Friday, December 24, 2010

So, I Had Some Surgery...

...and it went well, or so I assume, given the fact that I'm not dead. Although, when I first woke up, I felt as if I'd rather be. Pain and I are not close friends. I don't like it and it doesn't like me. However, it came to visit, and it brought its friend nausea along. Jerks. Thankfully, the whole ordeal didn't last too long. I was in there at 7:30 A.M. and home by 4:00P.M. I don't think my bed has ever felt better.

The doctor said I was an easy surgery, and that I should heal up quickly. My reply was something along the lines of  "I want drugs."  ...And drugs he gave me! Drugs that are right now making my head swimmy and my thoughts all wobbledygook, and I'm not going to lie, it's awesome. I really don't even know what I'm writing, so I hope it's coherent. I just popped another Percocet so I'm not long for the waking world, I bet.

What's great though, is that for the first time since before Thanksgiving, I can eat without being in tremendous pain afterward. Granted, I'm not eating a lot and I've lost 7 lbs in a little under a week, but what little I can eat, doesn't hurt me. I forgot how that felt. The incisions still hurt, quite a lot, and I feel like I've done a million crunches, but that'll fade. I'm just glad it's done with. The doctor said I needed to have it done as soon as possible. I didn't realize it was as serious as it was, but that seems to be the way I roll.

I'm hoping, later tonight, I can post a Christmas blog like I usually do, but if I fail to, thanks to my love affair with narcotics at the moment, know that I wish anyone who reads this a joyous, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Raise Your Hand if You're Not Having Surgery...

Not so fast Liz! Not so fast.

Well, it's official. I'm having my Gallbladder removed Wednesday Thursday morning at 7:30 A.M.

Merry. Christmas.

Still, I can't say as I'm all that upset; I just wish it wasn't TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I've been in a lot of pain for a while now. I can't eat without stomach cramps or nausea, and really, as long as I'm awake, I feel pretty bad. I finally broke down and went to the doctor, assuming I was dealing with something like a stomach ulcer from the stress of the past few months...all related to the insanity that is home ownership. However, they did an ultrasound and found it's actually gallstones. yay.

My mother and sister have both had this surgery, so maybe the condition is genetic. I don't know. I just want to feel better. If anyone is reading this, please pray that there are no complications. They both had some and I'd really, really like to avoid keeping up the family tradition.


Friday, December 17, 2010

The Grinch That Stole Christmas...

...has apparently moved from the top of Mount Crumpit to Birmingham Alabama, or a surrounding suburb.

Crews clean up the debris from the city of Birmingham's Christmas tree in Linn Park, which was set afire by thieves early Wednesday.

Apparently, the person that did this was looking to strip the tree of its lights, and the lights of the copper in their wiring. I can't imagine that the wiring from a few strings of lights would yield a great enough quantity of copper to make such an undertaking worth the time and effort involved, but I suppose when you're short on both scruples and brains, even the most idiotic of schemes seems like a gem.

City officials didn't have many details Wednesday, but they said that, about 4 a.m., someone took the lights off the tree and apparently began using gasoline to try to separate the copper from the plastic casing. 

The fuel ignited.

"The fuel ignited." Imagine that. By the time the firefighters showed up, the tree was in ashes. The tree, which cost $7,500 was not going to be replaced by the city, the charred stump instead being covered by another symbol of the holiday season...

...the festive holiday Christmas cone. Feel the wonder. This guy did.

...And this is where the story gets good. You see, like in The Grinch, Christmas couldn't be stolen by someone whose heart was three sizes to small. The citizens of the city, the businesses, and radio stations all came together to make sure that the people of Birmingham could see a tree shining from Linn Park again, and soon.

As a result, little more than 24 hours after the tree was destroyed, shining holiday lights and ornaments will return to Linn Park this morning, a donation of radio station 98.7 Kiss FM and a quickly formed consortium of neighboring cities, business and individuals.

