Thursday, December 29

VixiDragon Designs Page Giveaway!

Like the pretty things I make? Want some for yourself?
Don’t feel like making your own . . . You’re in luck!

Just visit my new Designs Page

and leave me a comment telling me which collection is your favorite.

1 entry per person (get an extra entry for following my blog).

Winning Commenter will have their choice of 1 (one) item in their favorite collection.

Winner will be picked at random.
(Sorry, Watch is NOT included in giveaway.)

Contest is now closed.
Winner to be announced Fri, January 13th 2012.

Saturday, November 19

Ray-Gun Tutorial, part 2

So, in part 1 I put together the tank and barrel pieces for my ray-gun . . .

But how to hold it?

I still wanted the pistol style grip, even with the much longer barrel. My hope was to find a wooden rubber band or pop gun at a thrift shop or yard sale. Nope. So, online or in a local store . . . only if I was willing to pay $15 - $20, before shipping. I wasn’t. Could I have made my own? Probably, but with my limited access to my own tools (which do not include a scroll saw) and the craziness of actually getting to work on things that comes from having as many little ones underfoot as I do . . . not so much.

Fine . . . I guess I have to go with plastic.

Now, many people choose to repaint plastic guns (the Nerf ones in particular are quite popular and look very striking when painted out), but I was hoping for not just the look but the weight of a wood stock to help counter balance the length. I still hope to find one so I can trade the plastic one out in the future.

Back to the plastic guns . . . . After searching high and low at every discount, thrift and dollar store in my area, I ran across a cheap plastic gun at Wal-Mart. It was ugly. Boy was it ever ugly. A transparent neon green with blue accents and electric orange suction darts (I tried to find a picture, but apparently no one is willing to admit they have one).
But it had the shape I needed, with a grip and a clip set forward like a cross between a Glock and an AK-47 with a number of futuristic details and most importantly a flat top.
Once I painted it silver (love that enamel paint) and detailed it in gold, it actually looked like it would work.

I even had some cool brass cabinet hinges that looked vintage in my junk drawer that could hold the pieces together. It was finally coming together!

Then I tried to put it together . . . and learned that my hinges would NOT stay half-cocked at the angle I needed for long enough for the super glue to set. Which, as it turned out, the glue never did. To be fair, this was some cheap off-brand glue my mom had picked up for me, and some glues just don’t cure on certain types of plastic. So I had to scratch the hinge idea. After repainting (the glue did mar the finish) I used zip ties to hold the pieces together and craft glued the heck out of them. Once it had cured (overnight at least) I removed the zip ties and wrapped the tank onto the barrel using more of the gold floral wire (I made the coils out of this too).

Remember the threaded rod I scavenged from the old light fixture? After deciding how I would be wearing the gun (on my right hip) I used some silver craft wire to add the rod over the glued seam between the barrel and tank. I took a compass rose pendant and a plastic gear from a clock my boys broke, and made a sight that I glued on top of the tank. After looking at it, I decided the silver was too overwhelming and painted a large section of the grip a dark brown. I also touched up any glue points to look like silver solder.

So, here it is in all its finished glory. What do you think?

Hubby is so impressed with how it came out he plans to hang it on the wall with his Kit Rae Swords in the office.

I think he might be right . . . .

Next Time: my very first giveaway!

Saturday, November 12

Ray-Gun Tutorial, part 1

I liked the idea of getting to carry a weapon (since I’m usually pushing the stroller or holding little hands, spending Halloween armed had the draw of novelty) so I decided to make myself a ray gun.

Once again I was inspired by Jen of and her lovely gun made from an old candlestick and an art glass bottle. But she had been too crazy busy to post her tutorial (it’s finally up now), and as she is on a cross country book tour currently I think I’ll forgive her for the delay . . . Even if she isn’t coming out anywhere near me.

So I spent an afternoon browsing a local thrift store and found an interesting brass candlestick which broke down into 3 nice easy pieces. I could not find a colored glass bottle the right size (or a clear one for that matter), but I did have some other odds and ends lying around. I spent a long time looking for an aluminum bottle (or compressed CO2 canister) that fit my $5-or-less budget with no luck, only to run into a heavy PVC water bottle for $2 at my local Target.

It wasn’t perfect, but it would work. I put on a base coat of gray acrylic paint and then used some more of my metallic enamel paint (found in the model car and plane section of most craft stores) to give it the look of brushed metal. Things began to come together.

