An Old Year, A New Year

Inspired by the Top Nine lists everyone’s been posting on Instagram this week, I decided to take a look back at some of my favorite moments from 2015. Instead of going on just people’s likes on the photos I posted (which, let’s be honest, tended to be an indicator of how well I hashtagged), I created a collage of the personal and professional moments that’ll stick with me most over the past twelve months.
Top Nine of 2015

  1. RBG: My new Ruth Bader Ginsburg puppet was by far my favorite design in years. I’ve already explored some of the many reasons why I love RGB, and it was lovely to know that she’s got plenty of other puppet-loving fans out there besides myself.
  2. Good/Bad: A twofer of possibly my best and worst parent moments of the year– The bad news: My kid got his front tooth knocked out at school. Dang. The good news: An epic Pee Wee Herman Halloween costume.
  3. The King: I love this custom Elvis puppet. It was about time I got to render that famous white suit in felt.
  4. Pride + Victory: This year, the Chicago Pride Parade fortuitiously fell the day after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. To say that the event felt electric would be a bit of an understatement, and I’m so proud we could be there to witness that moment.
  5. Furiosa: My favorite custom puppet of the year– I got to create this Imperator Furiosa based on the badass character from the surprisingly good film, Mad Max: Fury Road. I shared a few months back about my process in getting her signature black make-up just right.
  6. New Views: Probably my biggest personal moment of the year, after a very long search and a lot of false starts and dead ends, this August I got a new job doing pretty much exactly what I dreamed of doing at pretty much exactly the kind of organization I wanted to work for. Oh, and this is the view from the building on Michigan Avenue. Not too shabby.
  7. Jean-Michel: Another fun custom order I completed this year was this Jean-Michel Basquiat. One of my favorite all-time artists, it was great to get the push to finally try out making him 4″ tall.
  8. Roadtrip: Our family vacation to Cape Cod this fall was an epic week of r + r, but the highlight of the trip (and one of my very highest highlights of the year) was the 30+ humpback whales we saw on our whale-watching excursion. It was pure magic to be in the presence of these incredible creatures, literally close enough to be eye to eye and get wet from their spray, and is an experience I’ll never forget.
  9. Furry Friends: This year we decided to volunteer as a foster home for the wonderful dog rescue One Tail at a Time. We hosted four lovely pups over the course of the year, the final one– Sprinks/now Murf– became a “foster fail” when we decided to make him a permanent addition to the family. How could we say no to that face!

There you have it–my 2015 in a nine-part nutshell! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: thank you to you–my readers, customers, and friends–for coming along on this journey, reading what I have to say, and being interested in my finds. I hope 2015 was good to you, and wish for a brighter and kinder 2016 for us all.

DIY Holiday Garlands

Life is crazy at the moment, but I’m counting the days until holiday orders are out and presents are all purchased. If that ever happens, I’ve got big plans to actually decorate for Christmas, and make and cover the house with festive garlands. Till then (or just in case it never happens), I’m coveting these.

gold-fringe-garland-DIY-New-Years-Eve-Party-Ideasdiy-triangle-garland-

Holiday Products Are a Go!

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us– or getting there, at least– and seasonal products are available now in my shop!Louis CK ornament, Ira Glass ornament, Frida Kahlo ornament, Steve Martin ornamentAny finger puppet you’ve had your eye on is available as an ornament, for the perfect bit of fandom for any tree. How about a Ruth Bader Ginsburg ornament for the law student in your life, Frida Kahlo for your favorite budding surrealist, or Steve Martin going wild and crazy on the tree for years to come.
Pop culture ornamentsBack in the shop is also old favorites– felt state ornaments and Ralphie from A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”).

Unless you happen to be one of those weirdos who has all their shopping done by November, there’s an excellent chance you’ve got somebody on your list who could use a finger puppet or ornament to make their life complete. So get on it! ; )

Welcome to the Playhouse: Pee Wee Halloween Costume

Henry's Pee Wee Herman costume

Update: As featured on Pee Wee’s blog, May 16, 2016 (!!!)

Henry and I started watching Pee Wee’s Playhouse together a year or so ago. It has honestly been a dream come true for me that he loves the show as much as I did when I was a kid (and, heck, still do). When I was a kid, I never wanted the show to end. I distinctly remember feeling so bummed out when the credits started to roll; thirty minutes was no where near enough time to examine every intricately-designed and decorated corner of the space, or stare intently at the puppets, trying to figure out how they were made. Now that the show has been re-released, the picture quality is astonishing. There are so many new details to take in, now in their fully-realized, HD glory. It’s a feast for the eyes, and the show itself totally holds up as well.

