Monday, February 20, 2017

DIY Calvin & Hobbes Terrarium... WITH DINOSAURS

I've been brainstorming at the dollar store again, you guys, and BEHOLD:


DIY Progress Goes "Boink."


Inspired by the time Calvin turned a box into a time machine, and this happened:


Like a lot of you I grew up on Calvin & Hobbes, and I still have all the books lined up on my shelves (right next to my Far Side collection). I've read and reread them a dozen times over, and cherish Watterson's blend of imagination, silliness, and philosophical musings.

On a professional note, Cake Wrecks and Wreck the Halls are both published by Andrews McMeel, the same publisher behind the Calvin & Hobbes books. Not only did I completely fangirl freakout over this, Bill Watterson's famously reclusive nature paved the way for me as an author. Thanks to him, the folks at AM didn't make me do TV or live radio interviews (other publishers would have), and were so much more understanding and flexible, having dealt with someone like me before.

So yeah, lots of love for Bill, Calvin, and Hobbes over here.
But enough tangents, back to the crafty goodness:


Oooh, maybe next I should make a Spaceman Spiff version, with lots of sand and rocks. :D

Inspiration hit when I found that plastic terrarium globe next to some fake mossy rocks at Dollar Tree:

Then when John and I spotted those plastic dinosaurs in the toy aisle, I knew exactly what to do.

My total out of pocket for this was about $3: one dollar each for the globe, mossy rocks, and dinosaur toys. (I didn't end up using the loose moss.) Everything else came from the backyard or around the house: bits of gravel, twigs, some walnut dust from the garage, cotton batting for clouds, and the tiniest print-out of Calvin & Hobbes on plain paper.

To make your own, start by hot-gluing the rocks in place:

Friday, February 17, 2017

... Of Sandwiches And Slings!

You ever have one of those times when you're feeling pretty OK in life, somewhat accomplished, reasonably confident... and then you start worrying the cat doesn't like you?



Like, maybe the cat doesn't hate you, but there's a definite chill in the relationship. A snubbed snuggle attempt. A new favorite spot, further away from you. Doesn't return calls as often.



So you start wondering what you did wrong (besides the donut collar for her over-grooming), and if maybe more of her favorite hairball treatment would smooth things over - you know, the one flavored like catnip -  when you realize you're obsessing over whether or not your cat likes you, and maybe this isn't normal?

No? Just me? Good, good. Cool talk, bro.


It's Day 4 after John's surgery, and while I have some fun little crafts to show you and an art roundup to do, I thought I'd just chat for a bit. Because I am tired, you guys. How do all of you do this? You know, make meals and keep house and drive around running errands and still take care of work and family? Plus, you know, leave the house so much? 




John's recovering well, by the way, except for his tongue, which turned an alarming shade of lime green yesterday. When you consider all the colors a tongue might turn on its own, I think you'll agree green is up there with most unsettling.

Turns out it's Thrush, a familiar nuisance from the last time John was in a hospital. So now we have more new meds folded in to our regiment of pills, tinctures, treatments, and therapies, and we live by the alarms on John's phone, and to the drone of his V-pulse cooling machine.

Since I figure you don't want a picture of his tongue. :p



But enough about today. Let's talk sandwiches.



One of my grandfather's birthdays was on Valentine's Day, and I got to thinking about him this week over the sub-par turkey sandwiches I'd made for lunch. Grandpa was a tall, rail-thin Texan who loved sandwiches. Big, layered, decadent sandwiches with exotic things on them, like pimento cheese. As a kid coming from a family where the only things you put between bread were bologna and Miracle Whip, having sandwiches with my grandparents was a bona fide experience. Grandma and Grandpa took serious time preparing their lunch spreads: a DIY sandwich buffet of tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, an assortment of sliced cheeses and deli meats, all the condiments - and of course that tub of day-glo orange pimento cheese, which Grandpa would slide across the table with a conspiratorial wink. "Put yourself some of this on there," he'd drawl.

Then after lunch, Grandpa would lean way down and ask, in a stage whisper, if we kids wanted a Goo-Goo Cluster. I still remember the way he'd say it, all slow and serious. Goo-Goo Cluster. Like something holy and forbidden and irretrievably silly, all at the same time. Of course we'd say yes, and Grandpa would open up the highest cabinet in the motor home - the one my petite little grandmother had no prayer of reaching - and pull out a box from his "secret" stash. He also had Moon Pies and Peppermint Patties and enormous buckets of Tootsie Rolls up there, but the Goo-Goo Clusters were my favorite. More than that, I loved that an adult could relish a piece of candy the way we kids did. I loved how happy it made Grandpa, how happy he was to share and see us happy.

