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Captain America – Animated Fan Film

March 5, 2014

Neil’s Blog Entry

Note from Laura:
Neil has just finished a little side project he has been working on since last April. As a fan of Captain American, he decided to do a fan film using all his awesome animation skills. I asked him to write a post about his process for this labor of love.

Captain America: A Brother in Arms is a graphic novel by Paul Jenkins and John McCrea. I first read this book back in 2010 and I loved it instantly. I have always been a fan of Captain America – he is the perfect blending of my love of comic books and my odd fascination with anything military – but this book in particular struck a chord in me. So I knew this was the story I wanted to bring to life.

The first part of the process is designing the characters and environments. I wanted a low poly (chunky and blocky) look for the characters. I knew the story I wanted to tell was very serious and at times very emotional, so I thought the contrast between that and the almost cartoony look of the characters would be compelling. And the fact I suck at character animation made me want a style that was a bit more forgiving when it came to the nuances of realistic human motion.

Once the characters and environments are designed, the script needs to be written and scenes planned out for animation. I decided that I wanted to do a simple voice over with no actual speaking parts for any of the characters. This enabled me to get started on animation right away as I didn’t have to wait until voices were recorded. It also helped because I suck at character animation.

My friend Evan, with whom I work at Lightborne, was a great help throughout the whole project. Evan rigged most of the characters – meaning he gave all the 3D model bones and joints so that they would be able to move. He also explained the process of rigging to me about a hundred times as I kept on forgetting how to do it because I suck at character animation. Evan also animated some of the key scenes where a more subtle hand was needed.

All of the scenes were animated in Cinema 4D over a 11 month period starting in April of 2013. We animated on slow days, weeknights, dies between projects, etc. And once we were happy with the animation, everything was rendered out and dropped into After Effects for compositing. Smoke, fire, explosions and other elements were added in to give the scenes some life. Gun shots came to life by adding in muzzle flashes. And finally I gave the whole piece a deep and moody color treatment.

My friend Dan – who also happens to be my daughter’s history teacher – agreed to play the role of Captain America – at least in voice form. I wanted someone who had the voice of an “everyman” and I thought Dan was perfect.

I was searching around online for music to accompany the video. I am a huge fan of movie soundtracks and I wanted the music to be really, really good. I found the website of Kevin MacLeod and was very impressed with what I heard. His track “Americana” was the first track I heard on his site and it quickly became the main theme for the film. Amazingly, I found every piece of music I needed on Kevin’s site. What a great resource to filmmakers everywhere!

So that – in a nutshell – was the process. I hope everyone enjoys watching the film as much as I did making it.

Still with no pithy catchphrase,

Custom Subway Tile Denim Quilt

February 25, 2014

Laura’s Blog Entry

Recently I was thrilled to receive requests for two custom versions of my recycled denim quilts. I thought I would share the first completed one.

Etsy has a wonderful system for buyers to request a custom item and a clear and systematic way for sellers to collaborate with the buyer to design exactly what they want! I have really enjoyed the process.

This customer had some artwork she wanted to tie in as well as a specific “subway tile” construction for the denim quilt top. I was able to calculate the additional work for this (about twice as much cutting and piecing) and quote her a fair price for the quilt based on that.

I think it is actually quite stunning. All the shades of denim look very rich!

My process involves pulling denim from my stock and making sure I have a variety of shades. This varies depending on what I have on hand at the moment, but I do try to balance the darks and lights as well as vary the textures. I stand and cut and cut and cut and cut. And watch “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” It helps the process. I swear.

Then I lay everything out, making sure I am happy with the color progression both across and and down the rows.

Next I number each piece with painter’s tape, because I work a long time on the layout and if it gets messed up I’d die. It starts out as strips…

And ends up as this…

I gave my buyer a couple options for the backing fabric via iPod photos taken at the fabric store:


She went with the violet. Love it! Then I saw that the Pantone color for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. Guess we knew what we were doing when we picked that shade!

Yep, lovely! Let’s admire it just a smidge more:

So that’s that. Done and delivered! He’s a handsome boy, isn’t he?

And finally, the buyer sent me a photo today showing her cozy reading chair with the quilt.

