Resolutions

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OK, so it’s already seven days in to 2013, but it’s still the first week of the year(barely), and it wouldn’t be me if it didn’t take me an extra long time to get around to things. So, I’m making my list of resolutions. I make them every year, and, inevitably, I lose sight of them a month or so in. I think I’ve discovered why, though. I’m really bad about underestimating how much time and effort it takes to do things. Or, more accurately, I OVERESTIMATE what I can do. So, the first thing on my list is to be more honest. Not only to everyone else but to myself. I need to realize that there are just certain things I won’t do–at least not without the right motivation. I’ve always been a bit scatterbrained and easily distracted, so I have to do things like give myself deadlines, make lists, break up projects in to small portions. Lofty, nebulous goals don’t work for me. I need a plan with concrete details. So, I’m going to try to come up with a list of goals that are measurable, or, if not measurable, come up with ways to achieve the goal.

1. Be more honest with myself and others. OK, I can’t really think of a concrete way to make that happen or a way to measure that. I suppose making this list will be an ongoing project.

2. Get fit and healthy. I got down to my goal weight back in July, and I’ve put almost 10 pounds back on. I got into that mindset where I thought I could just “maintain” after I lost the weight, but apparently eating whatever I want is not “maintaining.” So, I’m going to try changing my lifestyle instead.  I’m going to a)  limit myself to fast food no more than twice a week (I know it’s still a lot, but I’ve gotten into a bad habit of eating fast food when I’m out running errands with the kids); b)  incorporate vegetables into every meal I cook; c) take the stairs at work; d) get at least some exercise three times a week.

3. Read 52 books.

4. Blog once a week.

5. Finish every craft project I start.

6. Spend more quality time with my kids. I will a) set aside at least 10 minutes of special time with each child every day; b) have a mommy/son date with each child at least once a month.

7. Not be such a complete slob at home. Seriously, I’m a complete slob. I can keep my office passably neat at work because, well, it’s work, and I kind of want to keep my job. But my home is always a mess. The kitchen table and countertop are always piled with junk, there are always toys and clothes strewn all over the floor all over the house, and there are almost always dirty dishes in the sink. I’ve definitely gotten into high gear with this one, though. I’ve spent the last week or so cleaning and organizing room after room in the house. The hard part is going to be finding a way to motivate me and my family to keep it up.

 8. Not care so much what others think about me.  (Maybe that’s part of the honesty thing?)

9. Really work on my faith. It’s something I’ve been struggling with the past couple of years, and with the help of some wonderful friends, I’m starting to find my way, but I still have a long way to go.

10. Pay off a bill.

11. Do some traveling! The traveling bug has bitten me bad. I want to go. Anywhere. A foreign country would be preferable, but I’ll take any place exciting.

12. Be a better wife. It seems that in trying to find time for work and parenting and myself, I sometimes forget to carve out time for my husband. (Why am I starting to notice a pattern of needing more time for everything I want to accomplish here?) 

13. Be a better friend. I need to stop making excuses for not spending enough time with or for my friends. 

14. Be a better listener. That would probably help out with the above two things.

15. Be more generous.

 

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Homemade for the Holidays

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It seems that every year the list of people I have to give gifts to grows longer, yet my gift budget stays the same.  And, every year, drunk on Thanksgiving decadence and holiday cheer, I come up with my brilliant plan to stretch the gift budget by making half of my gifts. Inevitably, I spend the next several weeks frantically researching blogs for inspiration, scouring craft stores for supplies, staying up all hours of the night cutting and gluing and sewing and beading while my projects slowly creep onto and take over all available surfaces of my house, driving my husband insane. I usually finish the season asking myself why I did all that and swearing to go retail next year. Of course, Thanksgiving rolls around again, and the cycle repeats itself. It’s like a Christmas curse.

This year, I thought I had finally broken the cycle. It was well past Thanksgiving, and while I had not purchased a single gift, I still had no crafty inclinations. On December 8, though, I was checking my Facebook updates when I was reminded that Hanukkah was starting and I now have four Jewish relatives. My sister-in-law shocked my very Catholic family last year when she announced that she and three of my brother’s and her four children were converting to Judaism. Last year was the first year they celebrated Hanukkah instead of Christmas, and while we’ve all learned a lot about Judaism since then, I somehow completely forgot to factor in Hanukkah when I thought about my gift-giving timeline this year.

