Monday, April 16, 2012

Zoo Cuties

Here are more of my favorite shots from our day trip to the Virginia Zoo. I made sure to bookend it with the two cutest types of animals there, too, so don't miss the end:

Did you know some people have Fennec foxes as pets? And they can get along with house cats? Just sayin'. (JOHN.)

(I used to think meerkats were cute, until I looked at this one after looking at those Fennec foxes. Now, not so much.)

Apparently this zoo is also home to a rare two-headed kangaroo:


And speaking of accidentally funny photo perspectives:


Boo'tiful PLUMAGE.

Here's my personal zoo crew, hamming it up for the camera:

That's my folks on the right, and my grandmother in the chair. John is the one who suggested they all point and laugh, and then failed to realize no one else was doing it.

We chased this butterfly for several minutes, waiting for it to land. When it did, it only stopped for less than a second, so I'm *amazed* this shot turned out.

Now I'm going to show you something pretty, and then I'm going to show you some nightmare fuel. Ready?

Ok, here's the prettiness:

Fix this image in your mind.

And now....


[Pyscho shower music]

(That's his inner eyelid; his actual eye is red - but still manages to look less evil than this.)

This guy was hanging out near an observation window, waving at people:

The sun was directly behind us, but I did my best with the reflection on the glass:

And now: big kitties!!

Those shots were all taken through glass, too; I just managed to block the glare with my own reflection.

I saved the best for last, though, so hang on to your socks, cute fans.

After hanging out in front of the red panda habitat for ages looking for the elusive little fella, we finally spotted him directly over our heads, fast asleep in a tree branch that stretched across the path:

At this point I made everyone stand around with me for nearly 20 minutes while I camped out underneath him, waiting for him to wake up.

Eventually, he did. Sort of. Just enough to yawn and reposition, which gave me this:


And, finally, if you think you can stand it, check out the cutest picture I have ever taken in my whole entire life:

[falling out of chair]

[collapsing from cuteness]

Sunday, April 15, 2012


You guys have probably seen videos online of projection-mapping technology that allows places like Disney to project virtual reality light shows on to physical structures. The new Magic Kingdom show "The Magic, The Memories, and You" uses this to spectacular effect on the castle - so much so that I actually like it better than the fireworks now. (Hit the link to watch the show on Youtube.)

In fact, the MK show recently added the lantern scene from Tangled, and it makes me positively weepy every time I see it, it's just so stinkin' beautiful. [girly sigh] (And here's just the Tangled update, if you haven't seen it.)

Anyway, I just stumbled across a Samsung commercial over on LikeCool (another great site for procrastinating) that uses that same technology on a human face, and my mind is completely blown.

Before you watch, keep in mind that the model's eyes are actually CLOSED the entire time, and his skin is painted white. So everything you see - the expressions, the blinking, the clothing - everything - is a projection. SO COOL.

Hope you guys find it as fascinating as I do:

Ain't living in the future grand? :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Parents' Home Makeover

Now that I'm all rested up, I can show you what John and I spent our 10 days in Williamsburg doing!

Actually, since I don't have any "before" pics (both to protect the innocent and because I kinda forgot), I'll just have to explain as we go.

First, we painted everything downstairs (except the kitchen), then the stairwell, the upstairs hall, and two bathrooms. We concentrated our design efforts on the downstairs.

The dining room wasn't the most dramatic transformation, but I think it's my favorite:

All we did here (besides paint) was change the drapes, de-clutter, remove everything from the walls, hang the clocks, and re-work everything in and on the curio cabinet.

Somehow that curio cabinet had about twice as much stuff crammed in there as it does now. I cleaned it all out (we donated at least 8 flower vases to the thrift store) so I could feature Mom's blue Delftware she collected in Holland. (My folks lived there for two years a while back.)

The running joke during our stay was that every morning John and I would get up to find Mom had changed or added to whatever we'd done the day before. This curio was no exception: she kept putting more stuff on top of it. (I'm not going to tell you how many things were on the living room mantle when we first arrived... but let's just say the poor thing was barely holding up.) (Love you, Mom!)

The living room was the largest and most time-consuming project. In fact, it's still not quite done, so please don't judge us too harshly:

This room used to be a deep TARDIS blue, because our first makeover was going for drama and colonial-style formality. It was awesome, and my folks loved it for many years, but the time had come to lighten up the dark room and make it a bit more casual.

