Saturday, May 21, 2011

How To Make a Stuffed Animal Backpack

AKA, "Don't look now, there's a monkey on your back!"

I was looking for some quick craft gratification Friday night, and it came in the form of this $2 plush monkey:

D'aww. Just lookit dat face!

I thought: hey, why not turn him into a backpack?

So I flipped him over, ripped open his back, and yanked out most of his stuffing:

Good stress relief, that.

Then I found some fabric in my craft stash that kinda matched:

I stuck a small salad plate in Mr. Monkey's butt to determine how much room he had in there, and then used the plate as a template to draw two circles on the fabric. I also cut out a long rectangle of the same fabric.

Next I pinned and sewed the rectangle to the circles, leaving a slit open like so:

Here's a side view:

As you can see, the "good" side of the fabric is on the inside.

Next, my first-ever attempt at installing a zipper:

And it worked! Huzzah!

(Yes, I know it looks wrong right now. You'll see why in a second.)

Finally, I stuffed the whole thing in Monkey's back and hand-stitched it in place along the zipper edges:

My hand-stitching looks like the monkey is the one who did it, but fortunately that fur covers everything. (Just fluff the fur with a needle to release any tamped down by your stitching.)

Now I had a hollow monkey with a zippered back.

To make the monkey ride piggy-back, I needed to attach his hands to his feet. I found a spare strap from a travel bag long gone, cut that up, and attached D rings to two of the ends. Then I ripped open a little bit of the seam on the monkey's paw...

...stuffed in one end of the strap, and hand sewed the whole thing shut.

In the end, it looked like this:

As you can see, I care so much about showing you guys how NOT to do things that I attached the D rings to the wrong end of the monkey. (They should have been on his hands, not his feet.) That's me taking one for the virtual team, guys. Because I care.


Here's the finished Monkey Pack:

Here's his back view:

You'd think all that fur would get caught in the zipper, but so far I haven't had any snags at all. I think having a plastic zipper (as opposed to metal) helps.

And finally, the best part of all: a photo shoot with John wearing a ridiculous monkey backpack. WOOT WOOT!!

Ok, so this shot doesn't really show off the backpack, but... mmrowr. Am I right? Besides, John won't let me post any of his kissy-face "Blue Steele" shots. Harrumph.

(I also told him if he ended up on Sad Etsy Boyfriends it was NOT going to be my fault.)

Ok, ok, here's a better back view of the monkey pack:

Isn't he cute? (The monkey, I mean. Heh.) The head flops back quite nicely - it helps to remove some of the stuffing in the back of the head and neck area to allow for this.

So there you have it!

Mr. Monkey was really just my prototype, though; he's not quite geeky enough for me. (Although he's ridiculously comfortable, like wearing a giant fuzzy vest.) So next on my chopping block is a large Mickey plush from Hong Kong Disney. I'm also seriously considering hunting down a Hugga Bunch doll - remember those? Or a large Rainbow Brite - although her plastic head might be too hard. Hm...

Help me out, guys: what other geeky and/or 80's era dolls would make great backpacks or purses? (Pound Puppy Purse, perhaps?)


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Geek Glee and Random Updates

Ok, first things first. This?

(Posted just about everywhere, and sent in by tons of you readers, but originally from this Reddit link.)

This is horrifying.

And also kinda a sick, demented, hilarious sort of way.

I think I like it.

Have you ever wondered about the "designer toys" so many of us geeks collect?

Like Dunnys, for example?

Well, there's a nice introductory article on the genre here. (Watch that site for a series of interviews with some of the toy artists, too.)

Now, prepare to drool, because Super Mom Cheri made the COOLEST superhero-themed room for her two boys:

And that's just the bed. (That art? On the back wall? WANT.)

Check out the rest of the room on I Am Mama Hear Me Roar. (And thanks to Mary B. for the link!)

Here on the crack-home front, I have good news: We've accepted an offer on the (former) Crack House! Fingers crossed all goes well 'til closing.

