Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kitsch-en Kounter: Thanksgiving Leftover Luncheon Loaf

I'm going to cut to the chase; I don't really care for Thanksgiving food.  Call me un-American, but it all just seems so...cooked (like thrice-baked and covered in gravy).  My oh-so-casual attempts to fool my family into an alternative menu are thwarted at every turn; "Hey, gang!  How's about we have a taco bar and make-your-own Jell-O station on Thursday?  Sounds pretty neat, huh?"  But no dice.  Who knew I was related to so many traditional-type sticks in the mud?!!

Over a lifetime, the fatty within (and without) has tried to convince me that Thanksgiving food is both good and worth all the effort, but at this age and stage I am finally willing to live in my truth; I will give you a hundred Thanksgiving feasts for just one 4th-of-July BBQ!  Don't get me wrong.  It's not that I abstain from the bounty of the Thanksgiving table but I am far from inclined to overindulge on turkey and dressing; any average Wednesday afternoon will find me much more in need of elasticized trousers.  What I do love, however, is leftovers.  Within the remainder of chilled, uneaten scraps I find an endless source of creative culinary possibilities.  Even in the dull, grey leftovers of Thanksgiving food, I see a turkey transformation just waiting to happen.

As in all things, I find inspiration in my Kitsch-en Kounter forebears. 

It seems that Turkey Tetrazzini is so retro that it has become "now-tro" and therefore "out-ro" by Kitsch-en Kounter standards.  I decided to turn the flotsam and jetsam of our Thanksgivings past into "Thanksgiving Leftover Luncheon Loaf."  I'm pretty sure that a wise man once said, "We eat with our ears first."  And what sounds more appetizing than "Leftover loaf?"

I had my materials.  I had my inspiration.  Who knew that in creating this sweet-and-savory, layered delight that the hardest part would be finding pristine bread unmarred by an automatic slicing machine?  Two bakeries and four grocery stores later, I couldn't find a single loaf not already cut to ribbons.  The pendulum of preferences in baked goods has swung so far in one direction that now we'll laud the latest marvel by saying, "That's the greatest thing since unsliced bread!"  Eventually, I had to settle for a trimmed-down boule (#wackytackyworldproblems).  Once I had the bread situation under control, it was time to fulfill my obligation to the fillings.

Layer 1: Turkey Salad (leftover turkey, apples, almonds, dried cranberries, and tarragon)

Layer 2: Dressing

Is there an angle from which leftover dressing becomes photogenic?
If so, I haven't found it.  Our family recipe for sage dressing includes
onions, apples, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and roasted pecans.

Layer 3: Cranberry Sauce
I stabilized the homemade cranberry sauce with a bit of cream cheese.

Even the fattiest fatty would have second thoughts about frosting his sandwich but it wouldn't be a layer cake of a sandwich without the unsweetened icing and some decorative finishing touches.  Taking style cues from the antique Thanksgiving greeting above, I made a rather primitive, if altogether edible, turkey out of a mushroom, a red bell pepper, almonds, a carrot, and a single clove.  The pumpkins are made of apricots and flat leaf parsley.  

A bird's eye view
Nesting on a bed of parsley, I only wish I could have surrounded the
Thanksgiving Leftover Luncheon Loaf with hard-boiled turkey eggs!

A cross section of the Thanksgiving Leftover Luncheon Loaf
and the Pecan Praline Pumpkin Bread made for dessert.
As they say, one good loaf deserves another!

Thinking that by adding a few fresh herbs and a loaf of bread I had somehow reduced the richness of Thanksgiving dinner is probably one of my greatest delusions.  In the chance to rework the leftovers of what is my least favorite meal of the year, however, I found something in all of that heavy food for which I am truly thankful.  Maybe next year I'll just make turkey jerky!

"Jerky Turkey" (1945)

Tell the truth, have you ever frosted your sandwich?  What is the best thing you've ever made out of leftovers?  How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?  We think that wherever one may live in the world, it is never a bad idea to reflect upon those things for which one is particularly grateful.  Mr. Tiny is especially thankful for his family and his family of wacky tacky turkey necks.  Thanks for your love, loyalty, and support!!! 