(I'm tricky, tricky with the crop tool! There's the new tree now!)
It wasn't so much about the tree as it was that people felt compelled to do something, to take something sad and make it glad. Now, to me, as a Christian, Christmas is about more than a fancy tree, pretty lights, or beautiful gifts, and nothing can steal that, not a Grinch, not a thief, not getting stuck with a fruitcake at the family gift exchange, but still, in a time when so many are concerned with the economy, terrorism, and the strife of politics, it's nice to see people come together, put their differences aside, and make sure that at least for a little while, all is bright.

acnatta's flickr (Linn Park 2006)
"Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your light."
 Dr. Seuss-The Grinch That Stole Christmas

All quotes and images from The Birmingham News unless otherwise noted.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Very Potter Christmas!

In keeping with the Harry Potter theme, I thought I'd do a quick post showing a few items I made last year for some friends for Christmas. Every once in a while, I manage to tear myself away from the digital medium and make something tangible. All of this stuff was a lot of fun to make...and of course I kept some for myself as well. 

The first things I made were some personalized signs, Honeydukes for myself, Flourish and Blotts for my friend Carrie, and Hogsmeade Apothecary for my friend Cindi.

Honeydukes of Hogsmeade

Flourish and Blotts of Diagon Alley

Hogsmeade Apothecary
Each sign was painstakingly done by hand. I'm telling you, painting all that fancy text is no easy task! However, it was a lot of fun to see them materialize. I'm probably going to make a couple more just for the heck of it. 

Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean
Thankfully, I've yet to run across anything gross...except "jalapeno," that should never be in bean form! Ever!
("Flavor,"  spelled the American way for yanks! ...Not because I just totally forgot to spell it the proper, British way. "Flavour" Brits and your superflous usage of 'u'!)

Acid Pops, a special Christmas edition

 Honeydukes Best Chocolate
"Mildly sweet chocolate for pleasure and use against dementor effects"

Honeydukes Ice Mice. These were especially fun to make.

Honeydukes Holiday Collection!
So there you go, fun with packaging design! The best part, each of the packs contains actual candy...of course! The Acid Pops contain green, Christmas tree shaped pops, the beans are of course, beans, the chocolate bar is a huge chocolate bar, and yes, the ice mice pack is actually filled with white gummy mice!

I included a few other things as well, just your basic Hogwarts necessities...

Hogwarts Letter and school supply list!
Easily done with some sketchbook paper, a little tea, and a printer, oh and minor skills with a quill. 

A wand, of course! 
What Wizard or Witch worth their salt would be caught without one? Yep, made these as well...even cored them! Ollivander, you got nothing on me! ;)

Now, to make sure all of these items got to their respective destinations, I didn't bother with the Muggle Postal Service. Thankfully, the wizarding world has its own delivery systems...
Owl Post boxes!
(The Owl Post image is from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Postcard Book, so I can't take credit for that. I did however clean it up, vectorize it, and apply it to the boxes.)

It was a very fun project and Cindi and Carrie were both happy with their gifts. Stuff like this makes me realize how very much I 'd love design, especially something with a strong theme. I haven't gotten to do much this year since I'm still in the middle of the world's most ridiculous house purchase/move, but maybe I'll get a few Christmas ornaments made before the year's out. I've really only got one more post until I'm caught up and it's been what I've been doing with my life since July.

Friday, November 26, 2010


In July, I, and three friends, Cindi, Carrie, and Jackie grabbed a portkey to Orlando to visit Universal Studio's newest attraction, THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!

We're all pretty big Potterheads, so seeing our favorite places from the books and movies come to life was fantastic. The castle, was utterly amazing. Granted, the surrounding palm trees do take away a bit of the authenticity, but, eh, when you see something that doesn't make sense, just claim a Wizard did it.  

We got to the park a little before it opened, but they actually let us in early. There were NO lines whatsoever! We immediately made our way to The Forbidden Journey, the ride inside the castle. We tried to take our time as we went through the Halls of Hogwarts, but like I said, no line! We saw the founders in their portraits, and of course, they talked and moved, just as any good magical painting should. I think my favorite thing was the Dark Arts classroom. I don't have any pics from the interior, but if I can snag some from Carrie, I'll update them here! Anyway, on with the rest of the show!

