Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., It's A Magical Place

After struggling though some post-Christmas "NOW what"s, which included a lot of pacing, staring out windows, and annoying John with constant, "So what do YOU wanna do?"s, I decided we needed a new show to binge watch on Netflix.

Now, I don't know if you guys have noticed, but the geek community can be a little critical sometimes. [insert hearty, sarcastic laugh here] And all that criticism floating around online has kept me from giving Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a try. Given all the sniping, I expected it to be about the quality of Arrow, which I do like, but just barely. (I keep giving up on season 2, because ug.)

So imagine my shock and delight when I discovered Agents is friggin' FANTASTIC.

Not anymore, A.C. NOT ANYMORE.

(Don't worry, this'll be spoiler-free.)

The pilot hooked us immediately with its mix of action and laughs - classic Whedon, really - so John and I just knew it was going to go bad at some point. And I'll be honest, in the last half of season one things do get a little rocky. (If you've seen Winter Soldier in theaters, you can probably guess why.) However, stick it out, because the last few episodes pull it back together brilliantly, and will reward you with a finale that quite literally left us cheering.

Best of all, Agents kept surprising me with clever plot twists and turns. Several times John and I would "call" something: "Oh, THAT's the bad guy" - or - "Well now THIS is going to happen, obviously" - and we were almost always wrong. It's so refreshing to watch an unpredictable show! And the writing never once insulted our intelligence with inept agents, easily avoidable problems, nonsensical plot holes, etc, etc.

If I seem like I'm fangirling, it's because I'm totally fangirling. I like the Avengers, and I've liked just about all the movies in the franchise, but I LOVE this show. I love that it's an ensemble cast of non-super-powered humans... who are still super heroes.


I guess I prefer my heroes a little less super, and a lot more Coulson:


What's more, I love the women in this show, who are eminently badass (Thank you, Joss!):

She's the cavalry - but don't call her that.

I love the scientist duo besties, who are cuter together than a giant teacup full of kittens:

I love that Chloe Bennet, who plays Skye, could act circles around most of the cast of Arrow.

(Sorry to go after Arrow, btw, but it seems the most appropriate comparison, and I'm still kinda bitter about all the spoiled potential over there.)

And last but never least, I love Agent Coulson. His one-liners, genuine affection for the team, and unflappable storm-the-castle-in-a-suit-and-tie BAMF-ness make him the undisputed heart of Agents, and he could just about carry the whole show on his own.

Well, him and Lola, of course:

While Coulson could carry the show on his own, I'm glad he doesn't have to. Because amid all the action and laughs, there's a lot of heart to these characters' relationships, with layers of past pains and tantalizing mysteries that kept me guessing 'til the end.

So to sum up, if you're looking for a great way to spend this New Year's Eve that DOESN'T include Ryan Seacrest, hop on over to Netflix and get to bingin', my friends!

Oh, and no spoilers in the comments, please, since John and I are about to dive in to season 2. Awww yeaaah. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Final Potter Tree Reveal: Winged Keys, Potion Bottles, & Floating Quills!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I spent the last few days finishing up our Harry Potter tree, so even though you've seen most of it before, here it is officially ready for viewing:



As soon as we got home from our trip last week I had John take everything off the tree (thanks, Sweetie!) so I could add the garland in and rearrange everything to fit.

I hoped to make the garland look like a magical swirl, ala Cinderella's transformation scene, so I knew it had to be a little wild and very glittery. In the end I made the garland myself, using about 20 of these floral sprigs, wired together:

(Waiting 'til the last minute has its advantages; they were 70% off at JoAnn's!)

And in related news, I think I have gold glitter permanently embedded in my skin now. o.0

My winged keys looked fantastic off the tree, but are pretty "meh" on it. The detail is lost in the lights and shadows, but those are translucent dragonfly wings we printed on vellum paper:

I attached them to real antique keys using a tiny glue dot, which worked great:

Then I hung them with a little dark thread.

Seriously, though, look how cool these wings are:

I'm so bummed they don't show up on the tree! Ah well. Still fun to make.

This Marauder's Map is a tough project to fold (took me two tries), but oh-so-cool. Hit that link for the template & tutorial.

I think this is the first project I've seen John go total fanboy on, and I love that we got to make something HE was excited about.

