Monday, January 10, 2011

A Shopping Assignment: Wheee!

Ok, geek guys and girls, I have a mission for you!

Actually, this mission comes from another Jen, who is turning a yucky situation into a show-off-her-amazingly-bad-ass-geekery situation. To put a finer point on it: Jen just found out she has cancer.

But - BUT - in her own words, "Don't worry, it's Hodgkins - the most curable wimpy cancer and I shall be triumphant in my whomping of it."

Triumphant whomping! Yes!

Jen goes on, "But, I will lose my hair. So, I am on a mission to find geekie nerdtastic beanies and bandannas to cover my soon to be chrome-dome."

What's that I smell? A SHOPPING ASSIGNMENT?!?

Ahem. Sorry. Please, Jen, do go on.

"What I need are links to said beanies and bandannas. Yes, links. I don't expect (or want) people I don't know to buy me stuff. I'm financially solvent and have good insurance (thank the cosmic muffin). I just need help with the searchin' and the findin' so I can get to buyin'."

Oooh, now this is my kind of mission, guys. C'mon, GEEKY SHOPPING?

So, to get us started, I did a quick search of my own. My first find came from Great White Snark, who, ok, was making fun of it, but for those into Pokemon this beanie is actually really cool:

From SayHedgeHog on Etsy. Currently sold out, but perhaps they'll post more?

Actually, I'm not even into Pokemon, and I would still wear this. Totes adorbz!
(Did I say that right? Still workin' on my groovy/rad/hip lingo.)

Next I went looking for an R2 beanie, since I remember seeing a fabulous one somewhere before. Here's my fav of the ones currently listed on Etsy:

$55 on KnitLush

A little pricey, perhaps, but that detail looks well worth it.

Or how about some Hello Kitty?

$42.95 at tinytangerines, which also has adorable owl and cupcake designs!

For the bandannas, I got to thinking: what if you hunted down vintage character bedsheets/pillow cases and made your own? I'm sure there are already lots of folks on Etsy doing so, but it'd be pretty simple (and cheap!) to crank out your own if you have a sewing machine. A quick search of Ebay turned up sheets for the Smurfs, LoTR, He-Man, Star Wars, Care Bears, Pac-Man, and oh my goodness, I may have to buy some of these!

Plus, most of these look to be selling in the $10 range. Not bad!

Ok, guys, your turn! Share your links to great geeky beanies and/or bandannas in the comments - and please, remember to embed your links so that Jen and the rest of us can click on them!

Happy hunting!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How We Amuse Ourselves


UPDATE: Just three hours later, and we have an illustrated version. Thanks, JRose!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cruisin' For A Bruisin'

Some of you have been asking how our four day (or was it five?) Christmas cruise went.

Ok, one person asked. But still.

To answer that question, I will have to remind you that there were 11 people in our party, 10 of whom were related by blood or marriage, and all of whom have access to the Internet. And then I will have to politely change the subject.

Oh, but wait! I have pictures!

Hm. Well, in that case, I *guess* I can spare a few more details...

Ok. So. The only day worthy of visuals was our stop in Nassau, the Bahamas. Here we visited Atlantis, the famous resort that any of you who have ever been on a Caribbean cruise have probably visited.

Now, I love Atlantis for one reason and one reason only. Can you guess what it is? Considering that I just posted a big picture of one above this paragraph?

Yup. It's the seahorses.


Actually, all of the decor in Atlantis is amazing, and the whole "Lost City" theme is right up my alley. Crumbling plaster, nautical touches, and lots of star maps and armillary spheres? Yes, please!

A pretty ceiling in the main lobby:

And if you've ever been, you'll of course remember these glass sculptures in the casino:

[Update: You commenters are right: this IS the work of Dale Chihuly. According to his site, this one represents the sun, and the blue one down below the moon. Nice!]

If you step outside the casino there's a nice patio/walkway with this view:

That building houses an underwater aquarium and also a restaurant, if I'm remembering right.

And now, let's check in with our vacation correspondent, Mr. Seymour Butz! (woo-hoo!)

