My Friends Do Cool Stuff: Volume V

Okay, okay, I know it’s been a while since I did a MFDCS post. I’ve had pseudo-posts, like about that time when The Boyfriend was in The Music Man or when The Roommate went to a Masquerade, but I used to write about my friends’ jobs and hobbies in depth, and because I have phenomenally awesome friends, I decided it was just about the right time to bring this series back.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Katherine.

katherine on a log in hawaii
Here, we see her in her natural habitat. Or in Hawaii, which, let’s be honest, is everybody’s preferred natural habitat.

Katherine is an entomologist. She studies bugs. She is a bug scientist. That picture up there is of her collecting samples, which quite frankly takes an amount of courage that I doubt many of us possess.

The actual definition of entomologist is here: “a scientist who studies insects. Entomologists have many important jobs, such as the study of the classification, life cycle, distribution, physiology, behavior, ecology and population dynamics of insects.”

So, um…WHAT??? How freaking cool is that?

(Also, she’d probably like me to remind you that “bug” isn’t a terribly specific term. She works with parasitic wasps, which are actually called microhyms in scientific circles, and which definitely don’t make me want to scrub all my skin off in a panic.)

She is currently working on her PhD after graduating from an Ivy League college, so if you thought you were talking to the smart one in my group of friends then I regret to inform you that you are sadly mistaken. Katherine can look at a wasp underneath a microscope and determine which of the hundreds of categories available it falls into. Then, she is responsible for categorizing them like this:

a bunch of samples on cards
Look closely. There are wasps on these sticks.

And blowing them up into ridiculously detailed posters like this:

giant blown up pic of a bee

Really though, she’s one of less than ten people in the world – that’s the ENTIRE WORLD – who study the taxonomy and systematics of these wasps. She even presents at conferences, such as the meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

image
In this photo: An entomologist looks more professional than I ever will.

And the best thing ever? Katherine is as big of a nail art junkie as I am. This is the answer to your question if you wondered how on earth we’re friends when I write a blog about my fingernails and she works for the freaking Smithsonian in her spare time. Her recent hymenoptera-inspired manicure looked like this:

 image

And she would like to comment that “the little grey dots on the green are parasitized stink bug eggs on a leaf.”

…I’ll just leave it at that.

Buzz you later,

Mary

Advertisements

The only people who haven’t seen Star Wars…

What can I even begin to say about Star Wars? These movies have been some of my favorites for as long as I can remember – some of my fondest childhood memories are watching the first halves of all three Original Trilogy movies before I fell asleep. Actually, I’m not entirely sure if I ever saw the end of a Star Wars movie until I was about six or seven and old enough to stay awake through the whole thing.

I remember having male friends in kindergarten, despite the fact that boys had cooties, simply because they needed a female to play Princess Leia on the playground and I was more than happy to step into that role. My first “boyfriend” played Han Solo as we chased each other over the jungle gym shooting imaginary blasters at our enemies. In the late 90s and early 2000s, I eagerly queued up in front of the movie theater with my dad in order to see and be disappointed by the Star Wars prequels. In fact, a discussion I had with a very terrifying 8th Grade English teacher about the pros and cons of Revenge of the Sith was the first time I realized that scary teachers didn’t have to be so scary.

This brings me to a few years later, and an episode of How I Met Your Mother:

the only people who haven't seen star wars

Apparently my friend Helena (yep, she’s the one who writes the kickass newsletter that I wrote about before) lived them. She lived the Star Wars.

We’ve been having this conversation for about the last ten years we’ve known each other. We’ve known each other for eleven years. And I’ve always thought it woefully sad that my best friend, who I always consider so up to date on pop culture (again, read the newsletter), has never seen what I think is one of the most genre-defining epics in cinema.

There was only one way to fix this, and that involved Trilling It Up (a.k.a. watching the entire Original Trilogy in one sitting with plenty of snacks). I ordered the DVDs especially for the occasion, and also because there was no way I was going to live the rest of my life without owning these DVDs in case other such emergencies should arise.

helena with star wars
Here, Helena majestically poses with the DVDs in anticipation.

This also fit well into my 2015 Summer Challenge – I was required to spend an entire day watching old movies, and by “old” I count anything that was released in cinemas before I was born. I know, I know, I’m young. Or at least that’s what the people at work keep telling me.

The manicure I did for the occasion wasn’t particularly complex, and definitely didn’t involve trying to draw the symbol of the Rebel Alliance (I’m good, but I’m not that good). Instead, I went with some basic Space Nails (that’s Sinful Colors’ Black on Black with my China Glaze Fairy Dust and some Hard Candy Black Tie Optional on top to make the stars) on my index and little fingers…

So glittery!
So glittery!

