Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saturday Afternoon at the Wild Kingdom

Yesterday we went to a new vet, since our old vet - who we dearly loved - moved out of state. The new vet came recommended by friends, so we packed up the cat, got a grip, came equipped, grabbed our proton packs off our backs...

No, sorry, that's the Ghostbusters rap.

Um, so we brought our cat Lily to the new vet.

Inside the little building we were hit with a wall of stinky animal smell, and greeted by various fish tanks and cages and dilapidated furniture. It was a very...lived in...look. The ladies greeting us were sweet, though, and quickly dispensed with paperwork and ushered us into an examination room.

Here the smell was so overwhelming we nearly turned around and left. Only a concern for Lily's health (she's been losing weight recently) kept us waiting and breathing through our mouths. In the room was a large tank, half-filled with water, with several turtles in it. You could barely see the rest of the counter for the clutter of bottles, cleaning supplies, ads for flea medication, plastic heart models, and assorted flotsam. It looked like someone was planning a garage sale in there, right down to the old antique couch shoved up against one wall.

While I paced the three square feet we were afforded between the exam table and couch, John peeked through the window of the door we'd just come through.

"Jen," he said, "You've got to see this."


"Just look through here."

Craning my neck to see through the high window, all I could see were stacks of wire cages in the hallway outside.

"What am I looking at?"

"Look down."

Now on tiptoes, I craned further.

"Is that a...raccoon?"


"Snuggling with a rabbit?"


At this point the doctor arrived. He had the congenial look of a brilliant yet absent-minded professor, right down to the neat white beard and tiny spectacles. His hands bore several livid scratches, and there were at least two obvious blood stains on his button-down dress shirt.

He went straight to Lily, exclaiming over how pretty she was, and it was immediately apparent that this was a man who, quite simply, loves animals. I've never seen my cat so at ease with a vet before, and she readily sat through his gentle prodding and poking and checking her teeth and eyes. When he was done, he continued petting her while he talked with us.

After going over her case pretty thoroughly, the doctor shoved over some of the flotsam on the counter, hopped up to take a seat, and chatted with us about the animals in the building. Some are being boarded, but the rest are rescues that he hasn't the heart to turn away.

John brought up the raccoon.

"She was dropped off on the doorstep in a Cheerios box when she was only a few days old," the vet said.

"And she likes...rabbits?"

"Oh, well, she kept crawling away from the heating element, and she needed to stay warm, so I said, well, just throw her in with the bunny!"

(This is the statement that cracked us up. "Hey, just throw her in with the bunny!" Ok, so maybe you had to be there.)

The cage with the rabbit and raccoon was just a few feet away from the check-out counter, so as we were walking out with the vet John asked - rather incredulously - something like, "Can you pet her?"

"Oh, yeah!" was the reply, and the next thing I knew I had a baby raccoon thrust in my face, all questing fingers and beady little eyes and adorable little ears and...

Ok. So maybe I fell a *little* in love. You can't prove it.

The little thing immediately grabbed first my hand, and then my sunglasses. As John would later remark, it's really strange to interact with an animal who has hands. After we wrested my sunglasses out of her grasp, she seized my arm in both paws and began licking it enthusiastically while I scratched behind her ears. I'm not sure how old she was, but she was about the same size as Lily, so...8 or 10 pounds? She wasn't soft - more bristly like a dog - but her little hands! And her wriggly little nose! Ack! So cute.

So, enter my dilemma: we need to keep an eye on Lily's weight, which means monthly check-ins. So, do we go back to a vet who clearly loves animals, comes highly recommended, seems to know his job well, but has an office building that would make Niecy Nash run screaming?

Or do we cave and go to some big impersonal chain store clinic? (Ug.)

And if we do go back, how will I know I'm not just there to visit the raccoon?

(In the car later I bemoaned the fact that I didn't have John take a picture. Why do I never think of these things at the time?! Well, if we do go back, I promise I'll get one.)