*giggle* Yes, I'm 12. Besides, I was getting a real Ocean's 11 vibe here with everyone bellied up to the balustrade, so of course I had to take a picture. And John caught me in the act, of course.

Oops, I just realized my mom isn't in that shot. So here's one of her in front of the aquarium, instead:

That's my grandmother in the chair. She nearly died about an hour prior to this, so this was quite the eventful day for her. (I'll tell you about the almost-dying thing in a minute.)

While you're enjoying the suspense, check out this great shot of John's mom and sister, who I think are checking out the 15-foot manta ray:

I love this shot. You can almost hear the fish saying, "Dude. I'm right HERE."

Ok, now on to Grandma's Action-Packed Almost-Dying Experience, aka, "So I Married An Action Hero!"

It started like any other day.

Well, not really; we were on a cruise. Heh. Um. Maybe I should just skip the intro? Yeah.

So here's the thing: when you have 11 people in your party, deciding on a course of action for the entire group is kind of like trying to steer some massive, unwieldy metaphor for something that's hard to steer. It's hard. Which I guess is why we ended up on the water taxi to Atlantis.

Now, John and I have actually been on a really nice water taxi to Atlantis before. It was a big double-decker with open-air decks, clean seats, and a PA system so the tour guide could narrate the 10 minute trip with ease.

That was not the boat we ended up on.

Our boat was a small, nasty wooden thing with peeling paint, belching fumes, and tiny windows that were fogged with scratches and grime. However, by the time we saw what it looked like we'd already walked a block or so to get there, and with 11 people you don't just change the plan willy-nilly once it's been set in motion.

Before we boarded, though, we did make sure that we could safely get my grandmother - who can walk, but mostly travels by wheelchair due to balance issues - on board. So, we asked the crew for their professional opinions on the matter. In answer, we got lots of enthusiastic "No problem!!"s and head bobs, as they quickly took our money for the tickets. And, in fact, it wasn't too bad: one big step from the dock onto the back of the boat, and then she could sit down again. Easy peasy.

The trip over was smelly, muggy, and unbeLIEVably loud, since the "tour guide" "narrated" our "tour" by bellowing at the top of his lungs directly into my right ear. (This was necessary to be heard over the skull-vibrating drone of the engine.) When he screamed out his first "LADIES AND GENTLEMENS!!" - yes, it was "gentlemens," a double plural - I nearly fell off my bench. I spent the rest of the trip trying to catch a whiff of fresh air through the tiny cracked windows, counting how many times the guide said "gentlemens" (8), and wondering how much I would have to tip the guide to make him *stop* guiding.

It was when we docked that the trouble started.

You see, we had boarded at the back of the boat, which is where small boats like this are meant to be boarded. As you may recall from any previous boat encounters you've had, the front is the pointy bit. It has no railings, walkways, or flat surfaces.

In fact, here's a picture of a boat similar to the one we were on:


Imagine a bigger, banged up, wooden, and completely enclosed version of this. That's what we were on. And that's what they decided to dock front-first.

At first I didn't realize there was a problem. We were seated in the back, which was much lower than the example above, and couldn't even *see* the front of the boat. Then, as the passengers emptied out ahead of us, I realized there were several very steep steps to navigate on the way forward. "Uh-oh," I thought. "Grandma's going to have trouble with those."

Then I stood up and saw that everyone was being forced to crawl out the front windows.


Shocked, I allowed the crew to hustle me forward, trusting that somehow the guys in our party would see Grandma safely ashore. As I climbed the steep steps a crew member grabbed my arm and pushed me towards the left window. "You go out the window," he said, pointing. Like this was a perfectly normal instruction to give in a non-burning mode of transportation.

Seeing no other option, I hitched my leg over the sill and crawled onto the outside deck, where I noted with mounting horror that the "walkway" was approximately 8 inches wide, and rail-less.

Which is how I came to be clinging to the side of a boat in the Caribbean and side-stepping around the edge like James "Twinkle Toes" Bond.

