Friday, March 11, 2011

Saturday Steam: Design Inspiration

(Yes, I know it's still Friday. I just figured you could use some goofing off this afternoon, and "Friday Steam" just doesn't work for me.)

Steampunk style can encompass everything from grungy post-apocalyptic to straight-laced Victorian, so when it comes to decorating your home, it's easy to get overwhelmed. The trick - as with all decorating - is to use what you like, not to copy someone else's style exactly. And since there aren't many steampunk homes out there (other than this one, of course), you'll have to be creative when looking for inspiration.

Here's a little eye candy to get you going:

Submitted by Jenn, Malling-Hansen's Writing Ball found via

My knees get a little weak every time I look at this antique typewriter. Excuse me for a moment while I just sit here slack-jawed and drool a bit, mkay?

[drooling] Oooooh.

Ok, that's better. Thanks.

Since most of us don't have the spare thousands to buy a Writing Ball, just remember that anything mechanical and beautifully detailed is perfect for steampunk style. Check junk marts and antique shops for old typewriters, clocks, nautical instruments, kitchen gadgets, etc. Use your imagination. And remember: they *do* sell brass spray paint. [wink] No one says you can't cheat!

Submitted by Heidi, Black Widow Steampunk Chopper via

Ok, I know what you're thinking: how does a motorcycle help inspire home decor? But look at the shape, and the way the copper gleams against the matte black. Can't you envision a kitchen using this kind of detail? Or a decorative trunk? How about an art piece? Bottom line: Great style transcends the object, and you never know where you'll find your "A-ha!" moment.

Of course, sometimes your inspiration can be a little less abstract:

Submitted by Lori R., made by Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

These chandeliers are made with old bicycle chains. Who knew grunge could be so elegant?

Here's a double-tiered version:

Again, for us DIY'ers: I've seen chandeliers made from everything from Gummi Bears to paper clips, old wine glasses to folded paper. Think outside the crystals. Look at cheap, abundant materials, and remember that everything looks different when strung together en masse and lit from the inside.

Since just about everyone's phone has a camera in it these days, you can also bag your design bounty in some surprising places. Like an old bank:

Amanda R. snapped this picture of an old vault door. Check out the beautiful gold leaf pattern and the colors of the metal. Plus, wouldn't the spoke design make an amazing porthole or mirror surround?

Or how about this shop display?

Stephanie M. spotted this rack* at a scrapbook store. The wire dress form would be a super sweet way to soften the hard rusty edges of many steampunk styles.

*I just realized "rack" could have two meanings here. And then I laughed. Heartily.

Besides, I like the wings on the back:

And speaking of hard rusty edges, check out this desk made from old marine mines:

Submitted by Kayla S., made by Marinemine

Again, you're probably not going to drop a small fortune to buy this desk. However, here's another fun fact: many crafts stores sell rust paint kits. When applied properly, they make even smooth wood look like decrepit old metal. Imagine with me now, the possibilities....

Oh, and don't forget the plumbing aisle! Marie found this nifty candelabra made from metal pipe fittings:

Check out the quick instructional vid here.
(And remember there are lots of copper fittings to choose from, too!)

And finally, let me refer you all again to my favorite resource for steampunk home design: The Steampunk Home. It's awesome. And if you're not careful, you may lose several days to reading the entire archives. So it's a good thing it's the weekend, huh?

If you've done anything steampunk in your home, you can bet your steamy little soul I want to see it. Share your links in the comments!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's Getting Hoth in Here

So while I'm roasting down here in my Florida sunshine, you guys are sending me pics like this:

By Michele H.

And this:

By Brandi M.

And even this:


Catherine R. even spotted a snowboarding Wookiee:

I love it!

This little cutie has the coolest horsie in the 'verse:

via @DarthVader, by Migpix

I'm sure you've probably seen the snow Jabba by now, too. Yep, I'd say winter seems to agree with Star Wars geeks. Although we really need some life-size tauntauns next, don't you think?

And finally, not Star Wars, but an amazing feat of icy engineering by Epbot reader Allison H. and family:

This little house took Allison and three helpers 6 hours and 600 snow bricks to build. WOW. (Did I mention that she and her hubby are both architects?)

And why is it so small?

So their son could enjoy a house just his size, of course!

All together now: awwwww.

Check out Allison's blog for more photos and fun, and thanks, everyone, for sharing the coolness! I think I'll go crank the air now and dream of layered clothing.

