Hoarders: Buried Alive

(Announcer voice)
Now, on the next episode of Hoarders, we visit Long Island, New York, home of Mamasoo.

Here we see her office worktable. How many unfinished craft projects can you find? (We counted 16 without moving things around.) Precariously stacked ceramic pieces, precious cross stitching, a tiara (?) all items haphazardly thrown onto the table which it starting to buckle under the strain of broken promises and wet craft glue.

Turning around (slowly, we don’t want to knock anything over) we focus on her closet, jammed pack with batting, a box of Christmas projects and a bag of paper towel tubes. We ask Mamasoo what she has planned for all these things and when she thinks she might start cleaning up. She shrugs her shoulders, puts on a weak smile and says, “I can’t start anything until my work table is cleaned off”.

“When might that be?”, we ask.

“When I find room in the closet.” Clearly, she has avoidance issues.

Circling around the room, we spy her filing “system” that has toppled over like a Mayan temple this coming December. Expensive video gaming equipment piled in the corner by the bookcase has a layer of dust coating it. The saddest aspect of this room is the Winnie the Pooh border on the wall- a remainder of the loving decorations when her daughter, Zombiegirl used to occupy this room…eight years ago.

Last and probably the most horrifying corner of this little hell this dear, sweet woman works in is her desk, piled high with half-completed sewing projects, papers spit out and left from her printer and video games played and abandoned. There sits her “laptop”, tied to the desk, it’s portability long gone. And what’s this? What has she been sitting on for days, once again avoiding the horror of the condition of her room?

(If there are small children or persons with weak constitutions, it might be wise to turn away…)

Oh. My. Word. It’s…it’s a frog. She’s been sitting on a rubber frog while on the computer. We asked Mamasoo what was going on with the frog.

“I don’t know, I moved it from one place to another and never moved it back.”

“But you sit on it every time you go on the computer!”

“Um…I don’t feel it. He’s kind of squishy and I have a big a(BLEEP).”

Let’s take a look at what has Mamasoo so preoccupied that she not only let her office grow out of control, but doesn’t even feel when she’s sitting on…a frog…

(Camera pans to the monitor)

Oh, of course. Now we understand why nothing has been getting done and why Mamasoo’s hoarding problem has escalated. It is definitely an addiction called…

(Cue dramatic music)

Words With Friends.

(Cue end music and roll credits)

The End.

Drumroll, Please

I told you I had BIG NEWS.  Hold on to your panties, then.

Yes, I went and did it again.  It’s not like I don’t have anything to do, and I need to fill my time.  On the contrary, between work, kid(s), cleaning, sewing, shopping, laundry and occasionally cooking, I have very little time left at the end of the day.

But I’ve been thinking about this project for about a year now, surfing the web researching and fine tuning my approach.  I feel like my brain has been pregnant with this idea and now I’ve given birth.

Introducing…Heartz and Craftz!

The site went live November 20th and I’ve booked two parties already.  Woot woot!

The concept behind Heartz and Craftz is basically, I didn’t want to sell other people’s shit.  I’ve been that route before with Passion Parties.  I loved going to people’s homes and demonstrating the dildos, but it got to a point where people only booked a party for the entertainment value (who DOESN’T like to pass a 12-inch double-headed dildo around a circle without using your hands…)  I’d walk away with less than $100 in sales for three to four hours of work.  Yes, I know, I could have sold jewelry, or cookware, or candles but really?  I don’t want to work for someone else.  I don’t want to sell other people’s shit!  I’ve got plenty of my own shit to sell.

And with Heartz and Craftz Parties I know I’m going to make a certain amount based on the number of guests coming to the host’s house.  And I get to bring my already-made crafts with me to sell at the party.  It’s like going to my own private craft sale!  Plus, the crafts I’m teaching are awesome, the price for learning how to do it is CHEAP and people will be able to purchase additional kits to continue with the craft they just learned.

Before H&C was born, I’ve been testing with live subjects (Mwah-ha-ha…maniacal mad-scientist laugh).

For the last two weeks I’ve been holding craft classes for the neighborhood kids and Zombiegirl’s soccer team, trying to get a feel for certain crafts and the logistics of teaching the craft itself.  I’ve got eight more classes scheduled for the next four weeks (they’re held Fridays and Saturdays, $10 each) testing out even more classes.  I have to say (with some surprise) I’M HAVING A BLAST!

I’ve already discontinued one craft (resin) and will be “beta” testing another soon.  My partner (Zombiegirl) and I have been making the sample crafts ahead of time to be sure they’re kid friendly.  Friends of mine will be testing some of the classes for me beginning in 2012 with once-a-month adult classes!  I. Am. Loving. This!