My original idea had been for a pistol, but as I was rummaging for odds and ends I ran across a metal pipe from a towel rack. Not only would this be a nice way to extend the barrel, it would give me an easier attachment point for the nozzle (inverted candlestick base). The stem of my candlestick was a long plain rod so I grabbed some fender washers and nylon spacers . . .

I was able to thread one washer onto the candlestick between the stem and the base. Then I alternated spacers and larger fender washers (gluing with craft glue as I went) down onto the stem to give a better transition and to give my gun a more retro ‘Buck Rodgers’ ray gun look. I didn’t have any spacers that would fit inside the barrel (and didn’t want to return to Depot to find any), but I did have strapping tape (duct tape would have worked, too). After the glue dried, I wrapped the far end and midpoint of the stem with enough strapping tape so that it would fit snuggly inside the towel bar (this took some trial and error), and glued it inside. I wrapped the seam with another layer of tape to hide it, and painted the tape, spacers and washers until I liked the effect.

But what, you ask, about the other end of the barrel? After playing around with some different odds and ends I decided to use it to attach the obligatory coiled wires from the end of the tank (PVC bottle). To do this, I got a plastic pipe cap

And used a nail heated over a gas burner to melt a hole big enough to put the end of the wires through. I bent the ends in place and hot glued them into the inside of the plug, and put a thin coat of craft glue on the top and slightly up the wires to give it the look (once I painted it silver) of a soldered joint. I hot glued the other end of the wires into the top portion of my candlestick (where the stem would have connected) and glued the cap from my bottle into the other side (where the candle would normally sit). I wasn’t thrilled about the flat bottom of the bottle but as I had just swapped out an old light fixture, I had the attachment pieces to rummage through. I was able to snag a threaded rod (added for looks latter) as well as the bottom cap and little ball finial all in an old weathered brass. Some wood craft discs, glue and silver paint later and my bottle had become a respectable ray gun tank.

More to come . . . .

Next time: Part 2 of my Ray-Gun tutorial,

and coming soon my very first give away!

Thursday, October 20

Steampunk Goggles

I first saw handmade goggles on (run by the incredibly funny Jen Yates of She and her husband put together some really fantastic pairs using plumbing supplies and some scrap leather (and has a great tutorial on her site). Hers used brass pipe fittings for the eye pieces, but as I do not have access to a Dremel tool (although it is high on the wish list) I had to find something else. After some web searching I realized I really just needed something round that was the right scale that I could glue the leather onto.

And so the search began. I looked for anything with a rim . . . Mason jar rings, PVC couplings, what I really wanted were wedding favor tins that had clear plastic viewing windows built into the lids. And after a long and fruitless search I followed an online lead to a local dollar store. I didn’t find the favor tins . . . but I did find these:

I don’t use bronzer as a general rule, and this was certainly not my shade, but the plastic lids had the right diameter, built-in heavy plastic ‘lenses’, and were a metallic aged silver color. Also they were only $1 each and I still had the makeup and brushes if I wanted them. Score! One problem . . . each lens had a small ‘etched’ leaf printed in the center. Scotch tape to the rescue! The slightly opaque tape completely obscured the leaf, but it left lines where the edges met.

So . . . colored lenses.

I had read online about a number of different lens inserts, everything from cellophane to pelxi-glass to plastic from 2ltr bottles. I live off the caffeine in soda and my stimulant of choice is Mt. Dew, so I had green plastic bottles in plenty.

I snapped the lids off the make-up cases, broke off any sharp pointy bits, and popped the lenses out. I then traced them onto some clean plastic, and realized they curled.

Problem . . . big problem. I was using craft glue (as hot glue and small children don’t mix very well) and the bend in the plastic was not allowing the glue to hold the lenses in place.

Fine, wait ‘til the kids are in bed and break out the glue gun. Same problem.
Back to the drawing board.

Maybe if I heat up the plastic I could flatten it enough to make them work . . . Brilliant! So I turned on one burner on my stove and held the plastic above the flame. It worked like a charm, until it started warping the plastic.

So . . . how does one make colored lenses for these stupid m@)*$^@*^ing goggles?!
Then I remembered having paint for plastic sun-catchers in my craft kit. Perfect!
I picked the color I liked (still went with Mt. Dew bottle green, as it went with my accents) and after gluing the lenses back into the frames, poured and spread a large blob of paint into each one.

Now that the lenses were finished I had to make the eye cups. I made a template out of construction paper (wrapped the paper to get the length and drew a curve for the outer edge of the eye cup), I then put it up to my face to adjust for the fit I wanted and when I liked it I traced it onto some scrap leather (you could use vinyl or even heavy felt if you really wanted to) leaving enough of an overlap to rivet the ends together and connect the nose piece. I glued the leather onto the frames with craft glue (for longer time to line up edges) and used large rubber bands to hold it on while the glue dried.

