Sunday, July 13, 2014

Silkscreen stenciling, the lazy way

For our one-year wedding anniversary, I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my husband with the logo of our most recent favorite band, Twenty One Pilots.

My source image
I did some Googling on silkscreen printing and found a process that I felt would work for me. Since this was my first time, it's kind of messy, but my husband and I are both very happy with the results.

(Sorry in advance about the poor lighting in the photos)

What you need

  • Silkscreen paint (Speedball is the brand I bought)
  • Foam brush or a sponge would probably work too
  • Freezer paper or preferred stenciling paper
  • Pen or pencil for stencil tracing
  • Sharp implement like an Exacto knife (or the blade from a multi-tool if you're me)
  • Source image, printed out at the size you want it on the t-shirt
  • (Optional) Ruler for any straight lines in your stencil
  • T-shirt, clean & dry
  • Piece of cardboard to put in the t-shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Iron

After you've gathered all that, you realize that you stuck at tutorials and you've already done half of the t-shirt design!

So scroll ahead to see how to do all of this. If you have separated colors like my image does, you can make a couple of stencils and apply in separate sessions. Just remember that any paint you are going to apply another stencil over has to be completely dried. I waited a full day before continuing. In this method (and this particular image), you could probably do all of the colors at once, but I didn't want to have to worry about painting in the wrong spots.

So, trace your image onto your freezer paper and then cut it out. Toss the cut out parts.

Voila. The knife on this multi-tool was pretty sharp, but really an Exacto knife is the only way to go.

Here, the inner part of my stencil has been lined up as close as I could manage onto the t-shirt and then ironed on. That's why I use freezer paper for fabric stencils: the shiny side can be temporarily adhered by ironing. It peels off really easily. This means it's not reusable, but that works for me. For the red & blue parts, I actually measured the image & the t-shirt to try and center it as much as possible.

Here, I attempted to line up the outer stencil as best as I could with the pre-painted parts & measurements I put down with pencil and then ironed it down. Getting circles placed is really obnoxious. Time to paint!

This paint is pretty thick. I tried to apply only with dabs to reduce the risk of bleeding underneath the stencil edges, but it wasn't perfect. I think the application probably takes some practice.

After applying the paint, I removed the stencil right away so the paint doesn't dry the stencil onto the shirt. I didn't know if that would happen, but wasn't taking any chances! I realized at this point that I needed a way to remove the inner stencil without smudging anything. I took a sewing pin to lift up an edge and then used a gloved hand to pull off the inner stencil.

Nearly done! With silkscreen paint, it has to be heat set. I let this dry for 24 hours and then ironed over it, using a sheet of brown paper to protect the t-shirt & paint. I also flipped it inside out to iron the inside so it could be set as possible.

The last step is DON'T WASH THE SHIRT FOR 5-7 DAYS. I guess there are ways to set the paint in other silkscreen methods that don't require all this waiting, but really this is great for a lazy crafter like me. I'll probably make the same shirt for myself! I haven't washed this one yet (t-minus 3-5 more days), so hopefully I won't be updating this post next week crying about how the image washed off.

Also pictured, the tungsten ring I bought him for our anniversary.
Have fun!

(This post includes an affiliate link. To get to Amazon normally, click here.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Godzilla - a scattered review

Massive spoiler alert for anything below this text because there's really no other way to review this thing.

Characters: Most, if not all, of the characters in this film were really one-dimensional. Pretty much all of the characters are defined by their professions. The main soldier guy is just a good-guy soldier. The admiral is just a trying-to-do-right-by-my-country-and-citizens admiral. The wife/nurse/doctor woman is all of those things, but she has no quirks. The relationship depicted between her and soldier-guy was so empty. I wanted to see him do something really in-joke between them, something that made them real, if they were going to exploit people's emotions by introducing some kind of romantic thing into the movie. I was annoyed that it was yet another Hollywood standard issue movie that they like to give the contrast of the hero & his support at home. And then it's all set up for a happy reunion at the end! It was under-played and pretty useless. More effort on the impact of the MUTO presence on the military structure would have been more interesting than the romance angle.

