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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Book Review: Who Done It?

Who Done It?
Jon Scieszka

You know those inside jokes that you and your best friend share and even just bringing it up will send you both into fits of giggles while everyone else around looks on, somewhat awkwardly until you pull yourselves back together?  And you know that they have no idea what in the world you were talking about, but you don't care, because you are having so much fun in that moment?

This is the book version of that.  So Mr. Scieszka, who is a favorite author of ours (Stinky Cheese Man with fav. illustrator Lane Smith is a classic),  was named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Librarian of Congress back in 2008.  He is also an active participant in 826nyc a literary non-profit in NY that helps kids write, edit and publish their stories.

So one day, (this is all in my head...indulge me) he is sitting around trying to figure out how to raise some funds for this excellent program and he thinks "I know lots of YA authors...how can I put them to work?"  And he thinks having each of them write a 2 page essay would do the trick AND be lots of fun.  So he sets up the following scenario:

Herman Mildew, the worst editor in the world, lover of cheese and pickles, has invited all his authors to a big party in an abandoned pickles factory and one of them has murdered him.  All are being questioned


Seriously.  Pretty much every east coast (and a few country danglers) YA author you can think of  wrote an alibi of why they didn't kill Mildew.  There must be 50 of them.  All trying to outdo one another and come up with a more creative essay--all using author/editor relationship lingo.

The first dozen or so were kind of fun....but then they just kept going.  Only, I couldn't stop reading because, you know, there might be a really really good one in there!

But you could tell, they had a really fun time writing this, and it probably did raise them a bit of cash to keep their program afloat, but is NOT for kids.  And now I can't remember why I think that, but remember thinking at some point "Oh.  Do not give this to William."

I think I would have been really unhappy had I bought the book (except for the good cause part), but I didn't, my library did and I think I was the first person to read it and I love it when that happens.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

And THAT, Kids, Is Why We Get An Education

I might love Arrested Development a little too much...you haven't seen it?  Don't care?  Fine, but it is on Netflix and you should totally watch all three seasons.  But anyway...it has these flashbacks to when the Father on the show gives his kids life lessons in rather elaborate ways using a one-armed man to basically scare the willies out of the kids so that they'll "leave a note" or "not run with scissors."  And I have adapted this for my own use in a less intensive way...sort of.

It is tax season, right?  The season wherein all the little tax agencies that you never knew existed come out of the woodwork (where are these people the other 8 months of year?  Hawaii?) and hire all the homeless to wear lady liberty costumes and dance in front of their offices.  You know what I'm talking about-because nothing says "I am competent enough to figure out your crazy tax problems so you won't get audited by the IRS" like a homeless person, dressed as the Statue of Liberty, dancing on the street.

So...a few years back, we spotted one of these guys and being a mindful mother I switched lanes, because my kids are going to have enough therapy needs without one of those things leering in at them and William asks the question we all ask "Mom, what is that guy doing?"  To which I tell him about taxes and why we pay taxes...blah blah blah.  And then he asks "WHY is he doing that?" To which I reply something to the effect that there are only so many jobs available to people to don't have a proper education.  "Oh.  Like that guy at the dump?"  Yes.  Precisely. Because what does an education give you?  "Choices." (Sense a theme here?  Don't get all crazy on me I AM AN EDUCATOR...of course I think it is important.)

Now, each year when these poor things come out of their hiding places I say in my best George Bluth voice "And that kids, is why we get an education!" which only makes sense if you watch Arrested Development.  And now those guys are know as the And That's Why We Get an Education Guys.  Which lead to Anna asking the other day "Mom, why are there so many And That's Why We Get an Education Guys out?"  Which lead to another discussion on taxes. Blah, blah blah.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Huck's Advice: A Dog in Uniform?

Continuing with Huck's job shadowing....

Dear Readers!  I woke up this morning knowing exactly what kind of costume...um, I mean JOB I wanted for today.  Something with a purpose!  Something dangerous!  Something with a UNIFORM.

I asked my person if I could be a fire-fighter.  She asked if I could climb ladders or slide down poles.  What does that have to do with it, I demanded.  It just does, she said. Apparently, those are deal breakers.

