Book Review: The Hunger Games

Hunger_gamesYes, I admit, I hadn’t read The Hunger Games trilogy until, well, this past week.  I finished The Stand sometime on Thursday night, and needed something to read that wasn’t Stephen King… so I poked around on Amazon until I saw The Hunger Games, and realized that while I’d seen the movie, I hadn’t read the books yet.  And usually I’m the type to read the book WAY before the movie comes out!  (With the exception of Twilight.  I only read the books after the first movie came out because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  I’ll hold back on my opinions on the Twilight series, haha.)  I was in the mood for something new to read, and I really did enjoy the movie version of The Hunger Games, so I sat down and read it.  And blew through it in a day and a half, and ended up signing up for Amazon Kindle Unlimited when I realized it would cost less than buying Catching Fire and Mockingjay combined!  (And once I’ve got some more experience with that, I’ll likely be reviewing that too!)  And then blew through most of Catching Fire.  And then I realized – hey, I should write about these books.  They’re good.  So, here’s part one of my review of the Hunger Games trilogy!  There will be spoilers.  You have been warned.

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My Little Pony Build-a-Bear: When Good Manes Go Bad (or: how to fix a terribly messed up mane)

The original My Little Pony Build-a-Bear mane styling post is actually one of the most popular posts on my website, and because of that, I’ve had a number of people asking what to do if their pony’s mane is so horribly tangled that the only option seems to be to give said pony a little haircut.  Well, before you go that route, take a look at this little tutorial on how to fix up an extremely messed up mane.

Oh, Scootaloo... Too many snuggles, eh?

Oh, Scootaloo… Too many snuggles, eh?

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How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Review

Well, the movie’s been out for a couple of weeks now, so I feel it’s only right to finally get around to posting this: a review of How To Train Your Dragon 2.

The plot of the movie, without really giving too much of the story away, focuses on Hiccup becoming an adult and discovering more about himself as he discovers more about the world he lives in.  This movie’s set five years after the first one, and Hiccup is 20 years old at this point – an adult, but still the same Hiccup we grew to knew and love in the first movie.  There’s a lot about HTTYD 2 I want to talk about, so I’ll get the non-spoilery stuff out of the way first.

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First off, I’d like to gush about the graphics.  I’ve watched both movies pretty much back-to-back lately, and it’s very obvious how much technology has advanced since the first movie came out in 2010.  The textures look so much more real, the characters look more lifelike – at times it felt like I could just step through the screen and into this lush fantasy world.  And, strangely enough, the first thing that stood out to me when it came to just how much technology had advanced was Stoick’s beard.  It looks far better in HTTYD 2, much more realistic…

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It’s not just the beard. Stoick in his entirety looks much better this time around.

Another thing that I absolutely loved about the movie was Toothless’ antics.  When he wasn’t a central character in a scene, he was still stealing the show in the background, with his silly antics and ridiculous cuteness.  I loved him in the first movie, and I love him even more now.  And I’m incredibly glad I’ve seen the movie twice – because I won’t lie, there may have been times where I was paying more attention to Toothless goofing off in the background than I was to the main plot.

How can you not love that face?

How can you not love that face?

After the jump, there will be spoilers.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and don’t want to spoil the story for yourself, don’t read any further!

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Cutie Mark T-shirts: make your own!

Have you ever wanted your own t-shirt with your favorite My Little Pony’s cutie mark on it?  (Or a t-shirt with a simple cartoon symbol, like Super Mario’s 1-Up mushroom or other relatively low-detail images)  Well, here’s a tutorial for you – and all you need to know how to do is operate an iron!

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Materials needed:

  • A printout of the cutie mark (or image) you want to use
  • A pen or marker
  • Fabric in each color used in the cutie mark
  • Heat ‘n Bond
  • A pair of scissors
  • A t-shirt
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Step one: time to put those scissors to work.

