Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s Friday again! Today is a special guest tip!

My brilliant and creative friend Rae Bradbury-Enslin has come up with a super efficient method to sew Deaconess-style masks. You can find the original post on her FB, but here it is, step by simple step.

Instead of cutting all the masks to size, cut or tear your fabric at 12” lengths, fold over with right sides together, and sew the long seam (1/4” seam allowance) creating a tube. (If you’re using different fabrics for front and back, this works as well. Just cut the pieces a smidge larger and sew along both long edges.) Flip the fabric and press the seams flat. You should have a long tube about 6” wide.

Cut tube in 9” segments.

You will end up with several mask rectangles that are open on both ends.

Fold both ends inside about a half inch, press flat.

Iron in your pleats as demonstrated. [I can’t get the video to play on my site — go here for now]

Once your pleats are ironed, you should be ready to sew without needing pins.

Insert one end of a 7” piece of elastic at the top corner and sew down. Double stitch for strength.

Begin to sew the pleats down, inserting the other elastic end at the bottom corner as you go. Double stitch at the corner.

Start the next mask immediately, with no space. Repeat the process above with next mask

You can do as many masks in a chain as you’re comfortable with.


Flip your chain over and repeat process on other side. Note that you will be sewing against the pleats, so just make sure they’re feeding under the foot properly and they should be ok.


Chain of finished masks!! Just snip in between and they’re ready to go! 😊

Feel free to share this very efficient method, Dear Readers, but please give the credit to Rae Bradbury-Enslin.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 3 April 2020 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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To Pass The Time…

Dear Constant Reader,

I know so many of us are feeling trapped and restless. Here are a few diversions I’ve found to help pass the time and stay active in body and mind.

The Enigma Emporium is offering their first set of postcard puzzles, Wish You Were Here, for free. Also, on their FB page, they post a puzzle every Friday — and there are years worth at this point.

The Morbid Curiosity Podcast has been sharing virtual tours on their FB page. And of course you could always give the podcast a listen.

Rory Raven is offering his walking tour of Salem on YouTube. Each short video provides a taste of Salem’s fascinating history.

Angie Pontani is teaching burlesque and go-go routines at 3pm Eastern every Friday on IG Live. If you miss it, she’s putting the videos up on her YouTube, but, trust me, they’re more fun live.

Her sister Tara aka Toning with Tara is running killer workout sessions via Zoom every weekday at 8:45am Eastern.

You can join me on Wednesdays at 3pm Eastern on IG Live at @studyburlesque for a short burlesque lesson. Also, I’ve been doing a little reading aloud.

What do you recommend to keep mind and body active?

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 1 April 2020 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  

What am I up to?

Dear Constant Reader,

How are you dong in this new, weird reality?

I’m pretty lucky because my day job (which I rarely talk about) can be done 99% from home. However, it does take up a lot of my time. Also, I’m spending a lot of time cleaning The Manor. I haven’t been nearly as creative or productive as I might have hoped. I haven’t even been snuggling Albert A. Cat as much as I (or he) would like.

I’ve been working on getting B.A.B.E. on-line. I didn’t want to just leave people who had already registered hanging until we could reopen the studio. Who knows when that will be? We are going to start offering our classes remotely via Zoom this Thursday. It’s totally uncharted waters for me and I hope it works!

I did a couple of mini-lessons on Instagram Live at @studyburlesque, one on floorwork and one with a boa combination. That was a lesson for me too. I’m so used to cuing off of students’ visual and verbal feedback that it was weird to just be playing to my phone. I knew people were watching right then, but I had no connection to them. It wasn’t even like recording a video, which I know will be watched later (and I can edit it).

Perhaps fortunately, that floorwork lesson is lost forever, as I didn’t know how to save the video (Instagram does not make it easy or obvious). Now I know, and I even know how to recover a video once it’s gone to stories, although that’s clunky.

I’m keeping these mini-lessons to 15-20 minutes — short and sweet. I’m also trying to figure out a consistent day and time to offer them. Let me know if there is anything you’d like to learn!

We had a troupe meeting on-line during on Sunday rehearsal time and it was so good to see everyone. Devastasia has the best backgrounds. Albert made a special guest appearance on my feed. We’ll be meeting again regularly and working on some projects, as best we can.

My partner, Mr. Scratch, unlike myself, is an essential worker. When he’s not producing burlesque shows, he’s a contractor. Right now, he’s renovating an old building that will be used for low-income housing. They’re in the final stages of painting and restoring some of the vintage details (his speciality) to make it beautiful. He says “just because it’s low-income housing, it doesn’t have to look like low-incoming housing”. He’s hiring as many out-of-work theatre people as he can. Right now he’s got a lighting designer, a rigger, and a playwright painting the place. They’re all being careful — since it’s an entire building, it’s easy to keep their distance, and they already had protective gear — but I do worry.

