September 19, 2016

Totoro Tattoo Concepts v2

One of the most consistently popular blog posts I have done is the first Totoro Tattoo Concepts post, from back in 2013.

A good friend is looking to get another tattoo soon and I casually remarked that I really need to move on from wanting to having... She of course is super excited now, and so I started to revisit the original idea I had. When we left off I had narrowed the idea down to a Totoro and a gingko leaf. That's pretty basic I am coming to see. Not to mention my design is a bit flat.
the 2013 design
The new idea is in the same vein but just much more. A while back I splurged with christmas money on a Noritake Totoro bone china cup and saucer. I was kind of stunned to see the lovely colors, line work and realism of the floral art mixed with the totoros I love.
the Noritake Cup I bought
The more I thought about it, the more this art became the inspiration for what I want to get now. I want color, I want little details, delicate line work and color. It could easily include a gingko leaf instead of the flora they use. And I could also add a few other things, like a jonquil or maybe an aster flower to represent my hubby, soot sprites, and acorns to name a few. I started looking through all the different designs and thinking about where I might want it to be on my body. I decided on getting it like a high cuff right below the bend of my elbow on the inside. Then I printed out a lot of the designs I really liked and started tracing and composing a shape.

version 2.0, super rough sketch, obviously would need a real tattoo artist to give it the once over
It is important to say that nothing has really changed in terms of other's negative opinions that I know I will hear, nor with my crippling fear of needles. What has changed is that I realized if I keep telling myself "one day" I can keep pushing it off without ever growing past my fear. Now just need to get the art polished up and save up my pennies...

September 12, 2016

Sootsprite Toms ft. Totoro

I'm not much of a shopper for a girl. I pretty much wear the same shoes till they die. So when my sister told me about a Tom's Warehouse shoe sale that she attended in Houston I quickly took to Facebook to see if there was a similar one in Dallas. Lo and behold there was!

If you have never heard of Tom's shoes, I'm not sure where you have been living. I had one pair about 5 years ago, but as I tend to dislike closed shoes, I never replaced it when it wore out. However, on the last day of the Warehouse sale, which was held in Fair Park, in Dallas, all shoes go down to the low low price of $10 a pair. So of course I went and picked up four pairs.

I got a black sparkly pair for work, a blue jean colored one with white flowers for casual settings, a teal mosaic looking pair that goes with my extensive teal wardrobe, and a plain gray canvas pair.

That last gray pair I had plans for... totoro related plans. I have seen a lot of cute hand painted shoes lately and figured it would be no big deal to add a little decoration to them with a black marker. I stuffed the toes with paper towels and got out a Prismacolor fine/broad tipped black marker and just sort of free handed a bunch of soot sprites all over.

I did debate doing only soot sprites but I couldn't help adding a whole mess of them to one and then balancing that out on the other with a few totoros.


For $10, custom shoes are a lot of fun and I could totally see going and getting a ton of cheap pairs for a kid (or kid at heart's) birthday party or activity.

In any case, this was a lot of fun and an easy way to spend a few hours. For sure would love to do something more intricate and colorful next time, perhaps on a pair of white shoes.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to Complete: 4 hours

September 5, 2016

Views at Terlingua Ranch Retreat

In my Graboid post you saw some of the lovely desert-y locale I was talking about. Let me show you the whole place. Welcome to the Terlingua Ranch Retreat.


You might remember, or know, that my husband and I really love the Big Bend National Park area of Texas. We went last year at in the spring, at Thanksgiving, and at Christmas. Well we didn't go this spring, and were itching to get back, so we rented another small property in the same group of houses as LTM Ranch from Big Bend Vacation Rentals. These houses are all managed as a group and it is now part of my bucket list to try out each and every one.
Downstairs from the front door. Stairs upstairs to the far right. Kitchen to the left. Bathroom behind the fridge wall.
This house was pretty small but very charming. Perfect for two people and a dog. I'd say the whole place was maybe 1000 square feet. It faces so that the one of the two porches on each end of the main living area is always in shade. It has a small downstairs containing the kitchen, small eating area, a living room and bathroom.
front porch views
Right inside the front door is the stairs to the bedroom which is the same size as the whole downstairs, so you can get an idea of how small the place is.
Upstairs is pretty roomy, queen bed, two closets. You can see the swamp cooler in the wall to the left.
Being there in the summer might not have been the best idea as it runs off the grid. Power to the house is generated from a wind turbine, a solar array and a small gas generator. The trick was balancing the power consumption with keeping the house cool. By the last night we had it down to a science, running the window AC units in the morning off the generator, shutting the house down and letting the batteries charge during the hottest part of the day while we went out, and then using the swamp (evaporative) cooler through the night.
View from the upstairs windows.
The days got up to about 101 degrees by 2pm and the nights only cooled off to about 88 after midnight. We brought a huge 5 gallon igloo cooler for ice water and it made the whole trip so much better. Keeping us and the dog hydrated with COLD water was the best.
Simple is the best.
The other way to keep cool was to use the outdoor shower. Let me tell you this simple amenity made all the difference after a long day. As there is no one for miles, it was lovely to look out on such a view.
View from the shower 
I would wait till just before sunset so that most of the heat of the day had passed and I could watch the colors change. And what sunsets there are!
You can see the wind turbine and solar battery shed to the left, back porch to the right.