My favorite character was probably the scientist guy (the Japanese one, not the American, I don't know any of their names) because of how horrified he was about the whole business. It seemed like nobody really took him seriously, which was stupid, but he also wasn't making the most compelling arguments. Mostly, I enjoyed when everybody in the theater giggled every time a character said "Godzilla".

Hulky pointed out, "How would an EOD Naval lieutenant know how to do a paradrop that is strictly a special forces thing?"

Plot: Throughout the movie, I kept making guesses about what would happen. I was wrong most of the time, by the way. Godzilla did not eat the bomb at the end and disappear into the depths, but he did disappear into the depths after taking a dirt nap in ruined San Francisco. Okay, so the movie had a lot of unintentionally hilarious moments filled with dramatic music. This would be a good movie to watch while intoxicated, I think. I also guessed

The movie could have focused on the problem of nuclear energy. Hell, it could have been some been some epic drawn-out thing that resulted in nations trying to rid their nuclear waste or bombs in order to avoid drawing the MUTOs to them. The whole "let's lure them with this bomb" thing was beyond idiotic. Yeah, really, Armed Forces? You could not think of anything else? I mean, I realize these things are massive, but c'mon. The whole secret organization thing was stupid too. They just kind of toss it in there, but the ramifications of that organization coming to light could have been a WHOLE huge part of the movie. Instead, they were just like, "Thanks for being here, we're going to ignore you now."

Really, what the movie needed, was less people and more monsters, or at least more focus on the monsters. We got plenty of shots of male- & female-Mothra moving around, but not many of Godzilla. What does it look like when he swims? Does he paddle his feet? What does he eat? There are so, so many problems with the monsters in these movies, it's hard to tackle them all.

I loved at the end when the news thing said, "King of Monsters: Savior of our city?" and everybody cheered as Godzilla got up from his nap and swam away. Yeah, I'd probably cheer if I was well away and it looked like he was leaving, but if it's only been one or two days? I'd probably still scream in terror first. More about how the media handles the whole thing would have been really interesting. The only snippet we get is that one line, really. Keeping the public perspective positive about the PTSD-causing experience would probably sell more than the truth: no idea if this monster will come back to eat our power plants, no idea if there are more monsters that might ruin our cities. Godzilla will save us!

Monster design: Most of the people who encountered Godzilla or Mothra (they don't name the two other "MUTOs" in the film, but that's what they are) in the film would have been deafened, or worse. The force of male-Mothra's cry would have blown people away. They show female-Mothra blasting these lanterns in Chinatown and it is definitely hurricane-force winds. I am also pretty sure that the force of these creatures walking around would have ruined a lot more than was depicted in the film. Godzilla's steps are not going to leave the streets uncracked. A lot more people would have been killed.

This isn't even beginning to cover how it's physically impossible for a creature of that size to exist on this planet. Scientists know that the one of the reasons why giant dragonflies and dinosaurs existed is that the oxygen content of the atmosphere was much richer back then. The largest creatures on our planet now are blue whales and elephants. Godzilla is a hell of a lot bigger than an elephant. How could a creature like that exist and presumably not change very much over millions of years (since that's how old they're saying his species is, not saying he's that old) and be able to breathe in and out of water, be able to swim down 2 miles AND walk around on land, and then they didn't even cover the biology of WTF is that breath attack?


Godzilla's roar was great. So many tones & parts of it. I love the after-rumble. That is what gave me anxiety, just watching the trailer! The movie didn't make me anxious at all, fortunately. Unfortunately, Godzilla's body design was not as impressive. He looked like a guy in a suit to me, especially with those arms. They were too big to be T-Rex-like, but too small to seem really useful. The stocky legs made sense for his upright posture, but I feel like he should have been more dino-saur like. I did like the whole stegosaurus tail-smash move, but there should have been more like that, things that made me seem completely foreign and ancient.

In conclusion: Pacific Rim did all of that stuff better, in my opinion. Plenty of giant robots and giant monsters. Even the people were more interesting. I still enjoyed Godzilla and would totally see another if they make a second (aw hell yeah, just found that while writing this up).

