve the energy and use it more constructively, I say.
This reminds me of why I was never a very good 'Traditional' Catholic- just couldn't get into the competitive angst.

De-cluttering the garden, as well, but that goes on the other blog. What I've decided is that though I've enjoyed the last few years costuming the musical, I'd really rather garden and mess with the children. Both activites have their own vitality and I love them both, but for right now, I lean more towards the introverted and contemplative. The times seem to require that, somehow.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Opening Night
went beautifully. With the exception of one set glitch but these things happen...
The theater was sold out. The orphans softened the audience up and Bumble, Corney and the live kitteh warmed them up and it all went great from then on.

Bits and pieces:
One of the older Gang members, in full raggedy costume and top hat, playing a Bach cantata on the director's keyboard that he'd brought in for warm-ups.
A passle of orphans, giving our menacing Bill Sikes with his beard and banged-up face, a big group hug.
Fagin- delighted that I'd added more tie to his costume, in lieu of not noticing in the design stage that what he needed was more vests.
That V. didn't recognize a guy he'd worked beside on sets for weeks, thanks to make-up and hair color. And that Greg was so gratified that V. noticed he'd been borrowing a little from Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, for Fagin.
How excited, yet well-behaved, the little ones were. Last dress rehearsal is usually a morass of notes for everyone and utter frustration and disgust for the director and it does make an impression on them. At least for opening night.
Always and everytime- being amazed at the talent of ordinary people: students and software designers and nurses and teachers and salesmen and housewives getting togther to accomplish something as complicated as good musical theater. No false pride here- if they ever made me a personal t-shirt, like they did for Jas's dad, it would include the phrase "Sometimes, I really am a genius."
Never seen a cast happier with their costumes- with the possible exception of Tom, in that sauna of a great coat. Suffer for your art, pal. But that's not really fair, because he was asked (begged) to take the role. And he took it, since he's a pillar of the community.

All in all, a success.
Pictures, as soon as the CD is available.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"...and I hate your @$$ costumes!"*
No, of course I don't- we're just both so tired we don't know which end is up. Doing this is a little
like having a baby or wallpapering a room by yourself- you get into the big middle of it and wonder why you ever thought that was a good idea. But the results are so worthwhile that a type of amnesia sets in until you find yourself doing it all again.

This was my To-do list yesterday:
Sew remaining buttons of Bumble's coat
Baste cape to Bumble's coat
Change a button on Dodger's vest
Top-stitch the front facings of Dodger's coat
Baste false hair into two workhouse caps.
Add a hook and eye to a necktie as he can't get it over his head with his make-up on
Add ribbon ties to a hat (and I did the wrong one, because I didn't write it down, so Joan repaired it.)
Run elastic through the waist of two skirts, try them on the actress and stitch them down.
Sew buttons of the front of the Sword Swallower's vest and attach a braid closure
Let down the hem in one pair of rental pants and take up the hem in ditto
Add some ragged, flimsy fabric to the hem of Fagin's coat, so that it looks as though the lining is coming out
Put a pocket inside one of the gang vests
Distress orphan costumes. This involved laying them out on the drive outside, spraying them with grey spray paint and then dry-brushing them with brown paint, turning them over and repeating the process. I only did half of them, because I wanted to see the effect under the lights (they need a darker brown, it turns out) and because it was too darn hot out there.
Collect all costume pieces we rejected for Fagin's Gang and hang them on the spare rack.
Ditto for Women's Chorus.
Move petticoats from dressing room to the wonderful dressing area Joan and her husband rigged up in the Green Room for the women with those plastic latch strips, a curtain rod and rings and an old knit sheet.
And that was before the rehearsal began...

If you're wondering why all those things hadn't been done earlier in the process, some problems just don't show up until you see a costume under the lights or an actor rehearses in them. We just can't keep the actions of forty-one people in mind at all times and need the actor to let us know what little fiddles the costume needs. And, when we see the whole ensemble on stage, we often have to fill in items: this grouping is too pale, he needs a different neckercheif, she needs something on her head or off her head, a color looks weird under the lights, an actress needs her skirt taken up because she has to climb stairs with her hands full of props- things like that.

