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Saturday Steam 1/19/13

Saturday, January 19, 2013

First up this week, Danna spotted the most amazing lamps over at Anthropologie:


And get this: it's called "The Kerplunk Bell Jar Lamp." That's right, KERPLUNK. Hee! I love it! I don't love the $700 price tag, though. Yowch. But hey, that's marked down from $1300! Plus their smaller Trinket Lamp is only $500:

WHATADEAL!

Most interesting is to me is that these look like assemblage art - so why not save yourself several hundred dollars and cobble together an apothecary jar, some old lamp feet, wire, bits & pieces, and a $10 lamp kit from the hardware store? Makers, ASSEMBLE! (And, John! To the hardware store!)

And while we're talking assemblage art, look at this crazy beautiful collage painting:


The artist, Anna Dabrowska, uses all kinds of industrial flotsam and random doo-dads (technical term) to make these paintings. Normally this kind of art is a little too grungy for me, but I gotta say, I am LOVING Dabrowska's style.

Here's another:

It's kind of like if the Borg went Renaissance.

Here's a close-up, so you can see the doo-dads:

See lots more over at TechGraffiti, which has a really nice write-up on Dabrowska. (And thanks to both Vivienne & Laura for the link!)


Now check this out: Elinor found a Star Trek officer's uniform done up steampunk style!

DANG THAT'S SPIFFY. All it's missing is one of those cool hats with the feathers, amirite?

This is the work of Steven Connell, and you can see more of his work over on DeviantArt.


Look, I know Christmas is long over. I KNOW. But I never got around to showing you this cool wire tree that Candy made from an old bed spring!

Ok, so there are no gears and it's not exactly Victorian, but how fun are those copper wire loops with all the beads? I want this in my office right now!


I almost never paint my nails, but I like looking at nail art as much as the next geek girl. Plus I do have one of those stamping tools that transfers designs off small metal plates. So when Katie C. sent me this new design made with a stamping plate from Nicole of Nail Polish Wars, WELL.


I've seen steampunk nails with actual gears and bits glued on them, of course, but it would drive me bonkers to have bumpy snaggy bits stuck on my nails like that. Plus the hand-painted designs I've seen are way too difficult/time-consuming for most of us, so these stamping plates are a great idea.

This particular design plate is by Cheeky, if you want to look it up, and I *think* it also includes this funky number design:


Great. Now I want to paint my nails. I BLAME YOU, KATIE. (Ok, maybe I'll just look at nails on Pinterest for a few hours instead. Good? Good.)

And finally, I'm not much of an online clothing shopper, but Olga P. found this awesome "Lost in the Labyrinth" skirt that would be fantastic for cosplay or just elegant evening wear:


The satin skirt can be worn three different ways, thanks to all those grommets and ties, and the best part? It's only about $57! I mean, I know that's not exactly pocket change, but that's a great price for something that looks to be decent quality. Not to mention preeeetty. (Fair warning: I don't know anything about the site where it's being sold, so shop with caution.)


Oh, and for further reading, the Huffington Post published an article this week by one of steampunk's original pioneers, James Blaylock. He talks about the genesis of steampunk, and then recommends a few titles - which I need to check out!

Also, Lori M. sent over this one from the Seattle Pi on steampunk fashion. The site is ad-heavy, which is annoying, but there are some fantastic photos in the slideshow - like this one of Diana Vick, who I've long admired for her cosplay savvy:



Welp, now I want to go shopping for copper cyberlox, too. Gorgeous!


Hope you guys enjoyed, and as always, share your steamy finds in the comments or over on the Epbot Facebook page!

Posted by Jen at 12:30 AM   |  14 comments  |   Labels: ,

Anxiety Bustin'

Thursday, January 17, 2013

[Note: As you can probably tell from the title, this post is about anxiety. So, if you don't suffer from a panic disorder, you may find it a little boring - and if you *do* suffer from a panic disorder, you may find it a little triggering. Please proceed accordingly.]