Totally unrelated, watch this video if you are a fan of Hugh Jackman and/or Les Miserables and/or X-Men/Wolverine.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Introducing: Snuggle Pumpkin

4 weeks ago, Hulky and I headed to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, MA to pick up a little gray cat.

When we first met this little fluff-ball, she was shy and terrified of everything. The shelter people put her on Hulky's lap and as he scritched her neck, she started to stretch out and roll around. He fell in love and I saw potential, so with some back and forth, we got our landlord to approve another cat with the shelter, and we brought her home. She spent a lot of time hiding in the bedroom we designated for her.

Aggressively ignoring me.

Lucky us, this furball came with friends: fleas and tapeworms (we found out a few days after taking her home when the shelter called with stool test results). A trip to a local vet office (fortunately with a coupon for a free exam) got us a pill for the worms and Advantage for the fleas. She has the STINKIEST poop I have ever smelled from a cat. I've started adding the contents of a probiotic powder to her food, thinking maybe the medicine did something weird to her gut. It seems to be helping. Right now, she gets a mix of dry food and canned food, because she ate the dry food too quickly and was vomiting, and she needs to put on weight. She was 5 lbs 12 oz at the vet. Eventually, I'd like to get her on an all raw diet, like Fae.

To get Pumpkin to warm up to us, we started off just spending time in the same room as her. We didn't hold eye contact with her much, or try to approach her. Over time, she'd let us approach her when she was curled up in the cat cave or in her box with the faux-sheepskin. When she's cornered, she welcomes pets and scritches and will start to roll around. It's become easier to approach her when she's exposed, but she still sets her own boundaries. We make soft noises ("pss pss" and kissy noises) when we approach her and she seems to associate those noises with getting pet now, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen.

Rolling around during scritches

The first time we allowed Pumpkin out of her room into another part of the apartment (with Fae secluded to the back), we lost her. After a while, we brought Fae in, but she turned out to be a pretty useless bloodhound. I found Pumpkin hiding inside a closed door for the entertainment center below the television. With the door open, she dashed back to her room and hid. After another week, she was getting more friendly in her room, so we let her do more exploring and made sure all hiding spots were opened up so we could always find her. She's still nervous about interacting with us out in the open, but she's improving.

Fae and Pumpkin will hopefully tolerate each other over time. We've seen progress already. At first, Fae was hissing at the closed door to Pumpkin's room all the time. We've let them interact face to face a few times and they are now mostly sharing the apartment (as of the last two days). They hiss and Fae chases, but Pumpkin is lithe and just jumps up to a high point (like the top of a five-drawer dresser) and gets away. aFae is fairly old, at eleven-years-old, so it's not that surprising that she'd be somewhat unhappy about an interloper. She lived with another cat for eight years at my parents' house, so I had hoped she was be a little calmer.
Look, they're close to each other!
I think the most frustrating part of this whole acclimation experience with Snuggle Pumpkin (Hulky named her, okay?) is that the shelter did give us some information about her background (was on a farm to be bred for $$, so not much human interaction), but they didn't use the term "feral". The vet's office did. I think that there's a big stigma with the concept of feral cats and feral cats CAN become very loving and sweet companions. For that reason, I understand why the shelter didn't use the term, but I still kind of feel like they should have.

Our biggest concern at this point is how we're going to clip this cat's claws. She doesn't let us her her or stay still when we pet her. Her claws are like needles right now and the scratching post isn't cutting it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One year later - Boston Marathon Bombing

I am trying to limit my consumption of media today, but it's hard to tear myself away. It's the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. One year ago today, a little before 3 PM, I saw some odd notes online from friends and started searching the news. The tweets came in fastest. Not 5 minutes after the bombings occurred, the story started: some kinds of explosions had occurred by the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A couple of people texted me about it, but there wasn't much information yet. Maybe 15 minutes later, a co-worker started walking around telling everyone there had been bombs in Boston! I was angry. No one knew yet if they were bombs or not. There was a very brief period of time when people thought it might have been gas line explosions, but now I think back on that a laugh a little. That's the kind of explanation that authorities use to cover up some other kind of explosion, at least in the movies. I think my anger was apparent when I told him, "We don't know yet." I'm sad that I was wrong, but glad that I said something. It would have been stupid to freak everyone in the office out. I'm not sure anyone got much work done for the last few hours of the day anyway.