I welcome requests for other custom orders! You can contact me via my Etsy store at There is a button to click below my photo. There is no obligation to buy if you inquire. This just starts a conversation. If it leads to a custom listing, great!

I am already working on another, which is a memorial quilt for the buyer’s father. I love this idea and feel quite honored to create a memory piece using material from his wardrobe.

Off to get quilty! Back with more soon!

Yarn Along – 2/19/14

February 19, 2014

Laura’s Blog Entry

Joining Ginny today in her Yarn Along.

Another week has gone by? What? Well at least I have some knitting to share. Lots of other things happening; none of which are completed and/or blog-ready. So more knitting!

This is a slow-moving project, The Ogee Lace Skirt. (Ravelry Link) It’s a heavier weight wrap skirt I found in Interweave Knits magazine, Summer 2007 issue.

I thought it would be cute over jeans. I am using leftover Cascade 220 in color 4002 – Jet. It’s a nice, dark charcoal gray that reads black. I am not so quick with the lace charts, but it is moving along. I always get faster as I go on these things, so the pace is increasing. I am learning to read the lace, which makes it easier to anticipate and/or correct mistakes. I only get in a couple of rows a day on this though. It takes total concentration, and I don’t have much concentration to  spare right now.

I just picked up this book on CD today from the library. It is Justice Hall,  the sixth book in Lori R. King’s Mary Russell series (that started with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice). We’ve been watching the BBC’s current production of “Sherlock” on TV. *love* This book series is yet another interesting take on the classic series. The book takes place in the original time period, but the with addition of the Mary Russell character. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle certainly was on to something with the character of Sherlock. I love seeing the different ways the story can be reinterpreted.

I prefer this series on audio book. I find that it is a little harder to get through when I read them as books. Plus I can gets lots done and hear a story at the same time. The ultimate distraction technique! Hoping it will be enjoyable. Only listened to the first few chapters so far.

Yarn Along – 2/12/14

February 12, 2014

Laura’s Blog Entry

Happy to be joining Ginny today in her yarn along. I am excited to have both a new book and a new project to share.

I am knitting the Mindful Yoga Socks (Ravelry link) by Diana McKay. I am getting in more yoga than ever, but it’s just so cold when I take off my socks! Hoping these will do the trick – keep me warmer but help me maintain a stable and non-slip base.

Seeing so many amazing self-striping yarns lately that I figured I’d use all my leftovers to make my own version! Luckily I have made a number of things that go together well. I am down to the last few inches of the first one, so I might have my yoga socks before spring arrives. Hopefully!

The book I am reading is a new-to-me mystery series by Dana Stabenow. The main character is Kate Shugak, an investigator who lives in Alaska. This fits in well with my “Alaska State Troopers” obsession. Oh yes, I dearly love that show! It’s very comforting to know there are such patient and dedicated people serving their communities. But I digress. The book is fiction, but you might see a trooper or two!

I am halfway through and enjoying it. I love meeting a new character and learning what makes her tick. The author doesn’t spoon-feed the backstory, which I find engages me more. I want to find out! I’ve heard there are 20 books in this series. Hee haw! I miss having a new Spencer book from Robert B. Parker each year, so this information makes me pretty happy.

I am considering going back and rereading all the Spencer books again from the beginning. The development of all the characters and their relationships over the course of the series was most enjoyable. I may even *gasp* purchase actual copies of the books. I know. That is rare!

FYI, the first Kate Shugak is free right now on Amazon Kindle. That’s how they get you! Or at least me. Book #2 is already reserved from the library. This just might keep me from bugging out during the end of February doldrums!


February 6, 2014

Laura’s Blog Entry

‘Tis the season for keeping one’s ears covered. At least around here. These are a couple of patterns I knit recently that fit the bill in that department.

For Christmas I made my nieces Cabled Ear Warmers (Ravelry Link) by Lisa Clarke.  The pattern has three versions included. The yarn I used is an ombre, Red Heart Boutique Midnight in color 1945 Shadow (pink to gray ombre) and 1942 Serenade (burgundy to purple ombre). I try not to be a yarn snob. Sometimes an acrylic blend is appropriate. As long as it is soft to work with and soft to wear, I don’t have a problem with it. It was a fun yarn to knit and has a little bit of metallic in it. It’s a wool/acrylic blend, so it should provide warmth and easy care.