seriously.

stunning.
Even Gingko had a great time I think. We kept her close but let her roam around and was sure to have plenty of water for her too, while keeping her paws off the hot ground too much.

on the back porch
We for sure want to go back, but maybe in the Fall, as we'd love to just stay at the house all day with the windows open, chilling on the porches and relaxing.

A photo posted by Anthos (@anthos_root) on

And I have yet to mention the real reason we went... the Stars! This fourth of July had no moon out and had Sagittarius high in the sky which is the direction of the center of the Milky Way. So my husband and I spent every night up till about 2 am watching and photographing the sky. Check him out as JohnnySideways on Flicker to see more.

Big Bend in July (18 of 25)

It's no wonder every time we go that we think about buying a place out here to retire in.

August 29, 2016

Office Shed Makeover

Did you know I won a contest?

Not sure how many people I specifically told or not... but yeah it's true! A while back I saw some posts and emails about a contest that the Container Store was running. All you had to do to enter was read a few of their Container Stories blog posts about space makeovers they had done for other people and comment on your favorite one, mentioning your own organization challenges. Container Store turned my makeover into a blog post as well! Check it out by clicking here to see their full story and more pictures!

One of the reasons we bought our house was for the amazing outbuilding which was half finished into an office. As I work from home most days, it was amazing to have a full room to dedicate to my craft supplies, yarn tubs, desk and chair and office supplies. As with most people, the furniture items in there were a mish-mash of Ikea, Walmart stuff, hand me downs, dumpster dive shelves, and old stuff that didn't fit anywhere else.
My original office. A bit cluttered but functional.
So of course I commented on a post, as I often thought about getting better shelving for my shed office space. It's not that it didn't function ok, but it was suboptimal. And then I got an email saying congratulations for winning! At first I was sure it was a scam, but I did enter, so maybe not? The email wasn't shady or anything, I just was so unbelieving that I might have won something. I called up customer service and verified that the person who sent the email did indeed work for them, so at that point I figured it was legit. I had won a space makeover with Elfa products!

After signing a few different forms, we set up a time for a photographer to come out and shoot the before pictures. I didn't even vacuum out the bugs. Then came a person to measure the space. After that the floor plan was sent off to the design people to figure out the best configuration. I got to give my input on the configuration, making a few tweaks since I'm left handed, as well as the colors of the hardware and shelving itself. I ended up picking white hardware to match the trim and baseboards in the room already, and sand shelving to match the wood laminate floors. With the purple on the walls I wanted to keep it light and clean looking in there.
The clean and empty space with Elfa delivered.
During this time I spent about two days going through all the stuff, throwing out what I didn't need, donating what I didn't want, and moving the furniture out to the other side of the shed, which is separate and is a garage space. After that I had to clean the room itself. Being a shed outside, it does tend to collect bugs like no other, even though I do get it treated just like the house. First vacuum for the dirt, a second for the large dead bugs, and a third to get the cobwebs and moldings.

A few days later we scheduled delivery and installation. I did my best to stay out of line of sight of the shed all morning of the install as I wanted to keep it a surprise for myself. There is a big difference between seeing a line drawing and the real thing in the space. Once it was in, I was shocked at how big the room felt. The new long desk space running down one full wall was amazing, and all my art books and supplies now fit in orderly and neat ways.
The installed shelving with a happy dog for scale.
I did tweak the placement of one shelf up just a bit to be able to slide my clear tubs underneath the bottom shelf. I used a few of the drawer bins from an old cart for more compartment storage on the shelves of various smaller art supplies. Now that so much of the walls were shelves I did have to move a lot of the art to sit on the shelves, but I have plenty of space for that and to grow into. I still have two empty drawers and tons of space to fill.
Before again.
The finished space. Art back on the walls, comfy chair back in. 
I can totally see myself continuing to tweak and arrange and add to this space, but for now it is simply a dream come true. As my mom always says: If you don't enter you can't win!

