Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Beginner's Guide to Sewing a Superhero Cape for Toddlers

A Sewing Beginner's Guide to Making a Superman and Batman Cape for Toddlers

My husband K has begun gleefully introducing our two-year-old son Dexter to all things geek. You cannot imagine how disconcerting it was for me to hear a two-year-old Dexter suddenly chirp up in the car, "Mommy, Enterprise shooting the Reliant" (from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Uhhhh, what?

Anyway, DC comic book superheros have become another source of interest for Dexter, which is why I just had to make him his own Superman cape. The problem is that my sewing machine and I don't quite get along because I'm, uh, not so good with making exact measurements. Luckily, a cape doesn't have to fit perfectly, so there's a lot of room for fudge. Here are straightforward step-by-step instructions you can use to make your own:

Materials

  • Sewing supplies
    • Sewing machine
    • Fabric scissors
    • Measuring tape
    • Pencil or tailor's chalk
  • Fabric (I got regular 100% cotton from Walmart)
    • 2 yards of fabric for the cape (each yard can be a different color if you want to make a reversible cape)
    • fat quarter or small amount of scrap fabric for the logo 
  • All-purpose thread (matching the cape and logo colors)
  • 2 inches of sewable Velcro
  • Sewable fusible web, enough to encompass the logo (I recommend the purple Heat n Bond Lite stuff)
  • Plate, bowl, or other circular object with an 8" diameter
  • X-Acto knife
  • Ruler
  • Iron

Measuring and Cutting the Cape


Before starting, make sure to wash and dry the fabrics to preshrink them. You can iron them afterward if the fabrics came out very wrinkled. The following measurements were based on this article from How Does She?

1) Cut your cape fabric in half so that you have two halves that are about 31" in width.

Measuring and cutting a DIY Super Hero cape for toddlers - step 1

2) Place the two halves on top of each other and then fold them in half lengthwise so that the 31" width edges are at the top.

Measuring and cutting a DIY super hero cape for toddlers - step 2

3) On the right edge, make a mark 5 inches from the bottom. On the left edge, make a mark 11 inches from the bottom. Using the pencil or tailor's chalk, draw a straight line between the two marks. Cut the fabric about 0.5" above the line you just drew (this extra fabric is the seam allowance).

Measuring and cutting a DIY super hero cape for toddlers - step 3

This is what you should end up with. (I drew a black line just to make it more visible for you, but the pencil or chalk line should be fainter and will wash away.) If it helps, you can draw a second line 0.5" above your previous line and then cut along the second line.

Measuring and cutting a DIY super hero Batman cape for toddlers - step 3b

4) Take your 8" diameter plate and place it on the bottom right corner of the cape, at 4" from the bottom fold and 5.5" from the right edge. Trace a line using your pencil or chalk, and then cut the fabric 0.5" away from the line (leaving a seam allowance toward the bottom right corner).

 Measuring and cutting a DIY super hero Batman cape for toddlers - step 4

5) At this point, you can cut a straight line across the left edge (the bottom of the cape) if needed. You can also choose to round the corners of the top and bottom of the cape if you like (I only rounded the neckline corners).

 Measuring and cutting a DIY superhero Batman cape for toddlers - step 5

When you unfold the fabric, you'll have two identical cape-looking pieces of fabric!

Cutting and Attaching the Logo Applique


Now you can make your logo out of felt or even paint, but I wanted to make an actual fabric applique for that clean, professional look. And no, I had never made an applique before, so that means even you can do it! Here are some tips I took from Sew Like My Mom.

1) Find a logo that you want to copy (or make your own) and then print it out backwards at the actual size you want to use.

Reverse Superman logo for creating applique for DIY cape


2) Cut out a chunk of fusible web and place it on top of the printed logo so that the shiny, slick side is facing down and the paper side is facing up. In other words, you should be tracing the logo onto the paper side of the fusible web.

Afterwards, cut out a chunk of fabric big enough for the logo and follow the directions that come with the fusible web. Remember, you should be ironing the fusible web onto the wrong side of the pressed fabric.

Attaching the super hero logo patch - step 2

3) Since the Superman logo has some holes on the side, I used an X-Acto knife to make all my cuts. A metal ruler was helpful for those straight lines.

Attaching the superhero logo patch - step 3

4) Once you're done cutting out the applique, flip it over. That's the logo you'll be fusing to the cape.

Attaching the super hero logo patch - step 4

5) Peel off the shiny side of the fusible web and use your measuring tape to perfectly center the logo on the right side of one of the two cape pieces. (Put the other cape piece aside for now until after the applique steps have been completed.) Follow the fusible web instructions and iron the logo onto the cape piece.