On Wednesday of that week last year, I left work early. I realized that I had not spoken to anyone much about the bombings and was feeling a lot of strong emotions. My fiancé, now husband, and I went out for lunch in Harvard Square. He had avoided going to class the day before, not wanting to be on the crowded subway just yet, and I was more than okay with that. To go on the train with him was okay, at least we were together if something happened. I saw the armed forces that were in all of the subway stations, searching bags and occasionally patting people down. Seeing guns in my subway was more than a little unsettling. It's something that other parts of the world deal with everyday, something that may seem commonplace to them. To me, it felt like someone had ripped away my security blanket and torched it. I didn't want them to have to be there. I limited how much I was reading of the news that week. There was only so much tragedy I could expose myself to.

Thursday night, we met up with friends at the Cheesecake Factory in Boston for a birthday celebration. I don't think we talked about the Marathon much, but it was certainly on all of our minds. We saw police cars racing out of Boston, sirens and lights blaring, late into our dinner. Later that night, some of them discovered that the manhunt had begun. I found out in the morning, when my supervisor called to tell me that the office was closed. Waltham was within the large circle of the shutdown. I worked from home, watching my Facebook news feed for responses. Some of my friends were only blocks from where the chase had occurred. No cars were allowed out on main streets in my town, thought it only neighbored the shutdown towns. In the afternoon, I followed the posts of a friend listening to a police blotter as they narrowed in on the one surviving suspect, getting a nearly instant play-by-play of the capture. I don't think I felt relieved until some weeks after the arrest.

This morning, I flipped to a radio station that was interviewing people and focusing on memorials. I felt immobilized as I listened to the raw emotion in the voices. As the DJ mentioned their upcoming interview with a bombing survivor from the Marathon, a voice in the background at their station said that the interviewee was on the line now. It was an odd reminder that those are real people, (nearly) live-streaming their thoughts and reflections. It's still amazing to me that something that did not affect me directly has still had such a profound impact on my sense of safety. I feel unsafe in public, but I also feel resigned. There's nothing I can do about terrorists and wannabe-terrorists if they choose to take action around me. I can only try not to waste every day.

Boston Strong. I hope for a safe and joyous event on Monday.

I wrote previously of my thoughts on the bombings here and here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

London Honeymoon: Last Day

Our last day in London (March 14) was pretty uneventful. We headed to Hyde Park and walked down towards Buckingham Palace. We would have caught the tail end of the changing of the guards, but the crowd was pretty massive so we left.

We headed over to the Natural History museum in Kensington, which we'd passed on our way out of the city for the day trip. Apparently, the building was made to be a natural history museum, but it looks a bit like a retired cathedral. Each window (and there were many) had a little sculpture of some kind of animal below or above it. I was too tired to take pictures. The museum inside was nice, pretty friendly in terms of educational access, but some information was outdated (some depictions of the posture of dinosaurs, no mention of feathered dinosaurs at all). The layout was less confusing than other buildings we'd been to so far (cough cough the science museum), but you were mostly forced to follow paths instead of being able to wander freely in larger rooms. I was disappointed to note that a lot of the fossils and skeletons were reproductions and not the real deal, including the stuffed Dodo bird. It was a very kid-friendly place, I think.

This might have been the day that we went back to Harrods to buy treats, but I can't remember now. I got two macarons, which I've been wanting to try for a while. They were DELICIOUS. The cookie part is made with almond flour so it has a natural sweetness to it. The outside of the cookie is a little crispy, the inside is very soft. The filling between the "cookies" is made from ganache and I don't even need to explain how delicious ganache is. I mean, it's basically fudge. I got to eat the second one at the airport when we flew out. I need to find more now that we're home, they're so good.

Later in the day, probably after more reading & resting, we finally went on our trip on the London Eye. It's a massive ferris wheel right on the Thames and just a few minutes walk from our hotel in the County Hall area. We splurged for "fast track" tickets so we didn't have to wait in line to board. Definitely worth the extra cost.

