Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hauntingly Awesome Tutorials/ Costumes

(I know, puns. Sorry.)

Our family is finally all together again in one place, and settled in. And Halloween is a few mere days away! I still have pumpkins to carve, but I figured since costumes are wrapping up, I'd stop in and show y'all how it's going.

I'll post about Mario and Peach costumes after our party Saturday - don't want t spoil the awesomeness for anyone, but I'm pleased with how they're coming along. Let's use the Bowser and Luigi costumes as a teaser for the event, eh?

First up, Bowser Bubba. I've already talked a little bit about how this was coming along, but now that its finished I'm seriously tickled with how adorable it turned out.

When I was in college (oh God I miss college), a very wise prof of mine said that the hardest part of being a good artist is to know when to STOP and call a piece finished. The Bowser costume is a pretty good example actually. For reference, in case you've lived under a rock for the last 20 years... or you're my parents (hey there!), this is what we're aiming for:
Bowser, King Bad-Guy, King of the Castle, and All-around King of being Jealous that Peach's attention is being spent entirely on a duo of plumbers. Minus the plumber bit, this is a good casting call for Bub.

So my original plan was a yellow onesie with green "spiny" shell, yellow paint tummy, and small wig of orange "fur" with horns that elastic'd under his neck*.
The little orange wig took forever, but is super cute.

Then the yellow tummy was painted on.
And after some finishing touches to really nail the details. Time for Bubba to try it on and make sure it looks okay!

Alright folks, let's take a moment here. I adore dressing up my critters - there is absolutely no harm in having a laugh at the expense of your pets' dignity. Because at the end of the day, they're either A. going to love all the extra attention they get (Mac), or B. forget the infraction as soon as you give them some loving snuggles and some kibble (Bub). However. There is a line - they need to be semi comfortable with whatever you're stuffing them into. And this face:
Suggests some modification needs to happen. I, as an "artist" went too far before calling a work finished (I know painting a onesie doesn't really count as art, using the term lightly here).
Bubba already has orange hair - lose the wig and keep from obscuring his vision. Made all the difference in the world, and honestly? It's way more adorable now. So here's the finished Bowser costume:

Sans a Bubba in it, because by the time I detached the wig he was too busy basking in the sun for me to disturb him again. You'll just have to wait to see the whole thing together. The sunbeam gods dictate as such.

So that brings us to mascota numero dos (pet number two, keep up with me):

Mac as Luigi, the plumber who is ever-loving, slightly-bumbling, and never-wavering in his loyalty to his brother Mario. *I can just hear everyone reading this going "aww, that's totally Mac." What, you didn't just go "aww"? Go ahead and do it. I'll wait.*

Cue tutorial: Click here to teach yourself the easiest way to make authentic looking Mario and Luigi hats. When I first read that, I really thought it was too easy to be true...

Yet, it is really that simple. That last picture is me briefly debating to scrap the 2 days of sewing a princess dress that I'd put in and just be Luigi instead so I could wear the hat. If you, your friends, significant other, spouse, children have ever played a Mario game, you need to take the five minutes to make yourself a pair of these, it looks just like its supposed to - and that's really saying something for the way cartoon costumes are drawn.

After I tried it on myself and geeked out a bit, I sewed a little strap of elastic to fit under Mac's chin and tried it on him. Mac's always been a fan of hearing "Oh, how HANDSOME you look!" so he was more than happy to put up with prancing around in it a few moments. And then I figured, as much effort as I put into Bubba's costume, this one hat doesn't really seem an appropriate comparison. But dogs don't wear overalls (he would TOTALLY pee in them), so instead he got a dandy little blue kerchief with bright yellow buttons. I love it so much I'm squealing to myself as I type this, and Mac is looking at me like I've swallowed a squeaky toy.

After that we've got the Princess of the castle, and the man, the myth, the legend: Mario.

(not to scale. thanks, internet.)

That'll be for next week's post. Spoiler alert: I hate poofy sleeves and no, I did not bleach my hair blonde.