From all of us to all of you, a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Mr. Tiny

Friday, November 21, 2014

Save My Sole: The Big Shoe Shoe Repair

Did you hear about the big fire at the old cobbler's shop?  One hundred soles were lost.  I'll bet some heel started it!  Thank goodness that in 1947, an entrepreneur of unmatched brilliance, Mr. Deschwanden by name, decided to hang the shingle of his shoe repair business on Bakersfield's bustling Chester Avenue.

The Big Shoe Shoe Repair - Bakersfield, CA

For as much roadside excitement as we enjoy in California by way of googie coffee shops and fanciful playgrounds, we suffer from a distinct lack of thematic architecture (or maybe I just want more).  With the exception of the occasional giant tamale/orange/donut and muffler man, most of our novelty structures are naught but history.  So where do the last remaining muffler men go when they've worn down the heels on their big, crepe-soled shoes?  They go to The Big Shoe Shoe Repair, of course!!!

It was at this moment that I was despairing over my choice of footwear - if only I had the
foresight to have donned my white bucks.  You know how I love to team with the theme!

My casual shoes notwithstanding, I'm glad that the original architect of this wood-framed shoe decided to go with a classic style.  I'm not so sure that a sneaker would have gained as much traction in this - or any - community.  I mean, who wants to visit an athlete's foot?!?!!

Before we visited the Big Shoe, I thought I had big feet.  Finding out that a
fifty-foot length of rope makes up the shoelace certainly put me in my place.
I rather enjoyed the rarity of feeling dainty...

Naturally, we would never go all the way to visit a giant shoe without taking a peek inside.  Tongue-tied, the proprietor and patrons weren't that keen on having us snap their photo, so we backed out of the tiny shop.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the interior of the "big" shoe was exceptionally small.  To further our disillusionment, it also seems that the nursery rhyme is all a lie, nary an old woman nor her passel of ill-behaved children in sight.  We were waiting for the other shoe to drop but based on the proportions of this shoe, we thought better of it.  The nice thing was that it smelled as fresh as a daisy - a leather, adhesive, and shoe-polish daisy.

Do you have any thematic architecture in your neighborhood?  If you were a well-heeled old woman, would you live in a shoe?  If we lived in Bakersfield, it probably goes without saying that all of our shoe repair business would go to The Big Shoe because that's how all mama's children wanna rock!

"All Mama's Children" - Carl Perkins

We're not sure where our next adventure will be; all we know is that it will have some pretty big shoes to fill (a pretty big shoe to fill?)!!!

The Big Shoe Shoe Repair
931 Chester Ave
Bakersfield, CA


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Signs of the Times: Guthrie's Alley Cat

Guthrie's Alley Cat - Bakersfield, CA

The thing about an alley cat is that it hangs out in alleys.  Duh, right?  Well, unless you are the type that also frequents an alley cat's native habitat, then you just might miss said alley cat and therefore, what is arguably Bakersfield's greatest neon sign, Guthrie's Alley Cat (est. 1940).

The wagging blue tongue, the flash of bulging eyes, and the twirl of
animated, windmill tail indicate that this pretty kitty is as high as a kite!

Set back from downtown Bakersfield's major thoroughfares, the Alley Cat is the very definition of a hidden gem...or at the very least a slightly-obscured gem.  Given the sign's total lack of discretion, it is hard to believe that one could ever miss it.  Needless to say, old four-eyes over here drove by that darn cat at least three times in one afternoon without a second glance.  It wasn't until our pals, and fellow wacky tacky adventurers, told us that we mustn't miss it, did we set our coordinates for the gorgeous glow of Guthrie's gleaming neon marvel.

"Alley Cat" - Al Hirt

In actual fact, the secret to Guthrie's Alley Cat is not its back-alley location.  The real secret is found on the interior of this Streamline saloon, in the form of a multi-paneled mural by famed artist and wacky tacky icon, Al Hirschfeld.

