Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Steam: Epbot Reader Costume Gallery!

In one week I'll be at MegaCon here in Orlando, glowing it up as Lady Vadore. EEEEEE!! I know I've worn the mask and corset twice now, but I'm still ridiculously nervous. And excited. I'm, like, nerv-ited.

I've been making minor adjustments to my costume this weekend, from replacing my tusks (how often do you hear a girl say that?) to jazzing up my cane. I've also added a small microphone and speaker, so maybe I can shout less and be heard more this time. :)

John and I will be at the con all three days, so feel free to tweet me if you'd like to find us to say hi. I'm still working out which day I'll be in costume, but I'm hoping it will be the latter half of Saturday, so I can see Wil Wheaton's panel in the morning. Depends how well I can manage to truck the costume in and change there at the center. I need John's help to get into the corset, so THAT should be interesting. (My kingdom for a companion bathroom!) Anyway, I'll be sure to bring plenty of Epbot and Vader-riding-a-My-Little-Pony pins, so just track me to down to claim one!

Since I'm working on *my* costume, I thought it'd be fun to show off a bunch of *your* costumes for today's roundup. These are all Epbot readers, and I believe everyone here made and/or assembled their costumes themselves, so this should be great costume inspiration as well as a fun way to put faces with a few of your fellow readers.

Heeeere weeee gooooo!

Let's start off with Caitlin S. and her guy at Otakon:

Love it. Love it all.

And Signe A. as a steampunk Jedi:

Adam H. with two of his mates in Salem, MA:
Aw yeah, men in goggles. Am I right, or am I right?

My iPhoto just ate the name of this file, so I'm not sure which of you lovelies sent it in. Sorry! Still, I have to show you these amazing back packs:

 I'm especially smitten with the clockwork wings. WANT.
(Again, let me know if this is you!)

[Update: Helen tells me that's Joe Hernandez of Penny Dreadful Productions, the steampunk production group I've admired for years. Still not sure on the winged lady, though!]

Julia C. not only made herself an entire steampunk Wonder Woman ensemble:

She also made costumes for her entire group!

That's Green Lantern, Hulk, and Wolverine with Julia, and she tells me she was sewing for weeks to get all the costumes ready.

You've got to see all the detail on Julia's chest plate, though - it's my favorite part:


Here's Carrie R., looking dapper:

And Amanda G. as a steampunk Riddler!

Photo by iM photography

I would wear Allison O.'s costume all day, any day - convention or no!

I'm such a sucker for poofy skirts and boots.

Scott N. makes a deeLIGHTful steamy Buzz Lightyear:

And check out Jessica W. as a glammed up Captain America:
She even painted that parasol herself!

Keila K., looking sweet:
...with a gigantic gun strapped to her back. Hee!

In fact, let's take a closer look at that gun:
Niiice. I'm digging that leather detailing!

Ok, just a few more:

Here's Kristen B. and her hubby at their very first convention - a steampunk convention!
She put both outfits together, and check out the sweet hair piece she made, too:

Meagan W. makes a kick-ass steampunk mechanic:

And finally, here's Sjöfn, whose name is beyond awesome even though I have no idea how to even BEGIN to pronounce it:

I love her costume to death, but I think I love Sjöfn's pose even more. SO CUTE.

Well, I hope you enjoyed, and that this helped any of you looking to make the leap into steampunk cosplay yourself!


Ah, but wait, I have one more thing to share!

Part of the reason I'm sprucing up my Vadore costume is because after MegaCon I'll be shipping it off to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it will be placed on display in a museum for the entire summer! (I KNOW, RIGHT?!) 

The Sawyer Home, part of the Oshkosh Public Museum.

Being asked to be part of an exhibit like this was a huge honor, and I can't even tell you how excited I am.
Anyway, I mention this because the museum is looking for more rayguns and steampunk accessories to include in their exhibit, so they've asked me to help spread the word. "Accessories" include any and everything from goggles to USB drives to masks, bags, or flasks. Shipping will be reimbursed by the museum, and your item will be returned after the exhibit closes in September. The museum will credit you with a plaque next to your item, so you makers out there could see this as a form of free advertising. (I believe they'll credit websites, as well.)