In the meantime: Do you have a collection of grocery store plastic baggies? Do they take up an entire drawer, or some other space in your house you want to reclaim? CHANGE YOUR LIFE, MY FRIENDS. Click HERE.
I didn't make mine as pretty as the original blogger did, mostly because I didn't have an empty clorox bottle. But I did have an empty bottle of water, and if you cut the top half off for loading, the "spout" of the bottle works the same way. Tilt your head, 'cause I was so excited to share this revelation that I didn't take the time to rotate photo. DANG. That's hella awesome.

*Folks, if you are dressing your critters up for Halloween, make sure you're supervising them the entire time they're in costume. There are too many horrific ways for them to hurt themselves in any costume if left in it unattended. Don't be stupid/ sorry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Six Step Program

Step 1. (not pictured) Give your mom a bruise on the bottom of her chin from slamming into her so hard.
She is just as elated.

Step 2. Explore every inch of the house, nose going 100 mph

Step 3. Pee on concrete, completely ignoring the astroturf your mom bought expressly so you wouldn't feel weird peeing on concrete

Step 4. Reunite with Gato brother from another mother

Step 5. Snuggle in on the couch like we hadn't missed a minute.

Step 6. Fall asleep and snore like a bear.
No one will judge, flying is a big deal for a pup, you must be exhausted.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bowser Bubba.

I bet you thought I was gonna make a big old post giving you a detailed photo tour of the new house now that it's all set up. Well, I thought about that. I did. And I think it's fair to say that there are about a thousand other things more interesting about my time in Mexico than where and in what order I put our books (though I set up an adorable reading corner in the living room with the papasan chair. I'm kinda pumped about it.) If you really want a tour, maybe Mac can give us one next week (he's being loaded on a plane bound for Houston as I type this. Fingers crossed for our traveling pup!). Meanwhile, I thought it would be appropriate to take some time to talk about Bubba while he's still got 48-ish hours of being the only child of the house.

I asked if maybe he'd like to give the photo tour instead of Mac. He was... less than thrilled with the idea.

Bubba in Mexico has gone through a name change. He's still Bubba on paper. But in person, he is Boo-bah. Because in Spanish, when you read the word Bubba, that's how you'd pronounce it. After the first three or four times someone called him Boobah, Fiance and I stopped correcting it, and have decided that's just who he's going to be from now on. Because inside we're five years old (collectively), so the allusion to Boobs makes us giggle.

Now he's famous enough at Fiance's work, his co-workers are sending him gifts. Bub approved of this coin in his likeness.

As an only "child," Bub's been the center of not only our attention but also the hotel staff. He's more than basked in his new found status as idol; snuggling with 110% of his snuggle ability.

That was a good spot right there.

...But without brother Mac... he doesn't exactly have an outlet for his more violent playing tendencies...
there's the wind up... aaaaaand my toe is under that blanket. yes, that very same blanket he's sinking his tiny hypodermic teeth/ claws into.

In short, I think he's doing okay here. A few days ago, when Bub and I made the move to the house for good, he seemed okay with the idea. He's been through a move enough times now, heck, he's moved 5 times if you include hotel room stays in the last 5 months. So when the box came out, he checked it out, and after a brief hiatus under the couch, resigned himself to his fate.*
*his fate on this day included an hour's car ride which was capped by an altitude difference enough to make him puke in the car (the mountains are no joke here). I know it's horrible, but since we couldn't pull over for him once he started that HORK noise... instead we laughed so hard at him upchucking in his crate, we cried (we also let him out of his crate then so he didn't have to stand in his own mess). He's okay now, promise.

Now, for those of you who do not know, Bubba is a Texas born kitty. His time there thankfully yeilded one wonderful, priceless trade: cockroach eradication. The occasional roach in your house is not a sign of dirtiness in Mexico (or in Texas). Is simply means you... are in Mexico (or Texas). Bright and early our first day in the new house, Bubba remembered his trade just like he was riding a bike ('cause you never forget how to do that they say).
his tummy didn't remember this trade as well as his brain - cue bug corpse vomit half an hour later in the living room.

He's earning his rent, that one.

