Category Projects

Freaky Friday

It’s the mooooost wonderfulll tiiiime of the yeeeear

When the store shelves are loaded

with skulls and fake blood and so much pumpkin beeeeeer

It’s the mooooost wonderfulll tiiiime of the yeeeear

It’s convenient that my two favorite yearly celebrations are nearly exactly six months apart–my birthday and Halloween, which gives me time to get super pumped, make big plans, do something over the top to celebrate, and then recover before getting super pumped again. And, you know, maybe do some other stuff in between if there’s time. I will acknowledge that my birthday celebration is a wholly selfish endeavor (me, me, look at meeeeee), but Halloween? Halloween is about sharing my love of the spooky with everyone who will allow it, whether that’s organizing a trip to a corn maze, giving out king size candy bars to trick or treaters, or decorating my yard so much that my house is starting to get a reputation. Seriously, this summer when I was out gardening, a woman walked by with her children. As they passed me, one of the kids said something that I didn’t understand–the mom explained that he was asking where the spiders were, that every time she walks past our house he asks where the spiders are, and she tells him that I only put them out at Halloween.  I’m pretty stoked to be known as the spider house, not gonna lie. Plus, I’m playing the long game: these kids are going to grow up remembering that my house is the awesome Halloween house, and when they’re teenagers, they’ll probably pick a different house’s fence to pee on or lawn to start on fire with axe body spray.

I will admit I’ve been stalking retail establishments for Halloween goods since early August, because building a truly spooky home takes passion, commitment, and a willingness to elbow your fellow shopper in the face over the only skull cake stand on the shelves. It also helps build anticipation for the holiday in me, gets me plotting on larger projects to build, and maybe even gets my wheels spinning on a costume. I think my two favorite places for Halloween stuff are Home Goods and Target–both places have stuff that could potentially make it into the year round collection. Home Goods is especially great because they get new, different stuff every week, and it starts rolling out as early as mid-August. Target’s stuff can be good, but their stocking is also a little frustrationg: even though everything shows up on their website in August with a bunch of cool things that are store only (which gets me even more pumped), they’re easily the last place to get their Halloween stuff out in store (gotta squeeze every last nickel out of back to school), and so after a month of anticipation, I find that the things I was most interested in buying aren’t stocked anywhere within 100 miles of me. DAMN YOUUUU!

acquisitionsI didn’t elbow anyone over this skull cake stand, but it WAS the only one on the shelf, and almost immediately after it was in my basket, someone else came to ogle it and asked where I got it. MINE.

Anyway, after two solid months of getting pumped up, once October finally rolls around, my spirit and enthusiasm for projects I’ve been working on can start to wane a bit, which is both understandable (it’s hard to maintain a manic level of pumpedness for a full quarter of a year) and a little ridiculous (given that it’s finally close to the thing that I was so damn pumped about for two months straight already). So each Friday this month, I’m going post about the stuff that I’ve worked on, stuff I’ve done in the Halloween spirit, and any macabre media I’ve been taking in to remember the season and keep it spooky.

When doing my yard decorations, I always try to straddle the line between creepy and fun–I don’t want to make anyone pee their pants or give anyone nightmares with over the top gore. It’s totally fine by me if that’s what other people want to do, but it’s not my style. And now that I have the capability to build more sizeable decorations, I don’t want to necessarily leap from theme to theme and end up with an entire storage unit’s worth of Halloween decorations, only some of which are reused*. And I also didn’t want to have to theme my costume to my yard every year, which would be super limiting. AND I didn’t want to have to do an insane push to build a whole new yard display every year, so instead, I’m doing a vaguely Tim Burton yard, which I’ll add to each year as the mood strikes me to build something. It fits that spooky but not gruesome mold I’m going for, and there’s a large library of references to draw from. This year, I’m focusing on The Nightmare Before Christmas**. So far, I’ve built:

zeroZero’s tombstone

nbc-signsSally’s herb signs

candy-wheelOogie Boogie’s Wheel of Candy

The candy wheel was obviously a lot more involved than the other two. The wheel is hand painted, I sculpted, molded, cast, and painted every single tiny Jack Skellington face on the pegs, I carved and finished the foam dice and black and white newt monster thing, and I made Oogie out of burlap and wire, burning myself pretty well with a glue gun while I was at it. Trick or Treaters are going to spin this baby to determine their candy haul–I still need to attach labels for various candy, but that needs to wait until I’ve actually bought the bulk of the candy, which I’ll do at some point next week. I did take a trip to Vancouver to buy some spooky-themed Canadian candy for the question mark slot, because what’s more exciting and mysterious than a whole new kind of candy you’ve never seen before? I also want to make sure those Skellington faces are firmly attached so they don’t go flying off with vigorous spins.