And a book tour update: After much research and discussion, we've determined that we *are* driving for the coming Cake Wrecks tour, but not in an RV. [sad face] The costs to do so are simply mind-boggling, what with gas, overnight fees, and of course the vehicle itself - plus there aren't enough parks open up north during the winter. So instead, we plan to find a small minivan or comfy car to make the journey in (our little Kia isn't cut out for such a long trip) and we'll stay in hotels.

I won't lie to you: I've been rather mopey about letting go of my RV dream. It's sad to think that what was once the great American vacation (ie the road trip) is no longer affordable for most Americans. For shorter trips, maybe, or ones where you drive somewhere and stay for a long time, I suppose it's still doable. But for us, being in a different spot every day or two for six solid weeks? No way. [sigh]

Still, I am looking forward to the tour. We're planning some fun new activities, and I know from experience that anywhere ten or more Wreckies are gathered together, there much partying will be had. (And you guys are coming, right? I better not be leaving my cats to sit by myself in a bookstore!)

And my final random personal update: We started working on our Disney scavenger hunt yesterday, and let me tell ya: if you guys have even *half* as much fun solving it as we're having creating it, this thing is gonna knock your socks off. So. FUN. We're interviewing cast members, poking our noses in every nook and cranny of every shop, photographing all the stuff no one EVER photographs ("Um, you realize Mickey is over THERE, right?") and learning and laughing and generally having a grand ol' time.

Plus, after one day, we're almost done scouting Main Street. So, um...this might take a while. Heh. (And I can't wait!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Cutest Chin-Ups You Ever Will See

In case you haven't noticed from the other cute-gasm videos I've posted, I really, really love adorable exotic animals. Here's one I can actually say I've owned before, though: Chinchillas!!

(found via CubicleBot)

I teared up, guys. I really did.

I can tell you from experience these little cuties are softer than rabbits,

...and that nothing compares with them taking a dust bath:

(The last 30 seconds desperately need some thought bubble captions added. Heh.)

Now prepare for a waltz down memory lane.

['Scuse me, imaginary harpist? I'll need some flashback music here, if you please.]

Many years ago, before we had cats, we had two chins. Cricket:


And Chi-Chi:

"I can see you're trying for a Christmas card photo here. I will assist you by eating this box."

We've always loved to spoil our pets, so John built the girls a really sweet chinchilla house:

It. Was. Awesome.

The floor levels were wire mesh so the droppings fell through to the smaller drawers, which were lined with vinyl and corn cob litter - pretty easy to clean. The very bottom drawer held their food and treats and dust bath.

Inside, the girls had ramps to get between levels:

Plus lots ceramic pots to sleep in and wood toys to chew on. It was so fun watching them bounce around in there! We also let them hop around our house sometimes, although it was always an adventure rounding them up again afterward. Heh.

As amazing as they are, Chinchillas do need a lot of attention and human interaction to stay even relatively tame. So a few years later, when our painting company started keeping us out 12 hours a day, we found a nice new family for the girls. Chins can live up to 25 years, so I like to imagine them still together, munching on raisins and bouncing around the house that John built for them. :)

Now just one more cute video (since I've looked at over a dozen today) and I'm done:

The itty-bitty hands! [swoon]

Yep, I'm done. Cute overload has officially been reached.

So, have any of you ever had exotic pets? Or have some now? 'Cuz if they're cute, I *totally* want pictures. Share 'em in the comments!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Our Disney Scavenger Hunt

I'll spare you any suspense, and tell you we did *not* win the D23 Scavenger Hunt. However, we survived. And that, in itself, is a win.

Our Scavenger Hunt swag: lanyard tags, iron-on patches, and a canvas bag.

Imagine, if you will, having three hours to find approximately 150 hard-to-find things scattered throughout an entire theme park filled to the brim with slow-moving tourists and strollers and massive bottle-necked crowds, and also that it's about 100 degrees in the shade. Then imagine many of those hard-to-find things also involving tedious puzzle-solving and letter-counting, and that you have to do two parks back-to-back each day, with maybe 20 minutes in between for lunch and bathroom breaks.