My To-Do for today:
Spend the morning with Bubs not thinking about theater at all.
Distress orphans
Take up pants hem
Tack other pants hem to legs
Tighten elastic in an underdress sleeve
Make a workhouse top
Start Good Show notes
Order flowers for volunteer moms

So, not so bad.

And the feedback we're getting is very gratifying. One of our Mr. Brownlow's said to me last night "I want to be Fagin, just so I can wear that costume."

* paraphrased from Waiting for Guffman, the best community theater movie there is.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Nickels and Dimes
That's what we're working on now. The last little details: bonnets and neckercheifs and shawls and distressing. Someone needs their sleeve shortened. Someone needs the sleeves removed from their shirt so they don't die of heat stroke under their black cordouroy coat. Mobcaps need to be assigned, ditto the top hats I found in storage. I discover that I gave Charlie's workhouse pants to Tim, but can give Charlie Sike's old knee pants because I never liked them and he wants to wear boots that look better with trousers, so everybody is happy. We have to make decisions on hair. I have to send out the Green Room Rules e-mail for the parents to impress upon their children and must try to not sound like a big old B in the process. Toni needs a ruffle on the back of her Old Sally cap to hide her hair. David needs a Sowerberry cravat and knife handles for his leather (suedecloth) Knife Grinder apron. I don't have to make those, but I do have to sew them into the pocket.

I have two-three large projects still to finish: Bumble's blue coat, to make a dress for one of the little girls and to shorten the sleeves on an underdress and to finish the hem on Dodger's coat- we wanted to see it in action before making a decision on the length.

Then, some housekeeping: reinforced Ziplocks for the kids' bits and pieces, moving clothing racks, stocking up on Febreze, final labeling of costumes pieces and taking the rejects back to storage. Not to mention Good Show notes for the cast and thank-you's for my wonderful volunteers.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Home Stretch
Tech Rehearsal is next Sunday, July 5. That means we have six days to have everything completed. Thanks to our wonderful volunteer moms, we are able to hand off some items- Madeleine is sewing the housekeeper's dress and Becky is running up some simple skirts and petticoats for the women's chorus. Joan is continuing to turn out the fabulous street dresses and bonnets.
I have two major projects left: completing Sikes and sewing all of Bumble. And two minor projects: doing the last little finishing items for Oliver and the Dodger.
Right now, awash in the minutiae of so many things still remaining, it's hard to recall our initial enthusiasm. But it will all return when an actor tries on their costume and their face lights up because they love it and it will help their characterization. And when they take to the stage and we can see the whole company as a whole, it will all be worth it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I was feeling very guilty because Morgan McGyver Yarbs put a screwdriver in her mouth while they were here on Saturday - I was tightening the bolts in my IKEA chair, turned around and discovered that she had crawled behind me in her ninja stealthy way and helped herself to a large regular- until her mother confessed that Morgie had climbed up the stairs ALONE and was in the bathroom unrolling the toilet paper while she was in the kitchen and thought Jas was watching her.
She is THAT kid- the one who must have a constant keeper. Someone has to be on assigned 'Morgan watch' at all times, or she'll be on top of the refrigerator.

Pete was not happy about the Mr. Bumble costume offered by the costume rental place, so I offered to make him one. This is one of the pitfalls of costuming- the lure of the new. One must guard against it vigilantly or else you're going "Hmmm- you know, I've never made a 19th century greatcoat with a capelet and a bicorne hat..." and that way lies Crazy Town.

Our Oliver continues to grow- I had to open the back armholes of his 'poor' jacket so he could move his arms. Lucky for us, his 'rich' jacket is made of stretch suede cloth- it may last him through the show. The musical director has had to transpose some of his songs to a lower key- he's not Bryn Terfel yet, but he's losing the pure boy soprano you associate with little Oliver.

Orphans turned out very well, circus girls all look good, too. Tess's material was lying there, staring at me until I went "All right-FINE! I'll sew you!" and got it out of the way.
Fagin's Gang need a bunch of pants alterations and two more vests to liven things up- it was getting very brown, grey and black around there, but they are coming along.

As Geoffrey Rush kept saying in Shakespeare in Love: 'It will be fine.'