Just look at how many luminaries are captured in only two of the
mural's panels.  How many of the well-known figures can you name?
Ms. Dietrich, is that you?

Ever the tacky teetotalers, we merely cased the
joint without ordering so much as a soda water!

The pleasant bartender didn't seem to mind our sober loitering as he could tell that we were getting plenty drunk off the "sparkling burgundy brew" of his fine establishment.  Oh, Alley Cat, you go to my head!

"You Go to My Head" - Marlene Dietrich

Guthrie's Alley Cat
1525 Wall St.
Bakersfield, CA


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chow Time: Woolworth's 5 & 10 Luncheonette

What would you do if you had a time machine?  Like a lot of history enthusiasts, it is a question that often crosses my mind.  It might sound silly and superficial, but I would definitely employ my time machine for regular shopping trips to Woolworth's.  For me, a time machine would only be as good as the history I could bring "back to the future" with me; and the things I love most are the ephemeral objects offered at bargain prices from Woolworth's - greeting cards, holiday decorations, Halloween costumes, etc.  The city in which I grew up had a long-standing 5&10, Gilbert's, but by the time I had money enough to do my own shopping, the days of five and ten-cent items were long gone.  Gilbert's finally gave up the ghost in the 1990s when it could no longer be seen through the forest of Dollar Trees.

Even at the worst of times, in my entire life I have never shoplifted.  And yet, my favorite scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's is when Holly and Paul outwit the store detective to steal masks from the Woolworth's.  I've watched the scene over and over as much for the vicarious thrill of larceny as for creating a mental shopping list (masks included) should my Woolworth's/time travel scenario ever become a reality.

Woolworth's shoplifting scene from Breakfast at Tiffany's

Thankfully, there is a place that provides a bit of time travel without the necessity of a flux-capacitor.  In the heart of downtown Bakersfield, CA stands one of the only remaining Woolworth's Luncheonettes still in operation.  Built in 1936, the heyday for glorious Streamline storefronts, the building houses both the lunch counter and a bilevel antique store.  Excited to see a beautifully preserved retail environment and hungry from our drive, we made Woolworth's Luncheonette the first stop on Mr. Tiny's Bakersfield Birthday Bonanza!

Would you believe that this was Mr. Tiny's first visit to a proper luncheonette?
What was more exciting, lunch at a lunch counter or color coordinating?  I just don't know!

Purists might poo-poo the paltry cosmetic updates of the luncheonette.  Rather than wasting even one calorie on negativity, we tried to burn off our lunch in high praise of the folks who keep this landmark alive with the sites and smells of 20th-Century American life!

Sure, the red-vinyl barstools and checkerboard floor are a little corny but they are more than made up for by the gorgeous, curved, honey-blonde wood panelling punctuated by rose-gold mirrors, the terrazzo staircases with their Streamline Deco banisters, and the beautiful utility of all that classic, chrome, soda fountain fixturing! 

Don't go to Woolworth's expecting a full diner menu; you will find no meatloaf, no Adam and Eve on a raft, no blue plate special.  Proving that too many choices is not always a good thing, Woolworth's Luncheonette graciously limits the options to hamburgers, hot dogs, and a few sandwiches.  They do, however, offer a wide variety of old-timey fountain treats and some of the freshest lemonade I've ever tasted.

I don't know if it was just my surroundings leaving me defenseless against the
power of suggestion, but the hamburger actually tasted deliciously old-fashioned!

Even with full stomachs, a packed itinerary, and daylight burning, we couldn't bring ourselves to leave Woolworth's without at least a brief exploration of the antique store's offerings.

Since it was our first stop of the day, we didn't want to blow the birthday budget in one pop.  As
much as I was drooling over the graphics on this souvenir "Note Tote" with the original stationery
and letter opener, I settled instead on a few nicely-priced Christmas ornaments.

Had they fit in the wacky wagon (and had they been for sale),
I surely would have "settled" for this fantastic foursome as well!!! 