Ironing on the super hero logo patch - step 5

6) Take out your sewing machine manual and set your machine to do a zigzag stitch that is 1/16" in width and makes 16 stitches per inch. I used a scrap piece of fabric to fiddle around with the size of my zigzag stitch until I got the machine adjusted correctly.

Adjusting the sewing machine for sewing appliques

7) As for actually sewing the applique, read these two tutorials on the basics of sewing appliques and going around curves. Key things to remember:
  • Line up the zigzag stitches with the outside edge of the applique fabric
  • Don't back stitch at the beginning or end of the stitching (see above links)
  • Go slowly and you'll be amazed at how perfectly it turns out

Sewing on the superhero logo patch - step 6

8) Once you're done, tie off the loose threads on the wrong side (aka the inside) of the cape.

Opposite side of fabric after sewing on superhero logo applique

Sewing and Finishing the Cape


1) Now that the applique is attached, lay the two cape pieces on top of each other with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. (In other words, the logo should be on the inside of cape fabric sandwich.) Pin the two cape pieces together.

Pinning together the two pieces of the super hero cape

2) Switch your sewing machine back to a regular straight stitch as recommended by your manual (don't leave it on the zigzag stitch). Sew the two cape pieces together using a 1/2" seam allowance (aka sew around the cape 1/2 an inch from the edge of the fabric). Leave a 2" opening at the bottom of the cape (see image below) so that you'll be able to turn the cape inside out at the end. Don't forget to back stitch at the beginning and end of the sewing.

Sewing together the Superman cape pieces with a 1/2" seam allowance

3) To prevent bumps and puckering, trim the corners, clip the valleys, and notch the mountains, This tutorial from Make It & Love It illustrates this step.

Trim the corners, clip the valleys, and notch the mountains when sewing a Superman cape

Trim the corners, clip the valleys, and notch the mountains when sewing a Superman cape

4) Using the 2" opening at the bottom, turn the cape inside out so that beautiful logo appears on the outside. Do a final ironing out of wrinkles and then hand sew the gap closed using the invisible ladder stitch.

Ironing and finishing the Superman cape

5) Cut a rectangle of Velcro off, and separate the hook and loop sides. Pin the two pieces on opposite sides of the cape's collar flaps and then try attaching the Velcro pieces together. If it works properly, the cape collar flaps should overlap slightly in the middle of the child's neck. Sew the Velcro pieces on using the sewing machine or by hand.

Velcro pieces for the Superman cape collar

Ta da, you're done! Get ready to be rewarded with your child's ear-to-ear smiles, joyful screams, and refusal to ever take off this one-of-kind gift. Hmm, maybe another trip to the fabric store is in order... ^_~

DIY sewing - toddler-sized Superman cape or Batman cape

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Survival Guide to Ich

(AKA How to Treat Ich or White Spot Disease in Freshwater Fish)


How to treat white spot disease in freshwater fish

Top Takeaways

  • Ich is one of the most common freshwater fish diseases. 
  • Ich comes from new fish and plants.
  • It takes 2 weeks to eradicate it.
  • Some of your fish may die anyway, depending on their immune system and how early you catch it.

What is Ich?

Freshwater ich, also known as ick or white spot disease, is one of the most common diseases in freshwater aquarium fish. It looks like little white spots or grains of salt covering your fish's body. Other symptoms include frayed fins and tail, respiratory distress, low appetite, and "itchy" skin (fish rubs against tank walls and ground).

What Causes Ich?

Your fish is infected with a parasitic protozoan called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It goes through a multi-stage life cycle:
  1. The protozoan attaches to your fish, forms a white protective cyst, and begins feeding.
  2. Once it matures, it bursts through the cyst wall, falls to the ground, and divides into hundreds of new protozoans.
  3. The "baby protozoans" then swim around and attach to a new fish (or the same fish). *
* This stage #3 is where the medication can kill the free-swimming protozoans and end the cycle. Die, baby bugs, die!

School of freshwater marbled hatchet fish
These new hatchetfish were wild-caught and therefore came infected with parasites. I half-medicated them in quarantine but didn't complete treatment (oops), so they still carried the disease when they entered the community tank.

Will My Fish Die of Ich?

Maybe. Unfortunately, by the time you see spots, the fish has already had ich for some time. So it'll depend on the robustness of your fish's immunity system and how early you caught the disease. When my aquarium got ich because of new fish I purchased, 6 out of 7 of the new fish died within the first 5 days of treatment. The other 12 existing fish in the tank were fine and hardly showed any symptoms.