The crest of Hogwarts outside of Argus Filtch's Emporium, which also serves as a locker bay for Muggles who can't use shrinking charms.

Before I get ahead of myself, running off to the Tri-Wizard Tournament, let me tell you a bit about Hogsmeade. You enter the HP section of the park by walking into Hogsmeade. The day we were there, it was overcast and a bit drizzly, which really enhanced the atmosphere. True, it was a bit warm, but at least it looked the part!

Here, you can see the large number of Muggles that are waiting to get into Ollivander's Wand shop. Ollivander's was, by far, the most popular attraction. We got into the shop, but we didn't stay for the show. More on that later.

As you enter Hogsmeade, you are greeted by this happy little Gryffindor snow Wizard and his owl.

I loved the stack of Cauldrons in front of Potages. The entire design of the village is so whimsical.

Hermione's lovely dress robes in the window Gladrags. The robes very gently float as they are displayed. Harry's are in the opposite window.

The rafters outside of the Owl Post are of course, filled with owls! I do regret the fact that I didn't get to send a letter from Hogsmeade to myself, simply for the fact that I really wanted that postmark. Yep, it's a functioning post office!

Speaking of post offices, you usually see wanted posters in them, but this one was just hanging out near the Hogshead, behind the Butterbeer wagon. I'm pretty sure Sirius Black was cleared of all charges, so we didn't bother to look for him. Honeydukes and Zonkos were next on the list!

You could find pretty much anything you wanted, from a stack of chocolate frogs or Bertie Botts to a Sneakoscope, they had it. I will say, the cauldron cakes are excellent, and they make the best cookies and cream fudge I've ever had.

The shelves at Zonkos, packed with many an item from the books and movies!

All I can think of is Umbridge!

Ah, frozen butterbeer. How does it taste? It's like a thick, slushy cream soda with a creamy butterscotch head. Honestly, it's amazingly delish, but have more than one and you might contract diabetes. It really is that sweet. So sweet in fact, that Cindi actually got a little ill from it and decided to call it a day. If it's a bit much for you, there's always pumpkin juice, which, though sugary, isn't nearly so saccharin as butterbeer.

Thankfully, the Hogshead offered water, so I didn't die from a sugar overload. One cool thing, the head snorts and moves and talks, but of course, you expect that of magical taxidermy.

Speaking of Hogsmeade pubs, here's a quick shot from inside The Three Broomsticks, where you'll be happy to see that there are, indeed, three broomsticks.

What visit to Hogsmeade would be complete without a visit to the Hogwarts Express? Not ours!

Aw! Look at all the little Muggles!

Another nifty attraction in the WWoHP is the Dragon Challenge, based off of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

Don't touch it! It's a portkey! Voldemort is such a total jerk if you do.
You can choose to ride either the Chinese Firebolt or the Hungarian Horntail. (Now, long ago, this ride used to be the Dueling Dragons, and I've previously ridden it. The ride is the same, but the walk to the ride is much cooler now that it's HP themed.) Between the two coasters, I have to say the the Fireball is the winner.

Dervish and Bangs had The Monster Book of Monsters, safely caged! They also sold cauldrons, Quidditch kits, robes, and all kinds of HP paraphernalia. From D&B, you could walk directly into Ollivander's shop, which was small and cramped, and so crowded that you literally couldn't turn around inside.

Here is one of the few pictures I was able to take in Ollivander's. Few because the crush of the crowd was just ridiculous. I had to raise my arms over my head and just snap there you go...a ton of wand boxes and a giant owl. Did I buy a wand? No. I couldn't see spending 30+ bucks for a replica when I can very easily make one.

...And one more quick shot. Sure, I didn't buy a wand, but I did get some souvenirs. Usually, I don't buy theme park junk, but I couldn't pass it up this time. I'm now the proud owner of three HP t-shirts,  a Slytherin mug, a Dark Mark wax seal set, luggage tag, and House bar glasses. Oh, but I am a nerd!