Without the benefit of time travel, I guess we'll never get the chance to turn a pocketful of change into a Woolworth's shopping spree.  Thankfully, there are thoughtful business owners who allow the visiting preservationists within us the opportunity to experience the same luxury of luncheonette service that Bakersfield residents have enjoyed for nearly eight decades.  Thanks to Woolworth's Luncheonette, we think we've found a million-dollar baby in the five-and-ten cent store!

"I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)" - Bing Crosby

Did you grow up frequenting your local five-and-dime?  Have you ever stopped at the Woolworth's in Bakersfield?  We encourage you to make Bakersfield more than a mere blur as you whiz by on your north or southbound travels; take the time to time travel with a stop at Woolworth's for a soda, a sandwich, and some shopping!

Woolworth's Luncheonette & Five-and-Dime Antique Mall
1400 19th St
Bakersfield, CA


Mr. Tiny

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Crazy Crafty: Rootin' Tootin' Cowboy Twine Holder or The Five Stages of Crafter's Grief

Whenever I am struck with the urge to get crazy crafty, I am reminded that I am not a true crafter.  For a true crafter would never question the act of spending time and money on something that is of negligible value and/or utility, a practice around which I can never fully wrap my mind.  And yet, I still persist on burning my extremities with hot glue, dulling precious sewing shears on paper, and using cotton balls for every purpose except their intended one.  What is a cotton ball's intended purpose anyway?  I can say with some certainty that whatever the purpose, it is probably not for gluing to a miniature, hand-painted garden gnome in order to create the lamb in your all-gnome (g)nativity scene - true story.  Realizing only now that cotton is a bit of an ironic choice to recreate a woolen coat, I must disclose that I hate the feeling of cotton balls; the very touch of a cotton ball and my skin begins to crawl and my tongue folds over sideways.  

With such an aversion to crafts and craft related accessories, I am often tempted to throw in the paint-spattered towel.  After so many "Crazy Crafty" projects, however, I've come to terms with the fact that maybe I'm simply experiencing The Five Stages of Crafter's Grief.

Easy-to-Makes (1966)

Still full of nervous energy from our big night playing with The Lucky Stars, I decided to expend it on some thematically-appropriate crafting.  Turning to that classic volume of elementary-level, seasonal paper crafting, Easy-to-Makes, I came upon a project that suited both my skill-set and my taste for vintage-style cowboy decor.  With spurs jingling-jangling-jingling, in sauntered "The Rootin' Tootin' Twine Holder."  Even the overly-practical, nay-saying crafter within couldn't deny the benefit of a "useful and decorative gift for the entire family."  You're welcome, family. 

Stage 1: Denial - This will be a cinch and won't take any time at all!
"Start with a cylindrical oatmeal, cornmeal, or salt box container to make this useful and decorative gift for the entire family.  With bands of construction paper, dress cowboy in belted blue jeans, fringed chaps, and bright shirt.  He not only hides a ball of twine under his broad-brimmed box-top hat, but he also keeps a small pair of scissors handy in his holster for cutting the twine.  The holster is fastened to the box with a paper fastener.  A fastener inserted next to the hole where the twine is released is used to keep twine from being accidentally pulled and tangled."

Stage 2: Anger - Where is my oatmeal container?!!  Darn it!!!
An oatmeal container would have been the obvious choice but the last time
I bought oatmeal was from Costco; we're still working our way through the
500-pound sack (mostly because the only way I take my oatmeal is in cookie
form).  I did have a couple small canisters of "instant food thickener" (don't ask)
that were just waiting for the right makeover moment.  Perfect...?

This is the point when I reached Stage 3: Bargaining - If I just get a proper container, then I will be true to the craft's origins and all my family's worries will end as they can finally stop wondering how to hide that hideous spool of twine while still keeping it ever at the ready.  Honestly, I almost talked myself into running to the grocery store and buying even more oatmeal just so I could empty the carton and use it for this project.  I quickly realized that even I am not that foolish.  Instead, I settled on the fact that this was to be a Rootin' Tootin' Double-Chambered Twine Holder.  I adhered the bottom of the two containers together so the snap-on lids faced out, both remaining functional.  It was now time for some decorating...and the next stage of crafter's grief!

