Sunday, 24 October 2010


A while back my daughter and granddaughter presented me with a Martha Stewart magazine of Halloween projects. Along with the maximum labour pumpkin faces and other d├ęcor ideas, there were some pages of costumes for the big day. Adult costumes, and very elaborate. And on one page was a photograph of a woman about my age, dressed in white perfection, holding above her head an umbrella that had been crafted to resemble a jelly-fish. Seven year old Little Stuff was fascinated by this and asked if, maybe, I could make her one like that, big brown eyes staring imploringly into mine.

'I have a cloche umbrella just like that one,' said my daughter, cheerfully.

I know when I'm outnumbered. I promised LS I would make her a jellyfish umbrella.

Yesterday she and her mother came out to our place from the city, lugging big bags of bubble wrap, rolls of cellophane and tape, the umbrella and the illustration. I read the directions beside the photo. I read them again. Not a lot of help there. And so ......... we propped the photo up on my desk, plugged in the glue gun (but forgot to turn it on) and started cutting strips of bubbles, diagonally across the large size bubble wrap. Not a fun job, that. If you are not very, very meticulous in your cut, you can nick the side of the bubble and it goes foof. LS was getting frustrated and grama was starting to perspire, gently. We developed a technique where we cut only every second line of bubbles, in strips. Not perfect like the ones in the photo, but possible.

Then we had to make the handle and edge of the umbrella white, while taping the strings of bubbles to the edge. White book tape - miserable to stretch out and impossible if it touches itself - was laboriously applied and the bubble strings untangled. And untangled again. Next we had to make the umbrella sections look like turquoise jelly.

The instructions said "Cut 8 same-size strips of lightweight iridescent cellophane; sandwich each between 2 bubble strips; hot-glue smooth edges of tentacles to umbrella spokes. (Plastic will melt.)"  We made a pattern. We cut, fringed, pasted, untangled the strings of bubbles, untangled the fringe and repeated. Two hours passed while we did this, again and again. Little Stuff was indomitable and hung on for the whole time, with one digression out to the swings while I put the roast into the oven and one small pause for a snack (and coffee for grama) when we discovered the glue gun was still cold.

The pattern cut from the newspaper had most of a photo of Muslims at prayer on it - down on their knees with foreheads on the floor. "What are all those people doing, grama," said LS. "Praying," says I. "They look silly," said little Miss. Oh, dear. While I tried to get bubble wrap to stay square, not drip the glue all over and untangle the strings of bubbles, I also had to carefully pick my way through the minefield of discussing tolerance of one another's differences with a judgemental child.

I asked her what she would do if a friend wearing a dress she loved but that looked ugly to Little Stuff asked LS what she thought of it. LS allowed that she would not make her friend unhappy by saying it was ugly. Same with what people do that looks strange, I tried to explain, especially their religions, because that is something that a lot of people feel strongly about and it is both wrong and easy to hurt someone's feelings. After some discussion of this, LS read the caption under the photo, which accompanied a story on the firing of Juan Williams, "Remarks over Muslims cost top US radio host his job."

To the tangles of bubble wrap and strings of glue, we now added the tangles of political correctness. We got into 'jihad' from Williams' statement that Muslims on a plane madehim nervous. I finally wiggled loose after explaining that some people misinterpreted their religion and were very wrong. I clearly recall, in another post, saying that I was thankful that theology and all its ramifications were the province of parents, not grandparents. And after this I shall make sure that we make newspaper patterns with the comics section of the paper.

The umbrella looked quite handsome when it was finished.


  1. I have to admit that my eyes glazed over during the description/instructions, but I did get to the tolerance lesson. Sometimes, I need that. :)

  2. And NO PICTURE!?! You tease.

    I'm glad you walked the long mile with LS on both counts (costume making and religious tolerance). You could have saved yourself some trouble, though, by simply replying "You think they look silly? How on earth do you think we look taping bubble wrap to an umbrella?" If ever there was an argument for cultural tolerance, our collective Halloween traditions and mechanizations would be it. So sayeth the woman with bats on a stick in her front entranceway.

  3. Can't believe there was no picture! You are cruel, you are.

  4. you seem to have done a fine job on the jellyfish, and the discussion.

    it seems you could have made it much simpler, though. I have learned to dumb down lots of craft things... particularly for kids. The results are only slightly less spectacular, and the kid is usually just as pleased.