Since I don't have a picture of me being mauled by a baby raccoon (wouldn't that be a fun photo series? "Jen being mauled by exotic animals." Hey, I've already got the flamingo!), here's one of Lily and Tonks:

If looks could kill, right? And at this rate we'll have to rename Tonks Jabba. Heh. How *do* you feed two cats when one's too fat and one's too thin, anyway?

Oh, and for my fellow animal lovers who might be concerned: as far as we know, Lily is fine. Her blood work looks good, and apparently her losing two pounds has put her at her ideal healthy weight - although eight pounds seems insanely thin to us, what with Tonks clocking in at a chunky fourteen pounds. If Lily loses any more, though, we'll have to do more tests.

UPDATE: Part 2 with baby raccoon pics here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Hobbit & Pottermore: First Looks

This is a red letter day to be a geek, guys!

First, check out the first sneak peek of Martin Freeman as Bilbo from The Hobbit, just released by Peter Jackson through Entertainment Weekly!

Hit the link for a few more pics, or pick up this week's copy (on stands tomorrow) for the whole story.

WOOHOOO!! And I know we've all said it from the beginning, but Martin really is perfect as Bilbo. (Is it 2012 yet??)

And next, fellow Harry Potter fans, have you heard about Pottermore? Here's J.K. Rowling's big announcement, which just released today:

And since that's a bit vague, here are a few details courtesy of the Leaky Cauldron:

- Pottermore is an interactive new Web site and reading experience with more than 18,000 new words from J.K. Rowling.

- One million fans will get access to a beta on July 31, Harry's birthday. It will be open for all in October 2011.

- You will follow the story, get sorted into a house and get a wand (one of 33,000 possible combinations) - all crafted by JKR.

And from the official press release:

For this groundbreaking collaborative project, J.K. Rowling has written extensive new material about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories, which will inform, inspire and entertain readers as they journey through the storylines of the books.

Here's a screen shot:

More screen shots here, and lots more information here.

I've never been much of on online gamer, but darned if THIS wouldn't get me hooked. Granted, this will probably be more like an interactive story book than an actual game, but allow me a moment to imagine WoW-esque gaming in the Harry Potter world, won't you?

[imagining] Mmmm. Yeah. That's the stuff.

So, anyone else excited by today's news?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Quick" Craft - Small Clock Makeover

Since I'm waiting on parts (and a little inspiration) to finish up our radio cabinet makeover, I spent a few hours fixing up the little alarm clock I got the other week:

The case's finish was mostly rubbed off, so it was dull and grungy, and the plastic face plate was scuffed.

The face itself was gorgeous, with the glaring exception of those pale green glow-in-the-dark dots around the numbers and on the hands:

The maker name, Linder or Linden, is actually hand written on the face in ink. Pretty. (I don't know how old it is - although it's stamped West Germany, so that's at least pre-1990. Heh.)

I scraped out the green dots & popped out the green sections on the hands with the point of a craft knife:

Already lookin' better!

You can also see in that photo the little holes above the numbers. John drilled these by hand with a tiny bit, to make way for...

...some bling!

The crystals were scavenged from a ring that had already lost a few over the years. However, when I pried the stones out they lost their reflective backing, which is what gives them their sparkle. So - and here's where you'll start questioning my sanity - I applied silver leaf in each of the tiny holes before gluing in the crystals. Considering that the crystals are smaller than a bread crumb, this was a real pain in the rear. (Toothpicks. Gotta love 'em.)

However, in the end I think it was worth it:

The gems really sparkle in the light - far more than their plastic rhinestone counterparts.

For the body of the clock, I polished the inner housing and refinished the feet, handle and lattice side wrap with this:

We were faux finishers for years, so trust me when I tell you Montana's Goldchrome spray paint is one of the closest you'll ever get to "brass in a can." Of course, it's most convincing on small pieces, so don't expect to fool anyone on large bed frames or anything.