Seen any other awesome snow sculptures or structures? Share your links in the comments!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Going Medieval

Saturday we drove up to St.Petersburg, FL, where my big brother Ben lives. There we ate too much Chinese food, drove around downtown counting the plaster seahorses on houses (and debating whether anyone would mind my prying one off with a crow bar), and then walking along the Bay watching a pod of dolphins play in the waters just off shore. All in all, a nice, relaxing day.

Sunday, it was Ren Faire time. (Forsooth!)

Sadly our day was cut short when I nearly fainted while being laced into a corset*, but I still have some fun photos to share. (And no, none are of me in a corset. Sorry/you're welcome.)

*I wish I could say "it's a long story," but actually that's about the sum total of it right there.

Upon first entering the grounds we spotted the May Pole dancers:

Love the colors.

Next we stumbled on a Nature-show-esque display by these two:

Here the two females have spotted their quarry, and begin cat-calling and posing, um, "suggestively."

The terrified objects of their attention skirt by as fast as their legs will take them, studiously ignoring the pair's advances.

The females continue to vocalize their undying devotion, and promise to hold their breath until the men return. (They don't. Either of them.) (And yes, that IS a peanut shoved up the one girl's nose.)

So...yeah. That there pretty well sums up the general "vibe" of the Renaissance Festival. :D

Oh, but looky what I spotted!

[singing] Whatever it is I thiiink I see, becomes awesome Steampunk for me!

A few more colorful characters:

I had a pleasant conversation with this guy. Most people in costume there stay completely in character, which often gets awkward. He managed it with good humor, though, unlike some of the town drunks* and battle ogres and whatnot.

*I debated putting "drunks" in quotes. After some consideration....nah.

Speaking of which, this goblin was being led around by a little princess:

It was pretty funny watching her grab him by his sword and drag him off after her.

A pretty parasol vendor:

These fairies were also fully in character, demanding to know the name of the "magic man in your box," (ie my camera):

Leave it to me to find a giant seahorse at a Ren Fair:

And a miniature rooster:

There was also a hawk rescue organization there with three tiny

It was breezy, so they kept their wings outstretched. Not sure if that was for balance or for show.

We didn't get to see any shows (boo!) but we did catch this guy's "Lamb Wow!" pitch:

Yep, a medieval themed Shamwow parody. It was great. He was midway through his bit when we wandered by, and he immediately honed in on me, waving us forward all the way to the front. Then he asked, "Are you following this, camera girl?" Followed quickly by, "Thank God you're here; I've been waiting to use that line ALL DAY." Ha!

The funny thing about the Fair is how it turns your regular average guys into mall-shopping girls. By which I mean: they have to try on EVERYTHING. I think I spent half my time waiting on Ben or John or both to get strapped into some leather armor, or try on new gauntlets, or swing around big two-handed broad swords. It was adorable. In a manly way, of course.


(And Ben may look grumpy, but he's actually giggling like a school girl on the inside.)

The guys also took it upon themselves to engage in all the "throw something dangerous!" games: first axes, then throwing stars, and finishing up with knives. They both managed to strike the targets with all of them, while I stood by taking pictures and wondering how anyone could ever afford insurance for these things. (I suspect the answer is: they don't.)

And here they are, my mighty warriors:

Oh yeah. This one is totally getting printed out and framed.

(That's hubby on the left, brother on the right.)

One of my favorite things at Ren Fairs are the busking entertainers. Just look at this creepy statue:

He remained totally still even while being poked and prodded by inquisitive passers-by.

Until, that is, they actually passed by:

Creeepy. And usually, the person walking by had no idea he was turning to watch them.

Then there was this guy:

Also creepy. From behind he blended in perfectly with the moss-covered trees.

But my favorite was the living fountain:

You can't tell by the photo, but this lady actually had a water spout in her hair, so there was water trickling down her entire body. Her head was angled so the water didn't get in her face, but I imagine it was still a less-than-comfortable sensation. Then again, it *was* pretty hot out, so maybe not.

The best part, though, was when her performance time was up. Her handler then lifted her off the pedestal and loaded her onto a hand truck to wheel off, while she remained (almost) perfectly rigid.

Talk about dedication! That does *not* look comfortable.

And here's one last beauty shot of her:

And that was my abbreviated day at the Renaissance Festival! It's there through April, if any of you fellow Floridians care to make the drive. To be honest, we might even go again, since I didn't feel well enough to really enjoy the day, and also because barely anyone was there. It was supposed to rain all day (and didn't) so parts of the Festival looked like a ghost town. I'd have loved to see more guests in costume. So, if we get another free weekend this month, you might be seeing more medieval pics.