Like I said: survival was its own reward.

The highest-point clues (which of course were the ones we wanted most to solve) involved multiple steps which had us all scrambling from one end of the park to the other. For example: "Find such-and-such plaque in Town Square and list the 67th, 108th, 21st, 51st, 49th, and 57th letters. Unscramble the letters to form a word. Now find an attraction with that word in it. Go to that attraction. Find a poster listing the date it was opened. Now find the shop in Liberty Square with an address matching the last two digits of that date. Write the name of that shop as your answer."

And that was just one.

There would be about 15 ten-point clues (per park) like that. Roughly another 15 were five-pointers, which had multiple steps but all in the same area. The remaining 6o or so were all one-pointers: ie "Find the buggy on a Main Street Window. List the name of that shop's proprietor."

To make it harder, all the questions were mixed together so nothing was arranged by location. This meant our first five to ten minutes was spend speed-reading and marking each clue by the guide map - although the ten-pointers always threw a wrench in the works by making us retrace our steps many times over.

In addition to the park crowds, we also had our fellow Hunters to contend with. With over 500 teams (comprised of two to four people each) in the running, almost every long-puzzle location had a crowd to jostle through - and since we were all counting letters and words on itty-bitty plaques and signs, and people would stick their hands and fingers in the way to count along...yeah. Tough.

Everyone keeps asking if it was fun or not. Umm....kind of? I guess we still haven't decided, although I'm pretty sure I'd do it again. There was a real thrill each time we found something - especially the four-and-five step clues, and you do reach a point when you couldn't *possibly* get any more drenched with sweat, and therefore you just stop worrying about it. Heh.

We tried to guzzle lots of water or Gatorade while zipping through the crowds, and we re-applied our 50+ baby-block sunscreen several times, but even so there was a time or two when I was sure I was going to faint. I pushed myself to my limit, and there was actually something really satisfying about that. Like going to battle. Only with more funny hats. And blisters.

It was also nice to have something that demanded our complete attention for almost the entire time that Blogger was down. We knew there was nothing we could do about our posts disappearing or the site being inaccessible, so at least this kept our minds off it.

There were ways it could have been better, of course - a cooler time of year, a less-crowded time of year, or if the organizers had made sure all the clues were actually *in* the parks. (At least one clue per park had the necessary item missing, broken, or shut down, resulting in lots of wasted time.) I also wish we could have had more interaction with our fellow hunters, since the few we did chat with on the trams or monorail seemed really fun. Quite a few came in from out of state for the hunt, and many had special team t-shirts made up or they dressed alike - one pair of ladies even wore matching pink tutus and tiaras both days.

A team t-shirt we spotted on the tram on Day 2. Isn't it awesome?
(The art is by one of the ladies' brothers, Joshua R. Stones.)

UPDATE: Aaaand the results are in! John and I made a not-too-embarrassing 146th out of the 520 teams competing. The top three winning teams were comprised of professional Disney bloggers, authors, and pod-casters, so the few online boards I've visited since are full of less-than-thrilled competitors. Still, it's hard to be believe that any Disney trivia nut - no matter how hardcore - would know, say, the exact dates when each shop on Main Street was founded, so I don't see how they'd have *that* much of an advantage over the rest of us.

While I don't begrudge any Dizgeek using his/her trivia knowledge to their advantage, it is a shame to learn how widespread the cheating was. Lots of teams split up, helped other teams, used extra people, or got cast members to help them. John and I saw some of this (teams peeking over our shoulders, or copying down answers we'd just blurted out - and one team was even sitting on the answer we were hunting, so it was only random luck that I thought to ask to see behind them) but frankly we were too absorbed in our own hunt to worry about anyone else.