I’m also working on some other yard stuff but none of it looks like anything yet, so it’ll be posted if and when I finish it on a future Friday.

I also made, assembled, and delivered invitations for my Halloween game night party this week (all but a couple, which I need to get in the mail ASAP because the doorsteps in question are controlled access so I can’t drop them off like I did the others). I bought the coffins premade, which I then disassembled, woodburned, stained, painted, and reassembled. I then made an oogie boogie die from apoxie sculpt and learned to make a two part silicone mold so I could cast it in resin, which was definitely a learning process for me. I ended up having to make two masters and two silicone molds because I hated the way the first one turned out–the first master was, in retrospect, just OK, and the mold wasn’t super well done which made an OK sculpt cast even more poorly. Once the dice were cast, they needed to be sanded and airbrushed. The invites themselves are on the face of the skull cards, and I threw in a gold coin because I felt like it needed something else. I was going to customize poker chips but honestly, these were enough work already and it was more important that I get them out in a timely fashion so as not to arrive after people have already accepted other Halloween night invitations.



I bought some fabric with skulls and pumpkins that screamed neither skull nor pumpkin(spooky, but somewhat subtlely so) which I used to make pillows for the living room. I had some scrap left over, so I made pillows for Napoleon’s bed, which he infrequently uses but I pretend he appreciates anyway.


I also decorated the house, and I’m proud of myself for waiting this long to do it. It’s been fun turning on all the spooky lights every evening to watch movies/TV. So far, not much spooky media has been happening in this room (I blame Luke Cage) but as I wrapped that up earlier this week, the full supernatural barrage of my regular programming can begin.

fireplaceYes, Gibralter is dressed up as a mummy. T-Rex costume forthcoming.



lord-farnswoggle    Lord Farnswoggle, Earl of Cumberbunch, and his faithful companion, Nipper. I’m thinking that he still needs a moustache and a monocle.

This coming week, I’m planning on continuing work on both yard stuff and my costume. My costume is almost completed, but I’m definitely at a place of fatigue with it at the moment. Why is it that every idea I’ve had for costuming lately involves making hundreds of something? I’m hoping to get the yard decorated this weekend. This week I’m also planning on making time to get caught up on the Monstress comics, maybe continue watching Penny Dreadful (I want to like it, but it really has yet to grab me which means it probably never will), and the rest is TBD. Just typing all this out has helped raise my spirits!


*I am fine with filling a shed in the yard with decorations though, and it’ll probably come to that so as not to make it impossible to get at non-Halloween stuff like bikes and the recycling bin and the water shut-off.

**Since it’s Nightmare Before CHRISTMAS and all, does that mean I can leave it out until January?



A Game of Crones: Mellzah’s 34th Nameday

Last year, I set thirty-three goals for my thirty-third year (you may recall, as I’ve talked about and backlinked to it nigh-endlessly). Unfortunately, I wasn’t 100% successful–I managed a good 2/3rds of the list, but a combination of over-ambitious scheduling, somewhat under-achieving, and a few other factors (weather and the like) prevented me from getting all the way there. At first, I was a little mad at myself–“I couldn’t manage to do thirty-three things in a year? Seriously?” especially given that I’m lucky enough to have much more free time than most: no kids, no job, etc. But on the other hand, it was partially my desire to have a well-rounded list, not just things to see but things to achieve, that was my own undoing. It’s one thing to make a list that says do/make/learn on it with an arbitrary timeline, and another to cast hundreds of resin brigandine armor pieces while learning a language and trying to do art for several different projects and…it was all just too much.

But even when I didn’t achieve my goal, I often made good strides toward it–I didn’t reach my goal weight, but I lost 70 pounds, while changing the fact that I had been slowly disappearing from my own blog for the last few years as my weight ballooned. I didn’t finish my sketchbook but I rediscovered my love of drawing. I didn’t run a 5k, but I learned just how much I actually hate running. And the successes I had changed my life for the better– my new recipes tried per week averaged way higher than one, which meant I tried so many new things, learned new techniques, and didn’t suffer the crushing boredom that usually comes with extended dieting. The peach tree I planted last year has little baby peaches on it now–a few years from now, it should produce enough to bake with as well as eat fresh. Either way, I’ve decided to not up the stakes with 34 things this year: I don’t want to spend the next year rushing from thing to thing just to check it off my list or feel guilty for not having done so. Instead, I’m just going to jot down some things privately and when I’m dinking around on World of Warcraft, maybe it’ll give me a reminder about the longer term goals that I have and how I could better be spending my time.

