Summer Drink of 2011: Golden Pheasant

It’s hot! Damn hot! Real hot!  It’s summertime in Arkansas and when people say it’s like breathing through a wet rag they mean breathing through a hot wet rag.  We’ve got the AC on, but it’s still hot in our old house.  When rubbing ice cubes on your wrists isn’t enough, try a golden pheasant.

I don’t usually go for complicated drinks, but my boss is a font of knowledge about ancient cocktails and when I heard her tell me about being underage and drinking golden pheasants, I listened.  She said, “Got gin?” And I said, “I have too much gin.”  Well, here’s a way to remedy that problem.  The recipe I concocted from several websites is this:

3 shots gin
3 shots fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup powdered sugar (confectioner’s)
1 beaten egg

Mix all that up in an blender!  Don’t get grossed out about the egg. Ok, get grossed out, that’s ok. Take a shot of gin and continue.  Mix one shot of that concoction with as much cream soda as you see fit. Put some ice cubes in it.  You really have to taste this to believe it isn’t nasty, and unbelievably light for summer.


Best of Party Decorations – Part 4 – Maprilween 2011

Here are a few pictures from the party we had on Saturday.  We usually do Aprilween, but because April was so busy, we pushed it back to May. Thus, Maprilween.
Hand-made banners
It looks dreary in the morning-after light, but the photo corner has become the cornerstone of our parties.
Exhibit A. Photo by Chris Clanton

Exhibit B. Photo by Chris Clanton

 Some people really went all the way with their costumes this year.  If there had been a prize for most unwieldy, least-likely-to-get-in-the-door costume, it was this homage to the Wizard of Oz.  What you can’t see are the black and white striped stocking, red sparkly shoes and beer-holder.

Photo by Chris Clanton
Lastly, make sure that you delegate tasks according to one’s skills.  If someone is good at mowing the lawn and washing the dishes before the party, let them.  Don’t force a square peg into a round hole by trying to make them purchase party snacks. All you’ll have to show for it will be 8 mini Reese’s cups and a miniature bag of Jelly Bellys.

Tutorial: The Fourth Doctor’s Scarf

Aprilween is fast approaching (or, long belated as it were) and J and I are just now finishing our costumes. After wasting an afternoon with the failed ideas of giant starfish and geometric hats (I really wish I’d taken pictures of these horrible things) I went to my dress closet and decided to match a party dress with a mask and call it quits.   J had been pondering an incarnation of The Doctor (from Doctor Who), but another friend beat him to Number Eleven (Matt Smith).  He’s always been fond of the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker.

The 4th Doctor, from Wikipedia

Baker played the doctor for seven years, long enough that most people consider him THE Doctor.  We’re low on time and resources, so we decided to focus on the unusually long scarf that was the Fourth Doctor’s trademark.  Others on the interwebs have made recreations of his scarf (most specifically,, but we went the easy-peasy route.  I’ll show you how we did it!

 J, you’re not THAT kind of doctor!


What you’ll need:

1/4- 1/3 yard each of fleece in 5 colors
thread to match one of the colors
sewing machine

We looked at some pictures and settled on dark brown, tan, mustard, royal blue and red.  You could definitely go simpler. Once a Doctor Who fan sees a scarf that goes below the knee, it’s easy to figure out what’s going on.  Do what feels right!

Cut the fleece length-wise as wide as you want the width of the scarf.  I went with 6 inches across.  Don’t worry about seam allowances.  That’s the great thing about fleece– no raveling!
After you’ve got your long strips cut from all colors, cut into rectangles of all different lengths.  From the pictures, we noticed that the tan and brown were used in longer lengths, with the reds and yellows in thinner sections.  There’s no right length for your scarf, so just make a pile of all your different rectangles and stop when you get tired of cutting.

Thread your machine.  I chose brown thread, because I have a lot of it.  A contrasting thread won’t matter much here.  It is a crazy scarf, after all.