Fine.  How about a Police Officer?  That has danger and intrigue.  Sure, she said. You could do that. They have K-9 units, but you know people shoot actual guns at you.  Woah, I said.  I didn't mean that dangerous.  Like, going out on a manhunt with out sunscreen dangerous.

So we went down the list:
Navy--I'm prone to stomach ailments.  And I'm a wee bit gaseous, which people don't seem to appreciate in enclosed spaces.
Army--that sickly green they wear isn't my color.
UPS guy--no hat.  Gots to have a hat.

What about airplane pilot, she asks?

Tell me more about this airplane pilot, I say.  Is there a hat?

Yes, she says.  And you don't have to have a lot of experience to fly a commercial airplane, apparently drunk people do it all the time.

Sign me up, I say.  And give me the hat.  I shall wear it jauntily.

*To submit a question, query, job suggestion or complaint to Huck, please email him at hucksadvice@gmail.com

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: Three Junes

Three Junes
Julia Glass

I don't know how I came to read this book.  Usually it is a recommendation from a friend and fellow reader, sometimes I will hear interviews with authors on NPR, but I'm not sure when or from whence this one came.  It is a National Book Award winner, but goes back to 2003, so I don't think it could be from a recent interview...who knows. Apparently, the book began as a short story and won an award and then was developed into a debut novel (but I just went looking for this information, and can't find it now...so who knows when I may have dreamed that up--or it could be true).

I'll be honest...this was a bit of a snoozer.  The pace is slow, and the three Junes are tied together loosely and in a somewhat predictable way.  Or maybe it isn't that predictable, but by the time you finally get there, you've been meandering in the area for so long it is far short of a surprise.

The Story revolves around a Scottish Family, the McLeods and begins with the death of the Mother after the boys are grown and gone, sometime around 1989.  The father takes a trip to Greece to begin his healing process.  This was the least appealing section of the book.  I considered moving onto another book in my pile that looked more promising after the first June...but I have a hard time doing this, thinking that it just might get better and if I knew this then I would regret it.

The second June centers more closely on the oldest of the three McLeod boys, Fenno, who had escaped to New York and owns a bookstore.  The book is flush with flashbacks and many of Fenno's occur in the late 70's and early 80's when he was just finding himself and his place in the world as a quiet Gay recluse.  In this setting, many of his memories involve friends who are dying of AIDS.
This section was more compelling.  Fenno is an interesting character, and although the book still moves methodically through his early adult years, the author gives us glimpses of colorful characters that throw Fenno's rather dull life into perspective for both us, the readers and for him.

The Third June offers the final loop around that ties all the stories together, but it really doesn't feel much like a part of the first two Junes so much as a device to close the story telling gap.  It centers on Fern, a young unwed woman who can't decide on what her life should look like...her past and her current attempts at escape loosely link the first two stories together.

In all, on Goodreads, I gave the book 3 stars.  It was good.  I was glad I had finished it.  But I was left looking for something next with a little more ooomph to it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Huck's Advice: If You Build It...

Continuing with Huck's Job Shadowing from last week....

Dear Readers,
I was really excited w/ my #2 job choice.  Construction.  I've watched enough people TV to know that people who use tools are very exciting.  I was keen to put my particular brand of canine expertise to work at this brave new world.

I asked my person to fetch me the appropriate attire, but this was all she could come up with.  A dirty old helmet.  She said it was for safety.  It looks as though it had been worn before.

And where was my tool belt?  Alas, when she admitted she was unable to procure this essential part of the vetements ...I called it quits.  After all, she's the one who always proclaims "Look the Part!"
and here she was failing me completely.  So I didn't go.  I went back to bed.

I hope you have a better Monday,


Have a question, need advice or have a job suggestion for Huck?  Email him at Hucksadvice@gmail.com

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book Review: The World of Downtown Abbey

The World of Downtown Abbey
Jessica Fellows

If you are a Downtown Abbey fan (and who isn't, really?) and you like a bit of a frivolous read now and again, this is a good choice, although I probably wouldn't buy it.  Get it from the library.  I got it as a gift for Christmas.  Santa knows what a girl likes.
The book is divided into sections:

  • Family Life
  • Society
  • Change
  • Life in Service
  • Style
  • House & Estate
  • Romance
  • War
  • Behind the Scenes

It is sort of a mini history lesson-but don't worry it was clearly meant for people who have found they like this sort of thing, but really only want the most interesting stuff....which is probably my only problem with the book.  I actually like history, so I was left wanting more.  But that isn't the purpose of the book.

