Monthly Archives: January 2013

How strange is this…?

Halloween prop #1. It’s just about done. (And, yes, I know it’s only January and we’re talking about Halloween props!) Nonetheless, Catherine has decided to put a “family” of werewolves just outside her front door this Halloween (and I’m pretty sure the “daddy” werewolf is going to have captured his prey – ick!). Needless to say, building a werewolf family takes some doing so Catherine decided she better get to it.

We had a dinner party last night (as a side note to my loyal readers… you’ll notice that every time I talk about Catherine having a party, I say “we.” There’s good reason for that… I do the cooking. And I don’t just mean for the parties. I cook for Catherine’s family and my family 5 nights a week. We both have lots of kids, so that means on any given night, I cook dinner for anywhere from 10 to 17+ people. Every night. Week in, week out. She pays for the food; I cook, and she does the dishes. We both LOVE it! It’s a perfect set up!). And occasionally we have guests over. Last night we had a party for Catherine’s son’s birthday (I can’t believe it’s been 17 years since he was born! Time really does fly…). So in addition to the usual crowd, we had all sets of grandparents, as well as our niece. It was a full house, to say the least. And that’s why this story surprises me. Back to the werewolves…

Earlier in the day, Catherine sent me a series of photos. The first prop for Halloween 2013 was being created! How exciting! This is the part I find truly amazing – Catherine’s creativity, talent, and determination. It all comes together through her props. She starts from scratch – plywood, screws, PVC pipe, chicken wire, etc. Then builds from the ground up.  Here’s what I’m talking about:

Halloween Werewolf - 2 (2)Halloween Werewolf - 2 (1)Haloween Werewolf - 3The werewolf stands  over 7 feet tall, has bloody fangs, claws that could rip her little cockapoo dog to shreds, and currently stands in her kitchen during the assembly phase (she’s still perfecting the fur coat!) Yet when all the guests came over for the birthday celebration, not one person even mentioned it. Not one! I find that shocking…

Maybe I’m way off base here, but I would think that if one walked into someone’s house and there was a 7 foot tall, half-built werewolf standing in the corner of the kitchen, one might say something. Something like, “Wow! How amazing it is that you built that!” or “How did you do that?” or “how long has that taken you?” or even “is that going to stay in your kitchen for the next 10 months…?” (The answer to that is no, just in case any of you are wondering…) Nope. Nothing. Just “pass the Chardonnay please” and “this Malbec is really great” and “what’s for dinner?” (I suppose that one should make me happy… 🙂 )

So what does it mean when you’ve worked on creating something amazing for two days and those closest to you don’t even notice or comment? Does it mean that people are unobservant, insensitive, self-absorbed, and judgmental?

Or does it mean that those who love you most, know you best…  And they accept and appreciate your passions, dreams, and desires, and don’t want to hinder them in any way. They accept those passions as part of you and who you are, and it’s all those things that make them love you in the first place, so there’s no need to even comment on them. (Well, not every time, at least…)

In this case, the answer is clear – every person at the party is kind, generous, loyal, and would do anything for Catherine. There’s not an insensitive or self-absorbed one in the bunch. They love and adore her, and are thrilled to see her doing Halloween again – seeing her creativity and enthusiasm. They know it makes her happy and are along for the long haul. They’ll watch 7 foot werewolves, headless corpses, swampy jungles with crocodiles and pythons, and zombies appear out of nowhere. And most of the time, everyone will be quietly awestruck at all she accomplishes. It’s just Catherine, it’s who she is. And everyone loves her for it.

Got Math?

I’ve just seen the scariest part of Halloween…. The math! Yes, I said math.

We’re up north at the cabin with my sister and her family – enjoying the velvet blue skies, the smell of pines, and the 8 or so inches of snow still left on the ground as we sit near the crackling fire. The cabin provides us all time to relax, chill out, and spend time indulging our favorite past times (reading, writing, working (yeah…. that’s my sister’s husband’s indulgence), and of course, Halloween planning for Catherine).

So when I retired early last night to catch up on some much-needed sleep, I thought nothing of the fact that Catherine was working furiously in her “ideas notebook.” It’s what I expected. What I didn’t expect was to wake up to this:

Halloween Math

Pages and pages of math. Calculations. Formulas (formulae?). I guess I always took for granted over the years how each Halloween monster hung perfectly off the ledges in her house, or that the pneumatically driven props activated at just the perfect time to fill each passerby with terror and fear, or how the life-sized pirate ship had just the right amount of bow and curve at the helm. It’s all about the math.