We timed it a little early for sunset, unfortunately. The smog and low sunlight made for pretty terrible views! It was still fun. They had some cool interactive screens in each capsule so you could identify landmarks, but it was hard to make much out.

After, Hulky grabbed an ice cream from a vendor on the street. A friend had told us to try the street vendor ice cream cones w/ the chocolate sticks in them. It had a very rich creamy flavor and I wish we'd tried it sooner because we would have had one every day! Maybe it's best we didn't.

That night, we went to an Italian restaurant in the County Hall area. I had beef cheeks, which made me giggle when I ordered it, but it's actually the facial cheek muscles. It. was. so. tender. The tiramisu was great as well, no too rum-y and not too bland. Overall, we saw a lot more French places than Italian, especially when it came to pastries. Hulky was disappointed, but I guess we're spoiled by the Italian-laden North End of Boston. I enjoyed more than a few croissants on the trip, but could tell they weren't made with real butter. The flavor just isn't right without butter.

And so concludes our trip. On Saturday the 15th, we took the Underground back to Heathrow. We returned our Oyster cards at the end of the trip and got our deposits for the cards back, as well as some of the cash we'd put on them. The 7-day passes for zone 1 and 2 were definitely worth it, even if they were pretty pricey, since we used the Underground every day we were there, sometimes several times in one day. We checked my bag on the way home so we wouldn't have to lug it around and were able to get our seats moved together for both flights before boarding. We had lunch at the airport (had some delicious elder flower soda) and had uneventful flights home. Customs at home took an hour to get through and the desks were woefully understaffed, but at last, we were home, and the cat was happy to see us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 6

Thursday was our bus trip to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath.

We got picked up at our hotel by Evan Evans Tours before 8 AM. I think the earlier pick-up time helped me finally adjust to the timezone. Of course, we leave tomorrow (this entry being written Friday), so a fat lot of good that did me. After some confusion & waiting at the bus terminal in Victoria Cross station, we got on the bus and were off to Stonehenge.

The countryside was beautifully misty, exactly the kind of weather I'd expected to have in London, but most days were blessed with mid-50s to low-60s (fahrenheit) temps. Except for evenings, we were pretty comfortable with a sweater or sweatshirt, and I carried a scarf with me most days.

Stonehenge was neat and I'm glad to be able to say I've been there, but it was a waste of money. We didn't buy tickets to enter beforehand, having been lead to believe by others who have visited in previous years that you can see everything well enough from behind some roped area. They've changed the layout since others have gone, so we paid quite a bit to walk around the stones. We needn't have bothered, as no one checked for our tickets the entire time we were there. We were a bit pissed about that, but the mile walk back from the stones to the visitor center did us both some good. The ride to the stones was slow and boring in a small vehicle pulling enclosed carts.

Hulky enjoyed some trespassing.

Next up was Salisbury, but by the time we got there, I had a raging sinus headache that could probably be classified as a migraine. I kept my head covered on the bus during the approach and eyes lowered as we walked around to find a pharmacy. With a little lunch and Ibuprofen in me (interestingly, Ibuprofen is a controlled substance here and someone had to unlock a case for us to get some), I felt better and was able to look around a little before we headed back to the bus. We didn't buy tickets for the cathedral or even go near it while we were there. The city was interesting enough on its own. We both agreed it seemed like the kind of place you might like to retire to.

Shops from the bus, so I could take at least one picture there.

Passing by more beautiful countryside and a lot of sheep (and lambs! so cute), we headed to the city of Bath. With me feeling better and a bit more time to spend in that city, we wandered the streets. Hulky bought some cookies at a place called Ben's Cookies & I had a hot chocolate. The dark chocolate chunk cookie I got was not very good, Hulky makes better at home, but he says the other cookies are very good (he also thought mine wasn't good). I got a shotglass for my grandmother, who lives near Bath, Maine, and has an extensive shotglass collection from friends & family who travel or have gone to college. I thought she might like something from her city's namesake.