I’m scoping out some craft fairs so I can give my card to particularly crafty people I find.  How great would it be to become a “Craftinista”, teach crafts that are proven to be a lot of fun and show and sell your own crafts?  I’m in the process of setting up a “back-office” website for potential downline Craftinistas…with video tutorials (I totally need a haircut) and shopping carts.

Yeah, this is for reals.  I’m all tingly! lol!

Please, PLEASE, check out the website and give me your feedback- either on content or intention.  Tell me what you think.  I give out customer survey cards to the kids after each class and I can’t believe the amount of exclamation points I’m getting back.  You don’t have to use too many explanation points when you critique my new company…

One will do.


Bonnie Blue Bill

Lately, I’ve been trying to get a lot of things out of my system.  A few toxic people, absolutely, but also some things I’ve wanted to try to see if I’d be any good at them.

(I wish I could get this UTI out of my system.  Does it ever fail the first day of vacation some THING happens to put a damper on it?  With the help of some antibiotics, it should be leaving soon.  I hope.  It’s somewhat limiting my vacation experience…)

So one of the things I’ve wanted to try is decorating a cake with fondant.  When I decorated Zombiegirl’s Mad Hatter cupcakes last year, fondant saved the day.  That was really cutting and pasting pieces like a puzzle, so I didn’t feel it really counted.  I had dreams of tiered wedding cakes with sharp angles and drape-y elements hung like magic.  My mom was a cake decorator- she made my first wedding cake- but she worked strictly in icing.  I watch all the cake shows on HGTV and always thought “I could do that…”

So when one of my coworkers asked if I would be in on Thursday because it was our manager Bill’s  birthday, I volunteered to bake him a birthday cake.  He didn’t want anyone to know it was his birthday, but since he’s such a nice guy, I couldn’t let him NOT have a cake.  Since he’s a big Civil War expert, I researched and Googled and thought the perfect cake would be a Rebel Hat cake.

Until I realized that the Rebs were gray, and the hat was this weird squishy shape.  Gray is not the most appetizing color for cake icing.

MR suggested I drape a flag over the cake.  Okay, that sounds really easy, but would my coworkers get upset about a Southern Cross draped over a cake?  Not exactly politically correct.

MR, being a Civil War fanatic/expert himself, told me to look up the Bonnie Blue.  It was Florida’s flag during the Civil War era, and the confederates adopted it as their first flag.  Perfect- blue with one white star.  I could totally handle that.

I was planning on a double tiered cake, each layer being chocolate and yellow cake with my (newly) homemade mulberry jam in between.  Frosting with piped borders and then the fondant flag draped over it should not only be delicious, but would please Bill to no end.

I should have known that the best laid plans ALWAYS go awry.

First, I worked from home the day before so I would have a little extra time to decorate.  It turned out I was really busy that day and didn’t get as much time as I wanted.  that, and the mistakes I made led to a very late night.

Second, the day I decided to decorate was the first hot day of the summer, so all the jam made a beeline for the edge of the cake, over the side and tried to escape off the plate.  No amount of coaxing would get the jam to stay on the cake, so I scraped it all off and mixed it with chocolate pudding.  Now, before you say “Ewww”, fruit and chocolate happens to be a very popular choice in wedding cakes and when I tried this, it actually was really good.  I slathered that between the layers and stuck it in the fridge to set.

Third.  I made a ton of frosting while I was fighting with the filling.  When the cake was cold enough, I started a crumb coat of frosting around the layers.  Because it was so hot, after a while the frosting started sliding off the cake.  I threw it back in the refrigerator to set, again.  When it cooled down, I tried frosting it but the heat won.  There was no way I was going to be able to transport a frosted cake on the LIRR, then the subway and the walk to work and expect it to survive.

Plus, I found a dog hair in the frosting.  I guess that would be the fourth thing that went wrong.

Now, dog and cat hair is a food group in my family.  We’re used to picking it out of our food and placing it like a fish bone on the side of our plates.  Grossed out, surely, but used to it.  Others, I’m sure, would not be too keen on picking dog hair out of their slice of birthday cake.   I’m terrified that something coming out of my kitchen will be hairy and I’d be deemed unclean.  Even though no animal is permitted in the kitchen when I’m cooking, I’m still scared.  So when I found the hair in the frosting and realized transportation may be a problem I ran to Michael’s and bought two boxes of fondant.

Cool, I thought.  I get to play with fondant!

