Searched For harry potter

Makin Stuff: A Harry Potter Moving Picture Frame

A while back, I participated in the Harry Potter gift exchange on reddit. I’d participated in a few other gift exchanges previously, and they were all pretty much bummers in that I’d put a lot of time and effort into picking out what I thought would be a great gift only to have the giftee not even bother to acknowledge that they’d received it. However, I felt strongly that the Harry Potter exchange would be different, more magical, both because of the subject matter and because this time I had a plan in place for what I wanted to give. Something I’d been thinking about making ever since my trip to the Islands of Adventure. Something that you couldn’t buy anywhere. No, not friendship.  A picture frame that made it look like you were on the cover of the Daily Prophet. Just in case you’d like one, here’s how I made it!

What you’ll need:

  • A digital photo frame that supports video files, with a total width of less than 8.5 inches. I used the Micca M707Z.
  • An SD card. You won’t need a huge one unless you plan to cycle through a number of videos instead of just one.
  • Basic video editing software
  • Plywood, enough for an 8.5×11 sheet plus a few more inches for the other frame components
  • paint or wood stain
  • wood glue
  • double sided tape or mod podge or your preferred adhesive
  • x-acto knife
  • basic woodcutting tools (I used a Rockwell multi-material cutting saw)
  • photo editing software
  • printer
  • a few sheets of paper

 

All of your measurements will be based around the dimensions of your digital photo frame, so if you’ve ordered it online, you should wait until you have it in hand to get started. For example, the photo frame I bought advertises that it has a 7 inch wide screen, when in reality, it’s just over 6 inches. That makes a big difference! Once you have your screen measurements in hand, you can proceed.

I did the newspaper portion of the project first. I used photoshop, but you can use any photo editing software you have. I’m sure if you were tenacious enough, you could lay everything out in Word! Choose any number of the free Harry Potter-inspired fonts on fontspace, and plot out your “articles” in a manner that’s pleasing to you. They can be literally about anything you want: a wizard fashion show, a holiday, a special occasion, anything. It will look more like the movie newspaper if you mix fonts and include snippets of multiple stories rather than just one, but it’s really up to you. The only thing you need to work around is a rectangle of blank space exactly the size of your digital frame’s screen dimensions somewhere on the page. This rectangle also shouldn’t butt up to any of the edges: leave enough room for the frame part of your digital frame to hide so it’s not sticking out anywhere.

daily-prophet

Print out a copy to make sure you’re happy with it. Cut out the blank area with an x-acto knife and use this printout as a template with which to trace onto your plywood. Once all of your lines are traced, you can start making your cuts. When you’re finished, you should have an 8.5×11 piece of wood with a hole the size of your screen cut into it. Now while you CAN do all of the woodcutting with a dremel, here’s why I don’t recommend it:

dremel-vs-proper-tool

That one on the left? I used a Dremel and it took about a year to cut just to get it to that level of shittiness. Once I broke down and bought a proper tool, I cranked out the considerably less shitty one on the right in less than five minutes. You’re also less likely to be injured when using a tool in the way it’s intended instead of forcing a diamond bit through a sheet of plywood like I did. As with all power tools, use proper safety equipment, and read all instruction manuals before operating any tool you’re unfamiliar with!

At this point, you can paint or stain the back and sides, or you can wait until you have all of the wood components completed. It’s your choice! You don’t even have to do anything to the wood if you don’t want, but I feel like painting or staining it black allows the back and sides to recede so the focus is on the front, where it should be.

Now, you could just glue your digital photo frame to the back of this piece of wood and be almost done (and if you’d rather do that, you should definitely paint/stain first), but I wanted to make the photo frame removable for a couple of reasons: (1) so if it ever dies, it can be replaced and (2) if I decide I don’t want something Harry Potter related on display in my house anymore, I can always slide out the digital frame and use it by itself.