Here you can compare the original brass finish (the inner metal seen through the lattice) with the painted feet, handle, and lattice. Not a bad match, right?

I left off the scuffed plastic cover, so now you can see the face clearly:

Oh, and lest you think I sacrificed a perfectly good ring, that's it there. As you can (kind of) see, I removed the crystals in a flower pattern, so I think it actually looks better now than it did when I first bought it. A win-win!

The clock is sitting, ticking, beside my keyboard as I type this. I find the ticking kind of soothing, but it drives John bonkers. (A win-win-win?) :D

Important Safety Update: Thanks to dmontag in the comments, I was reminded that old clocks often made use of radium paint on their dials, which is harmful. We didn't *think* this one was old enough, but just to be sure we opened it up and found it was made in the early 70s. (From what I can tell, radium dials tapered out in the '50s.) If you have an old clock or watch with glow-in-the dark detailing on it, go here to learn more about the dangers of radium paint - and PLEASE don't go scratching it off like I did on this one. o.0

Shopping Blasts from the Past

I actually used to hate antique stores, and antiques by association. There was just something about all that musty, uncomfortable furniture, the shelves and shelves of don't-touch crystal, the creepy toys... and why the heck was everything covered in doilies?

Actually, come to think of it, I still hate most of that stuff.


Still, over the years I've learned to love antique stores. Maybe it's because I'm getting so old that there are toys *I* grew up with in them (well hello, Mr. Glo Worm!), or because I realized they're like museums where you can touch stuff (except that crystal, of course) or - dingdingding! - because I'm now a bit of a steampunk devotee. Oh, and can't forget all the gaudy vintage jewelry! Man, I love that stuff. The more sparkle, the better.

Our favorite stall at the world-famous Renningers: everything from antique keyhole latches to chandeliers. Hardware heaven!

Of course, my favorite kinds of antique shops are the cheap and junky ones. Don't show me beautifully preserved tchotchkes, each displayed in its own spotlight - show me the tables of ancient mishmash I can dig through! I want stuff I can fix up, re-use, and get creative with.

Which isn't to say I don't drool over finds like this, though:

I spotted this cash register crammed in a small stall at Renningers last Saturday. Isn't it gorgeous?

Here's the back:

Hmm. Anyone have a spare $900? :)

Anyway, so last week John and I took some friends to our favorite antique mall, and this is what I came home with:

Check it out: that's a vintage cake decorating icing kit, in the original box, for $5. Suh-weet! And oh yes, I have plans for it. [rubbing hands together] Muah-ha-ha!

The little alarm clock was a splurge - $20! - but it was more than half off because the owner marked it "broken." (It's not.) I just finished working on it tonight, since we're waiting on a few pieces for the radio cabinet in the mail. Before & after pics to follow!

And my third purchase? Why, a $1.50 McDonald's Happy Meal toy from 1986, of course:

Anyone else remember these? I used to play with Kermit and his skateboard on my desk at school. Something reminded me of it a few weeks ago, so when I spotted Fozzie here (unopened!) in a pile of toys at one of the stalls there was much rejoicing. And squeeing.

Of course, now you know I have to find the rest of the Muppet Babies set, right? (And eventually I'll break down and take Fozzie out of the bag, but I'm going to feel really guilty when I do. Heh.)

So, have I convinced anyone to go antiquing? And am I invited when you go?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Radio Romance, Part 1

Remember that old radio cabinet John and I purchased way back when? Well, we finally dragged it out of the garage about two weeks ago, and have been working on both restoring and steampunking it out ever since.

Here's what it looked like, fresh from the antique mall:

Tonks and Lily approve. Or disapprove. Or don't give a flying rip.
Really, it's hard to tell.

The cabinet was in amazing shape, considering it's 81 years old:

Pretty carving on the face and columns.

As you can see, the only real damage was to the speaker grill, where a few pieces of the lattice design were broken off.