I colored and rolled and cut and draped and wrote (with edible markers, which don’t really work, btw) Happy Birthday, Bill and Deo Vindice which was used by the Confederates and means “With God as our Champion”.  Even with the heat, the cake came together nicely and more importantly, stayed together nicely during the long commute to work.

Bill was surprised, and knew exactly what all the references on the cake were.  He reached up at one point and grabbed a hat off the overhead file cabinet and plopped it on his head.  I knew what it was, but all my other co-workers thought it was a Dallas Cowboy’s hat.

Bill had a Bonnie Blue hat.  Well, of course he did.

Happy Birthday, Bill.  I’m rolling up my fondant experience and stashing it away forever.  I got that out of my system- cake decorating was Mom’s thing, not mine!

It’s Better to Give Than Receive

(Okay, I know it’s the first week of March, and Christmas is the last thing on ANYONE’s mind, but I have to post about what drove me absolutely banana-shit crazy the few weeks before the holidays.)

I’m lucky that my nephew and nieces are still young enough to “appreciate” handmade gifts.  Really, put anything in a sparkley box and tie a ribbon around it and they’d like it.  I make their gifts because I know in a few years I won’t be able to get away with it- they’ll want electronics and designer duds and ponies.  All stuff I would love to get them but can’t/won’t.  So for now, everything I give them is wondrous (for a second) and beautiful (until the next gift).

I don’t really make anything for Raymond because trucks and cars and guns are not in my arsenal of sewing ideas.  We did get him a lab coat because he’s a SCIENTIST and an ant farm because he’s a SCIENTIST.  We included in his gift bag some stuff Zombiegirl made: Sidewalk chalk (in cute shapes, like butterflies and shells), and Snow globe soap inspired by Alphamom.  Unfortunately, Raymond’s chalk was stepped on in the pandemonium and was crushed in a billion pieces.  S’okay…he stole his sister”s…

For Sammy,Lily and baby Hannah, I made these tiered skirts from this fabulous tutorial,

with matching headbands using this tutorial:

(Hannah got a matching baby scrunchie headband.)

Each of the older kids got a puppet washcloth, courtesy of Running with Scissors awesome tutorial

(I thought these were so cute I made one for Zombiegirl and one for Beena’s boyfriend’s nephew, Super Jesse, cutie-pie.) I really like working with terry cloth and I have a feeling I’m not done making these…

Add some barrette holders for each of the girls:

and aprons for my SIL Paula and the two older girls (following Amy Carol’s Bend the Rules Sewing pattern),  a jewelry frame for my older niece Elize and Fiesta Ware cup and saucer bird feeders for my MIL, SILs and Mother-in-law once removed, Gerry.  The gifts were well received among the older relatives (thank goodness) as well as the kids considering Lily immediately put the skirt on as a top (think “tube top) and the apron on the bottom, leaving her bee-hind blowing in the wind.  Once Hannah is older, I have visions of sewing matching sundresses and floppy hats and bags and…

Okay, enough. Stop the insanity.  I have enough to do for now before I tackle anymore gifts.

BTW- blogging from home sucks.  I didn’t read this over and edit because I’m up and down to the kitchen making my first King Cake for Fat Tuesday.  I’m distracted and not used to typing my blog on my laptop with (gasp!) one monitor.  I guess I have to get used to slumming it…

All Was Right in the Universe

Even though we got banged again with another winter storm, yesterday turned out to be a pretty good day.  It was one of those days where everything clicked and things ran smoothly.  At least for me.  And that usually doesn’t happen.

We’re averaging one snow storm a week this past month.  Storms severe enough to close the schools and make me throw the covers back over my head and take a sick day.  Commuting in this mess is nearly impossible- buses get stuck and the LIRR just can’t handle anything over a few pretty snowflakes.  When I see the forecast includes snow, my dread level rises.

I found out a few weeks ago that more than half my team at work can remotely log in to their desktops at work and work from home.  One guy on my team lives and commutes from the Poconos.  He’s always snowed in and always working from home.  Holy snowflakes, where can I get in on this?  I approached (threatened) my team leader about getting approval to do the same and two weeks later I’m sitting in my craft room in my jammies and slippers logging on and doing work during the latest ice storm.  School was closed for Zombiegirl and I’m answering emails.  I was able to log on for once without a glitch or a call to the Help Desk.

Technology is a wondrous thing.

I didn’t have to deal with the four hour commute, the constant distractions and the overpriced lunches.  No overcrowded third-world bus.  No annoying co-workers on their personal, long-winded phone calls.  Zombiegirl went to a friend’s house and I was able to get tons of work done.

