Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Harry Potter Wizards' Chess Set Makeover

It's done!

This may be one of my most labor-intensive projects yet, which is silly when you consider all I set out to do was re-paint a plastic chess set:

This set was produced over ten years ago, but you can still find used ones on ebay in the $30 range. I initially bought mine to turn into ornaments for our Harry Potter tree, but decided to instead spiff it up for year-round display in our steampunk room.

I debated matching the set in Sorcerer's Stone, but since they already sell a high-end version in a more realistic stone finish, I decided to go with a wholly unique gold-and-silver scheme.

So just a few blasts of spray paint, right? 

Er... as it turned out, not so much.

Here's what it took:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hairy Tonks And The Orange And Teal Bowtie

I talk about Tonks so little here that most people are surprised to learn we even have two cats - but in my defense, Lily is vastly superior, and Tonks is John's cat.  :D

That said, I just got Tonks a new collar that I think merits a photo or two:


(It's from Purrfect Collars on Etsy, and the bow is the smaller size available.)

Tonks is a very cat-like cat; she's driven by catty instincts, like forever trying to cover up her food bowl or stick her nose right inside your mouth for a good sniff - which can make yawning with your eyes closed an alarming experience.

Tonks is also addicted to hair products, and will treat newly shampooed or gelled hair like her own personal catnip garden - albeit one that's attached to the tops of those pesky humans. When I do my back stretches on the floor, she'll actually roll in my long hair, before attempting to eat it. 

But if my hair is catnip, John's hair is Mega Kitty Crack. Tonks can't get enough of it, and will jump to the back of the couch, plant her paws on his shoulders, and dig right in.

Here's John proffering his newly washed-and-gelled locks:

"What heaven is this??"

And one second later:

She'd crawl right up there if he gave her half the chance. Ha!

But hey, enough about Tonks. 

Let's get back to talking about Lily.  :D


Actually, it's time to announce this month's Art winners!

So, the winner of the Batman & Batgirl set is Chiana   
The winner of Link & Wonder Woman set is Erin Schleif
And my wild-card winner, who gets to choose from anything off the Give-Away Board, is Raum

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

P.S. Kaitlyn Nielson, Blogger kept eating my reply to your comment - though I tried many times! - so please e-mail me your choice from the board, too, k? Or message me on Twitter or FB, since your first one didn't go through.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July Art Roundup: Intergalactic Travel Posters, Wicked Elsa, Tiki Baymax, & More!

Time for my monthly roundup of great geek art!

Joseph Bayer of SpiderStopShop has a great "Splatter Grunge" style:

[UPDATE: Turns out Joseph Bayer is an art thief, so I'm pulling these photos and links. So sorry, guys. Don't buy from him!]

An adorable Little Mermaid set by Josie of RoosterPop:

The 5X7 prints are $7 each in her online shop, where there's lots more to choose from!

I'm digging Crabby Squid's super bright "Tiki-style:"

These are all just $10 each in his Etsy shop.

Spotted these sweet intergalactic travel posters at a tiny local con a few months back:

All of the Science Hype poster are about $17 each, or you can get a better deal if you buy a set:

You can also buy them on Etsy, if you'd rather.

Want more? Their sister company, Lynx Art Collection, also has some sweet poster sets:

Your choice of sizes, with 11X17s starting at $17 each

I adore Piper Thibodeau's daily sketches on Twitter, and I am crushed - CRUSHED - that she doesn't sell prints. I mean, LOOK AT THIS: 

She turned Kuzco into an Alpaca! SO CUTE.

And look at these Ninja Turtles:

D'awww. little Mikey on his back!

See more of Piper's work (there are hundreds!) on Twitter and/or DeviantArt. And while you're at it, beg her to open an online store for me, k?

Sabrina Miramon (aka Sab M.) is another artist with a beautiful digital style:

 Sab has that Batgirl plus a few more lovelies in her online store. (You can also follow her on Facebook to see more.)