Here’s where my instructions get a bit dodgy if you’re using a different make/model of digital frame. My frame’s power cord and SD slots are all on one side–the left side, if you’re looking at the back. Thus, I wanted to keep that side open for easy access to the SD card. On the right side, however, I cut a small strip of wood (5.5″ long, .5″ wide) to serve as a stopper, so the digital frame has something to butt up against and keep it from sliding out of the side. I then measured the depth of the digital frame and cut two pieces of wood that would be glued together to give the digital frame a place to sit and would also hold it in place. My pieces were both 6″ long and 1.25″wide. At its deepest, my frame is just over an inch thick. My plywood was .25″ thick. By gluing the plywood together in an L shape, I was able to create a support that was just a hair over an inch think which enables me to seat the digital frame in snugly, which means it doesn’t need any support on the top of the frame to hold it in place.  Depending on the depth of your frame, yours may be different.  Use wood glue to glue the narrow strip of wood to the back side of your 8.5″x11″ piece of wood, on the opposite side of wherever your SD card inserts. Glue your two supporting pieces of wood into an L shape. Let dry.

gluing-supportsThere is literally no reason for the clamp to be in this picture. I didn’t use a clamp. Ignore the clamp, is what I’m saying.

Once your L shape has dried, use more wood glue to glue it in place on the back of your large sheet of wood. Let dry.

back-side-support-wood

Once all of the wood glue on the back of your frame has completely dried, try sliding in your digital frame. It should fit snugly. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to figure out what went wrong–this may involve swearing. Once it does fit snugly, cut one more piece of wood to serve as your stand. Mine’s 2.25″ wide by 5.25″ long–yours may be different. Just cut something long enough that when propped at an angle, it will be able to keep the frame upright of its own accord. Once you’ve got that piece, glue it liberally into place and let it dry.

gluing-the-stand

If you haven’t painted or stained the back and all of the various bits of wood, now is the time to do so. Let dry completely. If you used stain, you may want to lightly sand any drips or spots that you may have gotten on the front of the wood, as otherwise, it can show through your paper.

Once it’s fully dry, you can affix your “daily prophet” to the front. Either use the one you printed off as a template if it’s not damaged, or print a fresh one. I used double sided tape to attach mine to prevent any ink bleeding from getting the paper damp, but you can use whatever you like. I didn’t want to mod podge the front to seal it, again, as I was concerned about bleeding ink and also because I wanted it to have the matte look of a newspaper. If you’d prefer yours to be sealed or shiny, by all means, go for it.

After your frame is done, all that’s left to do is to follow the instructions on photojojo to make your moving picture, and you’re done! Tell your friends, or let them think they’re going crazy when they think they see a picture wink at them the next time they’re over at your place. Either way, have fun and enjoy having just a bit more magic in your everyday life!

harry-potter-moving-picture-frame

 I’m confused, this one says “wizard” and the one up top says “wizards”. Good catch! I made one for myself as well, the one above is the one I mailed out on the exchange. And he LOVED it.

 

Harry Potter and all his friends went straight to hell for practicing witchcraft. Yaaaay!

IMG_2249 On our second day at Universal Studios, we visited the Islands of Adventure so we could check out the Harry Potter and Jurassic Park areas. Like another large theme park chain in the area, Universal is good about spreading out the things you want to see so that you have to pay for multiple visits, filling up the rest of their space with stinkers like Barney Town and Old Timey Comic Land From The Time When People Still Read Newspapers.  Joke’s on you, Universal, if we can have fun at a cranberry museum, we can have fun anywhere, and if you don’t have a ride, we’ll MAKE a ride.   Continue reading

The British Library, the Occult, and a Walk to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese

St. Pancras station

The Meeting Place, by Paul Day

I’ve read several critiques of this piece but not one of them bothered to mention the butt-sniffing so I’m not certain they even really looked at it.

Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi

Our day began at the British Library, where we luckily scored walk-up tickets to the new-at-the-time-and-now-gone Harry Potter exhibit. There were no photos allowed in the exhibit itself and my intention at the time was to sketch a little impression of each room for a more in-depth post but as you can see, that didn’t happen. It’s for the best, though–while a cruddy sketch would have helped to show the larger, Harry Potter specific themes of each room (the floating books and interactive cauldrons and talking herbology pots, there were separate rooms for eight different courses taught at Hogwarts), the true treasures were, of course, books and scrolls, and these cannot adequately be captured via cruddy sketch. 