Once the pieces were dry, I decided how far apart I wanted them and cut a small rectangle of leather for the nose piece. Because I decided to rivet the leather instead of sewing it together (easy if you have a machine that will do it, long and tedious if you have to do it by hand) I cut my rectangle about ½ an inch longer than the distance I wanted between the eyes. This gave me room for the rivets (both front and back).

Now all I had to do was add a strap . . . .

Unfortunately none of my scrap pieces were long enough for a solid strap nor did I have enough to cut 2 long pieces and buckle them in the back.

So, how to attach it?

I had enough length for 1 long strap and a couple of shorter straps . . . Eureka! I put a buckle on either end of my long strap and attached the smaller leather pieces to the outside of each eye to buckle it into. But that would leave me with rough edges to camouflage. I had an ugly purple belt that I had picked up for 90% off on clearance (purchased only for the buckle) that was only about ½ inch wide and could be painted to look like a brass rim. So I cut down and painted out 2 sections of belt and glued them and the 2 side pieces onto the rim of the eye cups, once again employing rubber bands while the glue set.

Once they were dry I riveted down the side pieces and cut tabs and punched holes for later use with the buckles. I even glued on some metal filigree trim pieces I had gotten to make into jewelry. Because I wanted a contrast on the finish (read as some of the glue dried on the leather and made it shiny, and I didn’t feel like taking it off) I spread a thin layer of craft glue on some of the pieces of leather (the gold rims, the side pieces and the nose piece) which made gave them a nice polished shine.

And here they are . . . my very own pair of goggles. I can even see through them.

Next Time . . . Steam Punk Ray-Gun Tutorial!

Tuesday, October 18


What happened when Goths discovered the color brown?


It’s a design and art style that asks the question:
If Jules Verne or H. G. Wells crash landed in your backyard, how would they redesign our modern technology to recreate it in their time?

Steampunk (also called Neo-Victorian) is a fun way of looking at the world, a world run by pistons and gears and moved by airships, jetpacks and clockwork devices. And a world that values individual craftsmanship and ingenuity over sleek plastic mass production.
For someone like me, it is a beautiful way to be creative and work with real materials on a very small budget.

My Halloween costume (and potentially a convention costume) is almost entirely from my own closet and the accessories have cost about $15 thus far to produce. Now to be fair, this cost does not include items already in my possession or left over from other projects. So for someone who doesn’t keep scrap leather for projects or have an enormous stash of old shoes hiding in the garage, making your own might cost a little more. I am planning on a couple of tutorials based on what I have put together so far. Here’s a picture of the main elements:

Want to make your own? I have tutorials for each of these pieces, and I'll start with the cuff bracelets . . . .

Cuff Tutorial

The cuff bracelets were made of an old belt (the metal work was part of its closure) a couple of mirror rosettes (from Depot)and some big economy buckles from a leather supplier (thrift store belts work well if you don’t care if things match).

First I removed all the hardware from the old belt (it had a tie closure so no holes or buckles). Then I cut the belt down to size for my wrists (plus a few inches overlap). Next I attached the buckles, and decided on the placement of the decorative pieces.

Then I riveted the metal work and rosettes onto the pieces of belt, and punched holes for the tongues of the buckles.

I achieved the multi-metal look by painting accents on the metal (and rivets) using metallic enamel paint (used for models and miniatures, sold in most craft stores) and playing with the shading until I liked the effect. Behold, my finished cuffs:

Next time . . . make your own Steampunk Goggle Tutorial!

Wednesday, August 3

What I've Learned This Summer

Having spent the last 6 weeks with my adorable, demanding, sweet, obnoxious, amazing, aggravating, too smart for my own good offspring (much of which included forced captivity due to lack of another set of hands) I have learned some interesting truths.

Truth #1: Nap time is awesome!
My girls (at almost 18mos) have finally reached the twice a day naps that any parent longs for. Now if I can just get them to stay down for more than 30mins . . . .