Speaking of spending my time, around January this year, I decided that I wanted to have a big, fabulous birthday party this year, akin to some of the parties I’ve thrown of old. A magical, wonderful, fantastical, frabjabular party. And since my birthday weekend neatly coincided with the season premiere of Game of Thrones, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to have a grand Westerosi name day celebration. Planning started in earnest almost immediately: this wasn’t the sort of thing I could half-ass and achieve the effect I was going for, which meant that just about everything had to be made from scratch or altered in some way to live up to my standards.


First up were the invitations. I used this template from Inn at the Crossroads and printed it out on some natural colored cardstock, and “gilded” all of the yellow elements on the card with gold tempera powder. Each invitation had a black feather stuffed inside and was finished off with a wax seal with a “hand of the king” impression…and no return address. Mysterious!




I asked guests to send a raven to RSVP, and many of the “ravens” I received in return were very clever, with my two favorites being the Poe poem “The Raven” altered to fit the theme, and the other being a raven finger puppet with a message of regret in Dothraki.

To set the scene, I wanted some large, eye-catching props, so to create the feel of a tourney ground in my backyard, I cut a number of vinyl shower curtains in half and painted house sigils on them. This was a lot more cost and time effective than rendering them in cloth, which is what I did for my Midnight Carnival (eight freaking years ago!). Instead of shelling out $100 for the officially licensed dragon eggs, I made my own from styrofoam ostrich eggs and about a jillion thumb tacks. Instead of shelling out $150 for the officially licensed map markers, I made my own crude ones with some air-cure clay.  Instead of shelling out $30,000 (plus shipping) for the officially licensed iron throne replica, I cobbled one together using an adirondack chair, yardsticks, fun foam, a glue gun, and some spray paint. I also bought and polished a number of silver servingware pieces from thrift shops (many for just a couple of bucks while the brand new ones in department stores are going for several hundred!) so that my feast could be appropriately schmancy. The idea was to save where I could so I could splurge elsewhere.

got house sigil banners

finished dragon eggs

iron throne


I also made my dress (which was supposed to be heavily embroidered but I ran out of time/ambition beforehand), covered an archery target with burlap and Joffrey’s stupid face, fixed up a foam bow and arrow toy set so it looked a little less plastic-y (there was no way I was going to let a bunch of drunk adults shoot real arrows in my backyard, a decision that was justified the first time an arrow launched over the fence and pegged a car), aged some “lost Nymeria” posters, and in proper Song of Ice and Fire fashion, made (and bought)  a fuckton of food:

  • Beef brisket
  • Chopped pork
  • Roasted chickens
  • Jalapeno artichoke dip served in hollowed out artichokes (they looked vaguely dragon egg-y to me)
  • Candied lemon almonds
  • Candied peppered pecans
  • Carrots with butter, honey, and lemon
  • Spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries, and edible flowers
  • Spiced crunchy chickpeas
  • Brie with lavender honey and bourbon pecans
  • Fresh baked bread & salt
  • Lemon cakes topped with candied lemon slices
  • Apple pie
  • Strawberry pie
  • Salted honey rose pie
  • Spiced Dornish strongwine
  • Sekahnjebin

Plus, I had a case of red wine, and a keg of beer from Black Raven Brewing Co, so hopefully no one went hungry or thirsty or sober on my watch. These were all served on plates that looked like silver shields, and drinks were from goblets and silver coffee mugs that looked a bit like flagons, because every last damn detail has to be just so in my world, which might have something to do with me only being able to throw a party of this magnitude every few years or so lest I spend all of my nights waking up in a panic about plates and the weather forecast. I managed to take zero photos of the spread, because pretty much by the time it all comes together, everyone’s at the party and ready to eat. Besides, as I am not a food blogger, I manage to make even the most delicious food look unappetizing in a photograph. I just don’t have those skills.

I got so, so lucky with the weather for this party. We’d been having an unseasonably warm spring, and had three beautiful sunny and warm weekends in a row…so what was the forecast for my outdoor party? Rain. Cold. And every time I looked at the forecast, it got worse. Harder rain. Thunderstorms. Pretty much every screech of despair that happened in the house that week was because I had pulled up the weather forecast, save for a couple when I was trying to sew my dress and fucked it up pretty badly. There were a lot of screeches of despair that week. Luckily, the day of the party was dry and cool, with the rain holding off until past sunset at which point I didn’t care anymore. It would have been really hard to convince everyone to go outside if it was pouring, and while I could have probably fit that many people in my house in a worst-case scenario, I think everyone is much more comfortable if they have the option for fresh air.