Now, at this point most of the passengers were off the boat, which meant that it was turning into the world's largest teeter-totter. It swayed side-to-side, rising up 6 feet only to crash down again a second later. Normally I find this fun. This time, all I could think was, "My grandmother is about to die."

Eventually I made it onto the dock where a small crowd was gathered, staring back behind me. I almost didn't want to look. But, of course, I had to.

What I saw next will forever haunt me, because - it's hard for me to even type these words - I didn't take a picture. Nope. I'm ashamed to say it, but my hands were glued to my face in such a state of panic that it never even occurred to me to grab the camera. Dang it all.

Well, anyway, here's what I saw: John, my grandmother cradled in his arms, was staggering forward Backdraft-style down the main aisle of the boat. Seriously, the only thing missing was dramatic music and maybe a few explosions. The deck was heaving so violently I was sure he would lose his balance and they'd both go down, but somehow he managed to climb the steep steps inside and get her to the window.

Next, he and my brother helped Grandma crawl out onto the tiny 8-inch pathway. (Around this point my heart stopped. You understand.) With one going before her and one after, the guys then kept their arms around my grandmother's back, pinning her to the boat side as the three of them slowly inched their way down the edge of the wildly pitching deck.

On the dock, roughly half a dozen people prepared to dive into the water in case she fell.

However, as you've probably gathered from the fact that none of my photos showed a dripping wet grandmother, my grandmother made it. When the guys helped her that last step onto the dock a small cheer went up, and eventually - maybe just one or two days later - my heart even started beating again.

The boat crew, I should mention, looked bored and slightly impatient throughout our ordeal.

So, to sum up: never, EVER, take your aged or frail relatives on the crappy Bahamas water taxi. For that matter, don't go yourself, either. Take the car taxi. It's well worth the extra $2. Trust me.

And now, your moment of cruise zen:

(I have no explanation. Just the picture.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sweet Tweets

Some geektacular goodies hogging my browser tabs today:

- The Disney Wedding Blog has a sweet photo feature on Cheryl & Adam's Steampunk Wedding:

Click the link for lots more eye candy, and don't miss the wedding cake!

(Why, oh why, wasn't I invited?!?[sob])

- Stained glass TARDIS clock, anyone?

- One of the funniest things I've read in a loooong time: How To Put On a Sports Bra.

"Step 1: Approach the sports bra with confidence, secure in the belief that you will wear it."

It's hysterical. You must read it. (Found via SuperPunch.)

- Speaking of hysterical, behold the newest thing since Vajazzling: the Tajazzle.

It's essentially a rhinestone sticker you stick on your lady business. However, they've managed to make it a "3-step system" that is the "ultimate in personal confidence" and costs "$39.95." Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up.

Go see the ridiculously long 30 minute infomercial here, complete with horrendous acting and lots of babes in bikinis wearing the rhinestone sticker everywhere *except* their lady business. (Do I need to tell you the videos are not exactly safe for work?)

Actually, just watch the first minute of the second half; that'll be enough. Plus, watching this guy here:

...earnestly explaining how the Tajazzle body powder makes him "feel fresh" just made my entire afternoon. (Again, vids are NSFW, but there's no nudity, either.)

- And finally, for your "dreampunk" jewelry fix, check out the Girls Are Geeks' feature on Bionic Unicorn, one of my favorite Etsy sellers. In fact, I couldn't resist buying the first necklace they featured:

Orange and blue! Wheee!

Click the link for more info on what "dreampunk" is (I like it!), and also for a discount code in case you decide to go shopping!

So guys, what's caught your eye today? Any good links? Share them in the comments!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Plethora of Penny Jewelry

Ok, clearly I have a thing for pennies. The good news is I'm not the only one; many of you readers are catching the one-cent spirit, too! Just look at some of the amazing jewelry ideas you've been sending in:

Epbot reader SJ helps lead Girlscout troop #1287 in Kentucky. Inspired by my smashed penny tutorial, she had all the girls get their own pennies during a field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo - and then they turned their smooshed souvenirs into rockin' penny pins!