Today is a special milestone for me, and I'm super excited to tell you guys about it. See, two years ago today, on January 17th, 2011, something awesome happened - something that was a real break-through in the treatment of my anxiety - but at the time I wasn't comfortable discussing my anxiety issues here, so I never really talked about it.

But since today is my anxiety-bustin' anniversary, as it were, and since I have one of you readers to thank for it  - and most importantly, because I hope my experience might help someone else out there - I'm going to tell you about the first time I went to a chiropractor.

Now, if you're like I was two years ago, then you're probably wondering what the heck a chiropractor has to do with anxiety. You might also think that chiropractors are only a step above witch doctors, with no real science behind them or measurable benefits to their care. I get that.

See, I grew up with an RN for a mom, so my family's health care was always the typical Western stuff - no alternative "funny business." Then my mom was in a car accident that left her with whiplash, TMJ, and a lot of nerve damage. Western medicine could only do so much - they broke her jaw and wired it shut for 6 weeks, and then started trying to kill off the nerves that were causing her the most pain. Over the years she sought treatment after treatment for migraines, neck pain, numbness, and limited range of motion in her arms, and it was the "alternative" stuff - chiropractic, acupuncture, and non-prescription supplements - that gave her the most relief. Seeing her go through all this for the past 20 years, I've learned to keep a pretty open mind when it comes to health care. (And my mom, the former RN, is a bona fide convert to alternative medicine. Heh.)

So when one of you readers suggested I try a chiropractor for my anxiety, I figured, hey, why not?

At the time of my first appointment I was at the lowest point I've ever experienced with my panic attacks. This was back when I couldn't leave the house, ride in a car, or even leave my bedroom for a few days. I had nearly constant chest pain and several attacks a week. I was in a seriously bad way, and knew I needed help.

We found a doctor through a trusted friend, but his office was about 40 minutes away - so just getting there required Xanax and a lot of white-knuckled determination on my part.

Fortunately they were able to do X-rays and my consult and treatment all on that first day. From the X-rays I learned I have some minor lower back degradation and a perfectly straight neck, which *sounds* like a good thing, but as it turns out, it's not. It's called a "military neck," and seems to be fairly common in people who use the computer a lot.

(Military neck on the left, normal neck curve on the right, via)

Having your head pushed forward while staring at a computer screen all day can straighten out your neck's natural curve, and that in turn places all the strain and weight of your head on the spot between your shoulder blades. (It's the same kind of pain you get when practicing the piano, if you're familiar with that.)

Now, here's the unofficial theory I've heard on how this and other chiropractic issues relate to anxiety: your spinal cord contains all the major information and electrical pathways of your body, so when it gets pinched or injured or aggravated, it can cause all sorts of things - including things like your adrenaline response - to go out of whack. That's a really broad, completely non-technical, and possibly flat-out wrong way of putting it, but to be honest I've never researched it any further.

Ok, so, back to that day two years ago:

We completed my first adjustment, which was weird but painless, and then John brought me home. I didn't tell the doctor about my anxiety; I just told him my neck and lower back hurt sometimes, which they did. I didn't want to hear the voodoo sales pitch, to be honest, so I figured I'd let the results speak for themselves, if there were any.

After the appointment I didn't really feel all that different, so on the way home I told John I might cancel the follow-up appointments. After all, the doctor wanted to see me three times a week to start - THREE! - and it was such a long drive that I didn't see how it would be worth the stress of getting there. John said he'd support me whatever I decided, and that was that.

The next day, I felt pretty normal.

Wait. I think I should say that again.

The next day, I felt pretty normal.

The reason that's important is because that day we were meeting some fellow bloggers out at Disney. I'd been dreading the 40-minute car ride to the parks, dreading the nerves and stress of meeting someone I admired for the first time, dreading explaining why I couldn't go on any rides, and dreading just being away from home in general. I figured I'd have to take a Xanax - which I hated - and try to muddle through the fear.

Except, when I got up that day, the dread wasn't there. I skipped the Xanax, expecting to pay the price with an attack later, but figuring it was worth the risk.

