Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bubble Wrap Bracelet: Rainbow Shells!

I made a little more of that iridescent fused bubble wrap I mentioned in my snowflake earrings post, and here's what I've made with it so far:

From snowflakes to sea shells! 

This was largely an experiment to see how the rainbow cellophane would do sandwiched between the bubble wrap. As I mentioned before, the cellophane doesn't melt or fuse with the bubble wrap, so you have to make sure the outer layers of plastic are fused around the edges of the cellophane to seal it in.

That means you can't just make one big sheet and cut out the pieces you want. Instead you have to do this:

Here I've cut out rough squares of the cellophane, sandwiched them between two sheets of bubble wrap, and fused them together. After that I added two more layers of bubble wrap, for a total of four all together.

Next I carefully cut out each square, leaving a tiny edge around the cellophane pieces to hold the layers together:

If you don't leave that tiny edge, you run the risk of the cellophane separating from the wrap and your pieces peeling apart. (The bracelet at the top of the picture was just for size reference.)

Once my pieces were cut out, it was just a matter of punching small holes with a needle and adding O rings. Easy-peasy!

The iridescence varies depending on how the light hits it. Sometimes it's just pearly white, and others the colors really pop:

Like the inside of seashells, right?

Here's the clasp, which I had to kind of make up as I went along:

This design would be even better using oval O rings, if such a thing exists, or maybe heavy links from an old necklace. The rings are perfectly comfortable on, but it might look nice to have links that lay flatter on my wrist.

[Update: Turns out oval O rings *do* exist. Thanks, commenters!]

I hope I've continued to inspire you guys to try some of your own fused bubble wrap projects! Using this sandwiching technique, you could layer all kinds of things inside the bubble wrap: paper, glitter, stickers, etc - so get to experimenting! (And remember to send me pictures of the successes!)

Oh, and here's a sneak peek at why those purple flowers are on my table:

Needless to say, I'm working on something VERY girly. But I'm splitting my time between this and a craft that requires some kick-ass metal aging and LED-wiring, so it's all evening out in the end. ;) Stay tuned for those projects, coming soon!


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

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Just In Time For Father's Day: Darth's (Adorable) Little Girl

Epbot reader Robyn R. made a special outfit for her daughter to wear in her Father's Day themed photos this weekend -  and I think you guys might approve:


This little darling is definitely being raised right, you guys. Need further proof? Here's one of her previous photo shoots:

 A real, live (mostly) Naked Mohawk-Baby Carrot Jockey!

(When I went to grab this pic just now I realized we've never actually posted it on Cake Wrecks. How is that possible?! I'm so sorry, Robyn - I'll be sure to correct this grievous oversight immediately.)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Saturday Steam 6/16/12

Nicole B. shared this delicate clockwork carousel horse on the Epbot FB page:

Stop the press - HOW AMAZING IS THIS?!

It's the work of sculptor Sue Beatrice, who uses all vintage clock parts. I love how she used the shape of each piece to fit the horse; I'm not sure she even had to cut any! Check out more of her creations over on her FB page.

Adinda in the Netherlands sent in a few of her photos from the Midzomer Fair Parade, a small but delightful gathering of steampunk and costume enthusiasts. Here are my favorites:

That angel is so pretty! Love the teal accents.

 And here's a fun DIY for your next steampunk cosplay: portable pockets!

See the belt Gail's wearing? She made it from an old pair of cargo shorts. Cool idea! Head over to her blog Retro Rack for the tutorial.

Or, for a more every-day option, check out this amazing bag:

 Not only can you wear it on your hip like a holster, you can also wear it higher up on your shoulder, like this:

They're made to order by JungleTribe over on Etsy for $269 (and you can also get it in black.)
As someone who's been eying the leather belt pack Fiona wears on Burn Notice, I find this highly tempting.

Here's a fun mod that's been going around again: remember the Potato Head Big Daddy?

Sub'd by Jon B., made by Flickr user Ginger Troll

All it needs is a little spud Little Sister. :D

And finally, when John first showed me a photo of the new Steampunk Mini Countryman this week, I have to admit I was less than wow'ed:

But then he showed me the inside, and WOWOWOW!!

Absolutely stunning. I wonder how much it would cost to have someone make the inside of my copper Kia Forte look like this? I mean, I know I'm a little biased, but I really think it'd look better in MY car. :D

Lots more detail shots here, and thanks to Lea J. for the link!

