The Dress Up Trunk (Warning: Lots of parenthetic descriptors)

The dress up trunk started as a labor of love by my Mom for Elise and I. She spent hours scouring remnant bins at SewFro and Hancock’s. She spent even more hours sewing elastic sequin belts and little skirts and dresses and pirate costumes. She donated some old, strange jewelry to the cause (think peach pit necklace she was given at a Mardi Gras parade). She poured a lot of love into that box… And the whole time she was doing it, all my Dad could think was, “Poor Kelley… They are NEVER going to play with that thing…”

Boy, was he wrong.

As you can see, Elise is having a marvelous time in her metallic top, tutu, pirate skirt, curling ribbon tiara, and genuine Ruby Slippers. (The general rule with the DUT is the more the merrier: the more articles of clothing you can adorn yourself with at a single time, the happier you will be. Good job, Elise!)

The Dress Up Trunk

Elise and I wore it until it was threadbare, and gave it to friends, who also loved it to shreds and then gave it to their cousins. The oddball collection of costumes was one of the coolest things we owned. It was a creative outlet and a gateway for our imaginations. We spent hours playing boarding school (Seriously… I was always the teacher, we were usually in Eastern Europe, and Elise, the perpetual pupil, was having to run away or be hidden from something, so the game always began with a journey of epic proportions, and that journey of epic proportions, for reasons I don’t remember, almost always began in her closet), pirate ship, magical princess ball, and, every girl’s favorite, wedding day (don’t worry, Elise got to be the bride sometimes… Not nearly as often as me, of course). I can’t stress enough how much we loved that thing.

Those memories are what drove me to make a contemporary facsimile of the infamous dress up trunk as a Christmas gift for my 5 year-old (for all intents and purposes) step daughter Caroline and her two younger half-sisters.

So I began. I scoured the remnants bin at Joann’s, came up with little (it’s the 20-tweens, a lamé drought!), and scoured for coupons instead. If you are not yet in the know, you can get any item in the store at any given time for at least 40% off. Seriously. They always have sales running and coupons available, either in the store, in mailers, or online. I got great deals on all kinds of fun fabrics. They have a whole aisle, which I have fondly dubbed “The Quinceñera Depot,” where one can find about ten different styles of fancy, wedding-inspired apparel fabric in about 20 different colors. I had a field day. I didn’t even know that they made aqua lace, much less that I could get a yard of it for less than $5. I also found some light pink knit jersey with navy stripes and skulls. They even make jungle green spandex that has little scale-looking things on it, just like a mermaid’s tail! It’s really pretty amazing, the amount of unique (tacky) things available out there.

I had a windfall during my second trip ever to Hobby Lobby. Trim was on sale! I got several yards of fringe and sequined elastic. I even located some hot pink fringe with sequins in the actual fringe. Woohoo!

Then, I sewed. I sewed and sewed and sewed. I kept sewing some more. I got the world’s coolest serger for my birthday, thanks Mom and Dad, and kept humming right along (though I did so with a new sense of professionalism; all my seams now looked lovely and store-bought). I sewed close to 40 items for that thing. I’m sure Justin, despite hearing Dad’s reassurances that we played with ours until we grew out of all the costumes, wondered if I was crazy at times, staying up until late at night fooling with a tulle skirt that simply wouldn’t come out the way I wanted.

I made a gold pleather skirt (yes, gold pleather exists), several pairs of harem pants (don’t worry, we called them Jasmine pants in front of the munchkin… The last thing I want is her asking me to explain a harem), a head scarf with jingly coins, an indigo satin cape with black glitter stars and moons, a wizard’s cloak with purple sleeves, a black-and-white polka dot skirt, a purple metallic evening gown, an asymmetrical disco-ball dress, a pair of electric yellow and electric blue cheetah print shorts (it’s in the material pic at the top… I wish I had gotten more yardage for myself. I felt that way about several of the fabrics. So did Nikki.)… and a wedding veil and skirt to top them all.

