I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all

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I'm a costume designer, makeup artist, teacher, mom, sewer, knitter, baker, want-to-learn-how-to-do-it-all, blogging, Costumed Beagle enthusiast. I am not always pleasant, although through intensive cupcake therapy I have learned not to throw knives at people anymore.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: At Home

At Home: A Short History of Private Life
By Bill Bryson

If you are a Bill Bryson fan, this is the latest. It is a "historical" type book in that it traces the beginnings of all the rooms and many of the comforts of a home.
At one point in the book he says "Houses aren't refuges from history. They are where history ends up."
Being a lover of all things history, I like it.  Perhaps not quite as much as A Short History of Nearly Everything, but loved the focused nature of this particular book.
Want to know how the bathroom got all its features?  Its in the book.

You get the idea that he wanted to know something one day, lets say, about when people decided to build and then sleep in beds...and then one thing led to another.
I appreciate his seemingly endless curiosity.
I learned a lot about my house and its odd quirks.
My only negative comment to Mr. Bryson: I don't think you did your homework on corsets.

Book Review: The Clockwork Three

The Clockwork Three
by Matthew Kirby

William and I read this on suggestion from one of our Librarians Miss Ellen.  She knows us pretty well and will often suggest books that she thinks we will like when she sees us.  This is one of the benefits of a tiny local library, you get to know your librarians and they get to know you.  We have another that will go around and get our holds for us when he sees us...because yup, he knows us by name.

The story revolves around three kids in a sort of obscure time period (we asked the author about that and he said he did it on purpose, but that the whole story hinges on a  1973 newpaper story he read, which you can read about at the back--in the author bio, maybe?).

The kids live and work in different areas of the city, and each has a serious problem.  They rather fortuitiously become involved in each others lives and work to solve each of their respective problems.

Frederick, one of the three, works as an apprentice to a clockmaker.

The story includes an obese mystic and her Russian bodyguard, a gang of thugs, a tiny Italian orphan, an automaton, a magic violin and a mystery.

Anyway, we both read it and then lo and behold, the author is local and was coming to do a lecture/book signing at our library.  This was terribly exciting because we'd never met an actual author before.  As you can see, William has on his pre-teen thrilled face (also what is going on with that hair parted in the middle??).  Never let the expression of a pre-teen fool you into thinking that they aren't experiencing something.  They are.  They are just learning to do that terribly age appropriate thing where they pretend they hate everything.  You should have seen him in line to get the book...it was like we going to see a rock star.

Great book for 9-12ish.  Anna is a slightly more advanced reader for her age and she read this one on her own and liked it too, so if you've got a good reader on your hands, or if you are reading it together you could easily go as young as 7 or 8.

Book Review: More Lady Julia Grey

Dark Road To Darjeeling and The Dark Inquiry
by Deanna Raybourn

I've posted on the first three books in this series here.  This time I actually read the books in order (albeit accidentally...but they do make a bit more sense...).

By the #4 book Dark Road to Darjeeling, I guess the publishers decided to stick to a look with the book jacket.  I'm not sure its my favorite, quite possibly because the costumes are not good.  But that is clearly my own personal bias.  Oh yes, because also they look trashy.  I have a thing about looking trashy.  Maybe I'm extra sensitive since I was born in a trailer park and now I'm a high class blogger with several followers...maybe.

Anyway, this book starts on the tail end Lady Julia's honeymoon and takes her to India with her sister who is trying to recover her lady lover.  Yes, you heard me right--a book set in the 1890's talking openly about lesbians.  So maybe it is trashy...hmmm.  Trashy be damned, they are very fun little mysteries.  Anyway, as per the character we are following here, she gets herself mixed up in a murder-mystery and goes blundering head first into it.  This one has peacocks.

In book #5 The Dark Inquiry, we are back in London, and this is where the author finally gives us a definite time period.  I'd really only been guessing based on the way she described the clothes, but it was driving me crazy since I am a visual person and needed a date to help fix my visionary reading style.  She mentions Jack The Ripper which puts us squarely in the region of 1888 to 1891.  You can Wikipedia it.  I forget how gruesome that set of incidents was.  Be warned, though...they have a picture of one of the last victims on there.  It is not pretty.