Here's the whole troop, proudly wearing their pins:

If you click on the photo to see the large version, you'll see how each girl's pin is slightly different. I love the designs, and the dangling chains and beads!

Amy D. made this gorgeous bracelet:

Shades of blue and teal look *amazing* with the copper, don't you think?

And Sonya G. used a fabulous chunky chain for hers:

Jessica M. incorporated her dinosaur penny into this fun dino-themed charm bracelet:

Note the little frame with the word "Rawr" in it. :D

Rachel S. found this next example over at FusionBeads:

I'm loving how the pennies are bent slightly to fit the curve of your wrist, and the little bead clusters make it surprisingly elegant. I may have to try this!

And finally, some of you are *also* acquiring (and happily pounding away on) your own doming blocks. [wiping away tear] And I am SO PROUD. [sniff]

Emily M. made this perfectly patinated pair of wheat penny earrings:

[Correction: Emily's husband made these for her. Go, hubby!]

And over at Land Pirate Designs there are a couple of different penny designs. This is my favorite:

(Thanks for the link, Allison E!)

I've actually tried making a design similar to this, but I hit a few roadblocks. For one thing, drilling the holes at the right angle on the curved surface is pretty difficult with my Dremel, and you have to drill a *lot* of holes. (You can't drill before doming the coin, because the doming process distorts the holes. I learned that the hard way, too.) So now I'm thinking I need a drill press. Sorry, John. :D

So, have you guys made any penny jewelry of your own? Share your links in the comments; I'm always looking for more inspiration!

Oh, and if you're in the market for a doming block, go to Harbor Freight Tools. This set (the one I got): only $39.99 there. Suh-WEET! (I don't think you'll find a better price anywhere than that.) I also found this set over on Amazon for less than $50, but it doesn't look nearly as nice.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Katie's Book

Want to see the best gift I gave this year?

I have to share, because I really can't even take credit for it; over 3,300 of you readers helped me create it:


This, my friends, is a 552 page book comprised of all of your encouraging comments to Katie the Star Wars girl. Pretty cool, right?

The cover art is by comic artist Jack Lawrence, who was inspired to create it after first reading about Katie:

Fortunately he was delighted to grant me permission to use it for the cover. (Thanks again, Jack!)

I also have to give a shout-out and big thank you to readers Deirdre Popp and Jennifer Reid, who helped me format the 700+ page document down into a more manageable 550-ish pages, a feat which took many more hours than I had to spare!

Here's the dedication page:

It reads,

To Katie, from the readers of

Whenever you're feeling down, or lonely, or pressured to be someone you're not, we hope you'll flip through these pages and remember that there are thousands and thousands of us out here, cheering you on.

(The bottom line credits Jack, Deirdre, and Jennifer.)

Following the dedication page is Carrie's original article, and then my own blurb from here on Epbot.

Here's a sample page spread from the inside:

I have to tell you guys: I never dreamed this book would look this nice. I was positively *giddy* when it arrived in the mail. It's such a tangible expression of geeky solidarity - I didn't want to put it down!

Which reminds me: I have to give another shout-out to Lulu, the self-publishing site I used to order Katie's book. Getting all the formatting ducks in a row was kind of a pain - it's very much a DIY site - but in the end the total cost for this huge hardcover was less than $30. Seriously. And it looks a-MAZ-ing. So, consider this my ringing endorsement for Lulu. Great stuff.

Thanks again to everyone here who contributed to Katie's book, and of course to Katie's mom Carrie, who started us all off on this wild and wonderful journey. And, Katie? We hope you love your book, and will cherish it and the memories it represents for many, many years to come. MTFBWY!

UPDATE: I've already had several of you ask if you can order your own copy of Katie's book. Turns out, you can! I've adjusted the settings on Lulu, so all you need is this direct link to order a copy. (I'm not making any money on this: you'll pay the same amount that I did.) I hope it helps encourage lots of other Geek Girls (and boys!) out there!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No, I Didn't Fall Overboard

Sorry for the radio silence, guys; my health took a nasty turn this past week, and I'm just now forging my way back into the land of clogged inboxes, funny cakes, and awesomely geektastic steampunkery. (Srsly, how cool is my life?)

