Mar 072014

It seemed so perfect.

When I found the idea on facebook, reblogged from Pinterest, I was excited. A simple little craft I could do, with cheap ingredients, something simple but fun I could knock out in an afternoon and have another post for this month. It was foolproof: some glue and paint and I’d have myself some fake sea-glass bottles.

But then, of course, I’m used to winging it, scrounging for replacement supplies to do something on the cheap instead of following instructions. In this case, I hit the dollar store and replaced just about everything: cheap plastic travel bottles instead of glass, off-brand glue, and tiny pots of paint (having mis-remembered the instructions saying paint rather than food coloring).

Tools of the Trade

On a side note, aren’t those little notebooks cute? I grabbed them just for kicks.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of wide, spongey brush. All I had to work with was that tiny paintbrush.

Just a Dab'll do Ya

I had to use a cut-down plastic cup to mix in, that’s how underprepared I was

I tried mixing the paint and glue in varying consistencies, but nothing seemed to work. The tiny paintbrush left streaks, and the mixture just wasn’t going on right: too gloppy or too runny, never just right.

Layered Green

Dab by DabEcto-PlasmThat’s when I re-read the instructions and realized my mistake. Oh well, I had plenty of glue. I grabbed the only food coloring we had in the house — red — and got to work again on bottle number two:

Thinned Red Vamp Blood

As you can see, it’s not much better, though it’s a lot closer. The finished, failed product:

Day AfterWill I try again? Maybe. The sponge brush might make a difference on plastic, but then again, the plastic could have been part of the problem, as it didn’t seem to be adhering well. It was just a whim anyway, not an important piece of the project. Today’s lesson, as many of my lessons this year seem to be, is that it’s okay to fail at something.  Things will turn out alright 🙂

Con build status: I knew trying to do two ambitious builds for April’s Symposium was iffy when I planned it back in June, and now that it’s March I feel semi-confident that I can have one of the two done if I abandon the other until summer. But this one build is going to be so dope ya’ll. So dope.

Jan 262014

Guess who has two thumbs and just got a new job? This gal!

Fortunately, this job comes with a sweet-ass new laptop. Huzzah! Unfortunately, it’s friggan impossible to find a cute bag for a 17″ non-Mac laptop. (Why does Mac vs PC matter? Because the 17″ MacBook Air is super thin, and this beast is not. It’s a good inch and a half thick at least.)

What’s a stylish girl to do? Make her own messenger bag. I’ve marked this tutorial as “non-steampunk”, because the bag I made is cute and purple and totally not steamy, but I’m sure an intrepid adventurer could steampunk up this style of bag in no time. Maybe a canvas bag, with faux rivets and shiny brass buttons?

First things first: I measured the machine. The screen size is measured diagonally from corner to corner, so I needed both length and width measurements. This machine is 16.5″ long by 11″ wide, and, as mentioned before, about 1.5″ thick.

For inspiration, I took the tutorial found at Crazy Little Projects. With some space for padding and a nice deep pocket I could put notebooks and pens in, I decided to make the front flap 13″ x 20″, with the back flap 24″ x 20″ (to allow for the foldover part) and the side piece 46″ x 4″. I elected not to make a strap, instead stealing one from another bag that I already had.

I bought the following materials:

  • 2 yards outer fabric – in my case, a fashionable flower-print denim
  • 2 yards inner fabric – I chose a crushed velvet in deep purple
  • 2 yards fusible fleece interfacing
  • 2 D-rings
  • one snap or button or other fastener

2 yards turned out to be excessive; the tutorial said 1 yard, but I like to have extra for when I inevitably mess up. I could have gone with 1.5 yards easily though. I chose my outer fabric to be rugged and protective, while the inner I chose to be soft and cushioning. For a fastener, I considered a magnetic purse closure, but instead decided on a snap closure, mostly because the magnetic one I was looking at seemed awfully powerful and I didn’t want to risk erasing my hard drive. I considered a belt-style fastener too, I think that might be cute later. A button could also work if you feel comfortable stitching buttonholes.

Measuring the fabric turned out to be difficult, even for my engineer husband. I would recommend buying some poster board and making a template, as sturdy paper or cardboard won’t wiggle out from under your pencil and make your measurements wrong. If you regularly freehand patterns, though, by all means go right ahead and trace directly onto the fabric.

I fused the interfacing to the denim, because the velvet is sensitive to heat, then stitched together the two fabrics. Then, I lined up the side panel on the front flap, pinned, and stitched. Remember to leave some space sticking up on either side! I forgot, and had to make do with adding pieces to secure the D-rings instead of folding over the excess.

Stitch the back panel. If you’re like me and have no excess to secure the D-rings, take the stronger fabric (in my case, the denim) and cut out strips an inch wider than your side panel and several inches long. Press half an inch under on each side to make a nice edge, and you should probably do the same to each end too but I didn’t bother. Secure this TIGHTLY, with many stitches, to your side panels, with the D-ring looped securely in place. My first attempt ripped off as soon as I hefted the bag onto my shoulder; I suggest making a box shape with an X in the center to ensure that your threads are going different directions and thus wear easily.

Of course, if you planned ahead, you can just fold over the excess around your D-rings and stitch that in place. Again, err on the side of excess!