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

to all Dads. Thank you, for all you do and the sacrifices you make.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Professor Mimi
will be giving her lecture on costumes to TC's summer theater camp kids tomorrow. It includes a brief talk on what costumes are supposed to do and how we try to accomplish that, and a short sermon on 'respecting the costume' and how we remember who does and who doesn't. IOW, it goes on your permanent record. The one in my mind, anyway.
Then, we'll break into pairs and draw slips assigning them a character to design for. They are not allowed to choose one for themselves because theater does not work that way. I give them scratch paper, pencils and crayons for doodling ideas and a big sketch pad page with a croquis traced on it for their finished project. I may include a batch of swatches that they can look through for their creations, as well. We mount these in the lobby for the parents to see on the last day of camp when they perform the show they've worked on.
This went well last year and I hope to improve on it this year.

Today is Oliver Day. My goal: to get him almost completely finished.
Sike's hat is teh bomb, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Progress So Far The orphans are almost finished, thanks to Amelia's mom and grandmother. Their swatches are on the left. The color value is poor on the bottom one, it is more yellow, less green. My helpers put patches on them of the co-ordinating fabrics, one of which is the top sample. I threw the muslin items, along with half of the Gang shirts, into a tan dye bath, with a little grey added. I'm adding plackets at the front opening of some, closed with one of the antique buttons from our trip to the Hill Country (where Fagin's patches came from, as well.)
Some of the orphans may get jackets of the second from the bottom swatch- we'll see.

The swatches on the right are for the Artful Dodger. From bottom to top, they are: trousers, vest, coat, coat collar and pocket flaps, and hat. I wanted to keep them in the same color family- I don't like the Artful Dodger as Clown look, where they make him the Cat in the Hat. These look quite sharp and dapper now, but they will all be distressed.

We worry that Joan will be perturbed when we take a paintbrush to her wonderful creations for Nancy and Bet, but they must be in character and we're not planning to re-use them for anything else. She does the most wonderful work- I'm making V. buy me my own camera, so I can take photos of the processes and the finished product.

Her Mrs. Sowerberry is genius- a great concoction of all types of black textures.
We discussed ideas for the women street vendors for 'Who Will Buy' and she found perfect calicos and solids for them: a yellow and rose print for the Rose Seller's skirt over a yellow underdress, a spring green and pink overskirt over a strawberry pink for the Strawberry Seller and almost a white and blue toile with a blue skirt for the dairymaid. What a picture they will make on stage together.

My other volunteer mom did an excellent and imaginative job on the circus girls and has offered to put together the Strongman, if I will kit it up for her. The little girls have a longer dance than we had originally thought and I'm glad they're fairly gaudy.

One of our Gang suffered a tae kwan do injury- a sprained ankle. His mother, who's also in the cast, thinks he will be recovered by the time we open. I suggested having the set crew make him one of those Tiny Tim crutches, just in case, and he could be the Crippled Beggar Pickpocket.

V. ordered me David Lean's 1948 Oliver Twist, which I've been watching in snatches on YouTube. There are wonderful ideas in it, but we can't go quite that dark. I assured Connie, the set painter, that he had used almost the same view of the London skyline that she had chosen- great minds, etc.
V. has been working on the set crew and finds it fascinating, especially the part where Robert appears, announces "We need to do something different with this" and begins to splash black paint on a perfectly painted piece of furniture. I explained that that happens more often than you might think- Oliver's pants are a good example.

In the "You're killin' me, Smalls!" dept.- Oliver must be wearing his street clothes, except for the jacket, under a nightshirt. So the nightshirt must be opaque enough for his lovely plaid pants not to show through. The little gal at the Hobby Lobby found this an interesting problem and helped me decide on a white-on-white calico.

Today is Bill Sikes Day and I should go sew.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not about Costumes.

The Yarbs deconstruct.
And Ro takes to crime.

Monday, June 08, 2009

In which I get well at the Goodwill,
Ross, Party City and Queen Beauty Supply.
Before I began costuming, I only considered thrift stores a good place to find the occasional odd book I wanted to read or a denim jumper for summer.

