Welcome to the swamp! Here, lurking in the muck, where creativity spawns, you'll find Mrs Crocodile, aka Colleen Dunkel, a costumer and teacher based in Basel, Switzerland.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

My getting through winter blog post

Kirschmagroonli, Gilgen, Basel
Even though I am not qualified to talk about winter,  it does seem like everyone's getting one, so I thought I would, too.  Here's my getting through winter post.  


The problem with winter in Basel is that it is just gray.  The sky is gray.  No white stuff slows us down.  No seasonal excuses to get us to work late.  Trains have this maddening habit of being punctual here as they speed past gray fields, gray trees and gray grass.  Everywhere you look you see concrete, gray headed old ladies, gray newspapers, the gray sidewalk, gray streets, I could really go for some pink or orange or red.  It was five degrees (centigrade) today.  We do not suffer from the cold.  We suffer from a color.  Yesterday I saw a woman with a dashing long red coat on, I was so excited by this apparition, like light at the end of a really long tunnel, that I ran up to tackle her in a bear hug.  Luckily she is a friend of mine.

There may be a reason they painted the sky gray here and it's not the chemical industry's chimneys. That is if you haven't thought of anything more creative to do with your mate than using him or her as a hot water bottle on winter nights, here is my answer to the illness: Kirschmagroonli.  I'm eating one now as I write this post.  See the dark brown chocolate enveloping the pure white cream with just a hint of Kirsch?  I bet you can almost feel the crunchy but slightly chewy macaroon underneath.  Sorry to you who are on the beach in January and sorry to you who decided to do your  P.h.D on Winter (in Minnesota).  You can only get Kirschmagroonli at Gilgen in Basel. 

If you are not planning a trip to this neck of Gray anytime soon, try putting on some bright red lipstick and chucking the hot water bottle.  I hear that works in other countries, too.

Yours, biting down softly this time,
Mrs Crocodile




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Friday, January 28, 2011

Transvestite Dollies

Alla and Kazam have a cross-dressing doll.  Should I be worried?  Wasn't it me who wrote in the last post I wanted to put men into skirts? Am I ruining my children?  Is it that half Swiss half US mixture that is getting in there and messing them up?  Is it because I came form a broken family, made a family and broke it and broke it again?  Is it because I'm working on Rent where there is a cross-dresser?  Is it because I like to wear jeans that are too big for me? Crisis!
Breathe.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Oh, I think I'll be alright.  I'll go back to being me now.  There are four other girl dollies we could...
Yours,
Mrs Crocodile

For more related reading pleasure see : King Tut, the Cardinal and a Transvestite walk into a bar..., Ode to Boyfriend Jeans and Tailors.


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Monday, January 24, 2011

They are scandalously called the Chocolate Friends.

Just in case you weren't wowed by my definition of chocolate friends in the last post: Cotton Candy Friend vs. Chocolate Friend.  Now here's a better one: check out this video of 15 men (mostly) and women who are usually scantily clad in colorful satin singing and dancing their way through Dominican Night-Clubs; they are scandalously called the Chocolate Friends. 


Here are the performers on the beach, practicing for a wild evening wowing tourists, I imagine.  I love the one with the super tight superman t-shirt and matching blue towel around his waist.  I mean everyone knows that towels make great capes.  When you are not flying, you can wear them as a skirt.  This gives me more costuming inspiration than anything lately.  How I have longed to get men into skirts my whole life.  Now in defense: a good chocolate friend finds my ideas sweet and laughs at them and encourages me to get men out of their pants and into skirts.

And what about the one who walks through dressed in gray spandex as a shark?  You choco friends out there just know I love big teeth.

What about the one who is wearing football shoulder pads, but no shirt over them?  Does he need shoulder pads to dance? 

A good friend (like a chocolate friend) should be able to make that beach feeling last, n'est-ce pas?
Cue bongos...



Maybe I really do need a holiday.
Yours,
Mrs Chocodile


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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Cotton Candy Friend vs. The Chocolate Friend

Have you heard of the Cotton Candy friend?  You know who I'm talking about; it's fun while you're getting to know each other, but there is no lasting relationship built upon anything solid except maybe a flimsy stick.  After a while, you realize it was just a lot of hot air and sugar and you stay friends with them on Facebook.

A Chocolate Friend takes more investment and time.  As opposed to the Cotton Candy Friend, with the Chocolate Friend there is a solid relationship built up which might last many years, even a lifetime.  As an example, a member of my family has had an over 60 year relationship with a Hershy's bar, with almonds please. 

In Switzerland, the variety of chocolate is grotesque, which makes finding the right melt in your mouth experience very difficult indeed.  Two years ago, my favorite was taken off the market.  Strangely, it is still sold in Germany.  So after a few months of personal chocolate hell, where the only treatment was to actually try many different kinds with things mixed in that should never be married with beans grown in a tropical region, I decided on a new favorite or to secretly go over the border for my fix.

If you have lived in different countries, you are sure to have a favorite chocolate and a favorite friend in every city, like a sailor has a wife in every port.  And so it is with Chocolate Friends.  When I first came to Switzerland, I had no friends, so I had to eat a lot of a certain sweet substance, dark please.  By the way, chocolate friends are not hollow, but solid all the way through.  Really good chocolate friends are hard to find and when you do discover them, you tend to horde them obsessively and not share.

I am thankful to my chocolate friends for getting me through the day...
Yours,
Mrs Chocodile


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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Proud parent of an underacheiver

 Here is the late George Carlin's skit on "Proud Parents" bumper stickers:


I loved his definition of school: "Where their child has been sent to be striped of his individuality and turned into an obedient soul-dead conformist member of American consumer culture..."

Maybe this is why, Kazam, my son, seems to have trouble concentrating on his homework.  Other mothers of 9 year-old-boys have told me they have the same problem.  When there is some excellent motivation (sadly referred to as bribery by the law or perks in corporations), like watching old Donald Duck on Youtube or playing with a friend outside: Alla Kazam!  The homework is magically done.  But when the only motivation is to annoy his mother, which is probably more value than you think, here is a typical conversation which spans about two hours:
Picture the scene, my beloved son Kazam is sitting at the kitchen table, with paper, pencil, eraser at the ready.  After fifteen minutes and no writing on the page:
"The table is too rough on my skin,"says Kazam.
"Maybe you should look into becoming a paper pusher when you get older," I say.
"What is that?" 
I walk out of the room.
"Will you do my homework for me?" calls Kazam.
"No, I never went to school in this country, I wouldn't know how it works."
"I'm hungry," he calls after a long pause and no movement
"Then eat."
"There's nothing to eat."
"Try the homework."
"That's yucky.
"I know, it's in German.  Try it with salt."
"Mom."
"You said you were hungry."

I'm secretly happy that my child is not an over-acheiver and I don't have to put a bumper sticker on my car that says "Proud parent of an overacheiving little brat in a Swiss public school."  I mean I'm not even sure of the right German translation.   And if you do have a bumper sticker on your car in Switzerland are you are required by law to write it in three different languages?  Well, Kazam has lots of friends, gets invited to lots of birthday parties and speaks three languages; can I write that on a bumper sticker in Swiss German?
Any advice to speed up the homework process, or how to explain how not to become a paper pusher to a kid would be warmly welcomed...
Yours,
Mrs Crocodile

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Feng Shui the kids and other decorating ideas for 2011

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SINGLE WORKING MOM!!!!
Sticking with the Superhero subject, I'd just like to spew 11 single and working mom decorating ideas out there for 2011. You can follow them, too, even if you have a nanny:

1) Take a hot salt bath: This is a real home decorating idea and was not mine.  I gleaned it from Jayme Barret's "Feng Shui Your Life", where on pages 28 and 29 she suggests starting out your Feng Shui journey with a hot salt bath to cleanse your energy field.  You may choose to stop your journey here.

2) Feng Shui the kids:  They are moving energy anyway.

4) Don't buy any furniture that has to be screwed together: If you do, please don't put it in your love and relationships center.

5) Skip step three: In any case, you won't have time.

6) Try not to stand while drinking coffee: If you must multi-task while enjoying your morning cup, make sure it is while talking to a good friend, reading my blog, or while cleansing your energy field as in step 1.

7) Keep emergency alcoholic beverages on hand: Heaven forbid you should put your faith in a Saint Bernard.

8) Wear your sunglasses inside: This has a three-fold effect: the dust won't show, you will look cool and your crow's feet will have miraculously disappeared.

9) Make sound investments: I have already gotten an extra 8 hours of sleep this year with only one DVD: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

10) Spider plants:  They need very little water and light and they breed by themselves, thereby validating the working mother and the principle that neglect is a valuable educator and that children learn through "natural" consequences.

11) If all else fails, evacuate: You can't see the dust, the mess, the empty fridge or the dirty dishes when you are out of the house

Yours with parachute on,
Mrs Crocodile


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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kamikaze Mom is the new Soccer Mom

This post is for the moms. Brothers, half-sisters, boyfriends, ex-husbands, great-grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, 2nd cousins once removed and friends and enemies of moms and police and even military officials, suicide bombers and reptiles are allowed to read it, too.
A friend recently referred to me as Supermom.  I resent that.  Contrary to popular belief I do not often race around my small, cheaply decorated 2 bedroom flat with a shiny red cape and a leotard on, brandishing a large gold M on my chest.  Of course if I had a much larger house on several levels with a cleaning lady, I might be able to run a bit faster without worrying about running into something, being tripped by children's toys, shoes and slippers, or as usually happens, a child. 
Actually if I tried, I'm quite certain the cape would make me look a lot more like little red riding hood running from the wolf.  Which is an image I've been trying to avoid.  But it is not that.  The fact of the matter is, I am not Supermom and I have never aspired to be.  Kamikaze Mom sums it up better than anything else.  And to be fair most of the moms I know are Kamikaze Moms even if they don't work outside the house.  They feel like that some days.  The best parenting advice I ever got was "Look after yourself first, then look after your relationship with you partner, then look after your kids"  Sounds great in theory, but oh so hard to do.  Kamikaze Mom is that feeling of constantly running and even when you do get around to doing something for yourself, like the yoga class, it leaves you stiff for a week.  It's the feeling you have when you scream at your kids to leave you alone for five minutes or as I have been known to cry: "Can't you two be normal for five minutes?"  So I think I'd rather be a Kamikaze mom than super mom, one gets more leeway and doesn't always have to be nice.

Here is a blog I found on the subject: she says a lot of things I think but I wouldn't dare to write on my blog, and I love reading her for that: suburban kamikaze
Oh and a link for a song.  The words worked for me.
Kamikaze Mom
So as you go out there and attack the world and the New Year, New You thing, Moms, armed with coffee and red cape or alternatively an airplane and a shot of vodka, remember the words to the song:  
"Hey mom!  You’re the best!  You really stand out from all the rest.  I think I changed my mind, I’m gonna keep you for the rest of time.  I want you to be a Kamikaze Mommy."

With love from the front,
Mrs Crocodile


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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How to make something seemingly boring actually quite interesting.

I'm not very good at giving advice, since I refuse to take my own. But here's how I've made something seemingly boring into something which is actually fascinating.  I had thought doing the costumes for Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley, would be an easy one. How hard could it be? I was thinking to myself: four characters, all of whom don't actually express their character in the dress, two nuns, a priest and the boy's mother, right?  I mean it's not going to be a question of a mini-skirt for the younger one and a knee-length skirt for the older one.  There's no choice of color, like how does hot pink work for the younger nun?  Or how does antique rose fit for the older nun?  There may be some question of color in the priest's over garment he wears for sermons, non?  No.  It's not all as regimented as all that.  But then it is.  And then again it's quite individualistic when you start getting into the different orders of nuns.  To my surprise there is a lot of leeway.  I'm telling you this is ice-berg material here and I'm having fun.  So here I am: only four days into 2011 and I'm wild at work researching nun's habits, muslin undergarments, slips, blouses, bodices, white linen boarders, veils, tunics, wooden rosaries, wooden crucifixes, black scarf or brown cape, cowl neck, how to cut it on the bias, white caps, cassocks, those shiny scarf things that priests wear over their shoulders, the belts, the white collars and what a priest would wear for basketball practice. Who knew there was so much choice?  And who knew that one could be a dandy and still be devoted to God. Oscar Wilde missed his calling. Check out this amazing website in English and Italian for some of the garb: http://www.mariobianchetti.com/productList.asp?id_subcat=12
And if you want to get your hands on a veil or habit made in the good old US of A, check out this site: http://www.wrightscatalogue.com/
And more: http://www.glenfont.com/
But the best is this forum on how to make a nun's habit, maybe it's just me but everything is said here: http://anunslife.org/2008/03/24/how-to-make-a-nuns-habit/
Even some friars checked in on that forum.
Okay, okay don't take my advice, just go straight to that last forum and breathe in the world of someone else's world and if you're like me you might even have the realization that it's a lot like over here. 
Here in my world, have a wonderful 2011!
Mrs Crocodile





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