Birthday Wishes

My sister celebrates another trip around the sun today. We’re only 13 months apart so we always shared a room, many hobbies and lots of laughs. We also share a passion for dress up and especially Halloween.

Sharon prefers scary costumes and has put together some doozies over the years. The bloodier the better. Two years ago we collaborated on a costume together: the Corpse Bride from the Tim Burton movie of the same name. Her friend Kim did her makeup. Doesn’t she look amazing?

sharon halloween corpse bride

Check out Sharon’s costume history, below:

Happy birthday, Sharon. Wishing you a wonderfully ‘scary’, music-filled, purple-enriched day.

Mexican Sage: Low Maintenence Wonder

salvia with bee

Bees are good for the planet

Not everything in the garden takes work.  As flowering plants go, Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) is a low-maintenance wonder. This glorious specimen lives at the curb.  I bought it for five dollars a decade ago, planted it in a spot without any irrigation, and within a short period of time it tripled in size.

Year after year, it produces glorious purple flowers.  The bees love it and so do the hummingbirds.  It’s also a favorite of a few little girls on the block.  I gave one of them permission several years ago to help herself to a few blooms on her walk.  I appreciated her interest and her lovely manners.  She asked first.

Salvia Leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)

Salvia Leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)

Of course you can’t please everyone.  The water meter-reader left a grumpy note one year asking me to “clear the shrubbery” so he could do his work.  The sage is so soft that you can push it aside, or snap off a few twigs.  Perhaps he was just having a bad day.  Early this year, I removed a few lower limbs, knowing it would fill out completely by early fall.  That did the trick.  The plant is full and lush, but the lower branches float above the water meter.

salvia water meter

Water Meter, clear for the reading

salvia leucantha

Attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees

vibrant purple

Vibrant purple, soft to touch

Last year my sister dressed up for Halloween as the Corpse Bride from the Tim Burton movie of the same name.  I picked several branches of sage and wrapped them into a headband for her costume.  Once dried, they were a perfect addition to the headpiece.  Her friend Kim designed her makeup and together we created her costume.

Salvia crown

Corpse Bride

Why plant a Mexican Sage:

  • Drought tolerant
  • Low maintenance
  • Attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees
  • Soft as velvet with vibrant color
  • Show-stopping beauty
  • Looks great on a costume


Corpse Bride Costume Update

Corpse Bride: The Run Down

corpse bride ribs closeup

Corpse Bride Ribs

I put the finishing touches on my sister’s Corpse Bride costume this week. What fun!

The battered Corpse Bride wedding dress, is actually two pieces: a thin cotton top from a thrift store and the slip from my wedding dress. I washed the veil, lace and top in a bath of tea, then brushed the lace and top edges with a purple fabric marker.  I cut a hole in the “bodice” to accommodate a set of ribs, purchased from a local costume shop. I added some lace to give it more character and to make the two pieces appear like one.

The bodice lace has its own back story.  It was originally a pair of detachable sleeves for my wedding dress. I didn’t plan to wear them, so put the two sleeves together to make a bridal purse.  17 years later, the purse is now lace trim for a Corpse Bride.

Her veil is a re-purposed drapery panel, also from a thrift store, with a crown of dried flowers from my garden.  The bouquet is from the garden as well.

Corpse Bride Crown

Corpse Bride Crown
Drying Salvia (Mexican Sage)

Corpse Bride Flowers

Corpse Bride Flowers

She’s been working with a friend over several weekends to get her makeup just right. The finished results are breathtaking. I can’t wait to feature her debut.

Corpse Bride Ribs

Corpse Bride Ribs

Costume By Twos

Our party is just two weeks away so I need to get moving on my costume. Well…costumes. I’m making two.

My fitness camp instructor holds a fundraiser each year benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara Valley. It’s also a costume contest so I couldn’t resist. The challenge is putting together a costume that you can wear while exercising. I’ve come up with the worlds easiest costume, heretofore know as “Late for Boot Camp.” I plan to wear a garish pair of pajama pants that I purchased on the cheap (purple leopard anyone?), with a grey tank top I already have. I found a pair of Hello Kitty slippers on the clearance rack to complete the ensemble. The makeup is easy: I’ll got to bed *wearing* mascara, and my pillow will do the rest. I’ll wake up with raccoon eyes and a bright smile. The topper, of course: multicolored foam rollers in my hair. Remember those?

