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Merry Christmas 2014

Star Wars Christmas Card

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Since our son arrived on Star Wars Day this year (May the Fourth), it seemed only fitting to make it the theme of this year’s Christmas card.

All in all, it was a pretty exciting year, if relatively low-key. Obviously the big event was the arrival of Winchester Frank Marsh in May, weighing in at 7lbs 11oz, and is now babbling, crawling, and trying to eat his left sock. Along with it came wonderful visits from Boston, Kansas, San Francisco, and even New Zealand! We had visits from parents, old friends, cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles (and even some fake/adopted aunts and uncles). It has been fantastic getting to see everyone.

When we weren’t entertaining guests, we were often off visiting others! We made multiple family visits to Boston, New York, and even packed up a 2 month-old baby and both dogs to drive to see family at Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. (Winn’s first tenting adventure!)

Our foster dog Spud (the Emperor Pupatine in the background) got adopted to a wonderful family just before the baby came. We miss him dearly, and love seeing posts online of him being deservedly spoiled. In October again this year, we found another set of puppies, Emma and Mary Margaret (just two this time), and adopted them both out to a wonderful family with three small children who adore them.

Other than that, it’s been a lot of “same old” around here. Dianna is still Program Director at Camp Karankawa (of which Winchester now holds the distinction of being the youngest staff member) and Geoff is still enjoying web development at Rice University. There has been lots of adventures around the homestead including house rewiring, rabbitry, hog hunting, beer brewing, building custom motorcycles, loads of dirty diapers and, of course, lots of family snuggling.

Till next year, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may the Force be with you!

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The Individuals

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We've been wanting to do this theme for a while and decided this year we had a large enough cast to make it worth it. We tend to assign characters (both previous cards and hypothetical cards that haven't happened yet) by a whole bunch of factors. Ninja Turtles for instance, we assigned entirely by personality (Letzty/Leo was the stoic leader, Opie/Donny is the neurotic introvert, Bean/Mikey is the happy-go-lucky crazypants, and Bunbun/Raph is a grumpypants). Star Wars was influenced by by not only by personality and looks, but by available puns as well, ha ha.

When we originally started joking about this card pre-baby, I wanted to have the kid be "Baby the Hutt" and put them in a Maggie Simpson-esque sleeper sack (I thought it was hilarious because babies are fat and don't really move a whole lot). We had picked out the sleeper sack and everything, but we delayed shooting his images till last minute because, being a baby, he looked different every week and we figured we'd try and make it somewhat up to date.

Now, when he was born we obviously named him Winchester and originally nicknamed him "Winn" for short. However, I loved the name "Chet", and while not really appropriate for a baby, I loved it for a little kid/adult, so I've started calling him that for the last few months. So a couple weeks before we started to shoot I all of a sudden realized how much better of a pun "Baby Fett" was, and even more so "Boba Chet"! So with that, I scrapped Jabba and decided to give him the decidedly more badass character.

Bean had to be Yoda, obviously, on account of his ridiculous ears. His costume was a super easy affair; just using a burlap sack Dianna found at work shaped into a shirt by safety pins, a brown shirt of mine, and a stick from the woodpile (held to his paw with a rubber band). I *really* thought it would be hilarious and wanted to do the practical effect of painting Bean green, but Dianna was decidedly against it. So post-production it was. Getting him to pose in a standing position was a quick trick of having Dianna dress all in black and stick her hands up the costume from behind like a giant fluffy puppet, ha ha.

Dianna's costume was pretty easy and mostly just a matter of collecting items from around the house. I grabbed a red ribbon from the craft store and we pinned it on (hence the waviness, but we didn't feel like stitching the whole thing onto her pants. It's a parody, not cosplay, so whatever, ha ha). We pinned a fleece vest she had to the right length, grabbed two belts, and threw every multi-tool we had in the house on one. The holster is actually a beer holster that Dianna gave me years ago. The blaster was a nerf gun that I did a distressed paint job on (more on that below). The final piece of the costume was the white collarless shirt with a plunging neck. *Very* reluctantly, Dianna consented to cutting up her alltime favorite turtleneck. (Which I had found in a box in the garage that hadn't been touched in years, but that's not the point, ha ha)

Bunbun's costume wasn't too bad to make. (Leporine, by the way, means 'of or pertaining to rabbits'.) I just sewed up some rags I had laying around in the shop, added a belt from some faux-leather left over from a dog-bed I made, and the pièce de ré·sis·tance, a pair of specifically stale cinnamon buns made into earmuffs! We hadn't originally intended on doing the "You're my only hope" post, but she started cleaning her ears during the shoot, which involves an adorable standing pose, complete with karate chops.

Poor Letzty. It's become a running gag with us that every time we come up with hypothetical characters for her, it's "because she's black". To be fair, this was the original idea that started it, but really, who else would look better as Darth Vader than my stoic dark girl? Add in the spectacular pun (if I say so myself) of "Darth SpayedHer" and there really wasn't any other choice, ha ha. Poor girl always ends up with the most awkward costumes, but she's ridiculously patient and tolerant and yielded wonderful results among her many, many awkward shots. Not many other dogs would tolerate a hat, muzzle, cape, and random light chunk (complete with uncomfortably hot 2x12v battery pack) with as much patience and elegance as my little girl.

