Monday, October 31, 2016

Today's Election Free Zone: Halloween Pictures!

This summer I turned 40. This means that my life has become a model of solemnity and propriety.

So yes! This year we were the White Rabbit...

...and the Mad Hatter.

The genesis of this costume was this fascinator at Doramarra's shop on Etsy, which I've owned for a while but been stymied by. It's certainly evocative of the Mad Hatter, but it looks nothing like the hat the Mad Hatter wears, so I was afraid it wouldn't work as a costume. I'm glad we decided to try it, because this ended up being a lot of fun. I added a ribbon and the sign to the fascinator. I made the shirt and the corset, and even made spats. The ruffle on the shirt and decoration on the spats is one of those fabric ribbons with wire running through each edge, for wrapping fancy presents. The wire gave me control over the shape of the ruffles, which was great.

I found the leggings and the wig online, slapped on some sparkly makeup, and that was it. Kevin wore his own suit, carried one of my umbrellas, and got his hat/ears and pocket watch online. We made him a matching bowtie, painted his hair white using face paint (works much better and is much less disgusting than colored hair spray), and painted him a nose and whiskers. Done!

Thanks to Tim Correira for the photo booth, and LuQ and Irina (Mad Hatter #2 and Edward Scissorhands) for joining us!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Slow Blanket in Progress :o)

For those of you who read my blog posts via Twitter, sorry if I've been flooding you with old posts. The feed I used to use (Twitterfeed) is shutting down soon, so I've had to start a new feed ( I'm pretty sure it re-posted a lot of stuff right away. Apologies, too, if new posts tweet twice for a few days. I want to make sure the new feed is 100% working before I cancel the old feed.

So, I knitted someone a blanket last Christmas. It was my first ever non-washcloth knitting project and it was a massive undertaking, not to mention a great success.

And after I gave the blanket to its intended recipient... I missed it. :o)

So I decided to make a blanket for myself, slowly. I'm knitting 63 individual squares, each lined in black crochet. Here's where I am so far...

Most of the squares have a simple pattern of vanishing squares.

But some of the squares are specialer.

Since I don't expect you to be able to tell, that's a hummingbird.

That's a turtle,

that's an umbrella,

and that's a Dalek.

I'm honestly not sure how much I like it. It's sort of like a book; until I finish it -- like, really finish it -- I can't quite see what it is and am mildly suspicious that it's dreadful.

Which is of course no reason not to proceed.

After that? I am dying -- DYING -- to get the world's fattest wool and knit one of these blankets, possibly using my arms as my knitting needles. I have no idea how to do this or what it costs (I can't imagine that yarn is cheap), and I don't have time to research it at the moment. But hopefully one of these is in my future.

More irrelevant randutiae when I get a chance :o).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Incredible Body-Painting

Japanese artist Chooo-San does the most incredible stuff with face- and body-paint, some of it creepy and scary, some of it just plain beautiful. Here's a representative collection of her stuff at My Modern Met.

Reminds me that I need to sort out the makeup for my (much less spectacular) Halloween costume, which I promise I'll post pictures of here, provided it all comes together :o). Here's a hint.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Paris's Independent Shopfronts and their Owners

At The Guardian, I love these gorgeous photos of the Parisian owners of indie shops standing in their own doorways. A chocolaterie, a patisserie, a pharmacie that makes me think of the TARDIS (sorry), a shop of homemade marionettes and toys, even a shop for pesticides and rodent traps (Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles). Photos taken by German photographer Sebastian Erras. Here at Snapshots: the shopfronts of independent Paris.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: 4-day-old Goat Meets 4-month-old Puppy

I actually think the puppy is doing a remarkable job restraining his excitement and yearning. Considering he's a puppy :o)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Today's Beacon of Hope and Rightness: Our First Lady

This is political and election-related, so I debated whether I was breaking my "Safe Zone" promise by posting it here. It's a speech First Lady Michelle Obama gave yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire, so of course it refers to that horrible man. But: it also brings rightness back; it's uplifting and hopeful; it made me feel seen, heard, cared about, and understood as a woman and as a decent human being during this horrific election season. And -- she never says his name, for which I am grateful.

Here's a link to video and transcript of Michelle Obama's speech yesterday in Manchester, NH.

(The speech is actually only 21 minutes long. The first ten minutes is the stuff that is SO GOOD TO HEAR, the next ten minutes is stuff about Hillary, and the last ten minutes is FLOTUS shaking hands while her Secret Service detail anxiously hovers.)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Earthset and Earthrise

From October 2007 to June 2009, a Japanese spacecraft called Kaguya orbited the moon. Kaguya had cameras, and the cameras recorded, among other things, views of the Earth rising and setting over the moon.

Here's Earth setting over (or under?) the south pole of the moon! (BTW, if you get my posts as emails and the videos don't work, just click through to my Blog Actual.)

For more photos and videos (all breath-taking), check out "New Gems from the Moon" at the blog of the Planetary Society.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Links to Beautiful Umbrellas

Let's start big: The magical unicorn umbrella promises to allow you to "Summon unicorns whilst staying dry." Disclaimer: "Unicorn sightings may vary depending on the strength of your imagination and the drugs you've consumed."

Whatever. Look at the handle. It obviously summons unicorns. Available at

Next up: This clear dome umbrella has an adorable street scene... and this one is a birdcage!

A Lulu Guinness umbrella, sadly out of stock at

Next up, Bella Umbrella is a gorgeous umbrella store in Seattle. In addition to selling beautiful umbrellas, here are the vintage umbrellas they offer for rental (beautifully arranged by color!)... and here's an example of the umbrella wall they will help you build, should happen to require an umbrella wall, which is a completely normal human need.

