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My First Visit To Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Last Tuesday Florida had a single day of truly cold weather - we're talking, like, fifty degrees! - so John and I dropped everything and finally - FINALLY - went to Universal.

John's been to Hogsmeade once before, but embarrassingly enough I'd never been to either of the new Harry Potter areas. I've watched tons of walk-through videos online, clicked through every slideshow, listened to the stage shows, read all the ride reviews, drooled over the merchandise and menus, and generally fangirled over every detail. Yet, somehow, I never got the courage to go. I just didn't want to spend all that money to get in when I knew I couldn't go on any rides! So, I put it off.

Now that I'm working on overcoming my agoraphobia, though, I decided It Was Time. And to take the pressure off, John and I bought season passes - which were only $50 more than a 2-park day pass, anyway - so I won't feel so bad skipping the rides for now. 

We started with Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, and as we walked towards the Hogwarts Express, with the castle looming so beautifully on the horizon, I realized to my horror that I was so stinking happy I was actually going to cry. ("NoooOOOooo!!") Yep. I'm THAT PERSON now, you guys. I'd built up this visit in my head so much that I was completely overwhelmed, and all I could do was stagger around wide-eyed and sniffling. Gah.

John and I both brought heavy cameras, but they hung around our necks, forgotten, for most of the day. There was just too much. I couldn't take it all in!

As luck would have it the park was practically deserted - at least by Universal standards - so I was able to stagger and sniffle in relative ease. We walked the castle queue - quickly, because urrrg enclosed spaces - and then wandered up and down the street, gawking. Lunch at the Three Broomsticks (rather lackluster, but the Pear cider was nice), a quick Frog Choir concert, and then we were off to Diagon Alley.

I'm not ready for the train yet, so we had to take the looooong way 'round. That means walking all the way out of Islands, over to Universal, and then to the very back of the park. Good exercise.

Diagon Alley was even more of a rush, since Universal really cranked the detail and atmosphere there up to 11. And I thought there was a lot to see in Hogsmeade! WOW.

I finally remembered I had a camera, though, since I think it's park policy that you HAVE to take a picture of the dragon:

We wandered, we shopped, we ate sea salt caramel ice cream (SO GOOD), John went on Gringotts (a 5 minute wait, if you can believe it!), and we stood in the street and giggled & clapped like little kids over the booming roar of the fire-breathing dragon. Late in the day we even went to Ollivanders, where we had an almost private show, with only 4 of us in the audience! (And I was so captivated I didn't even mind being "trapped" in the show room for those few minutes.)

Time zipped by, and since the park closed at 6 we ended with dinner at the Leaky Cauldron, which was WAY better than lunch. (Try the Toad-in-a-Hole. Trust me.) I also had my first official Butter Beer! It tasted like the homemade version some friends made once, but the cream was much thicker; positively buttery. And yes, GOOD. (I heard they're offering hot butter beer now! Next time, I'm totally trying that.)

After dinner we spent our last few minutes watching the dragon:

And clapping for his final roar:

Then we dashed around taking a few more photos in the growing dark. It's so lovely there with all the lights on; it's a shame the park wasn't open later. Most of my pics were terrible, but here are a few that turned out:

And my favorite:

This statue is amazing, and just as I got down on one knee for the photo the end-of-night fireworks started, bathing the whole street in red light. Next time I'd love to bring a tripod, for better focus - oooh, and maybe try some HDR? I can see spending ALL the time here, just taking pictures.

But as wonderful as the day was, the best part was this: for the first time in maybe two years, I went on a ride. And better yet, I didn't panic. Sure, it was just The Cat in the Hat, and sure, I experienced real, honest-to-goodness terror getting into that ridiculous little car - but I did it.

I almost didn't, to be honest. I got up to the loading dock and totally choked. But as I hesitated, thinking I couldn't do this, thinking I'd just try again next time, I had another, louder thought. I thought about how proud you guys would be of me. I thought about how proud *I* would be to tell you I did it. And then, dangit, I CLIMBED INTO THAT SILLY SEUSS CAR.

Ok, maybe my victories are kind of ridiculous. But at least they're mine.

And next time, I promise more pictures!

Posted by Jen at 2:00 PM   |  156 comments  |   Labels: , , ,

November Art Roundup: Nouveau Princesses, More Groot, Gizmo, Luna, & More!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Time for more great geek art!

A few weeks ago I found a whole sleeve of art I somehow completely forgot I purchased at Dragon Con, and I'm mortified I missed these in my DC art roundup. 0.O Still, my goof-up is your gain!