The books were astounding. Even if I didn’t give a single shit about Harry Potter (which is obviously not the case), I would’ve loved this collection– fifteenth century lavish illustrations of plants and their uses, scrolls of alchemical theories, sixteenth century books on mythical creatures… I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to have full access to the books and see what other masterpieces hide inside. This feeling was compounded after we exited the Harry Potter exhibit and made our way to the Sir John Ritblat Gallery, “Treasures of the British Library”, which contained the most beautiful, ornate books I have ever seen. Books bound in fine leather, jeweled books, hand gilded books, one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. Like, a first first edition of the Magna Carta if you know what I mean.

Aside from displays such as these, there’s no wandering about, getting lost in the stacks in the British Library as a tourist–in order to read materials, you must first have a reader pass, answer inquiries about what precisely you wish to read, and then best the head librarian in hand to hand combat. It’s furthermore my understanding that current head librarian, Roland Francis Kester “Roly” Keating, though slight of frame with salt and pepper hair and a kindly face, has gone undefeated in 2018*, soundly kicking the asses of scores of scholars unworthy to stand in the shadow of the sole manuscript copy of the poem Beowulf.

Even if you manage to defeat Roly, there is no browsing of the 25 million book archive, as only books you have a specific need for are delivered from a storeroom to a reading room for your on-site perusal. I’m not complaining, it makes sense to keep the grubby hands of the masses off of your national treasures, speaking as someone who once found a slice of cheese that had been used to mark someone’s place in a library book. But as a browser and a looky-loo, I do have to say that I wouldn’t have minded a peek at a storeroom. I had to satisfy that urge by wandering through both gift shops, and ultimately left with a slim volume on the nature of an aspect of the English language.

From the British Library, we began to walk in the direction of Ye Old Cheshire Cheese to meet one of my friends, who, incidentally, works in the library field. En route, I was pretty taken with this hotel’s mint green scalloped spires. Fun fact: the boxy chain hotel next to a grody strip mall in my town with an Expedia review of “I checked in and I saw a few bugs on the wall so I just killed them and was like whatever” has a higher nightly rate than this lovely one that’s kitty corner across a park from the British Museum, and this sleepy Seattle suburb has nowhere near 8 million items of historical significance. That’s even taking into account that our library is the place of the aforementioned cheese slice incident, but they haven’t even bothered to properly display this relic for future generations to appreciate. 

A shy block and a half from the British Museum lies the Atlantis bookshop, an independent shop stocked to the rafters with books on magic and the occult. Fun fact: every book you buy from an occult bookshop can and should properly be referred to as a “tome”. Just please refrain from sprinkling extra ‘k’s into your spelling of magic, that privilege and responsibility is reserved for 9th level warlocks and renaissance fair vendors. When first we arrived, there was a sign on the door informing us the owner had stepped away to make some tea and that felt like the most British thing that had happened the entire trip. Once she returned, Jason and I both found some really interesting books–my favorite was an ethnobotanical look at the oldest yuletide traditions and how they were transformed into the symbols we use today. Spoiler: the image of Santa Claus is deeply tied to magic mushrooms

Heavily laden with bags of tomes, we continued our walk to Ye Old Cheshire Cheese:

I love a good fancy gate.

This is basically what I want my backyard to look like.

Samuel Johnson by Percy Fitzgerald, 1910

We went inside to see if we could witness any justice being dispensed but alas they’d all sodded off to powder their wigs already. 

You know why I took this photo. You know.

There’s been a pub at this location since 1538. It’s been Ye Old Cheshire Cheese since 1667, rebuilt on site after the great fire of 1666 tore through a huge swath of London. Since then, it’s been a popular haunt of a number of writers, including Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. It does have a funky appeal with its short ceilings and narrow staircases that rather give one the impression that they are sneaking off to do something a bit illicit. Not like, secret underground street fights illicit, more like you’re going to a party that you heard about from a friend’s friend’s friend and they said that they heard from a cousin’s neighbor that there was, like, a mummy there and nobody knows if it’s a real mummy or not but you’re pretty sure you want to look at it.

