Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Tree Craft Project for Toddlers or Preschoolers

    It's December, so let's start out the season right!  This is a project that I came up with based off of something similar my sisters and I did when we were little.  I will be perfectly honest with you up front...if you are attempting this with a toddler, it will not be the easiest thing to accomplish.  Make sure you start out with plenty of patience, and leave behind any OCD tendencies (this one can be difficult for me!  I'm not often OCD, but when it comes to symmetry and the placement of things I am).  However, having said all of that, Sugarplum did really well, and it really wasn't all that bad.  She did try to pull the "ornaments" back off the tree, but she enjoyed the project and did well with the concept.

    Okay, prep time.  The first thing you'll need is two sheets of construction paper, one green and one white (or whatever other colors you want your tree and background to be).

    Fold the green sheet in half lengthwise.

    Cut out the shape of half of a Christmas tree on the fold.  I freehanded mine, since it's a pretty simple shape.  But if you'd rather, you can search for "Christmas tree pattern" on Google images and come up with lots of options.  Just print one out in an 8x10 size and cut around it on top of the green paper.

    Next, unfold the tree and use stick glue to adhere it to your white background.  Be generous with the glue, and make sure to hit the edges and points well.  I recommend using a scrap piece of paper underneath the tree.


    Let this dry for a few minutes before you start the project with your child.

    The other items you will need are tissue paper squares.  I used red, yellow, and white tissue paper.   Fold a sheet of tissue paper up and cut on the folds until you have approximately 2 inch squares (this is the part that is slightly time consuming!).

    To make the ornaments for the tree, you'll take these squares and crumple them up into little balls.  You can do this as part of the prep if you'd like, but I just made the balls as we worked.

    Find a good work surface that your child can easily reach.  I took the tray off of Sugarplum's highchair and let her work at the kitchen table.  Place the tree in front of your child, hand them an ornament (yes, they may try to un-crumple it!), and let them place it wherever they want on the tree.  Then use the glue stick to stick down the ornament in that spot.  Another alternative, particularly for slightly older children, is to let them point to a spot on the tree where they'd like the ornament to go.

    You could try using regular Elmer's glue as well, but I didn't want to deal with wet glue and a toddler at the same time.  The stick glue worked perfectly well for us.

    Be sure to write the child's name and the date on the back, then hang their masterpiece for everyone to admire!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Briana's Guide to ComiCon for Cosplayers, Moms, and Everyone Else

    Well, it's taken me long enough, but I'm finally here to talk about ComiCon.  I wanted to not only share our experience at this year's Con, but also answer some questions that some of you might have about ComiCon in general.  Caution...long post ahead!    First off, what is ComiCon?  And the question I get the most, what do you do there?  There are many different ComiCons (comic conventions) out there.  Two of the biggest happen to be San Diego and New York, and are probably the ones you'll hear about the most often.  San Diego ComiCon, which takes place sometime in the summer, seems to be where most of the big announcements about upcoming movies, tv shows, events, etc. take place.  Movie trailers for highly anticipated movies in the geek world (think Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) will debut, and you're more likely to see the "big" celebrities there.

    But there are several companies who put on conventions around the country, including Wizard World, DragonCon, FanBoy Expo, etc.  The one that comes here to Nashville is Wizard World.  It's a much smaller convention than San Diego and New York, but still generates a good turnout.  My main complaint about it is that the celebrities for Nashville in particular often seem to be "has-beens", for some reason.  Other Wizard World cons don't seem to be the same way.  Perhaps it's because the Nashville con has only been going on for 3 years.

    So what do you do at ComiCon?  Well, if you're not in San Diego watching movie trailers and hearing grand announcements, the main activities will be 1. Celebrity panels and workshops, 2. Autographs and photo ops, 3. Exhibits and vendors, and 4. People watching.

    First, whatever celebrities are attending the convention will likely hold some kind of panel where they'll chat about their past, present, and future projects, and have a question and answer session.  This takes place in a separate meeting room, away from the main exhibit hall.  Sometimes there will also be panels hosted by "non-celebrities" who are experts on a particular subject...for instance, we attended a Doctor Who panel two years ago where a few people who were close to the series were discussing and speculating on the 50th anniversary special.  There are also usually some workshops available where you can learn about cosplay, comic book writing and drawing, etc.