(John likes a lot of things, but he LOVES Harry Potter. He's listened to the Jim Dale audio books dozens of times each, and will passionately explain all the ways the later movies messed up to anyone who dares broach the subject. ;))

John came up with a lot of the ornaments on his own, like Luna's glasses, the Map, and all the parchment scrolls with Hogwarts' seals - but my favorite of his ideas is the floating quill pens:

The scrolls are printed with potion ingredients from the books, and the quills - just craft feathers with a bit of metal tape on the tip - are attached with a hidden wire inside the feather shaft:

The wire extends from the feather tip, pierces the paper, and attaches behind the parchment to a small square of cardboard for stability. I had to prop the paper up just so in the branches to keep the quills upright, but once set, they look downright magical

Here they are off the tree:

Next year I'd like to have John re-make the scrolls so the quill is mid-word, so it really looks like they're writing mid-air.

Let's see, what else? 

Ah, potion bottles!

 With a bonus Lily & Tonks.

These are $1 glass bottles (except the Felix Felicis, which is an old syrup bottle :D) from JoAnn's. I added burned parchment labels, wire neck hangers, and then carefully poured a little colored glitter in each. The glitter sticks easily to the inside of the glass, so you just have to roll it around to make it look like the bottles are filled most of the way.

Plus, spaaaaarkly.

The glittery Stag patronus is a Dollar Tree find. I thought the swirly horns & pierced sides looked  sufficiently "smokey." 

And pretty frog, because pretty frog:

He's not far from our Chocolate Frog candy box:

I even added a tiny cauldron, inspired by Brook's Potter tree from a few days ago:

Next year I'll add lights inside 'em.

And one final action shot, so you can behold the twinkly glory:

Well, everyone, thanks for taking this magical crafty journey with me! I hope you had as much fun as I did - if that's even possible. ;)

And one final roundup of all my Potter Tree projects:

- In-Tree Hogwarts Express 


Or come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mailbag & Reader Show & Tell, The Holiday Edition!

I'm home! Light the lights, cue the choir, and snuggle the kitties, folks, 'cuz we have a LOT to catch up on.

This will not be a cruise recap, but first let me say thank you - again - to all of you on Facebook for the help last week. With John sick and me panicking, there was no WAY I'd have made it to our family's vacation without your flood of encouragement and advice. Even John had given up, decreeing we were staying home - and so was amazed to find me packing for us both later that night. So anyway, thank you. I owe you guys.

The cruise was still incredibly hard, and unfortunately I hit some new lows, but three things got me through the week: Xanax (beautiful, beautiful Xanax...), my family, and, during the brief times I was able to log on through the ship's wifi, stuff like this:




And amazingly enough, this Mario tree by Brandy has a playable game system in it:

 [I know it's hard to read; just click to embiggen]

They built a custom stand to embed the TV & console. Here's a progress shot:

And here's the top. Brandy cross-stitched all the ornaments herself!
  ::happy sigh::

I love geeks.

And before I share my final favorite tree post, here are answers to the two questions I've been asked most this week:

And now, drum roll, please, because this last tree by Brook Johnson is my favorite - for I think obvious reasons:
 Potter perfection!!

I can't even describe the happy feels this gives me. Brooke used my floating candle tutorial, found a pot to use as a cauldron base, and then found and/or crafted some absolutely brilliant ornaments that I fully intend on stealing. (Plus now I want to stick a full-sized broom in mine!)

Like these tiny cauldrons with color-changing LEDs:


I won't spoil the rest; just click on over to Brooke's blog to see - and bring a bib for the drool. Trust me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a tree to finish.  :)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Home For The Holidays: 2014 Edition

I love changing up all my tabletop holiday decor around the house each year, so here's a quick photo tour of the newly arranged sparklies at the Yates' place:






 (Note how I deftly avoid photographing the dining room table, which is perpetually buried in project materials. ;))

I've been waiting to wrap this chandelier in garland since the day we bought it:

There's also a convenient little knob in the middle for hanging one big ornament. :D

I don't think I've ever shown you guys this back bookcase, since it's always been covered in junk and spare parts. I finally cleaned it up, though, and found a nice use for my great-grandfather's old planer:

It makes a great display ledge for tiny treasures! In fact, most of that will be staying out year-round, including those great steampunk Mickey ear ornaments:

And here's the steampunk tree again:

John and I will be putting the finishing touches on the Harry Potter tree as soon as we're back from our trip, so final pics of that'll be coming up later. Hope you enjoyed the virtual visit, everyone! Here's to glittering up ALL the things!