Friday, July 22, 2011

Fun Friday Videos

I know a lot of you are excited about the coming Hunger Games movie, so...have you seen the animated movie poster yet?

(You can see the animated poster at Slashfilm.)

This is just the coolest thing EVER, don't you think? I first saw it over at SuperPunch, who mused that someday soon all posters will be animated. As long as they're this amazing, I'm totally ok with that.

John and I both loved this video making the viral rounds today:

25 celebrity impressions in under six minutes. His Morgan Freeman gave me chills. So good!

In honor of San Diego Comic Con this weekend, here's anther viral hit that'll make you smile:

Speaking of which, I'll be spending the weekend living vicariously through everyone at SDCC via Twitter and the rest of the interwebz. I'm both jealous and glad I'm not a sweaty human pancake right now. Heh. (Can't wait 'til Dragon*Con!)

Which leads me to this week's Yahoo exclusive on Victoria Schmidt, geek girl and cosplay enthusiast:

(thanks to Missy & Maria for sharing this on the Epbot FB page!)

Love her SO MUCH.

More upcoming movie greatness: the third Hobbit production video has been released! This one focuses on the 13 Dwarves:

And finally, a bit of random awesomeness: know Penn & Teller? The magicians? I love their performances, and I especially love Teller. Maybe it's a kindred introvert thing. (Penn will often say in interviews that Teller is the real brains behind their illusions, and is the perfectionist of the two, spending hours every night after every performance, practicing new routines.)

Anyway...wanna hear him talk? :D

I found this via BoingBoing:

(skip to about 1:15, and turn your sound way up; it's not a great recording.)

When I met Teller after a performance last year I was so struck by his voice that I think I could have listened to him read the phone book, but this really is a fascinating explanation of the use of diversion and repetition in a magic trick.

Ok, I think I've wasted enough of your Friday night already. Now, go have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Harry Potter Wand Display

John's mom and sister bought him a Harry Potter wand for his birthday last year, but we've never had a good way to display it. So, when the movie premiered last Thursday night, I decided that would be the ideal project to keep me busy while John was off at the theater. (I don't do well with movie theaters, so I stayed home.)

After hunting for ideas online, I abandoned my initial plan for a display case and instead made this:

Ta da!

(John took these pictures and added a fancy-schmancy vignette on 'em. Preeetty.)

Keep reading to see how I did it.

First, I found this graphic online to use as my template:

I've found it on several free file-sharing sites, but I can't seem to find the original source. Anyone know?

John helped me print the graphic to the size we wanted, which required two sheets of paper:

Next, using spray adhesive, we attached the paper to a spare piece of plywood John had in the garage, and John cut it out with a scroll saw:

(True story: John once bought me a scroll saw for Christmas. I love them - but I still scream bloody murder every time the blade snaps. Every. Single. Time.)

Frankly, you could *almost* stop there.

We couldn't, of course, but YOU could. ;)

Next, John used his router to give the plaque a decorative edge, handed it off to me, and went to the movie.

From there I began outlining the shapes and lettering using pumpkin carving bits on my trusty Dremel. I decided to carve out the actual letters of the word "wands," but only outlined "Ollivander's" so I could add color to it later.

After about three hours (and many hand cramps) I had this:

You can see the paper is still attached for "maker of fine" and part of "since 382 BC". (I sanded off the rest.) I planned to hand paint those areas because the font was too fine to carve, but first I used a sharp craft knife to outline them. The faint cuts in the wood (sort of) helped me place the lettering later on.

The next day I turned my attention to the center graphic - the hardest part, since I've never carved wood before and had no idea how to go about it! Plus, plywood is not carving wood; it's several thin layers of wood glued together, which doesn't look smooth or pretty at all.

Anyway, first I sketched in the details with a pencil:

Then I cleaned up the edges and proceeded to *gently* outline my pencil marks with the smallest Dremel bit. I barely dug into the wood at all:

Here I stopped and handed it over to John to stain the whole piece. This turned into a disaster when we discovered there was some kind of glue residue on the wood which made the stain stick heavily in some areas, and not at all in others. It looked terrible, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that we've have to prime and paint over the whole thing. (Ack!)

Then, an unexpected upturn: when John sanded down the plaque in preparation for priming, he found that the result actually looked surprisingly good:

Taking off the excess stain gave it a nice weathered look. Our plaque was saved!

At this point I started adding the color. I initially intended to leave the center image bare wood, but John excitedly asked if we could make the unicorn white. So, to keep the aged look, I watered down some acrylic craft paint and applied it in several thin washes:

I also painted the horn with liquid gold leaf, which is THE most amazing stuff in a bottle. Seriously, crafters - you must buy some. (This looks like the same stuff, although my bottle's a little different.)