    The celebrities are also available for autographs and photo ops, and sometimes VIP meet and greets.  At our con they each have their own booth set up in the exhibit hall where you can line up for autographs, and then a separate booth where they take turns doing photo ops.  However, this generally costs an arm and a leg, so we have never participated in this part of ComiCon.  Maybe one day, if someone I care enough about to pay $50 to have my picture taken with them shows up...maybe.  In the meantime, we just creep on them from a distance while they sit in their booths.
    The main physical area of the con is the exhibit hall.  This is where you'll find most of the people, so it's a prime opportunity for the last thing on my list, which is actually my favorite - people watching!  I've always loved people watching, and when half of those people are in costume it makes it so much better.  Of course the costume contest is the best way to see a bunch of costumes all at once, whether you participate or just watch.  Anyway, the exhibit hall is home to dozens of booths, mostly vendors selling everything geek you could possibly imagine.  We also have rows of artists, some famous and some local, displaying and selling their geek related artwork.

    To give you a taste of what the exhibit hall is like, I took a quick video while standing in the middle of it all.
video

    Now that you understand ComiCon a little better, time to share our costumes from this year!  Oh, and in case you're BRAND new to all of this, I'll answer another quick question...what on earth is cosplay?  Basically, it's a fancy word for geeky adults playing dress up as their favorite characters.  And it's FANTASTIC!!



My Arwen Undomiel cosplay




DH's Indiana Jones cosplay



 Sugarplum's Arwen Undomiel cosplay


    Later on I will have more detailed posts on these looks and how to create them for yourselves.

    So now for my general survival guide to ComiCon.  A lot of these tips will be geared toward cosplayers, but many can apply to anyone.

    1. Plan ahead.  

    If you are cosplaying, you should start thinking about your costume as soon as possible.  Of course I usually start thinking about next year's costume before I've even been to this year's con, but if it's your first time, find out when your con is and then start brainstorming now!  The more time you have to make your costume or find all of the pieces you need, the better it's going to turn out.

    2. Wear what you want.

    If you're a seasoned cosplayer who puts a ton of time and attention into your very detailed and accurate costume, great!  You'll probably get lots of compliments and people wanting to take your picture.  If you're brand new to the whole cosplaying thing and don't really have the time, money, or desire to put a whole lot into it, that's perfectly fine, too.  I have seen just as many people wearing off the rack costumes as those with handmade ones.  Now, as you go to the bigger conventions, you'll probably see more of the elaborate stuff and may find more people who are persnickety about the "art of cosplay".  But hey, I say if you want to cosplay, do it, no matter what it looks like.  And finally, if you really aren't into the whole cosplay thing but still want to do ComiCon, that's great, too.  I'd say only a quarter to a half of the people at our con are cosplayers.  It's just as acceptable to show your geek pride by wearing your favorite Superman or Minecraft or Ninja Turtle t-shirt.  Try doing what some people do and pair it with a lightsaber...and a Deadpool mask...and a Jayne Cobb hat.  Seriously, I see those people all the time.

    3. Double check the schedule.

    If other conventions are like ours, they will post a schedule online before the weekend of the event.  That's great, but I definitely recommend double checking the schedule once you get there.  You may find that everything is exactly the same, but things happen.  Celebrities cancel, rooms get switched, etc.  For us, this means going to each meeting room where events are supposed to take place and reading the signs outside the doors...don't even trust the brochure that they hand you, because that was printed ahead of time and won't reflect the last-minute changes.

    4. Register for the costume contest ASAP.

    Most conventions that I've seen have a costume contest sometime over the weekend.  At ours, it's at the very end of the day on Saturday.  If you want to participate, find out when it's happening and how to register right after you get there.  They may or may not advertise it, but it can fill up super quickly.  Try asking at the information desk, they will probably have the sign in sheet.

