Monday, April 19, 2010

Guest Post: Aprilween Capers and Crafts by Amy B

This past weekend, Laine and I celebrated our favorite holiday of all, APRILWEEN! Here to talk you through the festivities is our dear friend, first guest blogger, and hostessss with the mostessss, Amy B. Here's what she sent us:

Raspberry-blackberry Champagne punch

It all starts on my vacation to Portland, Oregon, on my way to the 24-Hour Church of Elvis.

I was wasting a few hours until a lunch date, and a strobe of pink and black caught my eye-- a Betsey Johnson boutique! I'd only touched a Betsey dress once at Dillard's, so to see a whole store of it, tangible and try-on-able, I was ecstatic. The saleslady was a little too good at her job, and when I told her I really didn't have a lot of money and was mostly day-dreaming, asked me if I had a camera so I could at least take away a picture of myself in my favorite dress.

The devil made me do it.

She brought me more dresses, some awesome rhinestone bow-tie shoes to try them on with, and kept things light, and an hour later I was leaving all of my spending money with her and taking two awesome dresses (on sale!) with me.

The problem with buying designer dresses is that 1) they need shoes and 2) someplace to wear them. I tried to remedy the situation while I was still in PDX, and bought a pair of vintage heels with silver/brown leaf applicques and small rhinestones. I haven't worn these yet, as they need some work done on the busted-out elastics.

Via some huge thrift shop on Division

When I got back home, I scoured eBay for a used pair of the shoes I'd worn at the store. Fail! I cannot find that pair anywhere, even on the Betsey site. I did a quick search on eBay and found something better-- silver pumps with a clear plastic upper. (Someone referred to these as stripper heels, but I think they're more like bridesmaid shoes.) I trotted to Hobby Lobby and found both sequined trim and shiny silver fabric, as well as some white lace ribbon to match the blue dress.

How to make a bow? I've been pretty averse to bows since I stopped wearing them in my hair, but Instructables had a pretty easy tutorial. The sequined trim looked too much like a clown accessory, so I stuck with the silver, white lace, and some red satin left over from a strange charity craft project. And voila!

Betsey Johnson knock-offs a la Hobby Lobby

Blue dress by Betsey Johnson and Lace shoes

Close-up on shoes

Cherry shoes!

You'll notice the over-sized cherry-- that is an Aprilween product. I had to wear my pink Betsey dress somewhere, so a party in my own home seemed a safe bet. Aprilween is a tradition beloved by my husband Justin and Sam King. A month warmer than October, this means no coats over your beautiful costume. So as not to eclipse the dress, I choose to simply adorn myself with a cherry hat and go as a cupcake (or a strawberry sundae, if you please). I made red satin bows for the bridesmaid shoes and did a simple papier-maché job on a balloon. Other materials included a coat hanger, electrical tape, red glitter and elastic. Also quite a few layers of decoupage.

From Portland, OR to Fayetteville, AR, it felt pretty perfect.

Pretty pretty please, with a cherry on top.

Dress: Betsey Johnson
Shoes: Palovio with adornments by A. Brown
Earrings: Forever 21
Hat: A. Brown

I am lucky to have friends who not only love costume parties, but the craft of costume-making and organizing. Case in point: the lovely Laine and Dolly of Purity and Danger put together a spot-on group costume of the cast of Heathers, including a whole set of croquet mallets, taper candle dynamite, lunchtime survey clipboard and two men in drag to complete the Heather triumvirate:

Veronica Sawyer and JD:

Heather Chandler:

Heather Duke :

Heather McNamara:

Laine and Dolly were also the perpetrators of the Being Sam Kingovitch birthday theme that ran parallel to Aprilween:

I also made Justin's costume, The Call Center of Cthulhu, which we came up with jointly. Three colors of green felt, two colors of embroidery and a little elastic:

and you get an Elder God who still doesn't know where to transfer your call:

As for food, I spent the majority of my time crafting costumes and putting up streamers. We hit up Aldi for some cheap salty and sweets, and broke out the punch bowl for some raspberry-champagne goodness. The only fancy thing was the trifle, brought by Laine and Dolly [Eds.--And prepared by our friend Andrew, who can make magical treats out of thin air!]

And muted streamers and balloons in honor of Sam King.

Thanks, Amy! This one goes out to you:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Timeless Frost-ing

This past weekend, the guys and I watched Until the Light Takes Us, an awesome documentary about the aesthetics and infamy of Norwegian black metal. For those not in the know, this includes murders, church burnings, and making necklaces out of your dead friends. This includes, above all, being an EVIL MOTHERFUCKER (really NSFW, but crucial):

Okay, so not like that. But it IS equally exciting. I kind of wish I'd seen the movie before we planned our film series on identity performance, or I would have insisted on its inclusion. According to the elaborate mythology surrounding black metal, these guys are basically committing hate crimes, but it seems to be more out of an escalating game of one-upsmanship more than any strongly-held ideology. I don't know enough about the history of metal (Laine is much more knowledgeable on this subject) to give this much other context, but I assure you that the film is worth your time.

