March 30, 2008

Costa Rica Adventure Continues

We are now in Tamarindo where we'll be for the rest of our trip. We're staying at a beach hotel called Cabines La Palapa.

Before this we stayed at the Hotel Sugar Beach, also in the Guanacaste Province but way, way more isolated than the place we're in now. It was amazing. There were iguanas everywhere. The climate is so dry, cactus grows wild.

Dogs are the wildlife you see roaming freely in Costa Rica. They aren't stray dogs. They are the pets of people who let them run free every day. There are several that I recognize now, almost as mascots of the beach where you can find our hotel. The owners reside nearby. And the owners seem to be Belgians. I dont know if they are ex-patriots or not. I have not yet screwed up the courage to speak with them.

Costa Rica is a nice place to visit.

March 26, 2008

Costa Rican Vacation

We arrived in Costa Rica on Sunday the 23rd and stayed one night at Grano de Oro in San Jose. I couldn´t tell you what San Jose looks like because I stayed in the hotel the whole night. I was tired from traveling. And we had an early pickup for our next hotel the following morning.

On Monday, our bus picked us up for our journey to Volcano Lodge where we are now staying. Every room in the hotel has a view of the Arenal Volcano. Before 1968 it was known as Arenal Peak. Guess what happened that year. That´s right. It erupted. Costa Ricans living in the area believed it to be just another mountain. 87 people in the two nearest villages died.

Anyways, yesterday afternoon we went on a nature hike in a secondary forest near Arenal volcano in a private park called El Silencio. Some of the trees are so tall already you´d think they´d been growing for 200 years, but no. The forest is only 40 years old. The hike was slightly challenging but wow. Pretty amazing. We heard howler monkeys in the distance and saw all types of beautiful birds, most notably a chestnut mandibled toucan and a montezuma oropendola. The second part of our hike involved lava spotting. We travelled by bus to a vantage point where many had gathered to watch the active side of Arenal erupt gently. And sure enough we saw beautiful lava flows from a safe distance. Yesterday's excursion ended with a visit to Tabacon Hot Springs where we also had dinner.

Today we´re scheduled for canopy tours. Jon is going to use the zip lines to make his way out of the canopy. I have a reservation for the funicular in both directions. From the safety of the tram, I´ll be able to see Lake Arenal on one side and the volcano on the other.

Tomorrow, we´re going to the north Pacific coast. Wahoo!!

March 25, 2008

Blog Lite

Blogging will be light if not scarce the next week or so.

I´ll tell you why next week.

March 22, 2008

Clothes Shopping

The last couple of days, I've been clothes shopping and I enjoyed myself for the first time since I can't even remember. Why? Because I'm two sizes smaller than I was the last time I went shopping.

I bought clothes at The Gap of all places. I haven't been able to wear their clothes in forever. I didn't even buy my clothes in the largest size available. I was able to buy the second largest size. Hopefully, pretty soon, the word LARGE won't even be part of my clothing vernacular.

It was an exciting day!!

March 21, 2008

Excellent Commercial

Do you remember this commercial from the Super Bowl? It's still the best one that debuted that evening.

March 20, 2008

Another New Monster

If I don't make at least one doll a day, I feel incomplete. There is a method to my madness. I recently launched a shop at ETSY.COM to sell my wares. My shop is called Vexillia. And you can get to it by clicking here. Anyway. I'm happy to introduce you to Duckbill Monsterpus who will most likely be a gift for my niece.

American Idol - Not

I'm not watching American Idol this season. I have no idea at all what's happening on the show.

A Clean House

After two weeks of obsessive monster and bunny creating, I had let the housework go a little too long. So yesterday, after I finished my softly horned monster, I decided to clean the bathroom. I focused on the bathroom with the intensity of a thousand suns. And now it's really clean. But I didn't stop there. I was getting such a nice rush from cleaning that I ended up cleaning the whole apartment. It took three intense hours. But it was well worth it. The sad thing is there's still more to do, mostly involving throwing out and filing various items made of paper.

