Tuesday, January 8, 2013

And The Winner Is...

Ok, guys, the final entry count for my art give-away hit 731, so according to my trusty random number generator the winner is...

[drum roll, please]

Toneea W. from Australia! 

Toneea, please e-mail me with your mailing address - and don't forget to tell me which art piece you'd like!

Also, I hope you guys don't mind, but I've decided to gift one of the original drawings - this Wonder Woman & Flash Piggie by Mike White:

- to a little girl named Reesey who is currently battling a brain tumor. Epbot reader Amanda S. is a family friend, and tells me Reesey is a big Wonder Woman fan and that the art would make her smile - which was really all I needed to hear. I am sorry, though, to any of you who might have had your heart set on this piece! (And go check out Mike's site if so; these are the two main characters, Chester & Gretchen, of his comic Amity Blamity.)  

Oh, and I've already found more art to add to the give-away board, so I'll have even more choices for you all by next month's drawing. So don't worry if you didn't win this time; I promise there will be plenty more chances!

Monday, January 7, 2013

How To Shrink-Wrap Your Christmas Tree For Fun & Profit!

When I posted my update before Christmas on how well our shrink-wrapped tree had fared its year in the garage, I had a surprising amount of requests for a tutorial. Which just goes to show that I've accumulated all the right sorts of readers here at Epbot, including the crazy, Christmas-tree-shrink-wrapping kind.

Now, I realize that you well-organized go-getters have already packed up all your Christmas decorations, so I guess that just means you guys are missing out this year. HA. That's one for the procrastinators!

And without further ado:  


(Well, not so much profit, per se, but if you enjoy getting dizzy then this will definitely be fun.)

Step 1: Strip your tree of its ornaments and garland (but not the lights!), until it looks fresh and naked as the day it was manufactured in China:


Then set it somewhere away from walls & furniture, so you'll have room to work.

(Note that you're leaving the lights on your tree because the whole point of shrink-wrapping it is to save you time and effort next year. [I have somewhere between 8 and 10 strands of light on this tree.] YAY LAZINESS!)

Step 2:  Procure a roll of cheap no-name brand cling wrap, which any nearby felines will find, like, totally irresistible:

 Trying to work here, Lily. 

Hey, Lily. 

Fine, can you at least stand still, then?

Thank you.

Step 3: Bend the top-most branch of your tree down, and use the end of your cling wrap to tie up the first few top branches into a big bunch:

Tie it tight!
If it helps, think of all those in-laws you won't have to see again for a whole 'nother year.

Step 4: Without cutting the cling wrap, start wrapping the top of your tree:

You'll want to have at least four or five layers of cling wrap, and be sure to loop one or two passes over the top of the tree, too, to seal it. Hermetically.

Step 5: Keep on wrapping, G-Dawg.

You may find it helps to throttle the tree, as John demonstrates here:

Step 6: After you've wrapped each section thoroughly, add in the next lower section of branches by bending them up:

It helps to have a second person there to steady the tree and help you get as tight of a wrap as possible. That person could also take pictures of you while you work and make squeaky little "HELP MEEEE!" voices on behalf of the tree, but I'm just spitballing here.

Optional Step 7: If at some point you need to take a break to rest and/or vomit from the constant walking in tiny circles, just tear off your end of cling wrap and pat it in place. If you've done your job properly, it should hold just fine:

Take this time to mock your tree with exclamations of how silly it looks.

Step 8: Back to work!

As you wrap lower on your tree you'll really need that second person to keep it from falling over while you yank on it. I found it also helped to give the tree a giant bear hug while John wrapped, both to hold the branches in place and to look extra superior when I asked John if HE had hugged a tree today.

Step 9: Only add in half of the lowest branches at a time:

The lowest branches are the biggest and heaviest, so adding them in two batches will help support the extra weight.

Step 10: Wrap all the way down the pole to seal the bottom of the tree:

Ta-da! TREE POP.

Step 11: Hang your shrink-wrapped tree upside down from the ceiling of your garage to freak out the neighbors. ("Shelob's Lair" sign optional.)