If you have something you'd like considered, e-mail a photo of your item(s) to Mike Breza, the museum's assistant director. (He's a cool guy. Tell him I sent you.) His e-mail is mbreza [at] ci.oshkosh.wi [dot] us.

Ok, NOW I 'm done. Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, March 8, 2013

John's "Just DON'T Dew It" Update

Last June I wrote about John's massive, decade-long Diet Mountain Dew addiction and his increasingly worrisome memory lapses. After reading that one of the ingredients in Mountain Dew, brominated vegetable oil, has been shown to cause memory problems, John quit the 'Dew cold-turkey.

Since then several of you have asked for updates on John, wondering if he's managed to stay on the wagon all this time, and if so, whether his symptoms have improved.

I'm happy to report that John HAS stayed on the wagon, though it's never been easy for him. He tells me he still craves the stuff to this day, and that now he has a much better understanding of just how powerful addiction can be.

John didn't just quit Diet Mountain Dew, by the way; he quit ALL soda. The caffeine withdrawal was pretty hellish for the first few weeks, but after that he claimed he felt more awake and clear-headed. He still complained of having to search for the right word all the time, but someone who claimed to know these things told us it can take up to six months to purge the BVO from your system, so I encouraged John to be patient.

John is not much a water drinker, and never has been, so he immediately started researching alternative sugar-free drink options. He did a lot of reading on the various artificial sweeteners (there are claims that Aspartame also causes memory issues) and eventually decided he was comfortable with anything that uses Splenda or Stevia.

His drink of choice now (which uses sucralose, aka Splenda) is Mio, a liquid additive for water. It's kind of like Crystal Light, but since it's already liquid it's a breeze to mix up by the glass. (You just fill the glass partway with water, add 2 squirts of flavoring, and then fill the glass the rest of the way. No spoon needed!)

Naturally, John only uses the Lemonade and Orange-Tangerine flavors - he's a citrus guy, for sure -  but here's a fun little secret: if you use one squirt of Lemonade and one squirt of Orange-Tangerine in an 8 oz glass of water, you'll get something that tastes EXACTLY like the Orange drink they serve at McDonald's. Seriously, I tried it, and it's uncanny.

As for me, I still drink 98% water, but when I'm craving something different I use the Mio Peach Tea. If you like sweet teas, you'll probably like it.

I should mention I'm not being paid to sound like a Mio commercial, btw; we just really like the stuff.

(Oh, and lots of you recommended the Sodastream, an at-home soda-maker, but John tried a few of the diet flavors at a friend's and wasn't wild about them.)

Sometime before Christmas John started re-introducing caffeine to his system with the occasional Diet Coke. He only has it at restaurants, so that helps him keep the quantity under control. And even though he tells me he craves it every day, he's never once had another Diet Mountain Dew.

Now, on to his symptoms:

About two months after John quit we went to dinner with a couple of you readers out at Disney, and I remember being struck by how comfortable John seemed that night, finding his words with ease and never once stumbling over a phrase or anecdote. I'd become so used to his often halting speech pattern that it was a real joy to see him laughing and talking eagerly without hesitations. I think the memory thing had been messing with his confidence, maybe.

In the months since John has still occasionally groaned in frustration and claimed he can't remember anything, but I've definitely seen improvements. These days we never have those little moments of strife and frustration over forgotten words, and in fact John's teased ME a few times over my not remembering a word before he does.

So, was quitting Mountain Dew a silver bullet "cure" for John's memory? Maybe, maybe not. It's hard to measure, although as as outside observer I do think John is much better off now than he was. Not to mention anytime you cut down on that many chemicals entering your body, it's got to be a good thing.

Some of you may recall that in January Pepsi Co. announced that they would remove BVO from Gatorade - partially due to a petition started by a 16-year-old girl - but they've still refused to remove the flame retardant (yes, it's a flame retardant) from Mountain Dew. (Other drinks that include BVO are Fanta Orange, Fresca, and Powerade.) I was also interested to learn that BVO is actually banned in over 100 countries. Yikes! Food for thought for those of you who may still be struggling with a similar soda addiction.