Unfortunately, I worked myself into such a frenzy that I forget about the plans I made to attend my friend trivia's night at Dempsey's. Duh. It wasn't until after I was done cleaning that I remembered I was supposed to that. Sorry friend. I was planning on coming.

I was so tired that I slept through the whole night, which is an accomplishment for me. I suffer from occassional and unpredictable bouts of insomnia. And that's something I've been experiencing the last couple of weeks. Nothing cures insomnia for me like utter and complete exhaustion.

I think I'll make another animal.

March 18, 2008

Year One of the Empire et al

Year One of The Empire
My blog has been a little bit DOLL obsessed since I started making dolls a couple of weeks ago. But I have been doing other things besides obsessively making two dolls a day. For example on Sunday, Jon and I went to see Year One Of The Empire at the Metropolitan Playhouse in the East Village. It's a three act play about America's occupation of the Phillipines at the turn of the 20th Century and it's a very good play. The venue is very intimate. The theater is one room with bleacher seating on three walls. My friend JM is in the show. I wanted to support her. And I felt comfortable doing so because the NY Times gave the show a good review. That doesn't happen often when going to shows to support friends. Oft times, whatever your friend is doing is JUST awful, unless of course you're friends with Harold Pinter or Beyonce for example. But you know what I mean. I recommend this play but hurry up and see it because it ends March 30. I still made a doll in case you were wondering.

I went Athena's Nails yesterday and got a manicure/pedicure from a sweet but sickly woman named Marisol who kept coughing on my toes. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may recall previous rants against Athena's. As much as I hate some of their practices, they still provide the best manicures and pedicures in the neighborhood. My complaints have always involved their poor customer relations and long waiting times. But if you go early enough in the day you can avoid these problems. While my nails were drying, I took a couple of pictures of their nail tip samples. They are both strange and wonderful. Athena's
Athena's Nails

I still managed to make two dolls yesterday. I also made a chicken soup and roasted an delicious chicken.

March 15, 2008

Crane Collapses Killing Four

Did you hear about this? While I was nestled comfortably in the basement of the Broadhurst theater stitching a new monster, a crane collapsed on the east side of New York destroying a building and killing at least four people.

It happened around 2:30 this afternoon. And from what I read it was a horrifying experience.

NY Times
Crane Topples in Manhattan, Killing at Least Four People

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

This week, I've been working at the Broadhurst Theater where they are showing Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Debbie Allen directed this production which stars Felicia Rashad and James Earl Jones. I still haven't watched it and I don't think I'm going to. I just haven't been in the mood this week to watch a three hour drama.

I've been making dolls to keep myself busy and to pass the incredibly slow moving time that I have to wait between acts.

Two intermissions. Three acts. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Here are some reviews
NY Times
NY Post
Talkin' Broadway

Celebrity Rehab wtih Dr. Drew - Reunion Show

Yesterday VH1 aired the reunion show for Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. I'll just sum up quickly how each person is doing.

Joanie Laurer (Chyna Doll)
She still denies she's an addict but she does attend therapy. She still drinks. She brought her counselor with her. She's seriously gotten back into fitness.

Brigitte Neilsen
Still sober. Brought her husband with her. She also quit smoking. She gained 45 pounds. She looked happy.

Seth Binzer
Was doing well until he went on tour without his sobriety sponsor and ended up using but feeling incredibly about it. He looked healthier than he did in the first episode of Celebrity Rehab.

Rico Rodriguez
He went to AA 90 days in a row and he's still sober. He still has to deal with the courts. I'm not sure what's happening with his custody issues.

Mary Carey
She quit porn but still does "featured dancing" to earn money. She is taking care of her mother because her mother couldn't get federal assistance. You might recall he mother is quite mentally ill and needs to be institutionalized. She has wine from time to time, but apparently is doing much better in terms of managing her life. She also seemed happy.