P.S. If you need to euthanize any fish, I prefer clove oil using this method. It's very gentle and quick.

Ich or white spot disease treatment for fish - increase heat and oxygen, turn off light, and use medication
The most effective ich treatment involves a combination of medication and increased heat. 

How Do I Treat Fish with Ich?

If one fish has ich, you have to treat the whole tank. Some people prefer gentler methods of increasing the heat only or adding aquarium salt. I prefer the "scorched earth" approach. We're gonna nuke these suckers to orbit.
  1. Raise the water temperature up to 80°F to 86°F, increasing a couple of degrees every hour. The heat does not kill the protozoans, but rather speeds up their life cycle. (Some coldwater fish cannot survive at very high temperatures, so make sure to research first.)
  2. Increase the oxygen level in the water by maximizing the filter's flow rate and lowering the water level. (Warmer water doesn't have as much oxygen.) An air stone or power head can also help.
  3. Take out the carbon filter material, shut off the UV sterilizer, and disable anything that will counteract the medication. Also, remove any invertebrates, since they're sensitive to medication. *
  4. Medicate the tank water using the appropriate amount of Seachem ParaGuard (1 mL per 2 gallons of water). This stuff is great because it doesn't stain your tank, won't kill the beneficial bacteria, and is safe for planted aquariums. **
  5. Continue dosing every day for the full 14 days, or else the parasite will come back and reinfect your fish. Keep the aquarium lights off because the medication is light-sensitive.
  6. Do a partial water change every 2 to 3 days to keep the water quality high. Remember to add more medication to the new water as needed.
  7. Once treatment is complete, you can use diluted bleach to disinfect anything outside the tank that may have touched the infected water (e.g., fish nets, gravel siphon).
* I put my shrimp in a quarantine tank and risked giving him a half dose of Paraguard every day. She did fine, but there's no guarantee.

** Scaleless fish like catfish and loaches can be more sensitive to medication, so Seachem recommends starting with a 1/4 to 1/2 dose and building up to a full dose over several days. I risked doing a full dose from day 1 with my cory catfish, and they did okay. They were more upset by the heat when the heater accidentally crept up to 89°F.

How Do I Treat an Empty Tank with Ich?

If there are no fish in your infected tank, the steps are much simpler. Increase the water temperature to 82°F to 92°F. Within 48 hours, the baby parasites will appear and then die without any available hosts. To play it safe, keep the tank water hot and empty for 4 to 7 days.

Albino cory catfish, German blue ram, and neon tetras in community tank
Healthy and unstressed fish are better equipped to fight off diseases. All of my existing fish survived ich, and some didn't even got a single spot.

How Do I Prevent Ich?

Quarantine all new fish for at least 2 weeks. I recommend using a temperature of 80°F to ensure the ich protozoans (and other similar diseases) will show up faster if they're there. Then medicate as needed. (Some people preemptively medicate all wild-caught fish since they're more prone to carry parasites.) Here is more information on how to set up a quarantine tankTake appropriate measures for new plants as well.

Stressed fish also tend to have lower immunity, so keep your aquarium clean, don't overstock your tank, and avoid fluctuations in water quality.

Backstory: I have always quarantined my fish without medication previously, but my new hatchetfish were wild-caught so I actually thought to add medication while they were in quarantine. Unfortunately I only kept it up for the first week and neglected to continue treatment for the full 14 days. The protozoans were temporarily suppressed, the hatchetfish looked fine, and therefore I introduced both fish and parasites to my community tank. The hatchetfish were the only casualties from the ich, since they were patient zero and probably still stressed from recent transport from South America.

Marble hatchet fish or marbled hatchet fish
One hatchetfish got treatment in time and survived ich. By day 9, all the cysts had disappeared but of course I continued treatment for the full 14 days. Now I have to decide whether to buy more hatchetfish or give him back to the fish store and get something else. All part of the learning experience!

Can Ich Come Back?

Contrary to rumors, ich does not just live in the water like the common cold, waiting to infect you when your immunity is low. Once eradicated, it will not come back unless:

  • You do not continue dosing for the full 2 weeks of treatment.
  • Something is decreasing the medication's effectiveness (e.g., carbon filter).
  • The water temperature is low and the ich life cycle hasn't completed (medication only affects the swimming baby protozoans).
  • It is transmitted through infected water back into your tank.
  • You bought more new fish or plants that were not properly quarantined and medicated for 2 weeks.