    5. Pace yourself.

    Our con is a weekend long event.  You have the option to go just one day, or up to all 3.  We have only ever gone one day, because we get done everything that we want to in one day with no problem.  But just that one day completely wipes us out!  It's a lot of being on your feet and walking back and forth through a quite large convention center, often in a costume that's not necessarily the most comfortable thing you've ever worn.  Thankfully, the panels provide a great excuse to sit and rest a while, and are also prime opportunities for feeding little ones (or yourself!).  In between panels, though, I definitely recommend finding other times to sit in a quiet place and catch your breath, most especially if you have children with you.  While you're checking the schedule (see tip #3) is likely a great time to scope out quiet corners to come back to later when the kids need a nap, or just a break from all the stimulation, or to hop out of their strollers or carriers and stretch their legs for a bit.  Also, don't feel the need to stay the WHOLE day.  We like to stay until the very end because of the costume contest, so we don't get there first thing in the morning when it opens.  And like I said, we have never had a problem getting everything in (though I'm sure at bigger cons it's harder).

    6. Bring your own food.

    Some conventions might not allow this.  Ours doesn't seem to have a problem with it.  And seriously, if you value your budget at all, you really need to bring your own food.  If you can't, I would even think that leaving the con for a while to go to a nearby fast food place would be a better option.  The food at ComiCon is OUTRAGEOUS.

    7. Have a dress rehearsal.

    This is one that we didn't do ourselves until this year, but we will be doing from now on.  You just never know what might happen the morning of the con if you are trying on your costume in full for the first time.  That hairstyle or wig might not be as easy to accomplish as you thought it was going to be, or you might find a small alteration you want to make to your costume.  It's a great time to figure out things like shoes and undergarments that are important but can be easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things.  Plus, you've worked super hard on this costume (or maybe not, but you love it anyway!) and you need pictures!  Don't leave those until the last minute, especially if you're trying to get to ComiCon at a decent hour.

    8. If at all possible, wear comfortable shoes.

    This goes back to tip #4.  Some costumes require very specific shoes, and they may not be comfortable.  If you're really committed to your costume, there's nothing you can do about that.  But if you have the option (such as my Arwen costume where you couldn't see my shoes), wear something comfy that you won't mind standing and walking in all day.  If you have to wear heels or something equally uncomfortable, please do yourself a favor and do everything you can to stave off blisters and achy soles.  Dr. Scholl's, Band-aids...you get the picture.

    9. Seriously consider whether or not to bring a stroller.

    Don't get me wrong here, I have brought a stroller the last two years and will probably continue to do so.  I know some mamas wear their babies all the time; I personally do a little of both.  But at ComiCon, for me, it would be too tiring to wear her all day (see tip #5).  Plus, wearing a carrier would cover up the entire top half of my costume.  So a stroller can be a good idea.  However, I just think I should warn you, pushing a stroller around at ComiCon is a PAIN.  There are so many people who are not watching out for a stroller coming through, randomly stopping to look at merchandise or take pictures without paying attention to their surroundings, squished between lots of booths.  It's an exercise in patience, that's for sure!  But no worse than going to a theme park or something similar.

    10. Whatever you use to get ready, take it with you.

    Hairspray, gel, bobby pins, safety pins, makeup...no matter what you needed to get ready to go, take some extras with you.  Even if you make it through the day with no mishaps to your look, you'll be able to refresh right before the costume contest.

    11.  Have fun, take pictures, geek out!

    Self explanatory.  ComiCon is the one time to see so many like-minded geeks gathered together in one place and having a great time celebrating their geekery.  Yes, that sentence was ridiculous.  So is ComiCon.  But it may the most fun ridiculous thing you do all year!

    Alright, time to wrap up this super long post.  Just a few more pictures of our 2015 ComiCon experience before I go!


Firefly panel with Jewel Staite and Adam Baldwin

Taking a leg-stretching break

Waiting for the costume contest

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to Wear a Half Wig

    As promised, here is my tutorial for how to wear your half wig, or fall!


