Monday, May 2, 2011

Spontaneous Combustion

By the time you read this, dear readers, I will be gone.

Well, not GONE gone...I mean, I'm not breaking up with you or anything.


Let me start over.

By the time you read this, I will be traveling south (ok, further south) for a few days of rest and all-you-can-eat buffets on the high seas.

(Why do they call them the "high" seas, anyway? Wouldn't you say they're about sea-level? [rimshot!])

Where was I?

Ah, right: this feeling of being a bit scattered of late. Mostly, though, I've been concerned about John. Or rather, the way I treat John.

(By the by, I'm about to get really real here for a sec. Hope you don't mind.)

See, sometimes I can be a work-a-holic. Because I like what I do it doesn't always feel like work, but even when it does, I want to answer just a few more e-mails, or file just a few more photos, or - yes, I admit it - check just a few more tweets. Sometimes those "just a few more"s overrun other things in my life, though. Things like weekends. Or rest. Or tolerant spouses.

So last Thursday night, with the crack house done, and the book done, and some extra CW posts written, I decided to do that one thing we work-a-holic hermits absolutely abhor: be spontaneous.

"Whoah there, buddy, let's not do anything crazy, now."

"John," I said, "I think we should take a cruise next week."

It's not often I see my husband's jaw drop, so that next moment was quite a treat.



I should mention here that cruising is John's heaven-on-earth.

Cruising is John's heaven-on-earth.
I should also mention that he had one researched, price-shopped, and booked in record time. Probably so I wouldn't have a chance to change my mind. Clever boy.

So, if you need us, we'll be drifting around the Caribbean this week.

Hopefully on board a ship.

I expect I'll still be posting, but no promises. (Although I really do need to vent about the whole bathing-suit shopping experience. You know, for recovery purposes.)

And, since I'll be trying to do this myself, here's a little challenge for all of you: go and appreciate your loved ones this week. Whatever that means to you, and whatever it takes, just try. I'm betting it'll pay off in spades for all of us.

See y'all in a few days.

(Oh, and yes, I have my passport.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sharing the Love [GiveAway]

Not to be all, "lookie what I got!" but...

Lookie what I got!!

Every once in a while one of you fabulous readers will send me something sweet and make my day. I don't always mention it, because showing off how nice you guys are could be misconstrued as just plain showing off. Ick. However, today I'm going to share!

A little. [grin]

First, let me break down the goodies:

Melonie A. sent those adorable Kawaii capsule toys on the right, plus the oh-so-cute Kingdom Hearts cellphone charm in the middle, all the way from Japan! (The tubes are candy.) I'm currently working on a crafty way to display the toys. I'm sure you'll hear about it when/if I do.

Not three days later, reader Somara *als0* found and purchased the Mickey charm for me. Which is amazing, since I don't think either even knew I'm a Kingdom Hearts fan!

When she learned I already had one, Somara sent the charm anyway, suggesting I give it to one of you. (Told ya you readers are awesome.) Though if you don't mind, I'll be keeping the hilariously creepy vintage clown heads she also included. :D

And lastly, the sweet and squishable Ewok clothed in my favorite color and boasting a hand painted Epbot 'bot to boot (woot!) is by the ├╝ber talented Stephanie Kotkin. I certainly won't be giving him away - ever! - but you can get your own (among other cute things) at Stephanie's Etsy store.

Now: where my fellow Kindgom Hearts fans at?

If you'd like a shot at winning this Sora-wearing-Mickey-ears charm, just leave a comment on this post. I'll announce the winner at 11 pm EST today, both on the Epbot Facebook page and on this post, so be sure to check back!

UPDATE: And the winner is....OnceBitten! Congrats, Once (can I call you Once?), and please e-mail me your mailing address!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hidden Treasures at the Magic Kingdom

You know what the only good thing about this time of year here in Orlando is?

('Cuz it's definitely NOT the 100 degree weather. [Yes, it really did hit 100 this week. FAN ME NOW.])

It's the fact that the Magic Kingdom has been staying open 'til midnight or later.

Awwww yeeeeeaah.

About a week ago John and I headed over there at 10:30 at night, ie, the time when it starts to cool off a smidge. Sure, the humidity is still at 3,000%, and it never gets under 75 degrees, but at least the sun is down. And they sell ice cream on Main Street. Which we ate at 1:30 in the morning, before catching the last tram out to our car.

Awwww yeeeeeah.

Anyway, the other day we made dinner plans with some new friends at the Columbia Harbour House, and I brought my camera to grab a few detail shots:

Gee, I wonder why? Heh. I'm so predictable.

You guys know I'm all about the details at Disney; I just love finding and photographing the little things we usually walk right past without a second thought.