I hope you all have had and are having a fantastic holiday break! I also hope to return to my regularly scheduled program of entertaining (read: embarrassing) family anecdotes and crafty geekery very soon, but in the meantime....

Can I please have a pair of these for a late Christmas present? [Bambi eyes] Pleeeeese???

This was filmed by Epbot reader Veronica B.'s mom at the Knoxville Zoo, and you can actually hear Veronica talking in the background. On a side note, I love that you guys think of me when you see something this cute. Over at CW, it's all, "This cake was SO DISGUSTING, I immediately thought of you!" Yeah. Um. Thanks?

Now: can I please have a baby red panda? Or two? I promise to be VERY GOOD this year. :D

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Can Explain...

I've spent the entire day today wearing a knee-sock on one foot with no shoe and a flip-flop (no sock) on the other. I'm also sporting cut-off yoga pants, a mismatched Disney t-shirt, and a big floppy robe. Sometimes there was also a skirt involved - but don't ask me how.

So, obviously, I've been packing.

Here's the thing: I hate packing.

So that's the thing.

In related news, John and I are going on a cruise with our families tomorrow. We'll be gone five days. Our sanity, however, caught an early flight out sometime yesterday afternoon.

We have relations flying in from California, Texas, and Maine, plus my parents drove down from Virginia, and John had to organize pretty much all of it: the hotels, the flights, the how-much-luggage-can-fit-in-YOUR-trunk?, and, of course, the cruise itself. Afterward we're hosting Christmas morning here at our place, so there's also been that to plan/freak out over.

Now, because our trunk space driving back from the port is limited, John asked everyone to please try to pack light.

My mother - always one to take instructions seriously - showed up with one pair of pants. One. (Thankfully, she was wearing them.) In fact, the sum total of her luggage could have been contained in some of my larger purses.


Upon learning this yesterday, I gently explained to my mom that we were going on a cruise, not a 2-day stint in a war-zone foxhole, and that she would not, in fact, be required to carry all of her luggage on her person at all times. So off to Ross we went, where, after much cajoling, I was able to convince her to purchase a black skirt and a black pair of jeans.

Now, I know what you're thinking: they still make black jeans? Yes, my friends, they do. But more importantly, I clearly did not get my mom's sparse-packing jeans. I mean genes. I just need things when I leave home: shoes and hair creams and - for the love of sweet mercy - my tweezers.

Still, I did my best, and I think I've managed to condense my bare necessities down to a manageable amount.

I just hope I remembered to pack some pants.

Anyway, stay tuned for what I'm sure will be absolutely hysterical reports on our family vacation. And maybe some coded pleas for help. (If I start referring to myself as Inigo Montoya, call the Brute Squad, stat.)

UPDATE: Yes, I have my passport. More importantly: it's no longer expired. Less importantly: I'm never going to live that down, am I? ;)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Grand Tour

Wow, I've been loving all your comments describing your holiday decorations, guys! That, and desperately craving pictures. Hmmm - new Facebook album, perhaps? So you can all share?

You know, it's funny; on Cake Wrecks I've always been a pretty private blogger. If you'd told me even a year ago that I'd be photographing my house and then posting the pictures publicly online I probably would have fainted. I guess the difference is I feel like I already know you Epbot readers, in a geeky camaraderie kind of way. Posting here feels like I'm just e-mailing a bunch of friends - nothing weird or creepy about that, right?

Besides, I worked for THREE SOLID DAYS getting all this Christmas stuff up, and by golly, people are gonna see it.


SO, my friends, since I'm sure you're simply dying to see my decked halls [smirk], allow me to take you on the grand tour.

(Uh. Brace yourselves.)

We'll start at the front door, which dumps you unceremoniously into our front room:

Here you're greeted by Tree #1.