Hey, look! I found a really bad 'before' photo on my camera just now:

Told ya it was TARDIS blue. And that's the back side of the green couch we replaced - plus a lot of furniture that got moved out to the garage to open up the space.

To begin, John installed frames on the wainscoting to simulate wood paneling. Because their walls are perfectly smooth, this worked perfectly - and the bright white made a huge difference.

In-process shot:
We used some leftover beige paint as a primer on the bottom, to cover the dark blue. After that it still took two more coats of white - but without it, it could have taken four or five. (Take it from a former pro: Plain white paint does *not* cover well.)

The new green is still growing on me, to be honest - even though technically I'm the one who picked it. I originally wanted a more muted, olive-ish tone, but Mom loves the brighter blue-greens. So together we came up with this.

The green makes most of their dark antiques pop beautifully - and really, most Victorian mansions had surprisingly bright colors on the walls - but it's hard to photograph accurately. I think that one above is pretty bang-on, but some of my other shots make it look more minty than it really is.

After the painting and paneling were done, the next challenge was furniture: both getting it and placing it. This has GOT to be the hardest room in the world to arrange around a TV, so it's become a family tradition that Mom moves the furniture around about twice a month. (Another running joke - but pretty accurate.)

The challenge is those two large doorway/pass-throughs, and a fireplace on the focal wall, which my folks don't want a TV over. (Too high.) After puzzling and measuring and moving everything half a dozen times, we finally came up with the arrangement it's in now.

The TV is on the left, between the windows. They still need an area rug and coffee table to fill the space, but we ran out of time before we could find the right ones. The good news is they won't buy anything without checking with us first. [Right, Mom & Dad? Right?]

Yes, there are two Lazy Boy recliners in the room. We had to work with what we were given, mkay? Hopefully they'll be replaced with leather club chairs sometime soon. [hint hint, guys. Hint hint.]

Those curtains presented another challenge: since we needed the longer length (95 inches), the cheapest panels we could find were over $30 each - and the only acceptable colors started at $50 each. Two hundred bucks for drapes? Aw, HECK no.

So, we purchased some 84-inch faux silk panels in a champagne color at Wal-Mart for about $12 each, and then one more panel by the same brand in a chocolate. John cut the chocolate panel into strips and attached them to the bottoms of the existing panels (harder than it sounds, believe me). After a day's work: Booya! John saved us $140! (And really, is ANYONE here surprised that John can sew? Anyone?)

The curtains have a beautiful shimmer to them, too, and look surprisingly nice with the green.

The TV used to sit on an open glass stand, low to the ground and with wires everywhere:

The new media cabinet is a rich dark wood with gleaming silver feet and hardware. If I lived closer, I would probably steal it. Just sayin'.

(It's on clearance at American Signature, btw, if you have one of those near you.)

The only other new furniture is the leather couch and the chair beside it, which replaced the green couch and an old wingback chair, respectively. The new stuff is more streamlined and modern, but not so much as to look at odds with all the antique clocks and tapestries.

Speaking of clocks, you might have gathered by now that my Dad collects them. Heh. There are eight in this room, three more in the dining room, and two or three in the hall.

Mercifully, he doesn't keep them all running at once. He alternates, so that only two chiming clocks are running at any given time.

Dad doesn't just collect antique clocks, though; he also repairs them. He buys or is given broken ones and works on them in his free time:

See why I knew he'd like steampunk?

(Btw, if you missed it, you can see my folks in their awesome steampunk outfits here.)

(Which reminds me: we're discussing building a light-up wooden cane for his costume next year.
And yes, I
do know that I have the coolest parents ever.)

When I mentioned to my folks how much I liked the clock hanging on the wall there, they seemed puzzled and told me, "That's just a movement without a case." So I guess someone only attached it to the wood plaque as a means to hang it - but I think it looks pretty amazing like that! Maybe I'll start looking for my own case-less clock movements now...

Getting back to the house, here's the entry hall:

Again, other than paint we just de-cluttered and re-worked everything hanging on the walls. It's so clean and spacious now.

That doorway you see at the bottom of the stairs is the guest bath, which we also made over:

We painted the walls a light beige, and then John fauxed them with metallic copper and umber glazes. (John and I used to be professional faux finishers, which is why I'm allowed to use "faux" as a verb. I know it sounds funny.)