    Here is the breakdown, in case you'd rather read than watch.

    You will need:
    ~Half wig
    ~Hair clip
    ~Lots and lots of bobby pins
    ~Wig cap
    ~More bobby pins
    ~Hairspray
    ~A few more bobby pins

    Step 1:  Try on the wig to see how much hair you should leave out at the front.  It should be somewhere just behind your ears.
    Step 2:  Clip the front section of your hair out of the way.
    Step 3:  Pin curl the rest of your hair (twist sections of hair into ringlets and criss-cross bobby pins over each one).
    Step 4:  Stretch wig cap over pin-curled section of hair.  Pin into place.
    Step 5:  Take front hair out of hair clip.  Stretch wig over wig cap, starting at the front, and holding the top in place as you cover the back with the wig.  Pin into place.
    Step 6:  Incorporate the front section of hair into the wig, either by spraying/pinning back, or by braiding into the wig.

    If you hadn't guessed, I'm wearing the wig in this video and doing an Arwen cosplay for ComiCon this weekend.  My husband and daughter and I did a photo shoot a few days ago, so pictures of all the costumes will be coming soon!

Friday, September 18, 2015

DIY Femme Tenth Doctor Cosplay

    ComiCon is a week from tomorrow, and I'm so excited!  However, I don't yet have pictures of our costumes for this year.  So today I thought I'd throwback to our first year at ComiCon and my 10th Doctor cosplay.


    This was a super fun cosplay, and relatively easy to put together.  It got a lot of attention at ComiCon because although there were a lot of Doctors (male 10th Doctors, and male and female 11th Doctors), I was the only femme 10th Doctor.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terms, femme generally refers to a feminine form of a male character, whereas genderswap or genderbend refers to when a female dresses as a male, or vice versa.

    First off, I always find a good photo on the internet to go off of.  Here's one of David Tennant as the 10th Doctor in his blue suit:
    So, for your femme cosplay, the first and most important item (partially because it may be one of the hardest to find) is a blue, pinstripe skirt or dress.


     Your best bet may be looking for this on the internet...I say this even though I hate shopping for clothes on the internet.  I got lucky.  I saw this one on the internet, and then realized it was from H&M.  So I went to our local H&M and happened to find the very last one that was on the rack, and it happened to be my size.  Score!

    Next, if you've chosen a skirt and not a dress, you'll need a white button-up shirt.


    This should be relatively easy to find, though don't take my word on that!  I saw this one at H&M when I was shopping for the skirt.  I think I ended up paying about $40-$50 for the skirt and shirt together.

    You will also need a red neck tie...this one I borrowed from my dear husband.  :)


    If you have a husband, boyfriend, dad, grandfather...any kind of man in your life, chances are they have one of these.  If not, it should be easy to find one.

    The second difficult to find item is a brown trench coat.


     David's coat is more of a medium-brown, while my coat ended up being more camel colored.  However, I was excited just to find this coat, so I wasn't going to be too picky about the color.  I'm sure that you could order one online and get it closer in color, but I was looking to spend the minimal amount.  And guess what?  $12 at a local thrift store.  Score again!

    Next you'll need a great pair of red shoes.


     My first plan was to go with red Converse, just like the Doctor wears.  However, like I said before, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on this costume, especially on items that I wouldn't wear outside of cosplay.  Converse isn't my personal style, so I really didn't want to invest in a pair of them to wear once or twice.  I looked for knock off brands, but no luck finding the right color.  Then I went shopping at Payless, and found this pair for $10.  I couldn't pass that up!  They're super cute, and they were the same type of canvas fabric as a pair of Converse.  Plus, I think they ended up looking much better with the whole outfit than sneakers would have.

    And that's your outfit!

    The only thing left is a couple of accessories, which aren't absolutely vital, but I definitely recommend having.

    A pair of brown, rectangular glasses (with no/fake lenses if you don't need them!), and of course, your trusty sonic screwdriver!  The 10th Doctor's screwdriver can be found in multiple places such as  Walmart or Barnes & Noble, for $21-$25.  It may not be the most important piece of the costume, but it's a whole lot of fun to play with!  :)

    As far as hairstyle goes, I chose to have my hair pulled back out of my face, but with a "bump" in the front, to kind of mimic David Tennant's hair.  