Jamie Foxworth
Apparently she smoked pot for a month after getting out of rehab, but she admits to smoking a lot less than she used to. She still smokes it though. She never seemed as out of control as everybody else. She'll be okay.

Jeff Conaway
He takes lots of oxycotton because of his back. He's had four surgeries and claims that he still needs it to manage his pain. Dr. Drew spoke with his neurologists who apparently agreed that Jeff should stop the junk. He'll soon be going in for a fifth operation.

Jessica Sierra
Poor thing had to leave the Sober Living program for some court appearances in Florida. While there she fell hard off the wagon and was almost sent to prison for 10 years. Fortunately Dr. Drew was able to get her into a solid year of rehab by negotiating with the judge in charge of sentencing. But if she gets into trouble with drugs again after that year, she'll have to go to prison.

Daniel Baldwin
He didn't show up. I'm not sure why. Dr. Drew was nice and offered him continuous support and excused his behavior by explaining how difficult a time he was having with his own sobriety. The other rehabbers applauded but you could tell they still have hostile feelings toward Daniel for his inappropriate behavior with Mary.

That's the bones of what I learned about the contestants when I watched the reunion special.

Another Monster

Please don't hate me because I keep posting pictures of my little dolls, but I feel like I'm starting to get somewhat good at making them and I wanted to share my latest.

Green MonsterPink Monster
Pink Bunny

March 14, 2008

Baseball Monster

Baseball Monster
I really like how this monster looks. I tried to give him an eyebrow but it ended up looking like the brim of a cap. His arms and that band across his chest ended up looking like a shirt.

Jon commented that this particular monster looked like he was going to a baseball game, so . . . well you know the rest.

March 13, 2008

Half Birthday

Today is my half birthday, meaning I am 40 and six months.
Baby Val
Happy half birthday to me.

March 12, 2008

Black and White Sock Monster

This is my third sock monster and as you can see, he wasn't made from perfectly clean socks. I'm using our old socks to try out different ideas. I have some great new materials that I'll use once I've established a few different patterns I like using.
Black and White Sock Monster

Blue Bunny

I can't help it. I just can't stop making these cute little dolls. I'm happier with this bunny than others. Embroidering their faces is getting easier and I'm happier with the head shape.

Blue Bunny

Spitzer Resigned

Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned this morning, three days after the NY Times broke a story about his involvement with prostitutes. He said that he resigned at the request of Lt. Governor David Paterson.

As of March 17, Lieutenant Governor Paterson will move up the ladder to become the state's first blind governor. He'll also be the first African American governor of New York State, if I'm not mistaken.

I watched quite a few interviews with fans of Lt. Gov. Paterson. He's well loved. The talking heads on television predict that he'll do well as our new Governor. I've heard him described as a 'mensch' and an all around decent person.

We'll see.

March 11, 2008

Pastels and Monsters

I improved on the dog doll but am still having trouble with attaching the heads.

I even made my first monkey. His body came out great but I had trouble embroidering his face.

But after a week of making sweet pastel kittens, puppies and bunnies, I've switched to making monsters. Here are my first two.
Monster  Monster

Spitzer Screwed

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has been implicated in a high end prostitution sting. He allegedly invited a stripper from the tri-state area to a hotel in Washington D.C. Apparently, when you invite someone to have paid sex in a different state than where that person lives, you're violating the Mann Act(no pun intended).

It's not surprising that a government official was caught using the services of a prostitute, because that's not a new offense. What's surprising about this case, is that Spitzer hasn't resigned yet.

And while I'm not surprised that our governor was with a prostitute, I am disappointed in him. I'm sure his family is also disappointed.

Good luck Mrs. Spitzer. I hope you and your three teenage daughters come out of this scandal unscathed.

Read about the Spitzer case:
NY Times
NY Post
Daily News

March 08, 2008


I made two more dolls. And finally, my dolls are starting to look like dolls.