Truth #2: I miss my creative hobbies.
Hubby took Elroy to a Magic: The Gathering Tournament last Fri held at one of the relatively local card shops and called to ask if I wanted some die cast figures to paint. I enjoy painting (of molded figures, not on canvas) and find it to be a great stress relief, but with all the craziness of the last couple years I haven't had the opportunity for a very long time. That evening, after I finally got Bam-Bam and the girls to sleep, I made the time. And I could not believe how much being able to focus on one small detail oriented project that was only for me really helped me set aside some of the day's tension. I slept better that night than I had in weeks. As a mom I spend so much of my time (waking and sleeping) tuned in to my kids' needs that by the end of the day I rarely have the energy or mental capacity to take on something for myself. And many of the crafty projects I do tend to be geared for the use or comfort of the kids. It was nice to be able to do something purely for my own satisfaction. And having remembered how much I enjoyed it, I have since gotten some new paint so that I can take the time to enjoy it more often.

Truth #3: The Laundry Monster always wins.
Laundry is never ending. It takes 12 to 14 loads of laundry a week to keep things going around here, and lately I've only been able to manage 7 or 8. This means, that although everyone has some clean clothes, they may not always have all the requisite pieces of their wardrobe clean at once. Someone is always out (or 1 pair away) of underwear or socks, or pants. And always when I've just sat down for the first time since I got up and already have 2 greedy babies brawling on my lap and 1 crying at my feet. But I did find that white vinegar removes nasty deodorant build-up, and the cheap laundry additives work better than the high end alternatives. I love Soil Love, Cool Love, and KidsNPets!

Truth #4: Toddlers LOVE DVDs.
Hubby and I have an extensive DVD collection (somewhere in the 700 - 800 range). When we moved into our house we purchased a 4ft wide by 7ft tall shelving unit (purchased at Best Buy, designed by the same minds as Ikea) to hold them. As soon as the girls became mobile the bottom shelves were emptied and storage ottomans were placed in front to block access. Now they can climb . . . . Usually 3 to 4 times a day I hear the thud of DVD cases hit the floor and find them, at least one perched on tip toes atop one of the ottomans to reach the R rated movies 5 shelves up. And the other giggling cohorts sitting amidst the pile checking to see how many cases have discs in them. *sigh*

Truth #5: I don't do well with forced confinement.
Fri afternoon I took the kids to a local playground to meet up with my best friend since 3rd grade. On the way home (less than 100 ft from my driveway) my car started to overheat. Sat, Hubby decided around 2pm to get some more fluid for my car and when that drained right out within a few minutes took it to a local auto parts store. He called to break the news that a rather large crack had developed in the reservoir for the radiator and the dealer was the only source for that part, at 5:45pm on Saturday. As luck would have it, said dealer is the only one locally that doesn't open its service department on Sun. So Hubby takes Monday off to deal with my car and magically at 4:45pm the service dept calls me to let me know that the necessary part (which they had that morning, Hubby had called to check) was out of stock and they couldn't get to the car until the following day (Tues) when they got more in. By this point my internal monologue was rather frantically chanting "GOTTA GET OUT! GOTTA GET OUT!" with increasing volume and anxiety for the past day or 2. The tension was making me feel like I was vibrating out of my skin and making me fidget so badly I itched all over trying to suppress it. Mentioning my need for escape to my wonderful, supportive husband comforted me with the words: 'too bad' and 'just deal with it' before hopping in his car with the boys to hang out at his sister's. My car was finally ready at 3:30pm on Tues, but since hubby was working and my car seats and stroller were in my car, It didn't get picked up until almost 5. For the record, I was out of the house (with Bam-Bam in tow) by 6, and ran errands until I had to return so hubby could head off to work. But my skin isn't crawling anymore.

I discovered a few more, but I have to go remove the girls from the DVDs for the 4th time since I started this post, so they'll have to wait.

'Til then - Vixi

Monday, July 4


I grew up in the woods. I know there are many people who would assume that Southern California doesn't have any woods . . . but I assure you, it does. This means I am somewhat conflicted when it comes to fireworks. Living where 1 spark will set large chunks of your community ablaze can do that. Particularly when your dad is the Fire Captain for said community.

My husband has no such conflict. He grew up (maybe 20 miles but worlds away) in a subdivision where kids played with sparklers and every block had it's own fireworks display.

Needless to say this is an area where we don't always see eye to eye.

He thought it was cute that I held a sparkler for the first time at our first 4th of July together. He rolls his eyes when I forgo the 'privilege' of lighting the next fountain. And he shook his head when I was hesitant to hand our young son (Elroy, maybe 3 or 4 years old at the time) a lit sparkler even under supervision.

I know he really doesn't see what the big deal is. For him it's a right of passage. To be old enough to be trusted with setting up or lighting fireworks is a big deal in his family.