The radio itself was long gone, with the guts and knobs removed:

Ick. Verrrry dirty.

After wiping down the inside (again: ick) we removed the center panel:

This would actually make a beautiful shelving unit by itself, but there was no way I wasn't using that gorgeous center panel. So, we set about repairing it.

First, John carefully pried up the center speaker grill, which was nailed in place with tiny pin nails:

The blue tape is to protect the wood from scratches.

Don't worry; the filthy mustard-colored speaker cloth will be getting an upgrade.

Next, the fun part: I got out my epoxy putty.


You slice off a small section of this putty and knead it together to activate it. It is *extremely* sticky, and you have less than five minutes of open time before it hardens to a cement, so it takes a little practice to get used to. (It's better to work in small sections.) However, I eventually managed to get the two missing sections roughed in, plus one small center patch:

The two skinny patches are where the lattice was missing completely.

Next I spent two nights painstakingly carving the detail into those patches using a pumpkin-carving bit on my Dremel:

The Dremel takes off tiny, tiny bits at a time, so it's very dusty and very slow going - but that also gives you a lot of control, which is good.

Here are my patches after carving:

I won't lie to you: I am extremely proud of these patches. I'd only used the epoxy putty this way once before (on a project I'll feature here later), and I've never carved anything before, so this was both a learning experience and a ton of fun.

Next I used acrylic craft paints to apply a dark faux wood grain over the patches:

Though the grill looks (and feels!) like a heavy wrought iron, it's actually made of wood.

Ready to see the finished product?


Of course, the irony here is that I spent two or three days working on something that no one will ever notice - and that's the whole point. Heh.

Next I'll be showing off the fun, electrical, steampunky features we're adding to our radio cabinet, so stay tuned for those!

Oh, and in case you have something that needs patching, here's the epoxy putty I use. It's about $6 from Amazon, or you can find it at your local hardware store. And believe me, once you start using this stuff, you'll be in love. Just be sure to wear gloves, or you'll be picking concrete bits off your skin for a week. (Heed my voice of experience!)

So tell me, guys, what's your favorite crafty secret weapon? Any tools or products I should know about?

{UPDATE: At long last, here's part 2!}

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad's Day Laughs

Ok, so this is actually from last year (how did I miss it?) and isn't particularly geeky or girly, but it's perfect for today and made me laugh:


(Also, 2:03. That is all.)

Oh, and if you haven't seen Sunday Sweets yet today, you might like my tribute to all dads - but mostly mine - over there. In addition to the jaw-dropping cakes, I share a few of the reasons I became the geek girl I am today, thanks to my Dad.

Plus you'll learn my childhood nickname and the names of our pet miniature goats.

Not to mention the fact that we had pet miniature goats. Heh.

Happy Father's Day, everyone!

So tell me, kids: what's your favorite memory of your dad? (Or of whoever filled the role of "dad" in your life?)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Haunted Mansion Stretching Portraits Bookmark

I'm currently mired in so many long-term projects that I went looking for an instant-gratification craft fix the other night. So, in about twenty minutes, I had this:

Pretty cool, right? Ah, but here's where the "magic" happens:

Is this bookmark actually stretching? Or is it your imagination?

I've had this papercraft bookmark in my "to-do" folder for ages, and it's definitely the easiest papercraft project I've ever done. Just print, cut, a few folds, a little glue, and voilá! I even had the tassel left over from who-knows-what, which really adds that perfect finishing touch.

Plus, if batty ballerina isn't your style, you can simply flip the inner card over for this dynamite option:

And here he is in his corruptible, mortal state:

The front reads, "I'm dying to read this book," by the way. (Sorry it's not very clear.)

These would be fun to make with your little geeklings, or be the perfect quick-and-easy gift to tuck in with a birthday card. Just be sure to use heavy card stock, and set your printer for high-quality. (And if you really wanted to go all out, you could use packing tape or clear laminate to make it more durable.)

