Saturday, March 19, 2011

Jewelry with a Little Steam

Hang on to your debit cards, kids, 'cuz I'm still on a jewelry kick from yesterday.

Heeeere weeee goooo!
Mabelina Steampunk Cuff Bracelet by The Steampunk Sweet Shoppe, $45

And I love these kinds of cuff bracelets: big and dramatic, but adjustable for little hobbit wrists like mine.

The same seller also has this fun propeller hair clip:

The Red Baron Hair Clip, $22

And yes, the propeller spins. See? FUN.

Found by Vallie C., Crystal Steampunk Ring by Star Seed Charms, $36.50

Most steampunk rings you see just have a watch movement glued to a band, so I like how this one has all the extra gears and embellishments - plus the crystal is a cool, unexpected touch.

It actually pains me to share this next one with you, because even though my frugal side has been holding out against my "But I WANT it" side, my "WANT it" side is still pretty insistent.

Found by Kat H., Steampunk Gears of Time by Simply Willow, $42.00

So if it's not available anymore, that means my frugal side lost.* Heh.

[*Or that John read this draft and bought it for me. Love you, Sweetie!]

Let's get some more serious sparkle power in here:

Gentry No. 2 by Bella Lili, $37
Oooh, you guys, that green! I love it!

Less sparkly, but far more adorable:

Steampunk Wizard of Oz Tinman by freeheart1, $22

That little padlock and key just stole, you know.

This next one is an inspiration piece from a bead site, so it's not for sale:

Submitted by Julie W., DIY Necklace Design found here.

Which means one of you crafty beady types needs to start making these, stat, so I can buy one. (That beaded flower is amazing.)

If you like gadget jewelry, you'll love this:

Submitted by Martha A., Sundial Ring, $37.50

This ring pendant is a working sundial. You line up the center band with the correct month, and "light shines on the inner surface of the ring where the times of the day are engraved." Seriously. How cool is that?

I have no idea how this ring hasn't been snatched up yet:

Framed and Frozen Steampunk Ring by Steam Time Jewelry, $15

Only $15, people! And that's one of the most unique steampunk ring designs I've ever seen. Talk about a great use of resin.

And one final ring, again with lots of bling:

Copper with Volcano Swarovski Crystal by Catherinette Rings, $50

The wire wrapping on her designs actually seems a little more cyberpunk to me (or Borg, for that matter [smirk]), but I love it. Check her store for tons of different stones and metal finishes to choose from.

Happy shopping, everyone!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Geek Chic Jewelry 3.18.11

I'm a little late for Pi Day, but how adorable are these Pi/e earrings?!?

Submitted by Ramona C., Pi and Key Lime Pie Earrings by Nerd Goddess, $7.50

And only $7.50?? Dudes. I may have to think about someday possibly getting my ears pierced. Seriously. (Hit the link for more pie choices.)

The same seller also has some fabulous punctuation earrings:

Again, only $7.50 for a pair, or buy the whole set for $17.50.

Grammar geeks, rejoice!

Bet you never thought hanging a DVD motor around your neck could look this good:

Copper and Chartreuse Computer Motor Statement Necklace $50, Clone Hardware
Also, I've decided I'm a fan of copper and chartreuse. Don't they look snazzy together?

For you Lovecraft fans:

Cthulu Inspired Tentacle Cameo by Pretty Poppet, $32

She uses semi-translucent clay, so the tentacle almost looks real. Creepy and awesome, all at the same time.

I've never had a school ring before, but after seeing this, I'm thinking that needs to change:

Harry Potter Ring by blackmore5253, $45 (but add another $14 for shipping)

Accio Hogwarts ring!!

[tapping toe]

[checking watch]

Well, drat.

Guess I'll just have to buy it.

Oh, and this seller also has some sweet Superman, Star Wars, and even Stargate designs. (Yes, really: Stargate.) Hit the link to check 'em out.

Over in the Classic Gamer Goodies section, we have:

8-Bit Heart Pendant by Sketchy Stories, $39

Geeky bling! Yes!