Ha ha ha ha, Opie. Really. As if she could be anything else?

My costume was mostly pretty easy, with one exception. Two Ace bandages and a pair of khakis did a damn good job of replicating Luke's pants from Tattooine, a belt with multi-tools and their cases for the belt, and a toy lightsaber did most of the work. The exception was that damn shirt! I bought 4 yards of Muslin cloth thinking it would be easy, but after two sleeves twice as long as they needed to be, sewing them to random slits in the wrap, and running out of time, Dianna did an amazing job of pinning back all the excess to create a semblence of a shirt. A little photoshop magic to eliminate the bulkiness of that extra (you can see it in the original) and I think it actually looks pretty good! We were going to try a cowboy hat to complete the pun, but it really just looked too out of place.

This year was the first year we shot using a "real" camera (Canon Rebel DSLR) and man what a difference that makes, espeically in dark shots like these. Barely any color correction needed and no need to trash tons of shots because animals were blurry. Great investment.

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The Making Of

The outfit that took the most time and effort was most definitely Letzty's. First off, my favorite part of her costume is the chestpiece: the dash indicator lights from a 1982 Suzuki GS450. I'm rebuilding that bike from the ground up and ditched it in place of a complete rewiring and custom gauges, so I thought it would make a hilarious part of her costume, especially to those fellow bikers who would immediately recognize it. I just wired all the positives and all the negatives together and wired them two 12v batteries in parallel. It started out much brighter when we original made it, but it sucked up a lot of power (to the point of becoming really hot) and the batteries were half dead by the time we got the shot. I think it still came out alright, though.

Her helmet was a plastic child's army hat trimmed with posterboard taped to the bottom. The ridge was a random old bottle of caulk I found in the shop and painted the whole thing black. The muzzle we actually had lying around from a previous foster (we actually never used it, as we decided it stressed him more than helped) rounded out the costume. It probably looks more like Shredder than Darth Vader, but I think it still fits the card. The cape was black fabric we had around. Got lazy and didn't even sew it, ha ha. Just pinned it to the right length and tucked it into her collar.

For the rabbit costumes, though, it's a bit intrusive to actually fit the costumes on them as we're making and adjusting them, so we actually have two stuffed animals that happen to be the right size and we can use as stunt doubles till we're ready to shoot, ha ha. So here's a picture of Penelopet and Lief modeling their costumes.

(Funny fact about Opie's costume. We couldn't figure out what we could use for the silver ammo pouches on Chewbacca's costume until we were cooking one night and realized boulion cubes were exactly the right size! So..yeah. Her costume is basically just a bunch of boulion cubes slipped into a strip of fabric.)

Chet's costume actually took some creating, but hopefully I can pass it down to a niece or nephew someday. The gauntlets are duct tape and a piece of PVC hose connection that I hadin the parts bin. The shoulder and chest armor are made out of some plexiglass I had laying around, cut out with a jigsaw, then heated in the oven until pliable. (I actually forgot about them and they turned opaque white and shriveled a bit, but they were still somewhat workable.) Everything was painted to look distressed (more on that in a second) and had velcro glued onto the back. I then sewed the other half of the velcro onto a white onsie and *bam*...Boba Chet. (Well and a sweet helmet swapped in for his toy, thanks to a little help from photoshop.)

I forget where I learned the tecnique, but the best way to get a distressed and worn look on plastic to make it look like old metal is to do a base layer of grey primer, then paint layers of your primary color on top of that. Then all you have to do is toss it across the driveway, run it on rocks, and generally mildly beat it up, exposing that grey base layer. I used this on the gauntlets, armor, and blaster with some awesome results!

Oh, the the cars/explosion? When we first moved to Texas, we bought a beater 2001 Tiburon until we could afford a new car/babymobile. It turned out to be a fun and reliable little vehicle that served up quite well, but make no was a beater. So that's the new car (2014 Mazda3 5-door iGrand Touring) blowing up the old Tiburon.

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Rejected Puns

So, I think the most entertaining part of the year's brainstorming sessions were firing back and forth with bad puns to use as parody names for characters. The favorites/most appropriate/needed made the card, but here are the other possibilities that got rejected, for one reason or another.

  • Yodawg, Chewbunny, Princess Leiaporine (spelling variations)
  • Baby the Hutt
  • GreedOpie
  • R2Bean2
  • C3POpie
  • Admiral AckBean
  • WinnNumb
  • Mace Winn-Du
  • Luke Sky've-failed-to-find-any-puns-Walker
  • LetzteEwok
  • LandOpie Calrisean
  • Lando CalrisiBean
  • LoBean
  • Obi Wan KenoBean
  • OBean Wan Kenobi
  • Obi Winn Kenobi
  • Quigon Winn

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