Set your machine to the widest zig-zag stitch you have, and set at about 8 stitches per inch.  As you can see, I have a rather vintage machine.  It’s pretty awesome, and is so heavy it stays put very well.

Take the different colored pieces one by one and make a pile with no two colors side-by-side.  Start with two pieces of fleece and line them up end-to-end.  Some pieces may be uneven if you cut things willy-nilly (guilty), but they can be trimmed at the end.

  If the unevenness is just a little, you can pull lightly on the short side and it’ll come out fine at the end.

Backtack and run the zig-zag from top to bottom and backtack again. Cut your thread, and voila!  (Though something weird happened there at the bottom.  Hrm.)
Now do this about 20 more times.  The scarf in all took me about 30 minutes.  

There you have it!  One 177 inch (14′) Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf.  J was thrilled with it, and though it was made as a quick costume piece, it really doesn’t look bad.    To add some (more) silliness, J was inspired by a picture from Threadless a friend sent us:

This is the image that inspired the costume, via Threadless.

I’ve also made him a domino mask covered in feathers, so he is Doctor Hoo.  Thank you for reading my first real tutorial!  I hope this helps someone who was hesitant to try their hand at costuming.

Flowers and shit

Have you ever looked at a  purple dead-nettle flower* up close? They look like crazy mini orchids.  This was as good as my little point-n-shoot camera could do with its macro lens, but it’s still pretty neat.

We got a little down at the beginning of the week.  Google was really good about doing things quickly, and J found out he didn’t get the job the day after he interviewed.  It was a relief really, since he’d had to neglect his dissertation and other job applications while that broo-ha-ha was going on.  It was a really good experience, and he’ll be so much more prepared for subsequent interviews.

As for me, I am trying not to make much out of it.  Yeah, I got pretty down for a few days, but that doesn’t help anybody.  The no-control feeling came back and I was like a robot.  A badly-worded text from my mother made me start crying.  I have painted my nails pink and dedicated myself to finishing two sculptures for an upcoming art show (I have never been in an art show, so I am submitting them for approval).  I’ve also got Chris Clanton on board for taking some profesh photos of the cactus hat this weekend.

So, my first commission is done, and I may have a second on the line.  Another acquaintance wants me to make centerpieces for her wedding.  That sounds like something I would very much like to do, but she is still planning what her theme will be.

*I had to do some image searching, as I kept calling this a clover flower. 28 years and I never knew what this common little flower was called.  There’s also the Henbit Dead-nettle, which looks almost the same except the leaves are stuck directly on the steam, so they look a little more lanky.

How to make a cactus hat: Tutorial

So you think you can make a cactus?  I spent the last week making a cactus hat for someone who wanted to pay me for it ! This gives me endless joy.  I am very proud of myself for completing it so quickly, and now I can start on a new project that is more time-sensitive.  This is for Halloween, but I think it’s fashionable any time of the year.  Step-by-step pictures after the jump:

Find a balloon and a newspaper. Blow up the balloon, cut the paper into strips, and layer it on with a mixture of  flour,  hot water and some salt (to keep the mold/bugs away).  Do a layer or two, let it dry completely, put another layer on.  I did a  third so it’d be nice and hard.

This would definitely look better the other way. Tilt your head.  To make paper mache (wheat paste): heat some water on the  stove and add some salt.  Slowly add flour until it maintains a goopy consistency.  Try to mash out any lumps.  I used mine three days, and just added a little hot water from the kettle to make it workable again.

My first go at a cactus blossom.  It did not pass J’s muster.  The needle-felting techniques from First Stitch helped me so much on this.  I think felting flowers together gives you much more control on the structure.

Here is the second version, pre-modge podge.  See how more realistic this one looks?

After all the layers dried,  I found a bell jar that fit my head and used its base to cut the headband hole (I don’t know what you should do if you don’t happen to have bell jars of differing sizes laying around).  Once I was sure it would fit a head alright, I reinforced the opening with another layer of paper mache.  It doesn’t hurt to try your creation on a model to get a feel for how it wears.  This model’s skull was much too big, owing to the great amounts of interview prep he was stuffing himself with all week.

