28 December 2013

Puzzles & Disney

This Christmas, Amanda and I stayed in Philadelphia. She didn't have enough leave to go to North Carolina, so we hatched a plan to stay in our apartment and hibernate. We purchased a 1500-piece puzzle featuring The College of Magical Knowledge from one of her favorite books, The Voyage of the Basset. Here's the original image:

I knew it would be difficult, but I completed the Exploding Tardis puzzle last year, and it only took me seven seasons of Frasier to do it. In other words, that one was a serious head-spinner, and I doubted that anything could ever be so difficult.

Boy, was I wrong. More on that later. The second part of our plan involved a massive Disney movie marathon. We were especially interested in rewatching movies we'd only seen once or twice with a critical eye. On Monday, we relocated our TV and unboxed the puzzle. These are the innocent beginnings:

 We turned on our first Disney movie, Lilo and Stitch. I hadn't seen this one for a while, and MAN - so great! I definitely didn't think it was that great when I was younger, but I really appreciate it more now. I love Lilo and Nani's relationship and how hard Nani tries, even though it's frustrating. We also loved the fact that the social worker wasn't the bad guy - it was very clear that he was just doing his job, and that he really worried for Lilo's safety.

Next, we took a short break to make some Lovefeast buns. Our apt. was super chilly and my impatience didn't permit the dough to rise, so we ended up with something resembling Lembas bread.

 We watched Hercules and did the easy parts of the puzzle. Hercules is really not that great. It's funny, sure, but I felt like it was unrealistic that Hercules could leave his adopted family behind so easily - what happened to them?

We watched Robin Hood, which was one of my favorites as a kid. I give this one a solid pass for the times and the tale - 1973, and Marian is a classic damsel. Lady Kluck is a great answer to that - she was awesome. :)

We also watched Pocahontas... we love the music so much, but it's problematic in a million and one ways, including the warm fuzzies that you could have at the end if you could ignore actual history. So...

On Tuesday, we had Lembasfeast buns for breakfast and started The Aristocats. This is another one that I loved as a kid. It's decent and funny, and only has one racist part. We noticed a lot of voice acting overlap in these old movies - Little John/Thomas/Baloo, Sheriff of Nottingham/Napolean/Luke/Chief. This is also the point at which we noticed the image on the puzzle had been vertically flipped, meaning that the letters on the sign were flipped, too. Also, we noticed that the pieces didn't "lock" properly, meaning that you couldn't manipulate large chunks or even keep pieces together. In other words, this was the beginning of the puzzle nightmare.

Around this time, our gift from my dad and stepmom arrived, an Edible Arrangement:

We watched Atlantis, which was amazing on the rewatch. I loved this movie when I first saw it, but I never owned it, and thus only saw it once. It is definitely one I would love to own - what's not to love about a nerdy linguist and a cast of culturally diverse badass ladies and gents? We have a weakness for lady mechanics, too - Audrey was fun and sassy.

We watched Hunchback of Notre Dame and it was...brutal. Like, much darker than I remember it being. Esmeralda gets major props for being a badass and I liked all of the characters, so that was awesome. But holy goodness, Frollo and his creeperdom. I glossed right over that one as a child. Can we talk about how Esmeralda had to die because he found her too sexy ("She will be mine or she will burn")? Yikes!

In response to this, we needed Emperor's New Groove. It doesn't have a lot of ladies in it, but it's a lot of fun. Also, I love Kronk! He's like a secret genius! We had hot spiced wine, too, for soul-soothing and all that.

We went to a Christmas Eve Carol Sing and had a lovely time. When we returned, we watched Alice in Wonderland. I didn't like this movie as a child, and I didn't like it now. It moved on very little plot, and Alice's voice annoyed me. We MST3k'ed it and continued our puzzle work.

When we woke up, it was Christmas! We watched The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. Penny was a kick-ass little orphan girl, but Bianca annoyed me - she was supposedly the seasoned detective, but Bernard the Janitor took the lead at every possible moment. He seemed a lot smarter than her, and it was obnoxious.

We took a break to make a psuedo-Coffee Cake. Coffee Cake on Christmas is a tradition in Amanda's family. I don't think that Coffee Cake is Southern, because J'Aime and I made one once to take to the Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser. Still, Amanda couldn't find one up here, so we had to make our own. We didn't use a yeast dough, so it wasn't perfect, but it was decent.

 Then, we had our Skype Christmas! Despite a bad connection, we opened presents together.

 Here's an awesome one I got from Kathy and Shirley, wine glass charms that hang on this corkscrew decoration. You can slip this over the neck of the wine bottle! Yay!

