Messy Maxi

I’ve always had a problem with maxi dresses, because the people who make maxi dresses like to assume that you’re a reasonably-sized human being, which I have never been.

And it’s a real shame when you’re a Hobbit with Elvish aspirations, fantasizing about gliding effortlessly down a hallway in a flowing dress without the dress immediately catching under your feet and resulting in a total collapse.

So why I decided to buy a particularly flowy maxi spring dress off of Amazon, I’ll never know.

Actually, I do know. It’s because one of the reviewers described herself as a petite Asian girl, standing at only 5’1″, who decided the dress was perfectly reasonable if you wore shoes with a little height. I couldn’t see the shoes she wore in the picture, but I have to assume now that they were Herman Munster boots.

So I bought this dress off of Amazon, and upon wearing it, discovered that it completely swallowed up my feet and an inch of ground around me. Which meant, unfortunately, that I would have to hem it.

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If I owned six inch heels, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Now, I have a sewing machine, but it’s mostly for show. It’s not like anyone ever comes in my room, but if they did, they might see the sewing machine and might assume I’m a crafty person, when in actuality I have the creativity and sewing prowess of a stick of soft butter.

A stick of soft butter with the inability to create an even new hem on curved section of fabric.

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I started by setting up my sewing machine, a process which took forty minutes because I couldn’t figure out why the bottom thread wasn’t catching. It was because I was turning the wheel the wrong way.

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You would think measuring would help, but in fact, it doesn’t help if you do it wrong.

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I pinned the dress to mark where I wanted to cut, so that there was only a moderate amount of guesswork involved.

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I could make a scarf out of the excess material! I kid, of course. I’d never make this into a scarf, I’d just wear it as-is until it resembled more fray than fabric.

So I inexpertly pinned the hem into place, and I thought I did a pretty good job. And then I tried to actually sew it, and it turned out that I had done quite an awful job, unless my goal had been to create the world’s most uneven hem.

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It looked okay until I realized I was creating a top-heavy hem. Next time I won’t sew so close to the bottom of the dress. Learning!

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The middle part is just the way the dress naturally hangs, I swear.

The end result was mildly disappointing, but I could see my feet again, which was nice. Overall, I find the dress to be acceptable, because you don’t realize how badly it’s hemmed unless you really stare at my feet, and only a small portion of the population would be interested in that anyway.

And to think that my poor sewing machine could have been placed in a loving home.

Frizzled Wizard World

If you want to instantly connect with women ages 18 to 40 who are in some way involved in public education, dress up as Ms. Frizzle and walk around a nerd convention.

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This is from Halloween of last year, but the costume’s… somewhat the same. Mostly.

My friends and I went to Wizard World Philadelphia recently, and of the three of us I was the only one who dressed up, so the other two had to suffer while teacher after teacher pulled me aside to gush over how much they loved Ms. Frizzle, and take pictures with me.

Well, I enjoyed it.

There were people out there with far more impressive cosplays than me, mind you.

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After I took a photograph, as I walked away, I could hear them fluttering about how Ms. Frizzle had just asked for their picture.

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I saw this fellow standing off to the side and I stared at him for at least three seconds before I got it. It’s Milo! From Atlantis!

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Just look at that. That’s impressive. I honestly can’t tell how old the middle lady is, she could be eighty or twenty under all that makeup and wig.¬†

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Yondu Poppins. He said I wore a dress better than him, but I have to disagree.

Dressing up as Ms. Frizzle was fun just for the bug of nostalgia it infected people with. Vendors stood up in their booth and scrambled after me to get pictures. I heard people shouting (and whispering) “Ms. Frizzle!” to me and to each other all around the convention center. People gushed.

There weren’t many children around, but one little girl desperately wanted a picture with me and I let her hold Liz for it. When my feet started to give out in the yellow high heels and I was leaning against a wall to put on my emergency flats, a mother pushing her little daughter in a wheelchair did a double-take, stopped, and then made a beeline for me.

“Look!” she said to the girl, who didn’t seem able to talk, “See that? It’s Ms. Frizzle! See the Bus? See Liz?”

It took a second, and then the girl’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.