The first thing you’ll want to do is cut out pieces of fabric a little larger than each different area of color in your image.  I ended up with four pieces of fabric – blue, red, yellow, and white.  While you’re working with the scissors, you’ll also want to cut apart your image – I cut mine into different sections based on the colors in Rainbow Dash’s cutie mark, and ended up with a cloud and three little lightning bolts. You’ll also want to get out your Heat ‘n Bond, too – and cut out pieces that are slightly smaller than the pieces of fabric you’re using.

Step 2: Get out the iron!

Step two: Get out the iron!

Next, it’s time for the iron.  Lay out your piece of fabric, then lay the Heat ‘n Bond, paper side up, onto your fabric and follow the instructions on the package to iron your Heat ‘n Bond to your fabric.

Step four: tracing our pieces!

Step three: tracing our pieces!

The next thing we’ll do is get out our marker and trace our cutie mark pieces onto the Heat ‘n Bond paper.

Step four: cutting out the fabric shapes.

Step four: cutting out the fabric shapes.

The next step has us cutting out the fabric shapes.  It’s also not a bad idea to re-assemble the shape to make sure everything fits together – if not, you can trim things a little bit to make them fit.

Step five: lay out your design, and iron away!

Step five: lay out your design, and iron away!

This is where the fun stuff happens.  Peel off the paper backing from your pieces of cutie mark, and lay out the pieces on your t-shirt where you want them to end up when you’re finished.  Iron them onto your t-shirt according to the directions on the Heat ‘n Bond package – you may want to pay special attention to pointy ends that might come up if not properly adhered to your shirt.

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Step six: wear your t-shirt!

Once your shirt’s cooled off a bit, and you’re sure everything’s securely ironed onto your t-shirt, now you can wear it!

This is a pretty fun way to make a unique looking t-shirt – I’ve worn my Pinkie Pie t-shirt to conventions and received lots of compliments on it, and some people even thought it was screen printed – when I told them I did it with fabric and Heat ‘n Bond, they were amazed!  And as I said earlier, you can do this with any sort of simple graphic that doesn’t have a lot of detail to it.  If you follow these steps to make a t-shirt, show me the results!

Indy Pop Con: Cosplay Photos!

I meant to post this sooner – however, back spasms and blogging sadly do not go together well.  (I may have spent the past three days in bed, becoming best friends with Netflix…)  But!  Here are the cosplay photos from Indy Pop Con last weekend!  There were many, many amazing cosplayers there, and I didn’t get nearly enough pictures of everyone, but here’s what I do have!

Indy Pop Con 2014: The Report!

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I spent this weekend at the first ever Indy Pop Con – and boy, was it a blast!  Even with only going for two days, I still found lots to explore and had tons of fun!

Now, you might recall my experience with Indiana Comic Con – disorganization, crammed halls, long lines, and way too many people showing up on Saturday for the convention to handle.  Well, Pop Con was the opposite (except for the amount of people on Saturday – but I’ll elaborate on that later)!  First off, picking up badges was a breeze – Ross and I had preregistered for the con, and went in with our “tickets” (a QR code printed onto a sheet of paper), which we exchanged for an actual, proper badge.  There were different badges for the different types of guests: 3-day badge holders got sturdy cardstock badges, while guests of honor, vendors, VIP guests, and Kickstarter backers got nice plastic badges, all with different images on them.  I loved how quickly we got in and out of line, and out to explore the convention!

There’s a lot to cover about Pop Con, so take a look after the break and see the highlights of the convention!

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Prepping for PopCon

Technically, PopCon starts today!  Woo!  Due to transportation issues and work constraints, though, I won’t be able to go until tomorrow.  BUT.  That gives me all of today to prepare!  And there’s a lot of work that goes into preparing for a convention.  Costumes need to be dug out of closets…

Yes, cute fluffy Pinkie Pie and evil genius Rainbow Factory Dash share a closet sometimes.

Yes, cute fluffy Pinkie Pie and evil genius Rainbow Factory Dash share a closet sometimes.

…wigs need to be detangled and styled…

I admit it.  I suck at taking good care of my wigs, as you can tell from the deflated lump of pink hair.

