Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stop and Look Around Once In A While...

I'm a typical Type A person, always busy running around, trying desperately to squeeze the most out of every day. Because of that, I sometimes miss out on the joy of being in the moment and experiencing something new in the process.

Today, I ran to the post office at lunch. I probably visit this location at least once a month, and when I'm standing in line waiting, I'm usually tapping away on my iPhone, checking in to Foursquare, etc. Today, I actually left my phone in my purse and happened to look up...

...and enjoyed a rare moment of beauty in a busy day.

If course, sometimes when you stop to look around, you just have to laugh...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 3, 2011

Out With The Old, In With The New

My mother is a huge fan of wall calendars. She has one hanging in her kitchen with dates of birthdays, anniversaries and other significant events that happen among our family and friends every year.

She's been collecting important dates for a long time, and I would guess about 75% of the squares on her calendar are filled in with something. While I was home at Christmas, she was musing about the fact that it was about time to get a new calendar.

Now, I'm a more digital girl where it come to tracking my important dates, but I still admire a good calendar. They especially come in handy for making my work cube walls less boring.

Since today is the first full week of 2011 and my first day in the office this year, it was appropriate that I noticed my calendars needed updating.

My Pittsburgh Penguins animal welfare calendar has been good to me.

But since the Kings are no longer handing out roster cards at games, I decided my cube walls need to be a little more purple.

Welcome to 2011!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Under Construction: A Day In The Life of a Rose Bowl Float

If you've ever watched the Tournament of Roses Parade on television New Year's Day, you certainly appreciate the beauty and creativity of the flower covered floats that are the hallmark of the event.  But have you even wondered what goes on BEFORE the parade?  How are these floats made?

For the second time since I've lived in California, I had the opportunity to work on a parade float and see the incredibly hard work done for countless hours by thousands of people to make the magic on TV happen.  So here's a little insiders view of my day volunteering to help decorate this year's entry from Kaiser-Permanente.

The first thing to remember is my 7 hour decorating shift is one tiny piece of a process that takes a year from start to finish.  The floats are designed and constructed by professional float companies and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor.  During our orientation, we learned that each float costs in the neighborhood of $1 million by the time it's completed.  That's a lot of money you see floating down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on parade day!

When the volunteer decorating process starts, the floats are already constructed and painted so you know where materials will be placed.  What the volunteers do is actually apply the organic materials to the floats, and it's not all flowers. While I was there, I saw flowers, chopped parsley, beans, oatmeal, white rice, poppy seeds, and other types of materials used on different float designs.

Since flowers are mostly what you see, I'll walk you through the process of using yellow straw flowers to decorate a large papier-mache flower that comprised part of the float design.

The first step is separating the flowers from the stem and putting them in boxes.

Next, the individual petals are stripped from the hull of the flower. Then you take scissors and cut those flower petals into even smaller pieces. The box on the left is what they look like before cutting, and the box on the right is the size when they're cut.

Needless to say, this is a challenge to do with the tips of the scissors jammed inside a bucket. Plus your fingers start to ache after a while because you're cutting a boatload of flower petals!

Once the flower petals are cut up, the real fun starts because you get to use glue! In this case, we were painting papier-mache flower forms with glue and covering them thousands of bits of straw flower petals. They lay plastic on the floor so you don't waste too much, because those flowers cost money. And once you get what didn't stick back in the box, the plastic makes clean-up a lot easier.

The hard part about these flowers is getting the edges completely covered. The forms are heavy, so if you have only one person working on a flower, it's hard to hold it up, paint on glue AND get the flowers to stick without having to sit the thing down, which is turn messes up the edges and you have to do them again. Jen and her Mom figured our early on it was more efficient as a two person job.

They turned out a pretty amazing finished product!

Keep in mind, these flowers are only ONE component of an enormous float, and we spent 7 hours working on just this one piece! All told, there are thousands of man hours that go into the finished product you see on parade day. And while sitting on a hard concrete floor covered in glue and bits of flowers may not be glamorous, this is truly one of the toughest jobs you'll ever love.

Here's to a bright and colorful New Year!