For me . . .well, for me 4th of July meant going to a large city sponsored show with my mom and siblings, worrying about my dad (who was on call at the fire station) and hoping that some firebug hadn't managed to set the mountain on fire so we could still get home.

So, tonight we'll grill and enjoy the warm night and the show with friends and family, and I'll quietly hope that when the man I love plays with fire, he won't get burned.

Friday, July 1

'Cause it's late . . .

I was going to tell you about getting run over by a motorized wheelchair at Disneyland a couple of weeks ago . . .
but it's late, and I should be sleeping.

The last 2 weeks have been . . . let's say . . . difficult.

The girls are all walking (and climbing) and once again teething (which means biting). Bam-Bam is still working on potty training. Elroy is home on summer break. Hubby's hours for his day job have changed (better or worse I don't know yet, we'll just have to see), and my help during the day is gone for the summer.

I should probably qualify that last statement. My mom has been helping me 6 days a week (when Hubby is working) since I was on bed rest during my pregnancy with the girls. This has been tremendously helpful as just getting into the store takes 2 carts and (it certainly feels like) a dozen sets of hands.

For the past year (give or take) my parents have been searching for a property to be their (for now) vacation house and (in the near future) their retirement property. They finally found one they love and were able to purchase it, but it needs a lot of t.l.c. . . . . So they are spending July (and already spent the latter half of June) at their new place making it into their place.

Which leaves me rather . . . trapped. I may need to mention that I have a low tolerance for cabin fever.

And, because I like a challange, the past 2 weeks have also included swim classes for the boys (Hubby is even in the pool with Bam-Bam). So there's an upper limit on how long I can take at anything during the day. But tomorrow is the last class and Hubby has Fridays off for the next month. Hopefully I can coerce I mean convince some of Hubby's family (who live less than a mile away) to come and give me a hand 1 or 2 days a week while my mom is gone. If not . . . maybe Hubby can watch the kids while I take the ever expanding laundry pile to the laundromat on Fridays, 'cause I can't seem to get caught up.

Laundry is kind of like sleep that way. . . . I really should be doing more of it.

Wednesday, April 13

Teething and Triplets

I can pretty much say that the only person who reads this is my best friend for almost 2 decades now, so I don't really have to worry too much about being too honest. The last six months have been rough. No, that's not the right term. Hellish. Yeah, that's it. It seems like life is conspiring to keep me from ever sleeping again. Right around the six month mark all 3 girls started teething. And I'm not talking one at a time, each girl has had at least 4 teeth cutting or sitting right below the skin waiting to cut constantly since around Thanksgiving. A has 7 teeth, with #8 (bottom eye tooth) waiting, B has 5 with #6 cutting, and C also has 5, again with #6 cutting. Now to make things more fun, right around the time this all started Highland's (the most well known teething tablet manufacturer) recalled all of its product because they didn't have child-proof caps. I have yet to see them back on the shelves. I did find an alternative . . . however it is only sold (at least in my neck of the woods) at Walgreen's. And I really don't shop there. Even better, child #2 (I think I'll lovingly refer to him as Bam-Bam) is potty training. And has been with limited success (until very recently) for the last 8 or 9 months. Around the time of my last post he spent a whole week wearing underwear and staying dry until his afternoon, let's call it . . . 'elimination' which would inevitably end up in said underwear . . . and smeared all over the bathroom. At that point I put him back in diapers for a little longer. Not to be left out, child #1 (I believe Elroy seems most appropriate) hung out with his (slightly) older cousin and came back a mini teenager. He's six! He was a sweet, helpful, considerate child when he left . . . but he came back a back-talking, entitled mouth on legs. To top things off Elroy and Bam-Bam have hit that age when territory starts to become important. Now that Bam-Bam has the vocabulary to assert himself more the games have become a bit less friendly. At this point I'm just glad they haven't taken to marking the furniture . . . . And through it all darling Hubby has remained steadfastly . . . planted in front of the computer. I HATE EQ. I loathe it. He plays using Ventrillo (so he can talk to other players through his headset mike), so I'm never entirely sure that his remark (or answer to my question) was actually meant for me. Don't misunderstand me. I feel that computer games are a fun and worthwhile hobby and enjoy getting to play some of the rpg style myself. But somebody has to watch the kids. The girls are mobil now, and the boys play so rough. I love him, with all my heart. And I can think of at least 3 occasions in the last week when that has been the only reason I haven't thrown something at him. *sigh* What a time to decide to start blogging right? And to think, all that was my long winded explaination of why I haven't posted for so long . . . . I'll try to be better. I can't guarantee it . . . but I'll try.