And that's it! When it comes time to unwrap the tree next year, just slice up the side of the cling wrap with a pair of scissors, fluff the branches back into shape, and have an extra cup of eggnog while you contemplate your intellectual superiority to all the poor tree-assembling schmoes out there. Easy-peasy!

Well guys, I hope you enjoyed this ridiculous tutorial as much as I enjoyed watching John do all the work. 'Til next time!


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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Steampunk Sparklies, Vol. 4

I love just about all things steampunk, but when it comes to a little late-night retail therapy, you just can't beat steampunk jewelry. Here's the best of what I've added to my wish list since my last roundup:

At first I thought this pendant was a piece of Photoshop art:

But in fact, those are *real* watch parts under resin. (!!) It comes on a nice chunky chain, too, perfect for everyday wear. And I WANT.

This next one is the opposite of an everyday wear necklace, but I'm sure you can guess why I love it:

Yep. It had me at "Tangerine."

I'm also digging this assemblage necklace of copper bells, rhinestones, turquoise crystals, and a small glass lens:

So much goodness. Though I'd probably swap the silver chain for a copper one.

Plus it comes with matching earrings:

For you guys out there - or gals who like super chunky watches - check out this industrial-looking leather watch cuff:

I'm not sure how the LEDs work to tell time, but dang this looks badass. It's available in three different finishes, too, so you could also get it in a cool silver with blue LEDs for a more sci-fi look:

  (John loves this one.)

Being one of the few females in our society without pierced ears, I'm always on the lookout for a good earcuff - and these ones are delightfully steamy:

In case you're not familiar with ear cuffs, here's how they fit your ear:

Awesome, right? The seller has several more fab designs at her shop, too, including a Labyrinth-inspired pair that is SO going on my wish list.

Next up, get a load of this gorgeous green!

Sadly this particular one has already sold, but the seller has the same style necklace with different colored stones starting at $40.

And finally, this bracelet melds the chunkiness of a cuff with the flexibility of chain - and it's pure steampunk elegance:

Steampunk Bracelet Victorian Style, $124.99 at DesignsBloom

Just gorgeous.

I hope you guys enjoyed seeing the sparklies as much I did hunting for them! In fact, I couldn't fit everything in this one post, so I guess I'll have to put together another roundup in another few weeks. (Oh, no. HOW TERRIBLE FOR ME.)

As always, if you see something steamy this week, be sure to let me know on the Epbot FB page or Twitter!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jen's Gems 1/4/13

This is my new favorite song; John and I have been jamming to it for over two weeks now:

In fact, all of Walk Off The Earth's stuff is fantastic. (You might remember them from their Gotye cover that went viral.)  I bought their four-song album R.E.V.O. on iTunes - which includes Gang of Rythm - and it's been on continuous play ever since. (John's favorite was Summer Vibe, until he discovered their new Taylor Swift cover yesterday. Now he's playing that non-stop. Eesh. We're turning into total fanboys over here!)

Hold the phone - Summer Vibe has a video?! How did I miss that?? Ok, one more:

This is perfect for those of you surrounded by snow right now. Ahhh - just imagine the warm ocean breezes. Can ya feel it? Well, CAN YOU?


I'm sure a lot of you have already seen this, but in case you missed it, check out this 1981 magazine ad for LEGO:
found via Make

In addition to being an adorable blast from the past, I thought this was relevant considering how many of you mentioned before that it didn't seem like gender-specific toys were such a big deal back when we were growing up - that the issue of gendered play is one that seems to be drawing harsher lines now than it did back then. I'm sure that varies drastically by experience, but at least this ad seems to bear out that girls weren't expected to just wear pink tutus and play princess back in the 80s. (Like a lot of you, I played with my brother's Star Wars toys and Laser Tag as much as I did My Little Ponies and Rose Petal Place dolls. [Remember those?])

Which is the perfect segue into...

A Day in the Life of a Professional Party Princess:

found via Mental Floss

Mary Alice Legrow is a graphic novelist in her thirties whose publisher went out of business, forcing her to find a new source of income. So she became a professional party princess.