This seller also has sterling Mario and Link pendants - hit the link to see 'em.

And speaking of Mario...

Nintendo Invincibility Star Charm Bracelet by Until It Ends Studio, $15.50

This is adorable.

Or, for something really old-school:

Clearly Pacman Bangle by ParAmourDesign, $25

Love this SO MUCH.

Curse my tiny wrists and their inability to wear bangles! CURSE THEM.

Um, are sloths geeky?

Can we just say they are?

Happy Sloth Necklace by mary mary handmade, $42.00 (Found by Aubrey W.)

'Cuz just looking at this makes this geek happy.

And I would post the über adorable spork and duck-billed platypus necklaces, too, but then your brain would explode from cuteness. So you'll just have to hit the link to check 'em out.

Ok, that's enough shopping for today. Well, unless *you* have something awesome to share, in which case: put your links in the comments!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Millennium Falcon Mural Has It Where It Counts

Could Kimber G. be the coolest mom ever?

Well, considering the mural she painted for her son's bedroom...

...I'm thinking "yes."

I'm excited to tell you that Kimber got the idea here on Epbot, too, back when I featured the Falcon blueprint (and challenged you all to find the bathroom. Heh.) She used an overhead projector from the local school to transfer the image, and a mere 12 hours of neck-torturing tracing later, vóila!

Here's a close-up:

Kimber tells me she only included about 80% of the detail and labeling, which was more than enough even at this size. The finished graphic is about six feet across, not including labels, and Kimber personalized it for her little Jedi by writing, "Modifications noted and approved - Sam" off to the side.

And here's the happy Sam himself, posing with his mom's Force-full handiwork:

And that, my friends, is why having geek parents rocks. MTFBWY, Kimber & Sam!

How about you guys - were your parents geeks? What's the coolest, geekiest thing they ever did while you were growing up?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Wrecky Week

Most of you know my "day job" is my other blog, Cake Wrecks. (Well, ok, now all of you know.) I created Epbot as a kind of pressure valve for CW; it's where I come to blow off steam. I quickly learned that I didn't need to talk about my stress to relieve it, though; writing about fun things other than cake, and interacting with those of you who share so many common interests, was really all I needed.

Still, sometimes I hear from one or two of you asking about my day job, either for advice on how to grow your own blog, or just for an insider's peek at what it's like to write for 80,000+ people a day.

Advice could easily fill a book, but I can answer the latter in four words:

Sometimes it really sucks.

Granted, there are a lot of caveats to that. Obviously it doesn't always suck. Sometimes it's amazingly wonderful. Sometimes I can sit back, look at the next day's post, and feel a small spark of pride over that one particular punch line that I just *know* is funny.

Then the post goes up, and - sometimes - everyone gets mad at me.

Hey, it goes with the territory, I know. Frankly, if you're writing online and NOT ticking off someone, you're probably not doing your job right. And to be fair, we usually get very, very, VERY little criticism. So if half a dozen people are reading us the riot act at once, it can feel like our own personal Dooms Day. Rational? Of course not. Human? I like to think so.

Every person I talk to about CW always asks, "Do you get a lot of bakers mad at you?" The answer is we really don't. In the history of the blog we've had less than a dozen bakers ask us to remove a photo. Considering that we have well over 5,000 photos posted, those aren't bad odds!

What no one expects - and certainly, what *I* never expected - is that you get far more flak from readers for joking around about, well, anything. Over the years I've learned to self-censor pretty well, but we still get knocked on our tuckuses once in a while over, say, claiming that a certain kind of dessert is a deep-fried donut. When it's NOT. [twitch]

And rather than dying down, sometimes these ridiculous "controversies" only escalate further with time. Arguments between readers break out. Lectures on "cultural sensitivity" are given. Tweets of deep "disappointment" are written, and curt, "Unfollowing" comments are left.

All this, over cake.

So, yeah: sometimes it sucks.

Again, it happens. You have to take the bad with the good, and try to keep in mind that 99.5% of readers are *not* offended, and that many of the remaining .5% are just plain loony. In fact, for every "controversy" we've ever had, we've always gained readers in the long run.

