The Tale of the Toga

Staying ahead of schedule is not my forte. There are many reasons for this, some good, some not-so-good. Regardless, at 12:30am on Tuesday morning I found myself in the unnerving position of needing to come up with a toga costume for the Spring Musical…in less than 7 hours.

One of the reasons for this dilemma was that the white sheet I had mentally tagged for this task was covered with paint. Having been used as a drop-sheet, this was disappointing, but hardly surprising. I tossed the sheet aside, went upstairs, and started evaluating my assets. White pillowcases are too small and I didn’t really want to sacrifice the set. The flat sheet was too big and I felt the same way about sacrificing that. Pink housecoat was not going to cut it, neither was the Princess Merida Halloween costume.

Although I don’t have a bunch of material lying around the house, I do keep some worn out clothes, especially t-shirts. In the past I have made some really fun stuff out of old t-shirts, and we just happened to have one of Darren’s white t-shirts that had shrunk in the wash and was now unwearable. This was promising, but it wasn’t long enough, so Darren scoured his dresser for another plain white shirt worthy of sacrifice to a good cause.  I pulled out a long black velvet ribbon from my hoarded collection of old things (I’m pretty sure it dates back to high school) and added a vintage necklace to the collection.  I did a Google search for some reference photos, brushed my teeth, prayed for inspiration, and went to sleep.  Just before I drifted off, I had an idea….

Here’s what I did.
  1. Iron the shirts.  They are going to get completely wrinkled, but it helps to start with everything looking nice.

  2. Use the longer of the two shirts as a skirt.  Luckily, the neckhole of Darren’s shirt fit perfectly around Cate’s waist. You can either leave the sleeves as is or tuck then in.  I toyed with the idea of cutting them off, but then you would have been able to see the holes. And besides, leaving them is less work.

3. Put on the shorter shirt like a regular shirt, but put it on backwards.  This gives the costume a drapey look, just that much more removed from Hanes. It also has the benefit of coming down lower in the back, which is very classical looking.

4. Cut the sleeves up to the neckline.    This allows the sleeves to fall open, revealing the shoulders.

5. Tie the black ribbon around the waist, adjust the folds so they lay nicely.  

6. Put on the necklace.

7. Put the hair up in a clip. You know, cause they had plastic hair clips in Ancient Greece. How else do you think they kept their hair up?

I was actually really astonished with how well this turned out. Darren came upstairs to take a look and he was really impressed as well.  And Cate? That face says it all!!



Forgive me, but if you are trying to sell a product…


…called “Euphoria”…


…shouldn’t the model at least look…




Just asking…

Design: The Friday Project

Courtesy of SwissMissStephen Wildish is a British illustrator and designer who has come up with “The Friday Project”, in which he has to create something witty or funny every Friday. Here is his poster “1990s Film Alphabet”.


Darren and I got most of them.  (Can anyone tell me what “K” and “V” is?)  Hop on over to Stephen’s website – it is very cool.  A fair bit of it is NFK (not for kids), but there is a lot of good stuff there.  Look for the pancakes poster and the eggs poster.

Photography: beautiful and brutal.

I was goofing around on Pinterest yesterday and I came across photographer Geoffrey Baker’s portrait series of people who have run “The Barkley,” an endurance race that has been billed as “the most difficult race on the planet.”  It features saw brier (I think this was the inspiration for the stuff that surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle), 59,100 feet of climb, a descent of over 100 miles, an abandoned prison, and geographical features with names like Testicle Spectacle, Danger Dave’s Climbing Wall, and The Bad Thing.

There are two photo essays.  The first is a series of “before” and “after” shots of the participants called “Out There”.  Check out the bios, it is really interesting to see where these people are coming from.

The other is a series of photographs from the event itself entitled “The Barkley: Bad Things Happen.” He isn’t kidding.  Brutal doesn’t even begin to describe.  I can see Darren loving to do something like this.  Hopefully he doesn’t read this blog entry…


(I would have loved to post some photos directly onto the blog, but I am experiencing technical difficulties and I don’t want to violate Geoffrey Baker’s copyright by doing it badly.  So just click through to the links and be astounded.)