Of course, routines have to be run to get calculations from our database.  These routines take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.  And since my sewing machine is located right next to my laptop…

I finished so much sewing!  I was a multi-tasking whirlwind- emailing, plotting to my plotter in New York, sewing seams on little skirts, making phone calls, running updates, knotting tutus, cleaning up My Documents of eight years of drawings and pdf’s, ironing burp cloths, yadda, yadda and yadda.  I also had an additional four hours that usually gets eaten up by my commute.  I actually started work early and ended later than usual.

I finished the sewing project I was working on and got more done workwise than if I had trudged to work.  And I didn’t even put on big girl clothes!

The day flew by.  At 2:30 I excused myself to take lunch, walking all the way into the kitchen for a sandwich.  At 2:36 I was back at my desk reconfiguring one of our branch floors and making a little baby headband.  I only lost connectivity once- my wireless connection isn’t very good in the back bedroom I call my office.  Other than that little glitch, the workday was a huge success. 

Not so much for MR.  He’s really having a hard time lately.  Besides his wrist, and looking for a job, he thinks he may get a red-light ticket for making a right on red on his way to a meeting yesterday.  He was in the right, but saw the flash.  He stormed and stomped all afternoon while I was basting and formatting.  Poor baby.  We met, dated and married each other while working at the same company.  I don’t think we’d be able to do that now…

So now I eagerly await the next big snowstorm.  I have a house to clean.

Hermione, Can I Borrow Your Time-Turner, Please?

Holy Hedwig! I apologize, Blogosphere. I’ve been so busy eating, sleeping, shopping and planning Harry Potter shit I haven’t had time to do much else. My house is furry around the edges (where’s my Vacuum Bitch, aka MR?) and the laundry is piling up. If Zombiegirl hadn’t given up fast food for Lent (my good little Lutheran…) we’d be eating out every day this past week. I’m starting to cast spells on the people around me, and alas, they’re not working.
So to take you all down the road to the Harry Potter hell I’ve been in, let me tell you what I’ve been doing.

Zombiegirl’s birthday is coming up. She’s going to be 11. And I’ve told her this is the last big party I’m throwing her. From here on in, we’ll do the movie thing with a couple of friends, or a light sleepover, or a trip to the city with a BFF or two. Middle school is going to be hard enough with all the cattiness and the backstabbing. I’m not going to add to that mess with “who-invites-who-to-whose-birthday-party” crap. From here on in, birthday’s are on the down-low. We’re going to pick and choose whose parties she goes to based on who’s throwing it and where they’re held. If I deem them a waste of time due to the location or the child, she’s not attending. We’ll plan something else to do instead. I want her to be friendly with everyone, but some of the parties she’s invited to, well, the friendship seems superficial. I want her to have meaningful friendships, not ones based on presents. Or how many kids are invited to the “popular” girl’s party.

When I asked Z-girl what kind of party she wanted, she thought for 10 seconds and said “Harry Potter”. Yes, she was reading the book at the time.

Now, I thought last year’s party was the bomb. I didn’t think anything could top that. A photo scavenger hunt in the mall, then cookie decorating and candy selection at Dylan’s Candy Bar! That was probably the best party a kid could want. They all had a blast and went home with tons of sweets and a huge sugar high that day. What could I do to top that? If you know me, you know that I’m a crazed party planner. It’s what I used to do as a side job. Planning kids parties, then later planning adult parties. I hate going to an actual party- for me, it’s all about the details and the planning stage. Ask my older kids about their childhood parties. I threw them craft parties, Pocohantas parties, a Fashion Show, a zoo scavenger hunt, a star-filled Sweet Sixteen and a Disney Graduation Party. Different and unique. Without any help from the Web, either. I planned everything by myself and each and every one of them (except maybe the craft party…only one kid showed up…) was a huge success. I live for a party, at least to plan it. And dammit, I was determined this was going to be a good one.

I started researching Harry Potter parties on the Interwebs. And I was totally surprised at how much info there is out there. And how many geeks love Harry Potter enough to throw huge, intricate parties!

So I agreed (being a Harry Potter geek myself) and started planning.

Zombiegirl has 95% control over this party. Almost every idea has to be run past her first. I’m saving 5% of the control to surprise the kid- I want her to feel the Harry Potter magic as well.

I’m posting each piece of the party as a separate blog post labelled HPP. I’m also going to link my sources of inspiration because I couldn’t have even STARTED thinking about this without these talented people’s posts and websites.


Now that all the invites have been delivered, I can post how I created them.