I initially stuck that bow there as a joke - it looked so silly I cracked up every time I looked at it. Then I realized I liked laughing at my own tree, so it stayed.

I couldn't swing steampunk this year, so instead I used what I had and tried for India: lots of jewel tones, peacock feathers, and orange and bronze. (Although that ornament next to the elephant IS pretty steampunk: it's called a "nocturnal time piece," from Etsy. Once the tree is down, I'll display it in the dining room.)

More pretties:

And check out what I just found at Crate n' Barrel last weekend:

They're peacock feathers inside glass ornaments! Cool, right? All our other ornaments come from Big Lots and cheap discount stores, but I figured these were worth the $3 splurge.

Can't forget the gem that Number 1 gave me:

When you press a button, Spock's voice plays *really loud.* It's great for scaring the bejeepers out of the cats.

Here's the tree lit up:

Looks about like every other tree, huh? Yeah, I actually like this one better during the daytime.

One of my favorite things is making little table top displays around the house:

There's another steampunk element for you: a heavy brass compass with built-in level and mirror. (Found at Hobby Lobby, of all places.)

On the photo wall I tuck in little wrapped boxes and berries:

The photos are ones I took in John's home town in Maine. The old gas pump shot is my favorite.

Yikes, and that's just the front room. Um. Maybe you should go make some popcorn or something... (and be glad my house is less than 1400 square feet. Heheh.)

All set? Ready to see more? Ok, here's the dining room:

(That male model charged a fortune for this shoot. Yeesh.)

And the wall to the left:

Check out the mini diving helmet! Oh, and the steampunk goggles that John made. Eventually there will be a tutorial for next year. The art is a print by James Christensen.

You've already seen everything in our dining room, of course, but I did add a few things for the holidays:

A different wreath, a few sprigs of berries, an ornament or two: it's fun to add little surprises here and there.

I'm ashamed to say we still have the boring paper lantern chandelier, but at least it's a nice place to dangle a few ornaments:

Oh, and my favorite addition is on top of the cabinet:

A clear plexiglass "NOEL", with silver glitter on the edges.

It looks so pretty with all the other glass and silver!

I made the garland and big bow with glittery fruits and ribbon from Old Time Pottery.

To the left is our little bitty galley kitchen:

We ripped this room down to the studs three Christmases ago, and redid it ourselves on the cheap using all IKEA cabinets and shelving. I adore it.

The pass-through window:

With more orange and bronze sparklies in some leftover garland.

And finally (promise!), our back room:

This picture is when I realized one of the light strands in the tree had burned out. I replaced it, and then the replacement burned out. Yeah. This tree is officially on my "naughty" list this year.

Here's another table top display behind the couch:

Yes, I wrap empty boxes. FOR FUN. I'm one of *those* people. I also wrap the lids separately and reuse everything, although the boxes are all empty again this year as we've skipped gifts in favor of the Charity Countdown. The framed pieces are inexpensive (less than $10) original watercolors found on ebay.

"Why Jen, do you really have an old sign from the Magic Kingdom hanging in your living room?"

Yes, yes I do.

Another cabinet:

A close-up of our entertainment center:

And FINALLY finally, the tree itself:

The cats' new favorite thing? Burrowing under the tree skirt. It's hilarious to watch, but they leave giant humps under it in the back. ;)
It looks even better at night:

The tree is covered in twinkle lights, which are quite possibly my favorite things in the whole wide world. Hey, Dizgeeks, you know how all the trees in the Disney Village have twinkle lights? Or used to? (Seems like there used to be more than there are now.) That's where I fell in love with them, at the ripe age of 7. Having them in my house now is a little slice of twinkly heaven - or maybe Lothlorien.

Well, guys, hope you enjoyed the tour! (There is more, of course, but I'll spare you the office and bathroom. For now. Heh.) And, since I can't invite you all over for a holiday bash, I guess now you'll just have to drink some eggnog and exchange hilarious gag gifts amongst yourselves.

Have pictures of your own decorations? Link to them in the comments, or upload them to the Epbot FB page - I wanna see!