Sunday, October 21, 2012

And Now, a Dose Of Halloween Cute

Oh, how I love crafty geek parents and the Halloween costumes they make for their kids!

Case in point: Here's Epbot reader Danniey's son Calvin as Max from Where the Wild Things Are:



That was two years ago.

Last year she turned Calvin into Russel from UP:

Check out his little back pack!

 (Process pictures & a video of little Calvin clanking around in his backpack here)

And this year Danniey has outfitted Calvin as Willy Wonka, with his brother going as the cutest little Oompa Loompa:

Danniey made everything herself - the hat even started as a cardboard shipping box! - and each costume only cost her about $15 in materials. Amazing! Head over to her blog for more pictures and process-shots.

Next up, here's little Kara as Indiana Jones two years ago:

And then as Mickey Mouse last year:

Her mom Suzanne tells me Kara was quite adamant about being MICKEY, too, and not Minnie. Ha! (I'm with you, Kara; Mickey's my favorite, too!)

And finally, Epbot reader Sandy D. made costumes for her 7-year-old twins that will have Browncoats everywhere squealing with glee:

Mini-Mal & Mini-Kaylee! 
Cute AND shiny. :D

(More pictures and details here, and photo credit goes to Peter Verrant.)

Thanks for sharing the cute, everyone!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Steampunk Pumpkins! (Steampunkins?)

There are plenty of geeky pumpkin roundups online right now, but what about steampunk pumpkins? I went looking for steamy jack-o-lantern inspiration this week; here's the best of what I found:


These are both by Cmdr "Whiskey Nick" Triton. I love how he took the classic Jack-O-Lantern design and jazzed it up with just the right amount of rivets and metallic accents. Plus those hinged eyes on the right are too cool.

Or, for something a little (ok, a LOT) crazier:

Yowza! I definitely wouldn't want to meet this in a dark alley. o.0  

My favorite part is the pipe legs; they're a great way to elevate your pumpkin and give it an industrial edge. (The plumbing fixture goggles are also a great touch - I think I'd use just one with a chain for a fun monocle.) Head over to GeekDad for a free .pdf with instructions on how to make this yourself.

Better Homes and Gardens has a roundup of no-carve "Junk-ins" with some neat elements. They're not exactly steampunk, of course, but there are still plenty of ideas to borrow. My favorite is the pumpkin coach:

Look at the tiny mice!! They're made of little gourds, nails, and upholstery tacks. Such a simple idea with such a huge pay off.

I also like this springy clock design:

I just realized the clock hands are made from old skeleton keys. Nice!

Of course, now I want to install a working clock in a pumpkin. It'd be super easy with a craft-store kit - and they're battery powered, so you don't have to worry about cords.

Or, if you want a ridiculously complex carving challenge, how about this clock design?

Photo taken by Rebecca Paiva at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular


This "Junk-O-Lantern" is another that's more junky than steamy, but I like the idea of using wire spirals for hair:

Just use copper or brass wire for a more steamy look.

Steampunk author Cherie Priest bought this plastic pumpkin at a Wal-Mart years ago, so it's no longer available - but it's a great inspiration piece:

In fact, I wonder if this is where Triton got the idea for the hinged jaws on his two pumpkins. (You could use craft foam to form the overlapping jaw line, and thumb tacks or roofing nails for the rivets.)

Instructibles user Yami Guru modified those ubiquitous pumpkin candy buckets into steampunk versions. I like how he used tea strainers for the eyes:

And are those old telephone cords on the right? Clever! Hit the link up there for his full tutorial.

These two are actually custom toys by Steamwork Studios, but I'm loving the mismatched eyes and chest grates:

It's be neat to make a similar grate on the side of a pumpkin - you could use craft foam coated with metallic Rub n' Buff and held on with thumb tacks. (Plus now I'm thinking someone should cosplay a steampunk Headless Horseman for Halloween. Right?)

Space Boy Robot (who has some awesome robots on his site, btw) made this fabulous Jack-O-Bot:

Oh! And also this one!