It really sticks with you, things like that. Especially when you’re just an idiot in a dress your sister made you, with one shoe off against the wall of a convention center.

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Also, Rose from Doctor Who was there. I took a picture from a distance so that I didn’t have to pay money or talk to people.

Seatbelts, everyone!

When I decide to cosplay at comic conventions, I go as Ms. Frizzle, because I happen to look like her already and also because my sister made me her costume and I’m too lazy to make my own things.

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Liz says hi.

I’ve collected bits and bobs for the costume over the past couple of years, but if there’s one thing that’s difficult to match with a cosplay, it’s a purse or bag. Unless the character you’re dressing up as specifically carries some kind of bag, it’s rough to haul your things around the convention center and still look authentic. When people want to take pictures of my outfit, my tactic is usually to drop-kick my purse out of the scene, and hope they’re done before someone steals it.

At last I caved and ordered a school bus bag on Amazon, despite the face on the front looking like the clown from my childhood nightmares.

Fortunately, by pure random happenstance, one of the Amazon reviewers also cosplays Ms. Frizzle, and she had a solution: Paint a better looking face on with acrylic paint.

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I wonder if acrylic paint could give me a better face, too.

The only problem, as we’ve established, is that I have the creativity and artistic talent of a walnut with a degree in mathematics. My method of painting was to hope for the best.

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I outlined where the new face was going to go with pencil, but I really don’t feel like it gave me more confidence.

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Oh God, this is worse, now he’s wearing a death mask.

Having ever used acrylic paint before, I was actually surprised at how forgiving it was. If I made a mistake, I could wait for it to dry and the paint over it, even with white paint.

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All up in his grill. I’ll see myself out.

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At this point I realized nothing was going to cover that little tip of the original smile on the left, but I also didn’t care enough to change it.

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It’s something!

The end result was acceptable for my low standards, which mostly consist of “will it look decent if someone snaps a picture of it from ten feet away?” I spent some time observing it from ten feet away, and it looks decent. Mission accomplished.

Now all I need is a sonic screwdriver and my Ms. Frizzle costume will be complete.

Hippie Lite

In the past couple of weeks I’ve gone completely earth-mother. Fully tree-hugger. If I were any more of a hippie I’d be high and in a drum circle somewhere.

I exaggerate, of course, but I’d imagine my sudden interest in the zero-waste movement has got my employers looking at me like I’ve sprouted dreadlocks and toe rings.

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I hung these up in the bathroom and when Mr. Parent came in to check the (broken) towel rack, I swear he gave me a Look for the rest of the day. It’s just Tolkien! Everybody knows Tolkien! What’s the matter with Tolkien?! Tolkien!

I’m not really that hardcore. I’m tentatively exploring the zero waste movement by giving up the things that most dedicated zero-waste people hardly even think about anymore, and I’m complaining the whole way. Who knew there were so many uses for paper towels? Why do all the really tasty foods come wrapped in plastic?

So reusable shopping bags, of course, and reusable produce bags, and refillable liquid soap containers to buy liquid soap in bulk, and a slightly crushed soul.

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I’ve been using up my old plastic and disposable things before starting on the new reusable items, because just throwing the old stuff away is sort of everything the zero waste movement has ever been against. Everything that can be recycled will. This stuff will stretch.

I’ve collected a lot of neat reusable items recently, some of which aren’t pictured. These are things like:

  • A metal safety razor instead of plastic disposable ones. This is, hands down, the most terrifying of purchases. Every time I pick that thing up to shave with, the back of my mind is saying “NO! What are you doing?! All that’s keeping thin metal from slicing your skin is the angle at which you’re holding the handle!” It’s been fun.
  • A few unpackaged soaps and whatnot from Lush, which is the first step in my soap journey, the next step being making my own and the step after that being forgoing soap altogether to live in the woods and bathe in dirt. The charcoal tooth tablets are also from there, and there’s nothing like painting your teeth black to really clean them up.
  • Reusable menstrual pads. Yes, you have to soak them and wash them out like they’re reusable cloth diapers. Still, given how much plastic I’d be going through otherwise…
  • A metal water bottle! Golly, did you know that you can save money and plastic just by not using money to buy plastic water bottles?
  • Bulk sugars for my (now) bulk tea. I… really miss individually packaged teabags, guys. They were so neat and easy, especially the Bigelow stuff. Turns out, you can recycle the box and the teabags themselves, but not the individual teabag wrappers. It’s been rough.
  • Cloth napkins and cloth “unpaper” rags for cleaning.
  • Wool dryer balls! Pros: Your clothes do dry faster with the woolen balls separating the layers in the cycle. Cons: They really don’t do well soaking up the static. Anybody who tells you they’re as good as dryer sheets doesn’t remember what it’s like to have dryer sheets.