Jason and I arrived early, winding deep into the cellars to grab a table and wait for my friend and her partner. While we waited, we had a pint, looked at our new witchy bookstomes, and chatted. After they arrived, we had some more pints, and witnessed the baffling concoction that passes as “nachos” at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (I blacked it out from my memory but I’m pretty sure the salsa was just ketchup or maybe there were pickles in it? The other food was fine.). That night I also learned that it takes me only two pints to slide right into a faux British accent and not even know I’m doing it.  Jason told me that I’d done it later and I was horrified because I’ve heard my fake British accent sober and it’s terrible. They were both absolutely lovely people and were kind enough not to mention or take visible offense to my slight Madonna turn. This is just like in junior high when I sat next to the new girl who’d just moved to the area from Georgia at lunch and fifteen minutes and a Little Debbie later I uttered my first y’all with a twang.

We drank and chatted, and on our way out, we took a double decker bus back to King’s Cross, which is where Jason and I had started the day. This was my only bus ride because while I got the hang of the tube easily enough (there are maps everywhere, what’s not to get?), I feel like I have to have some sense of where I’m going when I’m on a bus lest I get off at an entirely wrong place and get so lost that I have no choice but to settle wherever I wind up. I feel like the biggest country bumpkin in the world to be excited about riding a bus, but they’re so damn iconic y’all. Cheerio!

 

 

 

*This may or may not be true, there’s no way to check it without library access and foolishly I didn’t bone up on my mixed martial arts skills before visiting. 

Oxford University

No, this isn’t the university, this is a half-timbered building in the city of Oxford.

Like most people, I occasionally spend time thinking about the course of my life–the choices I’ve made that have influenced where I am now, and the choices I’m making now that will no doubt influence my future. Although there are some things I’d do differently, as a whole, I’m happy with the way things have turned out so far. But visiting Oxford awakened within me a deep yearning I never anticipated, and I’m still reeling internally somewhat from the revelation.

I was raised to be a people-pleaser. I wasn’t always successful, and I certainly didn’t always try, but I had a lot of different people in my life to please: family, teachers, counselors, friends, friends’ parents, clergy, neighbors…the list goes on. I transferred authority to anyone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about. These authority figures would then talk about what they wanted or expected, and consciously or unconsciously, I tried to give it to them. Along the way, I absorbed a lot of messages about who I was and what I could expect to achieve. For instance, while it was agreed among these authority figures that I would go to college (“so smart” “such potential”), anything I was interested in going to college for was determined not suitable: veterinary medicine (“not smart enough”), art (“not talented enough” “do you want to be homeless?”), music (“did you not hear me say ‘homeless’?”), and English (“it’s too bad that’s the only thing you’re good at, because as an English major the only thing you could do is be an English teacher and you wouldn’t be good at that”).

As you can see, after I was convinced by the junior high school counselor that veterinary school was not in my future, my interests and skill set largely lay in the arts. However, only the sciences were deemed an acceptable path, so it should come as a surprise to no one that when I was railroaded into school for computer science, I crashed and burned. Hard. I never finished college. I didn’t even come close. I’m sure it didn’t help that I took a gap year between high school and college to be a Rotary exchange student in Taiwan. I learned a lot that year–getting out of small-town Wisconsin certainly shone a light on my overall ignorance–but the most important thing I learned was that so long as I stayed out of people’s way, no one could really make me do anything. It was astonishingly easy, and I tested its limits at nearly every opportunity. I transformed from a people-pleaser to a people-displeaser in record time.  Or, if not that far, at least a you-can’t-prove-I’m-doing-anything-wrong person. Plus, my third host family disappeared and left me alone in the condo for something like an entire month. That sudden complete freedom was intoxicating and I was not ready to relinquish it come fall, particularly to the faceless institution that was my university of choice. My summer working at BlockoLand with up to 6 different mystery bosses checking in on me to make sure I was pronouncing the company name in a way that one could hear an invisible ™ sign implied was a rude enough awakening. Thanks for visiting BLOCKOLAND™, home of BLOCKO™ blocks! Could I have rebounded if I was enrolled in a school I liked, on a path I would have been interested in? 