I saw these next two prints in person at a con, and the colors are phenomenal - really leapt off the table at me:

 "My Little Kaiju" by Jeff Schutte

Prints start at $15 in Jeff's RedBubble shop, where he also has this cool fantasy airship:

Jeff only has a handful of prints for sale, but you can see more of his work on his Facebook page.

It's impossible to pick just a few favorites from Ann Marcelino; they're all SO GOOD.

 Labyrinth, 10X5 print, $15
(The little blue worm is on Sarah's head! Hee!)

 Mulan, 10X7 print, $15

 Baby Link & Zelda, 10X7 print, $15

See what I mean? So much goodness!

And as a huge Wicked fan, I'm delighted by Ann's Frozen/Wicked mashups:

"Witch Sisters," 10X7 print, $15

Head over to Marcelino's Society6 store for more, or see it all in her DeviantArt gallery. (And you can also follow her on Facebook.)

Now it's time for a Quick Sweet Story:

A couple of years ago I was hanging out with a fan named Rachel, who showed me some or her teenage daughter's artwork. I was impressed, and said she should try selling some online or at cons.

Cut to last month, when I received an incredibly sweet letter from Rachel's daughter, Brianna "Bri Pi" Crozier. She said I'd helped give her that final push of encouragement, and in the past year or so she's sold at 8 different conventions! And she's only 17.

Bri also included some art as a thank you, including a few prints for the give-away board.
She didn't mention it in her note, but after a quick search I found she *does* sell online: here's the link to her store. (All prints start at $15)

I figured you guys would like her princess series best, but I'm also really digging this one titled, "Curiouser and Curiouser"

And she's 17. My gosh. Talk about making my heart happy.

And finally, my favorite entry from Sketch Dailies' recent topic, "Imaginary Friends":
Hobbes has his own little Calvin doll!  
The feelz.

That's by Claire Gary, creator of that realistic Winnie-the-Pooh and friends so many of you loved last year.

As luck would have it, Claire JUST opened an Etsy shop. It's still a little sparse on prints, but maybe she'll add this one if we ask sweetly? Or even if not, there's other greatness there, like this:

"Cheshire Cat," 11X17 print $15.76
"Meoad." Ha!

And my favorite:
"Charmeleon," 8.5X11 print, $7.88


K, give-away time! As always, comment below for a chance to win your choice of art from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board. Internationals welcome.

And for this month's BONUS art prize, I have 2 print sets by Mervyn McKoy:

Each print is approximately 4X5 inches, and they're all signed. Be sure to let me know in your comment which set(s) you like, and I'll enter you in the extra drawing for those, too.

I'll announce my 3 randomly selected winners in a few days. Happy commenting!

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended!

The winner of the Batman & Batgirl set is Chiana   
The winner of Link & Wonder Woman set is Erin Schleif
And my wild-card winner, who gets to choose from anything off the Give-Away Board, is Raum

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

P.S. Kaitlyn Nielson, Blogger kept eating my reply to your comment - though I tried many times! - so please e-mail me your choice from the board, too, k? Or message me on Twitter or FB, since your first one didn't go through. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My DIY Legend of Zelda Holster Bag

This didn't turn out quite nice enough for me to turn it into a tutorial, but here's a thing I made:

Link's Shield holster bag!

I love holster bags (freedom from purse straps!!), so I'm forever looking for ways to make more of my own. The ones I use now, though, just clip onto my belt loops and are pretty small.  So, I decided to try one with a leg strap.

Plus I wanted an excuse to make more stuff with Friendly Felt.  :)

Initially I made the top straps WAY too long, so after giving it a test run at Supercon - and having it flop all over the place - I shortened those up considerably. This way definitely feels more secure, but I'm still figuring out if the leg strap is more help or hindrance.

Also, since my jeans all seem to dip in the front, I've found the forward top strap goes slack a lot while I'm walking. Maybe that's how they're supposed to work, though?