Scrolling through all the Hanukkah posts, I saw one from a Jewish friend about “awesome and unexpected menorahs.”  There was an adorable felt menorah that just jumped out at me, teasing me with its perceived ease of fabrication.

A felt menorah (even kids can light it because there's no actual fire):

$60 on Etsy!

I ran to my scrap pile and found I had plenty of felt to work with. The process was fairly simple. I needed a half circle for each “candle,” so I used two different sized plates as my pattern and cut circles out of freezer paper to reinforce the felt. I then ironed the circles on to the felt and cut the felt the same size as the paper.

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Once I had four small circles and one large circle, I cut each circle in half.

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I then sewed a zigzag stitch along the edge of each semicircle. I sewed  a button in the center of the straight edge of each semicircle and finished by folding the circle into a cone and securing with adhesive hem tape.

I found the simplest way to make the flames was to first cut out the inner flame, baste it to the felt I was using for the outer flame, and then sew in the buttonholes. Once the buttonholes were sewn in, I cut out the larger flame shape.

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After a few hours, I had a menorah that, admittedly, is not as awesome as the original but not bad for what I had on hand. I love spontaneous projects. There’s just something extra magical about making something out of practically nothing.

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Of course, I learned the next day that this isn’t a kosher menorah, but it didn’t matter. I had once again been hit by the Christmas crafting curse. I’ll write more about my other gift projects if I ever get out from underneath them.

Space Man

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Remember that space man costume I started making for my son a few months ago? No? Well, my son thought I’d forgotten about it, too. He said this morning, “MOM, you’ve been working on my costume for YEARS! I wanted to wear it LAST Halloween!”  I know I’ve been a little slow on this project, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been that long (OK, I just looked at my post on it. It was mid-July, which is further back than I thought it was, but not as long as my son thinks it was.).

Anyway, I started working on it again a few weeks ago (on and off, admittedly), and it’s morphed a bit from what it was initially supposed to be. I learned about  electroluminescent (EL) wire  a few months ago, and I’ve been dying to try it out. It’s basically a lightweight, bendy wire that’s fairly cheap and a great way to light up a costume (think Tron). Well, every space suit can use some hi-tech-looking lights, so I thought this would be my perfect opportunity to try it out.

I ordered two nine-foot strands of EL wire in blue and green with controllers from a seller on eBay for $9.88 each including shipping.  They weren’t fancy but seemed to work fine once I installed two AA batteries in each one.

Attaching the wire was easy if somewhat time-consuming.  I made a black jumpsuit as the base to the costume, and I drew a design in white chalk on it where I wanted the EL wire to go. Once that was complete, it was just a matter of hand stitching the wire to the costume with transparent thread. I tied the thread off at every turn in the design.

I went into a bit of a panic when after hours of sewing in the green wire found that it no longer lit up. I started fidgeting with the wire and controller to see where the problem was when the EL wire just completely FELL OUT of the connector. Luckily, my husband who can be handy when he wants to be (or, in this case, coerced) was able to reattach the wire , and it seems to be working just fine now.

Not pretty, but fixed.

I debated whether to hide the controllers inside the suit, but I thought they’d look fine attached at the hips to look like weapons of some sort on a holster. The controllers came with a clip on the back, so I sewed one flat strip of elastic that the clip would hang on and another strip above and one below that strip that went around the outside of the control box.

I have to say, I think Cael is going to be the coolest trick-or-treater in town on Wednesday. I hope he thinks it was worth the wait.

Finn approved after careful inspection.

Look at that pose. He is SO going to be a cosplayer some day.

 

The suit looks even better in the dark/semi-dark, so I’ll have to see if I can get pictures of that posted soon.

Liebster Award

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Once again, I’ve been a complete slacker (do people still use that term? I’m so old) when it comes to this blog. And not only have been a bad blogger, I’ve been a bad blog friend because while I was on an unofficial hiatus, I was nominated for a Leibster Award by one of my favorite bloggers, Dreampunk Geek.