So... you're not tired of dancing Groot yet, are you? Because you're gonna love this one by Kendra Stout, aka Miss Beanpants:

I bought that one for the give-away board, but Kendra also has a fabulous full-grown Groot in her Guardians set:

Plus other goodies, like this Luna with a baby thestral:

... and this fantastic Wonder Grrl:

Watch her Facebook page for more, or go check out her Etsy shop, where prints start at just $5!

Next up, I'm digging these long skinny prints by Josh D::

Super fun, plus he donated Rapunzel for the board! Check Josh's site and store for more.

I've featured Josh's better half, Kate Carleton, here before, but LOOKIE:

"Disney Villains" 6 X16 print, $15

I'm such a sucker for the noses on her "Doodlez" style.

And Kate very sweetly donated this Doctor print for the board:

Kate has a few prints in her Etsy shop, and some cute shirt designs like this Toothless over on TeePublic:

She's in the process of revamping her website, so watch her Facebook page for more!

Also for the give-away board, I bought this DC exclusive poster print by Drew Blank:

 (I couldn't find it online, so please excuse the crappy cellphone pic.)

Drew's Hero Squares are too cute for words, and there are SO MANY to choose from!

 Most of his 8.5 inch prints are $5, and his bigger posters like this are just $10:

 Awesome Rocketeer/Fett mashup!

And the last of my lost Dragon Con purchases, which I'm going to need your help IDing:

This artist didn't have a card, so I think he wrote his name on a post-it for me... which I no longer have. HELP. Does anyone recognize either of these prints?

Update: Aha! Thanks, guys; these are by Drew Green. I don't see an online store, but hit the link to see more of his work on DeviantArt.

I love love LOVE the bright crisp colors - so much better in person - and fun graphic style. I was sorely tempted to keep them, even though I've never played Sonic the Hedgehog or seen Sailor Moon! (Though I'd like to!)

Moving on from Dragon Con...

Unfortunately you can't buy this squee-inducing BioShock: Infinite art, but, ah! SO GOOD:

"Library Tea Party" by DevianArt member Sivcova, aka Julie
Songbird is my favorite video game character ever, so seeing him have tea with little Elizabeth gives me all the feelz. Oh, and click to embiggen for all the amazing details! How many game-related easter eggs can YOU find?

Another we can't buy, since the prints are sold out, but I can't stop staring at this Totoro optical illusion by Guillaume Morellec:

 So clever!

I stumbled across a 1984 themed art show online, and fell for all the happy colors in this one by Carlos Lerma:

Only $35? I'm amazed there are any left!

And because we can never - NEVER - get enough art nouveau Disney Princesses, check out these beauties by Hannah Alexander of Never Bird Designs:

You can get the entire set of twelve 8X12 prints for about $65, or your choice of 3 for $25, at Hannah's Etsy shop.

And while you're there, check out her watercolors of Ariel & Merida!

 Just stunning. 

(If you're quick, you can snag the original painting of Merida for about $73!)

And speaking of originals, how about this ink-on-wood Alice in Wonderland by Sze Jones?

 The original is $380 here, but I don't see any prints available. (Boo!) However, over on Sze's website I saw she made the same design for the cartoon version, and it's really cool to contrast the two!

 Again, I sadly see no prints, but check Sze's site for more of her work!

K, I think that does it for this month, guys! As always, comment below for your chance to win your choice of free art from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board. I'll ship anywhere, so internationals are welcome, and I'll announce the randomly selected winner in a few days.

Good luck, and happy commenting!

Posted by Jen at 6:41 PM   |  559 comments  |   Labels: ,

Make Your Own Golden Snitch Ornaments!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Calling all Harry Potter fans! These golden snitch ornaments are PERFECT for this year's Christmas tree:

They'd also make a magical mobile for a nursery, don't you think? So if it's still too early for you to even THINK about Christmas, then, uh... this is totally a mobile tutorial. {nodding emphatically} 

I've seen a couple of snitch tutorials in the past, but I wanted one to more closely match the silver metal wings of the movie version:

I skipped the body detail, though, both to keep it simple and because it's a lot shinier that way:

(If you want that body detail, though, I'd try some gold puff paint.)

And the best part? SO CHEAP TO MAKE. And easy! John and I knocked out all 30 in a single evening. So let's get to it!

First, you will need:

 - One disapproving cat named Tonks [optional]

- Small plastic gold ornaments (These tubes of 15 are $1 each at Dollar Tree. Score!)

 - Thin wire, around 22 or 26 gauge (That giant roll was $2.99 at JoAnn's.)