And then a bright blue (Julep Alyssa) and a bright green (Julep Sam) on the ring and middle fingers for some Jedi lightsaber action. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think that, should my Force powers ever awaken (yes, that was a reference to the new movie that’s coming out in December OH MY GOD OH MY GOD – I’ll definitely do a different Star Wars manicure when the time comes!), I would almost definitely have to have a blue lightsaber. It’s not even a question.

star wars nails 2

My thumbs received a coat of red, Julep Ellen, because there are two sides to the Force, and the Sith had to be represented here somehow. I mean, they’re the main villains and all. And of course they had to be red; if you’ve read previous posts, you know how much I hate red nail polish and wish it didn’t stain my fingers every time. And it smudged too. That’s just typical for those pesky Sith Lords.

star wars nails 1

And now, a review from the great Helena about what she thought of her first foray into a Galaxy Far Far Away:

Luke Skywalker has the hots for his sister.

But on a more serious note, I really liked Star Wars and I’m glad that I no longer just have a vague understanding of it.

I can live with that.

May the Force be with you, always,

Mary

Monday Macabre Masquerade

Wow, there is something about Mondays and M-named manicures that I just can’t resist. Maybe it’s that M is my favorite letter, for obvious reasons.

This post features something entirely new: The Roommate’s nails! This past Saturday, The Roommate came over to me while I was sitting on the couch and watching the recently-added-to-Netflix season of Doctor Who, placed her hand on the coffee table in front of me, and said “Hey, do my nails.”

(I think she was actually a little nicer about it, but the story’s funnier this way.)

I inquired as to the occasion for the nails, and she informed me that she had been invited to a friend’s going-away party, which was themed as, you guessed it, a Macabre Masquerade. I know, The Roommate has awesome friends.

First, she made sure to dress accordingly…

katie macabre 1
My friends are gorgeous.

And then I asked her to pick out the colors of nail polish that she’d like me to use on her. She ransacked my collection and returned to me with Julep Lilian and Julep Ellen. When I asked what she wanted me to do with them, she looked me straight in the eyes and said one thing:

Blood.

Well.

I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so if it’s blood she wants, it’s blood she’ll get. I did the base coat of Lilian, and then got out my trusty dotting tools – seriously, is there anything they can’t do? Both The Roommate and I were over the moon (you can interpret that in a werewolf way, if you’d like) with the final results:

katies nails 1

Once Lilian had dried enough, I painted a VERY THICK french tip in Ellen on the ends of The Roommate’s nails. Using my dotting tools, I made two or three or four little red dots at various points further down the nail – the more uneven the better.

katies nails 2

Then, using a thinner dotting tool, I dragged some of the wet polish from the french tip down to meet the individual dots, creating this dripping blood effect. I had no idea how it would turn out, and I was kind of blown away when it was all said and done. Let’s hear it for experimental gory nails!

katies nails 4

I would definitely use this manicure again for a Halloween party, a season premiere of Game of Thrones (you know you can’t argue with me on this one), or any other somewhat-spooky event. However, I wouldn’t recommend doing what The Roommate did, which was forget to take her nail polish off before a fancy dinner with her boss. Oops.

Many Scares,

Mary

He’s a what? He’s a what?

And more importantly, she’s a where?

Yep, that’s right, somehow I’ve manged to go the entire month of July without updating this blog. I wish I could say that I had better excuses than work, but I haven’t. I could say I’ve been busy, but I just haven’t been able to manage my time as well as I’d hoped recently, and for that I apologize.

One of the things that’s kept me busy these past few weekends is attempting to see Sterling Playmakers’ production of The Music Man as many times as possible during its run. I was in a production of The Music Man myself a few years ago…

I'm the one on the left, and I'm not sure what the Mayor's Wife is going for with her hand there...
I’m the one on the left, and I’m not sure what the Mayor’s Wife is going for with her hand there…

…so obviously this show is very near and dear to my heart. More importantly, The Boyfriend has a pretty large role in the Sterling Playmakers’ version – he plays Marcellus, who sings the fabulous Shipoopi while wearing a plaid wool suit that I swear I’m going to acquire photographic evidence of before the show closes. For the record, I didn’t kiss him on the very first date, so I suppose I’m not usually a hussy.

He's pictured here with Sara, aka Ethel, with whom I had a stern talking-to about their onstage
He’s pictured here with Sara, aka Ethel, with whom I had a stern talking-to about their onstage “romance.”

And of course, I won’t leave you hanging about what I did with my nails for opening night. The band uniforms are always depicted as red and white in this show, so I thought it was appropriate to do some red and white stripes on the majority of my nails using Julep Ellen (which is far more of a red in real life than the “deep berry creme” described on its page) and the classic Julep Brigitte.

