The Tale of Two Hats

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Our neighbors down the street commissioned me to make them some crazy hats for a charity dinner party they are attending that happens to have an under-the-sea theme. They knew I might be up for the task based on my paper-maché-snitch-piñata-making skills. Of course I said yes. How fun would this be?

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For the man they asked for an angler fish hat. Great idea, right? Sadly, this monstrosity fell very far short of my imagination of what it should be.  It looks pretty scary but there are so many things wrong with it. Firstly, I had to figure out a way to make the teeth (that I bought off amazon) splay outwards in a big bulbous way. The only way I could figure to do this was by paper-mache over a balloon. That worked but then I had to attach my bulbous shape to the hat somehow.

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I ended up cutting the dried ballon so it lay over the front of the hat and then I attached it to the hat with wire that I had wrapped in newspaper for bulk. Then I had to cover up the wire and the balloon so I used black crafting foam. I think ideally I would have paper mache-ed the whole thing but I didn’t want the hat getting too soggy and I was running out of time.

Black crafting foam is a great medium that can be cut in all sorts of fun spikey ways but wrapping a flat square piece of foam over a round shape is challenging! I could have improved my pattern A LOT but you know me, I just forged on like non-perfectionist that I am. So that means the underside of the hat (the part you see the most when you are wearing the hat has this awkward open space under the mouth. It’s all spray-painted black but it looks like a hodge podge quilt. I guess angler fish aren’t the prettiest of fish anyway so we’ll just embrace it. Then I couldn’t get the foam to match up to the mouth so I cut these strips of spiked foam and wrapped them around like lips. I also forgot to spray paint those strips so they are matte while the rest of the fish is properly slimy looking. Groan.  I think overall it works if you don’t think about it too hard.

BUT! The noodle-y thing that angler fish use to catch their prey does light up! That’s why there is a pretty big opening between the teeth. That’s where you can squeeze your hand inside the mouth to switch the lights on and off. I used the cork fairy lights that I had used for our fairy jar craft. I just covered the lights along the string with masking tape spray-painted black.

It’s a big mess. But you wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you, right?

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So you would think that this sea-foam under-the-sea woman’s hat would be a piece of cake, right? Compared to the angler fish hat this should be something I could do in my sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty! I did everything wrong. Firstly, I decided to add these really cool octopus tendril finger puppet things to the front that should be the back. Yep. I squarely did everything backwards on this hat. The front is the back and the back is the front and there is a big ol’ visible seam on the front. I always do everything wrong first. Except this time I couldn’t go back and fix it second time around because the tendrils were good and sewn and there was no ungluing the tulle and sequined fabric that I wrapped around and glued to the brim. But really, that’s not my first mistake. My first mistake was to buy the hat in blue and purple instead of just blue.

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I ended up hating the purple so much that I spray-painted the top to cover it up. I wish I would have spray-painted the whole thing because the spray paint actually looks pretty good but by the time I figured that out I had already glued dozens of shells and bubbles and pearls and sequins to the hat and they would look horrible turned all flat blue.

So that’s that! Pretty cool but riddled with problems!

Thankfully the recipients will probably neither notice nor care! And now I know how to do it right if I ever need to make these again.

Radish Legs!

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You know what’s great? Fashion tips from your kids.  Like say,  Do you think these jeans make my butt look fat? And my kid  answers back without missing a beat, Yes! And gives me a high five on the butt because big booties are awesome. She’s always helping me with my low self esteem.

So the other day I’m hemming and hawing about what shoes to wear because I have amazingly small feet, and while they are cute and dainty, they make my legs look like colossal tree trunks extending into thighs of a speed skater (I so missed my calling). Picking out shoes to wear with skinny jeans can be tricky because I just feel like I have radishes for legs and maybe I need some boots or giant-soled doc martins to balance things out, you know?

She talks me into wearing my converse shoes and tells me with an exaggerated eye roll that scrunching my socks down is so nineties. Really??! I think she’s right. I’ve been hanging onto these quirky style habits from my high school days and it’s so hard to let go of them. Like they say, you will keep dressing the way you did when you think you looked the best, thus my side-swiped bangs and a ponytail forever until the end of time. I’ve tried parting my hair in the middle and sporting it like Bug does but I just can’t let go. 1990 forever!!

Anyway, these not-so-flattering skinny jeans sucked into my tiny shoes without any bunchy socks reminded me of a funny story. Well, not really a story so much but one of those snippets of memory that is clear. It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t from childhood.

It was fourth grade and we used to play four square a lot during recess. It was the thing. Everyone played, all the time. The whole blacktop was covered with painted four square courts and every court had a line. I wasn’t very athletic and I even played, which says a lot. Because you know, I’d much rather be out in the field looking for four leaf clovers but there I was with everyone else, pounding a big red rubber ball into the black asphalt.

There were so many rules too! No cornies (corners), no bounce-backs etc etc etc. We spent so much time fighting about the nuances of four square. Shouting matches turned into brawls and justice was served by the whistle of the yard narc. Things got so heated up regularly that one day my fourth grade teacher had had it and she marched out to the blacktop and gave us all a schooling in how four square was to be played from now on. It was like bootcamp for four square, yelled out by a teacher with long frizzy brown hair like Sarah Koenig and her glasses too. She was a nice teacher and super smart but she’d had it up to here with us and our constant four square bickering.

Four square got even better after that. There were tournaments and the teachers got involved. I remember you had to work your way up to the biggest court with the sixth graders and if you were really good you got to play an end-of-the-semester game against the teachers while everyone watched. It was great.

Anyway, against that backdrop, I remember one day I was playing this one girl and she was really mean to me. Always calling me out on the stupidest of infractions and I was constantly out, never getting much of a chance to hit the ball at all. I hated that girl. I remember going home and talking to my aunt about her. I’m sure my aunt gave me some lecture about taking the high road or something or other but I do remember her telling me this one story about when she was growing up in Japan. (My mom and her family were military brats.) She said, in Japan, the lowest of the low that you could call someone was “radish legs.” Radish legs?! That was hilarious to my little fourth grade mind. I couldn’t say bad words but I could call someone radish legs? Really? My aunt was encouraging this? It was empowering.

The next day I was ready and armed with my big new word. I was a shy girl who never said anything and regularly got bullied. So when that girl started calling me out on four square infractions that I didn’t commit, I screwed up my courage and yelled, RADISH LEGS! at her as loud as my little voice could shout.

It was great. Instantly three seconds of silence hit the court. She looked at me, her eyes bulged and then she started laughing. The whole court started laughing. The line of kids waiting to play started laughing. We couldn’t stop laughing. I think we laughed until the bell rang and then continued to laugh during class. It was a moment that got forever inscribed in my memory because of all the laughing.

And to this day, when I look at my fat thighs squished into skinny jeans that get narrower and narrower into my shoes, I think of radish legs. I imagine white tendril-like roots growing out of my converse shoes and it makes me smile. I’m sure teaching children to call each other names is not a good moral of the story but I do think that sometimes humor is the best way to disarm.  That girl and I were never quite at odds again and every once in a while people would call her radish legs and we’d all laugh again.

She deserved it.

 

Edited to add: This girl did not have radish legs. She was quite slender and also cute.