Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meet Meitner Mueller

On March 19th, I adopted a nine-month-old guinea pig from a vet in Santa Fe. He had been surrendered with an abscess on his jaw that required expensive (for a rodent) surgery. The vet performed the surgery (twice) and got him healthy, but couldn't keep him herself. So I got him!

To keep the theme of my pet names (see cats Faraday and Maxwell), I named him Meitner Mueller. Meitner after Lise Meitner, physicist who co-discovered fission, and Mueller after Thomas Müller, one of my favorite German soccer stars. He goes by Meiti Pig usually--it sounds exactly like "mighty pig."

Hi, Meiti Pig!

Faraday and Max LOVE him. They would probably love him to death, but that's why piggies live in cages.

I'm starting a series on my almost-never-used-these-days blog of Meiti Pig Wearing Clothes. He's happy to do it, as long as you give him a carrot!

Enjoy. :)


Meitner discovers fission.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Lady Loki: burdened with glorious purpose…and gold duct tape.

Effects courtesy of Katie's friend.

Last year, my friend Katie and I attended the Albuquerque Comic Con, our first comic convention. We jumped right in and cosplayed, as a Vulcan and Bajoran:

It was so much fun, and we decided quickly to go as our favorite characters from the Marvel movies this year. She started creating a Thor costume, and I got to work on my Loki outfit and accessories. 

I knew I wanted to do a classy Lady Loki version. A quick Google image search reveals that this is a very popular costume in a wide variety of styles and taste levels. While I got ideas and inspiration from other women's costumes, I mainly based mine on this outfit from the Avengers:

He is a beautiful man.

My first major find was a gorgeous Calvin Klein dress at TJ Maxx for only $50:

Regular price=so much more!

Black boots I already had and black leggings from Target completed the base of my costume. Jewelry was surprisingly easy to find at Target as well: 

Then came the crafting!!! I am a sloppy seamstress and actually HATE hand stitching, but I love costume making, so I deal. 

To break up all the black on my legs, I sewed felt together, edged it in (what you'll soon find was my favorite material) gold duct tape, and stuffed it in the tops of my boots:

I found some beautiful shiny and swishy green fabric and some brown faux leather at Joanne's. After kinda sorta measuring out what I wanted for my cape by holding it up to my shoulders, I cut the remainder off, not at all ensuring it was in a straight line.  I used said remainder to make a belt/sash with the faux leather. There were so many pins and it was excruciating.

I suffer for my art.

I also never quite finished the sides, but you know the great thing about capes? You can pin everything in the back and most people won't even care.

For the cape, I simply hand-stitched two of the corners of my rectangle of green fabric into the shoulder seams on my dress. I was really careful with this, because I actually want to wear my cute dress as a cute dress someday. 

I finished all of the above in time for Halloween in New Orleans, where I happened to be for a conference and my 30th birthday. Keeping the facts in mind that I'd be flying with my costume and out and about in crazy masses of humanity, I kept the rest of it simple. For the epaulettes and the base of horned "helmet" headband, I simply used gold duct tape covered craft foam. The horns themselves are bunches of pipe cleaners covered in--of course--gold duct tape.

Kelsey did my Halloween eye makeup for me!
For Comic Con, I happened across the perfect epaulettes at Party City:

Aaah cheap bracelets are the best.

I also wanted a much higher quality, more true-to-the-movie helmet. There are approximately one million tutorials on the internet. I took the most important ideas from this one, which used a cheap plastic costume construction helmet and a styrofoam heart cut in half for the horns. I found the hat at Party City for $3. Despite it being early January and thus prime time to start Valentine's Day store displays, I could only find a styrofoam circle. Katie and I both doubted strongly that I could make that into horns, especially when the best tool we had on hand was a box cutter, but turns out whittling lessons from Dad when I was little came in handy!

In possession of horns, I set about turning my cheap, flimsy construction hat into a helmet using craft foam, hot glue, and, naturally, more than an entire roll of gold duct tape. My method was to glue a piece, try it on, look in the mirror or my web cam, eyeball it, glue some more. Totally worked.