Update:
So I don't buy physical CDs anymore, who does, but I had a lot of old album art inserts in my stash of stuff that I didn't want to throw out. So instead I cut off the cover art of each one and tossed the rest. Eight of those covers, mainly for anime and Katamari Damacy, went into a frame on the wall (you can see it on the left in the finished space image above) and the rest sat in a drawer. At Ikea this weekend I saw they had a glass topper for their long Hemnes dresser, which is the set I have in my bedroom, but that glass topper was also the perfect size to fit on my new Elfa desk!

So I took all the album covers and laid them out in a grid on the desk under the space where the glass would go (affixing them with a little bit of tape) and then just set the glass down on top on its rubber feet. Volia! Nice smooth long desktop with cool art underneath. It's so cool to have good colors and nostalgic art right at my fingertips.

August 22, 2016

Graboid

Look, I love lousy movies. Like a lot. Ask me which Batman is the best? I'm gonna say the "neon" Batmans (aka Batman and Robin or Batman Forever) with all the bad puns. I love the Godzilla from 1998, and Twister, and Men in Black 2, and Legend. The list goes on. Gotta say though, Tremors might be the number one on the lousy movie top 10.

So when I was laying in bed, trying to sleep, and my brain is chattering away, for some reason I started thinking about bad movies. It's like I can watch them in my head. I was also wondering what next I could make. And it hit me. Why, oh why, have I never made a plushie crochet graboid?!?
A Graboid.
It's like perfect for crochet. Other people have done plushies, which is a help to look at how they constructed theirs. As I was planning to go to a desert-y locale during the summer I jumped on this project to get it done in time so I could take pictures.

First issue was finding yarn. These are subterranean creatures and are covered in dirt and sand throughout the movies so finding a good picture for coloring was a bit hard to do. In the end I decided for a more monochromatic tan color scheme than that graphic above.

I had some Lion Brand Homespun on hand in Pearl. Even though I despise that yarn I really liked the subtle browns and tans going on. I tried to find something similar in a regular worsted as opposed to the fuzzy irregular Homespun, but failed. I found a nice taupe color in Vanna's Choice that really complimented it to create that darker head. The head is actually like bone kind of or a big beak as compared to the soft worm body, so I thought they would make a cool look together. The tongue worms I still haven't found a color I like, but I do have a bit of this dusty sort of pink in my stash that might work. And I will need a tiny bit of a red color for the inside of the mouth where the tongue worms come out.

I started working on the body from the tail up to the neck where it joins. Using the pearl homespun I worked up several rows and then started increasing rows. Every few rows I did one that had some of the spikes come out. I would just sort of eyeball where the spikes should go. The body spikes help it move through the loose soil and I wanted them to stand out a bit from the body, so I started carrying a second darker solid tan (pretty sure it is Bernat Satin in Sable) and switching to it to make popcorn stitches. Sort of like the Daleks I made way back in the day.

I got a good way in and wasn't sure I liked the shape it was making, but kept going. At this point I was writing each round down as I made it. So that I could tweak as needed and still be able to turn this into a pattern eventually. The tough part is that homespun felts together really really fast, so if I needed to rip this out and redo it, it was pretty much hopeless.

As I kept increasing the body, I started thinking about how large the overall plush would turn out to be and how to make it proportional in my mind. I kept feeling like I was increasing too slowly overall. This is gonna be a baby sized graboid for sure, but I still wanted it to be a good huggable size. Also, just to note, I was stuffing as I went along, as the spike yarn was crossing across the inside space.

The body spikes I sort of just placed as I felt they were needed while trying to be roughly symmetrical. I also tried to keep at least three or four rows between them so they had their own space. I also gradually started adding more and more until they met at the top of the back. The belly side is free of spikes so it's easy for me to tell where the top and bottom are. It took me about two months to get the body alone done, but mainly because I was only able to work on it about two hours every two to three days during that time.

Once it was big enough around I felt it was ok to just keep that width for several rows to elongate the wormy body, continuing the pattern of spikes. After that I worked a few rows of decreasing, with no more spikes, for the neck area before the beaked head.
throat piece widening to mouth with tongue worms anchored to base
Next I made a throat and mouth for the Graboid. The throat is just a tube that I inserted into the body cavity and stuffed around so that I could have a place to retract the tongue creatures in. Figured it might also make it eating other toys easier if it could swallow them a bit, ya know for pictures. I widened the tube at one end to the same number of stitches as the last row of the neck and sewed it in place.
iCord body and tube head for tongue worms
I was originally at a loss for how to do the tongue creatures since working a tube of only four sc around is a giant pain in the butt, but after learning the i-cord technique for the Norse Cords, I decided that would be perfect for making the thin and long mouth tongue worm things. I made them all about the same length and then at one end widened up into a round 6 sc open tube for the head and mouth of the tongue guys. I embroidered a little black on the tops for the little horn hooks they have, but it kind of ended up looking like eyes.
throat in with a few tongue worms stuck in
I had some ideas for the beak head shape and set about trying to make and assemble them. I sketched out the shapes on paper first and held them up to the body to see how they would work together. Then used tape to hold the shapes in place and see if they would really work right. Then I set about making those shapes in the taupe vanna's choice yarn. I only did one piece of each shape as it took 5 shapes to get the full beak done. Only after assembling it all and attaching it to the body did I realize that it didnt really have enough structure to hold itself up, so I might have to go back and see if I can't stiffen it with glue and water or something.
bottom jaw pieces