 

After I burned every dollar I’d saved for college flaming out, I was gun-shy about trying again, this time on credit. After all, I did so poorly last time that it’s readily evident that I’m not smart enough, not talented enough, too lazy. It couldn’t be that I chose my path trying to please those around me rather than myself, that of course I wouldn’t do well pursuing a career in the subjects I’d had less interest and aptitude in for my entire life up until that point. Nope! And now I have an inferiority complex about it, because the norm among my peers is one or more degrees and here I am, a college drop-out (before I could turn college kick-out) with an employment history of a lot of places similar to BLOCKOLAND™, and often I feel like the Entertaining Well Meaning Hill Person of the group. Any group.

Was it really necessary to go through all this to tell you about my trip to Oxford? I think it was, in this instance. Sometimes when I visit a place, I absorb a lot of information about that place. Other places evoke a feeling, and while I listened with half an ear to the tour guide as our group wandered among the university buildings, I felt as though my whole body was thrumming with wonder and regret. I’ll not be so bold as to claim that my grades were such that I stood even a fraction of the tiniest chance of admittance to any one of the colleges at Oxford and I certainly would have had no means of affording tuition, if, say, some sort of plague occurred that primarily struck down those with 4.0+ GPAs in my age bracket. Hell, I was stupid enough to believe that the only job you could get with a degree in English was “English teacher”. Clearly I don’t deserve to study at Oxford. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t struck with a deep, keening desire whilst I was there, and that what I’m left with after my visit is the wispy, wistful ghost of that desire. I don’t have a lot of facts about the university to throw around, and while I enjoy doing research and sharing what I learn, it seems disingenuous for me to do so writing about a place where I was overcome with a feeling, especially given that everything I write here is about my personal experience with a place, and not that place in general. Without going into the backstory, I feel it would have been difficult to convey the breadth of my sadness at never before knowing that a place like this was possible, that if I had known, if I had tried, if I had pursued my goals instead of what would make a committee of other people happy, the entire course of my life might be different. Maybe not. Probably not. At the root of it, I was still far from the cleverest Melissa even in a pool as small as a middling midwest high school, so an elite international university would likely have been out of my grasp no matter how hard I strove. At least that’s what I tell myself. What else can I do?  

Side note to the tour guide: telling us “You may recognize the interior of this  building from Harry Potter, but I don’t know anything about it so don’t ask me which films” is so much harder than finding out the actual answer

After the tour of the colleges/ painful introspection hour, we were given some free time to wander the area at our leisure. Our tour guide suggested a number of pubs and gift shoppes (I maintain that all stores within Oxford can be referred to as an olde English-style “shoppe”, when considering as best as I can ascertain, each one, regardless of specialization, seems to be required to sell tweed jackets, scarves, and bicycles) in which to while away the time, so of course instead of doing any of those, I found myself inside the university’s Museum of the History of Science, plugging coins into their mechanical orrery. As with any of these types of museums, I could have spent far more time inside than was available to me, but I’m glad for the opportunity to take a peek. One partial afternoon adjacent to Oxford University was better than never having set foot there at all. And if it’s forced me to break this cycle of introspection/self-flagellation/blame of others/inaction particularly with regard to education by acknowledging that I can change nothing about the past and wallowing there does nothing but prevent me from moving toward a future, it’s one of the best takeaways I could have. Along with the astrolabe I purchased in the gift shoppe, of course.

 

Freaky Friday: The Revenge

I was going to decorate the yard this week, but I’m glad I didn’t–there’s the remnants of a typhoon headed this way and I don’t think my little foam tombstones would do all too hot in 80mph+ winds. Plus, who the hell wants to chase tombstones down the street during a torrential downpour? Not this lady. Not that I could catch them, anyway, I’m crap at running.

So what did I do this week? My first priority was to batten down the hatches amidst all the other semi-panicked people doing the same thing. When the shelf gets down to the last bundle of firewood and you and some other guy are both eyeballing it from down the aisle, there are no laws of human decency anymore. There are only the laws of physics: the speed and trajectory of which you ram your cart into his to divert him into the garden supplies while your momentum carries you forward to sweet, wood-y victory.

george

That, and I’m also prepping for a trip, which makes for weird cognitive dissonance timing. “Ok, so I need water and non perishable goods for survival, and also sunblock for the pool.”

As far as Halloween stuff goes, work continued on my Halloween costume apace, and I’m almost done with all of the necessary components. Time and motivation and whether my house gets flattened by a tree will factor into how many of my stretch goals are reached.