As before, please feel free to share your own experiences with soda, and any links you might have to relevant research or articles. We're always up to learn more!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

World of GeekCraft, Show & Tell!

It's been a while since I've showed off some of the stuff YOU guys are making, so let's take a looksie, shall we?

First up, Meagan R. made the coolest Harry Potter display this week. Check it out: it's her own personal Sorcerer's Stone!


The stone itself was a Christmas ornament for Target, so if you have that and a shadowbox, this is a super simple project. Head over to her blog Sleeping With Skeletons for the full break-down.

Amelia T. crocheted Portal's Atlas and P-body for her boyfriend's birthday:

She didn't have a pattern, so she just made these up as she went along! (I love their little guns!)

I'm a huge papercraft fan, so Mathew G.'s creation has BLOWN ME AWAY:

THAT is a life-sized Samus from Metroid, and it's made entirely of paper. Matthew tells me it took him seven months to build, so that's, what? About a month per foot? WHOAH. Head over to Matthew's Flickr for more pics. 

Kate B. makes custom dolls, and when a co-worker challenged her to make Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, she came up with something so epic she decided she HAD to share:

And I'm glad she did! Check out that lace "moss." Brilliant! 

And here's Bilbo:

You can see more (or even commission your own!) at Kate's Etsy store.

And speaking of dolls, check out this River Tam made by Silvana M.:

To really appreciate her, though, you have to see what Silvana started with. Here's a before-and-after comparison of River's face:


Head over to Silvana's blog to see more finished and process pics. (And can you believe she gave this away in a craft-swap?!)

Proud mom Shelly S. sent me this pic of her sons after they won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in their troupe's pine wood derby:

Now, check out the cars they made (with their dad's help) that won!


Monica M. made this stellar Star Trek quilt:

 And you have to see a close-up of that trim fabric, guys:

Look at those adorable little figures! Monica, I think you're going to have to tell us where you found that fabric! 

[Update: The consensus seems to be it's from Spoonflower. Thanks, guys!]

And finally, I hope you guys aren't too sick of looking at Epbot fan art, because this drawing by Paula H. made John and I laugh out loud in sheer delight for, like two entire minutes:

It's the Epbot 'bot as Lady Vadore.



Thanks for always knowing just how to make me grin, everyone, and please, keep those e-mails coming! Or you can also share your creations here in the comments, or over on the Epbot Facebook page!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Make Your Own Sliding Barn Door - For Cheap!

If you're on Pinterest as much as I am, then you know sliding barn doors are, like, design crack right now. They seem to work with just about every style, from ultra modern to shabby chic to vintage industrial, and they SLIDE OPEN. C'mon. That's just awesome.

So naturally, I wanted a barn door for our laundry room makeover, if only because I can't find anywhere else in the house to fit one. John and I looked for sliding barn door hardware online, and the cheapest price we could find was about four hundred dollars - and that's just for the hardware!

You guys already know what happened next: John thoughtfully examined the hardware and announced, "I can TOTALLY make that."

And so he did:

The total cost for this door - wood and hardware combined - was less than $100. LESS THAN $100, YOU GUYS.

Here's the breakdown:

Wood - $40
Wheels - $30
Metal rails & tubing - $25

If you already have the door, then that's only $55 for the hardware - $55 versus $400. It doesn't require nearly as many power tools as you might think, either: just a strong drill and an angle grinder with a steel cutting disk to cut the metal rails. (If you're making the door, you'll also need a circular saw - or a hand saw and a whole bunch of patience. :D) ready for this?! Then let's get to it.

There are several ways to make a simple plank door. We used exterior tongue-and-groove board normally used for house siding:

 (The opposite side is a classic bead board.)

Stick the boards together with plenty of wood glue, and then secure them with ratcheting straps for a tight fit while the glue dries. The three skinny boards you see on top there aren't attached; they're just there to act as a brace for the straps and to make sure the door doesn't bend:
Lock those straps down tight!

Once the glue has dried the next day, attach cross-boards to the door, if you like. (You don't have to, but they do add extra support & visual interest.) Here I've also distressed my door by banging it up with a hammer and screw:

Now stain or paint the door to your preference:

I stained mine to match the cabinet doors we just made.

Now, on to the hardware!