This is, of course, not mentioning the notorious flower girl-turned-princess dress that you can still see traces of in my kitchen sink. This creation started when Justin, Caroline, and I were all in Justin’s best friend Jacob’s wedding to Cami. The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch. At the end of it all, though, we ended up with a large-running size six wedding dress replica, which had set me back about $80, that there was no chance in Christendom Caroline would wear again.

(My bridesmaid dress, on the other hand, is a flattering deep purple and will be recycled into an organization in Houston that gives out prom dresses for free to girls who don’t have the money to buy their own dress but still want to go to their prom. They literally just have to call and say they are showing up, and they get a free dress, make-up, and accessories! There are several organizations like this throughout Houston and the entire US. Conduct a search for one in your area if you too have dresses from sorority formals or friends’ weddings collecting dust in your spare bedroom closet. Some organizations also need cocktail-type dresses and give them out for girls to wear to graduation and other senior events, so if that’s all you got bring ’em on!)

Back to the FG dress… What was I to do?

I got the bright idea to dye the 100% polyester creation. It was a disaster. The first time (HA) I dyed it, it came out splotchy. It was no surprise, since apparently polyester is the most difficult thing to dye by far. After round two, this time with a lot more dye and some vinegar to set it, I achieved a reasonable shade of aqua (see Aquamarine, under the blue-green shades). It was still splotchy, but not nearly as noticeable as the first trial. (I’ll make another, separate post with a photographic account of the princess dress, for those of you interested in laughing at my folly.)

I bejeweled it to moderate success, and then I sewed a feather boa around the top of the bodice and sewed on a few dozen beads. Caroline LOVED it.

At the end of her stay, I told her she could keep two outfits here and could take the rest home. Luckily, the princess dress is staying. 🙂 She was torn about leaving her wedding veil. Conclusion: I told her I would make her another one for here. I went back to Joann’s today to buy some more white lace for a veil. I also bought some awesome fabric to make a new wedding skirt, as well as some bright-white brocade for a wedding tunic to go under aforementioned wedding skirt. I hope she will be pleased. I also have some leftover tulle for another skirt for her. I also never actually used the aqua lace and figured it would make lovely sleeves for something, or perhaps a princess something-or-other since it matches that dress quite nicely.

Suffice it to say, I don’t think I’m done with the dress up trunk. Though I am not quite willing to admit it yet, I’ll probably make another dress up trunk’s worth of tacky clothes to stay here at Casa Kaia and Justin.

Which, really, is fine. I absolutely love that girl. I think she is smart and talented and beautiful and amazing and helpful and, well, just a wonderful person. It brings me pure joy to see her face light up when she accomplishes something or her mile-wide smile when she runs to me yelling “My Kaia!” and wiggles into my arms for a hug. I can’t think of anyone or anything better to spend my time and energy on, and that’s the truth.

Watching her open the trunk up was certainly the highlight of my Christmas (the three of us opened gifts as a family on Tuesday, complete with a treasure hunt to find her new bike), and I hope she and her sisters enjoy it. Below are a few pictures of Wedding – Evening Gown Caroline, Rudolph – Gypsy Caroline, and Pirate – Model Caroline. There is also a picture of the munchkin, Justin, and her new bike. Did I mention she’s athletic, too? 🙂

Chicken Contest

A few weeks ago Justin and I were talking about where we were going to eat for dinner, and no one wanted to choose. This is a common occurrence with us. The common solution, which Justin suggested then, was rock-paper-scissors. Whoever lost had to decide where we were going AND pay. I “lost.” I chose Popeye’s. I won.

That night, the chicken contest was born. We decided to try all the fried chicken we could find and decide what was best. Before you read on, I should warn you: this contest, if you can even call it that, is completely arbitrary and has no rules. The reliability and validity of our findings are poor, and our methods are questionable. If you decide to go by something we say, you do so at your own peril. 🙂

Since that Saturday, we have been eating fried chicken for lunch or dinner every Saturday. Popeye’s was first, and it was delectable.The biscuits were buttery, the red beans and rice were spicy, and the chicken was juicy, crispy, and good good good! The people who work at the Popeye’s on Shepherd at W 11th are incredibly nice. The whole shebang constitutes a pleasant dining experience. I was truly delighted with my choice and purchase. I won like Charlie Sheen.