Oh, and before any of you ask: yes, I bought the corset.
My first one! Although I wonder if the sales ladies ever use swooning to their advantage. "Oh, are you feeling faint? Well, if you just bought that corset you're trying on I'd be GLAD to take it off you..."

(No, that's not what happened. Although feeling faint *does* rush a few decisions. Wish I'd felt well enough to try a few other styles, too...)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Steam: Steam Powered Giraffe

There are several fairly well-known steampunk bands out there. I've heard a couple of them live before, and I have to say: they all really look fantastic. [diplomatic smile] The sound, however, is as hit-or-miss as any genre of music - and most of what I've heard falls more on the "punk" side of steampunk. I like a pretty diverse range of music, but - prepare to call me an old fogey - crashing noise and screaming just isn't my thing.

So today, I want to introduce you to a group that's a little...ok, a lot...different than any other steampunk band I've seen.

Here, watch this:

This is Steam Powered Giraffe, "A Musical Pantomime Troupe featuring robot imitation with song." Meaning they're robot mimes, who sing. Gotta love that.

Mime has gotten a bad rap over the years, but these guys put it to amazing use. In fact, their movements are so mesmerizing that you're instantly sucked in to the performance, whether the music is to your taste or not. Just watch Rabbit, the "robot" with the goggles. Amazing, right? As a former (amateur) mime myself, I'm awed by that kind of consistent skill.

Oh, and check out his awesome make-up:

The other two guys are The Spine (silver face) and The Jon:

The girl, Upgrade, is no longer featured on their website, so I'm guessing she no longer sings with the group.

For those of you in or around San Diego, you can find SPG busking in Balboa Park most weekends. In fact, here's a video of them at the park singing another of my favorites:

For professional recordings of their songs, check out SPG's first album on iTunes. They also just released a new single, Honey Bee, which has a sweet, old-timey sound you'll love if you like the two I've posted here. (Actually, if you like these you'll probably like the whole album; it's one of the very few I've ever purchased online.)

For lots more info, pictures, and video links, head on over to Steam Powered Giraffe's website. Oh, and I also heard a rumor that the group has applied to perform at Dragon*Con this year. Fingers crossed that pans out; I'd love to see them live!

And finally, a big thanks to Brie, the 13-year-old reader who first introduced me to SPG last year. (Yeah, that's right: I have 13-year-old readers. Check me out, being hip and cool with the next generation and stuff.)

John and I are on the road again this weekend, this time to a Renaissance Festival in Tampa. Stay tuned for pictures and tales of our dastardly medieval exploits, which I have no doubt will be MOST dastardly. ;)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick Craft: Box It Up

If you're like me, you're probably guilty of buying more decorative wooden boxes and pretty trays than you know what to do with. A few years ago at Ross I found a lidless box in a leaf pattern that went perfectly with my India-themed bedroom - but I had no place to put it.

(This is a larger size of the same box.)

So, naturally, I had John cut it in half and hang it on the wall.

The space inside is perfect for perfumes and body sprays - and you get two shelves for the price of one box! (Mine was $4. Not too shabby.)

For extra usability, add cup-hooks to the bottom of one or both shelves:

Now it's a place to hang favorite (or extra-long) necklaces.

To do this yourself, just find a small wooden box or high-sided tray. Cut the box in half using a miter or jigsaw (or even a hacksaw, if you don't like power tools), and then attach heavy-duty picture-hanging hardware to the edges, like this:

Fill with your favorite bottles, and enjoy!

Plus, talk about instant gratification: you can be done in under 30 minutes. This would also be a great way to organize toiletries in the bathroom, not to mention help get them all off the counter and toilet tank. (Or is that just me?)

I hope this helps inspire some crafty ideas out there!

[UPDATE: Katphoti in the comments just mentioned another great idea: flip the shelf over so the bottom becomes the top! This would make a perfect display shelf when the sides would otherwise be in the way. Brilliant!]

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Miami Comic-Con

Last Friday John and I made the 4.5 hour drive to Miami for the first-ever Miami Comic-Con. We did this because A) It seemed like a handy excuse to eat at our favorite Cuban restaurant, B) Ernie Hudson was going to be there and I wanted my Stay Puft signed by an actual Ghostbuster, and C) Con within driving distance! Heck yeah!

We stayed two nights, although the con really only had one afternoon's worth of entertainment. One really *great* afternoon, though.

Let's start with a few costumes:

My fellow Dragon*Con attendees will remember this lovely Morgan Le Fay from the past two years. I love her props; the armillary sphere lights up and spins.