I’ve also been doing things like buying fresh bread from the local bakery, instead of bread that’s wrapped in plastic and then, carefully, wrapped in another layer of plastic and tied off with a plastic end. The key thing about small local bakeries is that you can usually coerce them into putting the fresh bread right into your reusable bag, and they’ll come to remember you as the crazy regular with the toe-ring dreadlocks, but hopefully in a fond way.

This vague interest in the zero-waste movement has also helped to curb my impulse spending. But… not entirely. Exactly. Really.

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It was just really important that I get this teacup holster from the steampunk convention, all right? Look, it’s all reusable! That makes it okay to spend an obscene amount of money on!

Mind you, there will always be some things I can’t trade out for reusable and non-plastic. Pill containers, for instance. Computer things. Deodorant that’s not in some weird powder form.

Also the makeup brands I know and love. You can’t make me give them up. I mean, unless someone has some better suggestions that are under $10. It’s cheap because the brands don’t care who or what they have to steamroll to get it here!

Spring… Springs

It probably goes without saying that spring is here. You can tell because it’s May 19th, and also because here on the east coast it’s a mild 94 degrees, the way spring is supposed to be on Venus.

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Spring is that important time of year when you can start having staring contests with deer, because they can’t easily see you approaching through the green foliage until it’s too late and they’re forced to watch you for as long as you watch them.

In fact, I’d wager we’re on the verge of summer instead, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s still spring because otherwise the series of photographs I have in my possession would be for naught.

Every Wednesday afternoon the eldest boy I take care of has a piano lesson at the house next door. This house is on a very pretty piece of property overlooking a lake, with some great big windows to emphasize how spotless everything is because the piano teacher¬† doesn’t have three to six boys.

So every Wednesday, while the oldest boy was explaining why he couldn’t possibly have practiced that week, I positioned myself in front of the same window and tried to line up my shots. It’s easier said than done, but I came away with just over two months worth of photos, and a vision of exploding spring time.

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I do easily forget how pretty the east coast is from May to November. It stays this way by maintaining humidity levels equivalent to lying in warm jello. I haven’t yet decided if this is worth it.

Things Mom Was Right About

As a teenager, my mother always made crazy and unreasonable demands of me. Completely unfounded, out of whack suggestions and commands that had absolutely no basis in reality. Absolutely ridiculous.

These were things like turning my clothes right side out before she did laundry, or soaking a pot before she did dishes. Unbelievable. The gall.

But then here I was, seven years later, and as I passed by one of the boy’s rooms with my laundry basket, I reminded him to make his bed.

“No!” he yelled. “I don’t want to! I do all the work around here! You treat me like a servant!”

So after dealing with that Elementary School crisis mostly by laughing, I started thinking back on all the absurd demands of my childhood. Turns out, they were actually pretty reasonable. These were things like:

  • Rinsing out the bathtub after a shower so that the soapy residue didn’t stick around, making it slippery and hard to clean.
  • Practicing piano every day before the day of your lesson instead of making excuses right up until the morning of, and then frantically practicing for fifteen minutes in the hopes that your piano teacher won’t notice your incompetence.
  • Cleaning up as you go. Hey, did you know that could save you time?
  • Turning those clothes right side out before wash. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s incredibly tedious to do it all at once.

It’s surreal, taking care of children who complain about the exact same things I complained of. The only difference is that they’ve learned to complain about them out loud.

And it’s really, really annoying.

So I’d like to apologize to Mom for being, excuse my language, a little shit. Being a functional human being is better. You were right, Mom. Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except about The Sims 2. That’s a great game and totally appropriate for someone over thirteen years of age.