Yesterday we finally started work on Halloween costumes. Those of you who know me, know this is painfully late in the game for my usual schedule, but I had to wait until I had sewing machine access.

Princess Peach beginnings, Luigi Hat and Bowser onesie...

It takes a lot of fabric to make a princess dress, did you know that? Oi. Anyway, as you remember, we're doing it up Mario Bros. style this year: Mario, Princess Peach, Bowser, and Luigi (I decided to switch up Mac's costume because a Luigi hat seemed easier to expect him to wear for the party than a whole Yoshi suit, and I figure as he is on a PLANE right now on his way to us... I should find some ways to reduce his general trauma upon reaching his destination. Being stuffed in a big green suit with googley eyes didn't really fit there).

Bubba will be cast as Bowser (see above) - arch enemy of Mario - who can generally be described as a turtle. To Bubba's great dismay, I discovered a few years ago that if you cut out a tail hole, he fits pretty well into a 12 mo. onesie, and that has since been the base of most of his Halloween costumes. This one is no exception, and as I sewed the "spiny" green fleece shell on the back of his yellow onesie today, I couldn't help but think this is going to be the most adorably disgruntled Bowser in the history of everything ever.

It is a wonder that gato (cat, in Spanish, keep up here) has not figured out how to kill me in my sleep yet.

Maybe I should clarify that we plan to have a housewarming/ Halloween costume combo party in the next week. Otherwise it would just be preposterous to dress up my pets and Fiance. See, now it's totally normal. Right? RIGHT?

So that's Bubba... Boobah... whatever. He's settling in well, that has always just been his style - he's a very go with the flow kitty, which works well with my perpetual ability to up and move us. Wouldn't trade that furball for the world.

In other, cat unrelated news, here's a fun word everyone should
definitely learn in Spanish:


1. arrancar utilizando pinzas de baterĂ­a (car)

Uh, yup. That happened. No worries, we survived.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


we move into the house tomorrow. blog is the last thing on my mind right now, you understand.

But friends, we're well, and starting next week I can actually be artsy-craftsy (I've been pining for my sewing machine to arrive), so keep your eyes peeled!

Soon to be breached blog topics:
  • THE WEDDING (like you didn't see that coming)
  • Bubba's new Mexican name
  • Halloween (see sewing machine comment above)
  • Mac's Mexican Mayhem
  • and probably some of me whining about how I haven't been able to find sun-block floor-length curtains for the bedroom yet. Because I am a pretty-pretty princess (joking) and I must sleep in eternal DAHK-NESS (only one person will get this joke and I don't even know if she reads this. So that's fun.) Just keeping it real you know.
In the meantime, use that "comment" link below - let me know you're reading so I'll be sure to be timely about writing a new post early next week!

To sign off, I leave you with this song, which is super addicting (there's an english version too if you're so inclined, thank you Shakira) and you better believe the better part of this week all I've wanted to do is run up to people and go "Ra-Ta-Ta!"


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

This Message Brought to you by the W Curve

If you've worked with college students who study abroad, or HAVE actually studied abroad, or both, at some point you have probably been schooled in a phenomenon known as The W Curve. The curve is an illustration demonstrating a person's levels of happiness as they experience and immerse themselves in a new culture. And as you may have guessed, it is shaped like a W.

The first stage is the tippy top of the W - your honeymoon - you're so excited, and everything is new, and fun, and incredible. And then something happens, a little twist, and you flip all of that new incredibleness of the culture you're in to something that makes you feel like a bit of a misunderstood outsider: the language barrier, the differences in customs, the food, etc. You collapse back into yourself a little bit, trying to grab at the culture and customs you're used to and miss. That would be the first low point of the W curve. My explanation is a little less academic than others you can find online... like this one from Berkley. And yes friends, I met my flip to that low spot this past weekend.

Okay, before I actually explain that experience from my point of view, let me be very clear that I am going to be just fine. I think it helps a lot that I know exactly why I am feeling so blah, and that there will be a natural progression to a comfortable spot soon enough. I am not looking for a pity party by any means, and as Fiance has discovered, being constantly asked "hey, are you okay?" makes me really cranky and defensive. Since he is the one that has to deal with me - for his sake, don't be that person in the comments.