Here is how it works:

  1. Thank and link back to the giver.
  2. Answer the giver’s questions.
  3. ‘Nominate’ five other blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
  4. Ask five questions for one’s nominees to answer.
  5. Post it all on one’s blog

My questions to answer:

  1. What do you do when you can’t sleep? If I want to use the time productively, I’ll get up and work on a project. That kind of creates a vicious cycle for me, though, because when I stay up to work on something creative, my gears get moving so much that it becomes harder for me to slow my mind down and get back to sleep. Reading or watching TV works much better if I want to get myself back to sleep.
  2. If you had the ability to time travel, would you go to the past or future? Why? That’s a tough one. I’m sentimental, and I love the aesthetics of a lot of periods in the past in Western culture. Of course, me being an Asian and all would make it difficult to blend in in those societies. I’m also a sci-fi geek, so I’d love to see the future as well, but only if it’s an awesome hi-tech future and not a dirty, scary, post-apocalyptic one. I’m just fine reading about or watching that kind of future on screen and not experiencing it first-hand. And if the Doctor is taking me, I’ll go anywhere. 
  3. Favorite drink? I love a good Southern sweet tea.
  4. Tell us a secret. If I did, it wouldn’t really be a secret then, would it? 
  5. Sing or dance? I love to sing, but I can’t dance. 

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My nominations:

Tasting Flight

Hot Glue Productions

Nerd Atlas

The Imaginary Worlds

My questions: 

OK, I know this is probably cheating because I’m supposed to come up with my own questions, but I’d like to know these bloggers’ responses to the same questions I just answered, so I’m stealing some of Dreampunk Geek’s questions.

  1. What do you do when you can’t sleep?
  2. If you had the ability to time travel, would you go to the past or future? Why?
  3. If you could meet any fictional character, who would you choose?
  4. Vampires or werewolves?
  5. Why do you blog?

Spats Tutorial

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I know it’s been a while. I keep telling myself I’m done with my DragonCon preparations, but I can never leave well enough alone, so I’ve been busy reworking some things and adding various details. One thing I decided my Steampunk Baroness costume needed was a  pair of spats. I had looked online at a lot of tutorials on how to make these things, but when I actually sat down to make the pattern, I couldn’t really get the other methods to work for me. After some trial and error, I came up with a pretty good way to make the pattern and was able to replicate the process (with a few changes) a few days later when I made another pair for my friend.

Of course, I learned a few things in the process. First, in making my spats, I thought it would be nice to line them. You can choose to do this or not, but I found that lining was completely unnecessary, so I skipped that step in making my friend’s.  Also, I thought it would be cool to have working buttons on my spats, but I’ve found that they really are a pain to use in practice.   I have ten working buttons on each of my spats, and it’s hard to button and unbutton them, especially because I’ve tried to get the spats to fit tightly over my boots. I used zippers on my friend’s spats, and they are definitely the way to go.    However, I used invisible zippers on hers, and they look fabulous, but the problem is that the bottom of the spats are too narrow for the foot of the boot to go through. She’ll have to put the top of the boot through the spats and then put her feet in before she zips up both. Separating zippers would work much better, but you won’t get the nice clean look you do with the invisible zipper.

Materials

1 yard fashion fabric

buttons or zipper

1 yard iron-on interfacing

thread

1 yard muslin or other scrap fabric for the pattern

small binder clips

chalk or marking pen

pins

boots

Step 1

To make the pattern, cut out two rectangles of scrap fabric a little taller than and as wide  as your boot.  Hold the two pieces together and use binder clips along one side of the fabric to temporarily hold them together. Then, wrap the fabric around to the boot with the binder-clipped side to the back to the boot.  Pin the other edge of the fabric pieces down the front side of the boot as closely as possible from the top of the boot to the top of the foot. Once the front is pinned, remove the binder clips from the back side and pin.

Step 2

Once the pattern is pinned, take a marking pen or chalk and mark along the seams that were pinned. Then, mark a line at the bottom from the heel to the front of where you want the spat to go, following the curve of the boot.

Step 3

Remove the pins, lay the pattern flat, and retrace the lines to make them more clear.  Cut the pattern out with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Once you have the pattern cut out, sew along the front and back lines and put it back over the boot to check the fit.

Step 4

Once you are satisfied with the fit, rip out the seams. Take one panel and draw a straight line where you want the buttons or zipper to go and cut. You should now have three pieces.

