Last week, Smalerie mentioned that we’d be doing a series on how to stick it to Old Man Winter and actually get some enjoyment out of a season that, here in New England anyway, can be best summed up as “grey.” Sometimes the outdoors is a frozen wasteland, other times it’s warm but muddy, but no matter the temperature and precipitation, winter can just seem a bit ho-hum. Once the holidays are over, there’s just a lot of staying indoors, dreaming of warmer, drier days. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. The depths of winter are scientifically* proven to be the best time for a theme party. Plus, planning a party fits in well with several of Smalerie’s blues-busting tips, including starting a project and having accountability. And hey, if you host, you don’t need to actually leave the house!
We’ve had a few posts on this subject before, but here are a few we haven’t yet shared that you might consider specifically for shaking the winter doldrums.
Granted, this particular theme appeals to a slightly morbid sense of humor – unsurprising, given that my husband, Mr. Menace, was responsible for dreaming it up. When the snow is thick on the ground and the air is frigid, what can be better than a reenactment of the Soviets surrounding the Germans at Stalingrad?
We were fortunate to have this party hosted at the home of our dear friends, who have a spectacular fire pit in their backyard, which allowed us to create a hard-core bonfire. If you are not so lucky, even a small fire pit will add the right amount of flare and sell the idea that you are huddling for warmth on the front. (We were also aided by the fact that this party took place in the February 2015 – winter where the Boston area saw about 8 feet of snow pile up on itself in rapid succession, followed by a deep freeze. Authentic!)
Cheap fur hats from the party store are also a must. Here the goal is less about authenticity, and more about a sense of fun and staying warm.
As for the most important part of any theme party, the food, this is your chance to put out an assortment of hard meats, cheese, and vodka, and call it good. At our hosts’ request, I also made piroshki, which are Russian buns filled with meat and onions.
Meat, cheese, vodka, and hats – a recipe for pulling anyone out of a slump.
The very next winter, our friends with the fire pit hosted another vaguely historically themed party – a Viking raid! This was a ton of fun to figure out costuming for – and a great excuse to break out the fur and cape from my Red Sonja costume from a Halloween party long past.
To host a good Viking party, consider offering mead, more of that wonderful meat and cheese, and an assortment of dried fish, if you’re feeling fancy. Horned helmets are not historically accurate, but if you change the theme a tad, you can host a 19th-century Romanticist opera revival party and the helmets are totally on brand.
Our latest party was a long time coming, and one of my favorites to date. For years, Tiny Doom has dreamed of hosting a “giant” party. The concept was that everything at the party would actually be extremely tiny – thus allowing the party participants to feel like giants. (Tiny Doom is, as her name suggests, pretty small herself, so getting to be big is a novelty.) For years, we discussed this party – what food we would serve, the tiny plates we could use, the props that we’d have – and we kept not hosting the actual party. Finally, after nearly half a decade, I decided to make it the theme of my annual New Year’s Eve gathering. 2017 was a pretty tough year all around, so I thought we could all use an excuse to feel bigger.
This party was heavily centered around two things – the food, and the table-scape. What’s great about this theme is that many appetizers are already small, bite-sized versions of regular food. You just have to make sure to play up that similarity – so cocktail weenies aren’t served in sauce, they’re lovingly encased in tiny buns. Sliders are regular burgers, a Cornish game hen is a whole roasted chicken, and so on.
Mr. Menace helped with the decor by getting two different sizes of figures – 1/6 scale GI Joes and 1/16 scale Star Wars figures – and strategically placing them around the food. The result was a sort of Lilliput-England-Brobdingnag vibe with the Star Wars guys as Lilliputians, the Joes as the humans, and us as the Brobdingnagians. It was pretty darn magical, and shockingly simple to pull off.
Ultimately, that simplicity makes this a perfect winter project – you don’t need to dress up or get too fussy with the decor to create a good time for your friends and help snap everyone out of a funk. After all, everyone needs to feel big sometimes.
Finally, it’s important to note that while we did this party on New Year’s Eve, it works on any random winter night equally well. How about you all – any other whimsical ways to punch Old Man Winter in the face?
*The science is extremely limited.
I’m the worst at writing intros for my posts. Honestly, it’s terrible. Happily for you, I’m not going to spend too much time struggling with it. Instead, I’m going to just say that it’s a pretty great time to be an Invader Zim fan. We’ve been getting our fix pretty regularly with the not-too-shabby Invader Zim comic, but then about three weeks ago, this was posted online. YES, my disgusting worm-babies, we are all doomed. And frankly, I couldn’t be more pleased.