Congratulations! You are officially ich free. You survived, conquered, and learned a lesson or two along the way. Next time you see those white spots (hopefully not), you'll be a pro at annihilating these pesky parasites.


Resources:
Ich in Freshwater Fish - Drs. Foster & Smith
Ich - The Aquarium Wiki

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Survival Guide to Betta Fish

(AKA What Do I Need to Know About Betta Fish Care?)


The Survival Guide to Betta Fish

Betta fish, also known as betta splendens or Siamese fighting fish, are incredibly popular with both first-time pet owners and and long-time fish lovers. While they're known for their vibrant colors, long flowing tails, and interesting personalities, most people don't know that bettas need more than a bowl to live in and pellets to eat. Follow this straightforward FAQ-style guide to owning a happy and healthy betta!

Question: What Do I Need for My Betta Fish?

Check out this shopping list of necessities for your betta fish:
  • Tank: Your betta fish tank size should be a minimum of 3 to 5 gallons. A simple rule of thumb for small freshwater fish is 1 gallon of water per 1 inch of fish, and bettas grow to about 2.5 inches long. Also, the aquarium needs a lid/hood because bettas are suicide jumpers. (FYI PetSmart carries their own brand called the Top Fin 5.5 Gallon Aquarium Starter Kit that comes with a lighted hood, filter, net, and thermometer.)
  • Decorations: Bettas like to have places to hide and explore, so provide aquarium decor and silk plants (nothing sharp that might rip fins). Live plants are great, but like any garden, they require time and care. (Petsmart is where I found more natural-looking artificial plants.)
  • Heater: If your room does not maintain a steady 75-82°F 24/7 all year round, you need a heater for your betta fish (rated for your tank size). Otherwise, he may become sluggish, stop eating, or become ill. Why doesn't my betta fish swim around much? Because he's cold. (((=_=)))
  • Thermometer: Sometimes heaters fail. How can you be sure? Get a super cheap thermometer.
  • Filter: Do betta fish need a filter? Yes please! Trust me - your tank will have clearer water for longer periods of time. When my starter kit filter failed, I switched to the terrific Aqueon QuietFlow filter (rated for my tank size) because of its adjustable nozzle and flow rate. 
  • Power Strip: Your tank is going to have 2 to 3 plugs and the nearest power source may not be super close, so get a long, multi-outlet power strip.
  • Net: Pretty self-explanatory, but it's nice to have one for transporting your betta or removing uneaten food.
  • Water Conditioner: Tap water contains chlorine which will kill your fish, so use Seachem Prime Water Conditioner (the aquarist's favorite choice) for all your water changes.
  • Gravel Vacuum or Siphon: This is single-handedly my favorite tool for fish keeping. No more dumping out the entire tank and splashing dirty fish waste everywhere during water changes. You need this Python siphon (rated for your tank size).
  • Empty Water Jug: You can buy a gallon of distilled water from your grocery store or get a larger water jug for bigger tanks.
  • Bucket: You'll need something to contain 3 to 5 gallons of dirty water from the aquarium.
  • Algae Scrapper: I personally like regular ol' sponges because they're easy to get into corners, but you also get magnetic or handled ones. Choose one based on if you have an acrylic vs. glass tank.
  • Food: Go for the Hikari Betta Bio-Gold pellets. It'll take your fish forever to finish a package, so there's no reason not to get the extra good, color-enhancing stuff. 
  • Medication: Don't wait until your betta fish gets sick to get meds because any delay may be too late. For your first aid kit, you should keep some aquarium salt and Seachem ParaGuard (good broad-spectrum stuff) on hand.

Butterfly betta fish living in tank with a heater and filter
Didn't know it took so much stuff to keep me alive, eh? 

Question: How Do I Set up a Betta Fish Tank?

  1. Once you have all your supplies, choose a good location that can support the weight of a full aquarium (10 to 12 pounds per gallon) and an electrical outlet near by. Do not let direct sunlight hit any part of your tank or else algae will aggressively take over.  
  2. Use plain water to rinse the tank and all the accessories (e.g., gravel, decorations, filter, heater, and thermometer). Don't use soap or cleaning agents because your fish can't, well, breathe soap.
  3. If you bought gravel, add 1 to 2 pounds of gravel for every gallon of tank water. Fill the aquarium 1/2 full of room temperature tap water.
  4. Install your heater, filter, and thermometer according to their instructions. (Don't turn them on yet.) Your tank hood should have cutout panels that will fit around the various instruments. 
    • Place the heater vertically and low in the tank or horizontally at the aquarium bottom so that it doesn't have to be turned off during water changes.
    • Betta fish hate fast currents so you may have to cover the intake and baffle the output (tutorial to come).
  5. Place the decorations in the tank to hide the heater and filter. Then fill the rest of the aquarium with water up to 1 to 2 inches from the top (so your betta fish can come to the water's surface for air). 
  6. Make sure to add the appropriate amount of water conditioner (also known as dechlorinator) into the tank. Now you can turn on all the equipment.
  7. Let everything (excluding the lights) run for a full day until the temperature stabilizes to 75-82°F. 