I also reskinned my moving photo frame. It’s not that Harry Potter isn’t seasonally appropriate, but I wanted to take it somewhere different this year. I’ve got it playing a rotating selection of black and white spooky cartoons and it makes me super happy. And my love for ridiculous fake newspapers will never die.

photoframe

A year ago on Pinterest, I saw a floral arrangement using a skull candy dish as a base, which I immediately recognized as I had the exact same one. There was nothing for me to do but shamelessly render a poor imitation of the original. Mine is nowhere near as full (fake flowers are so fucking expensive!) but it still makes me happy. I also think that it’s funny that the black branches in the back basically disappear into my curtains when I put it in its new home in the living room.

flowers

display

This week, I got caught up on Monstress comics (so good!). I also watched The Babadook, Knights of Badassdom, Zombeavers, a bit more Penny Dreadful, American Horror Story (this season is surprisingly cohesive so far), and Westworld which doesn’t necessarily fit the theme but I love it so much already.

Aaaaand now the power is flickering so I’m going to peace out and huddle with Napodog and hope I don’t end up with an entirely unintended Halloween costume.

th

 

Save

Born, and then born again, and then sold on Ebay.

After the most recent Harry Potter movie was released, a number of “reborn” Harry Potter characters went up for auction on Ebay. If you’ve never heard of the reborn phenomenon, they’re very lifelike dolls that are collected and cared for by their owners as if they were real infants, oftentimes having a separate nursery in the house for it, changing its diaper regularly, and taking it on trips to the grocery store or out for walks in a stroller. Occasionally women will have them made to resemble what their own children looked like as infants. Separate breathing and heating apparatuses can also be added for the most lifelike doll imaginable, and will only serve to make the encounter extra awkward when you compliment a woman passing with a stroller on her child’s cuteness, only to realize it’s made of latex.

So on to this Harry Potter Reborn thing. I understand, Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon AND a cash cow, so it makes sense that people are trying to cash in on it while they still have the opportunity, and nevermind pesky things like licensing and ownership of the characters. But is there really a lot of crossover between the two fanbases? Apparently there was at least one, and thus these nightmares were auctioned on ebay:

The Voldemort one is wrong; he didn’t get freaky features until after he started in with dark magic, so there’s no reason for him to have snake eyes as an infant, unless the creator was trying to depict his “birth into evil”, in which case wouldn’t this have been more accurate?

But rather than nitpick these works to death, I’ve decided to jump in myself on one of these moneymaking ventures and unveil my plans for new line of reborn Twilight dolls.

Here’s my first, reborn Edward.

Limited edition! Get yours today!

Wizard Battle!

In honor of my bossy uterus, we had cheap greasy delicious pizza on Saturday night. In honor of Harry Potter, we had a special request for the delivery driver:

For all his protests, I think it’s still a pretty sweet wizard battle. I mean, the hats clearly indicate that they are wizards, and there’s magic of some sort being shot out of a wand, and there’s even dramatic tension as one side falls to the other. Well done, Dominos driver! For all of my past loathing of their pizza, Dominos has really won me over with this “do everything possible to please the customer” business. While I have other late night pizza options, none of those other places will draw nonsense on the box based on my whims.

Lord Voldemort, Man of 1,000 Screams

Just like nearly everyone else on Earth, I’ve got my ticket to see the last Harry Potter film this weekend. It occurred to me, however, when watching the most recent trailer, that Voldemort is nearly always screaming or shouting. Really. Watch it.

While there are a couple that I may have accidentally attributed to him instead of others, I count between seven and nine distinct Voldemort screams which accounts for one approximately every seventeen seconds.

Lord Voldemort is clearly an angry, angry wizard. And then I started thinking: what else might get him all riled up and shouty?

Someone get this guy an antacid tablet before he gives himself an ulcer!

Certain Doom, AKA Welcome to Craptown AKA Mount Rainier part II

On our way back from the mountain, Anne and I made a series of mistakes, culminating in disaster.

I wanted to stop in the wee town of Elbe, to take pictures of the big spooky train and Hobo Inn for uncledisgusting. This was mistake number one.

331_27038478939_4477_n

331_27038483939_4855_n

It was around this time that we both realized that we were very, very, very hungry, and hey! One of the trains is a diner train! Mistake number two.