One of the gorgeous vintage umbrellas at Bella Umbrella...

Next, check out the umbrellas and parasols at Parasolerie Heurtault in Paris. Functional umbrellas that are also pure art...

And, also in Paris, the Alexandra Sojfer collection. Alexandra's umbrellas are handmade in her in-house workshop, and they are SO ELEGANT. I know because I have one, and in fact, I may as well end this post with some pictures of a couple of my own umbrellas... randomly chosen, because they're the two I felt like photographing today.

This is my Alexandra Sojfer umbrella.

Inside detail.

My "Images d'Épinal" umbrella; paper dolls from Épinal, France.


Come back to the blog tomorrow for comforting scenes of Earth, from the perspective of the moon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Promise to My Readers

I promise, for the next month, to keep this blog a safe and comforting place. I don't know how often I'll be able to post, but when I do, I'll post fun and comforting things. If you want a place on the internets where you won't have to read about that person or be touched by his destructive toxicity, you can come here.

I probably won't post much political stuff at all, but just to start things off, here's a pantsuit flashmob in support of Hillary. Why? In the words of its creators,

Because Love is Love
Because Black Lives Matter
Because climate change is real
Because women's rights are human rights
Because immigrants make America great
Because every vote matters
We dance for Hillary
Because she fights for us 

Tomorrow I will come back and blog about the best umbrellas on the internets.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Take first, then claim they let you"

I haven't been blogging stuff about the election, because I have no interest in subjecting myself or you to any additional acknowledgment of the waste of humanity Republicans have chosen as their representative. He would fit perfectly into one of my books as one of my vile kings. And yet there he is, a chosen one. Because this is our country. I've built a little wall around my heart, to protect myself from the infection.

The trouble is that he gets in everywhere. That's one of his disgusting superpowers.

One of my sisters just forwarded a link to this article by Susan Dominus in the New York Times: Donald Trump: King of the Old Boys’ Club, and Perhaps Its Destroyer. It quietly pulls apart some of the little threads about who this person is. It got through my wall and made me cry. You should read it.

And now I'm done with this topic on my blog.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

In Which We Do Boda Borg

It's October.... so we did Boda Borg! Without a doubt, one of my favorite monthly new things so far. Oh my gourd, it was fun.

What's Boda Borg? I'll explain best I can, but first, for those readers who know what it is and are worried that this post will contain clues or cheats, I promise it doesn't. It does contain some photos from inside the Boda Borg rooms, but I'm confident the photos are vague enough that they don't give much away that isn't already obvious.

BTW, Swedish Graceling cover -----> Because Boda Borg comes from Sweden! Follow that link for locations and other good stuff. Here in Boston, we're lucky to have the only stateside Boda Borg facility.

So, first I'm going to share the official definition of Boda Borg, then I'll describe what it's actually like. Officially: Boda Borg is a real-world gaming environment. Teams of 3-5 people move through a series of "Quests," tackling a variety of mental and physical challenges. Success in the first challenge means entry into the next challenge and so on… Failure in any challenge means starting over or selecting another Quest.

What it's actually like: You form a team of 3 to 5 friends. You enter the facility, which is a series of corridors full of doors. You choose a door, enter a room... and once you're in the room, you have to figure out how to successfully "win" in that room. There's a time limit; every room contains some sort of puzzle or challenge; and it's rarely clear what the puzzle or challenge is. So, it isn't just a matter of performing the challenge in the allotted time; it's a matter of figuring out what the challenge is to begin with. Stepping in the wrong place by accident because you haven't figured out what the challenge is yet could make you fail the room. For example, there are some rooms that have to be crossed without anyone ever touching the floor, so the moment you step into the room, you fail. You quickly learn to peek your head in and take a good look around before stepping in!

Meet my Quest team.

Kevin, Irina, me, LuQ!

If you do successfully win in a room, you pass through another door (or hatch, or hard-to-get-to opening) that leads to another room... where again, you have to figure out the challenge, then execute it, in the allotted time. At Boda Borg Boston, there are about 13 separate Quests, and each Quest contains 2 to 4 rooms. You're never inside any Quest for very long, because each room has a two-minute time limit.

Each Quest has a theme. (Learn more about the individual Quests here.) I took these pictures out in the corridor, as we waited our turn to enter...

Spook House is one of the Quests...

as is Platoon (one of my favorites!)...

and Alcatraz.

The Quest doors in the corridor are green, red, or black. The green doors lead to mostly mental challenges; the red doors to a mix of mental and physical; and the black doors, to the most physical challenges. Here are some pictures from inside the Quests, though I'm not going to identify which Quests they are, for those of you concerned about clues.

So pastoral.

Waiting for a low door to open so we can enter the next room in this Quest.



You need at least three people, in different positions at different times, to win most of the rooms. And there were a number of rooms I couldn't even have gotten through without the helping hands of Irina, LuQ, and Kevin. Over the course of about five hours, we tried almost all the Quests and successfully completed a few. But more often than not, we were met with the glowing red eye of failure…

Superbanan was my favorite Quest. We only managed to complete the first room, but it was SO satisfying!

What made it so fun? For starters, the joy of crawling, sliding, and climbing; the warm fuzzies of teamwork with friends; the satisfaction of successfully achieving things I was initially certain I couldn't achieve; the delight of how smart my friends are; that feeling of, "We can figure out how to do this."

My adorable team.

I recommend the all-day pass (so you can stay for as long as you want), and most especially, kneepads.

That was our new thing for October! And stay tuned, because November is going to be awesome.