Bella Pilar Dress

Stay tuned for details of my second costume. I’ve pulled the pieces together, but need a few dedicated hours to sew the dress.  If only I could lose 10 pounds by Halloween.

Halloween Countdown

snail eating pumpkin collage

Snail-eating pumpkin
Exploiting a soft spot on the pumpkin

Tea: It’s Not Just for Drinking

Our British father was a tea-drinker, so as young girls we wanted to follow suit. My first few cups were mostly milk and sugar, but I grew to love the brew and look forward to a cup daily. When I traveled to Hawaii years ago, my friend Paige teased that I was the only one she knew that wanted to drink hot tea in the tropics.  It grows on you!

Growing Tea

The tea-plant is an evergreen tree which grows in tropical or sub-tropical regions. A high level of humidity, lots of sunshine and plenty of rain make the ideal planting conditions. It grows easily at altitude (Darjeeling teas are grown in the Himalayan mountains). Tea plants are cultivated in tea-gardens which often give their names to certain growths of tea.

In the wild, the tea plant can reach 10 – 15 meters tall, but to make it easier to harvest its leaves, it is pruned to a height of about 1.10 meters from the ground. It has a lifespan of around forty years.

The tea leaves are plucked three times a year and each harvest period imparts a distinctive flavour to the tea. In the Himalayas, the first harvest takes place from mid-March to mid-April and produces teas with a mild, vegetal taste (this is the “First Flush”) and rare and aromatic qualities.

The second or middle harvest takes place between mid-April and mid-May and produces teas with a more fruity and perfumed flavour.

The last period for tea-picking is between mid-May and mid-July, for the stronger and less delicate growths. Source: Kusmi Tea

Tea Dye

When I worked in the costume shop at San Jose State, we used tea as a light stain on white shirts. True white is blinding on stage when hit with hot lights. The tea took the edge off the brightness. I’m employing this same technique to age a few pieces for my sister’s Halloween costume. She’s dressing up as the animated character Corpse Bride from the Tim Burton movie. We’ve pulled together pieces from thrift shops and items on hand along with a floral head wreath and bouquet from my garden.

Tea Rinse

Costume Pieces in a Rinse of Tea

Mom-isms: Tea Fixes Everything

Growing up, our Mom’s solution for most things was the pragmatic, “Have an aspirin and a cup of tea and you’ll feel better.”  That still makes me smile. Mom died in 2008 but today is our shared birthday.  Mom hated a fuss, so in her honor a simple “happy birthday!” is what made her happy.

Mom's Halloween Sketch

Mom’s Halloween Sketch

Halloween Countdown

corpse bride pumpkin

Corpse Bride Bouquet and Headpiece

Costume Pieces Made From the Garden

Finally I have some dead and dying flowers from the garden to work with.

She’s lost her marbles, you say?  Not at all.  I’m helping my sister make her Halloween costume.  She’s dressing up as The Corpse Bride, from the movie of the same name. We’re big Halloween fans in our household. It’s license for silliness and creativity.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
(photo credit Yahoo Movies)

Here is what we have so far.

The Veil and Headpiece

We found a sheer ivory curtain panel at a local thrift shop to create the veil. I’ll distress the fabric in a bath of tea to add character. I made the crown from Mexican Sage flowers tied around the base of a headband, then wrapped in purple ribbon. As the flowers dry between now and October, they’ll take on a dusty hue.

Corpse Bride Crown

Corpse Bride Crown
(Mexican Sage)

Sage and Ribbon Closeup

Sage and Ribbon Closeup

The Bouquet

I used spent hydrangea blooms, now a mottled pink and green, and added dried lavender. I mixed in dead Cosmo stems and a few Allium Stellatum, also known as Prairie Onions. (She can smell the part, too). I wrapped the dried stems in garden twine, covered them with black tissue paper, and added leftover bits of purple and black ribbon.

Corpse Bride Bouquet

Corpse Bride Bouquet

Corpse Bride Flowers

Corpse Bride Floral Bouquet

The Gown

We picked up a white sheer blouse and a long linen skirt for a few dollars at a thrift shop.  They’re both made of natural fibers so they’ll die well.  (Oh the puns). Together they’ll make her wedding gown.

There are a few more details, but for the most part the costume is coming together.  Halloween is about eight weeks away.  Can’t! Wait!

Do you celebrate Halloween in your area?  Do you plan to dress up?