Gypsy - Patti Lupone

Previews for Gypsy starring Patti Lupone started this week at the St. James Theater. I've been working it all week. I missed the Monday night performance starting my week on Tuesday night.

I am so excited to finally see a production of Gypsy. I have wanted to see it on stage since I saw the movie 20 or so years ago that stars Rosaline Russell and Natalie Wood. I have a recording by the original Broadway cast which includes Ethel Merman. It's one of the best musicals of all time.

I missed the Tyne Daly production long, long ago in the 90's. I missed the Bernadette Peters production back in 2003. Finally, I get to see the show and it's starring the amazing Patti Lupone. She's truly amazing. And not just because she's a great singer.

Wednesday night something out of the ordinary happened at the opening of Act II. Act II opens with Rose, Louise and a troop of girls camped out in the dessert. They're rehearsing the new act for Louise. Just as the curtain opened a lightbulb fell center stage. That wasn't supposed to happen. Patti Lupone didn't miss a beat. She continued with the scene. As she was saying her lines, she went back stage and got a broom and started sweeping debris off the stage from side to side. Laura Benanti as Louise practiced her baton twirling and the girls backed her up. All the while Patti Lupone was cleaning up and performing. When she was done sweeping with one broom, she went back stage and got another to push the debris off stage because the first broom didn't work so well. It was seamless. The way she did it, you'd think it was written in the script that a lightbulb should fall from the sky.

Last night something else extraordinary happened. And this will tell you how amazing is Laura Benanti as Gypsy Rose Lee. There's a moment in the show that's referred to as "THE MOMENT". It's when Louise, getting ready to perform her first strip tease is standing back stage in a gown, looking in the mirror. It's when she discovers her own beauty and she says, "I'm pretty. I'm a pretty girl, Mamma." Just as she said it last night, a curtain mistakenly came down practically on top of her. The curtain covered half of the mirror. Laura Benanti pulled the curtain aside and pushed her head through to say her line. When the curtain came up again, the back drop for a future scene had mistakenly and mysteriously moved into place.

There was no recovering from that. Laura Benanti finally had to say "stop the show". And they did. An announcement was made informing the audience of technical difficulties. The audience applauded. And they sat there in the dark whispering to each other for 10 minutes. Nobody got up, well a couple of people did but mostly people remained in their seats. After 10 minutes. the curtain came up again and they'd reset everything so Gypsy could have her "moment". The show continued. And we all got out late, after 11 pm.

Gypsy is a long show. Add technical difficulties and forget about it. I didn't get home until after midnight last night. My last headset was finally returned when the theater was almost empty of patrons. Then I had to wait half an hour for an N train. Ugh.

Anyhoo. You should go see Gypsy. It's great. I don't know if anyone will ever be as great as Ethel Merman. But Patti Lupone comes darn close.

And she's amazing.

March 07, 2008

Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew - Finale

The show is over. Three of the seven celebrities decided to go to Sober Living, to continue their treatment - Jessica Sierra, Mary Ellen and Seth Binzer. Four decided to go it on their own and swore to Dr. Drew they would fight to stay sober - Jamie Foxworthy, Joanie Laurer, Brigitte Nielson and Rico Rodriguez.

The ceremony was emotional and very serious.

This show is a departure from VH1's regular "Celebreality" programming. There was nothing to make fun of and I don't have anything witty or clever to say about any part of it really. When the celebs behaved badly, they evoked sympathy from me. And when they behaved well, I felt proud of them.

The show was a success for me.

I'm looking forward to the reunion show, to see how everyone is doing.

March 06, 2008


Three Amigos
Since I made that first pink bunny, I found out that there is a whole community of people making these sock and glove dolls. The name for these dolls - Softies. I haven't officially joined the community but I have made some dolls and I wanted to share them with you. You've already seen my VERY pink bunny which I posted a few days ago. Since then I've made this very sad looking dog out of an old pair of Jon's tube socks.
First DogSad
As you can see from the expression on his face, he knows that he's not quite right. This has to be the ugliest doll in creation. He basically looks like a stuffed sock with sewn-on buttons.

