Tag Archives: harry potter

Venice, part II

According to my favorite custom of getting up early to explore new cities while the rest of the tourists are still sleeping, I grabbed a quick bowl of fruit for breakfast, then went to see St. Mark’s in the morning.

The previous night’s rain made lots of bathing pools for the pigeons.

But there’s always some folks that prefer a good shower.

Since the Palace and the Basilica weren’t open yet, I spent awhile just taking pictures of the carvings outside.

Some of it was rather creepy.

And then they let me into the Basilica, where I couldn’t take any pictures. Bah. It was beautiful, and had a feeling of immense age about it, which I didn’t feel inside the English churches.

Next was the Doge’s palace, which did allow photos.

One of the my favorite parts of the palace was the views through the windows.

The prison/dungeon was MUCH larger than I thought. All these little passages…if there hadn’t been signs to direct me, I’d probably still be there.

In one of the rooms, there was a little slot in the wall.

I peeked through it, and found myself observing a woman in the next room who thought she was alone. You just never know who’s watching.

My ticket included entry to the Correr museum, so I took a quick run through there. I found the chopines particularly fascinating.

I also loved these illustrated books.

Entirely hand-painted, and so tiny.

There was also tons of sculpture and paintings, but I’ve never seen the point of taking photographs of those. If I like a painting, I’ll just buy a postcard or print – much better than a snapshot!  I did take one, though, just to show you something amazing.

The Correr is a series of little rooms, and in most of them, there’s no guards or docents or anyone at all.  A lot of the time, I was the only person around. And there is no glass or barrier of any kind between you and the art. There’s not even any signs not to touch!  How do they keep people from messing with it? In America, you’d have kooks bringing in bottles of spray paint or something…or at least leaving fingerprints all over it. It’s puzzling, but awesome.

The last thing I did in Venice was take a boat ride down the Grand Canal.

It’s so much fun, because the boats rock with the waves.  After we reached the Canal, we slowed down, and I went outside beside the driver so I could get better pictures.

Although I didn’t take nearly as many as I could have done. I mostly just wanted to be there. Unlike some folks. This girl is in a gondola, on the Grand Canal, and she can’t be bothered to look up from her phone. I kept glancing over at her, and nope. I tell you, I hate smart phones.

 

Labor in Venice is interesting.

There was one small street I walked down, and workmen were gutting the inside of a building. All the stone rubble was taken out by hand, put in a wheeled cart, and handwheeled to the canal. Where it was emptied into a boat to be taken away.

I loved all the little gardens.

Sadly, a lot of the destruction of Venice is happening due to large cruise ships traveling up the canal. The residents are trying to stop this, but so far, no one is listening.

Although I loved it, two days in Venice was enough for me. I was ready to go back to London for one day…before I headed home to America.

My last day was all about bookshops and tattoos. My first stop of the day was Cloak and Dagger Tattoo in Shoreditch. They are super friendly and nice, and just the perfect place for a complete newbie to get her first tattoo!

I’d been thinking for years about getting one, and finally I’d settled on a place to put it – and a design that was properly meaningful to me. I went with a simple black silhouette of a dragonfly on the back of my ankle.

Dragonflies have a unique lifecyle. Depending on the variety, they can spend years living in a wingless form, underwater, completely aware of what they are truly meant to become. It is only when they leave the water, that they understand they are creatures of light and flight. I find it a perfect analagy for our life here on earth. We are wingless creatures, living in a world that isn’t truly ours. A lot of us are completely unaware that we are meant to be something else – and even those of us who do understand, well…is it possible to truly know the joy we will feel when we are finally able to leave this murky world and find our wings and the Light, our Saviour, Who is meant to live in us?

Everyone told me that having a tattoo done on the back of my ankle would be incredibly painful – but it hardly hurt at all. It felt like the artist was just scraping the tip of a safety pin over my skin! Even when he hit a sensitive spot, it was barely a 2 on the pain scale.  Even afterwards, it didn’t hurt. The hardest part was remembering to take proper care of it, since I kept forgetting it was even there.

After the tattoo, I went to Hatchard’s Bookshop to pick up a couple copies of the new illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. It was just being released on this day and I was super excited to be getting the British version, rather than waiting for the US one to come out.