Disney restaurants usually have great theming, too, so anytime you eat at the parks try to take a minute to walk around and take it all in.

Oh, and if you ever eat at Harbour House there's only one place to sit: on the bridge upstairs with windows overlooking the walkway from Fantasyland on one side, and the rivers of America on the other. Unless the park is really busy you'll probably have the entire area to yourself, and it's a great cozy spot that most folks never discover. In fact, it almost makes up for the lousy tuna fish sandwiches! [Zing! Sorry, Disney.]

After dinner we wandered through the new queue at the Haunted Mansion (amazing - check it out online if you can't come see it in person) and then over to Splash Mountain...

...where I waited outside snapping photos while everyone else got drenched. (I'm not a big drop person. Or a roller coaster person.) I love all the lanterns in the trees at the queue, though, don't you? We have a giant tree in our backyard - bigger than these - and it's my dream to someday have it wired for hanging lanterns like this. It's so dreamy, like Lothlorien!

Next I want to show you my two favorite hidden treasures in the Winnie the Pooh ride. If you like hidden mickeys and park trivia, then you're going to LOVE these. (Assuming you don't already know about them, of course!)

The first is found at the very entrance to the queue:

Photo via DIS Unplugged - hit the link for lots more pics of the updated queue.

Dizgeeks will recall that this giant tree has been moved. It used to be in a playground across the main walkway, where - as you longtime dizgeeks will recall - once upon a time the 20,000 Leagues ride used to be.

When the tree was first built, the Imagineers decided to leave a small homage to the ride it replaced: a tiny imprint of the Nautilus, tucked away where even those who are looking for it have a hard time finding. Eventually, though, those people will locate it above the right-hand doorway and take a picture for you:


And inside the ride, there's an homage to another attraction: the one Winnie the Pooh replaced.

That's a picture of Mr. Toad (of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) handing Owl the deed to his house. To find it, you have to look to the left in the very first room of the ride. It's near the entrance, so you may have to turn around and look behind you to catch it.

(In Disneyland in California, WtP replaced the Country Bear Jamboree. So in one of the rooms on the ride, if you look up and behind you you'll see the three mounted animal heads - the ones that used to sing in the Jamboree - up on the wall. You'd never spot them if you weren't looking, though!)

And finally, that most elusive treasure of all:

Ghost Tigger! OooooOOoooo!


Ok, that's all for now! I hope you guys don't mind my Disney ramblings. I even have a few more tidbits for later, if you like these. Since so many of you have been e-mailing me lately for Disney advice on upcoming vacations, I thought sharing a few of my favorite often-overlooked details would be fun. So, let me know if you want more sometime!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Now THIS is Geektastic Wedding Dress

Hyla W. found a spectacular example of geek girl ingenuity over on Offbeat Bride. In a nutshell, bride Kouhotaru wanted her dress styled after Rydia from Final Fantasy IV.

This is Rydia:

So, ok, not exactly traditional wedding dress material.

However, throw in one amazingly talented cosplay designer, and you get...




Soooo beeeeautiful!!

And doesn't it channel Rydia perfectly? I especially love the boot designs worked into the skirt.

Head over to Offbeat Bride to see the lovely Kouhotaru and her groom on their big day (they got married at a Renaissance Fair! Woot!) and for more information on the fanTABulous dress.

So... how many of you ladies are dreaming up video game inspired wedding dresses now? Besides me, I mean?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Art Attack: Double Takes!

It's always fun when artists put a fresh spin on familiar characters. Check these out:

Snow White gets a more "historically accurate" dress makeover by shoomlah, who's also drawn Jasmine, Belle, and Ariel. Hit the link to see the others! [Found via @TheDisneyBlog]

How about a Victorian Mario?

Epbot reader Brandi spotted this one on artist Shane Parker's blog. Perfect for stereoscope viewing!

More Mario art, this time done in one of my favorite styles:

Art Nouveau! This is actually a sticker found by reader Holly K., but artist Megan Lara also has it available as a t-shirt, along with lots more geeky heroines (including The Guild's Codex!) drawn in the same style.

Another artist rockin' the geeky Art Nouveau is Bill Mudron, whose Amy Pond print went viral not too long ago. It's a gorgeous print, but I like *this* one even more:

Awwwesome. It's currently sold out at his store, but at only $20, I'd check back if I were you.

Gotta have a little cute in here:

Michelle V. sent these in - they're by ginormousrobot over on Etsy, and there are several more in the series. My favorite is R2 and C3PO in the sandbox; I knew R2 was a mischievous little imp!