I hope you are well, dear readers. Let me know how and what you’re doing.

Next time I’ll share some resources to save off boredom and cabin fever.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 31 March 2020 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

In the Kitchen: Krupnikas

Dear Constant Reader,

Elsewhere on social media someone was lamenting that she had a bottle of vodka that was too weak* to use for disinfecting and too cheap to drink. I suggested making a cordial. You don’t want to use good vodka** for that.

Cordials are alcohol infused with fruit, herbs, and/or spices, sweetened, and sometimes diluted. Some cordials need to sit for a long time, like cherry bounce, to get a good flavor. However, krupnikas, Lithuanian*** spiced honey vodka, can be made in a matter of minutes and served right away.

I flavor mine with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and lemon peel. You could also use fresh ginger slices, cardamom seeds, caraway seeds, vanilla (slice the bean lengthwise, scrape the seeds, and add the whole thing), orange peel, peppercorns, &c. Feel free to experiment!

Krupnicas
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 strips of lemon peel (just the peel, no white pith)
3 cloves
some fresh grated nutmeg
2 1/2 cups vodka

Put the water, spices, and peel in small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the honey and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vodka. Serve hot immediately or let cool. Once it’s cool, remove the spices, and pour into a bottle through a coffee filter-lined funnel. Store in a dark place. It lasts about forever.

Į sveikatą! — To your health!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

*Alcohol needs to be 70% for disinfecting purposes — that’s 140 proof!

**If you have decent vodka, use it in cocktails. If you have excellent vodka, stick it in the freezer and drink it in tiny icy-cold shots with at least two other friends accompanied by ever more extravagant toasts and some snacks like pickled herring on black bread.

***I am, at least in part, of Lithuanian descent. Bet you didn’t know that!

Published in: on 28 March 2020 at 6:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

In case you’re losing track of what day it is, it’s Friday. Time for a tip. I really wanted to give you a great everything-is-normal burlesque tip and I just couldn’t. Nothing is normal.

It’s okay not to be okay.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be stressed.

I know there are people broadcasting what productive and creative things they are doing while isolated, but if you consider it a major victory to have taken a shower, it’s okay.

These are uncertain times and you are allowed to feel how ever you feel. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Stay safe,

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 27 March 2020 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Nana’s Meatloaf

Dear Constant Reader,

I figure we could all use a little comfort food right now. This meatloaf is one of my only true old family recipes, coming from my mother’s mother, known to her myriad beloved grandchildren as Nana.

My glamourous Nana modeling her beautifully coifed red hair.

This meatloaf has been loved by at least three generations. It’s easy and can be thrown together quickly from staples. Necessary for someone feeding a big family — besides herself and my grandfather, there were five children, her mother (the original Wilhelmina, from whom I take my name), and her brother. It’s remarkably unfussy in terms of ingredients and lends itself to variations. I’ve changed up the ingredients from time to time, but Nana’s original recipe is the one I come back when I need a little comfort.

You will need…

  • Ground meat. The original recipe calls for “chopmeat”, but you can use any kind of ground meat. I’ve made this with ground beef and ground turkey and meatloaf mix. I’ve never tried it with sausage meat, but that might work.
  • Minced onion. There’s no quantity in the recipe, but I usually use about half an onion. If you’re low on produce, use dried onion flakes.
  • Shortening. Use classic Crisco for authenticity. I usually use olive oil, but you could use butter or even bacon fat for extra deliciousness.
  • Catsup. I try to avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners in condiments, so I use a ketchup sweetened with honey (it’s really hard to find sugar-free ketchup). Although it smells obviously of honey, when heated, I didn’t notice any difference in taste in the finished product. If you like something zippier, use chili sauce. You could also use barbecue sauce.
  • Breadcrumbs. I’ve made this with standard supermarket breadcrumbs, homemade breadcrumbs, and panko. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, toast a couple slices of bread and crush them in a ziptop bag with a rolling pin (or a wine bottle). Sometimes, when I use turkey, I’ve used stuffing mix instead of breadcrumbs. I’ve also used crushed corn chips — pairs nicely with the chili sauce above.
  • An egg. No explanation required.
  • Milk. It works just as well with non-dairy milk as with the real thing. 3 ounces is slightly more than a third of a cup.
  • To get started, heat the shortening or other fat in a small frying pan. Sauté the onions until softened. Add ketchup and remove from the heat. If you’re using dried onion, skip this step.

