Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quail Nest and Chiltepin Seedlings

I was very excited to discover that quail have built a nest in the middle of a cactus in our yard!

They chose a good spot! It would be impossible for a cat or dog to get through cactus that encircles the nest. It took me a long time to get a good photo of the nest because the mother quail is usually sitting on the eggs and all you can see is a few feathers. I can't wait to see the chicks; hopefully she'll take good care of them and keep them out of the street!

I've been on the hunt for chiltepin plants (aka chili tepin). It's a chile plant that has tiny little peppers that are super-hot and can grow year-round in the right conditions. My parents have had one in their backyard for years and I thought it would be nice to have my own. I especially like that it can survive during the winter since I'm not too keen on having to re-plant vegetables every year!

The chiltepin plant is very similar to the chili pequin so initally I wasn't sure which one this was. The only difference I can see between the two is that the chiltepin peppers are round while the chili pequin peppers are elongated. Since the peppers on my parents' plant are round, I'm assuming that it's a chiltepin.

I stole a few peppers from my parents' plant a year ago and, after drying them out, spent a week attempting to sprout the seeds from one pepper but had no luck. I then tried to find the plant at a local nursery but no success there either. Finally I sat down, did some research and discovered that the seeds can take up to 12 weeks to sprout! I decided to try again since I hadn't given them enough time during my first sprouting attempt.

On April 30th I cut open one of the peppers and soaked the seeds in water overnight. On May 1st I put all the seeds (there were more than 30!) between two damp paper towels in a plastic container. I sprayed the paper towels daily with water to keep them moist. Nothing happened until May 20th - I got home from a short vacation and found that several of the seeds had sprouted!

Once the seedlings were free of the seeds, I planted them in plastic cups. I used two cups for each seedling, one inner cup with holes punched in the bottom and an outer cup to catch any drained water. I put a thin layer of pebbles at the bottom of the cup and filled the rest with a 4 to 1 mixture of potting soil and perlite.

I've been planting 2-3 seedlings a day since May 20th and I now have 17! They seem to be pretty slow growers so I'm guessing they won't be big enough to have peppers until next year. Here are some photos I took of one of the first plants to show its progress:

May 20th:

May 21st:

May 23rd:

May 29th:
You can see more "growth" photos of my chiltepin plants here: Chiltepin Plants Update

Friday, May 23, 2008

Master and Commander Movie Costumes

This past weekend we took a little trip over to San Diego. Because of my obsession with Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World I couldn't miss the HMS Surprise at the Maritime Museum! I wasn't too sure what sort of exhibits they had on the Surprise but I had my fingers crossed that they would have some costumes from the movie. I got lucky! Behind Plexiglas in a tiny room they had four uniforms, belonging to Jack Aubrey, Mowett, Blakeney, and a marine. Sadly they seemed a little forgotten. There weren't any signs or labels to indicate that they were from the movie and they were all crowded in a corner. Jack's costume was hidden behind all the others; all that could be seen was his hat and collar!
I took advantage of the opportunity and spent about an hour sketching what I could see of each costume. I also took a few photos but the glare on the Plexiglas kept them from turning out very well. I thought I'd post my photos and sketches here in case anyone needs some reference material when trying to make their own costume. FYI, I've left all of my notes on the sketches including my spelling mistakes and some stuff that's unrelated (like the names of the guns on the Surprise!). If you need me to translate any of my writing please let me know.
(By the way, if you're serious about making costumes from the Master and Commander movie, you need to buy The Making of Master and Commander by Tom McGregor. I just bought it and I wish I had it when I made my Jack Aubrey costume because it has lots of great reference photos! *See the update at the bottom of the page for another great reference book.

Second Lieutenant Mowett Uniform
This appears to be a Lieutenant's uniform, and I decided it was Mowett's because he's the only Lt. I remember that wears a top hat. You can see a photo of Mowett in hat and uniform on page 102 in the Making of M&C book.

Midshipman Blakeney Uniform
Since this midshipman's uniform had the right arm pinned up it could only be Lord Blakeney's!

Blakeney and Mowett Uniforms

Blakeney and Mowett Trousers. Mowett's have stirrups at the bottom (you can see them better in my sketch).

All that can be seen of Captain Aubrey's Uniform

Royal Marine Uniform
Unfortunately the hat is about the only thing that can be seen in detail on Jack Aubrey's uniform. I don't know which character wore this Marine's uniform. It's not Captain Howard because he wears a different hat. The edging on the Marine's uniform is cool, it's white with a red stripe and a blue stripe (I put asterisks on the sketch to mark where this edging was used). There's a good photos of a bunch of Marines in uniform on page 86 of the Making of M&C book.

Sailor's Outfit
This sailor's outfit was not in the same room as the other costumes. I don't recognize it so it might not be from the movie (it could be a real antique outfit for all I know!). I thought it was interesting that the edges of the jacket weren't turned under and hemmed. Instead they've completed all the edges with an oversewing stitch (I couldn't think of what it was called when making my sketch so I called it a blanket stitch).

*Update 7/12/09: When visiting the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich this summer, I ran across this amazing book: Dressed to Kill: British Naval Uniform, Masculinity and Contemporary Fashions, 1748-1857. It's written by Amy Miller who is a curator at the NMM. The book describes a number of uniforms in the museum's collection with front, back, and detail photos of each as well as line drawings showing their pattern construction. I remember seeing it on the internet while researching my Jack Aubrey costume but there was no indication in the very brief Amazon description that it contained all these amazing reference photos and drawings. If you are interested in making an authentic Royal Navy uniform you definitely need this book!

Update 8/16/11: I was checking the Amazon link for Dressed to Kill and saw that it is out of print, with resale copies going for over $400. Ouch! Same thing over at Amazon UK. The price I bought it at was £15 (so about $30). It is still listed at that price on the National Maritime Museum's list of publications but with no option to buy. If you are desperate to have it but can't pay the insane resale price, my only suggestion would be to contact the museum to see if they still have any copies.

(Oh and thanks, Amazon, for offering to buy back my copy of Dressed to Kill for $5.52 so you can resell it at $424.99. That sounds like a great deal!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

PB&J Jell-O Shots

What's a PB&J Shot? It's a grape Jell-O shot topped with a peanut butter whipped cream. If you're feeling adventurous you might want to give it a try!

Cathy's PB&J Jell-O Shots

- grape Jell-O
- boiling water
- cold water
- vodka (optional)
- heavy cream
- peanut butter (soften by stirring quickly)
- powdered sugar

1. Make Jell-O according to package directions. For alcoholic shots, substitute vodka for half of the cold water.

2. Pour Jell-O mixture into small plastic Jell-O shot cups. Chill in fridge until firm.

3. Beat 1 cup heavy cream with beaters until soft peaks form. Fold in 3 tablespoons softened peanut butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar. Beat a few more seconds until well mixed. Give it a taste, if it's not sweet enough add some more powdered sugar.

4. Top firm Jell-O shots with a dab of peanut butter whipped cream. Serve.

(This recipe was created in honor of Pam Beesly and Jim Halpert from NBC's "The Office." Their nickname as a couple is "PB&J"!)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Behind the Scenes: "That One Night" Music Video

I took a few pictures before I dismantled the sets from my "That One Night" video that I thought I might share. If you have questions about anything feel free to leave me a comment!

This is the drawing I made of Schrute Farms (at nighttime, hence the pathetic-looking moon!). I based this drawing on what I could see of the farmhouse during the episode "Money" so I probably didn't get everything right. I drew the house on a white sheet of paper, colored it, then cut it out and pasted it onto black construction paper.

Here are all the puppets I made. It took me a long time to create each one so I cut corners when I knew a body part wouldn't be in the shot (Sandals Michael's legs, Dwight's left arm). The Jan puppets were the hardest to make because both their fronts and backs were appearing on screen so both sides had to look good. On the other puppets I was able to glue everything to popsicle sticks on the back which made it a lot easier. If you're wondering about Jan's censor box, there isn't actually anything under there (she's not anatomically correct, as they say). It just felt wrong to post a picture of her topless!

The America room at Schrute Farms. I randomly picked this room for Michael to stay in (we had already seen Irrigation in "Money" and Nighttime sounded a little dull). I was so excited to learn in a deleted scene from "Chair Model" that he actually did stay there! The bed is missing in this photo but it was the same one that appears in the next photo, just with a different bedspread.

Michael and Jan's bedroom. The bed is a stack of books, covered with a facial tissue and a square of brown fabric. The pillow is made of folded facial tissue too. The bench, camera, candles, and picture are all craft foam and the curtain is ivory fabric.

The front of the elevator set. Only the red portion made it into the shot.

The back of the elevator. This was the most complicated set to build and shoot in because of the sliding doors. I made tracks out of popsicle sticks to keep the doors in place but they didn't slide very smoothly. It took lots of practice to get them to close at the same speed (and without hitting the Michael puppet!).

The other difficult scene to film was Michael crying in bed. I started out trying to drip water on his face to make a tear but the drop would either just sit there in the middle of his face or it would fall off too quickly. So I switched to a construction paper tear and used stop-motion animation to make it appear to move. It was frustrating because every time I tried to scoot the tear into the next position with tweezers I would push too hard and the tiny piece of paper would fly off of his face! I then had to hunt it down and start the animation all over again.

Favorite Craft Projects

Just a quick post to highlight some of my favorite craft projects from the past few years:

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Update: My Video in "The Office" Contest

Unfortunately my video didn't win, but thanks to everyone who voted for it! I am pleased to report that my video is one of four "runner-ups" that are featured alongside the winning video on the official Office website. Being picked as one of the top 5 out of 134 makes me pretty happy!

Update 2/17/11: I've removed all the links to the videos that were here because NBC took them down. You can still watch my video here.

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