Hatchard’s Bookshop is the oldest surviving bookstore in the UK, and it’s glorious. If bookstores were anything like this in the US, I might be tempted to give up my Kindle in favor of printed books again…but honestly…probably not. Kindles are just too perfect!

They didn’t have any of the Harry Potter books out yet, but when I asked, a clerk got them from the storage area for me. I took them up to pay, and the guy at the register refused to sell them to me (very politely, calling me ‘madam’.) He said the release date they had on their computers wasn’t for two days from now. I said I’d checked the publisher’s site, and they said it was today, and could he double-check that?  It took two clerks ten minutes, but they finally discovered I was right and their computers were wrong.  So I was the first one to buy one of the HP books at Hatchard’s – and possibly, the first one in the whole of Britain, if the stores had been given the wrong date (the US release date instead of the UK one.)

It’s a marvelous book. Well worth hauling it all over the airport the following day. It’s VERY heavy…and I had two of them. Look at these illustrations!

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The most common question I’m asked is a variant of: Don’t you wish you were still there/could have stayed? The answer is: No.

Before I left on this trip, I was feeling very burnt out and stretched thin, like too little butter over too much toast, as Bilbo likes to say. Because I was saving for this trip, I hadn’t gone anywhere new in two years, and I was really feeling it. The trip itself was often stressful, because constantly having to find my way in new places (when I have zero sense of direction!) and figure out how to handle new things every day for twenty-three days was…out of my comfort zone, to say the least. This was my first solo trip, the longest trip I’ve ever taken, and only the second time I’ve been out of the States (unless you count Canada, which I don’t.) By the end of it, I was ready to come home. It was amazing and incredible and I’m so glad I went, but I was definitely ready to come home.

But it did its job of rebooting my brain. The final morning I woke up in London, I woke up with a new short story ready-made inside. The exact words were just there, like a gift. Before I went to the airport, I dashed out to the first shop that sold notebooks. On the plane from London to Reykjavik, I wrote the words down, non-stop. After a two hour layover in Reykjavik, I wrote for another three hours non-stop on the way back to Seattle. These gifts. These marvelous gifts.

I don’t remember dreaming at all while I was on the trip, but for two weeks after I got home, my brain was an explosion of color and sound and vivid, vivid dreams every night. More gifts.  These are the things you don’t think of, when you consider traveling, the benefits that you don’t realize will happen. I was in the middle of writing a particular novel when I left, and I was a little worried that I’d lose the thread of it – because it was already giving me trouble.  Now I’m back, it’s just bursting out of me, and I can’t wait to finish it, because the next book will be all about the things I saw in Europe – as seen through the eyes of a monster-hunting steampunk girl in Queen Victoria’s court.

But I’m happy to let Winnifred Sebastian-Veals do the traveling for awhile now, while I return to the calm solitude of my garden, my animals, and my art.

Besides, my chicken missed me.

 

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Warner Bros. Studio Tour – Harry Potter!

One of the most amazing things I did was visit the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. It’s a vast, incredible collection of about every costume and prop used in the Harry Potter films, as well as many of the actual film sets.  If you’re in the London area, it’s a must-see.

This was one of my top five best experiences, as well. Before I even got inside, they started playing the film music, and my friend Bonnie and I just instantly broke out in goosebumps!

As a costumer, there were a few of the costumes I was especially looking forward to seeing in person…this one, the Grey Lady, is one I’ll be attempting to reproduce, as close to screen accurate as possible.

The detail on it is so beautiful.

I also got extremely close to Jason Isaacs.  Well…his hair, anyway.

The full sets were amazing – especially when you consider that these are the real thing, not a reproduction like in Universal’s Wizarding World.

The detail was astounding.

Look! There’s the sorting hat!

Voldemort is alive!!!

Some of the effects where amazing. This is not real fire, although it looked exactly like real fire. Light and vapor. Incredible.

So many things had animations.

The most surreal experience was Diagon Alley. So perfect, down to the smallest detail.

(The pictures of me were taken by Bonnie.)

The filming model of Hogwarts was immense.