I admit it. I suck at taking good care of my wigs, as you can tell from the deflated lump of pink hair.

and sometimes a brand new costume idea hits you and there’s only a day or so to finish it.

I'm not kidding.  The idea to make a Rainbow Dash cutie mark shirt hit me yesterday afternoon.

I’m not kidding. The idea to make a Rainbow Dash cutie mark shirt hit me yesterday afternoon.

And doing all this stuff is part of the fun of getting ready for a convention!  And, admittedly, part of the stress, too.  Inevitably I end up forgetting something, or there’s a costume malfunction, or something else out of the blue that makes things a little crazy.  But stress aside, I’m super excited about PopCon tomorrow.  It looks like it’s shaping up to be much better organized than Indiana ComicCon was earlier this year, and there are SO MANY big names.  I won’t list everyone – but you can take a look at the guest list and see all the stars that’ll be there.  John DiMaggio (voice of Bender, Jake, and Wakka, among other characters), Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy! *flail*), Ron Glass (Shepherd Book from Firefly and Serenity), and Kristian Nairn (HODOR OMG) are just a handful of the awesome people who’re gonna be there.  You have no idea how excited I am!  Not only will so many stars be there, but there’ll also be a comic book museum featuring Action Comics #1!  And, of course, a ton of exhibitors to spend money at, and a costume contest… so much fun packed into three days.  I wish I’d been able to get a press pass for PopCon – but maybe next year.  I plan on cramming as much fun as I can into the next two days, and taking as many pictures as humanly possible.

So!  Keep an eye out here for my PopCon report in the next couple of days!  I can’t wait to see what the convention’s got in store for me.

Toothless comes to Build-a-Bear!

Edit 6/24/14: For those of you out there looking for a Toothless of your very own: Build a Bear is sold out! However, you can sign up to be notified when he’s available again via the link, so for those of you still waiting for a Nightfury of your very own, be patient – I’m sure Build a Bear will do a re-release!  (And to show you just how quickly they sold out: I bought mine the first day they were available, and then a friend of mine went to buy one three days later and they were gone!)

Yes, you heard that right – you can get your very own Toothless, right from Build-a-Bear!  And considering the great job they did with the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic crew, I had pretty high expectations for BaB’s Toothless plush – after all, you can’t get much worse than this, right?

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Ouch. Toothless, what did they do to you?

No wonder so many of us went and made our own Toothlesses (Toothli?) so we could have a Night Fury of our own to cuddle.  Well, I went to Build a Bear today, and I definitely was not disappointed!

Here he is, with my handmade Toothless for scale.

Here he is, with my handmade Toothless for scale.

He’s about 17 inches tall, not including the tail, and my gosh is he adorable!  Look at those big eyes, that adorable mischievous smile… Yup, Build-a-Bear did a great job with this little guy.  He’s super soft, and very huggable.  I had to resist the urge to carry him around the mall for the rest of my shopping.  There is one weird thing they did with him – his wings are actually detachable.

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As you can see in the image above, he wears his wings like a tiny little backpack.  Considering most Build-a-Bear plush are stuffed from the middle of the back, the detachable wings make sense – otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to stuff Toothless from the usual BaB spot.  I do worry about losing the wings at some point, but right now they’re held on with a plastic tag-holder thing (I never know what to call them, and I even worked at a consignment shop where I stuck a bunch of those things into clothes when tagging items!), and I plan on leaving it in there for the time being.

Along with Toothless himself, they’re also selling a little tiny Toothless hoodie for your bear to wear!  I say bear, because I found out the hard way that it’s not quite suited for a pony.

Toothless and... Toothless?

Toothless and… Toothless?

I had to practically maul Pinkie to get the shirt over her head, and when I wedged her front legs into the armhole, it was pretty clear that this shirt wasn’t exactly meant for ponies or other similar four-legged friends.  Ah well.  If you don’t put the front legs in the arm holes, and kind of use it as a Toothless cowl, it does work, somewhat.  Pinkie looks freakin’ adorable in the Toothless shirt, I will say.  You should be able to find Toothless at your local Build-a-Bear – not sure how long he’ll be there for, though – probably at least through the end of June.  I’d say get him while you can – he’s clearly the best Toothless plush out there!

Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Darkly_Dreaming_DexterI’ve been a fan of the Dexter television series for quite a while now – a friend of mine introduced me to it in 2009, and I binge-watched the entire series up to the current episodes (middle of season 4, for those curious) in about two weeks.  And I’ve been a loyal fan since.  I’m re-watching the series with Ross right now, as he’s never seen it, and Mr. Crafty Nerd isn’t too terribly fond of Dexter – so I hadn’t had a chance to re-watch it since the end of the series.  And it got me thinking – I know there are Dexter books.  I should read them, because I need new things to read.  So, I signed out Darkly Dreaming Dexter from my library’s e-book collection, and added it to my summer reading list.

For those of you who’ve watched the series, this first book should feel familiar, as it was the basis for season 1.  The characters should be familiar to those who’ve seen the series, although some names and roles were changed.  Some of the most prominent characters in the TV series are background characters in the novel, but you can definitely tell that the show’s producers were faithful to Jeff Lindsay’s renditions of the characters.  We’re introduced to Dexter Morgan – a serial killer who only hunts down the dregs of society, thanks to the code instilled in him by his adopted father Harry.  We learn a little about his life as a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro Police, we take a peek into his personal life with his girlfriend Rita and her kids, and we also get a glimpse of Dexter’s Dark Passenger – the voice inside that urges him to kill.  The “villain” of this novel – the Tamiami Slasher (who TV show viewers may know as the Ice Truck Killer) – has been murdering prostitutes and depositing them all over town, and Dexter becomes utterly fascinated by the killer’s work.  I won’t get too in-depth into the rest of the story, as I don’t want to spoil the story for those of you who end up reading it, but for fans of the television show, you won’t be disappointed or bored.  The story, while familiar, is still gripping, and there’s just enough difference between the show and the book to keep readers entertained.  If you’re looking for a good summer read that’s on the darker side of things, or if you’re a fan of the show and miss having a little bit of everyone’s favorite serial killer in your life, I recommend this book.

Rating: Rating of four stars

Beth’s Random Craft Picks – 5/7/14

It’s been a while since I’ve done a craft roundup, and I’ve missed scouring the internet for cool craft project inspiration!  So, without further ado, here are five awesome craft projects to add to your to-do list!

Minecraft Creeper Afghan

Photo of an afghan made to look like a Creeper from Minecraft.

*hissssss-BOOM*

For those of you who love Minecraft (much like myself), or know someone who does, here’s a treat for you!  This Creeper afghan looks pretty simple to put together, and would look cool in a geeky guest room or would make a great gift for someone who’s super obsessed with Minecraft!  You can find the pattern here.

Charmander Amigurumi Plush

So adorable!

So adorable!

Here’s a cute little Charmander amigurumi plush that looks like it would crochet up pretty quickly – I love his happy little smile!  I might add this little guy to my to-do pile, myself…  The pattern for Charmander is on Ravelry, right here.

Nintendo Controller Purse

Nothing says awesome like a Nintendo controller purse.

Next up is a Nintendo controller purse!  I’ve never seen anything like it – and it looks like it’d be fun to put together, too.  You could probably up the size of the pattern and make a large book tote, too.  Find the pattern here!

Nintendo Controller Wallet

This is a perfect way to breathe some new life into a dead Nintendo controller...

This is a perfect way to breathe some new life into a dead Nintendo controller…

And how about a wallet to go with the purse?  This looks like the best use ever for a dead NES controller – and could be a fun afternoon project for a rainy day.  The tutorial for making a controller-wallet of your own is here.

Fifteen Doctor Who Cross-stitch Projects!

*vworp vworp*

*vworp vworp*

This isn’t just one project, but a list of fifteen!  Find some inspiration for your next cross-stitch project here.

Hope this gives you guys some inspiration for your own craft projects, or gives you some cool ideas of things to try!  :D