As always, if you see something steamy you'd like to share, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jen's Gems 6/15/12

"Some of my friends are concerned that I let my daughter wear Disney Princess outfits.."

Submitted by Amanda J. via Reddit

HA! Well, that oughtta shut 'em up. :D
(I bet her soldering is way better than mine, too.)

Adorable robot papercraft of the week:

Head over to Instructables for the free template & tutorial.
(And maybe have the kids make one for dad this weekend?)

This is an older find, but since it's a slow week and I think it's pretty dang awesome I'm gonna include it anyway. Here's hoping some of you haven't seen it yet:

Carving a shot glass from a giant jawbreaker:

Submitted by Rebecca P.

The vid's pretty long, so feel free to skip around a bit - but don't miss when he starts on the outside around the six minute mark. When those outer bands of color come through, it's like magic. (Would it be weird to admit I watched the whole thing? It's oddly soothing, like watching Bob Ross reruns. :D)

Linda S. spotted these ├╝ber cute DIY Mickey necklaces:

 They're made from washers and wire and a little paper. Humble beginnings for such epic adorableness! Go see the tutorial over on A Creative Princess.

And finally, here's a fun time-waster: Five Dollar Finds.

 It's a site that features quirky cool stuff that costs less than five bucks, like a color-changing faucet light:

...or popcorn soap:

Thank goodness they only have two pages of archives, or else I'd be getting NOTHING done today. (And I'd be a whole heckuva lot poorer! Light-up candy light sabers? YES, PLEASE.)

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

D'aww, Shucks

I know it might come off as bragging when I show you guys the cool things your fellow readers send me, but in all honesty: no one else understands why I get so excited about this stuff. So I have to share. You know, for the geeky moral support.

After all, who else but my fellow Dizgeeks would appreciate tiny vintage glass plates from WDW?

Misty sent these all the way from Indiana - it's like they're coming home again! They're each about the size of my fist, and are a real bugger to photograph, since they're translucent with lots of shiny gold leaf.  LOVE the vintage Jungle Cruise & Small World ones.

Next, a drool-inducing bag of shiny craft gears from Sharyn (yes, THE Sharyn, for you CW commenters):

Hoooo yes. The possibilities! (Seriously, Sharyn, you've got to stop spoiling me like this.)

Next, the one thing I spent all afternoon trying to get a decent photograph of, because my pictures just CANNOT do this beauty justice:

Look closely...

It's made of tiny seed beads!


Janet M., the genius behind this masterpiece, tells me every single bead was placed individually. (!!) She didn't tell me how many hours it took, and frankly, I'm afraid to ask.

The board it's on is a painted canvas, and I'm in love with the soft distressing around the edges; it's such a pretty contrast to the beads:

Janet, I want you to know that something on my office walls is getting the boot to make room for this. It's next to my monitor right now, but I sense some office redecorating on the horizon!

Janet is both a kindergarten art teacher and an artist, so you can see more of her beaded beauties at her etsy shop, and her clever classroom art projects over on her school blog.

But wait, there's more!

As if that weren't enough for one day, there was one final package today that John made me wait to open last. (He opens and inspects all my mail before letting me near it. Yes, he's really that awesome. I know.)

First, some quick background: reader Diane e-mailed me last week for my address, saying she'd spotted something at E3 (the big video game convention) that she thought I might like.

I immediately turned to John and launched into a babbling fit that went something like this:

"Ohhh, do you think it's the ears? WHAT IF IT'S THE EARS?! That would so soooo awwwwesome.
AAAA!! But, no, I'm not going to get my hopes up. It's probably not the ears. I'm sure it's something else. I mean, it's just sweet that she thought of me, right? Right. Of course. Whatever it is will be nice. I hope it's the ears."

John, meanwhile, had NO idea what I was going on about and so was giving me a panicked look of pure terror. Which was kind of awesome.

Ok, enough background: now for the dramatic un-boxing:

Could it be...?
I...I THINK IT IS....!



Then John interrupted my screaming to tell me to turn it over, and LOOK:




In case you were wondering, these are the exclusive Oswald ears that were only available at E3. They were being given away to promote Epic Mickey 2 (which I can't wait to play), and I am *amazed* that Diane managed to get Epbot embroidered on them, since the parks have a very strict policy about only putting actual names on ear hats, never nicknames or company names or whatnot.