- Tin Foil

-  Spray adhesive (check your craft store; it's basically glue in a spray paint can)

[Alternate: Instead of foil & spray adhesive, you can also substitute metal tape.]

- Dremel with a drill bit just larger than your wire

To begin, cut off a bunch of 8-inch pieces of wire. (You'll need one piece of wire for each ornament.) The wires need to be as straight as possible, so here's a cool trick I learned to get the kinks out:

Hold the end of the wire firmly with a pair of pliers, and then gently pull a pair of nylon-jawed pliers down the length of the wire. Don't squeeze too hard with the nylon-jawed pliers; you only want a little pressure. (You can see I only had a curved pair to use, but it still worked fine.) Two or three runs should remove all the kinks:

The bottom wire is what I started with, the top have all been straightened.

Next, drill holes in your ornaments so the wires can be threaded through like so:

Important: Make sure your drill bit is at the same angle you see my wire here; otherwise, the wire won't feed through properly. 

I found it was easiest to drill the hole straight down first, and then gently turn the Dremel so the drill bit was at the proper angle, kind of pumping the drill bit up and down a bit as I turned.

Once the holes are drilled, feed your wire through. This will be a bit fiddly and may take a minute, but take your time, and try not to bend the wire.

Once I got the hang of it I zipped through all 30 snitches in no time. It was actually pretty fun, since I was dancing around to the radio in the garage at the time. (Pretty sure I'm the crazy neighbor... and I'm ok with that.)

Now, prepare the wings! Carefully lay out a large sheet of tin foil (try not to crinkle it), and cut it into rectangles measuring 2 X 3.5 inches each.

When you have a dozen or so done, lay the foil squares shiny side down, and spray with a light coat of spray adhesive. (What's that, you've never used spray adhesive? GET SOME. You'll find yourself using it for everything!) Make sure you spray outside, though, to avoid fumes and sticky overspray.

Alternate: Since some of you just reminded me it's FREEZING where most of you are, you can easily substitute metal tape for the tin foil & spray adhesive. The tape may gum up your scissors a bit, so just have a rag on hand to clean off the adhesive every few slices.

Next, carefully pick up a square of foil, and line up your wire down the center, like this:
 Get the foil as close to the ornament as you can, almost touching.

Gently press down with the wire (gently!!) until it sticks, and then carefully fold the foil over the wire. Try to keep the foil as smooth as possible, but don't panic if you get wrinkles; most of those will roll out later.

 A lot of times your foil won't line up perfectly on the edges, but don't worry about that, either; we're going to be trimming most of that end off anyway.

Repeat for the other side of the snitch, but be sure to hold the first wing straight up and down (as I am above) when you do! Otherwise your wings will stick out in different directions. 

And again, make sure you get that foil as close to the ornament as possible.

Your snitch should look something like this when you're done. If there are any large crinkles, use a pen like a rolling pin and smooth them out. (I was amazed how many wrinkles John got out that way!)

Next, trim your wings. I sketched a paper template for this to keep them consistent, which John folded over each wing to use as a guide:

We had quite the assembly line going, with me attaching the wings, and then John cutting them out:
 Almost ready for take off!

Finally, use a small scrap of wire or a toothpick to firmly draw small lines down the length of each wing. It will help to brace the wing on a book, like so:
(Shameless Girl Genius plug? HECK YEAH.)

Don't worry about making the lines too perfect; I found a little inconsistency actually looked really cool:

 And so long as you press hard enough, the lines will show clearly on both sides of the wing.

Now the fun part: posing your snitch! Odds are your wings are upside down at this point, so go ahead and gently twist them around, and then pose the wires however you like. You can bend the wings up, down, and even add a little curve in the middle, like so:

If your foil isn't close enough to the ornament the wings may want to flop down or spin. In that case, either bend the wires up a bit more to brace them, or try a dot of super glue right at the base.

For most of mine I left the wings straight out, and just bent them up slightly:

And I really like them with those decorative swirly hooks, which we found at Wal-Mart for $1.

Having a few different wing positions really adds to the flying illusion, though!

And that's it! 

 Now go forth, my friends, and unleash your golden snitch hordes!! MWUAH-HA-HA-HAA!


Update: Welcome, new visitors! Thanks for dropping by! And since you like Harry Potter crafts, you might also be interested in some of my past Potter goodies:

- Ollivander's Wand Display
- DIY Light-Up Wands
- Death Eater Mask

Or check my Craft Page for photos of all my tutorials. Enjoy!

Where my pinners at?

Posted by Jen at 9:00 AM   |  44 comments  |   Labels: , , , ,

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