But when you got up close, every detail was finished.

It left me wanting so badly to just run through onto Platform 9 3/4.

And board the Express to Hogwarts.

I had to settle for some Butterbeer. It tastes like cream soda, with a very thick, sweet, and mustache-making topping. Seriously, it’s impossible to drink without getting a ‘stache.

And some shopping. Even the store was immense. If it had anything to do with Harry Potter, it was here.

And it was decorated with wonderful things!

I took over 500 pictures at the Studio; if you’re interested, you can find them here.

Travel Itinerary

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Okay…after spending four+ years thinking about this trip, planning this trip, and changing my mind frequently on what to see and where to go, it’s now pretty much set in stone. So here it is:

September 15th: Board plane for Iceland. I don’t know guys. I may be more excited to be in Iceland than any other part of my trip. The more I look at pictures/read about it, the more it just calls to my soul.

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September 16, 17, 18th: Iceland.  I have booked tours of the South Shore, as well as horse riding over a lava field, and a tour of geysers and waterfalls. I’m taking an extra bag so I can break my “only carryon luggage” on the return flight. I have discovered that wool yard is actually a lot cheaper in Iceland than in the states, and I am completely in love with Icelandic wool. So I may just have to fill that suitcase, and mail it home once I reach London.

September 19th: Flight to London. The one thing I have absolutely planned for this date is watching the premiere of season 9 of Doctor Who in London! In the theater, if they do a big screen airing…otherwise I made sure my hotel has a television.

September 20th: London. Tour of Highgate Cemetery, canal ride in Little Venice, and shopping the Camden Markets.

September 21 – 22nd: In the morning, I have a tour booked of the Royal Opera House. Then, I will meet up with my friend Alberta and take the train to Leeds Castle, where we have a room booked. I also have an Owl Experience booked at Leeds Castle!  We return to London on the 22nd, just in time to attend a theatre performance of The Woman in Black. I hear it’s terrifying. I hope so! My second friend, Bonnie, will be flying in on the 22nd to join us as well, but she’s not into being scared, so she is going to see Shakespeare at the Globe instead. Wuss. 😉

September 23rd: Oxford. All three of us are taking the train for the day to Oxford. I’m particularly interested in seeing the world of C.S. Lewis. He’s probably done more than any author in shaping my inner self.  Tolkien – and Harry Potter film sites – are also a big draw.  If the weather allows, we plan to go punting.

September 24th: Alberta leaves us to go to Iceland, so Bonnie and I (as the two Harry Potter fanatics) are going to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour.  When we get home, we’ll take in a Cabaret/Burlesque show.

September 25th: Bonnie and I will visit Kensington Palace, and the V&A museum. In the evening, I catch the sleeper train to Scotland, while Bonnie remains behind for another day in London, then Paris.  I’m excited about the sleeper train – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do!

September 26th: I wake up in Edinburgh! Today I will hit all the major sites of the Royal Mile.  Including, of course, The Elephant House Cafe, where Rowling worked on her writing. In the evening, I will take a ghost/history walking tour.

September 27th: Today is my chance to get outside of Edinburgh, and see a little bit of the rest of Scotland. I’ve booked with a small group that visits Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands.

September 28th: I return to England, via the coastal train. On the way, I’ll hop off at Alnwick Castle. Some of my ancestors lived here, scenes from Harry Potter were filmed here, and they have a fabulous poison garden. Afterward, I’ll continue to York, my next destination.

September 28 – 29th: York. I have nothing specifically booked here, but this is one of those beautiful cities with fantastic history. I’ve always wanted to visit.

September 30th: Leave York for Bath, and on the way, I’ll stop at Hardwick Hall. It was built by my favorite ancestor, Bess of Hardwick – the second most interesting and dominant English woman of her time. (The first being Elizabeth I.)

October 1st: Bath. I’ve been to Bath once before, all too briefly. I have a session at the Fashion Museum’s Study Facilities. They are going to pull some extant examples of beetlewing embroidery, 1830s dresses, and maybe an Edwardian evening dress or two, and I will get to have a couple of hours of hands-on playtime. Photographs are allowed!  In the evening, I want to visit Thermae Bath Spa, and have a soak in the rooftop pool.  Bliss….