Added bonus, this gives me another excuse to create an adult beverage based on one of my favorite fandoms.
Brace yourself people, and behold my inspiration.
There were a lot of different ways I could have gone about this. At first I considered tracking down some chocolate soda to make a very traditional Slurpee. Then I thought about creating a very traditional ice cream soda made with chocolate and bubble gum ice cream. I had two road blocks here. The first was that both initial ideas involved ingredients that were a bit hard to find. The second block was that if I was going to drink this thing, I didn’t want to use a ton of dairy.
My solution to both of these problems was to create an adult beverage. Making something smaller and using alcohol would give me an excuse to tailor it a bit more to my taste and maybe come up with something (prepare your pretension filter people) more sophisticated. And yes, even my eyes rolled as I typed that last sentence.
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Godiva chocolate liqueur
almond milk or regular milk
Bubble Gum flavoring
Pro-tip: Before you make this drink, create some ice cubes out of milk (or in my case almond milk). This will prevent your drink from getting watered down as you drink it.
There aren’t a lot of instructions here. All these ingredients can be adjusted to taste. For the sake of understanding my results, I will say that I used about 1 cup of frozen almond milk and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. In order to help things blend, I dumped in a splash each of the vanilla and simple syrup. For the booze, I used one shot glass.
The bubblegum flavoring goes a VERY long way. I used a drop from an eyedropper.
Once you blend up your drink, taste it and add any adjustments. I used a little extra sweetener as the dark cocoa powder made the finish a bit too bitter.
I know you’re wondering what this tasted like. The truth is that it wasn’t too bad. It tasted like a Tootsie Pop. If I ever make it again, I think the plan would be to create a pink bubble gum sugar rim and to see if I could make something that is less like a mudslide and more like an actual slurpee or even a Slush Puppie.
Not a complete failure, but not something I will be adding to any sort of rotation for dinner parties. I think I will just keep it in my pocket to bring out again when the Invader Zim movie/special airs next year. But frankly, who knows what monstrosity I will have come up with by then. I can promise you this much, it won’t include adding soap to waffles. Maybe I’ll add tuna instead.
Chocolate Bubble Gum Cocktail of Doom
2 tbsp Unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1.5 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur
1 cup almond milk or regular milk frozen into ice cubes
1 tsp vanilla
one drop Bubble Gum flavoring
1-2 tbsp simple syrup
optional: 2 tbsp cream
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. Serve immediately with an evil grin and promises to take over the world.
If you joined us for our puppet making event, you’re now the proud owner of a unique, handmade puppet. If you didn’t, you may still have a random puppet lurking around your house somewhere. Or maybe you’re looking at that sock that doesn’t seem to match any of the others in the laundry basket and wondering if it’s meant for better things. Wherever you are in the puppet making process, it’s important to remember that building the puppet is only part of the experience. Here are some ideas for what to do with your newly made felted friend.
If you follow any of the Ladies on social media, you’ll notice that we are having our second View and Chew event coming up in a couple of weeks. This event is going to be even more crazy than our last as we prepare to celebrate all things Supernatural. As part of our preparations, we have been making prizes, choosing the perfect plaid clothing items to wear, and having extremely detailed conversations about the best way to paint demon traps on everything from our toilets to our own finger nails. As someone who really likes to theme her nails in line with various Comicazi and Ladies’ events, it seems only natural that I am not only prepping special nails for our event, but have been experimenting with the best way to create theme-appropriate nails for future events as well. And as I suffer from all this trial and error (and acetone fumes), I am going to share with you what I have learned. PS – If you are dying to see the finished product, you should really get your tickets to our event, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram (Krebstar5) if you are not local.
The Goods – Believe it or not, I don’t feel like I have enough nail supplies. As soon as I hit a stride with something, I discover something else that I REALLY want. Also, I never seem to have enough colors and random things to glue to my nails. My last practice session looked like this:
Pancakes have been on my mind a lot lately. Part of it was looking over some of my past posts in search of motivation, but the larger part of it was probably the epic Facebook debate Tiny Doom and I had over the superiority of pancakes or waffles. I am staunchly on Team Pancake.