Plus a little Ghosbusters!
I just bought this print (only $10!) not too long ago from Dave and Tracy, the artistic duo behind henNchicks. Isn't it a fun retro style? Plus, check out their Edward Scissorhands:


Also on Etsy is the Gorgonist, who has a fantastic "fancy dress" series I think you'll love:

Seriously: So. Fabulous. And I cannot tell you how tempted I am to make a Death Star cosplay dress based on that last painting - which is ironic since Robin, the artist, was inspired by people cosplaying in the first place. :) I think I'd wear it with the X-Wing hair piece, tho, and then have a light-up strip down the middle channel to highlight Luke's flight path. Eh? EH?

So, what geek art makes you smile? Share your links in the comments!

UPDATE: Oops, nearly forgot: artist James Hance of the adorable Wookiee the Chew fame is raising money for his daughter's medical expenses. So, if you're in need of any adorable Star Wars/Disney mash-up art, now's the time to buy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Dizgeek's Dream

If you're a hardcore Dizgeek (like me) with a bank account to rival Scrooge McDuck (not so much like me), then have *I* got the auction for you!

Next month, Profiles in History (the outfit that previously held that awesome Back to the Future auction) will be putting up some amazing Disneyana for sale. I learned about it through Inside the Magic, my favorite Disney blog, which if you love Disney - and I mean REALLY love Disney - you should definitely add to your reader.

Now, who wants an original Mr. Toad's Wild Ride car?

How adorable would this be in your front yard? Eh? Anyone?

'Course, it's estimated to go for between $8,000 and $12,000, so...I wonder how hard it'd be to DIY? Heheh. (I just love the color scheme, don't you?)

Or, for a spare $15,000 to $20,000, you could own the ORIGINAL Fuzzball:

Now you can put on a puppet show with the cutest character from Captain EO!
(Just be sure to invite me, Ok?)

Hey, anyone remember The Black Hole?

Ok, so I don't. (Hey, it's a little before my time, Ok?) Still, how cute is little V.I.N.CENT. here? $16,000-$20,000 and he's YOURS.

Or, hold on to your helmets, 'cuz this next one rocks:


Hm. I guess $12,000 is a little steep for a theoretical crossplay Rocketeer costume. But still...

And finally, this one's not Disney, but I know how often you've fantasized about dressing up as Gozer the Gozerian, so...


Sure, it looks a little rough, but get this: this original Gozer costume was actually found over a year ago in a rack of "unidentified costumes" in a surplus store! You can read the story (and see more pictures) on my favorite Ghostbusters blog here. Amazing. Makes me want to find a surplus store with unidentified costume racks. (Where do you find those, anyway?)

Oh, and here's a shot of Gozer herself for comparison:

Now for $8,000 - $12,000, you, too, can ask people if they're a god.

(And we all know the answer to THAT, now, don't we?)

See lots more of the auction goodies here, or go download the entire massive catalog here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crack House Love

I've been holding out on you guys.

Yep, these past several months John and I (but mostly John) have been working behind the scenes on our biggest project to date:

A (former) crack house.

Cue the scary music!

[blood-curdling scream]

Yep, that's our baby! Or was, back when we bought it last November.

Brief back story: the house is a few streets down from ours, and we'd noticed 'For Sale' signs going up and down for over a year. We'd also been talking for a while about investing some of our savings in the neighborhood instead of the market, so finally, out of curiosity, we called on it. Turned out it was going up for auction that very afternoon, so after a hasty tour (yikes) we decided to put a low-ball bid in. And, huzzah! We got it!

Of course, our jubilation was short-lived when we realized we'd just purchased a total dump whose last occupants were forcefully evicted by the DEA. Hm. Yeeeeah.

We decided to leave the house until spring, because I had a book to write by February, and I needed John's help to keep the blogs going while I did. Then we started looking into insurance for the house, and realized we'd have to have it up to inspection standards within three months of closing to qualify for the insurance we needed.


So that's how we embarked on completely renovating a former crack house during the three months I had to also write CW book #2 and keep two blogs running.

It was...interesting.

John made the deadline with literally only hours to spare, and then we spent another month or two on the final finishing details.

But, now we're done! And I HAS PICTURES!!

So sit back, relax, and prepare to be scared wit-less by my 'before' photos. [evil grin]

First, a closer look at the exterior:

That's the front door on the left. (And also John's hand.)

Actually, compared to the inside the exterior wasn't so bad. There were shutters missing, lots of overgrown weeds, and plenty of wood rot on this side (the rest was concrete block), but to me the worst part was the big hump in the front yard, which looked like it had a septic tank under it:

Ok, so it's hard to see here, but trust me: there was a big ugly hump there.
(Fortunately we learned later there was no septic tank, though.)