It got me wondering – how much do the rest of us use math in our everyday or creative lives? So I looked around. Catherine’s college aged son actually brought 2 math books up for the weekend (probably playing catch up for homework unfinished…); my husband is in sales, which means he needs to analyze how his product will save his customers money, thereby creating sales, thereby increasing his commissions – all of which require calculations. I run a company and spend a good chunk of my week poring over weekly and monthly data, comparing customer numbers, ever-changing contract revenue, payroll numbers, etc., Math, math, and more math.

So for all of you (or your children) who defiantly declare “I hate math!!” you might actually be surprised at how much you (yes, even you) use math in your daily life. Enjoy your math, and appreciate it everywhere you see it! And let’s all hope Catherine gets her math correct – because if it’s wrong, the “crashing elevator” may actually crash. Or the rotating tunnel may actually rotate down the driveway and end up in the wash. Or the “crush room” may really crush. And that would be bad….

The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.  ~S. Gudder

Send in the Clowns…. Halloween Style.

Please feel free to visit my new blog!  The Spicy Apron

I have very few childhood memories. I don’t know why that’s the case, particularly because I had a great childhood – two parents who loved me, nice house, good schools, tons of sports, great family. So there’s really no good explanation for why I don’t remember much of it.

One clear memory I do have, though, is spending countless hours on the piano bench learning to play the iconic Send in the Clowns. Of course, back when I was 14 I had no appreciation for the true meaning of the song – I simply thought it was a sweet and beautiful ballad about a girl waiting for the piece de resistance of a circus. I had no idea the song was actually dark, distant, and haunting.

Apparently, my sister’s take on clowns is much closer to the somber and ominous nature Sondheim intended when he wrote that song. (No doubt she spent more hours over those ivory keys than I did!) And while we both now know the song actually has absolutely nothing to do with clowns, our childhood impressions still manage to permeate into things we do today.

My impression…? Clowns are sweet and innocent and bring joy and happiness to young children.

Catherine’s? Clowns are creepy, scary, dark, and will fill people with terror and nightmares. Which of course translates to Halloween! The research has begun. creepy-clown-monster-faceThe design has taken shape. And the images are beginning to fill her “ideas” notebook.

So while our childhood memories have formed our individual views of clowns, I’m guessing Catherine’s perspective will have a lasting impression on everyone who is brave enough to make it through the “circus tent” at Halloween 2013! I’d love to hear which camp you’re in…. cute? or creepy?


Don’t you love farce? 
My fault, I fear. 
I thought that you’d want what I want… 
Sorry, my dear! 
And where are the clowns 
Send in the clowns 
Don’t bother, they’re here.  – Stephen Sondheim

You Are Cordially Invited: The Halloween Creation

There are two schools of thought when you’re on to something good. One is that you should protect the knowledge; keep it to yourself. Don’t share the secrets out of fear that someone else will copy you, or worse yet, improve on your idea! While this is a useful strategy in some areas (like for the guy who accidentally discovered the magic formula for the quasi-tacky-glue-like stuff on the backs of sticky notes – not a chance he would share that formula until it was well-protected by multiple patents and he became a multi millionaire! Completely understandable.), it’s not always the best course of action, though.

Then there’s the other way of thinking – if you find something, discover something, create something that is truly awe-inspiring, share it with everyone who might be even remotely interested. Then it will spread like wildfire (while I will withhold my own personal views of Julian Assange, I believe he is the master of this way of thinking).

In the case of the creation of my sister’s Halloween, I subscribe to the latter thought process. So consider this an official invitation to you to witness the unfolding of something great. No secrets. No hiding the golden egg. No masking the flaws or mistakes. And no glossing over the frustrations along the way. This is a process – one of trial and error; success and failure (hopefully with a heavy emphasis on the success part!). I welcome all of your input and suggestions (and, yes, even improvements). Let’s all create something great this Halloween and share it with anyone and everyone who will enjoy the process, the creation, and the final product. Three cheers for Catherine and all of her work, effort, creativity, endless devotion, patience (well… we’re keeping our fingers crossed for that one!), and most of all her enthusiasm and positive attitude! It’s going to be a fun and exciting (albeit trying at times) 10 months. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

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