Even better, we spotted her again the next day in this costume:

Mrow. Steampunk Baroness, anyone?

(John's reaction to this outfit: "Look at her WAIST! It's so tiny!" He was absolutely correct, of course, but I thought it was funny that he was staring a bit south of where most men stare when corsets are involved.)

Zombie princess Peach:

The Batmobile was right inside the entrance to the main floor:

It was surrounded by waist-high curtains, so I'm afraid I didn't get any good shots of it.

Nifty interior, though:

The table in the background was Adam West's booth. The con was so small that there were never more than a few people in line, if there even was a line.

In fact, while John and I were waiting to buy some food at the little snack bar, John suddenly hissed, "JEN. Adam West is right behind you." I turned, and there was Mr. West, peering over my shoulder at the display case. I quickly apologized for being in his way, he very graciously assured me I wasn't, and then I suggested the yogurt parfait. 'Cuz I'm totally casual like that. [snort] A moment later he was replaced by Ernie Hudson, who bought a salad.

So, if you want to literally rub elbows with the stars, go to a small convention and hang out at the snack bar.

Less than twenty feet away from the Batmobile was the Team Fox Delorean. For a $20 donation you got to take pics sitting inside, plus a sweet little light-up Flux Capacitor pin.

This girl was clearly having a blast; she couldn't stop giggling.

These two ran squeaking shrilly through the aisles:

Which attracted the attention of the local brute squad:

Gotta love pretty people in spandex:

In the very back of the room was a fencing area:

This was also near my favorite spot: the art. I have way more than I know what to do with at this point, but I still couldn't resist adding a few things:

My cat Tonks is "helping."

That Animaniacs print was a LE of 10, and yet only cost $10. The artist even threw in a free head sketch of Brain. The adorable piggy Flash & Wonder Woman (aka Chester & Gretchen) is an original by Mike White, and came with the frame for only - no, really - $8. I had to restrain myself from buying all of his sketches; hit the link to see the others.

I also love artists' alley because it's fun to chat with and watch the artists at work:

This guy was especially impressive. Check out how he's resting his hand on that wooden stick to steady it; I've never seen anyone paint that way. [Edit: It's called a "mahl stick." Thx, commenters!]

The next day:

There were several excellent Star Wars costumes around, plus the R2D2 builders, but since I'd seen and photographed them all at the Star Wars Celebration I didn't bother tracking them down again. Here's a nicely weathered Storm Trooper, though:

And I asked this gal to take off her helmet "so I can show off that you're a girl." :D

Speaking of girls, here's my girl-crush from the weekend:

She was the only female in full Ghostbuster gear, and she was rockin' cherry red Doc Martins with her costume:


That group is actually from the Orlando Ghostbusters, which hosted the game show "Are You Smarter Than a Ghostbuster?" In it they pitted poor Ernie Hudson against rabid fans in a trivia contest.

I say "poor" Ernie because he lost...


Though, really, that's only because the contestants were allowed to use "lifelines" by asking the Orlando Ghostbusters for answers. Totally not fair! So, Ernie took to asking the audience for his answers. Soon no one on stage was answering anything: it was all lifelines. Still fun, though. (And Ernie still lost. Heh.)

By the way, I've never met an easier celebrity to talk to than Hudson. He could have been a fellow fan, he was so approachable and chatty. He was surprised when I mentioned seeing a vid of him at a con in Germany from a few weeks ago, and then - to MY surprise - he started telling me about a picture of him that's been all over the 'net recently. You know, uh...this one:


When I realized which photo he was talking about ("There was this picture of me behind me..."), I immediately cracked up and admitted to seeing it. He seemed pretty amused himself, though, so now I wish I'd let him carry on explaining; that could have been comedy GOLD.

I brought my 1984 Stay Puft for Hudson to sign:

Sidenote: I *finally* found something that cleans soft plastic: Magic Eraser. Seriously. You have to scrub, but the thing works miracles. (Just be careful not to take the paint off.)

And here's his signed butt:

Awesome, right? Although I still think it looks like he called me "gen."

And finally, let's end with a little more costume eye-candy:

I had a hard time chasing down this Batman. That's his daughter in purple to the side, and I wish I'd managed to get a better pic of them together!

[Correction: I'm told the little girl is Hit Girl, and "Batman" is actually "Big Daddy," who looks a lot like Batman. Sorry. You may now revoke 5 of my geek points.]
And even more pretty people (this time in corsets):

Hope you enjoyed my tour of Miami Comic-Con, guys!

Next month: MegaCon. (Aw yeeeeeah.)