When Henry decided on his Pee Wee costume a few months back, I wasn’t totally sure it would stick. Three year olds aren’t exactly known for keeping their word. I’d check in with him every few weeks just to make sure he was still on board, and since he wasn’t wavering, I decided back in September that it was time to get to work. Since Henry’s blond hair is clearly not very reminiscent of Pee Wee, my mind went to the crazy helmet that he wears at the end of each episode of the show. Just like last year, the costume hinged on some crazy headwear to make it complete.Pee Wee HelmetAfter a lot of research and a lot of searching (this thread was particularly helpful), I eventually collected most of the toys needed for the helmet– giant eyeball, squeaky bulldogs, dinosaurs, cowboys, clown heads. I decided against the flame stickers only because the helmet was already pretty full. Besides the helmet, the rest of the costume was thankfully pretty easy by comparison: The same gray “robot pants” Hen wore last Halloween, a vintage gray jacket on Ebay, white Tom’s knock-off shoes, red bowtie. Pee Wee Herman costume suppliesHenry had a bike helmet that he’d almost outgrown that we decided would be a good base for his headpiece. Though it was already red, I thought that trying to glue toys onto the slick surface probably wouldn’t work very well, so step one was covering the top in papier mache. Pee Wee Herman helmetFrom there, I painted a few coats of red paint and started gluing. Gorilla Glue is great for sticking weird things like this together, but because it takes a while to cure, I had to rig up an elaborate web of tape to keep everything in place. And since that stuff puffs up like crazy, there was a fair amount of chipping away at the extra glue afterwards, too.1_IMG_4117Next was another layer of papier mache to make the eyelid, and then a few coats of paint to touch everything up and hide any extra glue. The final step was then covering the whole dang thing in glitter– a bottle of clear sparkle paint left over from the mural I painted for my niece 15 years ago. Sometimes being a packrat pays off!Henry's Pee Wee Herman costumeThe final product is everything I could’ve hoped for. With the kiddo suited up and on his scooter, it was pretty much unmistakable who he’s supposed to be. (It helps that he’ll sing you the “Connect the Dots” song at the drop of a hat, too.) We tried out his costume over the weekend at a local kiddie Halloween parade and only lost one dinosaur over the course of the evening. I consider that a success!

 

Update: By popular request, here are the sources where I found the toys used to construct Henry’s/Pee Wee’s helmet, along with tips for how I used them:

Eyeball: The real helmet looks to have a Mad Ball, but they’re now collector’s items and the real ones are hella expensive on Ebay. Instead, I found a foam squeeze toy that was a pretty close approximation, if a little smaller than I’d hoped. The one I bought (on Ebay) was similar to these.
Plastic Dinosaurs: Lots of dinos are easy to find on Ebay as well. I went with monochrome ones to keep it simple (ha!)
Clown Heads: These were on of the trickiest pieces to research, and I was never able to find clown heads that were flat. I think I did come upon something very close to the original at one point, but knew I didn’t have tools that would let me saw through the hard plastic. Instead I went with a 4-pack of cake topper clowns.
Bulldogs: The bulldogs on Pee Wee’s helmet appear to be hard plastic. The closest replica I could find were soft squeaky toys. I cut them down the middle with an x-acto knife and removed the squeaker. Because they’re not rigid, these were tricky to glue down, so I filled them with newspaper that I adhered with tape, then glued that down on the bottom with more glue around the edge.
Cowboys & Indians: Lots of these available on Ebay and Etsy. I went with a bulk lot of about a dozen that were all different because I liked the variety. (I also x-acto-ed off all the guns and threw away the extra racist ones, to keep it 3-year-old appropriate.)
Birds: I searched and searched for ducks like those featured on Pee Wee’s actual helmet. Alas, they were no where on the internet, as far as I could tell. Instead I went with balancing birds, cut in half with the magnet removed. They’re easy to find online, too.

 

There you have it– a Pee Wee helmet recipe. Or as close as you can get to one, anyway. Good luck!

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of life post-holidays. While I didn’t intend to take a hiatus from blogging, it was the by-product of three family Christmases and two road trips in just 10 days or so, not to mention the blur of buying gifts, opening gifts (okay, mostly watching the kid open gifts), deciding whether it was warm enough to not wear a coat, then freezing our butts off, looking at Christmas lights, eating various kinds of potatoes and cookies, etc etc etc. Oh, and six movies in three weeks– probably a new personal record. Here are some of the other highlights:

 First up, our annual pre-Christmas cheese pimgrimage to Wisconsin.

Untitled design (6)Christmas morning involved bubbled wrap (not surprisingly, the kid was more interested in it than the actual present), and an unimpressed dog.

Untitled design (7)Nieces found my camera at Christmas and left these choice selfies for me to discover later.

We got these vintage circus cake toppers a few months back, but I let Henry play with them at Christmas for the first time and he was enamoured.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.57.13 PM I don’t generally Instagram food, but when I do, it’s probably the B & B from Yats.

You’re funny because you’re true, Cards Against Humanity.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.57.00 PM Just two goofs on New Year’s Eve.

 

I have to say, I’m definitely a fan of a little break and reenergizing before the new year. And now that that’s done, here’s to 2015!