I bet you could use candlestick pieces for the legs, or maybe old door handles or large spools. There are so many options when you're going to paint everything the same color!

Well, that's all I've got, my friends. Now, are you inspired? Good! Then go forth and steam up some pumpkins!! (And then send me pictures, 'cuz I want to see!)

UPDATE: Reader Amanda E. just shared her own pumpkin coach creation over on the Epbot FB page. Check it out:

 I love the more elegant hardware - and she made the mice! Great job, Amanda!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jen's Gems 10/18/12

Hack-A-Day combined an existing Portal gun replica & levitating globe toy to make this:

Those are two expensive toys to begin with, but I am sorely tempted. Talk about a great display piece! 

- The Princess Bride turned 25 the other week (INCONCEIVABLE!) and a few lovely interviews with the cast came out to celebrate. Here's one with Cary Elwes (plus snippets from the rest of the crew), and a much sweeter one with Mandy Patinkin. (thx for the link, Sara W.!)

- BoingBoing posted a big roundup of behind-the-scenes Disneyland photos like this one:

What I wouldn't give for a picture riding the rhino! Sadly my own Skipper shenanigans never extended beyond playing "Dead Skipper" and climbing on top of the boat awnings for a spin around the ride. :D

- YESSSSS - Epbot reader Caroline accepted my challenge to attend Doktor A's show in New York City last weekend, and she even took pictures for me! Here she is with the man himself:

And if you head over to her Google Plus album you'll see more fabulous photos of the show like this one:

Gah. So gorgeous.

A huge thank you to Caroline and Doktor A for conspiring to make me grin like a fool. Thanks, guys!

- I've been not-so-secretly addicted to crazy makeup videos for a few years now, and this Corpse Bride tutorial is the best I've seen in ages:

As full-face makeups go, this one's pretty simple, too! Especially for such a convincing illusion. When she closes her eyes I get chills - so amazing! (I have a whole face painting board over on Pinterest, btw, if you like this kind of thing.)

- And finally, if you're as much of a new Sherlock fan as I am, then these next 57 seconds are going to destroy the way you see Benedict Cumberbatch forever. But in a goofy, hilarious kind of way.

UPDATE: Sorry, guys, but I decided to take down the video link. Someone pointed out that it might be from a questionable source and not intended for public viewing, which made me feel like a creep for pointing people to it. It's still on Youtube, of course, and there's certainly nothing bad about it - just a little goofy dancing - but I'd rather err on the side of caution, just in case. Again, sorry!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book Review Roundup: Dapper Fairy Tales

I was going to review four books today, but as usual I got too chatty for my own good. :D So here are the first two:

 Return of the Dapper Men , a graphic novel by Jim McCann & Janet Lee

I've wanted to read this since I spotted the short teaser included in the Archaia Anthology, so when I saw Janet Lee at Dragon*Con a few months back, I decided to pick up a signed copy:

 Janet's doodle on the title page. 

As with the Archaia teaser (which was actually a bonus section not found in this book), I found the art of Return of the Dapper Men to be utterly captivating, and the writing to be...well, something of an enigma.

It's definitely a kind of whimsical, steampunk-ish fairy tale, but the story carries itself in a way that made me feel like I was always just missing something important. In the foreword Tim Gunn mentions you'll want to have a dictionary and Google handy to look up all the various "puzzles, riddles, and anagrams," which got me all excited, but then I couldn't figure out which puzzles he was referring to. Which made me feel like an idiot. I pored over every page, seeking out hidden Easter eggs or visual puns, but the only thing I spotted was a copy of Othello in a room with a black-and-white dotted rug:

You can just see the Othello book (spelled backwards) in the top frame. (Anyone else remember the game?)

Putting aside my dismal sleuthing skills, the story itself was still charming. In a world divided between children and robots (there are no adults), a human boy and a robot girl form a friendship, and then face the return of the Dapper Men: men who fall from the sky and set about reinstating time itself. The story kind of makes sense. The ending, less so.

This is a hefty book that you'll want to take your time with, but more for the visuals than the writing. Overall I think I'd recommend it more for art lovers than for those looking for a modern fairy tale.

