Monday, July 29, 2013

A Link to the Blog: The Legend of Zelda Cosplay

The Serenade of Water
If you've ever glanced at my profile on the right, you already know I'm a writer, artist, nerd and then some. If the blog hasn't proven the nerd part yet, this post will do it. Case in point: one Halloween I dressed up as Link, the Hero of Time from The Legend of Zelda video game series, and then proceeded to do it again for a comic convention. 

Yup, that's me, sitting on a rock, jamming on an ocarina. And if that weren't enough, I won a prize. While I was originally planning to save this post for Halloween, in honor of Comic-Con 2013 I figured it was time to let my nerd flag fly.

It's a shirt! ...It's a dress! ...It's LINK'S TUNIC!

Since I enjoy crafting and geekery of all sorts, sewing costumes is right up my alley. I'm usually a fan of making things from scratch, but when it comes to costuming and clothing in general, I enjoy being resourceful, finding starter pieces and making it work Tim Gunn style. 

Link's tunic, for instance, was originally an XXL olive green t-shirt I found at a yard sale. I simply cut off the sides to adjust the fit and add some faux chain mail, cut out the neckline to match Link's and then sewed up the edges. I even had enough fabric left over to make the hat!

Sewing into the wee hours, fueled by chips, salsa and Halloween candy.
The chain mail was also a fun stroke of luck. I found a truly hideous pair of pants at a second-hand store and salvaged it for the tunic lining. What with the metallic and ring-like texture, the effect was just what I was going for without all the expense/discomfort of actual chain mail. Plus, it's machine washable!

Da Na Na NA!! You found your inventory! Press C to equip.
And what is Link without his vast array of accoutrements? Throughout my wanderings, I somehow managed to collect fingerless gloves, a bona fide Ocarina of Time, a fishing lure, a dungeon key, earrings, an empty bottle, a leather pouch, a slingshot, golden bugs and a handy heart container! The Ocarina of Time and slingshot were actually gifts from the wonderful, generous friends and fellow cosplayers Rachel (a.k.a. Toon Link) and Yurika (a.k.a. Dark Link) respectively. Thanks again, guys!

Showcasing my mastery of Z-Targeting.

Just add a pair of khaki pants, an off-white turtleneck and some brown leather boots and voila! Link, the Hero of Time. I have to say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is actually my favorite from the series, but this costume was based off of the more recent rendition of the character (seen in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Swordso I could keep up with the times. It must have worked, because I won a costume contest on Halloween!

We Three Links of Nintendo are...!

The next time my Link costume saw daylight was when my friends and I all went to AnimeLA. While it wasn't Comic-Con (which would have been awesome), my friends and I had a ball dressing up, goofing off and posing for the masses. Seen above, Dark Link (Yurika), Toon Link (Rachel) and Link (Me!).

"See? My ears are way better!"

Yurika made her awesome Dark Link costume from scratch, and even went so far as to get elven ears! 

"Take it back!"

The sword, sheath and shield I had were courtesy of my dear brother and fellow craftsman of nerdy delights. The shield and sheath were constructed mostly from cardboard and duct tape and are surprisingly durable, while the sword was made from plywood. Quite the engineer, my brother!

Drink up!

Fun Fact: The best potions are actually made of gummy bears.
Bonus Fact: Gummy bears also happen to make great slingshot ammo. 

"Message for you, sir!"

Another friend of ours, Shoji, did a fantastic job dressing up as the iconic Legend of Zelda postman, and two more of our friends dressed up as awesome, albeit non-Zelda related characters for the occasion. Altogether it was a very fun trip, and maybe next time we go to a comic convention, it will be Comic-Con. Until then, it's off to another adventure!

"Where is that princess...?"

Want to see another LydMc costume that went to AnimeLA? Check out The School of Anything Goes Cosplay: Ranma 1/2 blog post! 