I tried spray painting the horns to avoid having duct tape seams everywhere. However, while I was waiting for the first coat to dry, the internet informed me that most spray paint reacts with the styrofoam and dissolves it, which it totally started to do on the shaved horn tips. So, what came to my rescue? Ah well, the seams weren't that bad.

Next, I wanted a scepter. I followed this tutorial almost to the letter. I wanted a shape closer to his, however, so I googled "loki scepter," looked at ten million images, and freehanded it.

Katie and I had an embarrassing moment in the hardware store,  where we had to admit that the faucet handle was just for a costume and it didn't matter whether it was a "universal fitting" one or not.
Blade shape closest to the tutorial.
Slimmed-down blade shape closer to Loki's movie scepter.
For my final major craft project, I wanted a tesseract. Of course, the internet provided a Tesseract Tutorial. I couldn't find a a blue LED at Michael's, so I bought one that I hoped was white and I painted the inside of the baseball display case a watery blue after spraying it with the frosted glass paint. Sadly, the LED was in fact yellow, and it looked really bad. However! My habit of keeping free conference/career fair goodies paid off, as I found a pen with a blue LED handle. Took it apart, wrapped it in wax paper, and it turned out pretty well, especially in pictures!

I added a "dagger": my sonic screwdriver in a duct-tape sheath.

Katie's costume was fantastic: she made her headpiece out of craft foam, her Mjolnir out of a spray-painted yoga block and wooden dowel, and she sewed, pinned, or hot glued her entire outfit! 

Thor and Loki were blessed to attend ABQCC with their friend Rebecca, who not only was truly the most patient person and held their stuff and took their pictures all day, she also knew every single costume and character. "Rebecca, who is that?! What is he supposed to be?!" She rocks.

We made it our mission, after seeing a Tiny Ironman in line, to get pictures with every Avenger. We totally did. 

Tiny Ironman!

Black Widow!



Captain America!

Aaagh I'm surrounded!

Tiny Black Widow!

Besides being awesome with my buddies Thor and Rebecca, the highlight of Comic Con was most definitely meeting William Shatner for ten seconds. We exchanged hellos, smiled, I said, "So nice to meet you!!!", he said, "It's a pleasure!", and someone yelled "NEEEXT!!!" It was meaningful.

This makes me laugh so much.

Katie is the best cosplay partner, and we're already thinking of costumes for next year! Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ireland 2014, Part III: The Abbeys.

See part II and part I!


September 22


Day 4: Saw the lovely Holy Trinity Abbey and bought Irish wool in Adare, before finding a sweet pub for dinner and music on Galway! We also found an intriguing take on Irish history...
 — with Mandy and Bethany.

Remember my flat tire from yesterday? I envisioned at least a couple of hours of finding a mechanic with the right tire (I mean "tyre") and then sitting there waiting for it to be done. I'm pessimistic when it comes to cars. Because I don't like my vacation plans ruined or delayed (who does!), and because when I'm on a mission, I can't sleep or relax, I insisted upon getting up at the crack of dawn to just deal with it. It could not have gone more perfectly! The hotel manager called a mechanic in Limerick, who had the tire I needed in stock. I annoyed a few commuters by driving 20km/h under the speed limit, but I got there safely. While I waited, very friendly men told me all about the beautiful places in their country that I should go to next time. Just about twenty minutes later, I was on my way!

I've been to an Irish mechanic! Got my car all fixed.
 — at Mid West Tyres LTD.

After finding my cheery companions, we left our musty hotel for good and spent a couple of hours in the beautiful Adare. In a bookshop, we found President Obama in an Irish history book:

We drove by his ancestral village earlier, which we discovered by googling the Barack Obama Plaza. It appeared to be a very nice gas station. 

My main goal for the trip, as far as souvenirs go, was to find Irish wool. I totally did. They didn't have much yarn, but it was gorgeous. I asked if it was actually local wool, and she said, "oh my brother-in-law owns the mill! But the sheep weren't all Irish--pure Irish wool is too rough." Good enough for me! I wish we'd visited Kerry Woollen Mills; apparently it's been making yarn for over 300 years! I got a ton of the Aran knitting green fleck and I'm going to knit myself a sweater. :)

This was pretty cute.