Anyway, that sets the backdrop for L.J.'s latest mystery romp combined with a medium and some gypsies it is no wonder her husband is all in a fury with her sneaking around London at night.

It is in this respect I feel that we are similar.  I also do not sense danger very well.  It has never bothered me to be out on the streets of Large Cities (New York, London, Los Angeles) alone at night.  On our vacation to Mexico last spring, I had several people ask me if I was ever afraid.  "Of what?" I asked.  They then reminded me of the drug cartel, and I reminded them I was on the beach.
Maybe I am over confident in my ability to take care of myself...hence my connection with L.J.

These are a good continuation if you've started on this series.  Everyone should have a light hearted read now and again because we're all a bit too serious.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: How Children Succeed

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of CharacterBy Paul Tough

I heard several interviews in succession with the Author.  One on Radio West with our local Doug Fabrizio and the other showed up in an episode of This American Life with my other voice/brain crush, Ira Glass.  
So I requested that our little library order this book, which they did (they always do-we love them) and settled in for an interesting read.
Now the book isn't really going to teach you to be a better parent, necessarily.  It isn't really a "help" book so much as an informational book. And, in fact, I think if you are reading the book, you are probably well beyond needing the information in it.  But it is interesting.
He talks a bit about the affect of early nurturing on babies, with some particular studies done on rat babies.  No news there, babies who needs are met, probably are going to get some developmental advantages.
But he spends quite a bit of time exploring under-performing urban schools and talking to people to are in the trenches trying to figure out how to help kids who are growing up in stressed circumstances.  Because that seems to be one of the biggest indicators to both their success and overall health.  How much stress they are exposed to....and kids who go hungry and are afraid of being shot on their way to school are exposed to a LOT of stress.
Then, of course, there is the question of Why do some kids succeed and others don't?  What is the thing that seems to help kids out, in all sorts of situations...and it turns out it is character.  And some of of our most privileged kids aren't developing it.  So there is a really stark contrast to kids with no stress, not developing a necessary skill, and kids to are getting too much of it, so they aren't developing the skills they need either.
I liked this, because for most of my life I've wanted to be smarter, however, at some point in my adult life, after having met several really really smart people...I realized I had something they didn't have, and it almost served me better: I have always characterized it as a combination of determination and stubbornness, but in the book they refer to it as grit. And grit, it turns out, has always helped me "get er done."  Which some of my much smarter friends and counter-parts just don't seem to be able to do.  I may not be as smart, but I show up and get it done.
And it turns out, scientists are trying to figure out what develops this grit or character, because it is really valuable.  And many educators are starting to focus on this as well, because it is such a strong indicator of how successful students will be not just in high school, but in college and in life.  Did you know that we've done a really good job of getting kids to go to college, in the U.S. but they don't stay and finish?  We have the highest college drop out rate in the industrialized world.  We don't know how to stick it out and get it done.  It is a huge problem.
The book tackles several different sides to character and does a good job of explaining lots of research studies succinctly and coherently for non-researcher readers.
Again, it sort of seems like the kind of book over-eager parents like myself would pick up to improve parenting techniques, but in reality it is more of an exploration of the theme and the ideas around it.

Anna's Big Day

Here she is with her grandfather who performed
the ordinances.
Yesterday was a big day for Citizen #2.  My Anna was baptized and officially became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The day went pretty smoothly, until the Bishop decided to ask people to bear their testimonies, indicating both Anna and her mother twice.  Alas, he did not know that we are not a family that can be compelled or coerced into spirituality and there were several long minutes of silence before he acquiesced and closed the service sans testimonies.
I have lovely friends who spoke and played the piano and stepped up and filled in where needed.
And then we had cake.
It was a good day and gave me just enough of a lift that I might make it another week.
I might step it up too...who knows.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: The Thief

I am so behind in book reviews!  You can also follow me on Goodreads to find out what I'm up to.  But I may be posting several of these this week to close out the year.