This past week or so, Darren and I have been talking a lot about renovating/redecorating our house. For example, our bedroom is blue, and we are pretty tired of it, so I think we may switch to a light yellow. There is a very long list of things to do, from re-caulking the bathroom sinks, to finding a new storage solution for our television, to finally planting a proper garden.

On Sunday afternoon I was just getting frustrated with just thinking and had to DO something. So, keeping in mind my New Years Resolution, I rehung a picture.


I painted this picture in Grade 11. It is a self-portrait, and I am particularly proud of the skin. I spent tons of time on everything else, and did the skin in a few classes. Funny how that works out.

When we first moved into our house the portrait lived in the dining room, but that was a little overwhelming. I mean, I do look fairly forbidding. Then when my grandparents gave us a lovely gilt-edged mirror, the portrait was moved to the upstairs hall on one of the hooks that was left over from the previous owners. However, I have never been satisfied with its placement, but there it stayed for a long time.


Until Sunday afternoon. In my zeal to DO something with our house, I took it down and rehung it near our bedroom door. I think it looks better. There is a little alcove near the door that frames the portrait nicely. It looks like it fits there, rather than just hanging in space all by itself.


I really think that it is all these little improvements that keep me from exploding with “wantingtodoeverythingallatonce!” Which is, of course, impossible.  And if I tried to do everything whenever I wanted to, the house would be an absolute disaster area. Thank goodness for small projects fending off large mistakes!



Fire in the Belly

I was going to post about something completely different today, but you know how sometimes an idea captures you?

When I was in grad school, Darren and I had a prof named Ken Coates.  Ken is an historian of northern Canada who has published dozens of books on a wide range of topics.  He is an engaging speaker and professor and a juggernaut of an administrator.  We used to say that Ken was the standard to which we all fail.  Darren and I were privileged to work for Ken during our time at the University of Saskatchewan.  He gave us the extremely enjoyable assignment of researching the Kemano Completion Project, which meant spending three weeks traveling to all the relevant archives and museums in Victoria, Vancouver, and various small communities between Prince George and Kitimat.  It was really rough.

We talked to Ken a great deal about our futures, trying to discern whether we, Darren in particular, should go on to do a PhD in history and try to get a professorship.  One piece of advice Ken gave us was to follow our “fire in the belly.”  In other words, follow your passion. It was good advice.

Lately, I’ve been feeling the “fire in the belly,” or rather, the desire to really refine what I am passionate about.  And then, audacious dreamer that I am, I want to act on it.

Here is a bit of what I mean. Lately, the approach that Simon Sinek takes really resonates with me.  Please watch this if you can.  I basically wanted to send this to everyone I knew when I first watched it.  I guess I just did.  What is your “fire in the belly?”  What drives you?  What is it you want to do?


(Wow. Simon speaks about his experiences in going to Afghanistan.  Intense and amazing.)

Utility gets an upgrade

Suburban landscapes in North America have the potential to be bland and unappealing. I remember being at my parent’s house in the wintertime – they lived on the side of the mountain so you could stand on their back porch and look across the valley and out at all the houses below. One morning I woke up and it had snowed. I looked out the window and saw a sea of…beige. Everywhere you looked there were neutral-toned houses topped with white. The green of the evergreens was all that kept the view from being totally boring. (Well, okay, the majestic mountains in the distance helped too, I suppose.)

Suffice to say, suburbia is not necessarily the first place one would look for dashes of colour and visual innovation. However, the outlying areas of the Greater Vancouver Regional District have embarked on an initiative that adds whimsy and interest to a functional, mundane item: the utility box. Here’s what I mean…

Various utility boxes around the GVRD have had images added to their exterior. However, what I really like about this project is that the images reflect unique aspects of the community. Here’s what I mean:

Produce: this references all the farms and fresh produce available in the Fraser Valley.

This one is located near historic downtown Cloverdale.

An assortment of items near the local flea market.

A scene from the Cloverdale Rodeo.

A BC lake. Not sure which one…

Lush BC forest. Ahhhh…..

These revamped utility boxes are a wonderful example of adding beauty to a functional item merely for the sake of beauty. It doesn’t increase their usefulness, but it sure is a welcome break from suburban neutrality and large green boxes.