Which is the perfect segue to our second book today:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente (Phew! Is THAT a mouthful!) 

I've seen this recommended many times since it debuted last May, but given its description as a "modern fairy tale" I didn't know quite what to expect. Having read it, I can honestly say nothing would have prepared me properly, anyway. Even now, it's a struggle to find words that can do this tale justice. 

This story It reads like poetry, but really interesting poetry. It's shocking. It's visceral and beautiful and painful at times. It will lull you into the false sense of security that only a fairy tale can offer, and then slap you with a modern slash of abandonment or nakedness or practicality. The heroine September isn't particularly lovable, and yet by the end you'll want to stand up and cheer her name. Her transformation is one of empowerment and sacrifice, and I hope you won't mind my telling you that the ending is a pretty darn good one. 

There are two scenes I want to mention specifically, which in my mind are the best and most disturbing of the book, respectively. The first is when September prepares to actually circumnavigate Fairyland in a ship of her own making. [grin] She needs rope, so she cuts off her hair to make some. She needs a sail, so she removes her dress to use that. Then she stands on her little raft, head shorn, naked, and proudly facing into the wind as she sets off to rescue her friends. It's one of the most powerful visuals in the book, and probably the point at which I wanted to cheer the loudest. This is no shrinking Alice, running from flowers. This truly is a heroine for modern times.

The second scene is easily the most viscerally disturbing one I've read in recent memory, even though all it entails is September catching and eating a fish raw. The description is literally gut-wrenching, if you'll pardon the pun, and I was skimming past it in horror. The fact that September is sobbing and clearly as miserable at the task as we the readers are at reading it doesn't help. If you're ever on the verge of becoming a vegetarian, just read that passage a few times. [shudder]

Other than the fish scene, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of The Girl Who, and highly recommend it to just about everyone. The book started as a free web novel, by the way, and you can still read the first eight chapters over at the author's website here. (Well, supposedly you can; for some reason  I can't get the chapter links to work. Let me know if they work for you, won't you?)

And finally, is it weird to recommend someone else's recommendations? Because I'm about to. Author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame) has a huge page of mini book reviews that's just fantastic. Most are young adult fiction - and several I've already reviewed here -  but there are older titles and a few non-fiction picks sprinkled in as well. Plenty of these are going on my to-read list, so definitely go check it out!

I hope you enjoyed, and as always, I welcome your book suggestions in the comments! You can also click here to see a list of all the titles I've reviewed so far.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Random Update of Randomness

Life has been mildly derailed over here the past several days by a family emergency, but happily no one has died, and our last-minute house guest & hospital visits wrap up today. I'm looking forward to getting back on track with posting, so thanks for your patience, guys!

And to tide you over for now, here's another peek at John's Halloween costume:

Did I already confirm he's dressing as DreamFinder? If not: he's dressing as DreamFinder. We dyed both the wig and beard ourselves with alcohol inks, and I've been working on cutting & styling them. (You're not supposed to use irons on synthetic hair, so those clips are holding some curls in place. I've also used roughly a gallon of hairspray so far. Good thing John doesn't smoke. Ha!)

Here they are right after dying:

At one point we had theses hanging on a stand in the front driveway to dry, and I remarked that if this didn't worry the neighbors, nothing would. ("Honey, the house with those hermits who stay up all night has scalps hanging in the front yard. I think it's time to move.")

We're going to be at Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom on October 26th, btw, so if you're going to be there, too, be sure to look for us to say hi!

And this was my little mini-project for our relative in the hospital:

It's not much: just a pretty makeup bag filled with all the stuff I wish *I'd* had the last time I was in the hospital:

In addition to basic toiletries, I also packed things like fuzzy socks, earplugs, tinted lip balm, hand wipes (for when you can't leave the bed to wash your hands), and aromatherapy lotion. (The one thing I did have during my hospital stay was some lavender lotion, and I remember the smell being unbelievably comforting during the worst times.) We also gave her puzzle books and a mini DVD player with headphones.