I hand-stitched my fastener in place so it wouldn’t show from the outside. It looks pretty awful because despite doing a ton of it in school, I never got good at hand-stitching. Feel free to add iron-on appliques or anything to help jazz up the bag; feel free to make a strap and stitch it to the D-rings, or scavenge one from another bag as I did. Voila!



Isn’t that denim pretty? You can just see a bit of the velvet


The outer flap


Closeup so you can see how I stitched on the D-ring


me with bag

It matches my coat 🙂



Dec 082013

So, I haven’t done stage makeup in years, not since I graduated with my BA in Drama. But, since I got out the kit for the Halloween special, I figured I might as well demonstrate another trick: making a nose seem broken.


You Will Need:

  • Nose & Scar Wax
  • Spirit Gum
  • “Bruise” makeup

Step one is to coat the nose liberally in spirit gum to help the wax adhere:

pic 1

Next, roll a ball of wax and adhere to the nose:

pic 2


You’ll want a makeup palette like this one from Ben Nye:pic 3

Yellow and purple make for bruise colors, and the red looks more “wound-like”. See:

pic 4 pic 5


Voila! Looks like he took a pretty good hit, huh?

Sorry this was short, I’m busy working on my next surprise 😉

Aug 232013

Welcome to a new feature! I hinted about this obliquely before the haitus, but basically, Radiant Vanguard Events are going to be totally irregular features in which we, the members of Radiant Vanguard, try something new or interesting and then blog about it. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Mostly I wanted to give Kae something to write about between convention trips; we do interesting things all the time, but rarely write about them afterward. So! Without further ado, I introduce the first Event: Elegant Evening Elixers!

As you can probably tell, this has something to do with alcohol! In fact, the event involves authentic cocktails from the 1860s: specifically, producing and imbibing them, with commentary. It should be a lot of fun! Of course, myself being who I am, I’m going to write about the preparations one can consider when attempting to put on such an event.

The drinks

Obviously, the star of the show is going to be the drinks. We found a digital copy of
How to Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-vivant’s Companion, Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States, Together with the Most Popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish Recipes, Embracing Punches, Juleps, Cobblers, Etc., Etc., Etc., in Endless Variety by Jerry Thomas, publish date 1862, free and in the public domain online. There are apparently several editions of the book; it was originally titled The Bar-Tender’s Guide, as it was the first book of its kind, collecting and cataloging what had previously been an oral history of drink making. You can read more about Jerry Thomas on wikipedia.

With a source in hand, the next question is how to narrow the options down. It can be cost-effective to pick a single “base liquor” and pick cocktails based around that theme; we have chosen Brandy, as it is the alcohol most paired with Rum in the book, and we like rum. Rum, of course, was expensive at the time, since it had to be imported, so it was used for additional flavor rather than as the base to a given drink. Wine or cider were also used commonly as bases to drinks, since they were cheaply available as common drinks.

Do be careful, however, as the book itself is a product of its time period. I found the seeming unit of measurement “do.” repeated throughout the book and, after asking on Cooking Stack Exchange and discussing the book in chat, determined that it meant “ditto”, or in other words, repeat the measurement from the line above. Typographical errors are also common in the book, such as “Bogart’s bitters” for “Bokers bitters”, which are hard to spot when neither word is commonplace in today’s bar. Also be wary of ingredient changes; for example, “cider” before Prohibition always was a fermented product, as it is in the present-day UK, and not a juice like it often is in the US.

The music

While I quite like the cantina song from Star Wars, it’s a bit anachronistic. After a heated debate on whether “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor” counted as a drinking song, Chaos and I sat down and researched some proper Irish drinking songs to belt out at the table. Then promptly forgot how they went. But we did research!

Whiskey in the Jar is a classic drinking song from time immemorial, meaning probably the 17th century. It details a highwayman being double-crossed by his lover, and includes the singable refrain “Wack for my daddy-o, there’s whiskey in the jar”. It was recorded probably most famously by the Greatful Dead, who gave a happy ending to the highwayman:

But also by The Dubliners, who leave his fate more up in the air:

And by Metallica, who give him a poor ending:

None of the endings are any more canonical than others, as far as I can tell, so it’s up to you which lyrics you want to belt out drunkenly 🙂

The Juice of the Barley is another great song with one major drawback for American would-be revellers: the first line of the chorus is in Irish, which is practically unpronounceable unless you are a speaker of the tongue >.> Still, I quite like the twist ending. Here’s Sean Dunphy:

The Irish line translates to, roughly, “Cow’s milk for the calves”.

I must admit, however, that my favorite is The Wild Rover. Interestingly enough, it began life as a Temperance song, urging people to give up wild drinking and turn to the straight life, but today it’s apparently often considered the stereotypical irish drinking song. Go figure, eh? It’s as sing-alongable as The Juice of the Barley, but without the Irish, so easier for me to slur out:


There’s a lot more I could talk about here; for example, I’ve not touched on pub games any, but I think “Victorian Gaming Night” will be another event down the line, so I’m saving it for then. I’ve also not talked about food any; Kae has some ideas in that regard, but if it falls through, I don’t want to have promised anything.

Kae will be putting up photos and a podcast once he’s done editing them; we’ll be doing the actual event tomorrow, so certainly no earlier than Sunday and probably a few days later since podcast editing is hard work. Chaos says he might whip up some kind of post, so stay tuned for that. But basically, Events come with no promises of regularity, promptness, quality, or content 🙂 No refunds or exchanges allowed.