Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

Just a warning, there may be spoilers.  If you want to read the book or watch the movie without someone else's thoughts influencing you, stop here.

That said, my mother in law keeps an eye on my boys for me when I have to stay late at school.  Every time she does, she has a book firm in hand.  (Have I mentioned that I love that my children, my husband, his Mom, and my parents are all bibliophiles like me?  I really do.)  Week before last, she finished reading, "Cowboys & Aliens" and wanted to go see it in the movie theatre.  My father in law is not big into movies and that weekend didn't work well with Mark and my schedule.

But her Birthday was yesterday.

Mark and I talked for 2 days trying to figure out what we should get her for her birthday.  We figured taking her to see the movie was a given, but we also wanted to get her a present.  We knew that she loves to read.  But after she reads a book, you never see it around her house.  (As a comparison, our house has over a dozen bookshelves.)  So we reasoned that she's not keeping the books when she's done with them.

We decided to get her a Nook.  We went with this particular one because it doesn't glare and it feels more like looking at a real book.  Even got her a case to put it in to help give it the feel of being a book (and protect it.)

While Mark was helping her activate it, I remembered that Droid has an app for both Kindle and Nook.  I've been using Kindle for almost a year now.  As of that moment, I am also using Kindle (:

She was interested in reading, "The Help", so I hope that's the first book she puts on it, but we shall see.

We (Mark, our boys and I) took her to see the movie at the Dothan Carmike 6.  Mark had told her that the movie was no longer playing because an internet search for Dothan Movies didn't pull it up.  That is because, until quite recently, Dothan had 3 movie theatres: Carmike 12, and Northside 1 and 2.  Apparently, in the very recent past, the older Northside Cinema completely closed and the newer one (that always makes me think of a fancy Mexican restaurant because of it's neon signs) is now a Carmike 6.  But you have to go specifically to the Carmike website to find its listings.

She was a little concerned about bringing the boys.  We've previously brought them to Hulk and Iron Man.... I was pretty certain a movie rated PG-13 wasn't going to phase them.

All of us enjoyed it.  It's an action movie that combines westerns with advanced technology and alien invasions.  What isn't there to enjoy?

There were so many recognizable faces in this movie!  A lot of actors that I really enjoy seeing.

It is perfectly acceptable to enjoy it on a surface level.  My boys did.

Of course, there are also possible deeper issues to explore-- The meaning and importance of family.  And loyalty.  And honor.  And self sacrifice.  Rising to a call you didn't make.  Being responsible.  Doing what is needed and what is right.  Cooperation, despite adversity.

All in all, it was a very good movie.

As we were leaving, Mom said that it was very true to the book.  It didn't kill the little boy (but then it probably wouldn't have been PG-13), and it -did- kill Nat, the native American taken in by a gruff and disapproving Woodrow (played beautifully by Harrison Ford.)

And what did my boys take from it?

Almost 4 hours of play time with a new game called (surprise, surprise) Cowboys & Aliens (;  Complete with hardware they constructed themselves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Squirrel World Domination Begins At Home

This evening, my boys and I were out in the yard enjoying the cooler weather and having some friendly hula hoop competitions.

While we were out there, we started looking at the trees for cicada casings.  We came across a cluster of seven of them all in one section on a single pine tree.

And suddenly,

Bits and pieces of debris start to rain down.


See, we've been dodging bits of pine cone, sticks and even left over figs for the last week.  Somewhere in that tree, a Ninja Squirrel is yelling,
every time we come out into the yard...  Which we do several times every day.

My oldest says that if the squirrel goes after us again tomorrow, he needs to create a contraption to deal with it.

But we don't want to get too confrontational.

We'd like to think it's a geriatric old squirrel
shaking it's fist and hollering, "Rotten kids!  Get off of my lawn!", but we all know that beneath that cute exterior is evil incarnate, waiting for just the right opportunity to strike.

I think if my boy even attempt to toss a rock that way, we'll have a war on our hands.

And there are a lot more of them, than there are of us...