Do I Need to Cycle My Betta Fish Tank?

Cycling simply refers to the process in which a new tank grows beneficial bacteria that breakdowns toxic ammonia (from fish waste) into less harmful chemicals. Fish lovers are very passionate about making sure you only introduce new fish to mature, cycled aquariums, which can take 6 to 8 weeks or more. However, small tanks (less than 5 gallons) are notoriously hard to cycle because there's just not a lot of surface area to grow beneficial bacteria. Therefore, your job is to change the water at least once a week to make sure ammonia and other chemicals don't build up to harmful levels (since the bacteria aren't there to do it).

Acclimating a new betta fish in an fish tank with a heater, filter, thermometer, and aquarium decorations
New betta fish acclimating in a properly setup aquarium

Question: What Do I Do When I First Bring My Betta Fish Home?

These instructions are for acclimating your betta fish to a aquarium in which he is the first and/or only resident. If there are other fish already in the tank, quarantine the betta fish for 2 to 4 weeks first and then follow these steps.
  1. Turn off lights in the aquarium and surrounding area to minimize stress for the fish. 
  2. Open the betta fish's bag and throw out all but about 2 inches of water. (If the betta came in a cup, pour the fish and 2 inches of water into a quart-sized plastic bag.) Let the fish bag float at the top of the aquarium for 15 to 30 minutes to equalize the water temperature. It helps to clip the bag to the side of the tank to prevent accidental spillage.
  3. Add a small amount of the aquarium's water to the bag and let the fish get used to it for 10 minutes. Repeat this at least 3 more times until the bag holds mostly aquarium water. (One betta owner even says she takes 2 to 6 hours with this step.)
  4. When you're ready, use the fish net to move your betta from the bag into the aquarium. Avoid putting any pet store water into the tank because it may contain pathogens. 
And that's it! I usually wait a day before feeding my betta to give him time to get used to his new environment.

Question: How Do I Clean a Betta Fish Tank? 

The great thing about having a gravel vacuum or siphon is that you don't have to relocate your betta and decorations, dump out the whole tank, and put everything back together. Just follow these 5 easy steps (or less) for your weekly partial water changes:
  1. Turn off your filter if the output flow will splash too much during the water change. Turn off the heater if the water level will drop below its proper level of operation (that's why it's less hassle to mount them as low in the tank as possible).
  2. If algae is present, use the algae scrapper to scrub down the walls and decorations. Note: algae needs food and light, so I rarely need this step since no direct sunlight hits the tank, the hood light is on for less than 8 hours a day, and no uneaten food is allowed to remain.
  3. Use the gravel vacuum to suck up fish waste and food from the bottom of the tank. Put the tube (larger diameter end of the siphon) in the tank and the hose (smaller diameter end) in the bucket for dirty water. To start the vacuum, I use this very simple technique (no starter bulb needed), and then follow this tutorial to clean the gravel. While using the siphon, clean 1/3 to 1/2 of the gravel. Also only remove 10 to 25% of the tank water (don't want to shock your fish too much with new water).
  4. Fill the empty water jug with tap water at approximately the same temperature as the tank's current water (your hand is a good judge of temperature). Don't forget to add the water conditioner. Pour the new water into the aquarium, stopping 1 inch or more from the top of the tank.
  5. Rinse out the dirty water bucket and siphon, wipe the outside of the tank, and you're done!
Remember: Never use soap or household cleaning agents on the tank and its accessories. If you need to disinfect a tank of pathogens or remove stubborn algae, bleach is your friend.

Happy and healthy male betta fish making a bubble nest
Bubble nests are a good sign that your male betta fish is happy with his water quality and food

Question: How Do I Feed a Betta Fish?

A) How Much Do I Feed a Betta Fish?

Everyone warns you not to overfeed your betta fish, since these little piggies will happily eat themselves to death. Hikari Betta Bio-Gold packages give these exact instructions: For a betta with a 1.5-inch long body (not including the tail), feed three pellets and add 1 pellet per 1/4 inch of additional length. For my 2-inch long betta, that means he gets a total of 5 pellets each day. A properly fed betta fish will have a softly rounded body, so if your betta fish starts developing a beer gut, might be time to go on a diet. In fact, they can easily survive without food for several days (life is much harder in the wild), so no need to get a pet sitter if you're gone for the weekend.