However, let's say you're having a particularly rough Monday. The kind of Monday where your new accountant calls up and tells you that your *old* accountant has been royally messing up your taxes and payroll, so much so that it's likely you now owe the government a sum roughly equivalent to half of your home's purchase price.

Then let's say an hour later the sweet college girl you pay for monthly house-cleaning gets mad and quits when you ask her not to bring her unemployed boyfriend along to "help."

Now, reeling from dramas big and small, you log on to moderate comments on a nice, safe, easy King Cake post. And you get lectured. Yelled at. Accused of who-knows-what. There are even e-mails, earnestly explaining baking techniques, traditions, and why someone as ignorant as yourself should not be writing a blog.

This was not me I'm talking about, by the way: it was John. He's the one who handles everything in the morning, because, frankly, I've learned that if I work until 4AM and sleep 'til noon, I get to skip any surprise morning ambushes. And after that triple-whammy, I'm kind of impressed John didn't post a big blinking "EFF YOU ALL VERY MUCH" on CW and shut the whole thing down then and there.

Instead, he woke me up.

And let's just say that this time *I* wasn't the one throwing dining room chairs around.

I like to look for humor in horror, so to speak, so Monday night I wrote a post that honestly made me giggle. After three years, those kinds of posts don't happen too often, so I cherish them when they do.

Needless to say, the reaction to Tuesday's post was even worse.

Adding to that, Tuesday afternoon we had an hour-long conference call with our accountants, which involved a lot of incredulous "And who advised you to do THAT?" on their part, and a lot of shell-shocked, confused silence on ours.

Tuesday night, John showed me this insanely hilarious King Cake photo which had just been submitted. I looked at him and said, "No. We can't. We just...CAN'T." Then I looked at the cake again, and knew we'd never be able to post it any other time, and that we really needed more posts for that week, and I thought, 'How much worse can it get?' And I wrote the post, and I went to bed.

By the time I emerged from the bedroom Wednesday, comments were already shut down. John was gone. Julianne, my friend and part-time helper, emerged from the office wide-eyed to explain that he'd taken comments off-line after only two hours.

"Well, that's a record," I said. Then I logged off of Twitter, shut down e-mail, and went and read a book.

That afternoon I had a doctor's appointment, because over the weekend I'd had a relapse of my health problem. (Which I feel kind of bad blaming all on that poor corset.) It was my first relapse in nearly two months: another record. I'd been starting to think I was cured. I'd even been writing (and deleting, and writing again) posts about it for here on Epbot, so I could share with you all how amazing I've been feeling, and how wonderful life has been, and how excited I was to face the future again.

But the badness came back. Perhaps as a hefty dose of foreshadowing, too, since it brought with it a pretty bad week.

Still, it could always be worse. We get a surprising amount of fan mail for a goofy cake blog, and there were a few encouraging e-mails this week about the King Cake fiasco in particular. Lots of 'LOL's and "Don't ever stop!"s and such. This was one of the weeks when those e-mails really made a difference. (Of course, most readers had no idea a problem even existed, since most readers [wisely] never venture into the comments.)

We've increased my treatments back up to once a week, since my relapse occurred during our first attempt at spacing them out to two weeks. I still don't feel as well as I did 8 days ago, but I have hope that I may again soon. (And when that time comes, I look forward to telling you guys all about it.)

I tend to clean when I'm stressed, so having the cleaner quit gave me something nice and physical to do. There's nothing like scrubbing bathroom floors on your hands and knees to give you a fresh bit of perspective over some stranger online calling you a misogynist.

And, at the end of the day, if we do owe the government half the amount of what our house cost, then I guess we'll get through that, too. It won't be easy, but it could always be worse.

At the very least, I might not have you guys, or this blog.

Thanks for being my pressure valve, all.

[Note: After writing this post I spent some time catching up on the current disaster in Japan, and was reminded yet again how petty my problems really are. It also reminded me that helping others is often the best way to lift yourself out of a funk, so if that's you, too, click here for a list of ways you can help the Japanese people.]

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...)