Stage 4: Depression - Why am I doing this?  I just can't go on.
Do you ever reach a moment about halfway through a project when you question the ridiculous amount of time you're investing and wonder how you turned into that weird pre-middle-aged man gluing paper scraps to used food canisters?  Me too.  I'm pretty sure I took what was meant to be a ten-minute project for children and turned it into my magnum craft opus - the two-piece lid/hat alone took a good twenty minutes!!!  It all started with the blue jeans; blue jeans are supposed to have patch pockets so I added a couple with gold "topstitching."  Instead of a plain shirt, I dug deep in the paper reserves and found sticky-backed red gingham that I highlighted with two pearl snaps, a yellow vest, and a polka-dot scarf tie.  The fringed chaps are supposed to be woolies, which obviously required variation in color/shape/texture (and at least another twenty minutes).  I actually sewed the scissor holster on the sewing machine before studding it with rhinestones and attaching it to the grosgrain-ribbon belt.  I even finished the two holes from which the twine is pulled with tiny, brass eyelets.  For the sake of time, I won't go into the time spent on the hands, arms, hair, and face! 

Once the decoration was completed, I had another brief flash of, "What is this all for?"  Even after loading the top portion with baker's twine and the lower portion with everyday string, I questioned the use of my time and resources.  The minute I saw that face, however, I knew I had reached the final stage of crafter's grief.

Stage 5: Acceptance - Well, howdy, Lil' Tex!  Welcome to the "Crazy Crafty" family!
As a "useful and decorative gift for the entire family," a huge problem is solved.  I guess "I'll string along with you."

"I'll String Along With You" - Dick Powell

The one nice thing about Lil' Tex is that he can be adapted for a number of uses.  There's no reason say that, instead of twine, he couldn't hold your cowboy belt buckles, or your envelopes of baby-rattlesnake eggs, or the rolls of caps for your cap pistol.  The possibilities are endless!

What about you, are you crazy crafty?  Have we provided sufficient inspiration to motivate you to make a Rootin' Tootin' Cowboy Twine Holder of your very own?  Have you experienced the five stages of crafter's grief?  If so, please let wacky tacky be your craft-grief counselor!


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

wacky tacky Tunes: The Lucky Stars

Whether they accept it or not, every person in my family is musical; from drums to piano, guitar to saxophone, ukulele to cornet, accordion to singing and songwriting, music is in our bones.  When one of us finds a band or composition that we like (be it opera, Hawaiian, or Sousa March), it is a surefire guarantee that the rest of us will likely follow suit.  And while our musical tastes vary in the extreme, there is a collective memory and shared sentimentality that bind us musically.

An image of my maternal grandfather as a baby.
He rests on his father's knee alongside the guitar that
would inspire the musical future of his progeny.
(Oklahoma, approx. 1922-23)

Perhaps it is because our great-grandfather was an Okie guitar player (who according to family apochrypha, turned down an opportunity to play with the legendary Bob Wills), that one of our shared musical affinities is Western Swing and cowboy music.  As a native Californian of Yugoslavian descent who neither smokes, sleeps under starry skies, nor has ridden anything more bucking than a carousel bronco in the better part of three decades, I certainly make an unlikely cowboy.  Nevertheless, I know what I like and I love The Lucky Stars.  Needless to say, my whole family does too.

"Go To Town" - The Lucky Stars

Last weekend, in what can only be described as the best birthday present ever, Tiny & Mary were asked to open for The Lucky Stars at their "Go To Town" album-release party.  Fortunately, our pal, Kyle, of Ellison Studio photography was on hand to beautifully capture the moonlit magic as I was in much too much of a euphoric haze to even consider operating a camera.

Tiny & Mary
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio)

Accurately touted as "Hoolywood's full-bore, rompin', stompin' honky tonk outfit," The Lucky Stars are truly the best and most-accurate representation of honest-to-goodness Western Swing available today.  What makes them unparalleled, in our opinion, is their musical versatility.  With roots in punk, garage, rockabilly, jazz, and American vernacular music, and with a mastery of multiple instruments, members of the band bring a musical vocabulary so extensive and an ear so finely tuned that greatness is really the only option.