I first learned about Legrow through a lengthy forum thread where she answered questions about her unusual new job, and I was struck by both her clever writing and her refreshingly level-headed perspective. She speaks frankly about the "cult" of princess, shares funny and sometimes tragic stories about both the kids *and* the parents, and basically tells you everything you never thought to ask about the world of children's party entertainment. Plus the illustrations she draws to go with her stories are fantastic.

And lest you think Legrow is perpetuating harmful stereotypes, allow me to submit the following entries from her "Day of Sparkling" schedule post:

1:10 PM

Paint a little boy like a skull.  Put pink glitter on him as per his request.  Listen to his mother insist that his sister get something "pretty" instead of a similar skull.  Little girl is unmoved, wants skull with white glitter.  Watch mother become totally exasperated and desperately wave the princess and flower queen sample page of face-painting pictures in front of her daughter's face.  Daughter insists on skull and refuses to even compromise by getting a pink and black skull face. 

Paint girl with scary skull face.  Secretly high-five her when mother isn't looking.

6:20 PM

Glitter crown headbands are distributed and donned by the females.  The boys refuse to wear them.  Cinderella sits on the crowns, saying she doesn't want any boys to be king of the superheroes.  The boys push Cinderella over in an attempt to claim the crowns.  

 6:52 PM

Cake and ice cream.  All girl attendees are incensed that there are too many Spiderman plates and not enough princess plates.  Cinderella declares she wants a Spiderman plate because he's cool.  All girl attendees are incensed that they were not given Spiderman plates first.

There's more, but you get the idea.

Upon looking for the original forum link I discovered Legrow has conveniently compiled all of her answers on her new site, The Princess For Hire, where they're broken into fourteen chapter posts. The next time you're looking for good reading material, I HIGHLY recommend them all. (I think she's making them into a book, which is a fantastic idea. I'd buy that sucker in a heartbeart.)

Oh, and as a result of that original forum thread NPR actually did a story on Legrow, so when you're done with her blog head over to their article to watch a short video of her in action. But seriously, don't watch the video first. That's like watching the movie before reading the book!

Ok, I think that's enough goofing off for your Friday afternoon. Back to work, you! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January Art Roundup

I haven't done one of these in a while, so here are some of my recent favorites in the geeky art world:

I know Christmas is over, but this Rockwell-inspired art tweeted by DeathStarPR made me grin like a scruffy-looking nerf herder:

Ha! This went viral before Christmas, so I had a heckuva time tracking down the artist. Persistence finally paid off, though: It's by Kevin R. Adams, although his website seems to be down right now.

Amy Mebberson - who you may know from her super popular Pocket Princesses - tweeted this in-progress sketch of an extra adorable Minnie Mouse:

Those little hair curls slay me. :)

Cuddly Rigor Mortis (aka Kristin Tercek) ran a sale for New Year's, so I finally bought a print of her "Make Like A Banana" that I've been eying for the past year:

(This one's sold out right now, but check Kristin's shop for more goodies. Most of her prints are $25.)

The original was on a wood plaque, so I'm planning to use my jigsaw to cut a piece of wood to match the same shape on the print, and then trim it to fit. If that makes any sense.

Oh, and Kristin just did a show at Disneyland's Wonderground gallery last month, and I am positively DROOLING over her Oswald piece:


Sadly these prints are only available at the gallery, though, so I may have to sweet-talk one of you California readers into doing me a solid. [Bambi eyes]

Now, who wants to see a steampunk Batgirl done Art Nouveau style?! 
You know, besides me.

Steampunk Batgirl Nouveau, by Luca Maresca

This appears to be part of a set of prints, but I couldn't find any purchasing information. If you speak Italian, hit the link and see if you can find something I couldn't with Google Translate. (And then let me know in the comments if you do!) 

[UPDATE: according to a few of you, this *was* part of a set which has completely sold out. Drat. However, Amy found Maresca's art blog, so you can see more of his work there!]

And because we can never have too much Art Nouveau - or too much Labyrinth:

She reminds me of the Babe.

DA member kishokahime has a whole gallery of 80s inspired Nouveau prints like these, and they're all fabulous. She also JUST set up an online store so we can buy prints, which start around $15. If I can just find a free wall in my office, I'll also be wanting these three:

 Isn't Lili fantastic? Seriously, we just don't see enough Legend art these days.