On the plus side, the leg strap looks cool, and this bag is positively cavernous compared to my other bags.

My sewing skills are abysmal, as you can see by my wonky strap Xs. But hey, I got that zipper installed! Just, uh, don't look too closely at any of the OTHER seams, mkay?

The bag construction is ridiculously simple in theory: two shield outlines, and one long rectangular side piece sewn around the outside edges. (Sew the zipper in the side panel first, though.)

 Turns out it's not nearly as simple in execution, of course: sewing that side panel in was a PAIN - and not at all pretty. I had to really crumple the bag up at times in my sewing machine, and those wrinkles are still kinda there in places. :/ Plus, I didn't quite get the two shield sides to match up perfectly, so there's a wrinkle at one corner - see?

Decorating the front of the shield was the fun part. I drew up the pattern using a prop shield I found online as a reference, cut it all out of Friendly Felt, and used E-6000 to stick the pieces in place. (I read online you can also use white craft glue, but when I used it for the smaller yellow bits, they fell off as soon as the glue dried. Urg.)

There's a loop on the back side for the leg strap to slide through, and the top straps are sewn in place. Easy-peasy. Total material cost for the clips, straps, zipper, and felt was less than $10.

So even though this didn't turn out quite as pretty as I'd hoped, I think it's still decent inspiration fodder for you crafty types out there. Especially since I know I'm THE worst at sewing. I'm sure some of you guys could make this look way better!

I'm determined to make my own everyday holster bag at some point; just have to figure out the best design. And as much as I go to the parks, I'd LOVE to have a water bottle holster, too. Have any of you ever seen one, though?


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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Admitting Defeat... So I Can Get Some Sleep

I've had several requests for an APAP/apnea update, which is understandable, since I know I left you guys on a pretty depressing note last month. (Sorry 'bout that.)

I didn't have much new to report, though; it was the same struggle every night, trying to get any sleep at all with that blasted mask on. I kept at it, though! I even brought it with me for overnight trips. I'd put it on as soon as I went to bed, knowing it'd be another 2-3 hours before I could fall asleep, but figuring that was time to further acclimate to the machine.

I tried both a full-face and a nasal pillow style mask, eventually deciding the nose one was less painful. It made my nostrils and sides of my face so dry and itchy I eventually started to peel, so I had to slather on enough moisturizer every night to feel perpetually slimy.

I was dry because my APAP didn't have a humidifier. We were told that would be more comfortable, though, so John was doing his darndest to get me one. This led to a 6-week "Who's On First?" routine with our insurance company, sleep clinic, and equipment provider. Two of those 3 never answered their phones, and didn't know they even HAD fax machines. When the doctor sent over my prescription (because, believe it or not, you need a separate script just for the water tank), she called the humidifier a "humidifier tank." So the provider sent us only the tank, not the whole humidifier.

It was hilarious, in a really aggravating kind of way.

Eventually John gave up on phones and faxes and started just showing up in person to the equipment provider office. This worked great: after only 6 weeks of effort, I had a humidifier!

... that didn't fit my machine.

For further hilarity, 2 days ago we received a rather eye-watering bill from the equipment provider, because our insurance had declared - wait for it - that they had no record of our ever being members.

Someday I'm going to write a poem to the modern health care system. It will consist entirely of four-letter-words.

Anyway, the reason time was such an issue was that you're only given a 2 month "trial period" with an APAP or CPAP machine. If, at the end of that period, you're not using it for at least 4 hours every night, the insurance company will charge you for it. And there's no cheating; the CPAP itself monitors your usage, and tells all.

At my one month appointment, I was only hitting the required numbers about 75% of the time - and almost all of that time I was awake. I wasn't actually sleeping with the mask on much at all. It took me 2-3 hours to doze off each night, only to wake - in misery- between 5 minutes and 2 hours later. Sometimes I'd try again, but most nights I ripped the thing off.