It is chalk full of pictures from the show and historical references that they used.  Beautiful pictures. They also talk a lot about they transform this history into a fictional show.  How they film it, where they make short-cuts to streamline the stories and fill out the characters.  They even have a bit on the makeup they use and how the costume designer puts all the wardrobes together (best part, perhaps?).

Again, I wouldn't go here for an actual history lesson, but because it is a period show, it cannot helped but be immersed in the history.  But that isn't the purpose of the book, to teach history, it is to show you more of that world, and we do seem to like it, don't we?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Its Spring Time for La-La and Lala Land!

If you just sang the title of this post and know what musical I'm referencing then we can remain friends and there is probably a good reason we are friends.  If you missed it entirely then I reprimand you and chasten you and hence forth recommend that you use your free time to study up on important things like musicals and Mel Brooks.

OK.  But onto the actual post.  I think spring is here.  I am hesitant, because weather is a fickle Mistress, and never more so than in spring.  I do not doubt we will get a bit more snow, some rain and the worst of all weathers: wind.  But the snow has FINALLY melted in my yard, revealing said yard for the first time since before Christmas.  That is actually pretty a-typical for Utah weather.  We might get lots of snow, but it melts away.  But January was hard and cold and inversioned.  Bletch.  So long January!  February wasn't much better and March has just been trying to play catch-up.

But you might ask yourself: Why does La think it is spring?  What signals this event?

This.  This is what tells me spring is pretty much here.
Not icky big, threatening, baby eating snakes on planes.  Little itty-bitty garden snakes.  These guys are a year or two old, the babies are about the size of a pencil.  But I think they nest in the crack between my house and my front steps (that's where they scurry if you pester them) and the second it starts to get warm on a regular basis they come out on the front lawn to sun themselves.  These guys are still all sleepy and sluggish.  Wm thought they might be dead.  "Poke it with a stick!"  I volunteered...which is exactly what I"ll do to you too if you present yourself to me in a state of being which I cannot interpret.  So we did, and they lazily raised their little heads and glared at us.  So then we knew they were alive.  And it was spring.

Look what else I found under the snow!  Which also signals spring but flowers are not nearly as exciting as snakes.  Even if they won't eat your babies.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dear Huck: Job Shadowing

Dear Huck,

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Career Seeker

Dear Seaker,
You know...I hadn't really thought about it.  I had blissfully assumed that I would just live peacefully off the fruits of others' labors all the days of my life.  But perhaps my people rush off everyday in search of some sort of fulfillment of which I have not experienced napping the day away on my plush pillow by the heater.  You have inspired me.  I am going to job shadow!

I will ask my person to set it up and then I'm off to find the appropriate headwear for the occasion!
In fact, truthfully, I've always wanted to be a cowboy...so that's where I'm headed first!

Suddenly finding reason to live,

Monday, March 11, 2013

labeene.com is Where all the Cool Kids Hang Out

My website is up and running!  That's right, I'm cool enough I have both a blog AND a website.
Truthfully, it is an online portfolio where you can see my work and hopefully when someone asks you "Man, I really need a costume designer..."  and then you can say "Hey!  I know someone.  She's awesome.  You can look her up.  labeene.com."  And then they will go there and say "That's what I was looking for."
Anyway...dreams aside, go check it out.  It has been a long time coming, but through sweat and tears and a moonlighting graphic designer, we've gotten it up.

It still has a few kinks and design bits to work out, but for the most part it is functional.
Tell me what you think.  Honestly.  If this doesn't look good then people won't hire me and I will be taking up space in the internets for naught.

And in case you missed that its labeene.com

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Recipe: Mexican Couscous

I was looking for a recipe to fancy up taco night at our house.  Something like mexican rice, but not mexican rice, because mexican rice is seldom very good.  Sort of bland--like it wanted to have flavor but just gave up as soon as it started.  Also I wanted easy.  I browsed around on Pinterest for awhile and read through a couple of interesting recipes using quinoa or couscous, but didn't have all the ingredients for any of them.