October 2nd: Daytrip from Bath to the Cotswolds. I plan on visiting several small villages and just wandering around…  Change of plans – I’m going to Cardiff instead. I plan to visit the Doctor Who Experience, for sure! At some point, I’ll be taking a hot air balloon ride over Bath. Haven’t quite decided on a time yet.

October 3rd: Train back to London. I might stop off at Salisbury on the way for a couple of hours. I just have to get back to London by 3pm for my tour of the Angels Costumiers.

October 4 – 5th: Early flight from London, and one night, two days in Venice.

October 6th: One last day in London! In the evening, I have tickets to see Raven Girl, a ballet at the Royal Opera House based on Audrey Niffenberger’s book. In the day, I plan on doing some shopping.

October 7th: Flight home.

I’m quite pleased with this itinerary – it mingles all the history, geekery, and costuming I can fit in, plus a number of things I’ve always wanted to do, and never have. It’s also a bit of a research trip, since after I publish the time travel trilogy I’m currently working on, my next two series will be Victorian Steampunk, and Elizabethan Steampunk. It will be very helpful to be able to actually see/experience the same things as my heroines. And, I’ve spent all the time I wanted, enjoying the anticipation and planning stages. I’m ready to go!

What? I’m a Hufflepuff????

Having finally gotten into the Pottermore Beta testing, I have been sorted by JK Rowling herself, and have been put into House Hufflepuff.  This was a big shock, as I had always assumed I was Ravenclaw.  It’s not that I think I’m particularly smart, or had any emotional attachment to that house, it’s just that whenever I ordered something in Slytherin colors for my Bellatrix Black school uniform, I was ALWAYS mistakenly sent Ravenclaw colors instead!  Seriously, this happened over and over, with my sweater, my scarf…whatever I ordered.  I just took it as a sign: I was Ravenclaw.

Despite this, I always did cosplay as Slytherin, not because I value ambition or sneakiness, but because I love Snape.  Completely, totally adore him.  So secretly (or not so secretly) I was hoping to be sorted into Slytherin.  I didn’t really expect it to happen though, because I don’t share Slytherin’s “values” in my real life, and….darn it!….the universe had already proclaimed me Ravenclaw!

But Rowling believes me to be Hufflepuff.  Okay, fine.  I wasn’t *thrilled*, but…okay.

And then I did some research (guided by Pottermore’s new revelations from Rowling) and discovered something really interesting.  Everything I value in real life, the way I really believe and think…is reflected by Hufflepuff.

For instance, there’s this article: Are Hufflepuffs Duffers?

For my own views, I’ve never quite liked Rowling’s definition of bravery, or her insistence that it is the most important of all virtues. Gryffindor’s bravery is fine and good – and needed – but the sort of “bravery” her heroes demonstrate is most often pure stubborn recklessness and disregard for the rules.  What is brave about charging forward regardless of the odds?  So often in Rowling’s world there would have been a much better way of handling the problem, and yet her heroes are always rewarded for their “bravery” instead of disciplined.  One example is in Goblet of Fire.  Harry Potter has to pass an underwater test and “save” his friends.  He made the unfounded and reckless assumption that his friends are actually in danger and blows the test by rushing headlong into the situation.  He does “save” them, yes, but they weren’t actually in danger, and if he’d taken a bit of time to think, he’d have realized that.  He always rushes in, on his own – or with his friends, thus endangering them – when he might have asked for help and thus resolved the situation much more easily.  This is not my definition of true bravery.  This is my definition of reckless arrogance.  Since this their defining characteristic, I am not a Gryffindor.

House Slytherin, while not an overall “evil” house, has problems with their definition of ambition.  Ambition isn’t wrong, but your goals have to achieved in the moral way.  Slytherins take the easy way, they are at heart lazy, wanting their desires to come to them without having to work for them.  Plus, they have those issues of entitlement and class working against them.  I am not a Slytherin, however much I adore Snape (and for the record, HE was my definition of a brave man.)