The attack never came.

Some light-headedness, yes, and a little discomfort & palm sweats, but by and large I was Ok. In fact, I had an amazing day - the best I'd had in months - and left that night feeling like I could take on the world. Suddenly, I didn't want to go home: I wanted to stay out, go shopping, get dinner - I wanted to be around people and plants and the sky again!

My curiosity officially piqued, I went back for the follow-up treatments that week. They were the same as the first: a bit uncomfortable, at most, and I left feeling no noticeable change. Except, even though I didn't feel particularly good, I didn't feel bad, either. And that was more than enough.

The doc stepped down my appointments gradually, starting at three a week for two weeks, then two a week, then one, then once every two weeks, where I stayed for some time.

After my first appointment I went six months without a single panic attack. SIX MONTHS. That was the longest amount of time I'd ever had between attacks since my first one in 2007.

Of course, when I had that attack at the six month mark, I was devastated. I'd begun to think I was "cured," and so was taking more risks and going longer and longer between appointments. I think it had been three weeks since my last appointment at that time, and I was being laced into a corset at a Ren Fair when the dizziness and dread struck me down again. I lapsed into a mild depression, but I also stepped my appointments back up to twice a month, so within a few months I was back up to the same level I'd been before.

Today I'm at a pretty good place with my anxiety. I still have it, obviously, but I can go months and months without attacks, and when they do strike these days they're milder than they used to be. My last attack hit last month when I was riding Soarin' at Epcot with my family. I was feeling so good that day that I again got a little cocky and started testing my boundaries. I rode Nemo for the first time in ages, and then set my sights on Soarin'. It turns out I'm Ok right up to the point the seats lift off the ground. Heh.

But there's more good news: I've been reading this older book on managing the more psychological aspects of anxiety, and it's really been helping. So I practiced some of the techniques from the book, and by the time the ride was over I was able to get up with only slightly wobbly legs, wipe off my sweaty palms, take one last deep breath, and go on with my day. John knew what had happened, but my family didn't. That's a win. (The book is Hope and Help for Your Nerves, btw, and came recommended by another of you readers. I still haven't finished it, but already I've gleaned some great tips.)

These days I see the chiropractor about once a month. I almost always test that, though, stretching it to five or six weeks, but invariably around that point I start having flare-ups again. I know I need an adjustment when I get those inexplicable waves of panic - the kind not brought on by stress or my environment. I also know they're related to my spine because when those waves hit, and I suddenly can't swallow or take a deep breath, all I have to do is roll my neck and shoulders for a moment to feel almost immediate relief. It's frankly kind of mind-blowing, how direct the connection is. Sometimes I'll be propped up on the couch with my head at an odd angle, and I'll start to panic - again, for no reason at all - and I'll straighten up, stretch my shoulders and neck back, and after a moment the panic will recede. (Oh, and I also sleep on a special neck pillow, which is rock-hard and uncomfortable and I hate it, but I guess it helps. [grumble])

My hope is that this will encourage my fellow anxiety-sufferers out there to consider trying out a chiropractor, at least once. (Especially those of you on the computer all day, like me.) Of course, make sure you find a good one - there are bad doctors out there in all fields - and never do anything you're not comfortable with. If you live in central Florida, go to Dr. Tenpenny, my guy. He and his staff are wonderful, his name sounds like something out of Harry Potter, and John and I love him. In fact, even John gets adjusted from time to time; it helps when he's extra sore from working out, and he's there with me in the room for every appointment anyway. Plus sometimes he and the doc will sing duets while I'm getting my adjustment, and the three of us joke around so much that we end every appointment with laughter. It's definitely the best atmosphere I've ever experienced in a medical office.

Look at it this way: If you try a chiropractor and it doesn't help, then you'll just be out the cost of X-rays and an appointment. But on the other hand, you might be like me, and find that it's the breakthrough you've been hoping for. So I ask you: what have you got to lose?

Feel free to weigh in with your own experiences or ask questions in the comments. I freely admit I'm no expert, and I only have my own experiences to offer, but I'm happy to tell you what I can!