The black music note accents were done with Sinful Colors’ Black on Black and my trusty dotting tools – I used a larger dot for the two notes themselves, and then a very thin dotting tool to draw the staffs and the connecting bar. And I was SO MAD when the note smudged a little when I put on the Seche Vite top coat – seriously, isn’t that the exact opposite of what Seche Vite is going for?

Smudged and chipped, but the effort is there.
Smudged and chipped, but the effort is there.

Either way, if you’re in the Norther Virginia/DC area, I’d recommend stopping by Potomac Falls High School and seeing The Boyfriend in his ridiculous suit, as well as one of the happiest and most uplifting musicals of all time (and this is coming from someone who loves things like Les Mis and who can’t stop listening to Fun Home, so enjoying a happy musical is rare).

Goodnight, my someones,

Mary

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

How much are you freaking out over Florence + The Machine’s new album? I pre-ordered my copy months ago, and I am now the proud owner of a hard copy CD and a printed booklet of beautiful and ethereal shots of the woman herself, Florence Welch.

Her latest album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, is named after the third track, which she wrote for “someone [she cares] about.” She encourages all of us to share it with the people we care about, and I’m not one to disappoint a musical goddess, so of course I had to provide the link:

Honestly, I think it’s a masterpiece. In honor of this album, I of course had to do an appropriate manicure. My nails have been taking on either a very bright or a very dark tone as of late, so it was fun to use the white to lighten them up a bit. And, as always, making them blue makes me happy and fits in perfectly with the theme of the album.

I promise, I’ll take a blue hiatus for a couple of weeks, seeing as I’ve posted so many blue manicures lately (it’s my favorite color!). At least comfort yourselves with the thought that I used a white this time. And it was blacklight reactive, for reasons I’ll go into later.

The hangnail was unfortitunate…and painful.IMG_1850
The blue background makes it more fun.

The colors are mostly repeats that I’ve used in other manicures: Essie’s Bikini So Teeny and China Glaze’s DJ Blue My Mind. The new blacklight-reactive twist is Julep Dana, which has blue shimmery undertones if you hold it in just the right light. How blue, how beautiful indeed!

But…why the album nails? Well, one of the things that kept me very busy this week was my trip to…SEE FLORENCE IN CONCERT!

My friend Helena and I were able to get pre-sale tickets (which were my main reasons for buying the actual CD instead of downloading HBHBHB) and wound up sitting five rows away from the stage. I swear, Florence and I made eye contact at one point. It was amazing.

I’ll be out of town this weekend, but many new movies and manicures will be headed your way. While I’m gone, I’ll leave you with some cool concert shots I got when I wasn’t too busy rocking out and singing along.

Stay beautiful,

Mary

My Friends Do Cool Stuff: Volume IV

There’s something different in the air tonight: I’m featuring two friends instead of one!

Everyone, meet Kelsey and Liz. They’re some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and The Roommate and I are currently in talks to move in with them at the end of the summer (because I don’t know about you, but DC area rent is far less stressful when it’s split four ways instead of two).

Kelsey and Liz do something that I had honestly never heard of when I met them. I’d heard of karaoke, of course, and I’ve participated in it a few times at bars that fall everywhere on a scale of “dive” to “whoa, are we even allowed in here?”, but man, they take karaoke to the next level.

I present to you: District Karaoke.

That’s right, there are teams that compete all around the DC area in various match-ups, with both solo and group numbers. Points are awarded for creativity, and these girls get these points in spades. Here’s Kelsey and a few of her group members performing the final number from School of Rock on the 2000s themed night.

district karaoke 1
The Boyfriend is in this picture too, but it wouldn’t be fair to do a post about him. Just accept that he’s pretty cool.

As you can see, costumes and props are encouraged. One time, Kelsey sang “Say Something I’m Giving Up on You” (I don’t know the actual name of the song, but I think it’s by Christina Aguilera?) as Tom Hanks’s character in Cast Away at the moment he lost Wilson to the sea (I’ll give you a moment to sob). And here’ Liz in a solo competition, singing Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” to a box of Ikea furniture.

district karaoke 2

So basically, Kelsey and Liz have discovered the absolute COOLEST way to get out and have some fun at a bar on a Tuesday night. Seriously, I’m not even a huge fan of the bar scene and I can’t wait to hear what they’re coming up with next. I’m hoping it has to do with Harry Potter, because that’s actually something that I talk about with them on a semi-regular basis.