B) How Often Should I Feed a Betta Fish? 

Once or twice a day is fine. During meal time, feed your fish one pellet at a time (float the pellet at the surface) and make sure each pellet is completely consumed (sometimes they'll trick you and spit it out a few seconds later). Remove any uneaten pellets afterwards. Also, fast your betta fish one day a week to prevent constipation.

C) What Should I Feed My Betta Fish?

Variety is the spice of life, so besides their staple of pellets, consider treating your betta once or twice a week to freeze-dried or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, or tubifex worms.

P.S. When your betta first comes home, it may take 2 to 5 days for him to get used to new food (aka he may spit it out and refuse to eat it). Just keep trying each day and eventually hunger will win him over.

Crowntail betta fish and his tankmate, a zebra nerite snail
Betta fish hanging out with his tank mate, a zebra nerite snail

Question: Can Betta Fish Live with Other Fish?

Trust me, your betta will not be lonely. They are solitary and territorial by nature, so they will attack any other betta or betta-looking fish in the tank. Some bettas with a calmer disposition can successfully live in community tank, but personalities can be hard to tell when they're in the pet store cup so be prepared to yank out the bully if needed. For example, one of my bettas merrily attacked my peaceful neon tetras, cory catfish, and ghost shrimp (all listed as excellent betta fish tank mates), so he got to live out the rest of his days in his own private penthouse.

Finally, make sure your tank is big enough to house any tank mates. A great online tool is the AqAdvisor aquarium stocking calculator.

Crowntail betta fish with frayed tail from fin rot or tail biting
Crowntail betta fish with frayed tail from tail biting :(

Question: What Does a Healthy vs. Sick Betta Look Like?

A) What Should I Look for When Buying a Betta Fish?

A happy, healthy betta is active, alert, colorful, and reacts to stimulus. No frayed fins or ripped tail, no scales popping out like a pine cone, no eyes popped out, no spots or fungus on body, the gills look healthy, and so on.

B) Is My Betta Fish Sick? What's Wrong with My Betta?

A sick betta is sluggish, not hungry, acts funny, and/or looks abnormal in some way. Check out these great websites with lists of symptoms and pictures to diagnose your betta and get detailed info on treatment options. If your betta doesn't live by himself, you may need to setup his own quarantine tank/tub.
 

C) How Do I Humanely Euthanize a Betta Fish?

The fact of life is that not every betta can be saved despite your best efforts. Don't let him suffer more than necessary. Toilet flushing or freezing a fish can take a long time before death and lead to suffering. Decapitation or blunt trauma is swift and effective, but can be distasteful. Consider these options for euthanization, including my preferred method of using clove oil.

And there you go! Betta care from A to Z. If you have more questions, please comment below and I'll be happy to help.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

New Season, New Hobbies

I've always been a collector of new hobbies. I think it's because my parents were immigrants and they were fascinated by this American idea of "extracurricular activities." In their country, getting good grades was everything, so their days consisted of going to school, attending after-school classes for more tutoring, and then returning home to eat dinner and do homework. They never got to do anything! So once I was born in the United States, they signed me up for every type of class imaginable. One year of ballet and tap dancing, one year of gymnastics, summer camps for art and science, team sports like soccer, music lessons like piano, public speaking and second language classes on weekends, etc. Because of my parents' enthusiasm for making sure I was well-rounded, I developed a lifelong love for trying new things.

As a child, I collected stamps, did cross stitching, and owned a parakeet. In high school, I listened to musicals, competed in science fair, and joined the Girl Scouts (yes, at age 17). In college, I played the clarinet in the marching band, competed on the kayaking team, and went on a mission trip to Jamaica. I was so excited by new experiences that I even made this list called "When I Grow Up" that detailed all the things I wanted to try once I graduated and got a job.

All this is to say that I rarely stick with the same hobby for very long. Even my permanent love for reading books continually waxes and wanes over the years. And I rarely (gasp!) crochet or knit anymore except when I have a mission (aka I'm bound and determined to finish those stupid Christmas stockings even if it kills me). My current hobbies are:

Bouquet of daisies, daisy, flower bouquet, flowers
FMS photo-a-day challenge (I'm very active on Instagram)

Glofish tetras from Petsmart pet store
Aquariums and fishkeeping (it all started with one betta...)