Immortal is one of the bands that, you know, didn't kill people. Although a few of their members have gotten in trouble after leaving the band, they (as far as I can tell) seem more involved in painting their faces than going around being dicks. Which brings us to Joel.

Today marks the birth of Freakin' Joel, my boyfriend's roommate and one of the most adorable people I know. To celebrate his existence, I made him a cake. Joel is fan of many things, but the three that spring to mind first are God, sandwiches, and metal. Of these, I thought the last would be the most fun to illustrate in confections. I've been wanting to try this tutorial for a while now, so I thought I would do my best at representing the guys of Immortal... chocolate.

To achieve this, I melted three shades of chocolate (semisweet, semisweet+white, and white) and used them to trace a reversed version of the above image in three stages.

Here is the image, topped with parchment and taped to a clipboard:

Here is Stage 1:

While these were chilling in the freezer, I baked Joel's favorite, yellow cake. Then I moved on to Stage 2:

And after they'd had time to chill again, Stage 3:

While they were chilling one more time, I topped the cake with chocolate frosting, then made Shaun take pictures of my outfit. If you are going to bake a metal cake, it's important to wear attire that is practical and thematic. Here's what I picked:

Dress: Hand-made vintage
Socks: Xhilaration
Shoes: Where via Urban Outfitters

I can only wear this dress so often, for obvious reasons.

No one really knows what kind of creature this is supposed to be...

...or why these pockets are here.

But, hey--take a look at these SHOES!
For the first time, there is a pair that fit my (giant) feet and not Laine's.
I'm not trying to rub it in, but usually it's the

And then, the unveiling/flipping/placing on the cake!

Not too bad for a first effort, eh?

If I had the time or inclination to do this over again, I would probably add more white chocolate to the midtone color, and I would try to figure out some way to prevent the bleeding that happened between colors here. Still, I'm pretty happy with the final results, and I think the birthday boy was, too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Costumes, or Green to Match My Spleen

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. Spring means school is insane. I'm panicking about finishing term papers. My students are panicking because they should have cared about their grades earlier in the semester. The literacy program for which I'm a co-director has a big final event in Helena. This year, however, I'm trying to finish a comprehensive film catalog of the anthro department's holdings and, last, but certainly not freaking least, I'm trying to finish my master's thesis. I generally "work well under pressure," but the words just aren't happening lately. I've never had a problem writing before. I can always just sit down and make it happen. Not so this time. I blame a lack of fiction in my life. I've always been an obsessive reader. Obsessive, literally. I've had boyfriends who were jealous of how much time I spent reading. I love books. I love the smell and the texture and the look of them - ordered neatly, piled up haphazardly, but mostly shelves upon shelves of them in used book stores! My favorite birthday present in recent memory is CB I Hate Perfume's "In the Library," from Christian this past year. 

It smells quite a lot like books, but sweeter and spicier. If you have ever wondered what I smell like, this is usually it. I smell good.

In any case, now I rarely read for fun. I read for a living, and my reading mostly consists of theory and ethnography. I love these - it's not as if I don't enjoy it. It's just that I rarely lose myself in narrative anymore, and this has profoundly affected the way that I think. I've lost something very important, and it's become detrimental to how I write. I need to figure out a balance.It's terribly ironic, because what I study concerns how narrative shapes identity. Should my grad school experience count as fieldwork, then?
Instead of reading in my spare time, I'd rather be trail running with my dog or gardening or anything where I can be outside moving.  In fact, it's the gardening that's become my obsession lately. For the past three weekends, we've been working on a garden that we're sharing with our neighbor, Jenny (who is one of my favorite people). Growing up in a fairly small south Arkansas town, I was lucky to be surrounded by home gardens. I grew up helping family members and neighbors care for them. I can't begin to count how many hours I've spent shelling peas and shucking corn. I've never started a garden from scratch, though. So, as it turns out, it's pretty damn labor intensive. Disclaimer here and a promise: I will not turn blog posts about my garden into soapbox posts about one of my subjects of study, food politics, social hierarchies, and moralizing. Yeah, yeah - the name of this very blog comes from Mary Douglas's famous work on just that, but this blog is for fun and not for things I do for a living. I have to think about social structures in relation to food politics for a living, and maybe I could do myself a favor, maybe make some contacts or something by writing about it here, but, like I said above - I need to figure out a balance. I need to read things that don't have to do with my work, and I need to write things that don't have to do with my work (or be in the format of my work! Look at all this stream of consciousness and "innovative" punctuation! Take that, Chicago Manual!!). I love my work, and I'm thankful that I even have the opportunity to do it - but, you know, balance and all.
SO, ok, here's the patch of lawn we started with, between our house and Jenny's house. 