After painting Ollivander's green (and did you notice I added the apostrophe? I kind of had to after several of you on FB & Twitter pointed it out, heh) I again had John sand the plaque, which gave the color a beautiful distressed look:

Here I'm practicing with the the liquid leaf on a spare block of wood. It was pretty hair-raising accenting the lettering freehand, but it added a perfect amount of sparkle.

For the painted lettering I first sketched the words back in with pencil, followed by liquid leaf for the date line, and dark brown paint for the "makers of." To make the gold lettering easier to read, I also outlined it with a fine-tipped pen.


The finishing touches included more liquid leaf accents around the top and center seal, a little more sanding, and thin washes of color on the Phoenix feather and Dragon's heart strings in the middle (which are probably not blue, but that was the color we liked best.)

With the plaque done, next we tracked down some pretty gold chain to hang the wand. Rather than loop chain around the wand itself - or worse, drill eye bolts into the wand {shudder} - we fashioned some large cup hooks into hanging brackets:

To do this, just snip off the threaded portion of the hook above the lip, and then bend some gold wire like so:

Once you have your loop, twist the two ends around the hook, under the lip. It won't slide off, and it's nice and secure. Then simply use the wire loop to attach your hook to the chain, and you've got a wand hanger!

New art for John's man cave!

(Doesn't it look nice on the dark blue walls?)

John is ecstatic over his new wand display. I think I've been called "the most awesome wife in the world" at least fifty times. :D Of course, I keep pointing out he did half the work, so it was only fitting that we both signed the back:

Gotta love his "signature."

All told, the only things we had to buy were the gold chain ($3 at JoAnn's) and the hooks (another $3 for a pack of 12). I love projects that use things we already have lying around! Of course, the labor was the real expense, but even so I only spent about four or five nights on this - probably no more than twelve hours total.

Hope you guys enjoyed our latest craziness! And be sure to share any of your own Potter projects in the comments!


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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Best YA Fantasy Books (Part 1)

After all the requests following my last book review, I thought I'd start a series of book recommendations for you fellow YA fiction fans. As I mentioned before, YA fantasy is my genre of choice, so today's will all be of that specific niche. And because I have a lot of favorites, I'll be keeping this post to five titles. Everything I list here is one of my all-time favorites, so I really can't recommend them highly enough.

So, in no particular order, here we go!

Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones

"Enthralling" is the best word I can find to describe this book. It's not often you find a YA novel written from the perspective of an old woman! It has that magical, fairy tale quality that will stick with you for a long time - plus a big, big heart.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare Dunkle

Don't let the lackluster cover fool you - this book (and series) packs a serious literary punch. By turns disturbing and heartwarming, it spits in the eye of traditional teen romances and embraces a form of Beauty and the Beast where the beast stays a beast. Refreshingly different and hauntingly beautiful.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix

Nix's Abhorsen trilogy is what the word "epic" was invented to describe. Set in a world split into a "modern" half (roughly our 1940s) and one evocative of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings, it will draw you in with hair-raising suspense, battles, and a heroine you can't stop cheering for. Also, as a quick reader I especially love this book's heft - although even at 336 pages, I promise you'll be left wanting more. (Good thing there are more books in the series!)

The Lightning Thief , by Rick Riordin

My strongest memory of this book is laughing in bed, trying in vain not to wake John. It brings the Greek gods up-to-date in modern times, and, well, hilarity ensures. It's also a ripping good adventure, and pure fun through and through.

Trickster's Choice , by Tamora Pierce

It was hard to choose which Pierce book to mention here, since I own and love so many of them. The only trouble with her books is that almost all of them are part of intertwining series, so if you don't start at the the beginning, you might feel a smidge left out. (If you want a completely stand-alone story, try Terrier, a kick-ass story of a female guard.) (Edited to add: As mentioned in the comments, there are sequels to Terrier, but I still think the story stands alone well for new readers.)

This series picks up where the tales of Alanna the Lioness leave off - with Alanna's daughter. Fortunately, reading the previous books isn't necessary to thoroughly enjoy this one - and at nearly 450 pages, there's enough intrigue, romance, and adventure to keep you busy for at least a few nights. ;)

Keep your own book recommendations coming, guys; I've already started two titles from your lists, and I'll keep you updated with reviews as I finish them! (And if you missed it, check the comments here for your fellow readers' recommendations.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Return to the Smelly Vet

I've had a rough afternoon, guys.


I come bearing raccoon pictures!!

That poor rabbit gets a LOT of affection.

Yep, today we returned to the smelly vet, where I'm please to report they'd cleaned up a bit, so the odor in the building wasn't quite so overpowering.

We arrived stressed and - in my case - somewhat hysterical, since I'd inadvertently managed to poison my cat by applying the wrong kind of ointment to a scratch on her arm. I'm only telling you this so none of you make my mistake: normal antibiotic ointment is usually fine for felines, but not those with painkillers added. The painkillers are toxic. We had a new tube of antibiotic, and I'm ashamed to say I just didn't look at it closely enough.