And so I wanted to prove the versatility and superiority of pancakes in a very Ladies of Comicazi kind of way. And so help me, that way is going to be fancy! It’s time to do some Pancake Art. *cue awesome power ballad
I haven’t done an art process post since the Usagi Yojimbo one almost two years ago. My output remains sporadic, but I did just undertake a project where I’m pretty pleased with the results. So it’s time for round two.
Not much has changed since the Usagi pic. I still work almost exclusively digitally on my Cintiq monitor, and I still use Pixelmator. My Mac Mini remains fairly functional and my desk is still a mess.
I sometimes draw digital birthday cards for people I like, including the other Ladies. I had an idea for a Labyrinth themed one for Smalerie kicking around for a while. So when February rolled around and her birthday was approaching, it was time to get to work.
I have never drawn any of the characters from Labyrinth before, so reference was essential. I quickly discovered that the internet does not have sufficient Sir Didymus and Ambrosius reference. Most of the image from the film I found were on the small side, fanart is of questionable accuracy, and – as Smalerie pointed out when we visited the Center for Puppetry Arts – the remaining puppets are not all in the best condition. So I had to dig out my DVD and get some screencaps of my own to sort out what Didymus’s hat looks like or how his knee guards are attached to his legs. (They really aren’t.) Continue reading
Last year at this very time, Tiny Doom wrote a post that, when I look back at it, marked an historical moment for this little blog: it was the first time the Ladies had ever revealed our faces! Of course, there were only three of us – our mighty quartet only became complete in the new year. And some of the faces (okay, mostly mine) were rather obscured by the costumes we chose. But still, it was a milestone, and here we are a year later, still keeping this blog chugging along, bigger and better than ever!
And yes, we still really love Halloween.
Our love, perhaps, has different depths and comes from different places, so I won’t speak for all of the ladies in this post. (I’m pretty sure Tiny Doom loves Halloween WAY more than I do.) But however we got there, we’ve all embraced the holiday.
See these guys?
Pretty effing cute huh? How creative and filled with all-american “can do” spirit, right?
Believe it or not, from start to finish, these guys took six hours. SIX HOURS!!! And during those six hours of blood, sweat, and (mostly) tears, I learned a few things I would love to share with our dear readers.
I draw semi-professionally, which means I make prints sometimes and people buy them sometimes. So for today’s post, I’ll be talking a little about my process on a piece I did about a month ago. What I’ll be describing here is the method that works for me, which may not be the best method for everyone else of the best one out there. If you’re looking for advice on making your own digital art, I suggest you peruse the many tutorials available on the web and find one that suits you.
I switched over to drawing entirely on the computer a couple of years ago. I have a Cintiq monitor, which lets me draw directly on the screen with a stylus. I use a program called Pixelmator that’s a lot like Photoshop but several hundred dollars cheaper. My computer is a Mac Mini. My workspace is cluttered.
Shortly after seeing Stan Sakai talk on my husband’s birthday, I decided I wanted to do a Usagi Yojimbo drawing. I’d sketched some of the characters before, back when I first read the first few books, and they were really fun to draw. This time around, I wanted to do a more finished illustration, just for fun.
I usually start with a very rough sketch. I knew I wanted the Usagi drawing be a standoff between Usagi and another samurai with a composition reminiscent of classic samurai films. I hadn’t decided what to do with the other samurai at this point, so he’s just a loose doodle to give Usagi something to look at. As you’ll see in some of the later drawings, he went through a lot of changes.
The blue color I sketch in is a throwback to the non-photo blue pencils that animators and other artists sometimes use. It also helps me remember which lines are the rough sketch when I start adding in new layers.
I didn’t plan on showing my whole process when I drew this. So this is a recreation of the background colors I dropped in before I put in the details. I wanted to have a rough idea of the background colors so that I could make sure the colors on the characters with them once I started adding those. Plus it’s super easy to hide any layer that’s getting in the way if I need to see the sketch more clearly or something.
If you find this interesting and want to see more in the future, dear readers, I’ll take some in-process screenshots of whatever I work on next.
Usagi was already fairly tight in the sketch, so I went straight ahead to final linework without any intermediate sketches. I did still make some changes between the sketch and the final drawing, but it’s mostly the same. I didn’t bother fixing the mistake near the bottom right edge because the area ended up colored in black. I took some liberties with Usagi’s profile, but I think what I ended up with looks good and he’s still recognizable as Usagi. Drawing such a well designed character was an absolute joy.