So this weekend. I had a mission, and I was excited about it: We needed to find a fabric store so I could buy supplies for our halloween costumes (assuming my sewing machine arrives soon, Fiance, I, Bubba and Mac going to be Mario, Princess Peach, Bowser and Yoshi, respectively), and then we needed to find a new small sketchbook so I can continue my habit of having a way to doodle in my purse at all times.

Once you know what they look like, you realize that fabric stores are super abundant down here. I don't know how to explain the set up of a fabric store in Mexico other than really claustrophobic. Prior to the trip, my mind's eye had imagined the fabric store to be just like those in the states, and since US fabric stores are rather my element, it was a bit of a blow to walk in and not know how to start navigating the place. Long story short, we managed to figure out how to get what I needed (except for the red fleece for the Mario cap), and we left semi-triumphant. I was disturbed at some of the communication, and really flustered that my less-than-large Spanish vocabulary had only barely been helpful. I'll get back to that in a second.

Then we started the search for a sketch book. I, really, had no idea how hard that would be. As you may have noticed in the states, you can find a variety of sketchbooks to choose from in literally almost ANY STORE. They have their own aisle in Walgreens, smaller ones can be found in the "impulse buys" section right before checkouts at grocery stores, I've even seen them in gas stations. So maybe you will be just as surprised as I was that 6 hours and 6 stores later, not one suitable sketchbook has been found in The Gigantic Metropolis of Monterrey, Mexico.

I about lost it (I did actually lose it. But I managed to get back to the hotel and cry in the shower instead of in front of people at least). While I could find crayons and markers and some really nice drawing pencils in any of the places we looked at, none of those same places provided BLANK PAPER NICELY BOUND in which to use those mediums. By the time we got to a place that DID sell sketch books but found they were tracing-quality paper of poster size or greater, I had to restrain myself from sitting down in the middle of the store and sobbing.

I gave up and bought a small notebook. It will do until our stuff gets here - somewhere in those boxes are two very lovely little sketch pads a friend gave me for my birthday.

So there you have it. I fell onto the bottom of the curve, I felt it happening, I knew it was going to, and for all that knowledge and countless times I've talked to students about how to endure it while I was working at the college... here still I am. The sketchbook was my tipping point, yes, but it only served to highlight the communication gap, and if I could, I would like to hop up on a soap box for a moment and ask that you pay attention to your interactions with people from here on out - because the few people that have done so for me here have eased my ick, so to speak.

I hope very much to not sound like an arrogant American. In fact, this weekend I watched an American woman raise her voice at her waiter in such a condescending way I felt sick. I don't expect anyone in a country where the national language is NOT English to understand English. What I do find reasonable, however, is that you have the common decency to see that I'm trying, and to try along with me. Friends, I implore you to keep the following in mind when you encounter someone who is not from an English-speaking country:

  1. Body language largely does not change. Mime back and forth, nod your head yes, shake your head no. Channel your inner Pip. I'll get it.
  2. If you still can't figure it out, don't walk away to find a new solution/ someone else who might help, without giving me a "just one second" motion. I am not mentally challenged, I will understand what you're signing and that I should wait, but if you just walk away you will make me feel incredibly worthless/ stupid, AND I will have no idea what is going on or if I should find someone else (perhaps in a DIFFERENT store where you won't make money off of me?!). The fabric store was a really poor example of this point.
  3. Your volume does not matter. Your speed does. Again, I am not stupid, and I HEAR you as you yell at me in your native tongue. I cannot, however, understand you when your words all speed together, and the loudness will only serve to fluster me too much to try and separate them out in my mind. Speak slowly, annunciate, at a normal, indoor voice level.
  4. To that same effect - think about your word choice if you can. It is much more likely that I will know smaller, simpler words. If you have to use a word that's not an every-day conversation sort of word, try to put it in a context where I can get a "gist" from the rest of the sentence.
To give you a great - backwards to my experience - example, let's revisit the American Lady I overheard this weekend shouting at a waiter:

It was at the restaurant attached to the hotel, where most of the staff does have some English... but it is not their first language. There's a universally understood give and take going back and forth as the American clientele practice their Spanish while the Mexican staff practices their English.