With guitarist, vocalist, and inimitable songwriter, Sage, at the reins,  The Lucky
Stars are definitely in good hands.  Wittily transforming Western story-telling into
a fine art via original tunes filled with the most clever lyrics, we've dubbed him
the Cole Porter of the prairie!
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio)

Dan, Dan the Fiddle Man will effortlessly switch between fiddle
and horn and back again...sometimes within the same song!
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio)

On drums and vocals, Pappy Stuckey always brings
the spirit of the old-timey greats to the bandstand!
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio)

Standard or steel, Russ is at home on on any guitar!
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio)

Wally might be able to hide in the shadow of his big bass fiddle but there
is no hiding the white-hot light of his playing under a proverbial bushel!
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio)

With the flexibility of the best improvisationalists, The Lucky Stars will always make room
for guest stars.  It is a particular thrill when the guest instrumentalist just happens to be play-
ing the undisputed king of wacky tacky instruments - the accordion!!!
(photo courtesy of Ellison Studio

Committed to an authentic sound that keeps dancers on their feet, The Lucky Stars transition seamlessly between classic covers and incredible original tunes.  Perpetuating the art of Western music, it is a great pleasure to experience a band whose sole agenda is putting joy in every note and a smile on every face!

"All Shapes and Sizes" - The Lucky Stars

You don't have to be a cowboy (rhinestone or otherwise) to appreciate The Lucky Stars.  All you need is a working set of ears and toes that tap in time!  With multiple members in multiple bands, coordinating The Lucky Stars can be quite the feat.  Playing myriad festivals at home and abroad, if you see that they are playing in a honky tonk near you don't walk, run to see The Lucky Stars!   The first time and every time you see this band perform, you'll find yourself wanting more; be sure to order a copy of their latest and greatest, "Go To Town."

You will thank your "lucky stars" you did!

While you're feeling thankful, we too must thank Kyle of Ellison Studio for sharing his lovely images and unmatched photography skills.  Riding pretty high on the thrill of playing with our musical heroes, Tiny & Mary are still thanking our own lucky stars for The Lucky Stars!


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hollywood House Hunting: Finding The Wonder Years

For Americans, November is a month dedicated to gratitude.  Veterans' Day offers us the chance to be grateful to members of our armed forces, recognizing them for the innumerable sacrifices associated with their service.  And while it is being ever more co-opted by greedy retailers, Thanksgiving is the holiday we have collectively consecrated for counting our blessings.  There is so much for which we at wacky tacky are grateful and one of those things is good, old-fashioned nostalgia.  Nostalgia is the very fuel for the wacky tacky fire and, in a way, this blog is my method of expressing my thanks.  

I've realized lately that I have aged to the point where I am starting to get nostalgic for my own youth.  This has created a weird paradigm because many of the programs I watched in my youth were themselves shows about nostalgia, not the least of which was The Wonder Years.  I find myself layered in compound nostalgia when recalling The Wonder Years because it was a show about family that we always watched together as a family.  Gathered around a hand-me-down television, I remember splitting my time between watching the show and watching my dad watch the show.  Of an age that would have made him a contemporary of Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years allowed my dad the luxury of vicariously reliving some of the sweetest moments of his youth.  Rapt with nostalgia, I can still hear my folks humming along with the music and saying, "Oh, we had a stove just like that," and "We were the first on the block to get a color TV."  Is it absurd to think with a fair measure of confidence that my dad's inner monologue is voiced by Daniel Stern?

The Wonder Years (1988-1993)
We are lucky enough to have reels and reels of 
similarly-styled home movies shot by my grandpa.