Pink fucshia running shoes and plum Fitbit Charge HR fitness watch
Running (which I hate but I'm supporting my friend with her first 5K race)

Anyway, I hope you stick with me as I embark on these new adventures. My husband K and I are still geeky as ever, so I'll also continue sharing about our love of video games, musings on sci-fi entertainment, and the progress of our two geeks-in-training (aka kids).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pattern: Squid Cat Toy with Refillable Catnip Pocket


I really, really like the Kitty Squid crochet pattern from Chronicles of a Yarn Obsession. It's such a staple in my pattern collection when I need a quick, cute gift for my cat-owning friends. Check out the changes I made to make a refillable catnip pocket that will truly drive your kitty wild! =^._.^=

Materials:

  • The materials needed for the Kitty Squid pattern (scrap yarn, black yarn, crochet hook G, tapestry needle)
  • Catnip
  • Scrap piece of fabric (something to wrap the catnip such as a square of 3-4 inches in size, preferably a color that will blend in with the cat toy body)
  • Sewable strip of Velcro (less than 2 inches, preferably white)
  • Hand sewing needle 
  • Sewing thread (pick a color that will blend in with the cat toy body)

Instructions:

1) Follow the Kitty Squid pattern and finish making the squid body and attach the eyes, but don't stuff the body yet or sew it shut.

Crochet squid cat toy with refillable catnip pocket

2) Flip the squid upside-down and open the base of the body. Cut a length of Velcro that will span the width of the squid body opening. 

Crochet squid cat toy with refillable catnip pocket

3) Separate the hook and loop sides of the Velcro. Hand sew the hook side and the loop side of the Velcro just inside the squid body opening. Try to keep the stitches hidden from the outside of the squid. When the Velcro pieces are fastened together, they should close the squid body opening entirely.

Crochet squid cat toy with refillable catnip pocket

4) Place some catnip in the scrap fabric and fold it up to keep the catnip contained. Place the catnip pouch inside the body. If there is still room left in the body, you can put additional polyfill batting or scrap yarn inside. Seal the Velcro together.

Crochet squid cat toy with refillable catnip pocket

5) Watch your cat go crazy for their new toy!

Crochet squid cat toy with refillable catnip pocket

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pattern: Puppy in My Hand

Puppy in My Palm crochet amigurumi pattern

My 3-year-old son woke up one morning and said that he dreamed he had a little white dog in the palm of his hand. Despite the fact I haven't crocheted anything new in months, I was determined to make his dream come true. This is an English translation of Waldi by Conni Hartig, with some added notes that made things easier for me. Enjoy!

Puppy in My Palm crochet amigurumi pattern

Materials:
  • 10 crochet thread (I used worsted yarn)
  • 1.5 mm hook (I used a 4 mm size G hook)
  • Polyester filling
  • Back and red embroidery floss for face (I used 6 mm plastic safety eyes and a 9 mm nose)
  • Tapestry needle

Abbreviations:
Puppy in My Palm crochet amigurumi pattern
  • ch = chain
  • dec = sc decrease 
  • hdc = half double crochet
  • inc = sc increase 
  • rnd = round
  • sc = single crochet
  • sl st = slip stitch
  • st = stitch

Instructions:
  • For the legs and the head/body, the pattern is worked continuously in a spiral; do not join.
  • For the tail and ears, work flat and turn the work at the end of each row.

Legs
  • Magic ring, ch 1
  • Rnd 1: 6 sc in magic ring (6)
  • Rnd 2: 1 sc in each stitch around (6)
  • Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing

Puppy in My Hand crochet amigurumi pattern

Tail
  • Ch 5
  • Row 1: Skip first st and sl st till the end (4)
  • Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing

Ears (make 2)
  • Ch 5
  • Row 1: skip first ch, 2 sc, 2 hdc (4)
  • Row 2: ch 1, 2 hdc, 2 sc (4)
  • Row 3: ch 1, 2 sc, 2 hdc (4)*
  • Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing

*I actually changed this to “Row 3: sl st, sc, 2 hdc (4)” for a more triangle-shaped ear.