    Put the meat in a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs. Add the ketchup mixture (or dried onions and ketchup), egg, and milk. Now’s the time to also add salt and pepper or any other seasonings you like. Now plunge your (very clean!) hands in and mix! There’s something very satisfying about squishing the mixture all together. The only time I remember my mother taking off her wedding ring was to make meatloaf.

    When well combined, mold into a loaf and put into a small baking dish. My mother always made this in one of those Corningware baking dishes with the cornflowers on the side. I wish I had a set of those…

    Bake for 1 hour at 350F until cooked through in the middle. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green veggie. When I was a kid, that was often peas, which we would mix into our mashed potatoes for Polka Dot Potatoes. It seemed like a special treat. These days, I prefer green beans with a hot vinegar-bacon dressing. To each their own.

    There’s also a recipe for gravy, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never made it, because my mother never did. Perhaps one of these days I will, just to try it.

    Here’s the original recipe, exactly as passed down to me!

    Nana’s Meatloaf
    1 hr – 350

    1 lb chopmeat
    3/4 C breadcrumbs
    minced onion
    2 T shortening
    2 T catsup
    1 egg
    3 oz. milk

    Sauté onion in shortening. Add catsup.

    Add breadcrumbs to meat. Add catsup mixture, egg & milk.

    Gravy — melt 3 T butter with 2 T flour. Add 1 t. gravy master, 1 C water & 1 T catsup

    Enjoy!

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 24 March 2020 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    So It’s Saturday…

    Dear Constant Reader,

    For many of us, today we’d be prepping for a show. Alas, That’s not going to happen. What to do instead?

    Unpack your show bag. I’m looking at you…

    Organize your makeup kit and toss old cosmetics.

    Clean your makeup brushes

    Clean your lashes.

    Hand wash that pile of delicates.

    Make those costume repairs you’ve been putting off

    Read a book. Might I suggest one of these?

    Go outside.

    Cook something. Maybe a big pot of sometthing you can freeze part of for later. Or something elaborate you never had time for. Or just something you’re never made before. If you’re looking for recipes, might I suggest this collection.

    Journal.

    Rhinestone all the things.

    Take a soothing bath.

    Just breathe.

    Take care of yourself. Please.

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 21 March 2020 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    If you’re having trouble keeping track of the days while you’re at home, it’s now Friday and thus, time for a tip.

    Clean your screens.

    I know you’ve been hearing that you should disinfect your phone, but how?

    If you’re lucky enough to have disinfecting wipes, you can use those. Otherwise use 70% isopropyl alcohol on a lint-free cloth. Take the phone out of the case and clean all sides of it.

    Don’t use bleach. Don’t use ammonia. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide. Don’t use acetone. Don’t submerge it in liquid.

    I got this info from Apple, but it probably applies to other types of phones.

    Clean your phone, your tablet, your mouse, your keyboard, &c. — any electronics you touch.

    Stay safe and healthy, okay?

    I’m going to be presenting a short floorwork lesson on Sunday at 7pm (eastern time) on live on Instagram at @studyburlesque. I hope you’ll join me! You’ll just need a mat or towel to lie on.

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 20 March 2020 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Isolation Entertainment: Story Time

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I know so many of you are at home for the foreseeable future — me too. I hope to lighten the time with a little entertainment.

    I recorded a video of me reading The Masque of the Red Death (in a vintage red satin peignoir) for my Patrons. Some of you might find that amusing; others wildly inappropriate. If you’re in the former category, here’s a little teaser…

    You’ll have to join my Patreon to see the rest.

    However, there’s an audio recording for everyone right here:
    The Masque of the Red Death

    You can also enjoy my reading of The Tell-Tale Heart from Halloween.

    I’m looking for some more light-hearted (public domain) material for my next reading. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to hear (or any other ways I can entertain and amuse you).

    Stay well,

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 19 March 2020 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Life in the Time of Coronavirus

    Dear Constant Reader,

    These are weird and frightening times. Most performers, burlesque and other, are out of work. Here in Boston all restaurants and bars are closed except for take out or delivery, but many are just closing for the duration, so all those people (some of whom are also performers) are out of work too. My heart goes out to all of those who have lost their income.

    The Great Burlesque Expo has been postponed until September. The RVA Burlesque Festival (where I was going to perform) was postponed for a full year. And I just closed B.A.B.E. for the duration.

    I’m going to see what I can do to provide entertainment and diversion for all of my Constant Readers. Give me your ideas for content you’d like to see in the comments below! At the very least, I’ll be writing here more often.

    Stay safe and healthy, my dear Readers.

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 17 March 2020 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment