Friday, May 29, 2015

This Little Mermaid Papercutting Lights Up! AND IT'S SO PRETTY.

Remember my oh-so-crafty friend Renee, who made me all those resin rose petal gems?


♪ Look at this stuff! Isn't it neat? ♫

♪ Wouldn't you say this papercutting is sweet?

 I'm in awe, you guys.

And did you notice?

Little Epbot!

Not to mention all those fabulous seahorses. Squee!

 It's like she knows me.

Renee is one of the most creative crafters I know, and she's constantly trying new things. In fact, I think this is her first attempt at papercutting, which is just insaaaane.
She drew the art herself (!!), then used 3 different types of paper to achieve the different levels of translucency: watercolor paper, marker, and vellum. She even used a tiny piece of clear plastic to make the hourglass:

 AWE, I say!

Then Renee layered them all up in a shadowbox frame from Michaels:

Finally, she taped in one of those small LED strands (also from Michaels), cutting a square out of the frame's back to accommodate the battery pack:

 (The glittery stuff is glitter duct tape. :D)

Here it is without the lights on:

 Sorry about the glare! The back layer has a blue-gray cast, which is really pretty.

I'm completely in love with it, and now I want to try one of my own! Something simple, of course, like maybe a glowing Bat Symbol over Gotham's skyline? Oooh, or a Songbird silhouette with a light-up eye? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES. And they'd make great nightlights for a kid's room!

Off to brainstorm. Hope this inspires some craftiness out there!


And now, my two winners for May's Art Roundup ARE...

salamanda76, who wins "Tea Time With Wampa"
Jasry, who wins his/her choice from the Pinterest Give-Away Board!

Congrats, guys, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May Art Roundup: Star Wars Propaganda, Retro Batgirl, "SQUEEwoks", & More!

Yikes, May is almost over! Guess I better get this month's art post up, huh?

I couldn't fit all of my MegaCon finds in last month, so let's just consider this Part 2. :)

 First up, another lovely Supergirl, this time by Patrick Thomas Parnell:

Digging the muted colors and canvas texture.

Check out Parnell's site for more, though sadly he doesn't sell online. (So aren't you glad I snagged this one for the board?)

On the other end of the spectrum, Megan Fisher has these SUPER saturated prints that practically leaped off the table at me with their cheery colors:


I bought those two for the board, since I don't think Megan is selling them online yet. However, you CAN get these two at her Society6 store:

 Velma is reading the Handbook from Beetlejuice! AHHH!!

Ant Lucia uses fabulous rich colors for her superhero pin-ups, and some are styled like vintage movie posters, which is extra fun:


 Really diggin' her retro Batgirl aviatrix:

Ants posters are a big 18X24, and range from $25 to $35. Head over to her online store to see the rest - and don't miss her Star Wars propaganda set!

You've all watched Princess Jellyfish by now, right? :)

That's by Kristen, aka "Digitoonie", who also has some punchy Sailor Moon art:

Both of those are available at her online store for $15 each. Follow Kristen on Facebook for more!

Al Abbazia has some excellent Star Wars propaganda & cover art posters:

 This Star Trek one first caught my eye:

But I love the Art Deco feel on the World's Fair one, too.

Abbazia has plenty of other fandoms, too, from Back to the Future to Fallout:

 You can see lots more at his site - and while you're there check his convention schedule, since it looks like you can only buy from Abbazia in-person. (Boo.)

[Update: I just heard from Al, who says you guys can order prints for $15 (plus shipping) by emailing him here. Yay!]

Next up, some goofy fun from Justin Peterson:

Plus an old-school postcard:
 And a clever kids' book cover for you Game of Thrones fans:
I'd be tempted to trim this down, attach it to a real book, and then frame it in a shadowbox.

As of this writing all of Justin's prints are on sale for just $5 - but I think they'll go back to $10 this week. (Sorry!) Go see the rest here.

Victoria Gedvillas has been doing some gorgeous princess ACEOs lately, and I was lucky to snag this Aurora at MegaCon - but sorry, guys; this one's for me. :D

A few more from Gedvillas' Facebook page:

 Her online shop is closed 'til the first week of June, but be sure to bookmark it for great prints like these:

And finally, some 3D art from Stephanie Kotkin, who paints custom - and geeky! - ceramic bowls and piggy banks:

 Plus she sews these delightful "SQUEEwoks" and "WamPALs"- in your choice of colors - for just $16:

I'll give you one guess who got the Epbot one. :D

I featured Steph's SQUEEwoks a couple of years ago, and since then she's become a good friend and Hashimoto's adviser to me. Oh, and she even donated that arm-less Wam-Pal up there for the give-away board! Who loves ya? 

Click over to Stephanie's Etsy shop to see the rest, or to order your own.

Aaand that does it for this month, and for MegaCon! Now, as always, comment below for your chance to win your choice of art from my Pinterest Art Give-Away board. International entries are welcome!

Plus, I'll also be picking a second winner to receive my oldest piece left on the board, "Tea Time With Wampa" (appropriate, huh?) by Erika Taguchi-Newton:

 So be sure to mention in your comment if you like this one.

I'll announce my two randomly-selected winners in a few days. Happy commenting!


UPDATE: The give-away has ended, and my winners are:

salamanda76, who wins "Tea Time With Wampa"
Jasry, who wins his/her choice from the Pinterest Give-Away Board!

Congrats, guys, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

MegaCon 2015: The Best Cosplay, Pt 4 - Last One!

Time for my final batch of MegaCon cosplay, guys! Starting with...

Hipster Mario & Peach, I think? (At first I thought they were Western, but he's not wearing chaps...)

And another fun mashup: Phoenix Playboy Bunny:

I only regret I didn't get a shot of her gold lamé bunny tail. :D

[Click the 'read more' down there for the rest; lots of photos ahead!]

Friday, May 22, 2015

Achievement Unlocked: My First Nixie Tube Clock!

Several years ago I started jotting down a "Craft Bucket List," and number one on my list has always been "assemble my own nixie tube clock."

Well, last night, I FINALLY DID.

Just look at all that beautiful soldering. Eh? Eh?!

(Those of you who actually know what beautiful soldering looks like: be kind. It's my first try!)

Ok, maybe the underside of a circuit board isn't all that impressive. So how about...

 ... this?

Now scrambled!

Now a close-up!
 Oooh. Aaaaah.

(Oddly enough, the LEDs underneath are actually pure cobalt blue in real life, but in photos they turn that crazy ultraviolet.)

Even that boring underside is lovely with the power switched on:

Here's the clock switched off:
 Next John and I will have to make a case for it, since I don't want the circuit board to show. I haven't decided on a style yet, but you can bet it'll be appropriately steampunky.

John got me this kit for Christmas from PV Electronics in the UK, but I was too intimidated to start on my own. Enter my dad the electrical engineer, who was invaluable in helping me sort and label all the parts (since I can't tell a resistor from a capacitor). Once we had that done, Dad taught me a few soldering tricks, and set me to it.

We hit a road block a few hours in during the high voltage test, when one of the parts began to smoke. (For the record, smoke = VERY BAD.) So we shelved the project for a few months, during which Pete from PV very kindly sent us a replacement part (we think the one piece was defective) and then patiently walked us through some trouble shooting via instant chat on their website. We were really impressed, so if you're in the market for a nixie clock kit, I highly recommend those guys.

I think I spent a good 10 hours on this, but a chunk of that was trouble-shooting and back-tracking with my Dad's help. (Removing soldered pieces takes about ten times as long as putting them on in the first place! o.0) The time really zipped by, though, since it turns out I actually like soldering. :)

The kit comes pre-programmed with a dizzying array of display options, so John and I had fun playing with some of the settings. It's almost hypnotic watching the numbers shift, and we turned on a "slots" feature that jumbles the numbers every 60 seconds. Here, I took a little video so you can see:


This still doesn't quite capture how gorgeous the colors are; on video the LEDs appear to fluctuate, but they're rock-steady IRL. And the colors aren't quite right here, either; they're more electric sherbet orange and rich ultramarine blue. So I guess you guys will have to either come visit or make your own to see what I mean!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Going Gluten-Free... FOR SCIENCE!

Everything I've been reading on Hashimoto's keeps coming back to the same dietary requirement/recommendation: give up gluten*.  I've been stalling and rationalizing and being just plain stubborn about it, but after a bad 2-day anxiety flare-up last week, I was ready to try just about anything. (Amazing what a strong motivator irrational fear can be, huh?)

[*The tl;dr version: some doctors believe your body could be mistaking thyroid tissue for gluten - since they're structurally similar - and so ends up attacking both. Give up gluten, and the attacks could stop, allowing your thyroid to heal.]

And since I've heard it can also help with panic - and I'm lactose-intolerant anyway - I decided to give up dairy, too. In for a penny, right?

Still, considering that every meal I eat usually has both dairy *and* gluten in it, this was a Big Deal.

And considering that I am not only terrible at cooking, but also hate doing it, this was a Really Really Big Deal.

So it's been almost a full week now, and I gotta say: This isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and I am so relieved.

I've always equated going gluten-free with going low-carb, for some reason, or at least going awful- carb, with chemical-tasting fake breads and pastas and whatnot - and forget about all the baked-goods and desserts I love. So, the first thing John and I did - and yes, you WILL laugh at me over this - was find a good gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. Because PRIORITIES.

It only took 4 tries with 4 different brands to find an amazing, so-good-I'd-eat-'em-anyway, GF chocolate chip cookie. As soon as I took the first bite, I knew I could do this.

These are the cookies, by the way:

They sell them at Target.
(But I'm still open to recommendations for other brands.)

Next I had to find a proper milk substitute, since it's been the only thing I drink besides water for over 6 years. I already knew I liked sweetened Almond Milk well enough, so once I cut it half-and-half with water it was close enough to pass for my usual 2% milk. SUCCESS.

Next up, sandwich bread. I was dreading this, because the GF bread we've tried before was like crumbly cardboard: completely inedible. I lucked out when John brought home a loaf of All But Gluten, because once toasted, it tastes almost exactly like the white wheat we usually eat.

In fact, I've found this whole thing is a lot less daunting if I just start with what I already eat, and then find substitutions to make it work. I'm not quite as strict with the dairy as I am with gluten, though, so I'm ok with small amounts of whey or even cream in some items.

Some things are already gluten-free, of course, like our favorite burrito bowls over at Chipotle. Leave off the sour cream and cheese, and it's dairy-free, too. (I sub'd with some dairy-free sour cream, which tastes almost exactly the same as the real stuff, and some soy-based "cheddar cheese," which... does not. Ha! It's not too bad, though.)

Everyone keeps saying this is an amazing time to go gluten-free, and I gotta say, they're right. I was like a kid in a candy store once I found the GF aisle at Publix, eying all the stuff I can still eat, and I even found a local vegan bakery that has almost half its menu GF. Including cupcakes. Woot!

Restaurants have been surprisingly accommodating so far, and it's pretty easy to find GF menus on most websites. Which reminds me, quick side note:

This week we've been out at Universal a lot with visiting family, and I have to give major props to the staff at the Three Broomsticks, who I swear turned into culinary superheroes the second we uttered the words "gluten-free." I'd already done my homework online as to what I could eat, but John had a quick question about the ribs. Within seconds, the head chef himself was in front of us, smiling and offering to cook the ribs sans sauce (which has gluten in it) just for us. Then, the server plating our food insisted on replacing our order when she realized she hadn't put on fresh gloves before handling my GF plate.

I was so touched by how conscientious they all were, and more than that, how they didn't make a fuss or act like we were putting them out. I've been afraid of restaurant staff rolling their eyes or getting snippy with me, but so far, knock on wood, everyone's been great.

That said, it's a lot easier to eat gluten and dairy-free at home - or at least it's easier to eat well. (Because who wants a house salad for every meal?) So far John's made us this Rainbow Thai salad:

 Which was awesome, though ours wasn't nearly as photogenic:

 Plus we replaced the mango with mandarin oranges. Mmm.