The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia

all part of The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

These were given to me as a birthday gift (can't go wrong with books!) and fall in the Young Adult category.  In fact, I will be handing these off to my 11 year old after I'm done.  I think he'll love them.  I liked them, and as with most series, I liked reading them back to back.  I also just learned (thank you Goodreads) that there is a fourth in the series A Conspiracy of Kings and there are also fifth and sixth books slated for publication.

The books are sort of set in a Greece like place (she says this in one of the book club inserts) but isn't really, although you can tell there are Greek mythology bits and definitely inspiration woven into the setting, the traditions and the beliefs of the characters.  There is no real specific time also, because although you sort of think maybe a medieval time period, there are guns and other things that would be slightly out of place.  I don't mind this.  My costume history brain wants to put things into a specific time period so I can imagine what they would be wearing, but I also love the idea of  "no-time" where you can just pick all your favorite bits and combine them without fear of offending History.

The main Character is Gen, a mouthy thief, who gets himself thrown in prison with the chance to free himself by helping the King's Magus (a sort of advisory character) steal something from another realm.

In the second book, we learn more about this thief and the Queen of Attolia, a neighboring country who is at war with her neighbors and also is trying to shrug off invasion from a much larger threat via the sea.

In the Third book, we learn more about the newly crowned King of Attolia who married the Queen in an effort to unify the two kingdoms.

I can't really say much more than that without being a spoiler.
But there are a couple of good things going on here that might help you identify whether or not these books are a good fit for you:
  • Intrigue.  It is subtle, and you never feel like you are solving a mystery, but you can tell you don't have all the facts and can't quite figure out how all these pieces fit together.  The author is good at giving you a good twist before the end.
  • Fantasy.  Also subtle.  There is no magic here, but because the Gods are ever present and you get the sense they are sort of meddling in stuff, there is that sense of other-worldliness.
  • And easy read without feeling like you totally called it in.  They are good books, but don't take a lot of effort on your poor tired brain's part.  Probably why they are Young Adult.

If you liked the Princess Academy, or The Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern series-also pretty awesome books), these books remind me a bit of those.
I would also totally recommend these for your pre-teen to early teen reader 10-15 years old.  Oh, and you too, because we are sophisticated women who read everything.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Last night was the Miss Universe pageant, the pageant of all pageants and my favorite pageant.  My favorite way to watch it is with bestest friends with yummy treats and snarky comments.
Listen, there are lots of things to hate and mock about beauty pageants.  I get it.  I was never a beauty queen; never wanted to be. The swimsuit competition?  A horrifying display of just how far we have not come.
But most of of that can be set aside for two things: The Parade of Nations costumes and the evening gowns.  There was so much sparkle on that stage I could see the reflection on the horizon all the way from Vegas.

So...the National Costume.  This used to be a chance for the gals to display actual bits from an actual cultural that they come from. Honestly, there is very little of that anymore, and increasingly the girls all look pretty much alike.  About the same height, about the same build, pretty much that same hairdo and makeup, no matter where you hail from.  And although the new costume tradition doesn't always speak much to heritage, it almost always shows us a little about the country.  And it almost never disappoints.

So lets get to it.
The best and worst National Costume.  I'm going to divide this up into categories for Clarity.

Classy with a nod to tradition:

Miss China.  Lovely.  Representative of a
particular dynasty of China (like the plate).
No surprise, she wins this category with me  AND
with the judges, with whom I seldom ever agree.

Miss Spain.  Modern with a hint of the Flamenco dancer.
Plus you never really go wrong with hot pink
Miss Philippines.  Very Classy.  She makes it to the top 5.
Plus notice how she's wearing a crown already...
sort of a subliminal suggestion "You know I look
good in one and so you should give me the big one..."

Next Category: Islanders.  These people think outside the box.  Not always in a good way, but they're not afraid to try stuff.

Miss Aruba.  There is a LOT of reference to the sea this year.
But this one definitely wins for best Sea Witch.

Miss Bahamas.  I think their tourism department
is going to love the capitalizing on the whole pirate thing.
Sexy She-Pirate.

Miss Cayman Islands.  Her costume reflects the Cayman,
a type of crocodilian creature...and she also sort of crept
around the stage--performance style, I think trying to look fierce...
but not quite looking beauty queen like.

Miss Trinidad & Tobago.  I always love their costumes because they are so
colorful.  And she totally pulls it off.  

Next we have South America.  They get a category unto themselves because they take this competition VERY seriously.  These women will go on to be some of the most powerful people in their country.  Plus, I think because of Mardi Gras in some of the bigger SA countries, they know how to do big and bright and feathered...which never goes wrong.

Miss Panama.  This is what I'm talking about.  They can fill the whole stage
while still managing to wear almost nothing.  That is a skill.  Plus, you can
at least isolate this costume to a continent, so culturally speaking
it hits the mark too.

Miss Peru.  This is what happens when She-Ra visits Machu-Pichu.
Awesome happens.  I wish you could really see her shoes too because
they are probably 7 inches high.

Miss Chili.  Very few things say This is my Culture like
a sexy representation of the Culture that colonized you.
Or maybe they just like the circus a lot.

Next is the Invasion of the Unitards.  I don't care how much beglitz you put on these things, they are still a unitard and have no place in the civilized world of beauty pageants.

Miss England.  I think maybe her country was so busy with  the Olympics and
the Diamond jubilee they forgot to hire a designer for her.  So she made her own.
There are few things more flattering to a figure than the Union Jack
stretched out in Lycra.

Miss Netherlands.  Those are supposed to be
representations of windmills coming off her shoulders.
I think there are some aging Glam rockers who are salivating right now.

Miss Romania.  There are really few words for a NUDE unitard.
When she turns around and saunters away, she just looks naked.
Which was perhaps the point. 

Then there is the Fierce category.  Perhaps a nod to all the superhero stuff going on in the last few years?  Beauty Queens--superheros...you could draw all sorts of conclusions.

South Africa.  Like some Roman Goddess emerging from anything...but
still managing to look benevolent.
Miss Curacao.  Ready to fly Miss South Africa to
where ever she wants to go...
Miss Tanzania.
No words.
Miss Ireland.  Ok, maybe she isn't fierce, but she
is the loyal sidekick that gets the terrible costume that
no one remembers.  

And lastly, the Confused Category.

Miss Australia.  Her costume was inspired by the Sydney Opera House.
I guess they didn't catch that episode of Project Runway with
all the architectural stuff THAT SUCKED.

Miss Canada.  Because (much like the US) Canada has no real
cultural identity, they chose to represent everyone else.  In a quilt cape
Aunty Unice made.

Miss Denmark.  In perhaps the worst costume of the night...poor Miss
Denmark tried to save  herself by adding in a little humor to the moment.

Miss Switzerland.  Her cultural Identity is...a sexy bellboy?

Miss Venezuela. She is a box of chocolates.  This
one, more than any other surprised me.  I mean, Denmark
is not exactly know for its dedication to the sport of beauty queens,
but Venezuelans live and breath and die by this stuff.

And Lastly our very own Miss USA.  Now to be fair...we usually have the WORST costume.  This is partly due to the fact that we also have no solid culture to unify us (not a bad thing) but also because we lack a certain finesse to the whole thing. I've spoken about this here. But I was surprised.  This was almost good.  And it certainly wasn't the worst thing on stage (although I think we had a fair amount of help this year...).
AND *spoiler alert* in case you Tivo-ed it and were going to watch it later...

MISS USA wins.  True story.  First time since 1997.
I actually really like the fireworks.
And thus ends 2012 for beauty pageants.  I'm thinking I really need to GO to these things.  In person.  That would be fantastic.  What do you say MSJ?  Wanna go?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree!

I love our Christmas Tree.  I've written about it before, on the old blog.

We collect ornaments all year-wherever we go.  Our tree is a hodge-podge of decorating tastes, but every ornament has a memory attached to it and as I pull out each one and hand it to one of the Citizens we reminisce and laugh about where we got it and what we did there and why it is significant.  When all together it is a big beautiful memory tree.

From The Citizen's first professional
Nutcracker Ballet experience.
Anna, of course, picked Clara.
As a parent it represents a few things I do right.  Well, maybe just one thing, but I'm going to milk it for all its worth.  We make memories.  Good ones.  Not all the time and not all of them are big gigantic things, but we make them.  And although I don't scrap book, we keep them in the form of ornaments.

So I thought I'd show you some of the new ornaments we picked up this year....a sort of year in review, plus a few old ones that have been on the tree since before blogging was a thing.
The kids went for a weekend get-a-way
with their dad to park city.
I thought the chair-lift was a fantastic choice

Merry Christmas.

From The Badlands.  We got similar
leather ornaments of a moose and
an eagle at Glacier National Park.

This was given to me by a friend...
probably as a joke.
I love it.

From our Mexico visit to Chichen Itza.
A gift their daddy brought back from a
business trip to Paris.  The Citizens
want to go there now.
I'm all for it.
Another of our Ukrainian Eggs.
We only have 2 that have survived over
the years--which I think is pretty good
considering they are actual

One from several years back on one
of our many cross-country trips.
I purposely routed us through Memphis
so I could go to Graceland.
The Citizens were less than impressed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm Not Done Yet

We had two biggish moments at our house last week.

First, I registered my #1 Citizen for Jr. High.  *sigh*

We had to do this early because I've decided to take him out of our school district.  He wasn't particularly pleased with this until he found out his new school (which he declared looked like a prison) has a pool, ceramics class, guitar lessons and chess club.

He got to choose classes and opted for French as his language.  Go figure.

After we went to Culver's and he ate a double cheeseburger with bacon.

Then Citizen #2 turned 8.

This is a big age for Mormon kids because it is when they are baptized and become official members of the church.  The Citizens get a big friend party every other year and Little Miss has been planning hers ever since the last guests left her 6th birthday party.  She pretty much spend most of our church service every week planning this party.

We had to limit the # of girls to 15 since I was pretty sure we couldn't fit more than that in our basement and Anna was most distressed since she has at least 40 very close friends.

We ended up with an even dozen counting her and I survived.

It was about this point that I realized that I have a limited amount of time left with each of them.  William is on the cusp of being an adult himself and nearing 12 will be gone in another 6 years.  That means my work with him should in theory be 2/3 complete.

With Anna at 8 and being a very young 3rd grader, she'll leave for college when she is just 17, which means I am nearly 1/2 way through my time with her.

And then the very next day, I turned on the news, and like most of the nation was shocked by the events in Connecticut.  And I sobbed.  Sobbed because those parents had their time cut short with their people.  They thought they had anther 12 years or so and then they didn't.

I feel blessed and lucky and grateful for my time with The Citizens.  I pray I get to finish my time with them.  Because I am not done with them yet.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Oddities and such: special email edition!

Oh my.  I've somehow gotten myself on some interesting spam lists lately.

Let's start with this one from my dentist.  He is a young guy and is reinventing his office in a tech-savvy kind of way.  But I'm pretty sure I don't need to be friends with him on facebook.

I too have been in search a foreign biz partner.  Someone who takes the biz seriously.  And is legitimate.

I have received a few of these...
but this one has a headless photo, so it is best.  Olya is a good mixer. And passionate.  And apparently wants to send me "other" photos of herself. wink. wink.

Here's another...
Someone's been looking at my photos online and to tell the truth, I am a handsome man.
I get that a lot.

Oh wait, and another...

This one is good because I really can't imagine working a regular job ever again.  I'm also really glad he/she included the phrase "please don't worry if you have never tried something like this before."  It really calmed my nerves and made me trust this email.

 But then I received this proposition.  It's good to have choices.

It is an odd odd world.