I did end up doing a second sketch of one of the swords (which I forgot about until I made the layer visible again) because I needed to change the position from the original sketch to make with work with the pose. I also completely fudged the hand on the rough sketch, so they didn’t really work until I got the position of the sword right.
I actually like to start dropping in the colors before I finalize the linework. It usually means I have to go back and move the colors around if I make major changes to the linework, but it also helps me see mistakes in the drawing and gives me a better idea of how the whole thing is coming along. The colors are on a layer under the linework so I can color away and not worry about accidentally covering up a line.
This is also where the background color become important. I’d normally make Usagi’s colors brighter, but since this scene has an overcast sky/ham-handed metaphor for impending conflict, everything’s going to be darker.
Usagi’s shirt is covered in little dots, probably to add texture and visual interest. This particular detail was the least enjoyable part of drawing Usagi. I made the wise decision to put the dots on a separate layer so I didn’t have to worry about messing up the linework. Plus, it let me lower the opacity, since the dots struck me as too distracting at full strength. However, I also made the stupid decision to draw just a few dots and use the clone stamp tool to replicate them over and over. In theory this should have saved me time and work, but in practice, it just meant that I had to go back in and fix a bunch of partial dots by hand.
Shadows and Highlights
Yet another layer for the highlights and shadows, over the colors, but under the linework and the dots. Nothing fancy here, just enough to add some dimension and drama.
I think I dropped the gold detail at the base of the sheath on the other sword because it ended up being covered up by grass, which you’ll see later.
So now Uasgi’s done, but someone’s still missing…
I was thinking about having Usagi’s opponent be an existing character, but I decided to design my own instead. I went with a porcupine because I don’t believe Stan Sakai has ever drawn a porcupine character (though I could be wrong), I liked the design possibilities for a porcupine – particularly putting his quills up in a topknot, and “samurai porcupine” has a nice ring to it.
To my surprise, his design turned out to be really tough to nail down. Above is my initial sketch. My first though was that he would be really big, but I felt like the pose looked stiff and uninteresting. The shape of his head was giving me a lot of trouble.
I probably went through a dozen or so sketches that I didn’t like and deleted most of them. This guy probably had linework at some point before I decided that it wasn’t working. This is further proof that I like to color before the linework is finished. He’s getting a bit smaller and more upright here. I think I was still having trouble with the position of the sword.
The final sketch, sans background because the linework is very light for some reason. I still kind of miss the idea of a huge, hulking porcupine with quills all the way down his back. But at this point, I was getting frustrated and this pose worked.
The final linework, probably moved over after I drew over the sketch for better composition. Very close to the sketch expect for the addition of his sheath and second sword. I am pleased with how his head turned out and the pose, if not the most dynamic, is at least believable.
The colors, highlights, and shadows are all on the same level here, either because I just did it that way or because I merged the layers after the fact for some reason. The colors are pretty much the same as those in the abandoned sketch above. I wanted colors that would contrast with Usagi, so I went with warmer colors: a pinkish-purple for his body and a maroon shirt. The highlight on the blade was useful for making it visible against the sky.
The two of them together on the dummy background.
And the finished background, with a few layers of grass in front of the characters. The sky was done with a softer brush tool, a few different grays, and possibly a blur filter. I’ll take better notes if I do this again.
I had considered doing a second version with a tokagé between Usagi and the porcupine poking its head up out of the grass and freaking out, but I never got around to it.
So that’s how I draw, minus a few additional abandoned sketches, erased mistakes, breaks to play with dogs, and curses directed at dots.
My recent obsession with Lego was pretty clear in this previous post. Since that first bigger build, I have continued to make things and have also since moved on the next Iron Man set, which I have dubbed “Tony Stark’s Malibu Dream House”-There was a helicopter too, but the house portion is much more interesting. Look how awesome this is?!!? It comes with a Dummy (at the ready with a fire extinguisher), and a drink dispenser (that I think is filled with Tang).
Ok, but as cool as that is, that’s not what this post is about. Rather it’s about how the perfect storm of a Lego mini-figure obsession, and extreme curiosity about those multi-color candy melts I always see in the craft store come together to make an adorable (if not slightly labor intensive) snack.
How to: Makin’ Candy Lego Mini-Figures
- various color candy melts (These all basically taste the same, though the dark ones claim to be “dark cocoa”)
- cheapy paint brushes
- microwave safe bowls
- a silicon mold (like the kind sold for making ice cubes)- obviously I am using a mold that looks like Lego mini-figures, but you can pick what you like.