Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Harry Potter Ride, Random Disney Stuff, and Jen Rambles

This week's a bit hectic with MegaCon coming up this weekend, but I had to tell you guys the good news: John FINALLY got to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter today! (Or, as everyone calls it: Harry Potter World.) He took his mom for her 70th birthday, and they've spent the afternoon there at Universal.

I don't really have an excuse for why we haven't been before now, except to say we have Disney annual passes, so any time we have a free day we just go there. Plus we almost never get a whole day off; just evenings from time to time, and those tickets are expensive.

Anyway, the biggest and coolest thing at HP World is the ride, of course, so John and his mom spent two and a half hours in line for it. Because they are clearly insane. Anyway, John was texting pics to me along the way, and then called me right after to give me his review.

Me: "Well?! How was it??"

John: "It was amazing, and worth the wait, and I am never ever going to ride it again."

Me: !?!

John's a big roller coaster fan, so he's used to extreme rides like Hulk and SheiKrah, but apparently this was "too overwhelming." The articulated arm that moves the ride cars flips you around quite a lot, so he left pretty queasy, and he says the intense scenes were really intense. He tells me there's no way I'll ever be able to tolerate it, which makes me sad, but I guess it's better to know now than after flipping out on the ride. Heh. (Plus I can still walk through the queue, at least, which looks soooo cool.)

Another part of the problem was the ride seats, which have harness restraints that click down over your shoulders and gut. When the operators secured John's harness it was so tight he literally couldn't take a full breath. He pleaded with them to loosen it, which they did, but that made the green light go to yellow, so they had to crank it back down again. Universal has added seats for larger guests that don't have to lock down as tightly, but for some reason the attendants didn't offer one to John (grrr), and he didn't know to ask. I'm sure the inability to breath made the experience that much more unpleasant, although John insists it was still well worth it.

Oh, and the ride stopped halfway through for a few moments, which I've heard from some of you happens a LOT. Since being stuck on a ride is a huge trigger for my anxiety, that pretty much clinches the fact that I'll never get to experience it myself. SAD POTTER HEAD.

On the plus side, Epcot has the Flower and Garden show going on right now, and this year they've added food, and tomorrow I might get to try a Dole Whip with rum in it. Awwww yeeeeeah.

Now, here, since I don't have any HP pics to share, have some Haunted Mansion eye candy:

It used to be that a fresh rose was laid on Master Gracey's tomb each morning, but I spotted one here by Madame Leota's last time we were there. I guess they must alternate between the two now. (I took this through the iron grate; hence the fuzzy black bar.)

Ever peeked inside the hearse outside the Mansion?

Hard to see with the reflection, but there's a bouquet of dried/dead roses inside.

Then there's my favorite hidden gem:

Mister Toad's statue in the Pet Cemetery! (I won't say grave, because he lives on over at Disneyland. :))

This photo's several weeks old now, but if you've ever wondered what Splash Mountain looks like during rehab:
Dar 'tis.

This light over by Pirates caught my eye. Isn't it gorgeous?

Great patina, too.

And these girls were too much fun:

I chased them down for a photo - felt like I was at a convention. Ha! (And it's always nice to see a fellow Donald fan. Buy ALL THE TOYS!)

And finally, here's a pretty shot of the castle during the projection show:

These pics are left over from my last trip out to the MK, but I hope to have some new ones from Epcot after this week! (It's 75 glorious degrees outside right now. I need to take advantage of this weather before it gets blistering hot again!)

Oh, and I have lots of shiny new Epbot and Vader buttons to give away at MegaCon this weekend, so remember to tweet at me if you'll be there and want to meet up!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Squee-Worthy Geeky Plush Roundup

There's a whole world of geeky plush out there that I've never really explored - I guess because my own sewing skills are right at the level between "able to thread the machine" and "able to sew in a straight line."

Sometimes one of you will send me something like this, though:

11th Doctor Plush by deviantART user ~misscoffee (Sent in by Lindsay G.)

Or this:

Ewok Plush by deviantART user ~Whitness (Sent in by Jez)


Which finally prompted me to do a little Etsy exploring, and OMIGOSH SO MUCH SQUISHY AWESOMENESS. Seriously. I am overwhelmed. Did you guys know all this was out there?!


Tooth Fairy Robot Plush, $30 by GinnyPenny

Sweetest. Robot. EVAH.

And look!

Moogle Inspired Plush, $65 by SouthernGothica


Remember Sir Squibner, the little plush octopus John got me last year? Well, now I'm tempted to get Sir Squibner a little geek girlfriend:
Custom Octopus Plush, $24 at CheekAndStitch

On a whim I decided to see if there were any Grumpy Cat plushies, and OH YES, there are Grumpy Cat plushies. I especially like this Grumpy Cat pillow, though:

Grumpy Cat Pillow, $48.03 by PetitiPanda
He surrenders, but he's not happy about it.

There are also lots and lots of amazing My Little Pony custom plushies out there. Many are so perfect you'd swear they were officially licensed from a store, but I also like this more handmade-looking style with exposed stitching:

Applejack Petite Plush, $40.02 at NappinKraken

Then I stumbled across this little guy, who's only about 3 inches tall:

Felt Slimer, $13 by nuffnufftoys

...and if he's sold by the time this publishes, you'll know that I caved to temptation.

Amigurumis are pretty much always adorable, but they're even MORE adorable when they're Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:

All 4 TMNT Amigurumi Plushies, $115.50 at Crafted Cuteness
(Or buy them individually for $32 each)


Or how about these felt super heroes?

Superhero Softies, $19.95 each at IndieChicDesigns

Superman is my favorite; that little curl slays me.

Nananananananananana ... BATGIRL!

Batgirl Plushie, $30 by Plush Kafe

I think Barbara Gordon's is my favorite Batgirl suit; I just love the yellow.

Or how about a sad little Edward Scissorhands?
3 Inch Edward Scissorhands Plush, $22 at SpookyPookyCreations

It doesn't show from this angle, but he has little metal scissors on his hands. (!!)

Well, I've barely scratched the surface on all the amazing geeky plush out there, but I think I better quit for now - if only to give all of our bank accounts a rest. ;) Feel free to link to your favorite plushies in the comments, or share them over on Facebook!

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!