Ravenclaw is a little too obsessed with intelligence.  The smartest people are not always the best people, and I have a real distaste for those who look down at people because they don’t possess the same skills or abilities as themselves.  Granted there are great people in Ravenclaw (I love Luna, for example) but there is no way I can put “book learning” over emotional well-being.  I am not a Ravenclaw.

What I am is a badger. This is what I want to be, and the values I believe in:

Hufflepuff is the most inclusive among the four houses, valuing hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play rather than a particular aptitude in its members. Students belonging to this house are known to be hard-working, friendly, loyal, and rather impartial. It may be that due to their values, Hufflepuffs are not as competitive as the other houses, or are more modest about their accomplishments. Hufflepuff appears to have the least rivalry with the other houses.

Ambition, bravery, and intelligence matter not a whit if you aren’t in your core a happy person, a good person, a fair person, and a hard-working, loyal person.  People get so wound up sometimes in wanting to be great, that they forget how important it is to be nice.  Hufflepuff’s virtues are old-fashioned virtues, which is why they are mocked for being ‘duffers’, but these are values that people everywhere need to hold onto.

Plus, Hufflepuff has the most awesome common room.  While the other houses have grand rooms I’d love to visit, Hufflepuff’s is where I’d genuinely like to live.  Listen to this description from JK Rowling:

The Hufflepuff common room is entered from the same corridor as the Hogwarts kitchens. Proceeding past the large still life that forms the entrance to the latter, a pile of large barrels is to be found stacked in a shadowy stone recess on the right-hand side of the corridor. The barrel two from the bottom, middle of the second row, will open if tapped in the rhythm of ‘Helga Hufflepuff’.* As a security device to repel non-Hufflepuffs, tapping on the wrong barrel, or tapping the incorrect number of times, results in one of the other lids bursting off and drenching the interloper in vinegar.

A sloping, earthy passage inside the barrel travels upwards a little way until a cosy, round, low-ceilinged room is revealed, reminiscent of a badger’s set. The room is decorated in the cheerful, bee-like colours of yellow and black, emphasised by the use of highly polished, honey-coloured wood for the tables and the round doors which lead to the boys’ and girls’ dormitories (furnished with comfortable wooden bedsteads, all covered in patchwork quilts).

A colourful profusion of plants and flowers seem to relish the atmosphere of the Hufflepuff common room: various cactii stand on wooden circular shelves (curved to fit the walls), many of them waving and dancing at passers-by, while copper-bottomed plant holders dangling amid the ceiling cause tendrils of ferns and ivies to brush your hair as you pass under them.

A portrait over the wooden mantelpiece (carved all over with decorative dancing badgers) shows Helga Hufflepuff, one of the four founders of Hogwarts School, toasting her students with a tiny, two-handled golden cup. Small, round windows just level with the ground at the foot of the castle show a pleasant view of rippling grass and dandelions, and, occasionally, passing feet. These low windows notwithstanding, the room feels perennially sunny.

Doesn’t this sound like a hobbit hole…my formerly favorite place in all of fiction?  Views of dandelion lawns!  I love dandelions – I refuse to dig mine out of my yard, and every time I pass by an overgrown field I sigh at the beauty of those bright golden heads.  And, right now, my real life studio is painted yellow.  Everything in that description feels like home to me.  I have always felt very strongly connected to gardening, to the earth, and Hufflepuff is the house associated to earth.

Also, the badger is our animal, and badgers are awesome.  There is a lot of meaning behind the badger being chosen as our mascot.  Badgers are calm…except when they or their family are attacked. Then they turn into one of the most terrifying creatures on earth, well capable of fighting off a lion.  Check out this video of a Honey Badger if you don’t believe me!

And to crown it all off, there are some really cool people in Hufflepuff, Tonks and Rowling herself being two of them.  So NOW I’m actually really excited about being chosen a Hufflepuff, and while I don’t understand Rowling’s system for sorting, I think it works.  The only thing about Hufflepuff I don’t like is the Robert Pattison connection, and that isn’t Rowlings’ or Hufflepuff’s fault.

I am a Hufflepuff, and there’s no other house I’d rather be in.  (Sorry Severus…but we can still be friends, can’t we?)