We disagreed on the dressing, since John wanted more vinegar and I wanted more peanut butter, so in the end we split the recipe and doctored our own versions.

For dinners we've also had hot sandwiches, which John is the master of making, and fruity chicken salad with these to-die-for GF crackers:

We've been eating the crackers for months now, so it was a pleasant surprise when I realized there's a big ol' "GLUTEN FREE" stamp on the bag. (Seriously, you must try them. Crunchy nutty goodness you'll be eating like potato chips!)

It feels pretty strange to be sharing snapshots of our dinners here, but after the response to my gluten-free brownies quip a few posts back, I figured enough of you guys might be interested.

It's too soon to say if going gluten and dairy-free is helping my panic or thyroid issues, but I can at least tell you my stomach feels less awful.  Since I usually have dairy every day, I'm used to being in almost constant GI distress - even when I remember the Lactaid. (This is how much I love milk, you guys.) Now my stomach is quieter, without its usual symphony of gastrointestinal whale song, and all the other bloaty-and-crampy stuff that goes with it.

Fingers crossed this is just the beginning, and in another few months I'll be one of those annoyingly perky GF converts, raving about all my renewed energy and new-found health benefits. ;)

Thanks for all the support and advice, everyone - 'cuz I AM taking notes over here - and I hope my sharing helps encourage some of you out there contemplating the gluten-free switch yourself!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New Geek Jewelry Finds: Kraken Attacks, Flying Monkeys, and Fairy Wings!

I still believe in a good session of retail therapy from time-to-time - and I just realized it's been far too long since I shared my favorite Etsy finds with you guys. So, hide your checkbooks, my friends, 'cuz it's about to get reeeeealllly tempting in here.

First up, a birthday gift from John, and the necklace I'm currently loving the most:

The glass is pillowy perfection, and I like that the fox isn't too small; about the length of my pinky. And seriously, $15?! This thing looks like it'd cost five times that in a pricey boutique. 

The little cord it comes with is pretty dinky, but I'm planning to make a braided leather cord for it soon - maybe in gray, white, and teal? Mmmm.

Also really loving the clean lines of this octopus pendant:

And while we're talking tentacles [grin], I've found a couple of artists designing some genius 2D "glass bottle" necklaces:

Kraken Attack Ship in a Bottle Necklace, $20 by TheGorgonist


And check this one out: goldfish in a baggie!

2D Goldfish on Acrylic, $29 by BakuForestStudios
Check both those shops for more options.

For my fairy lovers:

I don't even have pierced ears, but that's never stopped me from shopping sparklies. Besides, these wouldn't be hard to convert to clips.

Oh, and lots more iridescent colors in her shop, too!

I found two fun twists on the traditional "best friends" necklaces:


(I'm hoping she makes one with R2 and the new BB-8, now, too. Because blue and orange.)


They even lock together!

From the same shop:

Pacman & Ghosts, $15
(Also available as a bracelet)

It's reversible, so you can have Pac-Man chasing ghosts, or ghosts chasing Pac-Man. YES.

Where my Supernatural fans at?  'Cuz you Castiel cosplayers desperately - DESPERATELY - need this necklace:

Castiel's Grace, $25 by NeveEbrez

It's Castiel's stolen grace!!

The necklace is battery-powered, so you get a bright LED glow, and that's the Enochian symbol for the letter C. SO COOL. Hit the link to see more pics of it powered off.

Another of my favorite necklaces - which is actually sold as a cellphone charm:
Grey Kitty Wooden Charm, $10 by LittlePaperForest

It's nice and big - about an inch and a half across - and super easy to convert to a corded necklace. I get compliments every time I wear this one; people love them some nerdy kitty-cats!

And finally, FLYING MONKEY:

Flying Monkey Necklace, $18 by RudeAndReckless

Because flying monkeys. :D

K, I think I've done enough damage to your collective paychecks for now. Happy shopping, everyone!