So I sorta combined the ideas from a couple of them using stuff I had...like the Israeli couscous.  I like it because it is bigger little balls of couscous pleasure.  You could probably substitute in regular, though (I mean, who am I to judge?  I didn't follow any recipe!).

This turned out a bit more substantial than regular ole' Mexican rice and made a good side dish to go with our run-of-the-mill tacos.

Mexican Couscous

1/2 onion chopped finely
1 TBsp olive oil
1 can tomatoes, chopped (but keep juice!)
1 cup of chicken broth
1/2 cup salsa
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cups dry Israeli couscous
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
juice from 1 lime
2 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
green onion, cilantro & avocado to garnish

Heat olive oil in a large pot or saucepan on medium heat; saute onions until soft and clear.  Add canned tomatoes with juice, salsa, garlic and chicken broth; bring to a simmer.  Add couscous and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes (I'm not sure you would have to do it that long regular couscous...).  Turn heat to low, add corn and beans; heat through.  Stir in Chili powder, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with green onion, cilantro and avocado garnish.

If you like a bit of kick, you may want to up the Chili powder or add in some green chili, but this was perfect for kids and those with sensitive palettes.

*note: I didn't actually have Cilantro...but I do think it would be yummy.  You know...If you were actually planning this and went to the grocery store instead of just digging through the pantry to see what you could find.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Are You Here?

So I am completely fascinated by the stats stuff associated with this blog.  My numbers are fairly irrelevant since I have little to compare it to although I am impressed that anyone comes here at all.
The thing that gets me though is where they are coming from.  Yesterday, for instance, I had 10 hits from Turks and Caicos Islands.  I consider myself somewhat geographically aware since I watch the Miss Universe Pageant and all...but I had never heard of this place.  Never.  Had to googly it. Spell check flagged it.  And yet, 10 people (or just one person ten times which is an equal mystery) from this place, that I've never heard of has been here of all places.

And so you don't have to unnecessarily work those little fingers of your typing it into Wikipedia, here's the lowdown:
It is a small British Territory sort of tucked over in between the Bahamas and Hispaniola (i.e. pirate territory...) and has about 32,000 people.  Which makes my popularity over there pretty darn high when you look at percentages of hits per capita.  It is all tropical. It looks beautiful.

Here's another example leaving me flummoxed:
Last week, in ONE day, outstripping my usual number of daily hits I had something like 30+ hits from Russia.  Why Russians, why?  I am not at all sad or worried that you are my #2 world area after the U.S. for blog visits, but why?  What brings you here?  Do you keep coming back or is it new (and thoroughly confused) visitors each day?

I get the U.S. hits to my blog. I live in the U.S.  99.9% of my friends live in the U.S. (shout out to Suzanne who I know has been to my blog at least once and Rebekah and Sarah who may or may not have ever been here--so truthfully 99.99% of my friends live in the U.S.) But that would only cover any possible hits from Switzerland, Germany and the U.K.


If you keep coming back (no matter where you hail from) why?
If you don't even know me and don't follow me, how did you get here?
If you do keep coming back, from U.S. or not, why not follow me officially?  It would satisfy my gratuitous need for attention.

Curiosity is getting the better of me.

Book Review: Wildwood and Under Wildwood

We received a couple of fun books for Christmas:

Wildwood and Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Illustrated by Carson Ellis.  These are the first two books in The Wildwood Chronicles which is expected to be a trilogy.

The books center around a 11-12  girl named Prue who lives in Portland near an area called The Impassable Wilderness which is wild and undeveloped and which no one goes in or or out of.

Prue finds herself on an adventure into this Wilderness both in Books one and two and finds herself in a magical, if not violent world that includes a coyote army, mystical trees, talking animals and an ongoing feud between the factions within.

It is a fun adventure type story with a strong, brave female character and although does have fantasy type elements doesn't seem particularly embedded in the fantasy. Narnia-esque, but distinctly American and modern.