We visited the lovely Holy Trinity/Trinitarian Abbey, which was founded in 1230.

That bag is entirely filled with wool, and
took up my entire backpack as one of my carry-ons on the plane home.

After a stroll through a park (where we met a puppy), we had lunch in a fun pub and then drove north.

 We were first pretty unimpressed by Galway, but that is partially due to the fact that we had to use the bathroom really badly, drove around and around before finding a decent place to park next to a mall (which *surely* had bathrooms), then literally walked the entire length of the mall before finding the bathroom, which cost 20 cents to enter and would ONLY take a 20-cent coin. Life significantly improved after that.

Deciding that anywhere would be prettier than the mall, we started wandering. We wandered into a bookstore, which didn't have my other main souvenir goal, but they suggested I try Charlie Byrne's just down the street. Guess what? I need to mail a package to Canada soon:

The streets only got cuter, the farther we wandered. Hunger soon dictated that we pick one of many beautiful restaurants that promised live music. 

We pretty much found the best one. They had good food,  drinks, and access to the WORLD.
So happy for Guinness and free WiFi!
 — with Bethany and Jessica.

The evening got even better when the music started! Two super talented gentlemen played fantastic rock with that terrific lilting Irish folk influence. It was open mike night, and every person who played the guitar or sang was great.

Jess and Beth's future husbands... If Glen Hansard comes in, I'm never coming home. Sorry Bob
 — with Bethany and Jessica.

Mandy is ever helpful.

Our journey ended that day in Castlebar, at the Breaffy House Hotel. It was mildly spooky in the dark, and the room was pretty sterile, but it did not smell like mold. It's the little things.


September 23


Day 5: Lazy rainy day in the (not) hopping village of Castlebar. Besides ice cream, the highlights were definitely the food at Bar One, the GPS' insistence that we take the 30-minute, cow-pasture route home instead of the 10-minute, two-cars-could-actually-fit-here route home, and the Ballintubber Abbey. The Abbey was constructed in 1216 on the site of a well used by St. Patrick for baptism in 441. THAT IS A LONG TIME AGO. Side note: Pierce Brosnan got married there.
 — with Mandy and Bethany.

Tuesday was our only real rainy day. It was also our only day without any sort of plan. Too bad we were in Castlebar, a small town that is definitely not set up well for tourists. It was kind of like being a tourist in Los Alamos on a Tuesday, I imagine! Though Castlebar totally wins in the restaurant department. We had lunch and coffee in a cozy spot, visited a few shops, and ate some amazing ice cream.

The chocolate "flake" makes vanilla soft serve 12309 times better.

We tired of Castlebar itself and drove off through cow pastures to the Ballintubber Abbey. It was built in 1216 (almost 800 years ago!), on the site of a well used by St. Patrick for baptism in the 430s or 440s  (like over 1500 years ago!!). The abbey also has the distinction of being the site of Pierce Brosnan's wedding.

The Sean a' Sagart Tree, under which the "notorious priest hunter" is buried. 

St. Patrick's well?! It wasn't marked, so probably not. :)

Bethany knows an awful lot about sheep, it turns out!
I absolutely love visiting old abbeys and cathedrals in Europe. So beautiful. So peaceful. (Especially the ones in remote villages accessed by narrow cow-pasture roads. Westminster was ah-mazing and anything but peaceful.)

As the rain poured, we drove back into town for dinner. We ended up at Bar One, where the sticky toffee pudding WAS TO DIE FOR. I intend to make it soon. The GPS was really, truly, not our friend going home. On the way to town, we followed the hotel's instructions and got there in ten minutes. On the way home in the dark, the GPS took us in what we're certain was a giant square around the hotel, through more pastures, on literally-only-one-car-fits-here roads. It took over half an hour. Oof.

That's enough pictures for one post! I will conclude next time. :)