Here’s a better look at the color progression. Love those cables! There’s plenty left over from each ball, so I hope to make one for me and one for Mari, too!

Next up are a couple of hats I donated to Halos of Hope. This is a non-profit organization that provides knitted, crocheted, and sewn hats to chemotherapy patients in the US.

They are a little large on my lovely small-headed model! The pattern is the Gerri Hat, (Ravelry link) by Marlaina Bird. She graciously was giving it away for those knitting for Halos of Hope. I hadn’t planned on this being a Red Heart brand post, but I actually used more Red Heart for these hats. These were done in Soft. I found this helpful list of suggested yarns for chemo caps. They include many that are soft and easy care, both important for someone undergoing treatment.

The pattern is a quick knit and makes a pretty, lightweight hat which would be appropriate for all seasons.

If you think these are cute, wait until you see the next hat pattern I found! Stay tuned for irresistible adorableness!

Tea for Tuesday – Blue Eyes

February 4, 2014
tags: ,

Laura’s Blog Entry

I am kind of tea crazy. I have bunches and bunches because I always want something different. I need options, people. To qualify that a little, I have bunches and bunches of herbal teas. Only caffeine-free options for me.

One of my favorites is called Blue Eyes. It is a delicious, fruity and aromatic blend. It has flavors of hibiscus petals, rosehip chips, dried apple pieces, and dried sweet orange peel. There is a hint of a caramel flavor that is quite tasty. It takes a little longer to brew, but after 10 minutes you get the most lovely bright pink tea! I discovered this flavor at a local tea shop, but when they stopped carrying it I turned to the the internet for my supply. I found it on Amazon from English Tea Store (link below) for a really good price. It’s 16 oz. – so be aware. That’s a lot of tea. Mari and I both love it, so we’ll drink it all.

Blue Eyes Herbal Tea – Loose Leaf – 16oz  <<AFFILIATE LINK*

It is also very tasty iced in the summer time!

This is loose tea, so here’s how I brew it. I got a teapot insert a number of years ago from Starbucks. It’s a fine mesh and I prefer it to the traditional tea ball that allows quite a bit of sediment to escape into the pot. This insert can go in a teapot or in a mug for a single serving. For this blend I use ½ Tablespoon tea for a small teapot.

What’s your favorite tea blend?

Note: The Smiths’ Occasional Blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Drawer-a-Day, Office Supplies

January 31, 2014

Laura’s Blog Entry

By drawer-a-day I mean I cleaned out a drawer. On a day. Ha! My past post in this series was in 2010. I’d like to think all the drawers were organized last December when we moved in. I’ll just keep believin’.

Anyway, I am still working out my organizational systems in the new house. (Is it still a “new” house after a year? Yes. I think so. Thanks for your input.)

We gave up a home office in the move, but we still have plenty of space to accommodate the office stuff. The wireless printer is in the family room with the stereo equipment. My main file cabinet is in the basement. Since I process all the bills and do all the paperwork in the dining room, I needed some supplies nearby. I have tucked some files in the living room cabinetry, but all the little supplies are in the dining room, in a lovely hutch, in a drawer below the china.


As usual I jumped in without a “before” picture. Here it is after I took out half the stuff. Lots of space, but with everything loose it gets so messy. I used a great idea I found on Pinterest and cut up tissue boxes and sparkling water cartons.

I marked them at two inches around and just cut with scissors. I don’t know if I will ever take the time to make them all pretty with contact paper, but it would be a nice touch.

Here’s the result:


Wonderful! I did have to move my label maker to a top drawer. Just a little shuffling and everything fits.

This was Step One of a massive clean up after finishing a quilt. The whole dining room was rather trashed. I’m just going to focus on the clean up of this hutch area in this post, but man, the whole place was a wreck.

A number of trips down to the basement and the area was clear. Or at least clearer.

I still need to make key chains and another quilt. So this tidiness is temporary. But I will enjoy it for a day or two, anyway.

I might have also rearranged the art on the top. Like you do.

After these victories there was more boring dusting,  vacuuming and wood floor steam cleaning. The living room and dining room are somewhat orderly. Except for the large table of sewing materials. Nothing like a full day of cleaning to restore the soul!


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