For as much affinity as I have for the show, I will admit to never being fully satisfied with the outcome of The Wonder Years.  Call me corny, but *SPOILER ALERT*, Kevin and Winnie should have ended up together.  I am not the kind of person who really appreciates vagaries, loose ends, or complicated endings.  If you ever find yourself wondering what I value in my entertainment, you can be sure that it is pure, unadulterated fantasy.  Don't get me wrong; I'll allow my favorite shows to be riddled with conflict as long as the end sees everything tied up in a nice, neat, symmetrical bow.

As thankful as I am for the nostalgic storytelling of The Wonder Years, I do have a couple of gripes.  Jack should've softened and lived into old age so he could enjoy his grandchildren and celebrate the success of his wife. Wayne should've...well, Wayne did okay; taking over his old man's furniture business was probably as good as it was going to get for Wayne.  I think that life can be so scary, so unpredictable, so messy that, if just for one moment of make-believe, the promise of an Arnold-Cooper union would have made the world seem right.  I want what skeptics view as unattainable perfection; I can appreciate that it might seem naive, but I embrace the belief that if we aim for the moon and fail, at least we'll end up amongst the stars.

The Arnold family at home

At the very least, we'll end up amongst the homes of the stars.  In this case, the home of the Arnold family, nestled in the charming, suburban sprawl of Burbank, CA.  Included on our list of blessings-to-count is the fact that, more than twenty years after the show's finale, the Arnold home remains virtually unchanged.  From the white shutters, to the patchy front lawn, to the hedgerow, that edifice was so comforting in its familiarity that as we pulled up could almost hear Kevin asking Norma, "Hey mom, What's for dinner?"  We could almost see Winnie and Paul waving to us from the curb.

Cynthia giving us her very best Paul Pfeiffer
The roof has been replaced and a few windows have been updated, but number 516 is unmistakably Arnold.

Like many others, I'm fully aware that very rarely does life follow the escapist story lines of our dreams.  I can't say with any surety whether it happens slowly or in the blink of an eye, but I know how the magic veil of childhood innocence is lifted with age.  I know what it is like when, in an instant, life changes forever.  I know loss.  I suppose it is the harsh realities of life that make us more profoundly grateful for the moments of light, and laughter, and joy.  And while I feel like a late-bloomer still working through some of the challenges of finding my place in the world, I must remember to pause and give thanks for my story line thus far.  I must remember the blissful days of one imperfect family gathering to watch and relate to the struggles and triumphs of another imperfect family.  It is funny how something as simple as a television house can elicit such gratitude for my very own wonder years.

The Arnold Family Home
516 University Ave
Burbank, CA


Mr. Tiny

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sew What?! Sketching A Showgirl

I am of the completely-unqualified opinion that everyone has at least a little bit of OCD.  Whenever I become self-conscious of my own bizarre behavior, all I have to do is observe the "highly-questionable" conduct of others and silently express my gratitude for not being totally out of control like the lady I saw on TV who must perform every task on an even minute (e.g. 12:20 flush the toilet, 7:38 turn on the light, 9:44 lock the door, etc.), or my friend who counts his steps (ten steps to the front door, twenty-three to the car).  I am so forgetful that I am lucky to remember to lock the door, let alone count down to the appropriate tick of the clock, and so lazy that I max out around fifty steps before I call it a day.  I suppose we're all lucky that our own little exhibitions of compulsive behavior don't seem that weird to us.  One odd way in which my OCD manifests is in designing/creating a sewing project, especially when it is a Halloween costume!

Until I begin cutting and sewing, I will endlessly sketch pictures of the design concept.
Unable to focus on any other form or figure, I will obsessively draw and redraw the same (or
similar) image over and over and over again on almost any available surface - napkins, shopping
lists, envelopes, paper plates, bills; nothing is safe.

Like obsessively...
I think the only reason I sew (a practice I've always viewed as a necessary evil), is simply to get the
idea out of my head and into real life, finally allowing myself move on to the next great obsession.