Posted by Jen at 12:30 PM   |  141 comments  |   Labels: ,

Epbot Exemplars: Like Son, Like Mom

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I started the Exemplars series to highlight fellow geeks proudly showcasing their passions. I figured I'd feature mostly younger geek girls, both because Epbot is kind of a girl-centric place and because I think kids and teens are the ones who most need positive role models their own age. However, since I'm the one who made those "rules," I also get to break them. :) So today's Exemplar is a mom who's actually still pretty new to the geek community. Her name is Shawna, and I'll let her take it from here:


"I live in a small(ish) community in Iowa, where being geeky isn't cool (think corn, mudding & country music). For years I hid my geeky-ness, & what's worse, I tried (really hard at times, to my immense regret now) to suppress the geeky-ness in my son, Hunter. Hunter loves Power Rangers, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Dr. Who & other things I've still never heard of. When he was younger I would try to steer him to Tonka trucks, sports, & tools in an attempt to purge the geeky out so he'd be 'like the other boys.'

"It was to save face for myself & also to get the other boys to not make fun of him so much. Those actions, plus many other mistakes, haven't earned me the Mother of the Year award, I'm sure.

"However, I wanted you to know that since finding Epbot a few years ago, I finally saw that the geek world was immense (and awesome), and that being a card-carrying member was OK. In August my son & I attended the Wizard World Comic Con in Chicago after reading about your con adventures, & I had one of the best times of my life.

"Anyway, I just wanted to say 'Thanks.' Now that I'm not trying to change my son & have embraced his geeky-ness (and my own!) we've gotten much closer, and I'll always credit you & your blog for that."

Wow. It's not an easy thing to put yourself out there like this online, much less admit when you've done something as a parent you're less than proud of, but when I asked Shawna if she'd be comfortable with my sharing her e-mail here she was amazingly positive about it. "Hopefully it will help other kids or adults embrace who they are," she told me, "or maybe help another parent in a similar situation."

She also sent me a few photos of herself and Hunter geeking it up at Wizard World, which gave me a huge grin:




 Shawna's note: "My very own domesticated zombies!"


I love Shawna's story so much I could pop, you guys, and not just because it's a reminder of how vital the internet geek community can be. The bond we have with our parents when we're younger stays with us for life, for better or worse, so there's something amazing about seeing kids get the chance to share these kinds of outsider experiences with their parents, especially before the age when it's no longer "cool" to do so. (And Hunter is 14 now, so the fact that he's happily hanging out with his mom also makes me want to get up and cheer.)

My own parents were pretty geeky, raising me on a diet of Doctor Who, Star Trek, Monty Python, and sci-fi and fantasy books that sparked interests and passions that still rage to this day. They even brought me to my first con, where John Pertwee (Doctor #3) patted my head. Without all those influences, I just wouldn't be the same person I am today. 

So, parents? If you're letting your kids lead the way, and drag you to conventions, or weasel another $5 out of you for just one more comic book, or maybe even convince you to wear some crazy costume so you can be a matched set of Jedis or zombies or some characters you've never even heard of, good on you. 

And if you find you actually ENJOY that stuff, like Shawna here, so that you and your kids can be big ol' proud, happy geeks together?

Well, now, THAT'S Exemplary.


So tell me, guys, did your parents help spark your geeky interests? If so, how? (My mom first got me hooked on Star Trek books, and today I have nearly three hundred of them.) Tell me in the comments!

Posted by Jen at 12:00 PM   |  116 comments  |   Labels:

My DIY Vintage Skeleton Key Necklaces

Monday, January 14, 2013

Last week reader Sally B. sent me a great little bag of vintage keys, (WOOT!) which inspired me to start playing with some key jewelry designs. I think it will be be pretty self-explanatory how I did everything, so let's get right to the photos!

 
 Ta-da!