I refinished the antique mirror to an aged copper, and primed and spray-painted the light fixture a deep bronze. Then we installed all new bronze fixtures, a wooden wall cabinet, and hung that gorgeous wall art that Mom & I found at Kirklands (only $39!). We ordered a bronze faucet for the sink, too, but it didn't arrive in time to install before we left.

When I refinished the mirror I also did a pair of matching wall sconces. Here's the pair before I glazed the second one, just to show you the technique I used:

Rest assured we didn't ruin anything valuable; these are plastic, and the mirror was a $20 find at an antique store.

And that's it! (I left out the other bathroom and the upstairs since they're not terribly interesting.) It's fun being able to show off our efforts - although next time I promise to take "before" photos, since I know that's half the fun of looking at the "after"s.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite shots from our last day in Virginia, which we spent at the zoo:


After this we all went home and watched Youtube videos of Fennec Foxes and red pandas until we collapsed from cuteness overload. :D (Pics of the red panda coming soon!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

But I *Did* Paint My Toenails

I'm having one of those weeks where pretty much nothing gets done except a lot of sleeping and reading and watching White Collar (our latest TV show obsession.) None of this is particularly post-worthy, but sometimes when there's a lag here I get concerned e-mails wondering if I've grown tired of the blog or something more dire has occurred. So, rest assured, everything's fine; I've just been a little down since we got back from VA on Monday, and needed a little down time.

I finished up the Hunger Games trilogy (and am impatiently waiting for John to read the 3rd book so I can gripe about it in more detail), worked on my Portal Lemons cross stitch, and played more games of Sudoku on my iPhone than I can count - all with my cat Lily curled up on my lap. (Obviously I've been leaning on John to carry CW a lot more than usual, too. Luckily he's been knocking posts out of the park with his infomercial parodies.)

So, all in all, it's been the perfect therapy week. I think I may even be ready to tackle my e-mail inboxes now! (Or....not.) And while you're waiting for me to get back into the swing of things here, you can always check out the stuff I've been pinning or all the goodies your fellow Epbot readers are sharing on the Epbot FB page, since those are good therapy anytime.

(Oh, and have you seen The Guild's latest music video? People are calling it the new Geek Anthem. Check it out if you haven't already!)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

This Is A Triumph?

I trucked most of my craft supplies with me on "vacation" in the desperate hope that I might finish these before Easter. After several late nights and only three trips to the craft store...


Portal Easter Eggs!

I searched everywhere for a companion cube Easter egg online, but all I could find was a cube drawn on the egg. Since I wanted mine to look like the egg *was* the cube, I spent some time sketching to get the design right. Each companion egg is double sided, and I used rhinestone hearts in the centers for a little sparkle.

The eggs are foam with a hard coating, which allowed me to put small screws in the bottoms so I could hang on to them while painting, and then hang them to dry after painting. Very handy.

The turret stand design is by Instructables user SuperNewby, although I think I must be doing something wrong since I can't get the back leg to stay put; it keeps sliding out Bambi-on-ice-style from under the egg. After trying everything from super glue to duct tape, I finally stuck all three legs in a sheet of soft foam to keep them stationary. (I also used foam for the leg panels, which is faster and easier than clay.)

The lemon grenade handle is made from a tiny screw cap and a bent strip of metal John found in the garage. I hand-sketched and painted the Aperture logo, which is why it looks so wonky. (Sorry.)

I wish I had an Aperture mug to display these guys in, but in the meantime, just imagine this is Cave Johnson's Easter basket, k? (From Caroline. Of course.)

Also imagine the "grass" is shredded Aperture office memos. :D

I have several more Portal Eggs in the works, but I wanted to at least show you guys these in case the rest aren't done by Sunday. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Great Geeky Easter Eggs!

I haven't painted Easter eggs in ages, so while looking for geeky inspiration I started compiling a list of some of my favorite geek eggs out there. Eventually the list grew too epic NOT to be shared, so, without further ado, here 'tis. I hope it inspires new heights of geekery in your own households this week!

By My Little Norway

By Shelly & Milo

(Superman & Wonder Woman are my favorites. SO CUTE.)

(There's something hilariously poetic about Angry Bird Easter Eggs.)


(Quite possibly my favorite Easter egg of all time. And I love that stand!)

By Supernewby - and check out her/his Instructible to make your own.

("I'm different!")

By The Artsy Nerd

(Now I'm thinking I need a whole Doctor Who-themed set of eggs. :D)

I'm sure I missed a bunch, so please share links to your favorite geeky eggs in the comments!