Three Little Coffee Charms Sitting in a Row

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

This Christmas, I created some coffee charms for a good friend of mine. He is a potter and so I used images of his work as the inspiration for three tiny coffee & ink paintings. I slipped two of them into fridge magnet frames and made the other one into a key-chain. He was pleased - especially when he recognized the work as his own.

Thought I would share them with you...

Happy Holidays.

No, really.

There's a search engine developer in my bedroom

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Geoff and I were watching Two and a Half Men on the laptop the other night. Well, we were planning to watch it but it was a rerun - which was incredibly disappointing, even though we're not completely sure we even like watching someone as pretty as Ashton Kutcher for more than 5 minutes at a time. But that's not the point.

The reality was that Geoff and I were in bed with a laptop and no plan, so we did what any other happily married couple with a 3 year old fast asleep in another room would do in this situation.

We decided to Google ourselves. Literally. This isn't some sort of code for something else. Really. It isn't.

Google Chrome is the default browser on Geoff's laptop and on that particular evening, a tiny little microphone appeared on the right hand side of the search bar. Of course we clicked on it and when we did, we were presented with an invitation to speak.

Voice search. How cool is that?

I went first and spat out a number of terms. When I said "Geoff Slater", Google heard,  "just later." When I spoke my name,  "Andrea Mulder-Slater" clearly into the microphone, Google misunderstood and thought I said, "mostly."

I tried again with terms relevant to the both of us...

What I said: Art lessons.
What Google heard: Craigs list.

What I said: Line paintings
What Google heard: 1 piece

At that point, Geoff decided that because I have a lisp, Google couldn't understand me. So he took over.

He uttered the word boobies (of course he did) and Google gave us a list of websites featuring articles and videos related to birds and busts - including one which promised a "pick-me-up" featuring kittens and lady parts.  No, I didn't look.

To counteract Geoff's mischievousness, I grabbed the computer and said the most wholesome thing I could think of. "Oatmeal cookies".  Google responded by presenting me with a nice selection of recipes. No misunderstanding there. So much for the lisp theory.

Geoff tried again - this time with a topic that interests him a great deal..


Guess what Google heard?


At this point, we were convinced that someone was most certainly at the other end of that tiny picture of a microphone. Why not? It was late. Search engine developers get bored, don't they?

Getting back to our original plan of Googling ourselves,  I spoke our names - loud and clear - for a final time.

What I said: Geoff Slater
Google's response: Shit

How insulting. And then...

What I said: Andrea Mulder-Slater
Google's response: Overslept

Which is funny, because that's what I did the next day. The cheeky web developer who infiltrated our home was psychic to boot.

Well played Google. Well played.

Incidentally, I haven't seen that microphone since.

No, really.

For the love of God, don't mess with the Particle

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I woke up to see Geoff staring at me. He asked me what time it was.

I contemplated poking his eyes out but instead got up to go the bathroom, glancing at the clock radio as I walked by.

Four twenty four.

Geoff: That’s it? It’s so bright out. 

He was right. Our bedroom was filled with light. I pushed the blinds away and peered through the glass. It was like daylight out there.

Me: Maybe it's a full moon? 

I headed to the bathroom (where I didn’t slam the door [see Montana Moose story]). I looked out the  windows.  Same view as from the bedroom – bright as hell. Much brighter than a full moon night.

I started to feel anxious.

I wandered into the living room and looked out front. It looked like the sun was trying to come out - at four thirty in the morning?  What was going on? I went back in the bedroom to re-check the clock.

Four thirty six.

Me (becoming frantic): This is so weird. It is so freaking bright out.

Geoff (strangely calm): I’m gonna make coffee.

Back in the living room, I felt a panic attack coming on as my mind raced with dark imaginings.  What the hell had happened overnight? Were we in danger? I remembered having read something in the news about researchers coming close to finding a “God Particle” I recalled one of them saying they had witnessed an “excess of events”. Holy crap – what had those scientists started? Don't they know you should never mess with God's particles? Thanks to them, the earth was about to explode.

I glanced at the kitchen clock.

Seven forty four.

It looked like daytime, because it was daytime. Funny how my first thought had been the world coming to an end and not a broken clock.

I think I need a vacation. Also, Geoff should never wake me up in the morning.

No, really.

Some dolls look better in the snow

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I was wandering through a big box store, when something caught my eye in the toy department. I didn’t take the time to investigate but when I got home, I did a quick search using the two words that had registered in my brain.

“Wipey Dipey.”

When I was a kid, dolls were fairly simple. Several of them had eyes that opened and closed. Others writhed around when a string was pulled, and some had hair that “grew” when you yanked at it.

Nowadays, dolls have become much more complicated. 

Case in point… the Little Mommy Wipey Dipey doll.

This is a toy created for ages 3 and up and just writing about it is yucking me out a little. From what I can tell, you give the doll a bottle and wait. But here’s the thing. The bottle has no actual liquid inside, and what comes out the other end is an electronic illusion. Depending on the output, yellow or brown light shoots out from the doll’s crotch – the reflection of which can be seen in the diaper. A special wipe turns off the light so the fun can begin all over again. 

I’m not making this up. 

Dolls who wet themselves are nothing new. I remember seeing advertisements for playthings that peed, though I never had one of my own. Mind you, I didn’t bother with dolls much as a child. Instead, I chose to bury them in the snow and wait until spring for them to reappear. The only exception was Thumbelina, a small baby whose curls I twisted so obsessively that she eventually developed a receding hairline.

And if you think I was hard on my dolls, you're wrong. I was super mom compared to the artists presented below. Be forewarned... viewing their creations will make you wish you were instead surrounded by those strange motion sensor dolls that say "Mama". 

Jon Beinart is best known for his notorious Toddlerpede sculptures. They are made of up discarded doll parts and have evolved over the years to imitate insects and mythological creatures. And, by the way, Jon needs a ridiculous number of plastic baby dolls to build a series of giant Toddlerpede sculptures so he asks that you please donate yours.

Jon Beinart
Jon Beinart

Then there's Allyson Mitchell,  a mixed media artist who created an installation piece called “Brainchild” featuring a snake-like army of bonneted, big-brained porcelain dolls marching towards a crocheted “mother” brain. The message here is that women continue to struggle for understanding and respect. Also, too many dolls together in one place is scary.

Allyson Mitchell
Steampunk is a way of combining the past and the future. It began as a literary genre involving Victorian era settings that incorporate elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Lately, it has become a popular in crafting circles where makers use lots of gears and goggles in their work. Let me illustrate...

This steampunk doll is comprised of a porcelain baby doll head with metal hat; porcelain and wood arms; wood body; pressed tin wings, vintage jewelry findings; and a metal and wood base with motorcycle chain trim.  Made by Artistprovocateur, he is available to whoever will pay to release him.

Meanwhile, Elnora is a steampunk chick with goggles made of watches, joints made of bolts, rough stitching and antique doll glass eyes. According to her creator Elizabeth Hubbard from Bonanza Oregon, “She is wondering how she came to be on a lonely sheep ranch and is longing for the day that she can venture out into the world.” Yes. I'm sure she is.

Elizabeth Hubbard
When I wasn’t looking, I found an Etsy shop where creepy married bizarre and then had a baby.  Rebecca from Kansas City, you're altered dolls are making me thirsty. Enough said.

Rebecca from Kansas City
And finally, when I thought things couldn’t get any more disturbing, I stumbled into the morbid world of surrealist/visionary artist Shain Erin. I’ve always been weirded out by porcelain dolls and now – thanks to Shain - I won’t be able to come close to one ever again. 

Shain Erin

No, really.

You better watch out...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

When I was a teenager, I worked in a record store located in the downtown core of a rapidly growing city. Beside the store was a run-down hotel where lived an assortment of characters – many of whom had an appreciation for Elvis Presley music and heavy metal t-shirts.

I still remember the time an exotic dancer came in to purchase a Metallica shirt. She asked if she could try it on. We had no change room so I suggested instead that she buy it and return it if it wasn’t a good fit. Instead, she removed her sweater – the only piece of clothing separating her bare skin from the patrons in the crowded store - and proceeded to don the t-shirt. It fit – thank God, much to the dismay of several young boys who had been flipping through the vinyl.

It wasn’t the only time I saw someone naked at the record store.

One evening, a man in an oversize Santa suit came into the store. Not a completely unusual event – we usually saw several folks in St. Nick costumes throughout the month of December – and occasionally other times of the year as well. Remember the exotic dancer?

This particular gentleman was built right for the part. The beard was his own and his belly needed no additional padding. Even so, he swam in the outfit as he wandered through the aisles… the pungent aroma of sweat and booze filling the air. Customers came and went as the man stumbled past the brand new compact disc displays, back towards the cassette tapes and classical vinyl. Then, it happened. Santa’s slacks fell down. I called my supervisor from the back of the store to offer assistance.

These would have helped - tremendously.
My boss suggested to the man that he perhaps head home for a rest. The man obliged, pulled his pants up and wandered out of the store. When he stepped onto the sidewalk, he tripped and went down, white butt up, red pants down, but not before at least a dozen full-sized vinyl records flew out from under his coat. The store manager and I couldn’t believe our eyes. Santa had been shoplifting and we were all too focused on his nudity to notice. Clever bugger.

In keeping with the season – and my story - here are some unique works of art inspired by Santa. You’re welcome. 

First, here's a lovely starfish ornament, painted by Jen in Oklahoma City. I hope she made sure the starfish was - y'know, deceased - before drying it in the oven, unlike some friends of mine who's house smelled like charred fish for a week.

Here, Santa looks a little skinny - and kind of scared.

Then,  there's this solid, glittery fellow created by Donna Curtin from New York...

Now that’s a jollier Santa.

Meanwhile, nothing says Christmas like a mooning Santa ornament. Am I right? Dee from Arlington Texas made this little wonder. I think Dee from Arlington, Texas and I could become fast friends.

I include this one because it helps to illustrate my tale. 
This is a little what it looked like that night at the record store.

Oh wait, here's a clearer view. That's better.
And if that's not wicked enough for you. Check out what else Dee has up her sleeve. Mrs Claus - not you too?! Oh my. Dee also makes flowers and pooping reindeer, but that's another story.

Who's naughty? We're naughty.
And finally, Sudarsan Pattnaik from India creates insanely amazing sculptures made of sand. Here is his take on the jolly old elf. He looks pretty relaxed, yes?

The largest sand Santa in the world. I hope he's just resting...

No, really.

Slam that door again and the antlers are coming for you

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I need to murder my husband. 

I do. It's getting out of control, and by "it" I mean his nighttime bathroom door slamming habit.

It's the little things.

He's always been a door slammer. I knew it when I married him but I suppose, like most idealistic wives, I ignored the problem and hoped that it would just go away.

It didn't.

During the day, I really couldn't care less if a door is slammed. So long as no fingers, heads or other body parts are in involved. But at night - at night - silence is sacred and anyone who does anything to disturb it, is on my list.

Me (Cautiously, to my partner as he heads for the bathroom at 2am): Hun? Please don't slam the door.


Me: Um, yes you do. And it wakes everyone up. So, please?


Step, step, step...


I'm not sure what it is exactly that makes him think he needs to slam and lock the bathroom door with such gusto. He and I are the only ones using it and I almost never barge in on him (anymore). And at night, everyone else in the house is asleep. At least they were sleeping, before he SLAMMED the door!

Step, step, step...

Me: You slammed the door.

Husband: I DID NOT!

Me: Um, yes you did. 


Maybe when he was a kid, his family members messed him up more than I know. Maybe they ambushed him on a regular basis - waiting in silence - for him to enter the bathroom so they could throw the door open and tickle him or sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".

That must be it. There's no other explanation for his obsession with privacy in the crapper.

This is why he must die. Or, at the very least, he needs to be jolted from his slumber by something equally as annoying as a slamming door. I think I'll get one of those hats from Montana's, wait until he's in a deep sleep, put the antlers on my head and go Mariah Carey on his ass while belting out the Happy Birthday song.

I think even he'd agree that this is better than my original plan.

Thank you Montana's. Thank you for saving a life.

No, really.

The Christmas freeze and dash

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Evil, thy names are Santa... and mommy.

When the girl was barely a year old, we zipped her into a cozy festive sleeper and hauled her to the local drug store/candy store (yeah, I get the irony) where Santa makes a yearly pre-Christmas appearance.

I’m not proud of getting sucked into the holiday frenzy. I blame flashy Christmas lights. I think they hypnotize me. That, and the fact that I don't want my daughter to grow up and find herself searching for non-existent photos of "fun" family traditions, motivated me to stand in a line up, surrounded by farting children, greeting cards, Jelly Bellys and Tylenol PM - the latter of which I required many of later that night.

The crowd consisted of several parent/grandparent types with all manner of children. Some were on year three of four of the Santa experience and as such, knew what to expect. Others, like our Jannique had no clue what they were in for.

She watched in fascination (or more likely fear) as one baby, toddler and preschooler after another sat on the red clad lap of a local marine biologist/bagpiper named Art.

Still, so far, so good.
Then it was our turn.

For all other kids present that night, Santa was a rock star. They swarmed to him like tweens to Beiber. But not our girl.

Still, I attempted to set her on the strange man's lap as I smiled like a freakshow.

Worst mother ever.

That was two years ago.

Last year, we were at the mall near Christmastime, when those damn lights got to me again. "Do you want to see Santa?" I asked my two year old. "Noooooooo mommy!"

Something made me listen to her. It might have been Geoff saying, "Quick Jan, you grab crazy mommy and I'll drag her back to the car."

But this year was different. For one thing - no pjs.

Also, this year,  the daughter made a request that I promised to heed (and not only because Geoff and Jan made me), "I just want to see him mommy, I don't want to sit on him."

See him we did.
Once again we waited in line at the drug store/candy store, surrounded by the smells of scented candles, chocolates, pharmaceuticals and farts. Every few minutes, my girl asked to be hoisted up to catch a glimpse of Santa. Each time she spotted him, she squirmed and screeched with excitement. Forty-five minutes later, she got a close-up view.
Curious but cautious and wearing pink boots because, "Santa likes pink."
And here, for you now is our kid's Christmas photo with Santa, 2011. Because this is as close as we came before she turned and high tailed it out of there.

No caption requried.
What wasn't caught on film, was Santa getting up to follow us with a bag of candy. A kind gesture on his part... one I feared might give my daughter nightmares for years to come. It did screw with her equilibrium but we still all got out - alive - and all was well when the littlest one realized that Santa had given her a lollipop. Apparently, my girl can be bought.

Later, in the car, she surprised us all by saying, "I love Santa". So there you have it. No harm, no foul and we have holiday photos to look back on and laugh (or maybe cry).

No, really.