 

 

Comics, Cosplay, and Imperial Officers

Can’t afford to bring the kids to Disney? Try bringing them to your local comic convention. Sure, you’re going to run into some real weirdos, and you’ll have to shield their eyes when you walk by some of the raunchier booths, but you’ll also meet some real weirdos in incredible costumes. And some of these costumes will be Disney costumes, is what I’m getting at.

(I say weirdos affectionately. I am also one.)

This convention was the East Coast Comic Con, which was advertising the visiting of Dawn Wells (Mary-Ann from Gilligan’s Island), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters), and all the remaining cast of Lost in Space (the people who were under thirty when it filmed).

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Here’s a blurry photo I snapped real quick of everyone but Ernie Hudson. They’re in there, I swear. I think you can even see Dawn Wells there, to the left of the guy in the red shirt. I just didn’t want to pay for a photo or an autograph.

This comic convention was specifically comic-related with other geeky undertones (as opposed to a fantasy or sci-fi convention, which is more broad), so most of the booths were just rows and rows of new and old comic books. I, personally, have only ever read ElfQuest and a few random issues of The New Teen Titans, so I was mostly there for the other things.

Like the cosplayers.

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Look at that Two-Face. Look at it.

Cosplayers do some incredible things with their time and money. It also helps, of course, when you look a great deal like the character already, which is why I can get away with cosplaying Ms. Frizzle with minimal effort.

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On that note, I’m not completely convinced this guy wasn’t actually Tony Stark. All he had to do was show up with his suit and his neatly groomed beard and you could swear he was the real deal. He’s standing in front of the convention doors here because every time he tried to move forward, someone would stop him for a picture.

I have a great friend who’s a phenomenal cosplayer (hi Avery!), so you’d think I’d be used to it, but really these people continue to amaze me.

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While I was taking a break in the lobby, I saw a woman and her little daughter approach this Merida. “Can she take a picture with you?” the woman asked. “You’re the only one she’s not scared of.”

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This guy had the most ramshackle cardboard costume ever, but boy did he ever have the Wolverine swagger down.

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I didn’t actually know who this was at first (because, again, not really a comic person) until someone in the background yelled “Mr. Freeze!”, but I had to take a picture regardless. That’s dedication. He had to get help to take the bubble off when he wanted to eat.

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There’s cosplayers, and then there’s professional cosplayers like the fellow above. He spoke to me in that soft Obi-Wan voice the entire time after he let me take a picture, and then fished out a business card for me after- hence, he’s the only cosplayer I can name.

I also ran across the 501st Legion, the “bad guys doing good.” They’re a (apparently pretty large) volunteer charity group that I’d never heard of before, and it looks like they do some great things in great outfits.

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They had a booth and they brought a trash compactor with them. You could take pictures in it.

I participated in the “droid hunt” they had going on, wherein they gave you a badge:

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…And had you wear it around the convention. If the patrolling Imperials spotted you, you were “forced” to hand it over in exchange for a raffle ticket.

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It took me about half an hour to be spotted by the Imperials, during which time I found a 3D printer merrily chugging along. It was printing another copy of the little pink Yoda you see up top. The future is here, and soon I’ll be able to get my own Earl Grey out of a replicator.

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In the end, I was caught by this lot. I’m jealous of their hats.

I didn’t win the raffle, but that’s all right because there was a mother of approximately fifteen squirmy small things there who won twice, and I feel like she needed it more than I did.

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The 501st Legion lined up for a picture too, which was nice. They’re good people. I feel like what really makes them work is that they’ve got just the one Darth Vader, but a whole lot of underlings running around. Really adds to the authenticity.

James couldn’t go with me, which was a pity because the Mandalorian bounty hunters allowed you to put a bounty on anyone’s head for a mere five dollars, at which point they were drag the target in and put them in an actual cage for “a minimum of five minutes, but no more than twenty.” Classy.

All in all, if you have a comic convention happening near you, I highly recommend you attend. Just don’t do it like I did, go and get pictures with celebrities and listen to panels and whatnot. There’s more to be found than cosplayers.

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Just as I was leaving they were organizing the D.C. hero picture. All these guys would soon be on the steps. It was good I left when I did.