I've never told John this, but the sandwiches he makes us most days for lunch remind me of those times with my grandparents. John is a master at sandwiches. He finds the best tomatoes, just the right toasting level, the perfect ratio of mayo-to-mustard. The care John puts into those sandwiches each day makes me feel valued, makes me feel loved.

I guess I should tell him that sometime.

So what about you guys, do certain foods remind you of loved ones? How about old-fashioned candies, any favorites? (My dad used to go through those cardboard milk cartons full of Whoppers - remember those?) Heck, now that I'm craving sugar anyway, go ahead and tell me any lesser-known modern candies you like, too; I am always open to trying new sweets.


Well, peeps, the alarm is sounding. Stay tuned for either my total descent into madness or my mastery of all things multi-tasking.

And also more craft posts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rivers of Light At Disney's Animal Kingdom: Review & Pics!

[plops down] Hoo!

Right, it's the day after John's surgery (which went well), and he's tied down, strapped up, and konked out on pain meds... so let's talk DISNEY.

Animal Kingdom, that is, and their new, long-awaited, much delayed night time water show, Rivers of Light.

The soft open was last Friday, and as luck would have it John and I were there anyway, enjoying our last cool day before ARMageddon. (The arm puns never stop here, folks.) Fast Passes for the show's seating were long gone, but we were told there were plenty of other vantage points around the water to stand.

Random Tree of Life shot, because pretty.

Sadly I only had my iPhone with me for photos, but that didn't stop us from camping out on a bridge across from the main seating for an hour to get a premo spot. Again, these will NOT be the best/clearest photos, but they do give a decent impression of just how stunning this show is.

Our vantage point while we waited for the show to start. Most of the floats entered the lake right under our bridge!

I have to say one of the best parts of Rivers of Light is the pre-show lighting. See those trees on the far bank, all lit with blues and purples? Those colors shifted slowly, with bright green fireflies in the canopy, and some incredible animal silhouettes projected running/flying across the whole bank. It was a delight to watch, and I think I entertained the crowd around me with all my oohing and ahhing.
 ("Look! NOW IT'S PINK! Ahhhh!")


There's no story to Rivers of Light, just a series of colorful water elements and floats, all focused on animals and nature. There are also two sailboats themed to fire and water (so orange and blue) which contain the show's only live performers.

Of course I couldn't zoom in enough with my phone, but here's a photo from All Ears showing my favorite part with the performers:


A single dancer moves in front of a spotlight aimed at the sail behind them, so their shadows dance with them. And it. Is. AWESOME. This photo doesn't do it justice. Keep reading for a little video snippet later.

(Fun Fact: There were some bumps during Soft Open, of course, and John tells me he watched one of the performers get drenched by an errant water jet. Boops.)

This laser lotus flower was one of the highlights; it looks incredible when combined with the water screens and jets.

Plus it changes colors!

Seriously, SO GOOD. In fact, one of my complaints is they don't have more laser effects like this.
(You can see both the Water and Fire boats on either side here.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Prepare To Be... DISARMED

Remember that time John had his ear surgery, and he passed out as they were trying to get the IV in his hand, then they came and got me after the fact and I took a picture of him looking like death in a purple smock?

That was fun.

SO WE'RE DOING IT AGAIN.

Surgery, I mean. Not so much the passing-out-in-a-purple-smock thing. I hope. And not because it's fun; the part where I wrote that was totally sarcastic. And this time instead of his ear, it's his shoulder.

Maybe I should start again.

JOHN'S LOSING HIS ARM ON MONDAY FOR SIX WEEKS AND THIS IS VERY INCONVENIENT FOR ME.

Us, I mean. Inconvenient for us. Aheh. Heh. ... Love you, babe!

You have questions. I understand. I have answers.

So, why is John having surgery?

I'll answer that question... with another non sequitur:

If, perchance, you ever think that using one of these is a good idea:

 Don't.

That's called an "ab wheel," and it's used by attractive fitness models to convince you that you will NOT injure yourself while using it.

John was lured in by this circular logic (heyoo) nearly a year ago, and over-extended and tore something or other in his shoulder, which, when combined with about a decade's worth of damage from painting decorative ceilings over his head, resulted in a LOT of complaining. I mean pain. Sorry. A lot of pain.

It's been keeping John up nights for over 6 months now, and after all the tests (ALL of them) and an MRI that required his too-large shoulders to be wedged in at an angle in the "Stayin' Alive" position (my gosh I wish they allowed selfies in there), it was determined John has a labral tear and a bunch of arthritis build-up in his right shoulder. Ergo, the surgery.

The surgery's actually the easy part, though. Well, for us. I mean, John just has to lie there unconscious, and I've got Magic Kingdoms to play in the waiting room, so... yeah, we're pretty good with that part.