We were very careful to follow the rules, though, as I never let John get more than a dozen feet away from me, and we refused help on more than one occasion from eager-to-please cast members (who really *should* have known better, heh). Still, it makes me wish the grand prize had been something small, so that the urge to cheat would be gone and we could've all just had fun. I think dangling a Disney cruise in front of people is just too much temptation.

So, now that you've slogged through my lengthy report, I'll reward you with a (potentially) fun idea: John and I think it'd be awesome to make our own Disney scavenger hunt. One that you guys could download and print out for family vacations, say, and that combines trivia with hunting so you learn neat little factoids about the attractions and whatnot while you go. I'm sure these probably already exist out there (the Hidden Mickeys books come to mind), but I love the idea of making our own. What do you think? Is that something any of you Dizgeeks would like? And then - and I know this is just CRAZY talk - maybe we could even arrange a timed hunt for any of you who wanted to come to Orlando. You'd compete for...uh...whatever I have in my pocket. Yeah. But...not in a dirty way. More like a Hobbit way. (Trip to Mordor optional.)

So...[hopeful grin]...thoughts?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


When I was a kid my dad took a course in stained glass, and then taught my mom and my brother and me. For a while we all really got into it: our kitchen was set up with the electric grinder, and the table was where we did all the cutting and foiling and soldering. We made lots of gifts for family, and even sold a few things at the local flea market that summer. The combination of creativity, power tools, and danger made it pretty darn cool for a middle-schooler like me.

Anyway, I just saw this on @thinkgeek's Twitter feed:

Made by MclanesMemories
Heck. Yeah.
And suddenly I'm feeling the itch again.

Plus, it reminded me of these other cool things I saw not too long ago:

"Stained Glass Sith" by Suzanne Rosema, found by Cara C.
(Sadly I couldn't find a website for Suzanne)

Also found by Cara C.; found on Free Stained Glass Patterns, where - you guessed it - you can download the pattern for free. Suh-weet!

As a kid I made flowers and butterflies and other rather boring whatnots, so realizing all the geeky possibilities is making me see the art in a whole new light. I mean, think about it: How perfect would a Mario-themed Tiffany lamp be? Or a Ghostbuster's sun-catcher?

Anyway, I'm still recovering from our two days of scavenger hunting at Disney World (can't....move...) and just thought I'd share. Assuming Blogger is working at the moment, of course. Heh. Stay tuned for a report on the hunt. (Again, assuming Blogger is working.)

Oh, and gimmie some more geeky ideas for stained glass, peeps: what symbols/characters would you want to see? Just, you know, for conversation's sake? ;)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What's My Age Again?

Hey, it's my birthday!

And I got TOYS!!

These adorable little RC 'bots are from Number1, aka "the other Jen" from CW. I used to think *I* was a great gift-giver, but the fact that Jen went to Toys R Us for my present shows I've met my match.

Naturally I've been attempting to terrorize the cats with them, but so far they're thoroughly unimpressed. Still, I'll keep trying. ;)

Today also marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. Wahoo!! Hard to believe, huh? It seems like only yesterday I was sketching out the Epbot 'bot and griping about Bioshock. I guess time really does fly when you're having fun - so thank you all for reading and giving me an excuse to goof off in the name of "work."

Speaking of goofing off, by the time you read this I'll be at Disney World with John, embarking on a two-day, four-park scavenger hunt!! Woot woot!

Random prettiness from the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

I signed us up months and months ago, and the fact that the hunt started on my birthday was the pixie-dust sprinkled cherry on top. You can bet I'll be taking plenty of pictures, of course, so cross your fingers that John and I won't place dead last, and stay tuned for a full report.

And finally, while you might not know it from this post, [smirk] I'm 33 today. I can honestly say that being in my thirties beats being in my twenties six ways to Sunday, so I don't mind admitting it. Heck, I look forward to being in my forties (and beyond!) celebrating with toy robots and trips to Disney.

Here's to geekdom keeping us young, my friends! Even if only at heart.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Procrastination Station 5/11/11

Do that other stuff later. This is more fun!