Creative sewing can sometimes mean releasing conceptual control and allowing the materials to dictate the direction a project will take.  Burdened with yards and yards of a ruby red, swap-meet-quality fabric that we'll refer to as velveteen (more like flocked "velvette" or something akin to those weird moleskin-type, inflatable neck pillows used for flying), and a couple yards of floral, raspberry brocade, it was obvious that Mary's Halloween costume would have to be some kind of showgirl.  The saturated hues of the velveteen and floral brocade were crying out, "Make us a saloon girl!"  Not willing to abdicate total power, however, I thought about something a little less specific - western influenced maybe, but hopefully evoking a bit of Hollywood glamour as well.

After nearly a zillion rough drafts, this was the final design, very
much inspired by showgirl costumes of '40s cinema.

Sure, there have been far better and far more elaborate showgirl costumes but I was actually pretty proud of myself for this design - mostly because the only thing I had to purchase was the zipper and, unable to find anything suitable, I drafted my very own pattern.  Having absolutely no technical knowledge of legitimate pattern drafting, I used Mr. Tiny's tried and true hope-and-pray method.  I was even more proud of myself that, however far from perfect, I only had to make a couple of minor pattern adjustments before cutting into the fabric. 

Breaking out every bit of red fabric and and red trim I could find, I
learned that every value of red matches if one just uses them all.

The majority of the fully-lined, boned, strapless, one-piece garment was made of the velveteen, featuring the brocade at the center panel.  The princess seams were finished by a red gimp studded with red rhinestones.  The bust was adorned with two-layer bow and the seat was finished with a giant detachable bow and tails.  The choker was a remnant piece of velvet ribbon tied at the nape of the neck.    I even got ambitious and made a matching drawstring purse.  After having made them for at least two other "Sew What?!" projects, I still couldn't get past the water wing/arm floaties; I think they finish the costume in a far superior fashion to some corny, store-bought gloves.  With the body of the costume well under way, it was time for me to tackle the headpiece.

Always the dreamer, I had visions of a giant headdress with a towering arrangement of ostrich plumes.
Given my millinery budget of zero dollars and zero cents, I settled instead on the two random pheasant feathers from my stash; already red, if a little dark, I gave them the old rattle can once over.  Built upon a fabric-covered buckram frame, the hat's bottom layer is a gathered length of red, nylon netting.  The next layer is the raspberry brocade trimmed in pom poms, topped by the red velveteen adorned with red rhinestones, and followed by a final spray of red netting.  

Hoping to teach Mary some kind of responsibility (insert laughter - or maybe sad trombone - here), I put her in charge of stockings and shoes.  Let's just say that the day before Halloween I was driving her around town looking for nude fishnet stockings; on the day of Halloween, the Imelda Marcos of the Americas still hadn't figured out her shoe situation.  In what must have been her attempt to elicit an anxiety-induced coronary, she handed me a pair of the most random, lucite-heeled, yellowing, plastic mules I had ever seen.  I immediately reverted to my hope-and-pray method for an extreme shoe makeover.

The silver insole notwithstanding, these turned out better than I thought.
Honestly, I should have taken a before picture.

I covered the heel and the strap in velveteen, having the exact length
 of leftover gimp trim to finish the raw edges (how's that for a Halloween
 miracle?).  Never satisfied to leave well-enough alone, I of course made
bows to match! 

The funniest part about this design is that I'm normally not one to make costumes that might be deemed provocative.  In the best of circumstances, I am wholly confused by the parade of overly-sexualized costumery (as outlined yearly by our pal, Kimmie) that marches forth during the Halloween season.  The fact that this costume is rather bare didn't even occur to me until we were at our friends' unbelievably-awesome and atmospheric Halloween party where I caught a couple of creepers ogling Ol' Stretch.

Rather than "sexiness," the intention of this costume was about invoking the spirit of
Annette at The Golden Horseshoe and other similar cinematic showgirls; I think it worked!

Well, what do you think?  Was the obsessive sketching worth the effort?  What was your costume this year - tell the truth, was it sexy?  More importantly, did you Trick-or-Treat?

"Trick-or-Treat" (1952)

We hope that whatever you wore and whatever you did, your Halloween nightmares dreams all came true!  We're already excitedly planning for next year!  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!


Mr. Tiny