Talk to you soon,

Mary

My Friends Do Cool Stuff: Volume III

Before we begin, a Public Service Announcement: today at Starbucks, a barista was wearing a Captain America Tiara. I am happier than I’ve got any right to be about the fact that these things exist.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

On today’s episode of “Oh my god, these people are so talented, why the hell do they hang out with me??” I present my friend Melissa, who is the most talented artist I’ve ever met in real life.

She’s posing with a llama, because I saw no reason not to include a picture of her posing with a llama.

Online, you may have heard of her, especially if you’re involved in some video game fandoms. Her handle is LuckyBlackCatXIII, or Lucky for short. She’s actually done Let’s Plays on YouTube and has quite the following on various art sites. Within the next couple of weeks, she’ll be displaying her art at a few Conventions (as we speak, she’s flying on a plane somewhere over the Midwest on her way to a few weeks/Cons in California), and I’d freaking love it if you’d support her.

Want some examples of her art?

I’d really love to see more of the home world trio later on, too bad Lapis is fused with the cheese puff though. Damn it. 

Marisa Kirisame mini print! Out of the two main playable characters she’s always been my favorite. I really loved her theme and outfit in Fairy Wars but I think short sleeves fit her personality more than long sleeves.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg. I’ve picked three of her most recent pieces from her website, but she does things in about a million styles and in every type of media, so there are sure to be cool things at her booth in Artists’ Alley at Fanime.

You can check out her art, her wit, and her very liberal use of emoticons at her Tumblr, which can be found at this link. I think this is also the best way to contact her if you’d like to commission something – she’ll definitely talk to you about doing a piece for your very own!

And just to reinforce how awesome she is, here’s a picture of Melissa and her girlfriend Chelsea as Grunts from one of their favorite games, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. These costumes and the characters both terrify me, but that’s kind of the coolest thing ever.

I promise, more mani pictures will appear within the next few days – my new stamping plates finally came in, so I can’t wait to show off the cool stuff I’ve been doing with them!

All the best,

Mary

My Friends Do Cool Stuff: Volume II

One time, I tried cross stitching. It didn’t work.

Thankfully, the idea worked out for my friend Lauren, who I met when I was a second year in college (I went to a college that uses the term “second year” instead of sophomore…yes, we were pretentious). She seems to have figured out how to take all of the horrible thoughts that float through our heads and turn them into the most hilarious embroidered home decorations I’ve ever seen.

I personally have bought this adorable little snail from her. I think his sentiment sums up my life quite perfectly:

I can't even

My friend Katherine, who I’m sure will be featured in another MFDCS post because she’s a freaking entomologist (yes, you read that right. She’s a bug scientist), found the perfect workstation decoration:

Presented to you in SnapChat form.
Presented to you in SnapChat form.

If you’d like to get a slightly (or possibly more than slightly) inappropriate framed cross stitch for your very own home, check out LAUREN’S ETSY SHOP. Please be warned: there’s more than a little foul language. Unsuitable for kids under 13…maybe 15. I’m not so good at judging what’s appropriate.

Have fun,

Mary

My Friends Do Cool Stuff: Volume I

Welcome to the first edition of “My Friends Do Cool Stuff,” a series I’ll hopefully be able to keep up every Wednesday. Let’s face it, I’m surrounded by too many awesome people not to showcase them, and you could all use a break from my fingernails every once in a while.

Anyway, without further ado, I’ve been best friends with Helena since we were 13 years old.

Helena
A coffee addiction is something we share.

There’s a story behind it – Helena was the shy new kid looking for a place to sit in the crowded middle school cafeteria, deciding if she would sit with the Cool Asians, Girls Who Don’t Eat Anything, or the Plastics (Mean Girls reference? Anyone?), and somehow she wound up at the table that hosted yours truly and my crazy friends. She sat down, we got to talking, and we warned her that we were pretty much the clique that the rest of the school raised their eyebrows at whenever we started laughing at a fruit roll-up or something. She informed us that people called her weird at her old school, but she took it as a compliment. We informed her that we got a lot of compliments.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Helena, unlike me, has always had a vested interest in politics. She pays attention to world news to the point where I don’t actually have to watch the news in order to know what’s going on – she keeps me up to date. She can tell you just about everything there is to know about pop culture (which I can do only to the extent that it relates to an upcoming movie release). And, not to put too fine a point on it, her taste in music is AMAZING, and I get at least >50% of my recommendations from her. And she’s happy to do the same for you.

Behold: HELENA’S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER!

That’s right, you too can be amazed by her world news knowledge and, honestly, kickass music recommendations. I highly recommend you subscribe – seeing the newsletter in my inbox every Friday is a highlight of the day and a great way to wrap up the week.

CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Have an awesome day everyone,

Mary