Well, I've got many more pictures which I could post, and kind of want to, but this post is already ridiculously long and not very linear, so I'll go ahead and wrap it up now. Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you were amazing and my friends and I really enjoyed our time, so thanks. I hope to see you again soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!

What do you get when you take a bunch of people, some fake blood, and a hot June night?

I like to call this pic, "victim's last snapshot."
You get the Birmingham Couchsurfer's Zombie Crawl!

What is couchsurfing you ask? Well, it's a great travel organization used by millions of people. I'm not going to take the time here to explain it, but check out the link for more info. Birmingham has a very active CS community, and there is often a function taking place, as well as a weekly meet up. The Zombie crawl was my first official function. I'd been interested in joining the CS group for a while and this seemed like a good opportunity to get involved. 

The undead football player, 80's mall pop singer, and granny.
We started the night at The Barking Kudu. At first, it seemed like there might only be three or four of us, which...well, doesn't make for a very good horde. However, as the dark and heavy blanket of night came to settle over the city, legions of the undead began to walk the streets...and get organized. After all, we were a Zombie horde with a purpose, not just a bunch of aimless, brain-hungry undead. Once a pretty good crowd had gathered at the Kudu, we broke off into teams and were given lists detailing a scavenger hunt and several meet up times. 

"Haha! Pointing!"
Here we are finding one of the Couchsurfing stickers that had been placed in various locations throughout the city. There were many things on the list, 'find all the CS stickers, take a picture with an Elvis statue, etc, etc. 

Most unattractive picture of me ever.
This however, was worth bonus points. There were two cops in the middle of the intersection and Vickie, aka, undead granny starts to hobble over to them. "Excuse me! Excuse me, officers!" The officer takes one look and goes for his gun. He doesn't draw, but you can tell he's freaked out to the max. Vickie proceeds to explain what we're doing and asks if we can get a picture. He laughs and says that he thought she'd just been attacked. As far as the picture, he didn't mind, "as long as it doesn't end up on myspace." No worries won't be on myspace. (However, you never mentioned blogger.) So, thank you to one of Birmingham's finest for playing along. Also, apparently I didn't get the memo that we were all going to be really happy in this picture. 

Rowdy Roddey Piper!
We continued to drag ourselves through the city, stopping to stare into windows, startling unsuspecting restaurant patrons, disturbing local pubs, and causing general confusion and mayhem. Eventually, we invaded Innisfree Irish pub where the music was live and loud. Thank you Jasper Coal for a fun show!

Who doesn't love a little rough-throated Celtic punk, especially when they bust out the bagpipes! Yes, I admit it. I love bagpipes and I'm proud of it. Eh, anything that's got a Dropkick Murphy/Flogging Molly kind of feel to it is always good in my book. 

To quote a friend: "Hoppppppps, GRAIIIIIIIINS!" 
Zombie Michael Jackson up there is actually wearing my jacket. Why is the majority of my closet also ripe for costuming?

There was much dancing, singing, and clapping of hands...

 ...Oh, and of course eating of brains, that too. 

The crawl was great fun, and our group scored pretty big in the scavenger hunt, but still, it wasn't the main event of the evening. You see, by now, it's close to midnight, and something evil's lurking in the dark...

 White tights need to stay in the 80s.
What Zombie crawl would be complete without a performance of Thriller in the heart of downtown at the stroke of midnight? Yes, yes, I know, probably a lot of them, but ours wasn't! We had some audio problems and it's not like we're professionals, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. We sure did!

At this point, with this many post dance, sweaty, thirsty Zombies roaming around, Dave's had the funk of forty thousand beers. It was a great night, and a fun event for a CS newbie. Oh, and why did we choose June instead of say October? Because, much like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects it.

A big thanks to the wonderful Crystal Murphy for the pictures and for organizing such a great event, and to Vickie Edwards for such a great welcome into the CS group!