This key was still a nice shiny silver, so I used matching chains and a cheerful pinkish-red and purple for a bright, modern look. Most of what I used came from my jewelry stash, which is a mix of old jewelry I've taken apart plus bits and pieces that you guys have sent me over the years. The only parts I purchased are the tiny accent beads and crystals on my next two designs.


The one bit you can't see is how the flower is attached to the key, but that's pretty simple: I just bent the bead pin holding the two flower pieces together around the shaft of the key. Just make sure the pin is wrapped tight, to keep the flower from slipping down. (Although if you do have this problem, a dab of E-6000 or super glue on the back should hold it fine.)

Next up, you *know* I had to do one with teal and orange:



This is one of my favorite keys, and I've been saving it for ages now; I love the numbers stamped into the handle and on the end. I think it has just the right amount of grunge to give it a sense of age, too.

Since I didn't use a heavy chain on this one, I decided to jazz it up by adding those orangey-yellow accent beads into the chain. I'm still not great at bending the wire loops on each bead, but now that I have some round-nose pliers (like these ones) it's a little easier:

 
I also included a hanging bead at the clasp in back, just for fun. :)

(Btw, I wasted SO much time trying to get good pictures of these before giving up and buying a neck form. I'd love to have a more artistic setup, but at least this gets the job done!)

And finally, my last necklace is the only one that actually used one of Sally's keys, which has just the right amount of rust on it to work with this copper chain:


This one took the most amount of effort, because I only had copper chain and copper bead pins to work with - no O rings. So I used the bead pins to make all my O rings. The rings holding the key to the chain needed to be extra sturdy, so I twisted two pins together before bending them into rings, which both made them stronger and also look pretty nifty, don't you think? (You can see one of the twisty rings on the right side of the key.)

I also made the loops on those four orange Swarovski crystals to include in the chain:

It's really hard to choose, but I think this one is my favorite. The colors are just a bit more "me."

The flowers on the necklaces are all lightweight acrylic, and were in a stash of various beads and goodies from another reader. (You don't have to tell me; I already know I'm spoiled.) When I went to JoAnn's last night, though, I was thrilled to find more of the same style flowers - though not these colors - by the brand Laliberi. So definitely check those out if you want to make some key necklaces of your own! (And if you need keys, head to Ebay or your local junk/antique shop. Simple ones like these shouldn't cost more than a few dollars apiece.)

Oh, and if you're concerned about rust getting on your clothes, just spray your keys with a coat of flat clear spray lacquer. (Be sure to wash them first, to get the loose bits of rust off.) Make sure it's a flat clear coat, though; you don't want your rusty keys looking shiny!

Well, I hope this helps inspire more craftiness and key-hoarding out there! Frankly, I had so much fun making these that I can't wait to try more variations. (Wouldn't a rusty key look AMAZING with clock hands and/or gears dangling off it, instead of beads? Ooh, this could get dangerous...)

'Til then, I'll end with a few more close-ups for your pinning pleasure:




So which one's your favorite, guys? Tell me in the comments, so I know which ones to make more of!

Posted by Jen at 8:54 PM   |  77 comments  |   Labels: ,

I'm On Pinstrosity!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Well, ok, I'M not on Pinstrosity, but my penny desk is. And my desk is actually the inspiration for the real Pinstrosity, so really my entire post title is completely misleading. Sorry.

Behold!

My penny desk:


And...
 Hee! Be sure to read the rest of the post for all the gory details, or just for more craft confidence-boosting giggles.



Oh, and this is the perfect time to mention a big, big project John and I just started working on this past week. Here's a peek at my work surface:


I bet most of you will know what we're up to just by looking at this, but I think I'll keep the details a secret for now. Still, you should know I am SO EXCITED to FINALLY be starting a project we've been discussing for YEARS. Woo woo! We're doing it right, too: lots of research and sample boards and chemical tests are happening in the garage. And when we're done, you can bet there will be an extremely thorough tutorial.

SO...now all that's left is about a zillion hours of tedious manual labor. Wish us luck!

Posted by Jen at 5:09 PM   |  12 comments  |   Labels: ,

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