331_27038488939_5223_n

When we approached the door, there was a sign that enthusiastically proclaimed they had the best food on the mountain. There were some important things that we didn’t consider. Best compared to what? Trashdiving behind the visitor center? Can you trust anything written on a impermanent surface such as a whiteboard? Not asking these questions? Mistake number three.

When we entered the train, it was like a goddamn Precious Moments store had exploded, spraying everything with a fine mist of creepy eyes and disembodied heads. Not turning around and immediately leaving? Mistake four.

The dining area looked like something out of a John Waters movie, if only he were a bit more twisted; and immediately after we ordered, we noticed we were surrounded by the three most annoying Cs in existence. Loud wailing children, annoying lovey couples, and country music. I’m pretty certain Anne didn’t believe me when I whispered to her that the people seated across the train aisle to my left were acting like the tiny diner table was an enormous chasm for their love to cross, but she and I nearly died laughing when they pulled the waitress aside and asked to be moved to the lounge so they could be seated next to one another instead of across.

I got more vicious while I waited for my food; there is a certain point of extreme low blood sugar where the switch on my back flips from good-natured humor to just plain evil, and I came out swinging. I wished gruesome death on everyone in Elbe. I openly prayed the train would start up and take us to a gas chamber because death would be preferable to hearing more yowling from the country singers and squalling from the children. I started asking Anne if we could please, please, please ditch before the food showed up, because I was pretty convinced that nothing goood could come of this venture. Anne is much more good-hearted than me, one of those ‘born with a conscience’ types and resolved to ask the waitress if they’d made our food first instead of just running out into the night. Mistake five.

The waitress snapped that it was almost done, and came out bearing plates of what should have been lasagna but instead were congealed brown masses of…brown flavored swill. Brown sauce? Brown noodles? Entire garlic cloves?What the hell kind of foul lasagna was this? Both of us were incredibly hungry, yet neither one of us could manage more than a couple of bites before pushing our plates away in disgust. I’ve never had to fight harder to keep my lips together when the waitress dropped by and asked how everything tasted. ARE YOU JOKING, LADY? This is the food of the damned! This food is too cruel and unusual to be served to prisoners! What sort of sadistic wench ARE you?

She swooped by our table and asked if we wanted to take home our leftovers in a large foil swan–this, I momentarily considered as I thought it might be humorous to take a giant carving knife to the belly of the foil swan to expose the rotten lasagna guts, but I thought better of it and decided I did not want the car to smell like that wretched food for the remainder of the trip home.

As soon as the check was paid, we practically ran out of the place and gunned it to the nearest gas station* for mints to rid our mouths of the foul lasagna coating.

So, what have we learned? Do not stop in creepy little towns for any reason. Any cutesy meal place with a theme is going to be rotten. Anyplace that proclaims to have ‘the best’ ANYTHING is invariably lying. If a place is bad, it does not necessarily have to get better; we have not yet plumbed the depths of awful. Do not be plagued by matters of conscience when doing otherwise means feeling vaguely ill for two days afterward.

I could hardly believe it–almost down the mountain, and the FOOD is where we make the misstep.

*Wherein I witnessed the most wondrous/horrifying Harry Potter velvet painting, but that’s neither here nor there.

PROJECT: Flood the Office…The Mystery of Pierre Pettigrew

The Harry Potter nerd in me giggled at this return address:

And since I like spoiling surprises for myself, I checked out the customs declaration:

00137sb2

  And yet somehow I wasn’t able to put two and two together to piece out what would actually be inside the box. Do your best Sherlock Holmes impression–what do YOU think was inside?  

00138tca 00139y1y Even though I KNOW it’s dead, part of me wanted to shriek when I saw what was inside. And then I was torn between just taking a picture of it in the box, or actually touching it to clean off the styrofoam bits and pieces in order to get a good picture. For the record, touching a dead stuffed mouse is actually pretty (for lack of a better word) icky. I’m actually a little surprised that I’m as squicked by this as I am–I suppose eventually I will come to terms with it. For now, I really can’t deal with it staring at me with its beady, dead eyes. The IMPORTANT thing, however, is that the apartment manager is growing increasingly suspicious!