75 Abandoned Theaters - this photo roundup contains mostly exterior shots (which are still fascinating) but there are also some breathtaking (not to mention heartbreaking) interiors like this:

Absolutely swoon-worthy urban decay. Hit the link to see the rest.
(Thanks to Laura for the link!)

Worth a Thousand Words...A Photo Blog

This is a parody page, and if you've ever wandered through Tumblr or other hipster-ish, pretentious photoblogs you'll get plenty of LOLs out of it. From the overly dramatic descriptions to the post apologizing for not posting to the insanely ridiculous "share" buttons (which made me laugh so hard I scared the cats), it's well worth a read. (Found via @urlesque)

This is a fascinating collection of inspiration & final result pin-ups. Kind of like Photoshop, before there was Photoshop! I found it interesting to compare the things the artists changed, like adding longer hair, versus the things they didn't - no stick-figure arms or whittling off another two dress sizes here! Maybe some of today's beauty magazines would benefit from a look. (Some pics are NSFW - although there's no nudity.) (Found via @limecrime)

Reader Vita X. found this free online game sure to delight you literature geeks. Playing as Nick Carraway, you throw your hat to defeat waiters, jugglers, and party-goers in search of Gatsby himself. Here's a screen-shot:

Did I mention this is a Nintendo game from 1990? :D The guy who converted it for online play found it a garage sale for fifty cents, and it's apparently quite popular now. You can even buy t-shirts at his site. Heh. Anyway, it's well worth playing for a minute or five or ten.

So tell me, guys, what's got you wasting time this week?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Geeks Rule, and Here's Why

" exclusion as a teenager can be one of the best indicators of future success."

Can I get an "amen?!"

That quote is by Alexandra Robbins, a self-described "dork," talking about her new book, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School.

She goes on to say, "Popular students are more likely to be involved in aggression (whether physical or alternative - gossip, rumors, backstabbing, etc.), both as targets and aggressors," and actually encourages parents to discourage their children from joining the "popular crowd." Kids should instead be encouraged to do the things they love - especially outside of school - so that they can meet others with similar interests. Because, hey, get this! It turns out the very personality traits that get you ridiculed in school are the ones that will make you extremely successful out of it.

Now, while I doubt this surprises any of us grown-up geeks, it's still nice to offer the next generation [smirk] a new hope. [double smirk] It also may help comfort and inspire parents raising little geeklings of their own to know that theirs are the kids who really will be coming out on top.

Read the rest of the article (which I highly recommend) here. (found via @kiala and Jezebel) I'll be putting Robbin's book on my to-read list.

So tell me, fellow grown-up geeks: have you found that you and your outsider friends from school are more successful now than the "popular" kids? Personally, I've never made much effort to check in on my former classmates (I avoid reunions and have only a handful of FB friends from school), but I firmly believe my outsider experiences led directly to my career successes. How about you?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

When Flamingos Attack

I'm happy to report that last week's Caribbean cruise was, in a word, lovely. We splurged on a balcony cabin, and I spent every spare second outside, breathing in the ocean air and just watching the waves go by. Ahhhh.

This was our view leaving Miami:

I spent hours just watching the sea foam wash along below me:

It's really mesmerizing. Plus, the wake from the ship would send up little sprays, which flashed quick little rainbows in the sunlight. You can just see one in this shot:

Our first port was in Freeport, the Bahamas, but we were too busy relaxing to even think of leaving the ship. We had a nice view from the balcony, though:

See those trees with the orange flowers? Those are Royal Poncianas, my all-time favorite tree. (Is it weird to have a favorite tree?) You'll find them all over the Caribbean and south Florida, and they have the most delicate, fern-like leaves. Super pretty.

Now, I know what you're thinking: GET TO THE GOOD PART, ALREADY!!

Ok, ok. Let's move on to our stop in Nassau, the Bahamas, where I inadvertently made my own remake of Hitchcock's The Birds.

In Nassau there is a sweet little park called the Ardastra Gardens. It's technically a zoo, but the main attractions are all birds.