I think one of the reasons I like Popeye’s is that it’s the chicken I grew up on. When we were growing up, Elise knew two kinds of chicken: chicken on the grill (which is exactly what it sounds like) and chicken on the bone (FRIED chicken!). That’s still one of my favorite Elise-isms. She has so many good ones. When we ate chicken on the bone we either ate it at home, when Dad made it, or at Popeye’s. Dad does make some tasty fried chicken, for the record. I can eat a LOT of it. Yum. Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m saying nothing more than, “You have not made fried chicken in a long time, and you know we all really like it when you do.” He also makes the world’s best potato pancakes. There’s a good story about those, but I am starting on a tangent.

Back to the chicken contest.

The next week we went to KFC, and it was gross. I mean it. Disgusting. The chicken was soggy! Literally. Soggy. Ew. The gravy (which I had to try, because Cartman on Southpark is sooo obsessed with it) was nasty. The quality of service was poor. I mean, Justin asked for a breast and a thigh (hehehe, I know I’m like an 11 year old but that’s still funny to me!), and they couldn’t even do that! The girl was downright rude! Everything was just gross. I don’t ever think I will go back.

I wanted to write a letter to Southpark telling the producers that Cartman has no logical reason to be obsessed with such a terrible place. I mean, remember the episode where the guys get mad at Cartman because he eats all the skin off the bucket of chicken, and he says, “I don’t get what ya’ll are mad at I left you the good part,” after they come back from helping Stan’s mom bring in groceries? Directly after that he leaves. Well, that’s pretty bad. Hilarious yes, but awful. Now imagine that the chicken skin was soggy. THE HORROR!

I wanted to write another letter to Popeye’s, offering my services to their marketing team. If they don’t want to hire me, that’s fine, but they need to hire someone. I mean, how is KFC beating them?! How is it that Popeye’s is that much better, and people still eat at KFC?! Marketing! Everyone knows KFC: the face, the jingle, but of the four people I polled, all of whom are serious Popeye’s fans, no one could sing, “Love that chicken from POPEYE’S!” No one! It’s kind of sad, really. If someone at Popeye’s reads this, I would be happy to work for ya’ll and help turn this thing around.

KFC doesn’t deserve a letter.

Last week was by far the most interesting in the contest yet: Justin likes Church’s the most now. That’s right. Church’s beat out Popeye’s in a national spicy recipe taste test, and Justin agrees with the majority! I liked the chicken. It was about the same as Popeye’s for me. I also liked that they had okra. I love okra. What I was unimpressed with (which Justin liked) were the red beans. I thought they were lacking. Justin really liked them, though, and they weren’t bad, but they weren’t my favorite.

The biscuits at Church’s, however, were really good. They put honey on them as part of the baking process. I am a huge fan. They were some of the yummiest biscuits I’ve ever had. They also looked like homemade biscuits: nice and ugly. Nothing like some good homestyle cooking. I wonder if I can figure out how to duplicate that…

What with both the chicken and biscuits being delectable, I’d say I am also a Church’s fan. I guess the best way to put it is this: if I wanted chicken, I wouldn’t pass up a Church’s to get to a Popeye’s. I would pass up KFC to get to anything else.

On a side note, I had surgery last week, and I was still sort of on pain killers when we ate Church’s, so my opinion is most likely a little skewed. That’s also why I didn’t write on the blog at all. Sorry about that, but everything I wrote was complete nonsense. Think Alice In Wonderland. I actually decided to work on a story, and wrote a good 2500 words on it, but the next day re-read it and had to delete delete delete. I had, in my delerium, decided to add magic to the plot. Nikki got a real kick out of that when I told her. Narrator foul. 🙂

Tomorrow should be good. Justin and I are going to try Hartz Chicken Buffet. Rod and Zsazsa said they have eaten there several times and that it’s pretty good. We’ll see about that! Popeye’s still reigns supreme for me.