Labor of Love

Dot and Bob AllenMy mom’s best friend, Dot, was a “crazy” lady. By “crazy” I mean fun, unique, eccentric, interesting, highly intelligent and one of the best gift givers I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing in my lifetime. Not that she didn’t have her flaws, she was a Stanfurd grad after all… One of my favorite things about Dot was the fabulous parties she hosted at the holidays and for no reason at all or for a made up reason, like the Poor Taste Party.

What’s a Poor Taste Party you ask?!? Well, every Labor Day, Dot would host a party where you 1) had to dress in poor taste, 2) had to bring a food dish that you loved to eat but wouldn’t serve to company, 3) brought a gift (or two or three) that might fit right in at a white elephant sale for a gift exchange.

Dressing for the Poor Taste Party was a year-long endeavor. You might see something at a resort shop or garage sale or thrift store and say – hey this would be a great outfit to wear at the poor taste party… or you could just look in the recesses of your closet and find something from the 70s or 80s, like the stretchy jeans that are now back in style… My all-time favorite outfit was the grass skirt and coconut shells that I wore right after I had McKinley. Let’s just say I won’t be doing THAT again. Even if I could find a picture of that get-up, I’m not sure I could share it here.

Ahhh, the food. Well, mac and cheese was always a big hit, as were beanie weenies from the can… Pigs in a blanket, all kinds of good stuff! Lucky Lager, when you could find it always made an appearance. This was not food for the calorie conscious! But it was always very tasty.

But the best part of the party was the gift exchange and the door prizes. Dot would shop throughout the year for these “special” door prizes. She would peruse garage sales all year long looking for these “door prizes” and she would hand pick some items and make sure they went to the “right” person as a door prize. Like the Stanford toilet seat I got one year… For each gift you brought, you got a playing card and when it was time for the gift exchange, we would go through the deck, card by card in order. You could pick from the pile or you could steal a gift up to three times, so you had to be a bit strategic to not end up with a Chia Pet or something worse. A lot of horse-trading went on afterwards too!

Unfortunately, Dot died in 2012 and we haven’t had a Poor Taste Party since. Luckily, I inherited all of her remaining “items” for the next party whenever we do decide to have one! One of these items was a piece of “artwork” (if it can be called that). It was a Christmas tree made out of old jewelry and it was awful and excellent all at the same time. It had been sitting in my mom’s garage (along with the other party stuff) and when I went to retrieve a few other things, she insisted I take that Christmas Tree art as well. I put it in my car along with the others things and drove home.

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When I took a closer look at the tree, I thought how cool, someone put a lot of work into this piece of art. It’s funny, when I originally posted pictures on Facebook, all of the commenters except two wanted me to leave it as it was! I finally decided to redo it because the brown velvet was so gross and dusty. It took me the span of two movies to pry all of the pieces of jewelry off of it (and I think I only ruined a few pieces doing that), and the duration of two audio books to redo the entire piece.

I wanted to frame it, so I went looking for a frame and found a 16×20 shadow box frame. I promptly broke the glass (unintentionally) taking it out of the frame. I spent a bunch of time figuring out how to put the wires for the Christmas lights together in such a way that it wouldn’t jut out from the wall once it was hanging. I also spent a good deal of time designing it so I could switch out the lights easily if these ever stopped working (I reused the string of lights it came with because they still worked). Greg and the boys cut the plywood down to size and then I found a friend with a router. We routed around the edges so it would sit down in the frame and provide ample room for the wires. Yep, I learned how to use a router to do this project! And a staple gun…

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There were a few pieces of jewelry that I didn’t want to include in the redone piece so I went on a search to find other appropriate pieces to include. I used some that friends gave me, a few broken ones that I had in my fabric and sewing stash, and I even included two pieces Dot gave me before she died. Now I’m getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it!

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I wanted to enter the redone piece in the county fair, which meant I had a mad scramble over Memorial Day weekend to finish it in time. Eventually, I took it to the fair with wet glue on a few pieces! Although it only won an honorable mention ribbon, I love how it turned out. I think I’ve done it justice and I can’t wait to hang it up at Christmas and plug it in! I guess you could say this “labor of love” is now a “poor taste” family heirloom.

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