The hard part is the recovery, which requires John be in a sling that keeps his arm a little ways out from body for six whole weeks. Any wrong movement or jarring could break free the tendon/muscle/thingy they're re-attaching, so he can't even use his hand for the first week or so. He'll have to sleep sitting up and go to physical therapy three times a week, and he won't be able to dress or shower on his own for a while. (Actually, John' pretty happy about that last one. Surprise, surprise.)

Yeah, that's about his face when he reminds me I'll be helping him shower on Valentine's Day.

We've been doing our best to prepare for Disarmed John Time (DJT), because - for those who don't know us IRL - John does all the cooking, driving, lawn care, and bear hugging around here. And just like Inigo Montoya, John is NOT left-handed.

I won't lie, when I first heard John would be without his dominant hand/arm for so long, I was a little panicked. I felt wholly unequipped to help, and my fear mostly focused on one unavoidable responsibility: driving.

I've been making real progress with my anxiety and agoraphobia, but driving has been shoved from the back burner onto the metaphorical floor, and it's been years since I drove with any regularity. That's super embarrassing...  and hard to admit, you guys.

In some ways this comes at a good time, though, because I have made progress. Exposure therapy works. In just a few years I went from being panicked just sitting in a car to taking long trips for granted again. Then several weeks ago I had to drive a short distance alone - a first in years - and it went so well that when I got home I completely freaked John out by bursting into happy tears.

So on Thursday John and I spent all afternoon running errands for DJT, and I drove everywhere. The post office, the doctor's office, the drug store, two different grocery stores, TWICE to Wal-Mart, heck, even a drive-through for lunch. I drove all afternoon into the evening, and as we got home that night, I remembered. I remembered how much I used to love driving at night. I remembered the way it made me feel powerful and independent. I remembered the fun.

I think these next 6 weeks are going to be OK, you guys. I think I'm going to step up, and I'm going to take care of the one who always takes care of me. (Though I'm sure the food won't be as good, so sorry in advance for that, Sweetie.)

Best of all, even if it's not OK, even if something goes wrong and John's arm isn't fixed or I wake up shaking and panicked and too scared to face the world again, I know we'll still get through. We've got friends and family willing to step in, and we have the most incredible online community rooting for us. With support like that, it's hard NOT to believe we can take on the world.

Which isn't to say I wouldn't turn down a casserole or two, local friends. Just sayin'.


John's surgery is this Monday afternoon, so I'll probably be posting updates on Facebook that day, if you're curious to see how he's doing. Happy thoughts and good juju, please! 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Ghostbusters Funko Pop Valentine's Wreath

This post started as a tutorial for making a simple $5 Deco Mesh wreath - and I'll still include that at the bottom - but then I remembered I'm me and this kind of happened:

 WHAT.



In addition to last year's narrowly missed apocalypse predicted in GB2, my last name means Gatekeeper. So clearly my love of Ghostbusters AND this wreath were meant to be. (John's maiden name doesn't mean Keymaster, sadly, it means "hairy." See why he took my name?)

Also in my defense, I happened to have these Funko Pops anyway and look how adorable.

 
 Taken with my $10 fish eye lens again, so not the best quality, but CUTE.



Now lemme show you how I made it, since the materials for everything besides the Pops only cost $6, so yay cheap craft.

I'd never made a Deco Mesh wreath before, but luckily it turns out they're pretty easy:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

And Now, John And I Explode Some Valentine Balloons

Lest there be any doubt that John and I are, in fact, giant children, here's our new favorite thing:

WACK-A PACK

We found it at the dollar store, and were immediately intrigued by the promise of "self-inflating" balloons.

There are four in each pack, which is nice, because whacking the first one is completely terrifying. We scared ourselves and the cats, then ended up laughing like loons when it finally exploded.

By pack #4 we were pros, though, and decided to take a little video for posterity:



The balloons are filled with sodium bicarbonate and a vial of citric acid, so you can hear the chemical reaction hissing long after the initial bang.


SO FUN.

John's gone back to buy two more packs so far (there are more designs), and we've experimented with snapping the vial in our hands instead of just smacking it, which works even faster/better. 

 Hehehheheheh.

This has been another episode of two grown adults (and two long-suffering cats) keeping themselves - and the neighbors - entertained. 

Now, who wants to whack some balloons?

(Check your local dollar stores; ours was at a Dollar Tree.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

You Don't Have To Be Pretty

I was trolling through my old Pinterest boards last night looking for Valentines craft inspiration (one of these years I'll come up with something, right?) when I came across this Pin:

It jumped out because it was on my "Girly Grins" board - a place I normally reserve for funny cat pictures and watercolor tattoos.

So I clicked through to the article, and wow. I was unprepared. It was written over ten years ago by Erin McKean of A Dress A Day, and I recommend reading the whole thing (it's not long), but here's the bit that packed the biggest sucker punch for me:


You Don’t Have to Be Pretty.