And unlike most Mickey ears, these actually fit my giant head quite comfortably. So I may have to wear them next time we're at the parks. :D [squee!]

All flailing aside, though, it's the sweet notes you guys send me that mean the most. I keep every single one of them - e-mails, too! - and store them up like Scrooge McDuck with his money vault. Not sure I'll ever swim in them (helloooo, papercuts!) but they really do get me through the rough times.

Anyway, thanks for letting me share the highlight of my week, guys. I knew you'd understand. :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just Don't 'Dew It!

John has been addicted to Diet Mountain Dew for ages now (and before that it was Diet Pepsi), but over the past few years I've watched his 'Dew intake increase to a frankly alarming amount. He couldn't go anywhere without a liter bottle in hand, and he'd go through at least two liters a day. I'm pretty sure if you cut him, he'd bleed lemon-lime. Not to mention he'd only stop in the evenings when the heart palpitations started. Seriously.

Also during the past year or so, John has been increasingly concerned about his memory. Not just in remembering names or dates, but in remembering the right words he needs while talking to me or anyone else. He gets frustrated, and ends up using words that are similar to the ones he wants, but not quite right. Like this time in the car recently, when he kept asking me for "instructions"- which baffled me - and after a few rounds that would have made a great Laurel & Hardy routine I finally figured out he meant "directions."

Most of us have this problem from time to time, of course, but it's become a real obstacle and concern for John. It's more than a momentary lapse; it's actually preventing him from expressing himself. And when I can't immediately figure out what he's trying to say, it causes these prickly moments of frustration and stress in our marriage. (He thinks I'm being deliberately difficult, *I* think he's being deliberately confusing. Heh.)

John's asked me several times if I thought the soda might be to blame - and I've always said that it certainly couldn't be helping - but it wasn't until that episode in the car two weeks ago that he finally decided to try cutting back.

And because this is all-or-nothing John we're talking about, he decided to just up and quit cold turkey. (No matter how much his wife told him to ease off gradually, I might add.)

The first four days were pure agony; he had constant migraines that pain pills couldn't touch, and he almost slept more than he was awake. Which, considering the headaches, was probably a good thing.

On the fifth day I managed to convince him to take some Excedrin (he'd been resisting because it has a little caffeine in it, the stubborn ox) (she said lovingly) and almost immediately he was a new man.

Since then John tells me he's clearer, sleeping better, less hungry, and just generally feeling better. (Woot!)

Also since then we've learned some disturbing things about soda in general, and Diet Mountain Dew in particular.  In fact, the other day Anne Wheaton (Wil's wife) tweeted this article which includes this chilling snippet:

 "An ingredient called brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, added to prevent the flavoring from separating from the drink (Mountain Dew), is an industrial chemical used as a flame retardant in plastics. Also found in other citrus-based soft drinks and sports drinks, the chemical has been known to cause memory loss and nerve disorders when consumed in large quantities."

John's also been reading up on the known issues aspartame - the sweetener used in many diet sodas - has with memory loss. None of it is very encouraging.
I've been off caffeine and soda for nearly five years now due to my anxiety and adrenal issues, so fortunately I'm already used to drinking almost nothing but water. After over ten years of drinking almost nothing but soda, though, that's a huge leap for John - and yet somehow he's managing it. He found a lemonade mix that uses Stevia for a sweetener, too, but mostly? Just plain ol' water.

I'm so proud of John, and one of the reasons I'm posting this is just to brag on him a little. I also want to let John's fellow 'Dew addicts out there know about these memory concerns, and see if any of you have had similar symptoms. There's a lot of controversy and debate over just how bad these chemicals are for you, of course, but I think John at least is convinced to stay off soda for good.

Also, John's read that any memory problems *should* reverse themselves once you stop drinking the soda, since your brain will flush out the neurotoxin on its own, but I'm curious if any of you know how long that process should take. Weeks? Months? Longer? Any brain doctors out there care to weigh in?

Feel free to share your thoughts/experiences in the comments, and I'd also welcome any relevant links you guys might recommend, since there's just so much information to sift through when it comes to debating the toxicity of this stuff.