I recently discovered Sara Richard's work, and I'm loving her soft, swirly style:

She's also done some fantastic Doctor Who and Rocketeer pieces, though sadly I don't see any of those in her online store.

Jerrod Maryumaya, who ought to be dubbed The King of Cute, made this fantastic Penguin:

Jerrod has a store here, but again, there's no sign of Penguin over there. 

(I'm guessing it's a licensing thing, but then, that's something that has always confused me with artists, since so many of them DO sell fan art without official permissions. I've had pro artists try to explain it to me in the past, but it always leaves my head spinning. So moving on...)

Stephanie Buscema's Beetlejuice print makes me want to design a whole nursery around it:

Of course, I'm not having any kids, so...any volunteers? STEP RIGHT UP! (Which, incidentally, is the name of this print.)

And finally, since I've managed to accumulate a lot of art over the years that I can either no longer fit on my walls or that never made it there to begin with, I've decided to start giving it away to you guys!

Here's how it'll work: I've made a new Pinterest board, which John has pain-stakingly filled with all the art I currently have to give away. Most are signed prints, but there are also a few original pieces in there. (There are also a few sets, which count as a single piece.) Take a look, and if you see something you want, just leave a comment on this post to enter. 

I'll pick a winner at random sometime next week. If I pick your name, then you just tell me which piece of art you want. (No need to tell me now; just when you win.) Easy-peasy! And I'll ship anywhere, so you international peeps feel free to throw your hat in.

I plan to do these give-aways with every art post from now on, so expect them to happen roughly once a month. I'm hoping these will help give my favorite artists a little more exposure, and also help introduce more of you to the joys of great geek art. Plus it will clean out my office closet. See? Win-Win-WIN. ;)

Happy commenting!

The contest has closed, and the winner is: Toneea W. from Australia!  

Congrats, Toneea, and please e-mail me to claim your art!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!

John and I spent our New Year's Eve playing video games - which was fun - and then I was up 'til dawn clutching a heating pad and cursing the day God invented uteruses (Uterii? Uterpodes?) - which was decidedly less so. But hey, today is a new day, and I'm kind of awake, and our neighbors are STILL setting off fireworks (Dude, it's daytime. YOU CAN'T EVEN SEE THEM), so...


I know this photo has nothing to do with the New Year, but it's my favorite shot from our Christmas trip to Epcot with my parents, so I'm sharing for the eye candy. :)

I hope you all had a wonderful 2012, and that 2013 will be a year filled with more creativity, joy, screaming geekiness, peace, laughter, inspiration, power tools, friendship, happy colors, new adventures, and extra-long hugs right when you need them. Thank you for making 2012 all of those things for me and John, even if most of the hugs had to be virtual ones.

And on a random note of Brony geekery, if you're looking to lose a good hour playing with a virtual paper-doll game, then go check out this custom My Little Pony generator my friend and fellow blogger Amy Ratcliff found. It's insanely addicting. And here's *my* little pony:

You can even import a graphic to make your own custom cutie mark, although I didn't go that far. (Mostly because I looked at the clock and realized I'd been playing with this for 45 minutes already. Ha!) Be sure to share your creations over on the Epbot FB page so I can see!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Redbook Makes It Right

This is the e-mail I woke up to this morning:

Dear Jen:

I was distressed to learn this morning that we ran your shoe-hanger idea in our January issue without crediting you. When the idea was pitched to us, we were unaware that it had been taken from your site, and certainly never dreamed that we were running it without attribution. It was an inadvertent error, and one that we obviously should have caught. You have every reason to be upset-- I'm upset, too.

We work hard to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen. Creative women like you are key contributors to our magazine, and our policy is to ALWAYS give credit. And I want to assure you that the choice to illustrate the story was purely aesthetic, to unify the ideas on the page.

We will fix this online, with a link to your site, and run a correction with the appropriate credit in our March issue (our next issue to go to press). We'd also like to compensate you, as we do all our contributors. Will you tell me the best number to reach you on, so I can call you directly?

