Tuesday, December 19th, 2006
HOW NOT TO: Build Frosty the Doughman
"Let’s build a toddler-size snowman out of Play-Doh," I told my wife on Sunday. Why isn’t really important. I’ll explain at the end of this story. The valuable thing is that after 14 years together, I’ve turned my wife into Annie Kinsella from Field of Dreams. I could plow under a field of corn to build a baseball field and instead of handing me divorce papers, she would figure out how to save the family from bankruptcy.
Sure, she rolls her eyes, but on Sunday evening when we should have been winding down quietly with bedtime stories, we were out buying two 25 lb. sacks of bleached flower and a 25 lb. bag of salt from Costco. Monday afternoon our family was building a doughman. Or, at least we tried.
Here is how not to approach building a doughman out of homemade Play-Doh.
Step 1. Do no planning. There are lots of times, most of the time really, when planning makes sense. But if you thought out how to build a giant dough creature, you’d shelve the idea because it’s hours of labor with little chance of success. The secret is in knowing that failing is half the adventure.
Step 2. Research Play-Doh recipes on the web. Pick the simplest and least expensive option: 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt and 1 cup of water. The end result isn’t pretty. You wouldn’t want to play with it, but it makes nice lumpy snow.
Step 3. Buy 50 lbs. of flour and 25 lbs. of salt at your favorite warehouse store. You might ask yourself, "How much flour and salt do I need to create a toddler-sized doughman?" That’s the planner side of you talking. Ignore him. Buy as much as your spouse will allow. In my case, we were out $15.
Step 4. Lay out your supplies, including big mixing bowls and measuring cups, onto a table or kitchen counter. Count on your child discovering that spilling flour everywhere is fun.
Step 5. Toss the measured flour and salt into the bowl and mix it with your hands. My daughter loved this part. Then add water and knead away.
Step 6. Realize that making Play-Doh is hard and time consuming and that you’ll never work your way through 50 lbs. of flour. Bring your daughter’s inflatable balls in from the garage and announce that the balls will be covered in dough to save time. No one, except everyone we tell about this experience, will ever know we didn’t build a solid doughman. I know that didn’t make sense. I was just checking to make sure you are still paying attention.
If anyone scoffs at the idea of a hollow doughman, respond to such arrogance by shouting, "Hollow is good enough for the Easter Bunny!"
Step 7. Begin praising your spouse’s natural skill and ability at kneading dough. Wash your and your daughter’s hands and escape with your daughter to hunt for doughman accessories. Identify the following Frosty accoutrements:
- Eyes of coal: dried prunes
- Button nose: Carrot
- Mouth: Dry cat treats that resemble chocolate chips, except for their noxious odor.
- Corncob pipe: A vintage discontinued plastic Mr. Potato Head pipe.
- Clothing: scarf, magic top hat and dried blueberries for chest buttons.
- Feet: Doughmen do not have feet. If you try to put your child’s sneakers on your doughman, your child
may erupt in a jealous fit of rage and force you to remove the sneakers.
Step 8. Realize the top hat is too big for Frosty’s small head. Decide Frosty will consist of two dough balls instead of three to accommodate the hat. Feel vindicated that you paid $3 for a used, incomplete magic kit at a garage sale because you loved the hat.
Step 9. Position the very heavy (despite its hollow inside) doughman on a table with a non-distracting background suitable for a photograph. Prop Frosty against a ceramic Santa and shove a Crayola crayon box under his butt so that he doesn’t slide and fall. Throw in a Domo-kun doll for added effect.
Step 10. Get your daughter dressed in the goofiest non-holiday clothing you can find in preparation for taking a picture.
Step 11. Pick Frosty up off the ground after your cat got a little too interested in Frosty’s yummy smelling smile. Reassemble Frosty and perform facial reconstruction surgery.
Step 12. Take a photo of your child with Frosty. Afterward, watch the dough slowly droop on Frosty’s face while his butt all but becomes pudding and the poor guy tumbles off the table again.
If possible, marry a spouse who will sew curtains out of fabric that has a
red striped pattern reminiscent of Christmas, thus guaranteeing the
curtains will look good at least one month out of the year and serve as an excellent backdrop for holiday photos.
Step 13. Mission accomplished. Clean up. Figure out how to respond to your daughter when she asks why you are peeling Frosty’s scalp away from his skull and throwing it in the trash can.
Step 14. Call around and see if your friends have any need for 40 lbs. of flour and 20 lbs. of salt.
Why build a doughman?
Every year I design a Christmas card featuring an unusual photo on its cover. One time I adorned a toilet in Christmas lights and inserted my two-foot-tall ceramic Santa. Last year I photographed my daughter nursing from her mother while wearing a Santa suit. The image was captioned, "Milk and Cookies."
This year I wanted to photograph a real snowman that has my daughter’s head. She is infatuated with the story of Frosty the Snowman. So, I was going to build a headless snowman with a slim backside and my daughter would simply walk up and stand in the correct place to complete the visual effect.
There was only one problem. We live among the damp coastal redwoods of northern California. We can normally drive an hour to a mountain ridge where there is light snow, but the last few weeks have seen only rain.
So, rather than stick my daughter in a toilet and feed her cookies, I thought, hey, let’s build a Play-Doh snowman! Now, isn’t that so much better than Styrofoam balls and felt?