Join Me! I'll Be Teaching at BlogHer PRO School During National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

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BlogHer's NaBloPoMo, otherwise known as National Blog Posting Month, is an invitation to dig into writing online by posting every day for a month along with thousands of other bloggers. This year, BlogHer is adding BlogHer PRO School to the mix, which is a month-long curriculum from past Voices of the Year honorees aimed at helping us all write better:

In honor of NaBloPoMo this month, we've invited some Voices of the Year honorees to teach you their techniques for writing useful posts, finding your voice, and getting inspired. We'll be sharing some of our own best practices, too!

On November 10th, I will be one of the BlogHer PRO School teachers! My focus will be on how to write better how-tos. That's right. I wrote a how-to about how to write how-tos. (I'm dizzy now.) I will also be chatting in the comments and hosting a follow-up Twitter chat so we can dig deeper into the content.

Now go check out the BlogHer PRO School curriculum, which is running Mondays and Wednesdays throughout November, and then sign up for free to get in on it. I'll see you there!

How To Make A Cereal Box Puppet (even if you have no craft supplies!) + an Ethel Merman Impression

I was gifted with 32 miniature boxes of cereal, which immediately threw me back into the summer vacations of my childhood. My mother used to pick up packs of miniature cereal boxes as a treat when we were at the lake. I didn't love it because of the cereal, though. I loved it because it meant I could make puppets out of the cereal boxes.

I have no idea if I made this up or if someone taught me how, but it turns out that it’s still a lot of fun 30 years later, even if you find out that you’re completely out of glue, construction paper, or any other serviceable craft supplies.
 

How To Make A Cereal Box Puppet
(even if you have no craft supplies!)

One: Get a miniature cereal box

Get yourself a miniature box of cereal. My cereal boxes came in a variety pack, so I chose to destroy a box of raisin bran, because bran turns my guts into cement and raisins are evil. If you hate the cereal inside the box you are destroying, too, feel free to take perverse pleasure in it. It’s not weird. Really. I just did it.

Two: Saw through the front and sides

Use a serrated knife to saw the box through the middle width-wise. Take care only to saw through the cardboard on the front and sides of the box, because you need the back side of the box to remain intact.

Three: Empty the box

Empty the box of all of its contents, including the plastic liner.

Four: Fold the box in half

Fold the box in half and press a tidy crease along the fold.

See? Potential!

Five: Paint the box or cover it in paper (or peanut butter)

This is where the project has the opportunity to go a little off the rails if you, like me, find out that your glue is ten years old, you’ve lost your construction paper somehow, and your markers and craft paints have all dried up.

Personally, I would suggest that you paint the box with craft paints or cover it with glue and paper. Being out of all of those things, though, I, of course, went the peanut butter route en lieu of glue.

And, because I am ever so resourceful, I, of course, decided to use the bran flakes en lieu of paper.

Are you still with me?

Six: Give your puppet a face

Now you’re ready to decorate your puppet with eyes, ears, hair, antlers, and whatever else you feel moved to use to create your character.

I found out that the bran flakes made gluing on extra features a little difficult, so I chose to settle for two eyes made out of the raisins. Really, at this point, I wasn’t making myself any promises. I was covered in peanut butter up to my wrists and had bran flakes stuck between my toes.

But it worked, and voilà! Birdie was born!

Seven: Let your puppet express itself

Birdie wanted to show off her Ethel Merman impression while singing a morbid song from her childhood, so I gave her the stage. She does go on a bit, and her Merman could use some work, but it’s worth the full two minutes, I swear. Her timing near the end is impeccable.

Take it away, Birdie!


The above entry's original version was published at Aiming Low in October 2011.

I Went to My First Corn Maze, and It Was A-maize-ing.

I have a now-secret life list, and one of the items on that list is to visit a corn maze.

I grew up primarily in cities, but both sides of my family, before my parents moved to the city, were farmers, and my family travelled north to Prince Albert National Park every summer, where I would pack sandwiches and disappear for hours by myself into the tamer edges of the woods. My heart and mind marry when I am surrounded by plant life and soil. I can't keep a houseplant alive for more than a couple of months, but drop me into a field, even one so manicured as a corn maze, and I become one.

I had the great honour of being invited along to this corn maze by Risa and her brilliant children, Gaia and Ever, and then we ran into Gaia's friend and her family, so we made a party of it. 

I wanted to wander quietly into the corn and lie down among the mushy, end-of-season cobs, just stare at the blue until the sun went down. I think the guy below was contemplating the same thing, because he stood out in the middle of the stalks and looked at the hills for a long time. I tracked his bald head as we wound around him.

But I couldn't run off across the prairie to become one with the earth, because kids! I almost never get to hang out with kids. Due to various issues of my own stemming from health and identity issues, I distanced myself from families with children for a number of years, but now I miss the drum of feet and sticky fingers and upturned faces and dramatic twists that I grew up with in a childhood home that doubled as a daycare. 

Kids are pretty cool.

Without kids around, I'm far less likely to do most of the following: we jumped on this giant, inflated tarp pillow, and we walked through the corn maze, and we went on a hayride,

and we watched the autumn sun slowly slant low over the fields,

and I dreamed about living in a hillside house painted red,

and I showed Ever how you can wave at each others' reflections in creeks,

and we pet a tiny horse,

and we let this sheep lick us after a happy neck rub. It turns out that being licked by an affectionate sheep is delightful.

I entertained the idea of sneaking off into the corn and going all unbathed wild woman living on berries and gophers for a few weeks, but I like a pillow when I sleep, and my skin breaks out if I don't use my Philosophy facial scrub, and I'm a cat lady who doesn't like to be away from her monsters, so I settled for a few last shots of pretty things on our way out to the car.

Plants dying in the middle of fall look more beautiful to me than new flowers in spring. There is something warm and established about them, no matter how ephemeral their crisp leaves and loosening seeds.

And that was my first time at a corn maze. It was a-maize-ing. Ba dum tsh.

Thank you, Risa, Gaia, and Ever!

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