Now I see it them as an Aladdin's cave of wonderful things that I can acquire for practically nothing and use pretty much as is and do not have to sew. (Though it's a good source of garments to cut up for the material, as well.)
Today, I bought trousers for all the men's chorus- two pairs for Charlie, who has to be the workhouse flunky, as well as other characters, four jackets and four pairs of pants for Fagin's Gang. Now, two of the jackets and all four of the pants were originally women's clothes, but no one will complain if they know what's good for them. Most of them were on sale at 50% off, too.

Party City had two cheap-o felt top hats and while Ross didn't have any XXL grey blouses, they did have straw sun hats. I bought three- one for the Rose Seller to wear as is and two to transform into bonnets, as well as a navy newsboy cap.

I picked up a package of grey hair made out of some mysterious fiber not found in nature at Queen, as well as some scarves to use as neckties.

The mom who's making the circus girl dresses offered the Gang a bunch of school uniform shirts too damaged to re-sell and I jumped on that like a duck on a june bug. I'll throw the shirts in the washer with the muslin orphan items and dye them all at the same time. Then they'll need about five vivid vests, some more neckties, a couple of watch caps and they'll be about done.
So, if I can finish my principal men, then I can give Joan a hand with the women's chorus.

The Orphans will look well, I think. They're subtle, but largely so, if that makes any sense.
A picture would help, but Sis has the camera. We discovered that the actress playing Nancy is the daughter of Nini's first grade teacher- isn't that interesting?
And Ro stage-managed 'Rumors' with a prop mistress who's the sister of one of the chorus gals, who was also in a show I costumed last year for TC.

Bill Sikes came up to watch the rehearsal- he's anxious to get started, but Pete had to work around conflicts and they won't use him for another week or so. I described his costume in detail and he seemed pleased. But, as we agreed, any role where you don't have to wear a bra full of millet and size 13 purple suede heels is an absolute improvement.

I was on Mom Duty Friday through Saturday- Marge dragged herself up from Oak Cliff with a terrible bone-aching flu and slept on the couch until Sunday, when she felt well enough to go home and I baby-sat for Sis Saturday afternoon while they finalized their contract with the re-modeler. So maybe all my successful shopping today is virtue's reward...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Today's Project: Kits
for the lovely moms who have volunteered to sew for us.
First- circus girls for Madeleine: tulle, net and organza skirt to sew to satin tops. And decorate with whatever snippets of sequins and fringe I found in the supplies closet. This a distinctly low-ball and recycle project. Colorful, though: royal blue and aqua, gold and orange, hot pink and fuschia.
Second- the rest of the workhouse orphans for Becky: shirts and pants of muslin and some unidentified homespun-looking fabric from the mill ends table. And assorted scraps for patches.
When they're finished, I'm tea-dying the muslin items to give them a little punch and dirty them up a bit and fray the unfinished edges.
Connie, the associate set designer who does all the backdrop paintings, showed me some of her designs last night. I need to jazz up some costumes so they don't disappear, but not so much that they compete.
Well, I put together a jacket for Oliver using my new patterns and though I carefully compared measurements- it did not fit. The pants did, though- so I'm inclined to think his chest measurement may have been off, which is a chance you take with letting parents measure. NB: don't do that next time, for principals anyway.
But I found better fabric for the jacket, anyway and will cut the new one larger. And give the old one to a Gang member. That's the go-to solution for anything that doesn't work out-"Someone in Fagin's gang can wear it!"
Oliver's 'rich boy' pants may go there, as well. The checks blend and they look a little green. So, I may re-do them in a larger plaid. It will not look garish and loud on stage.
Dodger's pants are ready to try on and his vest is complete. Aging his coat is freaking me out, but I'll figure it out.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I Don't Need Dilemmas at 10:00 pm.

First, the good stuff. Had a very productive sewing day and when I made a trip to Jo-Ann's for circus fabric, I found this, which will save me so much work, I'm practically giddy.

No more cutting down adult patterns to fit middle school youngsters, never mind adapting things for the really little ones. This comes in ALL sizes. I bought two, the largest child and the smallest adult.
How did I miss this going through the books? Must have been all the red, white and blue that threw me off.
I must say, the Dodger's pants, previously an altered scrubs pattern, look so much better when re-cut by this. Please notice that in addition to a frock coat (Lincoln) and a tail coat (Uncle Sam), there are knee britches (Washington). And it's all in costume design, not re-enactment mode with its thousand authentic construction details.
Giddy, I tell you.
Because that's one of the biggest time issues for the small theater- altering patterns to fit your variously sized cast members. Patterns are expensive and you can't buy even all the multi-sized versions of a design. Even if you draw your own simple shapes, you must do the figuring from their measurements and draw it out on pattern paper.
Collected a pile of nylon net and tulle in vivid colors for the circus gals. Oddly enough, there was no animal print fleece at all, so I got a leopard print silky dress fabric for the strongman. Sounds peculiar, but it will be fine. There was enough rust-colored lining remnant for poofy pants, with a good bit left over for other bits and pieces- I cut the collar for Dodgers vest out of it, actually.
I think I've finally found a use for some trim that I bought for Forum. I fell in love with it and tried to incorporate it in the blue costumes (our houses were color-coded) and it wouldn't work in any of them, no matter what I tried. But I think it will meet its destiny on the rust vest.
But- the director phoned after rehearsal with a problem: Widow Corney isn't plump enough to match the lyrics of the song she sings with the beadle. Can we do something to make her look fatter?
Technically, of course we could, but her dress is almost completed, it can't be altered to be larger and I really don't want to ask Joan to scrap a costume she slaved over just because the actress's butt doesn't look big enough. We have too big a cast and not enough time for projects like that.
But I will consult with her before I give him a definite answer. She may not mind or we might be able to let another actress wear it in a different scene or we may think of a solution- a bum roll or a quilted shawl or a padded apron or something. But she is too valuable a worker to alienate over a little detail like this.
Maybe we could just trust the audience to use their imagination?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's Official

Sunday and Monday were my first official Freak Out Days. These happen when you get past the excitement of design and picking out fabrics and seeing the cast for the first time and fathom just exactly how many there are- 41!- and that almost all of them are double/triple roles.
The realization of the sheer volume of work you've attempted under a deadline...Yikes.

That was bad enough, but when I arrived at the theater last night, Pete gave me the character list for 'Consider Yourself'. "And Anne wants five of them to be circus performers."
Circus performers? On top of their two already assigned costumes?
As Sissy would say: are you freakin' kidding me?

But on second, calmer thought, I like it. It mixes it up. And since the young woman was in Cabaret last year, I can use her Kit-Kat Klub tunic as a base. The rest: satin poofy pants and a felt vest for the sword swallower, an animal skin fleece tunic for the strongman, and satin and net/tulle ballet dresses for the two little girls, probably also made from Cabaret items. There were plenty of sequin and fringe scraps in the supply closet. It'll be fine.

And though he's having understudies for Oliver and the Dodger- a departure from the usual practice- I don't have to costume them.
Freak Out over.

Widow Corney's plum dress? My co-costumer is a genius. It looks wonderful.

Had to scrap Fagin's hat crown and begin again. But, I think the old crown could be made into a cap of some sort for a Gang kid. Like a smoking cap- we'll see. Otherwise, he's almost completed- just details like buttonholes and buttons. Still debating the tie/muffler. Will ask the actor.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Busy Saturday

The theater director took Joan and me to the storage units, gave us the gate and lock codes, showed us around and left us to go through the contents. There was light, but no fans- we'll bring some next time- and it was hot enough that we locked up, drove to the gas station and got Joan a drink in the middle of the search. I, of course, had my trademark vat of Sonic tea.

I'm taking V's car to rehearsal today to haul the tubs of stuff we found and could not fit in the Focus, to the theater. Once we get whatever items LHS loans us, we'll sort everything into gender groups: one in the dressing room, one in the front room- and mix and match the chorus.
We had much better luck with the men than the women, for some reason.

The set designer, who also acts occasionally, brought in the black frock coat he made himself and word in "Tom Sawyer". We were duly impressed. It is an almost perfect fit for Sowerberry, which will save us renting for him. It's a very dull black and Dave is concerned his black slacks might be too shiny, but we will see. He's not even getting a vest- just a dickey- as he never takes the coat off. He needs a temporary inside breast pocket, for some business with a lily and Joan is saving me some scraps from Mrs S's dress, so I can jazz up his collar and lapels. That's one of those twiddly ideas that will or will not get done depending on time.

Today's object: finalize Orphan measurements and talk to my sewing volunteer mom about those costumes. I need to do a detailed sketch after Mass.

Tonight, I'm watching the babies while Sis and Jake attend Fan Target's boyfriend's show. He and his brothee are doing a two-month tour of the U.S. and the Texas week ends up here in Dallas. I'll be sorry not to get to see him, or meet his brother, but there's just no time.

Various things I said today:
"You know what we need? Slut lace."
"Calla lilies- you know, cartoon dead guy lilies."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Do you even need to ask?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Just thought I'd try the scanner These are two of Fagin's fabrics: the top is his vest, the bottom one is his coat. The coat will have an upholstery brocade collar and pocket welts and the vest will have a golden brown buttonhole strip and brass buttons. He had a fitting tonight and was very pleased with how it looks so far. I found him some charcoal grey trousers at the Goodwill and a dark grey shirt at Metrocrest Thrift. They were having a 50% off sale, so I bought shirts with wild abandon. Somebody can wear them.
Our water heater was not working, so we called the plumber, who while trying to fix the heater, broke the electricity. The electric repairman came out, and several hundred dollars later, restored our power. He also put a new outlet on the porch and installed my lovely Arts and Crafts light, that's been in the top of the hall closet for two years. Since I couldn't sew, I just cut out instead and have Sikes's vest and hat ready to construct.
Took some photos of the boys in Fagin's Gang. They are cute beyond belief, and range from tiny to tall, which is how I posed them. The ass't director wrote down their names in order for me, so I can label the pictures and decide how to costume them. Not as big a project as it sounds, since two of them are Oliver and the Dodger, who are already dressed, so there are only eight of them to deal with. We or the parents will provide thrift store pants and shirts for them and then Joan and I will accessorize them.
All the orphans are going to be boys, even the girls. IOW, they will all be dressed alike in pants and shirts. Nice and simple- maybe a little boring, but they fall under the "60 seconds, Mom" rule.
Some of the gang may wind up wearing women's altered slacks, because of the smaller sizes and interesting plaids and dark colors. That falls under "Suffer for your art".
Tomorrow we ransack the costume storage.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Took a break
from costumes for the evening and went out to dinner with some old booster club friends, including Michael's widow. We're making it a weekly get-together support group for her.
And this morning, I am baby-sitting for Sissy, so she can de-clutter and stage the house because their landlord want to start showing it to prospective renters.

But after that it is steady "don't interrupt me" work, since almost all the prep has been done. I feel very slightly guilty about doing the musical when she has so much going on in her life, but I am available all the other 47 weeks of the year, I can't help when they schedule the show, they didn't really have anyone else to do it and I love it so very much.

It looks like we can borrow some things from the LHS (Local High School)- I'll know exactly what by next week.

Starting with Fagin- he rehearses Friday, with his gang. I need to get the vest and coat ready to try on for pocket placement. If I put two in the coat, two in the vest and he has four in his trousers (Goodwilled), that should be plenty for picking pockets. His hat is ready to try on- I went a little overboard with the brim, I think. Otherwise, it is genius.
But as Ro and V. pointed out, I'm only 5'3", so the proportions will be different on a six foot tall man. This is one of the drawbacks of trying costumes on oneself. The top hat looked decidedly Suessical on me, but will be fine on a chorus guy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm only saying this once:

19th Century London is not the Ren Faire.
No one will be wearing one of those corset vest thingies over their peasant blousoe.
That is all.

Otherwise: had a good conference with the co-costumer. We are more or less splitting up the principals, with Joan taking the women and myself taking the men. We plan to give the workhouse orphans to one volunteer mom, and chorus outfits to the other.

Met our Oliver last night, a very appealing kid. His family apparently does a lot of theater- his sister, who was with him, just played Belle in B&B at Eastland College.

Fabric choices for Fagin, Sikes and the Dodger are set. I switched out Fagin's vest fabric, for something more gold/brown. My original choice was too much green. May change his shirt from grey to yellow/beige. Or not.
He is wearing trousers, Sikes opted for knee britches. Good choices.

Golden D'Or had coat fabric for Sikes, after I struck out at J-A's. A heavy, almost cordouroy, black stripe. There was one I really thought about, a black flocked denim, but it was too much for our little stage. Oh, damn- I forgot to retrieve his new hat fabric and walked out without buying it. Will just go with the first choice, then.

Also found Oliver's Brownlow outfit- a cream, tan and lt blue houndstooth check for the pants and a slightly darker blue suedecloth for the jacket. Remember, he needs a cap.
Also picked up orphan fabric, including five yards of water-damaged heavy linen-look for $1.oo yd.

Discovered that YouTube has lots of video of community theater and esp. high school productions of Oliver. I've seen some performances that only a mother could love. And people, seriously- lose the corsets!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just so you know

it's going to be pretty much all theater and costumes notes to myself all the time around here from now 'til the first of July. Because I am head costumer for Oliver!, after all.
I will not get to work with the Shadowlands gal, but I do get to work with Joan, who did some fabulous stuff for Cabaret.
She thinks big, where I tend to get bogged down in twiddly details- though I am MUCH better about that now- but I'm better at actual imagining of the historical period, so we should complement each other.
In addition to outfitting a 41-member, multiple roles cast, we may have to supply the 100+ kerchiefs to festoon Fagin's den. I thought of plastic tablecloths, but we'd have to see how they look under the lights. Shine might be a factor- "They're silk." "No, they're obviously plastic."

Some of my old favorites are playing major roles- Fagin, Mr. Bumble, Mr. Sowerby, Mrs. Corney. And some are in the chorus. One of the kids from Jungle Book is Noah- he'd grown so tall and handsome that I didn't recognize him.
Plus, there are some great new people- Pete says he cast a Nancy that beat everyone else out, hands down. And the character actress I was hoping for is Mrs. Sowerby. The fellow who played the triple role in Sylvia is Bill Sykes, and I can't wait to see what he does with that.

Found a Simplicity pattern for a men's Goth 'London After Dark' ensemble, that I think will work wonderfully well for tail coats and vests. It even has a top hat pattern! And a 'Deadwood' vest and coat pattern, as well. The Dickens Christmas pattern has trousers, but I'm not going there except possibly for Sikes and the Dodger. For now, only Fagin, Sikes and the Dodger are being sewn and all the other men are rented.
NB. Check with Sikes: knee pants or trousers?

I was idling with the idea of Mrs. Sowerby in a plum or purple, but the more I think of it, the more I want them both in black, like crows. I think I'll have Mrs. Corney in plum instead. That's a good color on the actress, and not too dressy for the workhouse matron. With a big-ass cap.
Yeah, I like that...

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Costume Maxims
just to get in gear...
Yes, just like Aesop's morals, some of these are contradictory. It depends on the context.

1) That's close enough for government work.

2) "Sixty seconds, Mom. That's how long he's on-stage."

3) If you didn't want to wear fur, why did you audition for an animal?

4) It's a costume, not a prom dress.

5) "I was not aware the History Channel was coming to this show."
6) More is more- think Big.
7) A comfortable actor is a happy actor.

8) Sometimes you have to suffer for your art.
9) It can be fast, cheap or good. Choose two.

N.B.: Falsies must be basted in, rather than pinned. Had to use the hemostat to remove the safety pins from the 'Sylvia' bra, they'd rusted from the perspiration.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We interrupt

this tranquil summer to co-costume Oliver!.
I hope it's co-, and not solo, because the other costumer was leery of taking it on, since it's
a) big
b) a period piece and
c) she doesn't really sew.
But since I am a sewing fool, with a sewing room and a big box of costume patterns, that solves that.
I only saw one of the two shows she did for TC this season- Shadowlands- but I loved what she did with it.
So, I hope we're compatible and can work on this together. Some of my favorite actors are auditioning and the set is by the usual designer and the woman who did Charlotte's Web.

Young people- here's what the director wants to know when you audition for a musical:
a) what your voice sounds like, and
b) can you carry a tune?
He is not interested in your 'stylings'. Really.

Obviously, we rent all the men's tailoring. And if we're really lucky, we can perhaps borrow whatever the Local High School kept from Les Mis. Slums are slums, right?
I'm rambling- I'm excited to be doing this. Can you tell?