Please accept my heartfelt apologies, on behalf of the entire Redbook staff. Your ideas are wonderful, our readers love them, and we look forward to working together in the future.

Meredith Rollins
Executive Editor, Redbook Magazine

Needless to say, I'm utterly relieved to see such a speedy and gracious response from Redbook - if for no other reason than because you Epbot readers are just a little bit terrifying when mobilized. Heart-warming, supportive, and terrifying. These past 15 hours or so have been simply overwhelming for me, and I could never thank you all enough.

For the record, the only thing I ever wanted from Redbook was recognition for my work and images, so I'll be asking Ms. Rollins to donate any compensation they wish to offer to my Give Kids The World campaign. I will also ask her to re-examine the rest of the article in question with thoughts toward crediting other bloggers whose ideas and/or illustrations they may have used. And if they want to get really serious, an article on Pinterest and how it drives traffic to smaller blogs and helps spread ideas would be extra awesome.
It's my hope that this situation will pave the way for *all* print sources to be more quick to credit online sources, so that no one else has to go through the heartache of seeing their work appropriated. Most bloggers out there don't have you guys, or a second blog that happens to be popular enough to garner lots of online attention. Most bloggers might get lost in the shuffle when they've been wronged. I'm hoping that, after today, those bloggers' odds just got a bit better.

Thank you to Ms. Rollins and to Redbook Magazine, and thank you again to everyone who read, commented, e-mailed, tweeted. There are no words, so here are a bunch of acronyms: LL&P, MTFBWY, & TTFN.

Now, let's get back to playing with our Dremels and video games and Portal crafts, shall we?


PS - I just realized that I accidentally & incorrectly called Good Housekeeping "Better Homes & Gardens" in my original post. I...am an idiot. Please feel free to spread a little love to Good Housekeeping for being the original good guys, and my apologies to BH&G for inspiring a barrage of very nice - but no doubt very confusing - messages of support on my behalf.

REDBOOK UPDATE, 1/5/13: Redbook amended their online article today to include credit and source links to several of their printed project ideas, including, of course, Epbot. They also issued an official apology on their Facebook page, and have assured me there will be a correction in the next print issue and that my payment of $500 is being donated to Give Kids the World, as I requested.

What started as a crappy week last Sunday is wrapping up to be a pretty darn good one, and it's all thanks to you guys. THANK YOU.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shame On You, Redbook Magazine

UPDATE: Redbook has since responded, and you can read the e-mail their executive editor sent me here. (In short, they stepped up.) They have apologized, sent $500 to Give Kids The World at my request, and promised to add a correction notice in the next print issue. However, the damage is done: my feature in Good Housekeeping has been pulled as a result of Redbook's initial theft, so I won't be getting my first Epbot print credit after all. (Well, unless you count Redbook's correction.)


You guys know that one of my most popular creations here on Epbot are my flip-flop hangers. They've been re-pinned on Pinterest thousands of times, so naturally I've seen my share of websites re-posting my pics without credit - but that's kind of par for the course with the internet, and usually easily remedied with a polite e-mail.

However, today reader Beth pointed me to a whole new low in my experience: Redbook magazine not only took my idea and printed it without credit, they also hired an artist to draw a picture from my photos to get around the copyright issue. The artist made a few differences - perhaps enough to hold up in court, I suppose - but it's blatantly obvious that my photos were used as a direct reference. 

Here are the photos from Epbot that I believe Redbook used, originally posted back in April of 2011 on my flip-flop hanger tutorial:


  And this is on page 102 of Redbook's January 2013 issue, on shelves now:

Those are pretty clearly my flip-flops, complete with the little side buckles, and it's even the same hanger shape and silver bar from my photo. Though the flats pictured are different, that idea was also mine, as you can see in another photo from my original post:

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the flip-flops:

Even the shadows line up.
Again, I think it's pretty obvious where this drawing came from, even if the differences in the overall image may make it technically legal. (I honestly don't know, so if you do, feel free to weigh in in the comments.)