But I did not lose hope. In fact, I bought some new materials and started over again.

Second BunnyI decided to try another bunny. I used a soft, terry cloth, pastel pink pair of gloves. He came out pretty cute, although, I had some trouble with his neck. The bunny is very soft. I'm much happier with his appearance, although his ears are rather lopsided. I embroidered a mouth under his nose, to give him a smiley appearance. It gives the doll a little more personality. It took me a little over an hour yesterday to make him.

Today, I decided to revisit the dog. Instead of a sock, I followed the instructions for how to make a dog out of a glove. I embroidered the face because potentially, I'd like to give the doll to my niece who is still very small and going through that phase where children explore the world with their mouths. Buttons would probably be a choking hazard. Anyway, here it is.

Second DogI'm fairly happy with the result. The arms on all the dolls have been giving me problems. The patterns I'm following show the arms as lying flat against the sides of whatever creature you create, but mine stick out. It could be stuffing, it could be stitching. I'm still trying to work that one out. But I think the face is really cute. And even though it looks like a lamb, I'm still calling it a dog.

March 03, 2008

Pink Bunny

I picked up the supplies at Michaels on Northern Blvd. I chose to make a bunny first. And I followed a pattern from the book Sock and Glove. I made my bunny out of a pair of cheap pink gloves bought at the local 99 cent store.

Pink BunnyPink Bunny

The bunny did not come out as cute as I would have liked but I'll give myself some credit for getting started. I can't expect the first toy I make to be perfect. I watched Martha Stewart make a perfect bunny in 10 minutes on her show so I really thought it was going to be very, very easy.
I'll keep practicing until I get better. I've already started work on the dog pattern, using an old pair of Jon's socks.

March 01, 2008

Historical Society of Princeton

On Thursday night, Jon participated in a panel discussion on crime in the 1930's with a focus on the Lindbergh kidnapping. The event was hosted by the Historical Society of Princeton and the event was called The Great Crime Wave of the 1930's. Jon's fellow panelists were Lloyd Gardner, author of "The Case That Never Dies" and John F. Fox Jr., FBI Historian.

Lloyd Gardner started by setting the scene. He wrote a book called The Case That Never Dies which discusses the Lindbergh case in great detail. He's pretty impressive. He teaches at Rutgers and he seems to put out a book a year. He was animated and engaging and pitched his book beautifully and obviously. He wasn't even subtle about it, but he was so charming that his presentation wasn't effected by his book mentions.

Jon was next and he discussed three interesting characters involved in the case but not directly; Ellis Parker, a celebrity detective of the time; governor Harold Hoffman and gangster Longie Zwillman. All three wanted to make an impact on history but ultimately had no real effect on the outcome. For a variety of reasons, Hoffman thought the man convicted of the crime, Bruno Hauptman was innocent. Ellis Parker worked for Hoffman in trying to prove his theory by beating up a false suspect until he confessed. This resulted in a temporary stay of execution for Hauptman. (If you want to learn more about it read Jon's book, Notorious New Jersey.) Longie Zwillman claims to have offered his services to the Lindberghs, to try to find their kidnapped baby, because, Longie Zwillman longed to trade in his criminal reputation for a one that was more reputable.

John Fox spoke about crime in general and explained how FBI and forensic sciences were in their infancy. He also explained a lot about jurisdiction, which I thought was very interesting.

It was a nice event that was very well attended.

Sock Shirt

My doll making books came in the mail yesterday. And I got started right away. From the book Sock and Glove, I decided to make a shirt for a monkey doll we brought back from our trip to Barbados. I made the shirt out of an old sock. Is that just the cutest thing?
Today I'm going to pick up some supplies so I can start making dolls.