Oh, and maybe tell John you're proud of him, since I think he deserves a little positive feedback. And maybe a medal or two. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Icy Earrings From... Bubble Wrap?!

I've been experimenting with fused bubble wrap this past week, something I've wanted to try ever since I spotted this awesome bubble wrap pendant over on Craft:.

Here's what I came up with:

Snowflakes! In June!

There are lots of fused plastic and bubble wrap tutorials out there you can Google, but fortunately the process is really simple: just sandwich your plastic between two sheets of parchment paper and iron the bejeepers out of 'em. (Do this in a well ventilated area, since the fumes can be toxic.) I did learn the hard way that you really need to pop all the bubbles in your bubble wrap first - otherwise it won't fuse down properly - and you should iron one layer at a time. Other than that, easy-peasy!

The resulting fused plastic is relatively smooth, but has a nifty crackly look to it, almost like frosted ice. The Craft: tutorial said it's often mistaken for mother-of-pearl, but without any iridescence I don't really see it:

Maybe in small quantities it's more pearl-ish.

Anyway, after brainstorming a while I decided to take advantage of the icy look with snowflake earrings. Well, ok -  plus the only punch I own is a snowflake. That helped narrow things down a bit. :D

They're pretty shiny when the light catches them, which adds to the ice illusion.

These were made with four layers of fused bubble wrap, but I'd advise only using three layers if you try this yourself, since my poor punch almost didn't make it through the thick plastic.

You can see the texture a bit better here, plus the slight translucency:

The beads and wire I already had in my cannibalized-jewelry stash, so this was a no-cost craft. (My favorite kind!) I used a fat needle to make the holes in the snowflakes, and some tiny scissors to clean up the edges of the plastic, since you can see my punch left a few nits and jagged edges behind.

You could further jazz them up by gluing on rhinestones or adding glitter, but I like the look as-is.

The great irony, of course, is that I don't have pierced ears and so can't wear these - and because I had to paint my gold hooks silver, no one else can wear them, either. (Painted earrings are a big fat no-no.) Still, I had a lot of fun making them, and I hope they inspire some of you to give this a try!

Now, stay tuned while I figure out what to do with my favorite fused plastic/bubble wrap experiment so far:

I sandwiched a sheet of iridescent cellophane between two layers of small-bubble bubble wrap. It didn't melt, but it's stuck nicely inside the bubble wrap sandwich. Kinda looks like a butterfly wing, or rainbow lizard skin. If you guys have any suggestions for what I should do with it, let me know in the comments!


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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Sweetest Of Them All

Want to know why I still believe in Disney magic? 

This is why:

 (photo by Kevin Yee)

The story that goes with this snapshot is an amazing tale of love and loss and celebration, sent in by Epbot reader Ron and starring his son, Ben. Ben is autistic, and one of his favorite things in the world - the ride Snow White's Scary Adventures in the Magic Kingdom - closed for good last month on May 31st. This was a ride Ben had been on literally thousands of times (they counted!), and Ron details the story of Ben's touching final goodbye over on his blog.
So many people - Disney cast members, friends, and even perfect strangers - came together on that last day to make it the most magical celebration Ben could ask for, and I'm not gonna lie: I cried my way through most of it. I don't want to spoil all the surprises for you, though, so just grab a box of tissue, clear your schedule for the next fifteen minutes, and go read the story. It will renew your faith in humanity, and give you an extra shot of pixie dust along the way.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review: Divergent

After my "What to read after The Hunger Games" post, the one title you guys recommended I read next the most was Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

And I'm so glad you did.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. where everyone chooses to join one of five "factions" at the age of 16. These factions are basically personality types, so that the selfless, giving types and the brave adrenaline junkies each band together in kind to serve society in predetermined roles (government, security, farming, etc.)

Since I started this series of book recommendations with The Hunger Games, I'm going to use that as a reference again here.

I found the world setting of Hunger Games slightly more believable than Divergent, since dividing the population by geographical area and natural resources makes more sense than dividing them by personality, but all of Divergent's *characters* were more believable, more human. And since you spend most of your time focusing on a story's characters rather than its setting, I think Divergent still came out ahead on that score.

The heroine, Tris, is just as much of a bad-ass as Katniss, but she's not the reluctant hero; she embraces her new role. She's flawed, but only in ways that make her more human and relatable - never so much that you actively dislike her. If she gives in to hatred and retaliation, it's only when you agree with her that it's justified, if not exactly just.