The lady was one of a number of people I've seen here that have the audacity to come to another country, not speaking the language, REFUSING to try and learn even a few basic or courteous words, and expecting that those around will cater to and perfectly understand them. This is the type of person here that sincerely enrages me, because if a Mexican person has run into even one of these people, they will (rightfully) decide they want nothing to do with any other Americans... like me.

She had plunked herself down at a table, and ordered chips. And she wanted salt to go with them. She said "HEY, YOU" to summon the waiter to (which let's be honest, is super rude in any culture), and then followed with: "SALT SHAKER. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? I NEED A SALT SHAKER. A SALT SHAKER. DO YOU ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING OR ARE YOU JUST NODDING YOUR HEAD AT ME. DON'T WALK AWAY I WANT A SALT SHAKER."

She was loud enough that every other table could hear her. The tone of her voice was clearly condescending and belittling, and whether the words made sense to you or not, you could tell she thought the waiter was an imbecile. She was incredibly rude. And, if I could be really picky ( I am certain this is the root of the communication barrier between her and the waiter) why are you asking for a salt shaker?! The SHAKER portion of that statement is confusing him - he has likely not studied "shaker," and for all you know, there isn't a direct translation for a salt shaker, but instead it's called a salt holder or something (actually, I just looked it up. It's all one word: Salero, Sal means salt, and ero is a form of a verb that means to distribute or spread). Why wouldn't you just ask for salt? How else would a restaurant bring it to you but in a shaker?

I ended up picking up the salt shaker at our table and telling the waiter who was clearly flustered at this woman's loud insistence, that "she wants one of these" in Spanish. He thanked me and went to get one for her (I hope he spat in it). She said thanks, and looked at me, and gave me a little nod / eye roll combo that clearly signified "how stupid could he be, am I right?" He may not know "shaker" in your language lady, but he definitely knows what your little head bop meant. GOD I hope he spat in your stupid salt, you should be ashamed.

One day I will have to sit down and write out what words you really SHOULD know before venturing to another language's home. They're not incredibly numerous, but there are words/ phrases I am happy to say I use every day, and I can tell that even though I am pronouncing them in a way that betrays the idea I might be Mexican, the effort behind them is appreciated.

But I digress. Friends, keep those four bullet points in your mind, and one day maybe you'll help someone like me have a much more enjoyable experience in your presence.

In different news, the food here is different. Did you know that? I've realized that the only time I really took my camera out this past week was to photograph the different food. But that's what you're really interested in, isn't it? Haha. Here's some different foods for you:

"Fancy" restaurants around here will give you a little shooter of this soup before your meal. What is it? Shrimp concentrate. I am not lying. It is as disgusting as it sounds, and it smells worse than that. So I guess, color me impressed if you can even manage to get a taste, because the smell will make you stop before it gets to your lips. (This is not a W curve comment, I have had this soup presented to me a few times now, and I have always thought it was this level of disgusting.)

This is a mixture of tequilla, sangria, and salty, carbonated tomato juice in a can. Make sure when someone gives it to you that you try it before you read the ingredients listed on the can. Because if I had read the can before I took a swig, I would not have thought it tastes as good as it does. Also, don't go having much more than one can of this stuff in one sitting because... well did you read the ingredients? You're not driving anywhere, that's for darn sure.

This was at the deli. It's so hard to see (I was trying to covertly take a picture so as to not be that girl), but the top shelf of that freezer? It is entirely normal to buy an ENTIRE PIG at the deli. It was only 80 bucks. So that was interesting.

This is a Torta. It is definitely a fatty-fat-fatty mcfatterson comfort meal, but oh golly it's tasty. slow-cooked, shredded pork, avacado, onions, a giant dollop of sour cream, all piled on a big soft, fresh baked bun. C (of C+Y fame) is officially 2 for 2 on bringing Fiance and I out for "so good it's stupid" authentic Mexican food.

That's all I've got for this week y'all. Go forth, and be nice to other people. :)