Step 5

Trace the pattern pieces on to the fabric you plan to use for the spats. Add a seam allowance where the buttons or zipper should go. If you plan on using buttons, add a 1 inch seam allowance. For a zipper, add a 5/8″ allowance. Cut two of each pattern piece. Repeat the same process with the interfacing. Iron the interfacing pieces to the fabric pieces.

Step 6

Match up side seams with the right sides together. Sew. Clip curves and iron out the seams.  Topstitch one line on each side of the front and back seams. Fold down top edge of spat  5/8 ” and edgestitch. Do the same with the bottom edge of the spat.

Step 7

If using buttons, fold side seams in one inch and edgestitch. Add buttonholes to one side and buttons to the other. If using a zipper, install as you normally would with the pull at the bottom of the spats. Decorate away, and you’re done!

My spats

My friend’s Wonder Woman spats

Well, after months of preparation, DragonCon is finally here. We’re heading to Atlanta tomorrow. I’m hoping to post some pictures from the convention, so stay posted!

The Geekiest Tee Shirt Ever

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Costumes are a must for DragonCon, but so are the proper street clothes. I like to be nice and comfortable when I get to a place so I can scope things out before I get to business.  What better clothing is there for an event dedicated to all things geeky than a geeky tee shirt? My DC co-conspirator and I discussed this and decided we wanted to incorporate Doctor Who into a design that I could screenprint for us.

While looking for pictures of the TARDIS online, I ran across some photos of the traditional red British phone booth and found my inspiration. What other geeky genre features a phone booth? Harry Potter, of course! Here’s my design ready to get burned onto a screen:

I had to do some cutting and patching because the original design had Hermione scolding Harry for getting them into the wrong call box. My friend reminded me that Harry and his friends would be looking for a phone booth to enter the Ministry of Magic, so it would make more sense to have her refer to that instead (this same friend also reminded me that I had forgotten to draw a base on the Dalek AFTER I already  burned the screen).

Anyway, here’s the screen:

My screen

I debated making this a four-color shirt with the scarves in the Gryffindor colors, but I got too lazy to make more screens. I ended up using one screen and taping off to do each color.

The geekiest shirt ever!

OK, I suppose it might not be the geekiest shirt EVER, but I think it deserves an honorable mention.

Mary Marvel(ous)

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I know I’ve been quiet for a while, but even superheroes need a break every now and then. After finishing my Baroness costume, I was just costumed-out. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the whole process of making it, but after working on it every spare minute for a month and a half, I just needed some down time. So, I vegged out a bit, caught up on some shows (I’m still mourning the loss of Eureka), and read some books (I was a bit disappointed in the last volume of Gail Carriger’s Soulless series). After a few days, though, I remembered I had another costume to make for DragonCon, and time is running out! Luckily, in a moment of clarity, I chose a simple costume: Mary Marvel.

Of course, I say it was simple, but the costume required me to work with knits, and I hate working with knits. Knit patterns seem to always have vague instructions like, “stretch slightly while sewing,” so it ends up being trial and error until I get it just right. I was going to attempt drafting the pattern from scratch, but I decided to play it safe and found an easy pattern to work off of.  I used McCall’s M6612:

M6612

Seriously, who thought this was an attractive pose?

Line Art

I’ve had some cotton jersey print lying around my fabric stash for years, so I decided to make a version from that to check out the fit.

My bonus dress!

I’ve got to say it may be one of my new favorite dresses. It was just so comfy! I made a few adjustments to the pattern, giving it a boat neck and cap sleeves.

For the costume version, I raised the neckline from the pattern and shortened the skirt (I think it’s actually a rule that comic book heroines have to show ample amounts of skin). I used some gold spandex for the trim and to make a Shazam symbol applique.

For the cape, I cut a large semi-circle out of white satin and a smaller one for the collar. The edges were trimmed with the same gold spandex from the dress. I used some gold chord to add the cross(?)/star(?)-shaped embellishments along one side of the cape. I ran out of chord after I finished the one side, and I’m not sure whether I’ll do the other. I guess I’ll see if I’m up to it one of these days. I used some gold buttons and the left-over gold braid from my Baroness costume for the closure.

Phew! I’m more or less done with my costumes, and I still have over a month left until DragonCon. Maybe I am a superhero after all.