I felt like the beginning of the story could have used a little more foundation before I was thrown into the action, but then again, that meant it was a wild ride from the start. Still, because I didn't feel like I knew Tris at first, her choice of faction confused me, and the sudden violence of the initiation process was a bit jarring - kind of hard to believe.

As the story progressed and I learned more about Tris, though, her choice made more and more sense, and my initial qualms were forgotten.

Action-wise, Divergent and Hunger Games are neck-and-neck. I couldn't put either down. Both are filled with violence and death, but Divergent was a tad less graphic. (There was one scene in HG I had to skim because of the drawn-out suffering. There's nothing quite that bad in Divergent.)

I always found the romance aspect of Hunger Games to be its weakest; while I really liked Peeta and his sacrificial love for Katniss, I didn't actually *feel* anything, because Katniss didn't. In Divergent, it's almost the exact opposite: we don't know quite as much about Four (Tris' love interest) and his motivations at first, but you really feel and understand her attraction to him, even if he's not your type. (When an author can make you fall for a character you wouldn't normally like, that's the mark of true talent!)

Also like HG, Divergent gives you a relatively satisfying ending while still leaving much to be explored and explained in the rest of the trilogy. (I put my library order in for Insurgent before I even finished.)

And finally, without giving too much away,  I want to talk about my favorite aspect of Divergent. Call it a moral, a theme, or an underlying plot thread, but from the beginning there's this kind of philosophical debate between selflessness and bravery. They start out as polar opposites in Tris' mind, and then throughout her ordeal she begins to understand that they can be one and the same. It's not an in-your-face, preachy kind of thing, but it's there, and it's beautifully done. The ending brings the two together so seamlessly that I almost didn't notice at first, what with all the action, but it made for a good take-away to digest afterward.

By contrast, I thought Hunger Games started out with a strong message: something about reality TV and societal decadence - but by the end of the series I was convinced there *was* no message: it was just a fun ride. That, or I missed what the author was trying to say all together. (Any of you feel that way?)

So, in conclusion: read Divergent. It's awesome.

Oh, and when you're done, (or if you've read it already) head over to Divergent's Facebook page to read a key scene (about 15 pages) from the story written from Four's point of view. It was just released about two months ago, and is a great addition to the story.

Ok, guys, your turn: what'd you think of Divergent? And because I restrained myself from giving anything away in this review, I'm giving you permission to post spoilers in the comments. Spoil away! I'm curious to see what you guys think! Just don't post spoilers for the next book, since I haven't read it yet. :)

So to reiterate: If you *haven't* read Divergent yet, then read the comments at your own risk! Spoilers ahead!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quick Crafts Good On Paper

I have a few craft projects in the works right now, but for instant gratification nothing beats a quick papercraft. Check out these bows I made from old magazine pages:

This is a tricky fold, but once you get the hang of it it's a fun keep-your-hands-busy-while-watching-TV activity. Tutorial here, found via How About Orange. (Which is a great design & craft site, btw!)

Then I spotted some nifty dollar bill origami over on Instructables, and decided to give that a try:

I didn't use a fifty to show off; I did it to freak John out. ("What are you doing with my fifty?!") Hee!

You can stick any coin in the middle, so I grabbed this one from my stash of antique coins just to be different.

Then I started brainstorming what else you could put in the middle, and came up with this:

That's a clear glass pebble (like the ones you fill flower bowls with) with a printed message glued to the back. The bubble of the glass magnifies the message a little - kind of a neat affect.

Then while fiddling around with the design I realized you could fold the bottom of the heart under, flip it over, add some googly eyes, and get a penny-munching monster:

(Sadly I didn't have any real googly eyes, so I just used paper punch-outs.)

 Go here for the heart fold tutorial.

Not exactly a DIY, but have you guys seen this fun origami shot glass birthday card?

You might be tempted to make something like this yourself, of course, but the really cool thing is that the cup portion comes pre-creased, which allows you to assemble it in just a couple of seconds. (Hit the link above to see a quick video.)

You can order one here for $4.99.

And if you like this kind of thing, you might want to follow my papercraft board over on Pinterest; I've been pinning all the free templates & paper crafts I plan to try myself over there. (I think the 8-bit popup cards are next on my list!)