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Heyday

Time for the annual camping trip and costume night. Yes—a party in the woods!

This year’s theme was “The 1930s,” and we decided to eschew the high/low living Glamour/Depression outfits from the era. It turned out that most of the attendees did one or the other: grubby down-and-outer or high-society one-percenter, so I am not sorry we went in another direction. Instead, I looked up inventions and discoveries of the decade. We settled on “The First Canned Beer” (c. 1935), and Pluto, which was discovered and proclaimed a new planet in 1930. Ah, how times change.

Scotch Tape was my runner-up choice, but I figured Pluto had more nostalgic, underdog appeal. So the plan was to make a big sandwichboard costume of the planet, with a solar-system hat and hair of the era.

The hat seemed to be the most time-consuming part, so I began with that:

First, I gathered together balls of approximately relative sizes. This was the closest I could get on scaling. Mercury really would have been teeny otherwise. But the four terrestrials are relatively correct, as are the other four. The smallest ones are wood, and the larger ones styrofoam.

It all started with balls ...

It all started with balls …

I rigged up this drying rack with a scrap of wood, some nails and hot glue to hold the nail down.

Painted balls.

Painted balls.

Then I spent the next couple of sessions layering paint on the different planets.

A dash of sunlight.

A dash of sunlight.

Earth has a lot of detail that I wasn’t able to capture well here and both Mercury and Mars have lovely metallic textures that would never be visible in a photo, but I think Jupiter is my favorite. Here’s how they all laid out on the table, with distance to scale.

Distance to scale. Neptune waaaaay back there.

Distance to scale from the masking-tape sun. Neptune waaaaay back there.

I had to compress the distances for hat-making purposes. This is headgear, afterall.

A more realistic scale for headgear.

A more realistic scale for headgear.

I cut doweling to length, painted it black, and glued it into the planets and fascinator sun. This took several steps (and a lot of patience) to plot the right locations in a test-sun first, running off to a mirror, rearranging and cutting the dowels … I also had to figure out how it was going to stay on my head, which involved gluing a comb into the sun and adding a neck strap for security. It all came together, but if I were to do this again, I’d probably find a pre-fab fascinator base and use that. I had to weigh down the sun while everything dried.

Assembling the hat.

Assembling the hat.

Next up was painting Pluto. I cut out two circles from half-inch-thick black-foam board and sprayed them with green and gold spray paint. This was actually the most expensive part of the costume (foam and one can of paint), as well as the quickest. I think I cut and painted both panels painted in less than half an hour.

Pluto.

Pluto.

I glued fabric straps to each planet half to create the sandwichboard. This required help to measure the positioning.

sandwich

I added a beauty-pageant element to my costume, both to explain it a little (Pluto: Miss New Planet 1930) and because I had to wear a dress under the sandwichboard. The sash was done by typing out the letters in Word, printing the words to scale on paper, tracing that onto the sash, and then gluing glitter to the lettering. This takes a while, but it looks nice. It’s also messy. Don’t do this anywhere you aren’t prepared to see sparkle for eternity.

Making the glittery sash.

Making the glittery sash.

A generous friend finger-waved my hair.

That '30s hair.

That ’30s hair.

Here’s how the hat came out.

Fascinator!

Fascinator!

And here’s the full costume, along with JC’s. I made a little dress out of an old curtain; it really wasn’t the main element, but I couldn’t be naked. That also took a while, and you could easily wear something else. I just happened to have the fabric, so it was a free (if time-consuming) solution. I also had the shoes on hand, which helped keep a ’30s feel.

Pluto wins the Miss New Planet Award for 1930. And look, it's canned beer, a new invention!

Pluto wins the Miss New Planet Award for 1930. And look, it’s canned beer, a new invention!

Sunday Dinner

Every Sunday night, we get together with the same set of friends for dinner. This usually involves oversized portions and more dessert than we need.

This all began ten years ago, after their first child was born. Going out had become difficult and costly for them, so we started staying in. At first, it was occasional movie nights, which turned into “Sopranos Sundays.” This led to other HBO shows (Deadwood, Rome … the list goes on), and of course we all needed to eat. Soon we were up to eight adults, and a new tradition was born.

Our hostess jokes that she’s bribing us with food as a “thank you” for coming over, but we’re glad to be part of the family; it’s a comforting routine. The guests rotate bringing entrées and sides. (Tonight, we’ve got the salad.) And one in our group is a pastry chef who experiments on us with treats.

It doesn’t hurt that they have a keg fridge with two craft-beers on tap, and they just finished building a TV room with a 72″ wall-mounted screen and reclining theater chairs.

But we’re in it for the company of our little extended family, which makes it all the sadder when anyone moves away. This has happened twice now over the decade, as couples embark on new adventures and explore opportunities elsewhere. This leaves the rest of us staying behind with something like “empty nest” syndrome, watching the place settings dwindle in number but wishing our friends all the best.

In honor of our own little Diners’ Club, here’s a retrospective of our meals. Sometimes, we get a little fancy (Oeufs en Muerette, Ethiopian), and many kitchen prep sessions are quite visceral (deconstructing a ham for cassoulet). One time, our hostess went to the local butcher for whole chickens and came back with whole chickens, heads and all. Take a gander.

We may be losing another member soon, but we’ll always have these memories.

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