    This is a fairly easy style.  There might be fancier ways to accomplish it...Bump Its and whatnot, but I made a short (2 min) video on how I do it.

video

    Also, one last detail (and in cosplay, it's all about the details!)...the shoes I found were peep toes.  So, I had to make sure my toenails looked nice!  I chose to paint them with a galaxy style.  Maybe someday I'll do my own tutorial for that, but for now, here's one from Pinterest.  And another note on the shoes...if you do choose heels, particularly peep toes, please do what I did not and bandage your toes before hand!  You will want to take those shoes off as often as possible (sitting in celebrity panels, etc.), but you will also want to wrap up your toes and heels in bandaids/medical tape to keep them from blistering.

    This is definitely a cosplay that I plan to repeat someday (with taped up toes!).  I'd love to see your versions of the Doctor, too, so please share!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

No-Mess Painting with a Baby or Toddler

    I don't do many crazy, creative projects with Sugarplum because I don't generally consider myself a super creative person when it comes to those sorts of things. Also, I am blessed with a generally happy-go-lucky baby who entertains herself pretty well!  However, this project was one I adapted from a couple of different Pinterest ideas, and it was a big hit not only with Sugarplum, but with everyone who saw the results.
     The original ideas I was seeing on Pinterest were using paint in a Ziploc bag, taped to a table.  This way baby can squish the paint around without making a big mess using finger paints.  However, I wanted an actual painting in the end, not just a Ziploc bag full of paint to throw away!
    Pretty easy fix.  I just added paper to the bag!  The main issue here is finding paper that will not fall apart with the amount of paint soaking into it.  This will depend on how much paint you use, of course.  The first time, I didn't use very much paint, so construction paper worked just fine.  Next I tried cardstock with a lot more paint, and when I peeled the bag off it peeled most of the paint and the top layer of paper off, too! :(  After that I used a thin piece of 8x10 canvas that I got from Hobby Lobby.  It's a bit pricier, of course, but the great thing about using canvas is you can create a real keepsake.  We framed Sugarplum's canvas masterpiece and gave it to my mom as a Mother's Day gift.
    So, step 1.  Select your paper or canvas.  Then add paint (I just use cheap craft paint that you can get at a craft store or Walmart) in little blobs all over the paper.  Carefully slide the paper into a gallon-size Ziploc (or off-brand if you're like me!) bag, and seal it tightly!  Sealing is definitely one step you don't want to skimp on, if you truly want no-mess painting.  :)
    Depending on the age of your baby/toddler, there are a few different options for the next step.  Our first time painting, I taped the bag using painter's tape to our kitchen table, and put Sugarplum in her highchair with the tray removed so she could reach to pat on it to her heart's content.  The next couple of times, she was crawling, so I taped it to the hardwood floor or the front porch and let her crawl and sit all over it.  Now she's walking, so the most recent time, she grabbed that bag and carried it all over the house with her (this works best with canvas, not paper).  Any of the above will work just fine.  The main thing is to get the paint thoroughly squished all over the paper, and for your tot to have a good time doing it.  You can also experiment with using toys to roll over and beat on the painting, which can create interesting patterns.
     The last step is to get the bag back from your toddler (if you can!), lay it flat on top of something you don't mind possibly getting paint on, and cut the bag open.  You will need to cut all down the sides of the bag and peel the top layer back, rather than trying to slide the paper back out.  Then lay your child's masterpiece somewhere safe and flat to dry and enjoy!

    These pictures are from our first try:


    The rest of the times I used more paint, and I liked the end results better.
    Painting on the porch:
    End results, framed for hanging:

    Have fun painting!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

How to remove shine from a synthetic (curly) wig

    I recently purchased a half-wig, also known as a fall, off of eBay.  I often have my hair cut to around shoulder-length, and I was tired of worrying about what length my hair was going to be by the time ComiCon rolled around!  In case you've never dealt with falls before, the purpose of them is not to change your hair color, but to extend it.  The front part of your own hair is incorporated into the wig so that it all blends in and looks more natural.
    Unfortunately I didn't take a "before" picture of the wig...I didn't have a blog at the time!  Here's the eBay version, though.

