A Duct Tape Halloween

ProjectRunwayThe simplest Halloween costume I ever made for myself was the year in college I went as a jewel thief. I wore black jeans, a black turtleneck, and a mask with two eyeholes cut out of black cloth. I carried a flashlight and tied a bag full of colorful Mardi Gras necklaces to my belt. It took about 10 minutes to assemble, and that’s only because I messed up cutting out the eyeholes the first time (they were too far apart).

Since then, I’ve made many costumes for my kids -- Annie Oakley, a Confederate general, hobbits and hippies. I’ve discovered the joy of glue guns, Velcro and felt fabric (no hemming necessary).

But when it comes to me, I’ve pretty much avoided going to adult Halloween parties -- in large part because I wasn’t interested in mustering up the energy to create a costume for myself.

Duct tape has changed my mind.

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Before Summer Ends...

icecreamThere’s less than a month to go before summer ends -- the official end date is Sept. 22 at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time -- but now is not the time to feel bad about all the things you didn’t get a chance to do.

Instead, seize the day -- and the Labor Day holiday weekend -- to have some fun before fall arrives! What should you do? Glad you asked.

Grab a cone. Go to an ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato shop and get yourself a double – with sprinkles. Then sit down outside somewhere and enjoy it. Take your time.

Go to the beach and watch the sunset. Honestly, what’s not to like about a barefoot walk in the sand at the water’s edge?

Take a long walk.

Binge watch a TV series. Orange is the New BlackScandal and House of Cards are all supposed to be great, but I’m thinking it’s time finally to give my attention to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   

Eat something in season. Tomatoes, peaches, raspberries and plums are in season, which means they taste they way they should.  

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Furoshiki: A 1300-Year-Old Answer to Plastic Bags

Talk about enjoying the box more than the present it contains.

When I was a kid, our family would occasionally receive gifts from my parents’ friends in Japan. What I remember most is not the presents themselves, but the intricate wrapping. These gifts were positively in lockdown, but no one had used anything so gauche as tape to secure them.

Instead, the gifts were sealed with wrapping paper that had been cleverly folded in the most unexpected ways. My skill at refolding the paper after the gifts had been extracted turned out to be good for absolutely nothing after the GPS in my phone replaced paper maps.

I had forgotten about these feats of wrapping until a bunch of reusable grocery bags fell on me as I opened my pantry door. (Yes, I’m that organized). Those bags are making me nuts, and there are alternatives. The folks at BlueAvocado make a side-carrying bag out of recycled everything that is surprisingly comfortable. The Europeans have their grocery bags of string, which I admit I once thought were ridiculous.

But the Japanese. They’ve got it down, and they’ve had it down for oh, about 1,300 years. Using a sequence of clever folds, called furoshiki, the Japanese have figured out how to carry just about everything using just a big square of silk or nylon. (Other fabrics work too, but it’s easier to negotiate the knots using silk or nylon).

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A *Third!* Helping of No-Calorie Comfort Food for the Brain

We’re well into summer and if, like me, you haven’t yet taken a vacation, it’s time for a break – a mental break, that is.

For me, that means turning to my no-calorie, comfort food alternative: online videos that shift my mood or rest my brain. As I’ve noted in two prior editions of no calorie comfort food for the brain (here and here), I watch these videos not because some are viral video darlings, but because they do what comfort food is supposed to do: Make me feel better.

Here are my summer 2014 picks, with length in minutes noted. Enjoy!

1. Simon’s Cat (1:41).  British animator Simon Tofield, interested in learning how to use Flash technology so he could put some of his creations online, ended up creating a charming series about a mischievous and intelligent cat. There are more than three dozen animations to choose from, but I recommend starting at the beginning with the first in the series, “Cat Man Do.” The cat tries to get Simon’s attention so it can be fed. Anyone who knows cats knows how good this is. Meoww.

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The Science of Summer

sciencesummerIf I ever have a few minutes of idle speculation, it’ll come during a lazy hazy day of summer, when I’m either playing hooky on the beach or enjoying an early morning walk.

And since it’s summer, my questions tend to run along the lines of: Whatever happened to watermelon seeds? How do they make fireworks explode into those fancy shapes? Any chance of us catching a great meteor shower this year?

Below, the answers to those and other commonly-asked summertime puzzles. At least we think they're commonly asked!

How in the world can you make a firework explode in the shape of a smiley face (above)?

To figure this out, it helps to know a bit about how fireworks are constructed. They’re pretty simple: a bunch of “stars” are packed into a shell along with explosives.

The stars are simply pellets that, depending on the chemicals they’re coated with, burn in different colors. (Stars appear to be two different colors, consecutively, when they’re coated in two different chemicals—the color of the outer coating shows first, and when it’s burned through, you see the results of the second chemical coating burning up. Think of a gobsmacker).

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True Love