have you seen this wolf

So, I mentioned splurging up above. Splurging on what, you ask? On the elements of the party that I was dying to tell people about beforehand. Somehow I managed to keep my trap shut, and in the process, I probably took a couple of years off of my life holding it all in. If I have a secret, I will want to tell it. I will be dying to tell it. You should never, ever tell me a secret. First, I hired the amazing Ashley from Camlann to make fresh flower crowns for anyone who wanted them. Second, I was lucky enough to be able to hire the Seattle Knights to battle in my backyard. About twenty minutes before the knights were due to perform, I hustled everyone out into the backyard for an archery contest, with the prizes being some golden dragon eggs stuffed with small GoT swag–a hand of the king pin, a mockingbird pin, and a coin of the faceless men of Braavos. When the knights strode in, clad in plate and mail, jaws dropped. They did battle for an hour, sang me a birthday dirge, mingled with guests, took photos with anyone who wanted them, and were generally the most freaking awesome people in the world. IN THE WORLD. I may never have another party better than this one.




flower crown table


house banners

joff target

joffrey target


a and c

me and chantal



georgia 1


flower crown




j crown


knights battling


knight battle








d and j         georgia        jason 


dany takes the throne

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good: Pinata Bash 2015


I heard about the Pinata Bash about six months before the actual event date, which was plenty of time to make a killer pinata. Naturally, given six months to make it, I really only got started in earnest the week of the event, because time pressure makes me excel, or at the very least, gives me a primo excuse for not making something to the best of my abilities (“What did you expect, I put it together in ten minutes?“). I ultimately ended up making a dragon pinata primarily out of cardboard with a thin skin of paper mache, because I remembered all too well how quickly the last pinata I made was sliced in half.

The rules were as follows:

-Your pinata must contain a prize pocket

-The contents of the prize pocket can be anything so long as it’s not liquor, liquid, or potentially hazardous (but it was indicated that it would be ideal if you put in things that people would actually want)

-The pinata can’t be bigger than 5’x5′ or too heavy to lift with a rope and pulley


That was pretty much it! My dragon rolled in at just under five feet long, with jaws that snapped up and down when he moved, and was stuffed with seven pounds of atomic fireballs and chocolate coins. I was happy with my construction and my chances at snagging a prize until I got to Re-bar and realized that some people had worked way, way harder on theirs than I did and deserved the prizes way, way more than I did.

clash of the titansClash of the Titans

death starDeath Star

emoji twinsDancing Emoji Twins

ghostbuster pinataGhostbusters

kandi kidzKandi Kidz RaverBallz

romy michelle escape helicopterRomy and Michelle’s Escape Helicopter

smash the patriarchySmash the Patriarchy


The first portion of the evening was the judging portion–the judges checked out all of the pinatas, made some initial notes, and then each builder was invited onstage to answer questions about their pinata. Seattle’s Mayor of Burlesque, Jo Jo Stiletto, wanted to know my dragon’s name, backstory, and magical powers, and I was suddenly thankful for all of the bullshit I make up on a regular basis, because while I walked into the club with a generic nameless dragon, I was able to come up with something on the spot. “He’s an…uh… Icelandic dragon who goes from house to house at night, breathing in his minty fresh breath through the windows. Whenever people wake up in the morning and say “Ooooh, it’s crisp!”, that’s him. His name is, uh, Skarsgård.”

After everyone talked about their creations, the judges conferred and selected the winners.

First place: Clash of the Titans. Obviously! This thing had light up eyes and the creators spent a full six months perfecting it.

Second place: Smash the Patriarchy. This one surprised me–sure, the name and concept were funny, but I would have pegged the death star or the ghostbusters ghost for this slot.

Third place: Ghostbusters. It even came with a proton pack smashing stick!

Last place: Sadzilla, where the only prize was a hug from the judges. They were openly cruel to this girl, not just about her pinata, but about her–one said she seemed retarded, and I was appalled. It doesn’t seem like this is how you should treat someone who spent time, effort, and money creating something so you could have an event to destroy it AND paid more to enter a pinata than they would have if they’d paid cover as a smasher. That was the big bummer of the evening to me.

The other bummer was how damn stingy builders were with their prizes, which is what I found out when we got to smashing. The entire point of smashing open a pinata is to get at the goodies inside, so yes, it is a total dick move to stuff your pinata full of glitter, opened fortune cookies, and old dirty socks. Or three starburst.

glitter floor

one sad smiley face

skarsgaard strung up

emoji twins swingSkarsgård went down in one hit (the pinata curse continues), and the crowd fell on him and pocketed his guts within seconds. Someone carried around the head like a trophy, eyeless, because someone else had ripped them out as their trophy. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m even more convinced that I would not do well in a mob-type situation. Someone get these people some candy, stat! And take away their sticks!