Now, what are you waiting for? Go download the template! (It's free from Disney's website.) And if you know of any other great bookmark templates or projects, please share 'em in the comments!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Geek Glee 6/14/11

Ok, not so much "geek," but this video has a double dose of glee:

Koala: [flap flap flap]
Me: [collapsing from cute]

(Thanks to Becky C. for the link!)

Hold on to your sonic screwdrivers, Doctor Who fans, 'cuz Baby Davros will EXTERMINATE your resistance to snuggling:

Or how about this stone-cold cutie?

Just remember: cute is only skin-deep.Heh. Aheh. Heh.

(Seriously. Even her brain has a bow! YOU GUYS. Her brain...has a bow. Love it!)

These are the works of artist Jacqui Ronan, who has even more Doctor Who cuteness here, so be sure to check 'em out.

Next, Natalie T. sent me a link to these brilliant "sculpted ribbon clips":

By baby bug wear (links to a FB page)
Aren't they amazing? I think I like Tiana and Ariel the best. You can see more ribbon clip creations here, including Queen Amidala and Oscar the Grouch. I'm also loving the Strawberry Shortcake in her Etsy store:

And only $8! Not bad!

And finally, a little more randomness:

I found this during an image search for something completely unrelated, and it made me laugh:

My grandmother has that exact same Santa statue. Ha!

It also reminded me of this:

Sauron: The High School Years.
via SuperPunch & Reddit

I laughed for like 10 seconds straight.

So tell me, guys: what's bringing you glee today?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

DIY Steampunk Gauges

If you're building steampunk props for cosplay, gauges are a must-have. Unfortunately, vintage gauges (which look the most authentic) can be both hard to find and pretty darn expensive once you do track them down.

So, John and I decided to make our own.

Here's the secret:

These cup slider handles for closet doors are perfect for DIY gauges. Plus, a pack of two handles only costs two or three dollars - sweet!

Once we found those, I went hunting online for photos of vintage pressure gauges. I found one I liked, downloaded it, and then cleaned it up and cropped it (badly) in Photoshop:

Next I needed a temperature gauge, which was much harder to track down. Eventually I found a style I loved...

...but the photo had too much glare and shadow to use. So, using that photo as a reference, John and I made one from scratch in PS - with a few fun variations, of course.

For the most realistic look, you could use clock hands or spinner arrows like these for the gauge needles. We were impatient, though, and just printed ours on.

To give the faces some age and character, John rubbed brown glaze on the paper after printing them out. (Tip: make the edges darker for a nice vignette effect.)

Next it was a simple matter of cutting them out:

John: Don't show my thumb! My nail looks awful!

Me: [rolling eyes]

And popping them inside the frames.

For the glass, we considered cutting plastic or thin plexiglass - both options that I think would work, but they would have to be cut exactly right to fit in place, and then sealed with a tiny bead of clear caulk or glue.

So instead, we opted for the easy way out and just filled them with clear epoxy:

If you go this route too, be sure to use metal duct tape to cover the two small holes in the back of the handles before filling them. Epoxy will melt through regular tape - a lesson we learned the hard way with our first set - so be sure it's the hardy metallic stuff.

The epoxy we used was crystal clear, so you can only see it from an angle when the light hits it. It's so clear, in fact, that I may go back and add a circle of thin plastic on top of the epoxy, just to make it more visible.

And finally, here are our two finished gauges, setting in place on a scale drawing of the prop we're building:

And, ok - since you insist - here's a sneak peek of the prop a little further along:

Our gauges managed to fool a friend from only two feet away, so overall I call that a success!

The only change I might make for future gauges is to bring the faces forward a bit, so they're not recessed quite so far in the handles. I've noticed with modern gauges that the needle and face are almost right against the glass, so that might help ours look even more realistic.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this "snapshot of what John & Jen have been up to." Heh. Feel free to use the graphics in this post for your own gauges, fellow steampunkers, and please send me photos if you do!