Since I wasn't lasting long with the machine, I got a bed wedge pillow to make it more comfortable sleeping sitting up. (This can help keep the airway open with apnea.)

To keep from sliding DOWN the bed wedge, I found it helped to stick a pillow under my knees.

Then I started watching cartoons on my phone in bed, to give myself more time with the mask on, and maybe to help lull me to sleep.

So picture this: Me, propped up on a giant bed wedge & pillow, with another pillow under my knees, sheets on top, and a third bed pillow on my stomach, propping up my phone. On my head I'm wearing a nasal mask with two head straps and a long flexible tube snaking over the side of the bed. Over all that I'm wearing headphones.

I was like some slouchy Borg queen, ensconced in her bed linen nest.

Poor John couldn't even get near me, and since I felt like I had to wear the mask as much as I could while I was awake, he'd often come to bed to find me already propped up and plugged in, which took a severe toll on snugglin' time.

The doctor asked me if I wanted to quit at my one-month check-in, but since I STILL didn't have the humidifier at that point, I told her I wanted to keep trying. In those four weeks I'd only managed a single half-night of sleep with the mask on, so there was no way to know yet if it was helping or not. "Maybe a humidifier is the missing key," I told her. She agreed, and wrote yet another humidifier prescription for our reading-comprehension-challenged equipment provider.

The moment of truth came at just over the week 6 mark, when John strode victoriously through the front door, bearing the fruit of all his labor: a second humidifier - and this time one that actually fit my machine.

That night we read all the instructions, washed it, filled it with distilled water, and plugged me in. This is it, I thought. Finally, I'm going to be comfortable, and last the whole night with this mask! Best sleep of my life, HERE I COME.

Now, I should mention that a CPAP machine doesn't feel good; it's just good for you. Like exercise, or letting your boss win an argument. In fact, the only positive physical sensation of a CPAP is the cool air it sends on your nose/face. It feels very fresh, and helps make up for the strong plastic smell.

Attach a humidifier, though, and that cool, plastic-smelling air is replaced by muggy, dank, plastic-smelling air. You know how you breathe on your hands to warm them up in the winter?  Imagine someone doing that into a tube... and then you take that tube... and stick it up your nose.

What I'm saying is, the humidifier made it so, so much worse.

The air was hot, thick, and hard to breathe - and I say this as a Floridian who wades through pea-soup level humidity on a daily basis. Plus the contrast of having cool air on every other part of my face completely futzed with my brain, so I found myself trying to breath through my mouth.

Funny thing about trying to breath through your mouth with an APAP nasal mask on: you can't. The airway constricts in the back of your throat, closing it off and making you choke a little and potentially panic a lot, if you're, say, half-asleep and not thinking straight.

I lasted a few hours with the humidifier.

The next day I gave up.

Yes, I know it's bad. I know I'm letting myself down, and maybe even some of you. All I can say is, I really did try.

On the plus side, my doctor tells me my oxygen levels don't drop while I'm asleep, meaning I'm not in any danger of brain damage or heart issues. That's why she asked me if I wanted to quit; my apnea isn't so severe that I have to use this machine. I can try other things.

So last week I packed up the APAP and all its wires and tubing, and chucked the bed wedge into the closet. I try to sleep on my side. I've slept a little better, though of course not great. I'm just back to square one.

Looking to the positives, I feel like my Hashimoto's treatment is working, and I'm told that can help significantly with sleep apnea. I get my most recent test results tomorrow, which will tell us how far I've come and what adjustments my meds need. Right now my body temperature is a roller coaster, but since I've always been cold, I can tell the heat spikes mean something is happening. Plus some days I actually *want* to walk on the treadmill desk, and I feel more alert. So while I don't think I'm there yet, I'm still pretty encouraged.
More good news: the last few weeks I've doubled my dose of probiotics, and - knock on wood - I've only had the barest hint of free-floating panic since. I went on the Seuss ride again at Universal last week, and since John and I were with a friend, I was distracted and happy and didn't feel a SINGLE twinge of anxiety. Not one! I... I can't tell you guys how relieved and happy that makes me. I want to suck up all that calm and solidness and normality and just roll around in it for ever and ever. And then go on the E.T. ride. Dangit. (Still working up to that... but someday?)

