September 26, 2016

Kubo's Monkey

If I had my life to do over again, I would have wanted someone to tell me that you could grow up and make things for a living at a movie studio called Laika.

I've been a fan from the start. Coraline brought me on board as I was already a fan of Neil Gaiman's writing, and I even made a yellow coat for the crochet little me so we could be her for Halloween. Then Paranorman came out and won us over with its sheer quantity of details, B movie horror, and humor. I even made a comic and several posts for their #WeirdWins contests, leading to me winning four stunning posters, which I still have framed in my home. Then Boxtrolls, which I will admit I did not love as much as the other two, but still had such warm and loving characters that I had to make my own Fish, complete with box.

When Kubo and the Two Strings was announced, several people said to me "Ang, it's like they made a movie just for you." I was so excited to see it when it finally came out this month. I knew I loved it from the first few moments as the mom crawled across the beach to her son, and I started crying right then. Some people say that Pixar is making fairy tales that grown ups can enjoy, but I feel like Laika has always taken it just one step further, like they are making fairy tales for grown ups instead, that kids can also enjoy. This other way around is somehow more powerful to me, and so much more moving.

Kubo and Monkey
It was only a matter of time, then, that I would make something from Kubo, and Monkey seemed the perfect choice. I don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it, but I loved the combo of protective, sassy, and wise that she pulled off. The dynamic between Beetle and Monkey was a joy to watch both for Kubo and the audience.
naked monkey face
I made her head, body and legs from some basic Red Heart which yarn I had on hand. The face and ears were from a leftover dusty rose color acrylic I also had in my stash. The taupe brown  of her hands is the same is Vanna's Choice from the beak of my Graboid. Finally I went out and bought one skein of Lion Brand's Wool-Ease in White-Multi, which has a little bit of shiny blue and pink something running through it. I felt it was perfect for her fur, which seemed to shine in many of the scenes.
really wanted to get her chest right

third version monkey paws
After spending a few weeks making body parts and ripping them out again, I finally got some shapes I liked. Then I remembered that Monkey has a left and right hand, and left and right foot, and that I would need to tweak the patterns to get it right. Then came stuffing and assembly, which always takes a few tries to get it all positioned right on the body. After that I added a bit of embroidery to the feet and added a little pink paint to the paws and face.

a hairless monkey!
Finally it was time to add the fur. This part took forever when I did Lion and he only had fur on part of his head and body, not everywhere! I only got about half of her body done when I ran out and needed to go buy a second skein. I spent about 15 hours just pulling the "fur" through. Then it was time to give her a hair cut. This was crucial, and I did use shorter tufts than Lion so I would have less to trim, but she still needed shaping around the face along the arms, neck and back.

looks a bit like when she was poofed by birds
She is finally done after about a month of work. Working on this just makes me appreciate how the Laika makers took the time on every puppet, every detail, just for us to take in without notice. It's amazing. Now she just needs a sword unbreakable...

Difficulty: Intermediate/Hard
Time to complete: 15 hours body, 10 hours fur
Finished Size: 13 inches from head to butt when sitting

Yes, I did write up the pattern, but not sure how I feel about sharing it yet, plus I still need to transcribe it. If there is interest, I will probably share.

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.


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.