Here's the other side of the front:

Ready to see the "after"?


The yard hump is gone, plus all of the overgrown yuckiness. Those are all new bushes, plants, and stone edgers, plus new wood siding around the glass doors, not to mention new doors, windows, lighting, and even grass, which has grown in a lot more since this photo was taken.

Everything is freshly painted, too, although I convinced John to use a similar soft green (just a few shades lighter) because I liked it with the red brick.

Now, to the inside!

This was the large open living area, which has a vaulted ceiling:

The floors were a combination of peeling stick-down tile, bare concrete, dirt, and duct tape.

Facing the opposite direction, looking down the hall:

To the right were glass sliding doors, which led out onto some kind of zombie apocalypse:

Seriously, aren't you expecting to see homicidal brain-munchers pop out of that jungle any second?

You can just see the steps up to the rotting deck out there, too. It was built so that all the rainwater flooded backwards into the house. Nice.

Here's the "After":

New tile, trim, doors, vents, electrical, paint, drywall,, you get the idea.

Once John and a few handy friends finished ripping out the rotting deck, they found a concrete foundation under it. Trouble was, one corner of the concrete square was completely gone - cut or broken away. So, after a little puzzling, this was our solution:

We made that corner into a plant bed! Not too shabby, right? Then John painted the concrete (which already had several chippy layers of paint on it) and cleared out most of the jungle that was the backyard. Now it's actually a nice place to sit in; no more zombie hidey-holes.

Believe it or not, this was the kitchen:

Those top cabinets were rusty metal, and barely hanging on to the walls. And don't get me started on the giant mirror and bathroom vanity lighting. [shudder] I don't have more photos because this was the first room to get ripped out, but believe me: the whole thing was nasty.

And here's the dramatically different kitchen today:

I begged John to knock that hole in the wall over the sink to open up the room. He had to re-route both plumbing and electrical to do it, but I'm so glad he did; I love the look.

Here's another angle, showing off our Ikea lighting:

In fact, other than the countertops and handles, the whole kitchen is Ikea. We've now installed at least four complete Ikea kitchens, for ourselves and for friends, and we'll probably never use anything else. You just can't beat the price and the quality.

Here's a before view from the dining room:

As you can see, this was taken after the kitchen was ripped out.

Now here's the after:

Oh, and see that door there? It leads outside, and used to look like this:

We also found random bits of drywall that were cut out and propped back in place, we assume as hiding places for nefarious goods. Ah, the former homes of drug dealers...

Who's ready to tackle a bathroom?


Drum roll, please:

And can't forget the shower:

That was fun. Let's do another:


Double "Ew".

Muuuch better.

I don't have many before photos of the bedrooms, but they all kind of looked like this:

And the ceilings looked like this:

All the doors had extra locks and bolts on them, too, and were scratched up and filthy. Cheery.

Now all the bedrooms look like this:

Again, it's new everything. So nice and clean!

And finally, there was the garage-turned-mother-in-law-suite. It was a decent room with its own bath and exterior entrance, but... was in about the same shape as the rest of the house.

Plus it had a plumbing leak overhead:

The water had caused the ceiling to fall down, so it was nailed up around the edges.

This bathroom was in the best shape of them all, since it was only about 20 or 30 years old - as opposed to 50 like the others:

Still, due to the plumbing trouble, John had to re-plumb much of the house. So all the bathrooms got torn down to the studs.

And in the end:

Here's the view from the door:

Those sliders lead out to the driveway. As garage conversions go, this one's not too shabby.

And that's our crack house remodel! Hope you enjoyed the tour. John's poured his blood, sweat, and colorful curse words into this thing, and after re-plumbing, rewiring, and in many cases building from the studs up, we can honestly say it's beautiful both inside and out. In fact, the building inspector (not knowing John had done most of the work) told him it was some of the best plumbing, wiring, remodeling, etc. he'd ever seen in a house. You should have seen the grin John couldn't wipe off his face that week. It was adorable.


...anyone want to buy a house?


Yep, with our unexpected tax bill this year, and all the extra expenses to repair the many surprises, I'm afraid we have to sell our beloved crack house. (Not to mention stop calling it "the crack house." Ha!) Keep your fingers crossed for us, guys; it's not an easy time to sell a house, as I'm sure most of you know. Still, I'm hopeful some family is going to see it and love it as much as we do now.

I'll leave you with my favorite shot: the front door.

I made the magnolia wreath (for only $14!) to go with the big magnolia tree in the yard. Isn't it pretty?

What's that? You want a close-up? Well, if you insist:

Well, [dusting off hands], that's done. Time to turn our attention back to our own house.

Oh, Jooo-ooohn!