I really like that the soft squishy body yarn has a different texture from the more bony beak like head, and that the body spines have a little sheen to them. All those different colors and textures really made it look like the different parts in the movie.


I super love how it came out. Pretty cute and super squishy.

Time to complete: about 40 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate
Size: About 18 inches from beak to tail, 10 inches around at widest part of body

August 15, 2016

Norse Cords

Well school has started by the time this post will go up, but as I write it, graduation weekend is only two days away. One of the many roles my husband plays at his high school is to be Norse Chief of the Norsemen, a spirit group of rowdy young men who cheer at games. They are most recognizable because of their blue and white striped overalls, and the noise...

As I usually attend each game that he does, and have watched over them myself occasionally, as I maintain my Keeping Children Safe certification, some have affectionally called me the Norse mom. It's not a title I take lightly, and I do try to think ahead and about them like their moms might.

This year one of the boys asked me via Instagram chat (who knew it had a chat?) if I would make Norsemen cords for graduation. If you haven't been to a high school graduation in a while, you might not know that various students get pieces of flair that they can add to the standard cap and gown, in the form of colored cords. This is mostly honor societies and things of that nature. I smiled at the thought, as it is both totally in the style of the Norsemen to be a bit silly and to poke a little good natured fun at the prestigious cords of which so many are so proud.
Thumb showing the back side of the cord, front below it.
Sure I could totally just make long chains of blue and white, but that would both look more like a ribbon when done than a cord and wasnt really what I was thinking would be coolest. Luckily a little searching and I came up with the perfect solution.

A crochet i-cord. Yeah I'd never heard of such a thing. I followed the instructions and video from the blog PlanetJune which is in only one color. With a little playing I found that switching colors each row created a really nice striped zig zag look which was cord shaped and totally perfect for my needs. I did also try making larger stripes of color but then it created long strings of yarn marching up the back side which was not too good looking.

It did make it a bit slower going than you might think but each cord only took me about 2 hours to make. They are about 70 inches long and each end has two rows of white to start and end the cords. I did this to give a nice sort of visual end to the cords.

Once I had all five made, one for each senior Norsemen, I also added on tassels to the ends as is a pretty standard style. These really made me smile, and it was nice to surprise the rest of the boys with a little symbol of their time together.
Finished cords.
Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 2 hours each

August 8, 2016

Whale Song

When we left off there was a lot of kindness going on, and I decided to make one more thing to go into the care package to these lovely ladies. A whale. Why a whale? Well my friend, she has her own art studio called Whalesong Arts and I thought it might be fun to make a crochet whales as colorful as the ones she creates in oil pastels and paints.

A photo posted by Whalesong Arts (@whalesongarts) on

I bought a palette of yarn by Lion Brand in the Happy color scheme as I thought it might look nice with the heart afghan I also made her. I used the free pattern for Richard the Whale by Stacy Trock, which I liked a lot for the texture on him.

Of course I got the fins done and most of the tail when I realized I forgot about the ribbing part... But as my husband pointed out, the color change was pretty cool all by itself and the ribbing might make it look too busy. In the end I agreed with him and kept going. Good thing too since I'm not sure how embroidering on that ribbing would have looked.
The bag of colors made this much whale. 
Working up the body was no trouble at all. There is a large section of the body pattern that is implied based off the previous rows, so I spent a little time expanding those rows out so I didn't have to keep track in my head.
Fins
Something to note... there are more than one kind of pack of these small colored skeins, and it turns out I bought one with 135 yards for this project which called for 150 yards. So I pulled the dark blue out of my leftover yarns and was able to finish this off.

The pattern just calls for saftey eyes, but I really wanted to make this more like her whales, so I added some black embroidery to try to get that signature smile and lines onto the whale. I really like the way it turned out.

It really made me smile when it was done. I mean look at that face...

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: 5 hours
Size: about 10 inches long