You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general.

Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.


McKean goes on to say there's nothing wrong with "pretty", of course, but how our emphasis should be on health and happiness. Click on over, give it a read. I'll wait.

Back? Cool.

Some thoughts:

In a world where every "empowering" pop song assures us that we're beautiful, and where expressing any dissatisfaction with our looks is seen as a cry for help or attention, I actually find it comforting to be told it's ok to NOT be pretty. That maybe looks can just be looks sometimes; a thing we have little control over, and that ultimately have no bearing on our true value.

I'll go even further, and say maybe it's ok if I don't think *I'm* pretty. And that maybe rushing to assure our friends and humanity in general that we're all beautiful is a bit, well, stupid. Insulting, even. How can we say a person we've never seen is beautiful? How can everyone be beautiful? And be warned: if you give me the "beautiful on the inside" speech, I WILL roll my eyes at you.

You know what's beautiful on the inside? Kindness. Courage. Empathy. Loyalty. Self-sacrifice. If those are the things we see in a person, if those are the things we mean, then shouldn't we use those words? Call out some specifics? Instead of reducing so many amazing qualities to something as trivial and fleeting as "beauty"?

Hey, I get it. This is one of those areas where we mean well, but we've been preconditioned to A) contradict anyone who says they're less-than-gorgeous, because B) we associate beauty with goodness. So she may not be beautiful, but she's a beautiful person. (I know, I know; I've said it, too!)

I would posit that in the process of trying to make people feel better like this, though, we're really enforcing the societal mandate that unattractiveness will not be tolerated. That of course you're pretty, because you have to be pretty.

But you guys, we don't have to be pretty. As McKean said, we don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not even ourselves.


I don't have any answers here, but I like these thoughts. I like being reminded that I don't owe chasing some impossible standard to the world. And I need reminding, because that's not how it feels, right? Right now I think I owe prettiness - or my best attempts at it - to every person who has to look at me. I feel like I should apologize for my face if I'm not wearing makeup, or for my clothes if I'm wearing something comfortable, or for my figure and weight, period.

Sometimes it's fun, the makeup and the clothes and the sparkly nail polish. But like everything, the fun fades when you have to.

So I don't know about you, but I get tired and resentful of the effort. Then I get tired and resentful of being told I'm beautiful just the way I am by commercials and songs and even my overly enthusiastic hubby, who has a knack for picking the worst possible times. If John would save it for when I'm tucked and plucked and actually feeling pretty, it'd be different. But noo-ooo. It's when my unibrow is coming in nicely and I'm propped up on my triple chins in a heap of frizz wearing cat-hair-covered yoga pants that John decides I need to be told I'm gorgeous. Which is sweet, but c'mon. If that's gorgeous, then somebody better bust out the heavenly chorus line when I brush my teeth and put on a bra, is all I'm saying.

 via


Again, no answers here, just thoughts. And I'm curious what you guys think. Do you struggle with "owing" prettiness to anyone, or do you enjoy the effort? Do you care what your favorite people look like? Where's the line between being true to ourselves and presenting a well-groomed, self-respecting image to the outside world? And most importantly, do you ever fantasize about a society where everyone wears pretty masks in public, or are turned into giant cats with lustrous fur coats that hide all their zits? (Asking for a friend.) (Who is me.)

Let's chat. Let's think some new thoughts.

And hey, for what it's worth, I don't care if you're pretty, because I know you're already something so much better: you're you. You are what matters, you are what lasts, and twenty or fifty or a hundred years from now, your impact on the people and world around you is what will be remembered. Not your good hair days, not your pore size or your waist size or your fashion sense. Just you

And you know what? That's pretty darn cool.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Harry Potter Celebration 2017, Part 2: ALL COSTUMES!

Time to dive back in to Universal's Celebration of Harry Potter with the rest of my favorite guest costumes!

Starting with this perfect young Hermione, complete with floating feather headband:

Oooh, I should have asked her how to pronounce it.

I never thought Emma Watson's hair was Hermione-like enough in the movies, so I was thrilled to see several ladies going all out with the frizz last weekend. (Also, true story: my hair looked exactly like that all the way through college.)

This year was especially fun with all the new Fantastic Beasts costumes:

If you look closely, you'll see that Jacob has the bite mark on his neck!

 Queenie was easily the most popular of the new character costumes. Lots of pretty pink coats!

Took me a second to figure out who this was next to Moaning Myrtle:
She's the Basilisk! Ha! And gotta love Myrtle's toilet seat purse.


Forgot to mention this last round, but each day there was new chalk art on some of the sidewalks:

These two were my favorites.

Here's the most creatively hilarious - hilariously creative? - costume of the weekend: Pregnant Deatheater: