Cosplay Tutorial: Adding a Non-Slip Sole to Spandex Boot / Shoe Covers

Spandex boot covers are a great way to customize less-than-perfect footwear to work with your costume. You can sometimes buy ready made covers, but personally, I prefer to make my own (I have full instructions available in my spandex cosplay sewing manual – Sewing for Superheroes). It just gives me so much more flexibility on the footwear I can use, and the final effect.

For some costumes – such as this “Peek-A-Blue” one – I’ll build my boot covers right into the tights, for an all-in-one look. The shoes are inserted into the tights, and the whole thing is put on like you would roll up pantihose. It can really complete a look!

The thing is, spandex boot covers can be a weak point in your costume, in terms of wear and tear. Spandex isn’t really meant to be footwear, after all – and all that walking can tatter it quickly. No worries, though – adding a sole to your boot covers is easy, relatively inexpensive, and wildly extends the life of your costume. It protected the seam itself, as well as the fabric under the shoe. Additionally, this creates a nonslip surface – makes your costume safer to wear!

I use a rubberized soling material called “ToughTek” that I purchase on Etsy, here. It comes in several colours, I like to keep a supply of white, black, and beige on hand, so I can best coordinate with whatever I’m adding a sole to.

Here is how I do it.

You will need:

Paper for patterning – either printer paper or craft/tissue paper
Pen
Scissors
Soling material
Craft paper, parchment paper, or etc to protect your work surface.
Shoe Goo
Disposable plastic knife, or similar
Clamps, vice grips, masking tape, etc (optional)
Clear Silicone Caulking
2 rolls of masking or packing tape
Small bowl for water
ScotchGard spray (optional, but recommended)

Method:

1. Put your shoe/boot inside the cover, being sure to line up the seams where they should go. In this case, that means the long seam goes straight up the middle of the sole, with the vertical seam extending from that seam, up the middle of the instep. Smooth out any wrinkles:

2. Place your shoe/boot over your pattern paper, and carefully trace out the sole shape:

3. If the shoe curls up at the front, be sure to roll forward on the sole when tracing, to get the full shape:

4. Your tracing will likely be rough, like this:

5. Cut out your tracing, cleaning up the edges as you go:

6. Place your tracing up against the bottom of your shoe, to see how well it fits:

7. Trim off any excess, if applicable. In this case, I needed to trim a little from around the ball of the foot:

8. Lay out your soling material, rough side down. (Rough side is up in picture):

9. Trace out your adjusted pattern piece onto the back (non-rubber, fabric) side of the soling material, once:

10. Hold your cut out soling piece against the bottom of your shoe. Make sure it fits well – you want it to cover everywhere that hits the ground, without extending beyond that surface area. Trim any excess, if necessary:

11. Place your adjusted cut piece down on your soling material – fabric side down, facing the fabric side of the main piece. Trace and cut a second, mirror-image piece:

12. Lay out some paper to protect your work surface. This can get messy:

13. Squeeze a fair amount of Shoe Goo out onto the underside of your shoes, being careful to keep it to the area that will be covered by the sole. For reference, this one piece took one entire mini tube as pictured in the last step:

14. Repeat with the fabric side of your cut out sole pieces:

15. Use the flat side of your plastic knife to smooth out the Shoe Goo on all pieces:



16. Allow the pieces to dry a little, 5-10 minutes. Once the time is up, CAREFULLY line up one sole to the appropriate shoe bottom, and apply. Aim to get it right on the first try, as it’s messy and difficult to try to reposition it once placed. Firmly press into place, then repeat with second sole/shoe.

17. Allow to cure for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 to be thorough. I’ll usually just set them up as pictured, so the weight of the shoe holds the sole in place. You MAY need clamps or tape to help, depending on the shoe/boot / shape of the sole:

18. Once the curing time is up, carefully pipe a line of clear silicone caulking around the edge of the soling. Aim to get it on the outside/top edge of the soling, right where it touches the spandex. The idea is to seal the edge of the soling. This may (read: will!) get a bit messy, don’t worry too much though:

19. Set your shoes/boots sole side up in the rolls of tape, as pictured. This will allow everything to dry freely, without getting stuck to work surfaces, etc. Fill a small bowl with water:

20. Dip your finger in the water, and use it to smooth out your line of caulking. Be sure to work it into the area between the spandex and the soling material. Try to get this as snmooth as possible – it likely won’t be perfect – mine usually isn’t – but once it dries, imperfections aren’t very noticeable. There’s a reason we’re using clear caulking, after all!

21. Place your shoes back into the rolls of tape, as shown, and allow to fully dry, 12-24 hours, until silicone is completely clear:

22. Once silicone caulking is completely dry, follow instructions on ScotchGard to treat the boots, if you like – I usually do, as it keeps them looking fresh and new. Be sure to test on a scrap piece of material to make sure nothing weird happens with the Scotchgarding:

When wearing, pull on as usual, and just be sure to adjust the cover so that the sole lays where it is supposed to, in case it shifted while putting it on.

Symbols Matter, Words Matter – Autism Acceptance Month 2017

Well, it’s just about April … so I guess it’s time for my yearly rant about it. I’ve actually got a few mini rants this time around, all basically connected.

The other day, a sponsored post came across my Facebook feed. As an intentionally vague description, it used stolen artwork to associate the puzzle piece “Autism symbol” with a popular piece of pop culture, for commercial gain – not even linked to ANY non-profit. It was gross and appropriative on many levels… and then I read the comments.

… Where to even start with this?

First of all, props to all of the Autistic people in the thread who tried to speak up against it, while being wholly drowned out by non-Autistic people. It can be hard to speak up for ourselves, in the face of being outnumbered by many. I will never understand why some NT people have such a need to shout down Autistic people speaking up on Autistic issues.

A few issues to discuss here, as a result:

1. If you are not Autistic, you do not get to police how Autistic people address themselves.

This is a HUGE issue when it comes to identity-first vs person-first language. Autistic people tend to prefer identity first language – “I am Autistic”, “They are Autistic”, etc – VS person-first language – “She has Autism”, “He is a person with Autism”, etc.

Identity-first language acknowledges that this is who we ARE. We’re not inflicted with some disease, that we don’t need a “cure”, etc. Person-first language distances the autism from the person, and is associated with the view that it’s a disease. You have a cold, you have cancer, you don’t “have” autism. Autism is our Operating System, it’s tied up in to our personalities, our senses, the way we think, the way we experience life. It’s not some *thing* you can just take away.

I get so tired of seeing neurotypical people “correcting” Autistics on their choice of language. “You’re not ‘autistic’, you’re a person with autism!” is never an acceptable thing to say to anyone, period. That goes double when THAT is the response to an Autistic person explaining why something that NT people are doing is problematic.

Hell, even if you are Autistic, you don’t get to police the language that Autistic people use for refer to themselves. Some – not many, but some – Autistic people prefer person-first language. Many don’t. Let people address themselves the way they see fit, and have some respect for their choices.

2. If you are not Autistic, you are not Autistic.

This is an issue both on a smaller, individual level, and on a societal level. So often, we will see NT people in Autistic spaces, speaking over Autistic people, because they are related to an Autistic person. Relation does not equal authority, and it most certainly does not grant some sort of divine permission to speak OVER Autistic people.

On a societal level, this is a problem when it comes to issues of representation. So often, parents of Autistic people are looked to as “consultants” in matters of Autism (note: matters of Autism, specifically. NOT matters of being a parent to an Autistic child).

Under no circumstances is a neurotypical parent of an Autistic child an expert on what it is to be Autistic, nor should they be the sole voice when it comes to things like consulting for the creation of an Autistic character in the media. With so many actual Autistic people out there who are more than willing to consult on such things, there is really no reason for an NT parent to be consulted at all. There are, after all, Autistic parents of Autistic children out there!

Right now, this is the issue we’re seeing with Sesame Street’s new Autistic character. While they apparently did consult with Autistic people, they also consulted with Autism Speaks and NT parents “for balance”. This is probably a big part of the reason that all of their marketing uses person-first language, much to the disgust of basically every Autistic person who has said anything about the whole thing.

When you are specifically talking about women’s lives, you do NOT need to consult men “for balance”. When you are talking about black lives, specifically, you do not – AND SHOULD NOT – need to consult white people about it, “for balance”.

When you reach outside the actual community for such input, you are taking agency away from those actually impacted by the portrayal being discussed. There are far too many Autistics that are willing and able to educate and/or fight for proper representation, to keep them silenced in favour of NT people.

Autism Speaks – an organization almost universally despised by those it purports to represent – tends not to have any Autistics actually involved with the organization… go figure.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network, on the other hand, is vocal about “Nothing about us, without us”.

3. Let’s talk about the puzzle piece. Again.

This is a subject I’ve ranted about before, but let me try to condense this down into a shorter form.

The puzzle piece was around before Autism Speaks, though it is HIGHLY associated with them. The idea that we are a puzzle to be solved is dehumanizing and offensive to a lot of us.

The accompanying “Until every piece fits” may sound pleasant enough to the average neurotypical person, but you have to remember – your experience is not ours. You may hear that and think “yes! Autistic people should fit in!”. We hear it, and our thoughts are usually elsewhere. A few examples:

– ABA “therapy” (Which has left many Autistics with PTSD), other compliance therapy (Which could/should be considered torture, in many cases) and many other ways that many Autistics are forced to “fit”.

– The knowledge that the organization most associated with that phrase/image is also one who is big on researching in-utero markers for Autism. Yes, they want to employ eugenics against us. Much like words matter, context matters. Knowing what history knows, that phrase would sound an awful lot less warm and fuzzy if you heard Hitler saying it, wouldn’t it?

– There’s the issue that the puzzle piece – usually done up in primary colours – is infantilizing. These days, people are more likely to be diagnosed in childhood, but it’s not a childhood thing. There’s a lot of erasure of adult Autistics in the community. When it comes to “awareness”, support, etc, many Autistics feel that we are forgotten once we age out of childhood. When it comes to any online discussion involving Autistics, adult Autistics are frequently discounted or ignored entirely. We don’t become Neurotypical once we hit age 18, you know! To have such a “childish” symbol associated with us is a reminder of that whole issue.

– The very fact that we shouldn’t NEED to fit. Society benefits from the Autistic mind in so many ways – where do you think we would be right now, technologically speaking, without Autistics? You would not even be on the internet right now – it would not exist – and able to read this rant, if not for the many, many people on the spectrum who made the internet happen. It’s not logical to benefit from our brain differences, while simultaneously carrying on about how we should be just like you. Diversity is important, on so many levels. Even beyond just representation… but I’ll spare you the tangent about evolutionary biology. For now 🙂

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. We are UNIX minds in a Windows world… and the analogy works on many levels.

ANYWAY.

While the puzzle piece and phrase may sound positive to well-intentioned NT people, they can have MUCH darker connotations to those of us on the spectrum.

All of this, and I still see NT people shouting down Autistic people who try to explain how problematic the symbol is. We shouldn’t have to look past the dark, creepy overtones to the symbol and phrase, just because they make neurotypical people feel good. That’s not how this works.

Awareness vs Acceptance

It’s 2017. We’ve been around for a very long time, and we’ve even been known for a long time. It’s time to move on from “awareness” in April.

I’ve noticed a very clear divide in the hashtags used by Autistic people, and by non-Autistic people in April. We tend to use #AutismAcceptance”, while those not on the spectrum tend to use #AutismAwareness. Words do matter, whether it’s this set of two options, or the earlier discussed identifying language.

This April, please reconsider your words. Please reconsider the use of the puzzle piece. Please consider NOT “Lighting it up Blue” – an Autism Speaks initiative – and consider one of the alternatives, being promoted by actual Autistic people to combat the “Light it up Blue”.

A few hashtags to follow on Twitter, or to use to search for further reading:

#ToneItDownTaupe
#REDInstead
#DontLIUB
#BoycottAutismSpeaks

Just now, I see there’s a new movement.. To use #AutismAppreciation. I like it!

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I think it’s about time for my yearly viewing of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Marie

PS Here are some of my previous posts on Autism.

Explaining Autism: Interoception, and Something Other Than Pain

Autism Awareness Day – A Few Thoughts from My Spot on the Spectrum

Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Me

Interacting with Autistic Children: A Guide for Charity Appearances

Aspergers: You Can’t Cure “Awesome”

Earl Grey Pie – Happy Pi Day! (Gluten-Free)

It’s March 14 – 3/14 – and first thing this morning, my husband rolled over and wished me a Happy Pi Day. You know, his favourite “holiday”.

Well, first thing that came to mind was a long string of expletives – for the first time since we’ve met (and I’m including the year following the tornado that destroyed – among other things – our kitchen!), I’ve completely forgotten about Pi Day. IN my defense, I’ve been swamped with development for More Than Poutine. This month has been ALL about developing recipes for Canadian junk food; most recently, that’s meant snack cakes. There is sugar everywhere, I can’t picture having added a pie in on top of everything.

… but I didn’t even post anything about Pi Day, leading up to today, on any of my social media. Not even so much as a share of my big “Pi Day is Coming, Are you Ready?” master list of Pi Day stuff. Kinda feeling like the worst wife AND worst nerdy blogger ever – I really dropped the 4/3πr^3 on that one!

Thankfully, his workplace is taking care of his pi day needs that I so woefully neglected, but I still feel bad. So, as my mea culpa to the universe, I will share my Earl Grey Pie recipe now! This recipe is one of the many fabulous gluten-free recipes in Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking, so if you’re gluten-free, or know someone who is, you should definitely check it out 🙂

If you don’t need this to be gluten-free, feel free to substitute a store bought pie crust, or one from of your favourite recipes. My go-to is my Great-Uncle Tom’s Pie Crust Recipe.

This is an elegant pie that isn’t cloyingly sweet – the Earl Grey flavour comes through well, and is really well suited for use in a pie!

We served it for some friends, and one of them – Derek – was almost in tears as he declared that “Everything is perfect with the world” after the first bite. When another friend joined us later, He told her that when she tries the pie, “The gates of heaven will open, and you will see everything”.

So. That happened.

I hope you enjoy this pie as much as Derek did! (And everyone else, really… his reaction was just amazing though! )

Gluten-Free Earl Grey Pie
Makes 1 pie

Crust:

1/2 cup Light buckwheat flour
1/4 cup Sorghum flour
1/4 cup Sweet rice flour
1/4 cup Corn starch
1 Tbsp Granulated sugar
1 tsp Xanthan gum
4 oz Cream cheese
1/4 cup Cold butter
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Large egg
1/4 cup Cold water

Filling:

2 Large eggs
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
1/3 cup Corn starch
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Milk
1 cup Heavy cream
3 Earl Grey tea bags
2 Tbsp Butter
Whipped cream, for serving

Measure flours, corn starch, sugar, and xanthan gum into the bowl of your food processor, blitz to combine. Add cream cheese, butter, lemon zest and egg, blitz a few times until mixture resembles gravel.

Stream in cold water as you run the food processor, just long enough to start to bring it together as a dough – you may need to use a little more or less water. Do NOT over-process it!

Remove dough from processor, knead lightly to bring it together as a ball. Wrap in plastic film, chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C), lightly dust your work surface with extra corn starch. Roll your crust out to about 1/4″ thick. Line a pie pan with the crust, trim the edges of the crust to only slightly longer than the edge of the pie plate. Use your fingers to crimp/ruffle the edge of the pie.

Use a fork to prick some holes on the bottom of the crust. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes. Once chilled, bake pie crust for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool to room temperature while you prepare the filling.

Whisk eggs together with sugar until fluffy and pale yellow. Add cornstarch and salt, whisk until incorporated and smooth. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring milk and cream just to the start of a boil. Remove from heat, add tea bags, steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing out excess liquid back into the pot. Bring cream up JUST to a boil once again.

Measure about 1/4 cup of the hot cream mixture, and stream slowly into egg mixture while whisking. Continue streaming liquid and whisking until it is completely incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of hot cream.

Remove saucepan from heat, pour remaining egg mixture into cream mixture, whisking constantly. Once fully incorporated and smooth, return to heat. Turn heat to medium-low. Continue whisking mixture constantly, cooking until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted and smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Spoon filling into prepared crust, cover with plastic wrap. Chill until set, about 3 hours. To serve, top with whipped cream.

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.

Interacting with Autistic Children – A Guide for Charity Appearances

If you follow me on social media, you may know that I recently joined The Royal Sisterhood, a member of Costumers for a Cause.

CFAC is a local nonprofit which brings costumers together to volunteer their talents for local charities, to aid and enrich their fundraisers and other events. Dressed as princesses, superheroes, and more, we do appearances at events such as charity walks, Children’s hospital TV programming, and more.

Prior to joining The Royal Sisterhood, I was involved with another division of Costumers for a Cause, doing appearances as Superheroes/ villains, along with my husband. (I went as Beast, he would usually go as Magneto or Loki, all from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

At a TRS meeting yesterday, my friend Sara did a great presentation on gender inclusiveness while doing charity appearances. With an Autism Walk coming up, I asked if the group had ever discussed interacting with Autistic children. I have seen some pretty bizarre things with regards to Neurotypicals interacting with Autistics, after all.

After sharing a few thoughts on the matter, I was asked to write up a bit of a guide. I went home, brainstormed with my husband, and here we are! While this was written specifically for a group of Princesses, we thought that it was good advice for those doing charity appearances in general, so decided to post it here.

All dressed up as “The Fairy Godmother”,
prior to a charity appearance.

Interacting with an Autistic Child

1. Don’t force eye contact.

Eye contact can feel very threatening/intimidating to some, and far too intimate to others. If it’s obvious they don’t want to make eye contact, talk to their shoulder or their chin. Just because they’re not looking at you, doesn’t mean they’re not looking at you… if that makes sense. Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to look you in the face.

2. Do not touch – even a fist bump or high five – without asking first.

Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to touch you, or shy away from you physically.

3. Talk to the autistic child first, not their parent.

For example, ask the child if they want a hug, not the adult if it’s OK. If it turns out that the child needs the adult to communicate for them, the adult will step in. Asking the adult first is a sore point in the community.

4. Be mindful of sensory issues.

Avoid or go very light on perfume, etc when attending an Autistic event. Be mindful of the fact that loud voices (loud to us, not to you!) can be very startling.

Of particular note for princess events: The high, very girly princess voice and accompanying laugh can be difficult/painful, especially in groups. If you are in a group of two or more princesses, try to keep laughter subdued.

5. Know your audience.

Autistics are very, VERY literal. There’s a fine line between staying in character, and offending the children. Many of us have no ability to suspend disbelief, and some of the things said to enhance “character” can come off as lying, or as mocking the Autistic child.

For example, if you say “I just came from Arendelle…”, an Autistic child is likely to process it something like: “Arendelle doesn’t exist. Is she making fun of me? Does she think I’m stupid? What am I supposed to say to that?”.

It can be very awkward and uncomfortable. If at all possible, avoid making definitive statements about the fictional world you’re portraying (I know, this is super counter-intuitive, for showing up in character). For this reason, various figures of speech can also be confusing and make things awkward.

6. Speak very clearly. Enunciate!

Many Autistics also have sensory processing disorders, which can be exacerbated by busy environments like the charity walk. When you hear EVERYTHING going on around you, it can be very hard to pick out a certain person talking, even if right in front of you.

Please don’t be offended if you’re asked to repeat something, or if you are misunderstood. Also know that many rely on reading lips, even if they don’t have a hearing problem. Try to face in their general direction when talking to them, even if eye contact is an issue.

7. Give plenty of time for a response.

Autistic children can take longer to reply than neurotypical children. If you’re sure they heard you, just have a bit of patience in waiting for a reply. They’re processing! Also, know that long pauses may feel really awkward to you, but aren’t necessarily to Autistics. Autistics can enjoy your quiet presence, and don’t necessarily need nonstop conversation. Social cues are not our strong point!

8. Ask about hobbies, BUT…

… be prepared to have your ear talked off. If you get an Autistic child talking about an area of special interest, they can go on and on. It can be hard for them to tell when the other party is not interested, or the conversation should move on. Be ready to be very, very patient!

On that point, know that when the conversation has ended, be clear that you are ending it. Don’t hint around that you have to move on, just be clear and honest that you need to meet others, etc. Again, social cues!

9. Do not take anything personally.

I’ve touched on this with a couple of other points, but it should be expanded on. For one thing, Autistics can be very frank with you. There’s not usually a lot of sugar coating, more just saying what’s on the mind. It can come off rude, but is usually not ever INTENDED to be rude. These can fall into observations or questions about physical appearance, etc. Try to roll with things, even if something hurts a bit.

10. Watch your wording.

Please avoid the use of “high functioning” or “low functioning” to describe an Autistic person. Don’t compare an Autistic to a non Autistic, or use phrases like “For an Autistic…” (“You’re so friendly/empathetic/well spoken for an Autistic”, for example). Though it likely won’t come up, it needs to be said: Don’t use “cure” language.

Additionally, know that – much like gender pronouns – How you refer to an Autistic is important. Many/most Autistic adults prefer identity-first language, ie: Autistic person, Autistic child, etc… while many non-Autistic people seem to think that person-first language is most appropriate: “Person with Autism”, “Person who has Autism”. Many of us see “with” or “who has” to be offensive, as it usually accompanies the idea of us being “inflicted” with something, that it’s something separate from us, and/or is a temporary/ “curable” thing. Autism is our Operating System, it’s who we are.

If an Autistic person tells you what their preference is – identity-first or person-first – please respect it. Also: Please don’t ever say “suffers from Autism”.

11. Tone matters.

You don’t necessarily need to mimic how the parent talks to the Autistic child. Some parents of Autistics are… less than ideal in how they treat their kids, and can talk to them like they’re babies and/or idiots. Aside from issues mentioned above (eye contact, enunciation, literal speech), you shouldn’t feel the need to talk any differently to an Autistic child, than you would a neurotypical child. As an example, nonverbal children are often looked at as stupid or lesser-than, and are frequently talked down to. The fact that they don’t speak *doesn’t* mean they don’t understand, or aren’t intelligent. Some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known are non-verbal.

12. Know that every Autistic is different.

Some of these tips won’t apply to everyone. For some, every single one will. You will likely meet Autistic children who “pass” for neurotypical.

*****

As a bit of an aside – this isn’t so much about dealing with Autistic children, as it is a bit of information about the Autism community, culture, etc…

April is coming up, and with it… “Autism Awareness Month”. Every Autistic adult I know dreads this month, as the promotion and observance of it tends to be hugely offensive to Autistic people. I’ve written about it Here, Here, and Here. I’d encourage anyone planning to do Autism charity appearances to read through those posts.

The TL;DR:

1. Autism Speaks is a horrible organization, on so many levels. Most Autistic adults and many parents of Autistics are horrified by their campaigns and treatment of Autistics. Please consider NOT supporting A$, and look to alternative organizations. I tend to recommend Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as it is “Nothing about us, without us”

2. As an extension of #1, the puzzle piece and “Light it up blue” are very much Autism Speaks symbols, and as such are pretty offensive to a many Autistics. For more information/perspective, I recommend Goggling such things as “Don’t light it up blue”, and “Autism Speaks doesn’t speak for me”.

3. The #ActuallyAutistic tag on social media – particularly Twitter – is a good read if you’d like to hear what Autistic people have to say.

A few members of The Royal Sisterhood

Handpainted Eye of Sauron Holiday Ornaments!

He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake… 😉

Last year, I designed and made an Eye of Sauron pen holder for a convention booth. After the event, I looked at it and thought “That would make a great Christmas ornament design!”… and here we are!

Perfect for any Tolkien fan on your gift list, this ornament will add a special something to any geek’s holiday tree – Lord of the Rings themed, or not. Go ahead, hang it next to a TARDIS, it’s all good!

Ornaments are all hand painted on plastic (I’m a cat owner. I can’t wrap my head around glass ornaments hanging from a tree!), are durable, and look great!

The “eye” is painted on both sides of each ornament, so it looks great from multiple angles.

saurontop

Due to the hand painted nature of these ornaments, no two will be alike – expect some variation from the photos shown. Order before December 12 for delivery before Christmas, US only.

sauronroundjpg

2.5″ Diameter Ornament

$12.00
Add to Cart

sauronroundjpg

3″ Diameter Ornament

$15.00
Add to Cart

saurondisk

3″ Diameter Disk

$15.00
Add to Cart

sauronset

Set of 10 2.5″ Ornaments

$95.00
Add to Cart

CCNow is our authorized online retailer for online orders.

Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

The One CHEESE Ring
How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

sauronbottom

On the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek

With the official release of Hedonistic Hops just a week away, I participated in an author interview yesterday… and subsequently kicked myself for one of my answers.

The question was something like “If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 books would you want to have with you?”.

Without hesitation, my reply was “A book on tropical plant identification, a book on survival skills, and a book on primitive boat making”.

Hours later, it hit me that I may have answered the question, but managed to miss the spirit of the question – that they were likely framing “what are your favourite books” in a whimsical manner. I guess I was so focused on the idea of being stuck on a desert island, I went straight to the most logical answer… rather than indulge in whimsy.

Whoops.

I fussed about it a bit online: I categorized it among “social missteps”, which – as an Aspergian adult – I’ve been trying to be better about. My friends were very nice about my gaffe, making comments about how they appreciated my literal interpretation, etc. A comment was made about “Spock level logic”.

How fitting it is that just a few short hours later, September 8th hit – the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek.

As everyone I know seems to be pouring their hearts out about what Star Trek has meant to them, I figured I should do the same!

My introduction to Star Trek came from an unexpected source: non-geek bullies.

Though I wasn’t diagnosed till my mid teens – and there wasn’t even a name for it in my early years – my Aspergers didn’t go unnoticed by the other kids I went to school with. When I was very young, the other kids called me “Spock”. I had no idea what that even meant, until I watched Star Trek. Though it was used in a pejorative sense – as a slur against my being “different ” – I took it as a compliment. This was a character I could relate to!

There was no representation of people like me in the media in those days. While he may have been a pointy eared alien, Spock was the very first “person” I was ever able to relate to – on screen or otherwise. I guess that him being an alien is appropriate enough, having always felt like I’d been dropped off on the wrong planet! (Which I now know is a common feeling with Aspies).

I have no idea where to even start with describing what that’s like. There was no social media back then, there was no one “like me” in my elementary school, no one like me on TV… Except Spock. Kind of a little glimmer of hope that I wasn’t a complete freak, I guess? At the time, I rationalized that… Sure, he may be a fictional character, but SOMEONE came up with him. One way or the other, the Spock character gave me how that there were other people like me out there. It was a BIG DEAL… one that I can’t accurately put into words.

On the subject of “representation matters”, I always appreciated how diverse Star Trek was. I appreciated that there were all these characters of different backgrounds, races, even SPECIES… just working together.

As I grew a bit older, I came to notice and appreciate that the diversity I so loved about the show was so… organic. That it was written so naturally, and not in a “Look at us! We’re being so EDGY!” kind of way. I appreciated that this show – one that was almost a decade and a half before my time – put this vision of the future out there. It was… hopeful.

As I grew older yet, I met my “tribe” in the Geek community – many of whom are Trekkies. I have friends that I met as Klingons first, and “Klingon” is how I think of them. I suppose some of them might feel the same sort of way about Klingons, as I did – and do – about Spock.

I met and married a man who not only agrees that going to see “A Klingon Christmas Carol” is the only really acceptable holiday tradition for us, but was RIGHT there with me when Leonard Nimoy passed – leaving work early and instituting “grief sushi” as a thing. Nimoy was the first and only celebrity passing either of us cried about, and we were both pretty traumatized by the surprise meeting of Spock Vegas just a month later. (Though he seems to be a lovely man!)

Oh, this is getting dark. I guess it’s hard for me to talk about Star Trek without the fixation on Spock- and Nimoy, by extension. Neither one of us are what you’d consider “Trekkies” – we’re casual fans, in general. We haven’t seen all the series, though we enjoy the movies, and enjoyed TNG as children. We enjoy the enthusiasm of our Trekkie friends, for sure! (I will admit to having been SO pissed off at how they killed of Tasha Yar, that I stopped watching. LOL)

Anyway. In the past years, autism has come to be slightly better represented in the media, so I am very happy that kids of today have non-alien, “real” characters to look up to: Gary from “Alphas” (Ok, he’s a mutant, but STILL), and Connor from “Degrassi” (The most accurate representation I’ve ever come across), for example.

… but I will always be thankful to Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, and Leonard Nimoy in particular for giving me the gift of Spock, and the gift of … relating.

I’m thankful they’ve given that same gift to other friends of mine, whether as Klingons, as women, and/or as people of colour. It’s a beautiful thing, and definitely a show – and milestone anniversary! – to be celebrated!

So, Happy 50th, Star Trek! May you continue to Live Long and Prosper.

PS: Also, thank you for making William Shatner famous. That man is a national treasure.

My Convention Survival Guide

Con season is upon us!

I was planning to write a blog entry on convention food recipes, but that idea has snowballed a bit. As it turns out my little “adventure” in LA gave me some unique planning experience when it comes to hotel rooms!

This is now more of a survival guide pack list kinda thing, coming from a logistics nerd: Everything beyond the “clothes, costumes, toiletries, booze” basics that you should consider packing for con.

So, let’s get started.

HOTEL ROOM

There are a few things that you can pack that will make your life easier, especially with multiple hotel roomies:

Collapsible Garbage Can Let’s be real, those tiny garbage cans hotels have really aren’t going to cut it. These are relatively cheap, twist down to take up very little room, and hold a LOT of garbage. Think something like THIS, and pack a few contractor garbage bags to go with it. Make life easier on the hotel cleaning staff, and leave just a full, tied off garbage bag or two.

Collapsible Laundry Bins. Rather than stuffing dirty laundry back into your suitcase, dump it in one of these. Makes life so much easier.. And cleaner. Do your part to prevent con funk! I like THIS ONE from IKEA.

Hand Sanitizer. I like to have a large bottle in the room, as well as a small bottle in my pocket at all times. I’m no germaphobe, but I DO have a pretty good idea of what hotel surfaces would look like – on a microscopic level – after even a couple hours of a convention.

Water. I like to bring a few 1 Gallon jugs of water, as well as individual bottles.

Cleanup Stuff. If you are planning to host a party, or expect that your roomies may be messy… It’s good to bring rug cleaner spray. Some convention hotels are VERY liberal with charging damages, so try to head that off at the pass. Plastic table cloths from the dollar store work great as drop cloths on/near your food area.

Towels. On that note, if you’re planning any kind of cosplay, bring some hand towels to clean up your makeup. Doesn’t hurt to use your own towels even for regular makeup – I know one person who got charged a fee because she got normal, everyday foundation on a towel.

Old t-shirt for Pillow. This is mostly if you don’t tend to wash off makeup before bed, or have your hair dyed with something that tends to rub off. Cover your pillow with a shirt, prevent those damage fees!

A Fan. Many hotels are older, and their A/C can struggle to keep up during summer month events. A fan can make a huge difference for comfort.

Sleep Stuff. Do you tend to snore? Be a good roomie and pack some disposable earplugs to offer your roomies. Do you tend to party late? A sleep eye mask can help deal with a bright room.

At Least One Power Strip. Hotels are notoriously lax on the outlet front – if you have roomies, they’ll all want somewhere to plug their phones in! The “flat plug” style is handy for hard-to-reach areas, btw.

Paper Products. Not only does the toilet paper run out quickly, but it’s awful stuff. Same for the kleenex. Your butt and nose will thank you if you bring some good stuff. Paper towels, for spills.

PREVENTING CON CRUD

In addition to packing hand sanitizer and using it fairly religiously, there are other things you can do to avoid “con crud” / “con plague” – the generic name for whatever bugs happen to be floating around at a packed convention, knocking people down in the following week or two.

Sleep: Get at least 6 hours sleep per night. Or morning, depending on how you party!

Water: HYDRATE. HYDRATE. HYDRATE.

Food: Don’t rely on consuite, and don’t skip meals. Try not to eat junky food. Trust me, all this makes a difference…. more on that in a bit!

Beyond that, I tend to avoid high-risk foods and open/communal food presentation in consuite. That bowl of chips? Dip that’s been sitting out for who knows how long? Hell no. Stick to individually packaged foods, shelf-stable etc foods, whenever possible.

Wash your hands. OFTEN. Enough said. Also, shower at least once daily… for you, and everyone around you.

FOOD AND DRINK

The better you eat, the better your con experience… and the better your POST-con experience. Since we started bringing our own food for our room, we’ve yet to get concrud again. Several years, many BIG conventions – food makes a huge difference. Try to hit the major needs with every meal: protein, fiber, carbs. Load yourself with nutrients!

Breakfasts: I like to do hotel room smoothies. It’s a few easy ingredients, and all you need to pack is a blender. This year, we will be doing it a bit different, as my husband is currently dairy free: No yogurt, substitute flax milk. It’s all good – the idea is very adaptable! See this post for full details: Hotel Room Smoothies

Main meals: I like to bring a crock pot or two, and have entree type meals on the go for most of the afternoon and evening, so there is good food available for you to grab quickly between panels, etc. Convention Chili is great, as is Convention Sloppy Joes. Both recipes were developed to be loaded with protein, fiber, and vitamins!

Bring crockpot liners to make clean-up SUPER easy! Also, trial/travel sized dish detergent.

Snacks: My go-to for hotel room snacks is my “Con Brownies”. I developed this brownie recipe to not only be delicious, but to be loaded with protein and FIBER. (Wow, I sound really old right now.) Tasty, easy to grab on the go, filling, and will.. Help you out. You know. Bonus? They can be done gluten-free!

Another great snack food to make ahead is my Gluten-free Lembas. Not only is it the most canonically sound recipe I’ve seen, it is tasty and lives up to what Lembas is supposed to do – it fills you up, and keeps you full. Also: protein and fiber!

Beverages: As mentioned, bring water. Additionally, Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks – or instant powder – is usually a good idea.

GENERAL HEALTH

Pain relievers, Tums, Allergy meds, etc. Pretty self explanatory.

Supportive Insoles and Good Shoes. You’re getting old, even if you won’t remember that til the end of the convention. Trust me – take care of your feet. (RACHEL I AM LOOKING AT YOU). Don’t wear new shoes to con – break them in first. Also, consider bringing some Moleskin for good measure.

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

Cash. Many hotels and convention centers have ATMs, sure… but they do tend to run dry during large events. Plan ahead! If your convention has party rooms, be sure to bring a lot of small bills for tipping.

Repair Kit, etc. Even if you’re not a cosplayer, stuff happens. Also, you could be a hero to someone who is less logistically-minded! Mini sewing kit, safety pins, etc.

Favourite lanyard or Neck Wallet. While you can usually get some kind of basic lanyard on site for your badge, sometimes you just have better ones. My husband has a favourite one – the band is about 1″ wide, and more comfortable than the skinny rope kinds. I like the neck wallet type, so I can put other stuff in there – my room key, a few dollars, a pen, whatever.

————–

So, that’s about it, for now. Anything you guys would add?

SurvivalGuide

The One CHEESE Ring!

Recently, I had to make something to bring to a Lord of the Rings themed potluck. I wasn’t in the mood to make my Lembas, and didn’t have time to order the Elderflower syrup to make my Miruvor.

I was on a big cheese kick (as always!), with a lot of cheese in the fridge. We started with the idea of somehow making a LOTR cheese ball (??), and that idea quickly spawned the final plan: We would make The One Cheese Ring.

I like to make cheese balls in the same way I make my Fromage Fort: See what we have in the fridge, use a bit of everything. What can I say, I like adventure! For the less adventurous / those without a ridiculous amount of cheese sitting around, you can always go with a mix of cheddars, goudas, etc – it’s all good!

When it comes to the black speech piped on the side, I decided to use Sun dried tomato paste, which you can buy in a tube. Really, you can flavour the cream cheese with anything you like, and tint it any colour you like. Dijon mustard, horse radish, pesto paste, etc. If using pesto paste, use one without nut chunks in it, or it will be hard to pipe. You can get basil paste in the produce section of many grocery stores.

Once you’ve piped the Black Speech onto the cheese ring, you may feel an overwhelming desire to keep THE PRECIOUS all to yourself … but you should probably share this with friends. 2 1/2 lbs of cheese is a lot, even for the tricksiest of Hobbits.

We’ll definitely have to serve one of these at Tol-Con – A new Middle Earth Fan Convention happening here locally in November!

The One Cheese Ring
Makes 2.5 lbs of cheese ring

1 small onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 lb cream cheese, softened
Splash dry white wine
1 1/2 lbs cheese of choice, grated
Salt, pepper
~ 1.5 cups finely chopped pecans

4 oz softened cream cheese
Flavour paste of choice – we used sun dried tomato paste, pesto is available, etc.
Food colouring, optional

Place onion and garlic into food processor, blitz until finely chopped. Add mustard, cream cheese, and white wine, blitz until very smooth. Add cheese, blitz once more until mixture reaches desired texture. Taste, season with salt and pepper if desired.

Line a large plate with parchment paper, and wrap a wring of parchment paper around a large round can – large can of tomatoes works well, we used a can of mango pulp.

Center can on prepared plate, mound cheese mixture around the can evenly. Using very clean hands (we wear gloves), sculpt the cheese mixture into a rounded ring shape. Once you’re happy with the ring, chill for 2 hours or so.

With your final display plate nearby, carefully remove the can and the parchment paper from the center of the ring, and carefully turn the cheee ring over onto another plate, or your hand. Transfer (flipping in the process) to the display plate.

Using a hot wet knife, clean up any imperfections in your ring, if desired. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to warm up slightly.

Carefully press chopped pecans into all exposed surfaces of the ring, including in the center. Brush away excess nut pieces, chill ring.

In a small food processor, blitz cream cheese and flavouring paste together until very smooth. If using food colouring, tint to desired colour.

Transfer flavoured cream cheese to a pastry bag, pipe Black Speech around outside of ring.

PRECIOUSSSSSS.


Lorien, of The Feral Fellowship

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Tolkien Fan? Be sure to check out these other posts:

How to make a Hobbit Hole Cat Shelter
Caturday: Tolkien edition
How I Made that: Dwarf Wig
So I’m Dressing My Husband up as Thranduil…
The Two Week Thorin Costume!
Thorin Costume!
How to make Thranduil’s Crown
Smaug the Terrible… I mean, Terribly AWESOME.
I am Fire, I am FRUITY – Smaug Fruit Bowl
Smaug Costume
Doing the Elf Meme Thing…
Gandalf the Fabulous

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Dalek Cake for a Doctor!

So… I’m about 3 months late posting this, but better late than never, right?

Back at the end of May, I had the opportunity to not only make the electronics-enhanced Dalek cake I’d been wanting to do some day… but to make it for a Doctor! Console Room had invited Colin Baker to be a Guest of Honour. Of COURSE he needed a special cake! I came out of my “Never going to ever make another cake again, EVER!” retirement, just for the occasion!

As was the case in my (now-retired-from) cake days, and as is the case with our costuming, I designed it and had my husband do the electronics for it.

The cake itself is fairly basic: a stacked tower of cake layers, a food safe tube running up the middle to house the wires, and a head (and one layer in the middle) made from Rice Krispie Treat, to securely hold the electronics and accessory parts in place. The wiring up the center and into the head allowed for lights – the two on top of the head, as well as the.. forehead mini plunger thing. (So technical, I know!). It was about 2′ tall, decorated in marshmallow fondant, and accented with edible metallic-airbrushed chocolate domes.

The cake stand had electronics of its own – a speaker, a sound modulator, and the switches to control the lights and sound. When activated, the sound modulator played Dalek sound clips – it was a lot of fun! Click here for video of the sound modulator in action. I STILL lose it at “Would you care for some tea?”!

Now, I’ve served many, MANY cakes. I’ve assisted in many, MANY first cuts of a cake… but this one is definitely my favourite cake cutting experience of all time. Colin Baker was *amazing* – so much fun, and really got into it. Check it out:

So, yes. I got to teach a Doctor how to destroy a Dalek. I feel like I achieved a crazy bucket list item that I didn’t know I had!

Click here to see more photos from that evening!

How I Made That: Triceracop Cosplay

If you haven’t seen Kung Fury yet, drop what you’re doing and go watch it. This blog post can wait. It’s 30 minutes long, and up on Youtube, HERE.

Isn’t it magnificent? We saw it a few weeks before Convergence, and decided that we needed – NEEDED! – to make a Triceracop costume as a last minute cosplay for the convention. Because, really.

Due to convention rules, this meant purchasing a very cheap looking $26 Police uniform off Amazon as a base. I felt kind of dirty doing do, but you’re not allowed to have a realistic law enforcement uniform. I figured that the overall thing would be fun and glorious enough to offset the potential ding to my costumer’s cred 🙂

To my CREDIT, though… the original seems to be completely CGI, and I was able to do it in real life, looking pretty accurate to the movie. So…

The main part of the costume – the triceratops mask – came together in just a couple of days, without much work at all. I think I had less than 10 hours into this, once you discount all of the drying time.

As with our Smaug costume from last year, I started with a motocrycle helmet as a base. It’s the most sturdy and comfortable option for wearing something like this, and distributes the weight well.

Additionally, my husband was able to drink without taking the helmet off – using a straw!

We had a lot of fun in this thing, and people *lost it* when they saw it. Not bad for a last minute thing. From my husband:

“Making it was fun, I like to help out, so it was good that I could do the epoxy stuff. It’s really cool to see the progress as it takes shape and all of the details get added.

Wearing it is SO much fun. Whether someone is familiar with the character or not, I get smiles from everyone. It’s really quick to put on, easy to wear. You just have to be a little careful through doorways or in crowds, but you quickly get used to that.”

…. So here is how I made it!

First, we re-watched the movie and got some screen captures for reference:


Next, we found an old motorcycle helmet that fit well. Fit is IMPORTANT. Too big will hurt your neck from the weight moving around, too small will be uncomfortable.

Because it won’t be used as an actual helmet, it doesn’t matter if it’s been in an accident or dropped (as long as it’s in decent shape!), so you should be able to find someone selling a dinged one much more cheaply than one that can actually be used for safety.

Before going any further, we sanded the outside of the helmet. Getting the glossy coating off helps the epoxy, etc adhere to the helmet.

Then I built the frame, using a strong wire and electrical tape. Once I was happy with the sizes, shapes, proportions, and placements, I had my husband epoxy it to the helmet in several places. This was just to reinforce the taping, I think it would be fine to skip the epoxy if your tape is holding well.

Then I used dollar store aluminum foil to cover the framework. Bunched up pieces of foil provided a bit of bulk/support in certain areas (chin, the curve from the helmet up to the frill, etc. Additionally, I used tightly crunched up foil to make the base shapes for the bases for the horns, beak, and … whatever you’d call those two pieces that stick out from behind the mouth.

Using plaster tape, I coated the whole thing in 3 layers. Be sure to overlap in different directions for strength.

Once fully wrapped, I let it dry for a a few hours.

Using more tightly crunched foil, I sculpted the horns and used more plaster to attach them firmly to the base. Then I let it dry for a day or two.

I used taxidermy Alligator eyes, coated in Vaseline for protection. I mixed up a big batch of Paperclay, and attached the eyes to the head with it. Used a small piece of Paperclay behind each eye (they’re domed), then sculpted up more Paperclay around each eye for eyelids – this helps hold them in place. Make sure to have both pupils lined up the same way!

I used more Paperclay to add all of the texture details – the mini horns on the frill, the “skin” built up around the base of each large horn and the beak, etc. Thinned down Paperclay spread on the horns and worked smooth allowed for very smooth horns that didn’t require much/any sanding, etc.

Another view. I let this dry for a couple days.

For the first time EVER, I finally obeyed the ventilation warnings on something! Figured I’d killed off enough braincells already, so I sprayed the Plasti-Dip coatings outside.

For my efforts at adulting, I was rewarded with RAIN OUT OF NOWHERE. Luckily, the sculpt was coated and upside down at the time, so it didn’t damage it.

Once all of the Plasti-Dip had fully dried, I carefully peeled it off from the eyes, and wiped off the remaining Vaseline.

For the paint, I mixed several colours of Acrylic paints together to get the right shade of red – kind of brownish and muddy. I mixed it with some Prosaide to create PAX paint (I like the finish it creates), and painted scales all over it. Rough shapes, varied sizes. It was pretty tedious.

Then I mixed some bone coloured PAX paint from a few shades of acrylics – mostly ivory and tan, with just a small amount of gold.I used that to paint the horns. Per the photos, I had it pretty solidly bone colour at the tips, streaking down to a base of more black.

Then I thinned down some black acrylic paint with water and more prosaide, and aggressively shaded it. The idea was to have the black be obvious, but a little transparent to allow the “skin” to show through a little.

Finally, I cut a little piece of dark brown stretch mesh (I didn’t have black on hand like I thought!), and carefully glued it to the inside of the mouth, right up against the mask, as a new visor. This allows vision for the wearer, while blocking their face from view.

The finished helmet/mask, and a photo with our friend Michael as “Kung Fury”:

… and finally, a side by side comparison with the screen shot:

So, that’s how I made it 🙂