Into cosplay or costuming, too? Who's your favorite character to cosplay?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bake One, Take Two: The Piñata Cake & Bonus Trifle

Glamorous Cake Shots courtesy of Frank!

Another birthday, another baking adventure. This time the lucky birthday gal was my wonderful great aunt Linda, one of the sweetest, craftiest people I know. I wanted to make a cake as lovely inside and out as her, so decided on an angel food piñata cake with fun surprises inside.

My great grandmothers' bundt pan.

First things first - baking. To make things extra special, I used a bundt pan my grandmother, great grandmother and great aunt all used to bake dating as far back as the 1930s. I guess they had bigger ovens back then, as I actually had to supplement my creation with a bit of store-bought cake when I lost the top after it exceeded the capacity of my toaster oven. What can I say, I'm adding memories!

Every day I'm tunnelin'.

Moving right along, construction of the cake was surprisingly simple thanks to how cleanly angel food cake carves. Just cut off the top of the cake and dig a nice little moat into the rest of it. The process works well with the bundt cake shape, but I'm sure any pan could yield fun, surprising slices.

Cake moat!

While you could fill your secret cake tunnel with all sorts of deliciousness, I chose to go with a Cool Whip/Jell-O combination with chopped up fruit thrown in the mix. When chilled, the mixture sets up nicely and has a cool, creamy, refreshing texture. Perfect for an evening BBQ party on the patio.

Stacking the cake.
Ice, ice baby.
All dressed up and ready to go!

Keeping with the light, summery theme, I decorated the cake with some plain Cool Whip and lots of fresh fruit. I also dropped extra chopped up fruit down the well in the center, giving the cake two surprises and making it a true piñata.

Bonus trifle!

The great thing about making a tunnel/piñata cake is that you actually get two desserts for the price of one. Since I had leftover fruit, filling and cake (from the tunnel excavation), it seemed the natural course of action to throw it all into a pretty, layered trifle. Zero effort, totally delicious. Win, win, yum.

As for the original dessert...

Swirly candles make any cake better.
The cake is a lie!

Well, apparently the cake turned out too good, as people dug right in before I could get a satisfactory sliced photo op. Not to worry though, it was so tasty and easy, I decided to go ahead and make another the next day, complete with another bonus trifle.

Cake Take 2
Strawberry avalanche!
Just desserts.

Four desserts in two days... What's a girl to do? 

Share, of course! Who wants dessert? :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Octopi? Octocake! The FFVI Birthday Morsel

In the presence of octopus royalty.

While I enjoy creating tasty, fun and often nerdy treats for any occasion, I find birthday cakes to be especially entertaining. I've made a lot of cakes in my time, but the product of one of my more recent birthdays is one of my all-time favorites: Ultros!

Look at me! I'm a birthday cake!

In case you're not familiar, Ultros is a giant, mischievous purple octopus from the video game Final Fantasy VI (FFVI). If you like playing video games and you haven't tried it yet, this game is worth checking out. As a testament to its awesomeness, it's been released for SNES, Playstation and Gameboy Advance (& I may or may not own all three...). The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game series by far, but in terms of single best game, FFVI takes the cake. 

Speaking of which...

I have more lives than I do arms!

Creating an octopus birthday cake is surprisingly simple. For the body, I baked one layer in a typical round cake pan and the rest of the batter in an oven safe metal mixing bowl. Invert and stack the subsequent cakes to get a nice dome shaped head. As for the arms... bananas! 

What a delicious morsel!

To make Ultros' face, complete with devious, toothy grin, I employed some grapefruit gummy candies which were well-suited for the job with very little alteration. For the eyes, I took two extra gummies, cut them to the proper shape and added dried cranberries for that villainous, red gleam.

I ain't no garden variety octopus!

For the icing, I made a traditional buttercream from scratch. I wasn't in the mood to use a ton of food coloring to get Ultros' signature purple, so I incorporated blueberries into the mix and it ended up turning out quite nicely.

Alright, Uncle Ulty really wants you to take his picture.

(Point of fact: Blueberry buttercream does not take well to bananas. By the time Ultros was done with his photo shoot, he was quite... melty, to say the least.)

Seafood soup!

Once he was all put together, I took the liberty of giving Ultros some iconic props from his Final Fantasy VI roots. Throughout the game, you meet this mischievous octopus no less than five times. From river rafting to opera house rafters, Ultros aims to wreak havoc in every situation as only a giant, purple octopus can.

I'm gonna jam up your opera!

Zelda, playing the role of Celes, playing the role of Maria,
& Link, her scene stealing hero

There are plenty of other villains, heroes, props and creatures worthy of attention from Final Fantasy VI (i.e. pretty much everyone and everything), but Ultros just had too much character to pass up. 

G'fa ha ha!

I've got a few months yet to figure out what to do for my next birthday, but I do know one thing already. Whatever I end up doing, it's gonna be nerdy and it's gonna be good. Unless, of course, Ultros has anything to say about it. 

Don't tease the octopus, kids!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gleefully Gaga - The Maiden Tablet Drawing


Once upon a time, I had a wonderful, little drawing tablet. It was so wonderful in fact, that it made digital art not just a possibility, but a joy. But then one day, it died. Fortuitously enough, Yurika (a.k.a. Squid), my wonderful roommate at the time, fellow blogger and awesome artistdecided to upgrade her own drawing tablet around then and passed her older one on to me. Hooray for hand-me-downs!

Happiness and gratitude abounding, thrilled by having a functional tablet once again, I offered in thanks to draw my roomie any picture she'd like. Her choice: all of us roomies (plus one honorary addition) in the wardrobal stylings of Lady Gaga a la Glee. 


Challenge accepted.

And the lobster goes to... the Marine Biologist!!!

As I love drawing people, especially people in interesting clothes, testing my mettle with Lady Gaga's innovative wardrobe proved to be an absolute blast. Yurika, the generous, beautiful, tablet-donating roomie of amazingness, requested the outfit with the giant ribbon hat, and I got to play dress-up with the rest of us. (The letters in the pictures stood for which roomie got which pose/outfit, though most of those nicknames are outdated.)

Ready girls... POSE!

With the costume choices out of the way, it was time to draft our stances. The dance moves and poses of Lady Gaga are just about as novel as her fashion choices, so standing in a line simply would not do. Luckily, watching the Glee rendition of Bad Romance on loop whilst drawing helped me glean some iconic dance moves for the pic. 

Coolest cover band ever.

Once I had decent sketches plotted out, I made my first attempt at the real picture. Though still in the sketchy stages, so far so good. And speaking of stages, you can see a tentative background evolving at this point, complete with perspective and everything! (As I usually don't bother with backgrounds at all, that's kind of a big deal.)

Lady Gaga coloring book - the next big thing?

Next up, refining the line art! While I'm a huge fan of traditional media, this is where digital drawing has the distinct advantage in my opinion. No worries about one fell pen swoop ruining the whole thing before it's done.

Just dance!

This project proved especially exciting in the coloring department. Thanks to the fancy costumes and backdrop, I got to try out all sorts of new techniques. What with the sparkly lobster, curling wires, giant ribbon, lacy bodysuit, BUBBLES, ruffles and panels, I got to play with gradients, textures and tools I'd never seen before!  

Gaga for Glee!

Since my artwork usually ends up without any background to speak of, I'm actually quite proud of how this one turned out. I admit, I even had fun toying with the perspective, lighting and such. But the fact of the matter remains. I wanted each person to shine and the collective picture just wasn't cutting it. Therefore, Phase 2 of the project came to be: individual posters!

Success! Thanks again to my wonderful college roommates for being a part of this project, to Yurika for making it possible and to Lady Gaga and Glee for providing the inspiration. Stay tuned for more creativity! :D

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Firefly Shindig: Shiny!

Alright everybody, thanks to all the wonderful folk who voted in the poll a few weeks ago, it's time for a proper Firefly Shindig! (And just in case Firefly wasn't your chosen geekery, I've added a new poll with more options for future nerd parties - cast your vote!)

Pretty cunning, don't you think?

I admit, I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon's show Firefly (and the subsequent film Serenity). Such a fan in fact, that I've actually thrown a Firefly themed shindig before. In order to be as comprehensively nerdy as possible, I went ahead and included some of the throwbacks along with the new creations I cooked up just for this.

Girl's a mind reading genius, 
can't even figure out how to eat a rice planet!

To start things off, I wanted to pay homage to River's problematic food, the Ice Planet (from the Firefly episode The Message). I didn't want to run the risk of getting my guests all melty though, so instead of ice cream or the like, I used homemade puffed rice treats. Construction was simple enough - nuke marshmallows, add krispies, sculpt a ball with a string stuck in the center, tie to a chopstick. Voila - Rice Planet.

The apples are grenade free... probably.

True to its description, the problematic food was quite the challenge to eat and most of the guests resorted to stabbing the sphere with the chopstick and eating it like a popsicle. Seen with the problematic food are some strawberries fresh from the monastery, apples from the front and a steaming cup of Serenitea. With the appetizers in the bag, it was time to move on to the main dish.

Remember Jayne's iconic hat? You know, the awesome yellow/orange thing with ear flaps and puff balls? Well, I was originally planning on knitting a Jayne hat (and that plan hasn't changed), but I realized that's been done quite a bit and for the party at hand I wanted to try something more original. And more delicious. The solution? A bundt cake, where every slice would be its own little Jayne hat just waiting to be eaten. 

Protein cake in the making (there's eggs!)

While I usually enjoy baking from scratch, I went ahead and used a box of yellow cake mix this time plus all the relevant ingredients (and a few extra). Fun Tip: In most baking recipes you can substitute up to half the amount of vegetable oil that is called for with APPLESAUCE without compromising the texture or taste of the product. I like doing this with brownies, as it makes the final product much less greasy and just healthier enough that I don't feel so bad for eating it. Moving on...


Once the batter was prepared, I separated the mix into three portions and added food coloring to each until they were the appropriate shades - red-orange, orange and basic yellow. Then it was time to layer it in. 

Batter up!

Since with traditional bundt cakes the top becomes the bottom, I put the yellow in first, then the orange and finally the red-orange, intending to flip it right side up when it came out of the oven. In the meantime, I had the pleasure of cleaning the bowls. 

To the baker go the spoils.

By the time the cake was done baking, I realized my plan had a minor flaw. The pan I had chosen was too big for the batter and the cake had grown quite volcanic in its puffiness while the bottom was as flat as a pancake. (Should anyone else try this sometime, I would definitely recommend a more traditional, round bottomed bundt pan and doubling the amount of batter.) Not to worry though, even if the cake itself had to be upside-down, the individually sliced hats could still be righted.


Now it was time for the fun part - decorating! For the glaze I went with the simple powdered sugar and water combo, adding a little bit of orange extract and food coloring for flavor and general prettiness. The puffballs on top are really gumdrops in disguise.

Ta da!
Color layering success!

To serve the slices, I flipped them on the plate (as originally intended) and drizzled extra icing down the sides for ear flaps/tassels. Adding two more puffballs on the ends made a culinary Jayne hat good enough to eat.

A man walks down the street with that cake,
you know he's not afraid of anything.

Mission accomplished. Now, if I ever throw another Firefly shindig, I might have to try bundt style Jayne hats made out of Jell-O or cornbread, perhaps served with... Shepherd's Pie???

Even Nathan Fillion is impressed!

Thanks again to everyone for helping pick out which type of nerdiness to celebrate! Keep watching weekly for more creative exploits!