As bad as this is, it gets worse: Just last week I agreed to have my flip-flop hangers featured in Good Housekeeping for their Spring issue. (I was hoping to save it as a surprise, too. *sigh*) Now that they've been "scooped," as it were, it's possible that Good Housekeeping may pull the feature, depriving Epbot and myself of both proper credit and Epbot's first mention in print, which I've been ridiculously excited about. The added exposure would be huge for this blog. HUGE.

Oh, and remember how I mentioned how popular my hangers are on Pinterest? Well, when you look at the rest of page 102, it's pretty obvious that's where Redbook got all of their ideas:

Any regular pinner will recognize these as being some of the site's most popular pins - and I see no credit for any of them, either. To be fair, the pillow case storage and bracelet rack are easily copied, so there are lots of versions out there, but I'd be curious to know if those reference photos are also copied from bloggers' photos. (Please let me know in the comments if you recognize them, so I can link sources.) And just to be clear, I've yet to see anyone do a different variation on my flip-flop hangers, so there should be no question that I am the original source. (And an easily found source, I might add.)

So my question is this: Does Redbook just assume all of these ideas came from lowly bloggers who don't have the audience or clout to protest when their ideas are stolen? They can't think this content simply appeared out of thin air, so that's the only conclusion I can come to: that the Redbook staff think they're free to use our ideas and images just because they're bigger than us.

(This is also a good time to mention again how critically important it is to properly source your pins, although I doubt Redbook bothered looking for sources, anyway.)

And finally, this may seem petty, but dangit, I'm going to mention it anyway: Redbook was the only print source to ever publish a negative review of my book Cake Wrecks. It happened during the book release, and we all expected something positive, but instead they slammed me with a two sentence review, saying "You know the blog-to-book trend has gone too far when you find this title on shelves."

So, yeah, I'm starting to think someone over at Redbook doesn't like me. 

I don't expect anything much to come of this, guys, although I do hope my bit in Good Housekeeping isn't jeopardized. However, if any of you would like to contact Redbook to remind them that properly crediting sources is just good manners, you can do so via their Facebook page, Twitter, and/or e-mail at redbook@hearst.com 

Obviously nothing can be done about this current issue, but a correction in the next one, along with a source credit and link on their website now, would be a lovely amendment on their part. And in case anyone from Redbook ever reads this, let me just say that while drawing slightly different versions of popular images on Pinterest may get you around the law, it certainly won't win you any respect from your readers. It's far better to credit - and credit freely - so that others can see you as the good guy, instead of just another content thief. 

Step up, Redbook. Make this right.

[Note: I accidentally and incorrectly called Good Housekeeping "Better Homes & Gardens" in my original post. I feel like a complete idiot as a result, and I'm terribly sorry for the confusion. On the plus side: BH&G just got a whole bunch of nice messages from you guys that they will no doubt be utterly confused by.]

Amazing Mechanical Ring Box With Hidden Compartment

There seems to be an unspoken competition online these days to make the best engagement ring box, and I for one couldn't be happier about it. From a miniature version of the house from UP to last week's geektastic TARDIS, these custom boxes never fail to make me all squeaky with glee.
There's just something about secret compartments, am I right? That little "A-ha!" moment of surprise - and combine that a dash of geekery and a dollop of romance, and, WELL. 

Which brings me to the most amazing, labor-intensive, and gear-filled ring box yet.

On the outside, Reddit user curtisabrina's creation appears to be a simple jewelry box: 

Open the lid, and you'll find a typical - albeit lovely - jewelry tray:

Those two brass heart keys fit together to form a single key, which Curtis gave to his sweetie a full seven months before giving her this jewelry box to propose. (Talk about a long-term planner!)

Now, the real magic starts when you lift up the jewelry tray. 

Hidden underneath:


 Curtis designed and machined every piece of this himself, by the way, estimating he spent over 200 hours on the box's creation.

So, where's the actual engagement ring box? Well, insert the double heart key:

Give it a twist, and the iris on the left opens...

...revealing yet another custom box with a heart insert and laser engraving. 

Oh, and the engagement ring. ;)

Simply amazing.

There are lots more pics and details over on Curtis' Imgur gallery, including one more custom box he built to house the heart keys, so definitely go check those out!