The ride back to London was three hours, as we got stuck in traffic. I had expected heading into London would not be as bad in the evening, as it seemed heading out was very easy in the morning, but it was pretty awful. When we got back to the hotel, we asked concierge where to get some good Indian food. We were recommended to a place close by, but it was closed for business. Just down the street was another, that was very busy, and our service was awful. I enjoyed the food though. We shuffled "home" to read & sleep after a quick stop to a small food market or convenience-type store. I got hazelnut milk, which has been delicious in my teas at the hotel (electric kettles are AMAZING, the water boils so quickly), and Hulky got banana milk which tasted remarkably like banana milk.

Some cultural observations

There are a lot more smokers here than I'm used to. I remember that from my 10-day trip to Italy in senior year of high school. There are lots of little cans on posts & containers on the edges of buildings for people to put their cigarette butts and gum, but there's still plenty of that sort of litter on the ground. Speaking of which, there are so few public trash cans in London, but we saw lots of people hired to pick up waste. It seemed very backwards to us. We usually held on to trash for a while before we were able to get rid of it, or we'd ask someone in a shop if they could dispose of things for us. Maybe that's standard?

Some pubs & restaurants, you walk in and seat yourselves. You go up to the bar to order food or drink. Others, they seat you. There's no clear indication when you walk in either way, but I look for one of those little podiums where they check available seating and if there isn't one, we go sit down. Usually, we're right, but it's still odd. We're very used to everywhere being "wait to be seated", and if it isn't, there's a clear sign near the entry indicating that we should seat ourselves.

There seems to be no consistency for whether people walk on the right or left side of the sidewalk. That was maddening.

This is a hard one to explain, but I noticed that the masculine type folks are more effeminate than those in the United States. Let's generalize and refer to those people as "men". Women seem very into fashion here, maybe it's just because we've been focusing our journeys around central London. Men are as well, with skinny jeans/pants/leggings being in style for any gendered person, and boots with any outfit (a style of which I thoroughly approve). We saw very few people dressed as casually as we would find at home, like jeans & t-shirts. Even those seemed kind of "designer". I liked a lot of the more masculine & feminine styles though, like dark tights with short skirts & boots, and skinny jeans (men's cut, which are not as ankle-strangling as women's) rolled at the cuff with suede shoes/boots.

Friday, April 04, 2014

London Honeymoon: Day 5

Written March 14, about the events of March 12, 2014.

Ahhh, this is the problem with writing my entries a couple of days later: I struggle to remember any kind of detail. Fortunately, this is why I take tons of pictures! This day was fairly uneventful, but I think we did a lot more walking than I'm remembering.

After another nice, late, sleeping-in, we headed out to buy sweatshirts! My favorite black zip-up hoodie has developed too many holes for me to feel comfortable wearing it anywhere except at home. I am probably going to throw it out before we leave London. Hulky was in need of a lighter sweatshirt anyway, and something lighter than his pea-coat to wear here. We went to a Primark, which is some British chain department store, I think. I loved a lot of the styles I saw there, but Hulky is not one for browsing/shopping. We found our sweatshirts, got a souvenir t-shirt for my brother, and left. Overall, the prices were good, maybe comparable or better than a Target back at home. I'm not a fan of the contrast zipper on my sweatshirt, but it's very soft, fits well enough, and does its job.

After a pitstop at the hotel (more reading & putting our feet up for a bit), we headed over to the Tower of London. It was a nice easy day, we didn't press ourselves to walk too much or go anywhere that we didn't want to. As it should be on a vacation/honeymoon!

So smoggy!

The crown jewels are probably the most sparkly things I will ever see in my life. It was beautiful, but I always think of how silly it is to place such value on a kind of stone.

Dragon sculpture inside the Tower

Hulky can probably attest that I thought the ravens, which are the traditional guardians of the Tower, were the coolest thing within the grounds. I didn't get a good picture, but they are so much bigger than I ever realized! The Tower fulfilled Hulky's desire to see weaponry and armor. It was a very cool collection.

After the Tower, we did some wandering to kill time before our evening at Medieval Banquet London. It was fun, the food was good, and the entertainers were entertaining, but we were really tired and vanished after dessert, before the show was over. We took our first and only cab ride in London and Hulky was very entertained by sitting in the backwards' facing seat.

Medieval Banquet

Riding in the backwards seat in the cab.