I used Fast Mache (paper pulp) to make little globs, and stuck in toothpicks cut in two.  For the top of the cactus, I made the spines a little smaller.  

Before the Fast Mache hardens, stick your globs to the form and press them down around the edges.

I drew lines to make sure things were symmetrical, but things did get a little off. 

That flower you saw earlier? I painted on three coats of modge podge so it would look waxy.  Verdict: looks fucking fantastic.  The felt just drinks up the modge podge so it ends up very solid.

I started to paint the green directly on the newspaper, but that was silly.  I started with a coat of white to cover up with newspaper.

After the white dried, I started the painting with eggshall  and  leaf green Cerama-coat acrylic.    I painted the spines first so I could be messy, then did the green.   Truth be told, if I ever have to make a cactus again, I’ll do things differently.  This took the longest of any of the steps, because I attached all the spikes before the whole thing was painted.  Time-consuming to say the least, but it was so beautiful on Saturday I didn’t mind sitting on the back porch and listening to the radio while doing it.  

So how does this stay on a person’s head?  I made a little cap out of felt.  It’s a bit hideous, but if it’s doing its job, you can’t really see it.  This also prevents the cactus from irritating your forehead.

So proud of this damn beanie.

I attached the two cactus blossoms with some fishing line attached to a button on the inside.  They can easily be taken off and made into something else if the owner wants to.    I added two little ribbons on each side to attach through holes in the bottom of the cactus (made with a hole punch).  You just knot them and voila!  I also add a chin strap, though the cap keeps in on your head nicely.

I had to add a totally silly Myspace profile shot.  As you can see, the base of the cactus sits on the puffy brim of the beanie.  I wouldn’t head-bang in this, but dancing is just fine.  

Cactus Hat: Part 3

J models the cactus.  Moments later, it pops off of his giant head.

Paper pulp and toothpicks

Barrel Cactus!

Close up on spines
Things are going well with the hat.  Tonight, the paper pulp will dry, and tomorrow I’ll do one last layer of newspaper and paper mache to reinforce the needle globs (not sure what else to call them).  Then it’s time for a lot of painstaking painting.

Cactus Hat: Take One

I dug myself out of the dumps yesterday afternoon and made some goo for paper mache.  As soon as it started to thicken on the stove, my mood change was instantaneous.  I grabbed a few balloons from my stash (oddly, always kept with the flashlights) and blew one up a little bigger than a basketball.  It’s hard to judge how big to make it (1) because I’ve never made a barrel cactus, (2) I can’t try it on my head if it’s still a sphere and (3) I don’t know how big this person’s head it.  My head is on the small side, so I have to keep that in mind.  J has a very large head, so he can’t be a model either.  Just hope!

My moveable studio
My paper mache recipe is just heat water on the stove, add salt, and slowly add flour until it starts to get thick. Ta-da!  I’m a fan of brushing the glue on the form, adding strips of newsprint, more glue, more newsprint.  I put about three layers on today, so I’ll let it dry overnight and add 3 more tomorrow.  I’m thinking that’ll do the job.
I haven’t made paper pulp since I was in junior high, but Instructables has a bevy of information on paper mache.  I intend to use the paper pulp to make little knobbles (like the cups on an octopus, maybe?) to go up the sides of the cactus.  I’ll stick the “spines” into these as they are drying.  I think this will be the most involved part.  All I need are a few colors of paint, and I am on my way.
You don’t know how small my hands are! That could be the size of a grapefruit for all you strangers know.
As for making it stay on a person’s head, I think I may try to sew a simple cap and have it on the inside, with earflaps to hold it on.  If all goes well, it will resemble a green, spiky beehive hairdo.   And bonus! My first attempt at making a cactus flower.  I am using a little artistic license.  This one is felted, thanks to FirstStitch’s teachings.  Who thinks it’s a good idea to see what these would look like shellacked?