Cool Things from YouTube

I’m sick, so while I have a rambling essay on writing and the book I’m currently writing, I’m entirely too tired to type it up.  I’ve had this thing for a week now, and this morning I thought: “Hey, I feel pretty energetic!  I’m going to go out to the studio and sew!”  Heh.  I managed to sew for maybe half an hour before I was exhausted.  My brother thinks we have the swine flu.  He might be right.  Heaven knows I’ve never had anything that doesn’t actually make me feel all that bad knock me out of business so badly and for so long.  And it’s interesting that I got sick in summer, because I never, ever get sick in summer.  Good thing I’ve still got two weeks to get my energy back before the Renfaire!!!

And on to the cool stuff….

I meant to post this earlier on my “All about Harry Potter” blog, but it slipped my mind, so here it is now.  Wizard rock!  Yea!  How can you not love it just for the sheer dorky awesomeness (even when it’s bad) – and these guys are actually pretty good.  I present to you the Ministry of Magic’s “Snape vs Snape”.

I adore Snape.  He’s just plain written of awesome.

And “Simon’s Cat” has a new episode out!  I don’t know who puts these out, but he sure has a handle on what makes cats tick.

Who doesn’t like penguins?

And here’s my latest music discovery.  Amaranth, by Nightwish.  Love the visuals – they put stories in my head.

All About Harry

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is coming out July 15th.  Since I am pretty much a geek (and fortunate enough to have a few sufficiently geek-like friends) I’m going to the midnight premiere in costume. I’m a little nervous, though.  The films have been iffy for me; I loved the first two (Sorceror’s Stone & Chamber of Secrets), despised the third (Prisoner of Azkaban), thought the fourth (Goblet of Fire) was okay, and the fifth (Order of the Phoenix) was redeemed only by the presence of Fred & George.  Since my favorite books are Prisoner of Azkaban, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince, you can maybe see my concern.  They like to screw up the films that correspond to my favorite books.

I’m also concerned by certain film posters that have been made.

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White doves?  Really?  And that’s the smallest part of my outrage.

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I won’t even comment on that one.  If you can’t see how wrong it is, you probably haven’t read the books.

But lest I scare you away entirely from the theater, I did find some good posters.

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I like this one.  And because it’s really, really hard to read, I’ll quote you the statement at the top:  “I am not afraid.  I am with you.”   Those words seriously makes me cry every time I read them in the book.  If they’ve put them on a poster, that surely means they’ve left them in the film, right?  They just better have them in the correct context!

Here’s a clip from the film that I just now found.  Sigh.  It’s a scene not in the book.  I can understand having to cut scenes from the book for the sake of making all the plot fit in a  movie, but is it really necessary to cut Rowling’s scenes so that the directer and screenwriters can invent their own scenes? No.  Stuff like that is exactly why the Order of the Phoenix film wasn’t very good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr4jovx2tEU

And here’s a gorgeous little parody involving Hitler and the anguish we all felt when the Half-Blood Prince’s release was delayed.

And just in case the film does disappoint, you can always watch the musical:

The House of Mouse

One of the very first Etsy.com stores I fell in love with was the House of Mouse.

http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5524984&order=&section_id=&page=1

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The artist makes tiny dressed mice.  Most are pop culture icons from movies, books, and tv series.  Recognize the one above?  Harry Potter!

And here’s a little hippy/flower mouse:

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And also from Harry Potter, here’s Lord Voldemouse.  The fact that he’s standing on a copy of a Harry Potter book is a nice touch!

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Just recently, I discovered the mouse-artist’s blog.  It’s fascinating.  Not only does she make a living making a selling mice, she packs her blog full of helpful tips and hints for other etsy sellers.

http://lifecraftinessandeverythingelse.blogspot.com/

I think I’m so attracted to these little mice because the first gift I ever received from a boy I liked was a little costumed mouse.  I was about nine.  The mouse was dressed like a cowboy.  I loved the mouse even after I recovered from the crush.  (Even though he was a cowboy mouse, he made an excellent stand-in for Reepicheep when I played at Narnia.)

Okay, I can’t resist showing off one mouse, and my current fav:

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Chewbacca mouse! Gosh, he’s cute.