After my doctor's appointment tomorrow, John and I get to do something new: we're having dinner in Cinderella's castle with two dear friends. (WOOT!) John's never been, and I haven't seen it since I was little! So, yeah, excited. And after the past 6 weeks, I think we're both ready to celebrate a little. Even the failures.

PS - Ah, how could I forget Lily? You'd rather hear about her, anyway, right? ;)

Lily's post radiation checkup was great: she's officially gone from hyperthyroid to hypothyroid, which was the intention, and should improve over the coming months. She's put on a whole pound, now weighing just over 10, and is filling out beautifully. That bad problem spot on her back is only this week starting to grow hair again, though; it's been a long, frustrating journey getting it to heal. Fingers crossed that was our last over-grooming hurdle, and it's smooth, purr-filled sailing from here!

Monday, July 20, 2015

To Watch On Netflix: An Honest Liar

The next time you have 2 hours to kill, do yourself a favor and go watch the documentary An Honest Liar:

It's the story of The Amazing Randi - a world famous magician - who has spent almost his entire professional life debunking frauds and con men, from so-called psychics to faith-healers.

Today Randi is the world's most adorable real-live wizard - or so I choose to believe :D - and he won my heart within the first 5 minutes, when he jokingly bowed down to a display case full of cakes in a local diner. 

The film follows his career and debunking triumphs, with plenty of clips from shows like Johnny Carson and Happy Days, and surprise celebrity appearances from everyone from a very young Leonard Nimoy to current-day Adam Savage and Penn & Teller.

There are also plenty of interviews with Randi himself, who remains whip-smart, funny, and incredibly well-spoken today.

Most of Randi's successes were before my time, so it was fascinating to learn about the hoaxes he orchestrated on the scientific community - always to prove how easily they were being fooled by less honest liars, if you will.

I didn't know anything about the film before John and I found it on Netflix, so I just now watched the official trailer. I think it almost gives away too much, so I'm glad I got to be surprised by it all, but if you're not convinced it's worth a watch yet, then check this out:

One final observation: Despite the fact that Randi proved a popular faith healer was a fraud, there is a surprising lack of religion-bashing in the film. I don't know (or care) where you guys stand on the topic, but just thought I'd mention it, since I found it rather gentlemanly of Randi.

An Honest Liar is on Netflix Streaming, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and plenty of other places - just give it a google. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Quick Craft: Turn Old Thimbles Into Decorative Window Pulls!

When John and I re-did our bamboo shades in the steampunk room, we had to replace all the cording with a darker color:


When we did that we threw away the old wooden pulls, though, which left me brainstorming something fun to use as a replacement.

At first I thought of using antique brass plum bobs, but it turns out those are a bit too heavy, and the decorative ones are surprisingly expensive.

Finally I landed on the idea of using old metal thimbles. After a little searching, I bought this lot off Ebay for around $10:

Then it was just a matter of John drilling holes in the tops for the cording to slide through. Tie a knot underneath, and you're done!

Pretty, right? Beats those boring old wood pulls any day.

I'm sure some of you may be horrified at the thought of "ruining" perfectly good thimbles, but I'm pretty sure none of these were too old or too valuable. And to be honest, even if they were, I like the idea of making them useful again. This way they're still on display, but not just as decorative clutter.

You could also use these for pulls on fans, overhead lights or lamps, and even necklaces! Something to think about, if you have a stash lying around in your sewing basket.

Initially I wanted all brass thimbles, but as it turns out, I really love the tiny pops of color:

 They're quite subtle, but a nice surprise when you get closer to the windows.

And they really are the perfect size!

Hope this inspires some craftiness out there!