We also got these lovely warm socks from Bob & Cindy! We got a drill and a mixer from Granny and some beautiful wooden Christmas tree ornaments. Amanda also got a USCG-proof camera to take on the boat with her.

 After our Christmas festivities, we picked up with The Sword in the Stone. I always liked this one as a kid because I've been interested in Arthurian legend since forever. It was decent on the rewatch - funny, but plot-lite. Also, Merlin is kind of a buffoon, and I don't love that. Watching it did make me wish that the BBC's Merlin had been better, though - kinder in particular to magical women. Sword in the Stone is guilty of the same thing - when women do magic, they're crazy (Madam Mim & Morgana), but when men do magic, it is righteous and good.

 So, we saved the best for last on Christmas Day: MULAN. Mulan is totally my favorite ever. Beautiful movie with an awesome protagonist and appropriate amounts of plot and humor. Disney scene that always makes me cry? "I'll Make a Man Out of You." Also, our puzzle was coming along nicely.

After Mulan, our puzzle was mostly finished. Usually, the end of a puzzle is easy since you can basically try a piece against every possibility, if you're so inclined. This puzzle got unreasonably more difficult with every piece we put in...

 On Thursday, after Amanda got off work, we busted open the drill and hung a shelf. It's TARDIS blue, to match the rest of the living room stuff. Also, I notice that the picture is lop-sided, but I promise that the shelf isn't:

Back to the puzzle...

We watched A Very Potter Musical and gnashed our teeth.

We listened to Dar Williams and pulled our hair.

And finally, after blood, sweat, and tears, we pieced the last piece!

 We finished Season 5 of Supernatural.

On Friday, we decided to try and mount the puzzle. I've done this five times before, but this time was a NIGHTMARE. As previously stated, none of the pieces wanted to stay together. Also, you couldn't just slip the poster board (gluing surface) between the puzzle and the mat because everything sucks. We ended up breaking the puzzle in half and using a series of physics-defying movements to flip and turn and glue this puzzle.

So, after we flipped and glued and locked the puzzle in the bedroom to dry, we started an easier puzzle, where the pieces actually locked and everything was great. I did this puzzle in 2012, but I made the mistake of putting it on the Nottoman and Crookshanks pulled it onto the floor.

We watched Fox in the Hound and it was painful and gave us feelings...

We watched The Great Mouse Detective, too. Amanda had never seen it, but I love this movie. It's a great intro to Sherlock Holmes and mysteries in general for kids. Love it!

 We watched some of A Very Potter Sequel and then switched to Supernatural. :)

So, that was our Christmas, told through puzzles. We hope you had a lovely and relaxing Christmas, too. Up next, more about Philadelphia and hey, maybe a post about the August trip to Hanover, NH. :)

21 July 2012


Last Wednesday, Stefan and I went to Düsseldorf for the day. We drove and we couldn't find the parking to take the morning boat tour that we'd wanted, so we set off for the palace. We walked around the grounds and got rained on, and so here are some pictures from that. 

^Also, there was coffee.

 ^Scarecrow. Or laughcrow. Whichever you prefer.

Then, we went into town to meet up with a friend of Stefan's, Maurizio.

 ^There's Critical Mass in Germany, too!

We went back into town to take a boat tour of Düsseldorf. 

 ^Me, Maurizio, a guy whose name I think is Sven, and Stefan

 ^The government seat of Nordrhein-Westfalen

 ^Is this a TV tower? And cool Düsseldorfian architecture

 ^And the fair was in town! But we didn't go... 

Why yes, my friends, this steeple is leaning, and with the myth that it will stand straight if ever a "true virgin" gets married there. *eye roll* Sexist legend does not justify shoddy architecture.

So then, we ran around Düsseldorf a bit. We ate dinner in a Chinese restaurant and then had coffee somewhere cool and then wine in another cool place and then beer in a little brewery. We walked along the river during the in-between times. ;)

 ^Oh, and it rained so hard that we had to take shelter, like that time that Karen, Brett and I were in Chicago.

 ^But after the rain come beautiful skies. 

So, then Stefan and I went back to Menden. The next morning, we got up and went to help Matthias pack up some stuff. I didn't get to know Matthias that well during my internship, and it's SUCH A SHAME because it turns out that he's awesome and we would have been great friends. Here's a bunch of his things:

What have I been doing other than that? Why, working on my Project of Awesome, of course. Here's the to-do list:

So, right, this was prolly the crappiest blog entry ever, but I want to keep up, even if the output is crappy. I have this other outlet which is demanding all of my awesomeness right now (The Project of Awesome), and so I'm sorry that the blog is suffering.

If you ever get a Master's, I advise you to do it in your native language. Otherwise, it's just so much work.