And to wrap up this random update of randomness, take a look at the heavenly view inside my fridge right now:

John's sister - who is a phenomenal cook - has been staying with us the past few days, and this morning she made me homemade whoopie pies. (WOOT!!) I may have had one for lunch. And I may have asked her to stay forever. :D

(The sad thing? Our fridge really is that empty. Cooking is as mystifying to me as sewing.)

K, I have an overflowing inbox and a pesky cake blog to attend to now. Back soon!


UPDATE: One of you asked for a more pinnable version of my hospital care bag, which I thought was a great idea. So here 'tis:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Steam 10/13/12

Probably the biggest steampunk news this week is a fabulous new batch of Disney goods.
Disney has been making forays into steampunk for a while now with their Mechanical Kingdom pins and Vinylmation toys, but I think this batch of goodies is the best yet:

Now, before you get TOO excited: these are small resin ornaments, not actual ear hats. (I can almost hear your cries of disappointment from here. Ha!) Still, aren't they fabulous? I love how the back of the purple one looks like the grate on an old fashioned stove, and the attached goggles on the gold one. According to the official park blog there will be seven of these in the set, and some will even light up! Sadly they won't be out until 2013, though, so my steampunk Christmas tree will have to wait one more year. (CURSES.)

 You can grab these two new steamy pins this November, though:

There are also new Vinylmations, but to be honest, I'm not a big VM fan. Hit the link up there if you want to see 'em, though, and many thanks to all of you who sent me the link!

MechaniCards are hand-operated kinetic sculptures that can be mailed like a large greeting card. I remember seeing some of these that Shelli sent over about two years ago, but since then they've added a few more designs:

I like the colorful versions best, and the new "Mandala" is particularly gorgeous:

The center iris opens and closes - you can see it in action here. The assembled cards range in price from $75 to $95, or you can buy DIY kits for a few dollars less. Pricey, I know, but they're each handmade and signed by the artist, so it's more like an art piece than a fancy greeting card.

Say, ever seen a steampunk quilt?

Well, now you have! 

This is Epbot reader Kelly (who lives in New Zealand, so you know she has an awesome accent) with her award-winning "Steamy Dreams" quilt. Isn't it fabulous? I love the circle of keys with the padlock in the middle - and the soft teal is so pretty with those browns and coppers!

I missed funding the Kickstarter for this amazing steampunk card deck, but I'm hoping they'll be available on the creator's website soon:

The Kickstarter for "The Deck of Extraordinary Voyages" raised nearly three times their goal amount, but it's easy to see why there was so much enthusiasm. These designs are gorgeous.

You can see more of the cards on the Kickstarter video here, and then watch the BentCastle website for purchasing news in the future. (If it ends up priced like their other card decks, it should only be about $10.)(And thanks to Mandy S. for the link!) 

And finally, gather round, because I have a fun little story to share. :D

 Remember Steampunk Boba Fett? You know, this guy?

Well, back in my Star Wars Celebration post you might recall that I said John Strangeway (aka Steampunk Boba) was "practically the patron saint of steampunk."

Boba has gotten a LOT of mileage out of that quip, to the point that complete strangers were identifying me at Dragon*Con as "the one who called John the patron saint of steampunk." Heh. And then artist Alexa Black went and made this fabulous stained-glass art print of "St. Fett", thereby ensuring Boba's head will never shrink back to regular size:

But wait, there's more!

Boba insisted on sending me a print as thanks, so I told him that he had to A) sign it, B) bless it, and C) kiss the print while wearing metallic gold lipstick. (OH YES I DID.)

So yesterday, John brings home this gigantic art tube from the post office. (Seriously, the thing was three feet long!) Then we extract a tiny 10X16 print from it, which gives us the giggles. Next we unroll the print, stare for a moment, and then burst out laughing:

Awww yeeeeeah.

Thanks, Boba.

Oh, and the artist Alexa is only selling a total of 10 of these prints - and for only $12! - so if you want to grab one of the remaining nine head over to her etsy store.

I hope that made you smile - and as always, if you see something steamy this week, be sure to hit me up on Facebook or Twitter!