Feeling Feminine

Yesterday afternoon, one of my neighbor's dropped off an Avon magazine.  She apparently sells Avon.  Over the last 15 years, I've had to find tactful ways to let them know:  I simply don't wear makeup.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I don't own any, that I don't occasionally put on some eye shadow, or that I've never worn it.  What I -am- saying is that my entire makeup collection consists of 2 lip glosses, 4 eye shadows and a blush.  I think I might also have about 4 bottles of nail polish....somewhere.

I remember when I was 12 and I finally had permission to wear makeup!  My Mom bought me my own and everything!  Like all little girls trying it out for the first time, I didn't want any help and the end result was a toss up between a street walker and a clown.

So I accepted my mother's advice on how to apply it.  And the end result was much prettier.  I even put nail polish on my fingers... and within four hours, I couldn't wait to get it all off.  My nails, my skin, my face-- they couldn't breathe!  I could feel my nails drying out and tightening.  I could feel my face drying out and didn't like the weight of the make up on it.  My mother pointed out that I just wasn't used to it.  I knew it wasn't something that I wanted to get used to.  And so, so very shortly after my makeup career was launched, it was pretty much ended.
Simply put, make up isn't my thing.  Fortunately, I don't need it to feel feminine or attractive.

What I do when I want to dress up, when I want to feel 'pretty', is don earrings.  I collect earrings the way some women collects shoes.

I believe my ears were pierced the first time when I was around 8 months old.  My mom has always said it was related to tradition and being born a Hawaiian Catholic.  In any event some of the first pictures of me sitting are with earrings.

At some point in my early teens, I remember walking through the mall with my Mom and sister and coming to a Claire's Botique and my Mom offering to get our ears pierced a second time.  I jumped at the chance-- and 2 sets of earrings showed up in the photos.

Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted three sets of piercings in my ears.  I even had a stuffed bear that I would put a triple set in it's ears.

So when I was 15 and she offered to take me to Claire's to get it done-- I leapt into the seat energetically... but it clipped the cartiledge in my ear and within a week, both ears were infected.  I had to let the holes go.

I tried again at 18-- but it happened again.  Probably didn't help that the lady doing it pierced my ears in exactly the same spot as the previous failed attempts.  The crunch and burn of having my cartlidge tipped again was the warning sign that foretold the infection that led to having to let my third holes close up for a second time.

In my twenties, I tried again.  And when they had to be allowed to close yet again, I decided after three, it was just not meant to be, I guess.

But I really wanted them.  So when I turned 31, Mark took me to the mall for my birthday, and we went into Claire's Boutique.  This time, I asked the woman to please NOT try to pierce them through the dimple the previous attempts had left.  And I went with solid white gold studs so there was no chance of an allergic reaction.  I knew my ears had finally been pierced right when I didn't hear the sickening crunch or feel the fire in my lobes.

And I've had all three sets of piercings for going on three years now.

I always wear the white gold studs.  It took so long to get my sets, I don't want to run the risk of them closing.  And usually, I wear them with a single set of earrings in the first hole.  But when I'm -really- getting dressed up, I wear 6 earrings.

And it makes me feel attractive.  And very feminine.  Even if I'm wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes.  Even though I'm -not- wearing makeup.

Glass and slumping

One of our very last projects in Advanced Ceramics was taught by my friend Victoria.  We used the kiln to slump glass.

She had us add biological elements that would turn to ash in the firing.

Here are my 'Before' pictures.

I thought that they were so lovely!  

As for the 'Afters':

The one full of flowers, on the bottom, ended up with some hollow places where the flowers were too thick, and some black bubbled.  I didn't even photograph it, it was so ugly.

The one with the purple flower:  the leaves and flower turned out lovely.  The different layers of glass turned out interestingly.

  The ghosts left by the dandelions was exactly what I had hoped would happen.

As it was all an experiment and a learning experience, I enjoyed it.  Even if not all of the results were keep worthy (;

Making a bird feeder

Last semester, we were given an assignment in ceramics to create a piece that was inspired by architecture.  We were also told to create something that mattered to us.

Part of the assignment was learning to slake our own clay.  The process itself is not fun, is very tedious and time consuming, but it's an excellent work out and can be a lot of fun if you get to do it with a friend (Thanks Carrie!!)

I chose Balinese Architecture.  I first came across it in 1999 when I was researching Julie Taymore.

I love all the roof angles and detail work!  And there's so much symbolism.  The scaled edges typically represent dragons as a sign of good luck.  And demons in the stone work are used to scare away evil spirits.

I decided that I wanted to make a bird feeder.  I remember my Grandma Betty having a bird feeder that looked like a little house with a large opening, and every day, she took a small bowl of bird seed out there to put in it.  It's one of the numerous favorite memories that I have of my Grandma Betty.

After I came up with my basic design, I patterned it out, then flattened a whole lot of clay and cut out my pieces.

I felt like I was building an inedible gingerbread house the entire time I was working on it.

Side view as I emphasize the dragon element.
I had to fill it with bags to keep the roof held up.
Over all, VERY pleased with the construction.  Even the slight imperfection works with the Balinese theme, as perfect tends to call the wrath of the jealous spirits.
I also chose to work on plaster impressions for this piece.  I wanted a removable bowl for inside my feeder that would be covered in demons.

Love the way my demon turned out!
Then I made my bowl and did my impressions.

I put one at each of the four directions.  If I place it right in my yard, they'll face North, South, East and West.
After they dried, it was time to bisque them, and then it was one of my favorite parts:  glazing!

I used Carries wonderful layered spray technique for the base, then came in with detail to accent the roofing.
You get a better idea of the layered spray on the side here.
I even detailed some of the decorative elements on the roof.
A close up on the side detail work.
I also sprayed the bowl.

I didn't want it to be exactly the same colors as the exterior, but I wanted it to go together.

I chose the same accents as I used on the exterior to help tie the two pieces together.

I have to admit, I like the finished piece and the way the glazes changed.  I look forward to when I can get it out of the case and mount it in my yard (:

Game Of Goose, A Work In Progress

I don't normally like to post about something I'm in the middle of working on.  I prefer to do so after I've finished.  But I can tell that without motivation, I'm not going to finish this project.  I'm hoping blogging about it, and knowing that it's out there unfinished will motivate me to get on with figuring it out (;

Every year, my SCAdian Shire, Flintmarsh, has a Yule Party (Read: Christmas).  Part of that has been a yearly game.  Last year, we did hand painted cards.  We're working on ideas for this years.  Since I'm the gamer (completely different meaning than you're thinking! (lol),  read: local medieval board games expert) in the shire, I was hoping we could start on some of the more complicated game boards.  So I tried out Goose.

The first thing that I do is create a template for the 2 fabrics of the game board.  The background and the one that I'll actually be stitching the game board on.

I decided to use this template for the game and wanted to make sure it would fit.

Then I traced out the spiral on the game board fabric.

The finished tracing.

I chose red thread, since the background fabric that I've chosen is red.

Using a straight stitch, I started following the spiral in.

Close up.

After following the spiral all the way in.

Now it's time to start the cross stitches.  WITHOUT taking the thread off, I turned the needle and sewed the first one.

Then I picked up the presser foot with the needle lifted and moved to the next line over.

You can start to see how this works, right?  Just back stitch at both ends to seal the stitch.

But just in case you needed more examples....

This is what it looks like once you make it all the way back out of the spiral.  This is the point where you clip all the stray strings from doing the cross lines.  From here out, it's hand sewing.  

The most important part of a race game is to know where you're going, so the next step is putting in the numbers.

Once again, just working my way into the spiral.

For those who like 'behind the scene' shots.
Then I started placing Geese with an outline.  I didn't particularly care for how it looked. 
so I filled it in.

This is where I stopped.  See, I can tell a couple of things just from getting to this point.  1.  The geese make the game board very thick.  Possibly too thick to have the glass marble pieces sitting on them, making it hard to play the game.  And 2.  I can also already tell that the entire process will take between 8 and 12 hours of actual work.  Considering that my shire makes about 25 game boards, and there are only about half a dozen sewers/ embroiderers, that's an awful lot of work to put on them for the next 3 months.  So my suggestion to my shire was to do this as an iron on transfer, or to choose a different game.  But until I figure out how to fix the goose to make the game board more easily playable, this is as far as I'm going to get... for now (;