And here are some of the seedlings I started. Some of these are plants that are to be sown directly into the garden, but I thought I'd hedge my bets, since it's my first time 'n all. 

Li'l buddieeess!

Tineh purple basil!

Turns out that the transition from "piece of lawn" to "lush, hospitable garden plot" is a real pain in the ass. It took us two full (FULL) days of labor to just turn the soil about 6 - 8 inches deep, even with Dolly helping on the second day. 

No, no, of course that's not my gardening outfit. We took this after we got back from the movie we treated ourselves to at the end of the weekend. Unfortunately, it was the new Clash of the Titans. It gets me all angry to think about it very much, so all I'll say is teal & orange and Harryhausen monsters > CGI monsters.

Dress: Gift from Hannah Withers, owner of Little Bread Co. I should do a whole blog post about LBC sometime, because they are AWESOME. 
Scarf: Target
Blue Velvet Boots Dr. Martens that have been through hell and high water (and a few obvious run-ins with some creative bleaching in college) with me since my sixteenth birthday
Carved bone earrings SanFranBlissCo

All righty, so turning the soil was a one weekend, then composting and tilling was another. But first, lunch!
I recently did a spring lunch for some friends. The menu was salmon, asparagus, purple potatoes, and salad, with banana bread and blueberry sorbet for dessert.
I always aspire to some lovely mise en place photos a la Tony Tahhan or even Luxirare. Realistically, though, I'm more interested in getting the food done than taking pics, and besides, our kitchen is tineh, tineh. My mise en place usually looks like this: 

Not so aesthetically pleasing. But you know what? Even so, I'm good about getting things organized to come out at the same time, and that's the important part. 

Blueberries, gruyere, and sparkling shiraz for an appetizer.

Smashed purple & red potatoes with green onions, lemon zest, olive oil, salt & pepper. No recipe really, just season to taste.

Spinach, rainbow chard, shallots, sunflower sprouts, dandelion greens, nasturtiums, roses, snapdragons. Lemon and olive oil to taste.

I didn't actually snap a pic of either the salmon or the asparagus before they got nommed, but here is a picture of salmon anyway. This is exactly what mine looked like, so you can pretend that I cooked it. 

Mix half a cup of Greek yogurt with 2 tbs finely chopped fresh dill, 2 tbs finely chopped fresh parsley, 2 tbs Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Spread over salmon fillets (we had four, but they were ginormous) and bake at 450 for anywhere from 8 - 20 minutes (depending on whether you're using fillets or a side of salmon). Garnish with dill sprigs & lemon. 

Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter & 3/4 cup brown sugar. Stir in 2 eggs and 2 1/3 cups of overripe, mashed bananas. Stir in to dry mix til just moistened. I also added sliced almonds, and cinnamon & cardamom. Pour into greased 9x5 loaf pan and bake at 350 for about an hour. Have to admit that the blueberry sorbet is store-bought. 

And here is my hostess costume.


Navy velvet blazer: J. Crew
Green silk dress: Idea2Lifestyle
Socks Sock Dreams
Boots: Y-Not?
Belt: From Josh Meadows when we were in high school - I harassed him 'til he gave it to me. He also happens to be the same kind soul who lent us his time and his truck to get a rented tiller to our house. What a guy!

After lunch  (and a nice break), we put about 560 lbs of compost on the garden and tilled it in. Again with the backbreaking labor. 

We decided, upon my landlady Ana's advice, to go with beds instead of rows, and we finally got to the planting!!

My li'l buddies goin' in the ground! I hope they make it!

Kind of looks like we've been hiding bodies. But there are not really people in there. The real inventory is: 

Brussels sprouts
Straightneck squash
Green beans
Purple carrots
French breakfast radishes
Purple potatoes
Purple onions
Kentucky Colonel mint
Lemon balm
Bell peppers
Banana peppers
Purple basil

Aaaand back to struggling with thesis writing. But what a lovely place to do it. It's nice to have a dog who's so supportive. It's nice to have a pyromaniac boyfriend (who also does things like help me cook, clean, and plant a garden from scratch). It's nice, too, to have a roommate who'll make me pink drinks and mow the lawn, even when the bees attack her in the face.

Oh! The "green to match my spleen" thing is something that Zorak said on old episode of Space Ghost. I think of that quote every time I wear that green dress. " I want green to match my spleen."