I’m blessed with a person like Rob who can get me any type of paper I need. I’m also blessed with the freedom to do stuff at work without too many prying eyes. I took the parchment that Rob got me and typed up the invite in Word almost verbatim from “The Sorcerer’s Stone”. Since we’re having the party at St. Andrew’s, I included directions to the social hall, aka King’s Cross Station.

Since I only had 8.5″ x 11″ parchment to make the envelopes, I had to fold the invites to fit. A little manuevering in Word let me print the addresses before I cut and folded the sheets to fit around the invites.

Since these invites have to been delivered by “owl post” I wanted to put something in the post mark spot besides at stamp. And since I’m trying to make this as low-budget as possible, I didn’t want to go out and buy an owl stamp. So I researched rubber owl stamps on the Web and found a suitable picture. I looked around my office for a rubber eraser, which is pretty hard since I don’t actually draft plans anymore (I did finally find one in the back of my drafting table) and copied the owl onto the eraser. I spent the next hour cutting the eraser out to make the owl in relief. I rubbed a red sharpie marker over it and stamped the invite. I was so excited about the result I giggled all the way into Soulspeak and Ruddyna’s office to show them. They must think I’m a freak…

More carving of the eraser produced a backwards “Owl Post” so I had to redo it and then stamped it under the owl. “Owl Post” indeed!

These invites needed one more touch- the wax seal on the back. Again, I didn’t want to spend $8 on wax and an “H” seal at Michael’s, so back to Google. I found this very inventive website. Using my hot glue gun, a block of frozen mozzarella cheese, three buttons from Mom’s collection and some black spray paint I created the “wax” seal for the back.

We drove Zombiegirl around a few nights to deliver them. She was stealthy and quiet when sneaking up on the houses, dropping the invitations off and running away. She hand delivered them to her whole soccer team. Thirty-four invitations in total.

We are on our way. I need a Butterbear…

Pass Me The Whine

Okay people- call the Wahmbulance. I was a whiny baby yesterday, huh? Tell me when I need to stop the pity party, m’kay?

Must be the dreaded mood swings of MENOPAUSE!

MR assured me I’m not a bad cook. No need to go to cooking school. I just got overwhelmed and maybe a little lazy (should have sifted that lumpy baking powder…) But I am a good cook. I’ve inherited the baking gene. I can pipe frosting with the best of them.

There. I feel better.

In fact, let’s explore my awesomeness, shall we? No, just kidding. Number 43 of my 101 in 1001 was to make 50% of my Christmas gifts. Now that all the gifts have been given, I can safely blog about them without giving away the surprise.

For my nieces and nephew, I made the puppet theater, as well as these adorable hooded bath towels. I found the tutorial here. They were super easy and they turned out so cute. My Mother-in-Law paid me the highest compliment when she saw them…she told me I COULD quit my day job. I won’t, though. Not yet.

Unfortunately when I asked Sammy and Lily to model their towels, Sammy got scratched several times by a pin I had left in the towel. I hugged her and kissed the boo-boo, but she went and tattled on my anyway. TO EVERYONE. That Aunt Soo left a pin in her towel and it scratched her. HARD.

So NOT awesome.

But they are. They’re the cutest little girls ever. They look like little Ewoks.

I made the same towels for JJ and Parker. Their initials were in camouflage and flames. I also made them mustaches. I didn’t get a picture of Parker singing arias in the living room mirror with it on, but here’s Dastardly Jason wearing his.

I wore one to pick Zombiegirl up at Jodi’s. The mother pushing her kid in the stroller down the block did a double take when she spotted me in the car. Now all the kids want one. And a few of the grown ups!

I also made pillows for the soccer girls. Z-girl drew the letters and picked the material and I cut them out and sewed them to the pillows. Embellished with some buttons and some flower patches they looked shabby-chic. I didn’t get pictures, but I still have to make Z-girl one. It won’t look as girly, though. She wants black and plaid…

Of course she does.

I channeled Mom again and made all the girls angel ornaments using safety pins and beads. Again, Mom made me feel bad that she worked so hard on these in the past, but they were really easy. They’re going to show up on the craft table next year.

For my soccer moms, I painted these skinny reindeer. Last year, I was stressing about finishing the cross stitch frames I was making them and Mom gave me four of these reindeer to paint- just in case I couldn’t finish. I was able to finish the cross stitch so I saved the reindeer for this year. Mom had cleaned them in ceramics, and had started to paint one of them. I kept that one, and painted up the rest for my moms. Theirs have Christmas lights entwined in their antlers.I gave each one of them a reindeer and a coffee cozy, because I know how much they love their coffee. I have to make more of these- they were super easy!

Okay, I feel better now.