Head/Body
  • Magic ring, ch 1
  • Rnd 1: 6 sc in magic ring (6)
  • Rnd 2: inc in each st around (12)
  • Rnd 3: sc in each st around (12)
  • Rnd 4: *1 sc, 1 inc* around (18)
  • Rnd 5: sc in each st around (18)
  • Rnd 6: *2 sc, 1 inc* around (24)
  • Rnd 7-8: sc in each st around (24)
  • Rnd 9: *2 sc, 1 dec* around (18)
  • Sew on 2 ears and embroider the face (or use plastic eyes/nose)
  • Lightly stuff head with filling and then continue crocheting head/body
  • Rnd 10: *1 sc, 1 dec* around (12)
  • Rnd 11: dec around (6)
  • Rnd 12: inc in each st around (12)
  • Rnd 13-17: sc in each st around (12) for 5 rounds
  • Lightly stuff body with filling
  • Rnd 18: dec around (6)
  • Fasten off and hide the yarn end inside the body
  • Attach the legs and tail

Puppy in My Hand crochet amigurumi pattern

Leash (optional)
  • Create a foundation chain for as long as you want the leash to be
  • Skip first st and sl st all the way to the end
  • Sew the leash around the dog’s neck

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Quest for the Golden Gargwa Egg

Once upon a time, there was an ordinary man named K who loved to play video games. When he heard that the New Nintendo 3DS XL handheld console was coming out soon, he decided to preorder it on a whim. Little did he know what a treasure he had in his hands...

New Nintendo 3DS XL - North America release versions
The four release versions of the New Nintendo 3DS XL for North America (Source: Nintendo)
You see, Nintendo decided to create four designs for North America's launch day:
  • standard red
  • standard black
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D limited edition
  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate GameStop-exclusive edition
To give you an idea of how rare and desired these things were, the Majora's Mask version sold out on GameStop's website in 15 minutes and was being sold on eBay for $300 (originally $200). And because of the US West Coast labor disputes, it was becoming hard to even find the regular red and black handhelds. As for the Monster Hunter version, well, let's just say they were going on eBay for a whopping $400! And of course, that would be the one that K now had in his hands.

Now, I didn't know or care anything about the new 3DS XL, other then to note how pretty the cover of K's new toy was. K had of course ordered me the Monster Hunter 4 game itself, which I was more than happy to play on my old 3DS XL. But K kept raving on and on about how awesome the new system was, with its improved 3D face tracking, built-in second analog stick, and faster processing speed. Finally, he had convinced himself that I definitely needed to upgrade. Mmm sorry, not interested. There are plenty of other things I'd rather spend $200 on than a new handheld console when my current one works perfectly fine.

New Nintendo 3DS XL - improved 3D face tracking
No more going cross-eyed when looking at 3D images (Source: GameStop)
But K was on a mission... there was nothing too good for his baby, and I was going to get the best, whether I liked it or not. The selling factor for me was the 3D face tracking where the camera tracks the player's eyes and automatically adjusts the 3D "sweet spot" so that you'll see a crisp 3D view even if you slightly move your head. (Do you know how hard it is to keep your head perfectly still when playing a video game? Yeah, not fun.) "Fine," I told him, "but I want a Monster Hunter one like yours." It was soon afterward that we realized how rare they were, and there was no way I was going to let K spend double the amount to get one.

Now it might surprise you, but in our family K is the shopping expert, and when he wants something hard to find, he uses NowInStock.net as his go-to product availability tracker. Apparently it combs the Internet for hard-to-find items and lets you know as soon as they're back in stock. Using that site, he was able to find a couple red 3DS XLs (my second choice) at Walmart and Toys "R" Us. But then, a random comment was posted about someone was selling an unopened Monster Hunter edition at near original price because she had mistakenly ordered the wrong design and just got the Majora's Mask one that she actually wanted. Now she was looking to give her extra unit to a true Monster Hunter fan - not just someone who would turn around and sell it on eBay for a profit. Therefore, in order to qualify as a buyer, you had to provide proof of your love of monsters.

Nintendo New 3DS XL - Monster Hunter Ultimate 4 - front and back
Check out that crisp, blue dragon logo with the brushed silver metal background... so sexy!
Without me knowing, K submitted my blog as proof, with its many posts dedicated to this love of mine. The seller and her husband ended up going through all the entries, and chose us to be the buyers! How awesome is that!! Better yet, how wonderful is my husband? I can't believe he went through all that effort to procure the perfect system for me. It feels like one of those fairy tales where the hero has to gather three precious treasures – a dress made of starlight, a talking cat, and a goose that lays golden eggs* – from the ends of the earth so he can win the princess' hand in marriage. I'm so thankful that I get to wake up every day to my Prince Charming. #^_^#

* In Monster Hunter, a golden gargwa egg is a rare item that you can sometimes surprise a gargwa bird into dropping. So it's kinda like a golden goose egg. ^_~

Monster Hunter gargwa egg

Question:
What's the coolest, hard-to-get thing someone has ever gotten for you? Or vice versa, have you ever found something rare for a loved one?