The funniest parts of the book may not have been intended to by funny (or maybe...you never know about those Portlandiers) because it is so very Portland.  The author/illustrator are themselves from Portland, and the author is also the lead singer/songwriter for the band The Decemberists and is married to the illustrator who did the illustrations for The Mysterious Benedict Society (one of our favorites).  In fact, the illustrations are my favorite bit, BUT being all youngish and hip and living in Portland comes with a price that reveals itself in writing.

There are constant references to things like Prue putting soy milk on her all natural organic free-trade granola and she wears a pea coat and carries a satchel to school and the family gets their vegis from the farmers market...that sort of thing.  It made me giggle.

If the author has a fault, it isn't the creativity used to create the story and the characters but a tendency to over describe everything.  I think it could do with a bit of simplification.  The books are pretty long for the intended audience (nearly 560 for book #2) and I think probably 1/4 of that doesn't really contribute much to the story.  It proscribes to the theory that if two adjectives help set the mood-four can do it much much much more better.

The first book stands on its own, but book two distinctly ends mid-story.  I tried to find out when book three would be published, but since book two just came out in 2012 it may be a year or so.
Look at these illustrations!  

I did find out though that it has been optioned for a short stop-action film by the makers of Coraline, which could be really fun...

I recommend.  Good for ages 9-13ish.  Not a difficult read, but doesn't dumb down language either.
Some violence--there is a war and characters are attacked and die.  The main character is hunted in the second book.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Celebrating Dr. Suess

Here at our house we are readers all around.  Today Huck gets back online with his top 10 book list for readers of all ages.

Dear Huck,
What do you like to read?
Books Galore in Sheboygan

Dear Books,
I too love to indulge in a good bit of fantasy or whimsical reading now and again.  I've been asked to give you a list of my top 10 books of all time, so here you go.  And in case you were wondering Go Dog Go or Old Yeller aren't on my list.
Most of these books I have found essential in developing my outlook on life, love and people in general and should be go-to's for that quiet time when you snuggle your little one and read to them.

1. The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone

2.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

4. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

6. The Stranger by Albert Camus

7. Othello by William Shakespeare

8. And the Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe

Lest you think I'm a little down on, I'll give a few I like to go back to again and again for a little pick-me-up

9. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

There are, of course, at least seven or eight other worthy books out there and I encourage all of us to get out there and read!

Literarily Yours,

*To submit a query to Dear Huck email him at Hucksadvice@gmail.com

Friday, March 1, 2013

Recipe: All-the-People Pleasing Chicken

Are you on Pinterest?  NO?  Where do you live that you do not know about this?  Or rather, WHY aren't you on Pinterest?  Because misery loves company and I want you to waste your time like I do so I want you on Pinterest.  Go to Pinterest now.  You can follow me.  Lots of people do.  Far more than follow this blog.  I am a good pinner.  We all have talents.

Anyway, I have one board filled with Recipes.  Mostly dinner type stuff.  On occasion, when inspired (or when I have to cook for people other than my own family) I will look through this board hoping to be inspired...

I came across this recipe awhile back and thought it looked interesting and also easy, which is a good combination for the time hassled person.  But I didn't like the name of the recipe (Man pleasing Chicken) because #1: There is no man to please in my house and #2: There is just something about cooking to please a man that gets my feminist hackles all in a fuss and #3 I want to please ALL of us...which can be tricky in any family.

So here is my attempt to recreate it, but with a new name and a few slight adjustments.  We mostly liked it.  William didn't love it, but he rarely loves anything, particularly meat.  I also sliced it up cold and put it on a salad for lunch later in the week and thought it was yummy.

I'm wondering if it would work in a crock-pot.  Someone try that and tell me how it went.


You will need:
  • 2 1/2-3 lbs of chicken
  • 1 cup dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tb rice wine vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 450
  • Oil down or spray a baking dish or casserole (or you could also line it with foil)
  • Pat down chicken w/ paper towel and salt & pepper those babies; place in dish
  • Mix up mustard, syrup and vinegar
  • Pour mixture over chicken
  • Cover and put in oven for about 40 minutes until chicken is fully cooked.  

I flipped my chicken, removed the lid and spooned the sauce up over the chicken half way through.

I wish I had cut that one enormous breast in half length wise...and think that thighs would also work really well in this recipe.

I think this would feed a family of about 4-6 pretty easily.
Try it!  Tell me how it goes.