    I don't know if I would have even thought of the fact that the wig was unnaturally shiny, had I not recently pinned this article on Pinterest.  So, once the wig came in, I thought, "Hmm...here's a perfect opportunity to try this out!"  After all, the more natural looking the cosplay, the better (at least in my opinion!).
    So I bought some cheap fabric softener and went to work.  Tip #1: Make sure you like the smell of the fabric softener you use, because your wig WILL smell like it afterward!  I'm currently debating hanging mine outside somewhere to air it out.  :P  The tutorial suggested using 1-3 cups of softener, depending on the length of your wig, so I used 2.  Pour the fabric softener into a bucket or dish pan, anything big enough to lay the wig in (flipped inside out), and then add enough water to thoroughly cover the wig.  Next comes the hardest part of the process - finding somewhere to leave the bucket where babies and dogs can't find it!  Or maybe that's just me...
    I left my wig soaking for about 5 days (the original tutorial suggested 5-7).  Then take it out, letting it drip, and lay it flat on a towel to dry.  Don't squeeze it!  My wig has a good bit of hair, so I had to spread it out to get it to dry.  This process took another couple of days for me.  Also, in case you're like and me and are worried about the water messing up your curls...in my case, the curls were perfectly fine.  I watched a video another cosplayer posted of doing a similar process with their curly wig, and they had no problem, either.
    Okay, honesty time...I have no clue whether the fabric softener did any good or not.  The second step of this process is what actually impressed me.  However, I'm sure there's a reason that the article said to soak it first!  The wig did end up pretty soft, so maybe that's the result I was looking for.  However, it was not at all soft until after I finished completely, so don't worry about the fact that it is now a little icky looking/feeling.
    Now for part 2 of the de-shining process!  This part gets a bit messy, so lay out a towel (and you should probably be prepared for your clothes to get a little dusty, too).  Either lay the wig out flat, or pin it onto a wig head if you have one.  The original tutorial says to use talc, aka baby powder.  However, baby powder is no longer made of talc because it's actually toxic.  Yuck!  I never use baby powder with Sugarplum, so I was a little clueless.  But when I looked at Walmart, turns out that baby powder is now made out of "Pure Corn Starch" (plus scents, etc.).  My thought: Why would I buy baby powder made out of corn starch when I have a box of corn starch in my cabinet at home?  I even googled it, and yep, you can use corn starch instead of baby powder in most, if not all, instances.  Even on your baby's bum!  :)
    I poured corn starch into a cleaned-out spice shaker to make it easier to apply.  You will also need a wig brush...in my case, this was an American Girl doll brush!  Basically what you're looking for is a wire brush.  If you don't have American Girl dolls :), I'm sure you can find them online or at a wig store.
    Start coating your wig, section by section, with corn starch, and working it through the hair.  I rubbed it in with my fingers, and also brushed it.  If your wig is curly, just be very gentle with the ends!  It also helps to twist up each section after you finish it, to make sure the curl stays in.  You'll find your own method of applying the corn starch as you go.  I ended up deciding it was easiest to sprinkle the corn starch into my hand, then dip my fingers in it and rub it into the hair, like this:
    You'll be able to see the shine disappearing as you work!  I was able to get a pretty good "before and after" picture.  With flash:
    Without:
    You can especially tell in the picture with flash.  Natural hair doesn't reflect a flash like that!  
    After a couple of sessions brushing and corn starch-ing (you might be able to finish it in less if you're not trying to work around a toddler sleep schedule!), it was done!  

    All the curls are still intact (yay!), and it's now much more natural-looking.  Plus, it ended up matching my hair a little better in the end than it did to start with.  Which is worth making note of - the corn starch may lighten the wig ever so slightly.
    Next, check out how to wear your half wig!