You'll need two 2.5 inch pulleys that look like this:

Lowe's and Home Depot didn't have them, but John finally tracked some down at Ace Hardware.  (I also found some here on Amazon for about $13 each.) The only part of the pulley you need is the center wheel, though, so pull the center pin and pop that out:

Now take a bar of 1.5 inch solid steel (available at any hardware store), and stick one end of it in a table vise:

Bend it down as you see John doing here. (This really doesn't require a lot of strength; the leverage of the bar does all the work for you.) The hook you've just made is what's going to hold your wheel.

You need to clean up the hook shape, though, so next remove it from the vise and bang the bend flat with a hammer:

You want to get a nice, sharp bend, so go ahead and hammer the point all the way down if you have to.

Odds are you'll have to flatten it a bit too far, so now pry the hook back up a bit:

...and then slip the pulley casing in to get the distance right:

Go ahead and hammer on the steel with the casing inside; you won't be needing the case for anything, so it doesn't matter if it gets banged up.

Now test the fit with your wheel; it should fit perfectly, with just the right amount of wiggle room on either side of the wheel:

 John is holding the wheel in place with his thumb; it should *not* be a tight fit.

That's one bracket done! Now cut your bar to whatever length your door requires:


And repeat the whole process for bracket number two.  (You can see here that John bent both hooks on either side of the bar and then just cut it in half.) You may also want to grind down your cut edges, in case they're too sharp.

When you have both brackets ready, it's time to attach the wheels. Drill a hole straight through each hook, piercing both layers of steel:

Your wheel will be supported by a pin placed through these holes. The original pulley pin will probably be just a hair too short, so you may need to get a slightly longer bolt with a nut to hold it in place.

Also drill holes lower down on your bar where you want the screws to go - the ones that will attach the bracket to your door.

Right. If you plan to paint your hardware, now's the time to do it!

We used a flat black metal primer. (I plan to age it with a little sanding later.)

Attach your bar brackets to your door. I didn't grab a photo before we hung the door, but here's a close-up of the hardware:

Now all that's left is the rolly bar!

This bar is the same 1.5 inch solid steel as the door brackets, so just cut it to the length you'll need for over your doorway, and then drill holes spaced roughly 2 feet apart down the length of it. Make sure you drill these holes in the lower third of your bar, not directly in the middle.

Now my lovely hand model will demonstrate how this bar will attach to your wall:

Ok, so here you've got a honkin' (technical term) concrete anchor in John's right hand. That goes in the wall. That long screw sticking out goes in the anchor. Between the steel bar and the anchor is a half-inch steel tube, cut to about two inches in length. The tube acts as your spacer - very important. Each of the holes you drilled in your bar will have this same set up.

When it's installed, your bar should look something like this:

Note again that the bolts are located on the lower third of the bar, not the middle. This is important because you want your door's wheels to be able to roll over the bolts without hitting them.

Ok, so get this: YOU'RE DONE! All you have to do is lift your door into place on the track, and get to sliding!


I can't even tell you how much cleaner-looking this is, guys, so I'll just show you:

That's all the stuff it's covering up: pretty much our entire pantry. The door does overlap the edge by about four inches when it's open (the wall wasn't quite big enough for it to slide back further), but that's not an issue for us. Finally - no more clutter, and no more dusty cereal boxes!

Oh, nearly forgot: you'll also want to install some kind of a door stop, so your door doesn't go banging into the corner wall or flying off the track. Our stop is a simple L bracket padded with black rubber on the lower part of the wall by those two pipes. You can also install a stop on the rolly bar itself, though. Totally up to you.

I've outlined the basics here, but if you want a much more detailed barn door tutorial (complete with diagrams and precise measurements), head over to this post by Jill of Baby Rabies. There may be some slight differences, but overall it's the same techniques we used. (And I found it - where else? - on Pinterest. Ha!)

Well, hope you guys liked seeing the next stage of our laundry room makeover! We're still not done, of course; next I'll show you our plumber's pipe shelving and the super fun and steampunky way we've devised to hide our water heater. That bit's not quite finished yet, though, so believe me when I say I'm probably WAY more excited to see this than you guys are. ;)


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