You'll have to humor me a bit longer, though, because I have some beauty shots to share:

There were lots of parrots on open air stands stationed around the park, but this guy in particular demanded our attention. He'd squawk out increasingly desperate "hello!"s and do all manner of tricks and tumbles to get us to watch him. Here he's hanging by his feet:

...but he also flipped upside down and hung by one leg - and then, when we turned to leave, performed his pièce de résistance:

Such a ham.
(While hanging, he continued squawking - I'm guessing the parrot equivalent of "Look, Ma! No hands!")

Having escaped this first avian encounter relatively unscathed (unless you count our eardrums), we then thought it'd be a great idea to go feed the lorikeets.

Here our friends Ray and Julianne (along with Ninja Baby Isaiah) and John are being swarmed by the horde:

Now, lorikeets are beautiful birds. However, being birds, they are, naturally, from the devil. (I say this as the daughter of a bird-lover, and having grown up with everything from cockatiels to african grays.) So, naturally, once I acquired my own apple slice to feed the little flying hell hounds, one immediately nipped me on the finger while another busied himself pooping on my shirt.

Good times.

When we tried to leave, this little bully decided to claim John's sneaker for all Hell-kind:

He wouldn't relinquish his hold for anything, and it took over a dozen steps and some rather exuberant hokey-pokeying to get him to flap off. Heh.

Next we went to see the flamingos.

(Ah, you perked up there, didn't you? I thought so, you blood-thirsty lot, you.)

Ardastra is famous for their marching flamingos. They have a show/demonstration where the flock is paraded around a circular open-air theater, responding to a drill sergeant trainer's commands.

Before the show, the birds roam freely outside the theater, eating, sleeping, and honking at each other:

You can even walk right up to them and take shots like this:

That beady little eye popped open the second my shutter clicked. Creeeepy.

(In case the suspense is killing you: this is not when I was attacked.)

(That came during the show.)

Heeere they coooome!

It was neat watching the flock parade around and about-face on command. They'd stop mere inches from our seats, too:

During which this guy was clearly sizing me up for later:

To quote Pete Venkman, "That's the one that got me."

The final part of the show involved victims volunteers being brought into the arena for a photo op. The trainer brought the whole flock around each individual, which was when that beady-eyed specimen there took a particularly keen interest in me.

Fun fact: flamingos can reach five feet in height with their necks extended. Being five foot tall myself, I can now personally verify this fact after being nose-to-beak with Mr. Beady Eyes. He got closer, and closer, and closer, and then started going for my head.

For my dignity's sake, I tried to simultaneously laugh off being attacked by a giant lawn ornament while attempting to keep my shoulder up to shield my face.

It...was not a pretty sight.

But, for your amusement, I'll show you anyway:

I have other shots of me leaning waaaay back, stark terror in my madly grinning "no, really, I'm not scared!!" face, but I'll be leaving those visuals to your imagination.

But wait, there's more!

After the flamingo show, we spied these pretty black swans in a nearby pond:

We stopped to ooh and aah, and after a few moments, one of them heaved himself out of the water and started waddling towards us.

"Oooh, he's coming to say hello!" I squealed, forgetting, again, the whole demon-spawn thing.

Sure enough, the swan came right up to the little hip-high wall separating us, and lunged. At the last possible second, I realized he was going for my water bottle, which I'd set on the wall to take a photo:

John snatched it out of the way just in time, but the bird made a few more desperate grabs for it, shooting his head forward snake-like. I guess he really doesn't like plastic bottles.

Despite the bird attacks, we still had a fantastic day at Ardastra - and in all seriousness, I'd highly recommend it to anyone visiting Nassau. In fact, I'll leave you with a little more eye candy:

This gorgeous guy paraded around for us for a full five minutes with his tail extended, showing off his feathers.

And finally, the eighth wonder of the world:

The backside of peacock!!

Heh. Aheh. Heh.

(Hey, once a JC skipper, ALWAYS a JC skipper.)