I noticed within an hour that something was wrong; Lily seemed a little lethargic and unfocused. I quickly Googled the medicine I'd used and then proceeded to have the Freak Out to End All Freak Outs. Seriously. I thought I'd killed my cat, screaming for John and...well, it wasn't pretty. You guys should send John supportive cards or something.

The good news is I'd bandaged Lily's arm, so she hadn't been able to lick the ointment. We also cleaned it off immediately and rushed her to the vet. By the time we arrived she already seemed back to normal, but they injected some "sub dermal fluids" to help flush it out anyway.

And, since we were in the same room again - the one across from the baby raccoon - this time I opened the door and took a few lousy photos for you with John's phone:

The raccoon didn't seem much bigger from last time, and was a constant bundle of energy so it was hard to get a clear picture. She was absolutely enthralled with that dog bone.

This one's my favorite:

Too cute. It was nice to have a distraction while pacing and worrying and generally feeling like an accidental murderer.

Blurry blurriness is blurry.

Oh, and we have the correct medicine for Lily's arm now. No more home remedies for me! Now we just have to wait for the results of yet another blood test, as we're still hunting down the culprit of her mysterious weight loss.

To quote Inigo Montoya, I hate waiting.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Photo Dump

I don't have a (working) camera phone, but John does. So, anytime we're out and I see something photo-worthy, I have to borrow his phone. Then I forget and never see the pictures again until he's cleaning out his memory and demands to know why there's a picture of a pineapple owl on his phone:

Or maybe it's a bat.

(A bowl? Ha!)

So anyway, here are a few of the things I deemed photo-worthy over the past six months:

Modern Bridal Shop, meet Elite Fighting Academy.

[insert punchline (zing!) here]

According to the box, this is "a most acceptable gift for any occasion":

So many jokes, so little time.

And these are two "skull heads":

As opposed to the skulls that are *not* heads? Or heads that don't have skulls?

(Yes, I always over-think these things. I am a lot of fun to be around. Honest.)

Hobby Lobby, I love you - but a cross made of
chili peppers?


If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen this next one. John was sick with food poisoning on the couch all day, and our cat Lily was showing her support by sleeping on his butt:

I, of course, showed my support by taking a picture of Lily on his butt and sharing it with the entire Internet. 'Cuz that's what awesome, supportive wives DO.

Next are the things I wanted to buy, but not so much that I was willing to spend the money required to do so:

Spotted at an art festival. Those are vintage metal tape measures, all cut to different lengths and nailed down individually:

Quite a neat look, huh? Great DIY/craft inspiration.

(Update: thanks to Number 1 for identifying the artist! It's by Tim Yankosky.)

From Downtown Disney:

Video game Mickey! (If only Disney shirts didn't cost $30 and up. Urg.)

This clock is from Kirklands:

It was even on sale, but we're rapidly running out of wall space; no room for awesome over-sized steampunk clocks!

More art I love:

How can you not grin like a fool while looking at this?

And finally, John and I collected a little yard inspiration from the Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland, of all places:

We're planning to build a little arbor on the front of the house a lot like this. Isn't it pretty? I love the lanterns!

Stay tuned for my next photo dump in, oh, another six months or so. ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Steam 7/16/11

These handcrafted pens have real watch gears and pieces embedded in the finish:

Made by BG Artforms; prices vary


Not exclusively steampunk, but I love this copper pipe pot rack:

Found by Kristie via This Old House

Not to mention it would be a fab DIY project. The plumbing aisle should have everything you need!

In case you didn't get enough geeky bling the other day, feast your eyes on these:

Found by Des S.; "Epic Keys" by DeviantArt user *Drayok

So gorgeous, it almost hurts.

Hit the link for lots more, or visit the artist's Etsy store, Keyper's Cove.

Since I get e-mailed his amazing Steampunk laptop at least several times a week, I need to finally mention Datamancer and his spectacular steampunk keyboards and computers:

I've actually been a fan for years, and I've been just as excited to see his new line of Art Deco inspired creations:

For lots more, check out his site - just be sure to put a cloth over your keyboard first, to catch all the drool. :)

Oh, and fun fact: if you're a fan of Warehouse 13, you've already seen Richard's (aka Datamancer's) handiwork; he built Artie's keyboard:

image via NotCot

Warehouse 13 has such a fun steampunk vibe. If you've never seen it, check it out!

Here's an art print that caught my eye:
Found by Megan W.; "Clockwork Wings" by Amy Houser

Must... resist...unladen swallow... joke.

And finally, a gorgeous music video:

"The Islander" by Nightwish, submitted by Mechel

Isn't it pretty? I love the Celtic flair - I may have to buy this one!

Seen anything deliciously steamy this week? Share your links in the comments!