Friday, June 27, 2014

Playing With Portals... Again!

I spent the last few days playing Portal 2 again, and I'm even more convinced it's pretty much the perfect game. SO FUNNY. (Cave Johnson is my hero.)

Plus there's no killing - unless you count robots, there are no penalties if you die, and there are only a few timed challenges, so it doesn't get too frustrating.

Anyway, if you've somehow managed to not play it yet after all my raving, then please, PLAY PORTAL 2. You can even skip the original Portal if you like; the basics of the game and storyline are easy to pick up.

Which reminds me: check this bad boy out:

John surprised me with this fully articulated Atlas for my birthday last month. (Atlas & P-body are from the 2 player version of Portal 2, where you play as robots instead of Chell.)

The glowing eye is unbelievably cool, but it only lasts a few hours on battery power, and is next to impossible to turn on. You have to open the battery compartment in the back, and then use a paperclip to reach the "on" switch between the eye and body frame. EESH.

The gun is lit, too, but it's just a faint glow.

I redid the shelf over my penny desk to make a proper display for him:

(Remember my lemon grenade tutorial? And my Portal Easter Eggs? Ahhh, good times)

What's that? You want to see the rest of my newly decorated shelf o' geeky goodies? Well... SINCE YOU ASKED:

The Star Wars corner, with my Katie Cook Yoda, papercraft R2, and "SQUEE-wok" (a gift from the creator.)

The view from down below:

 Songbird watches over me. :)

And the other side:

 Oswald ears! 
A reader got them for me at E3 a few years ago, and they have "Epbot" embroidered on the back - which is extra cool since the parks are finicky about only embroidering "real" names.

At some point I'd love to have the entire shelf full of Portal goodies - and ThinkGeek is NOT making it easy on my sense of restraint. Heh. I want to build my own GLaDOS potato, though. I wonder if there's an Instructable for that? Hmmm....

Well, before I get lost on a Google potato hunt: time to announce this month's art winner!

Congratulations to... Shai of Ginger Maiden Musings! Please e-mail me your mailing address, Shai, and your choice of prize from my Pinterest art give-away board.

Happy Friday, everyone! John and I will be working on our Death Eater costumes this weekend - how 'bout you guys?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June Art Roundup: Wild Things, Sailor Moon, 80's Cuteness, & More!

Time for another installment of my favorite geeky art finds!

First up, I am over the moon for the punchy retro style of Mr. Scott Burroughs:

And the latest on Scott's art blog:

He does some paintings (like that last one) for art galleries, but I can't find any other way to purchase his work. Boo! I think I speak for all of us when I say, hey, Scott, TAKE OUR MONEY!

A beautiful melancholy piece by Mark Behm:

And another Wild Things, this time by Matt Armstrong:

Ha! Those expressions!

I found those three through the site DrawerGeeks, which is a fun art blog to browse. Hat tip to Katie A. for finding it! 

And if you're on Twitter, give @sketch_dailies a follow. They post a new theme every day - usually something nerdy - and then re-tweet all their favorites from artists world-wide. It's like crack for art-lovers, and a great way to find new artists.

For example, one of the themes last week was Sailor Moon, and I fell hard for this piece by Alexandra "Lexxy" Douglass:

"In the Name of the Moon," prints starting at $20

Also digging Lexxy's art nouveau homage to table top gaming:

 "Game Nouveau" prints starting at $20

I also found this slightly more realistic - but oh-so-adorable- take on the Winnie the Pooh gang by Claire Gary:

I don't see this one there, but hit that link for Claire's online store. (And fingers crossed she adds this print soon!)

Jessica Cathryn Feinberg has a beautifully soft clockwork style that's perfect for steampunk:

 These 8.5X11 prints are less than $12 at her online store

Really digging her clockwork Wolverine & Iron Man here, too:

And check out Feinberg's new Fawkes!

I can't find this one on her store yet, but she just had 11X14 prints at the Phoenix Comic-Con, so I bet it'll be available soon. (And since John is the biggest Potter fan I know, I may need to grab one for his man cave.)

Jeremiah Ketner of Small And Round debuted this Maleficent at Disneyland a few weeks ago:

 Along with this Snow White & Rapunzel:

Like everything at Wonderground Gallery, you can only purchase prints there in-person or through a rather tedious round of phone calls - but if you DO get through, they'll ship the prints relatively cheaply.

And finally, an 80s-licious dose of cuteness from the king of cute himself, Jerrod Maruyama:


This will be debuting at a show in LA next month, where you can buy prints. No word yet on whether the prints will be available online, but here's hoping!

Ok, give-away time! As always, comment below for a chance to win your choice of art from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board. I'll announce the randomly selected winner in a few days, and yes, I will ship anywhere!

The give-away has ended, and the winner is Shai of Ginger Maiden Musings! Congrats, Shai, and please e-mail me your mailing address & choice of prize!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Steampunk Seahorse Makeover

In my ongoing quest to see if it's possible to have too many seahorses, I picked up this little metal silhouette from an antique mart the other week:

 In my defense, it was only $6. And the shape is super cute, right?

It needed a little "something," though, so... I glued some gears on it:

 ... and I think I'll call it steampunk.


The gears are a beautiful shiny brass, so they catch the light like little mirrors.

For the base I painted on & rubbed off first a dark brown and then a black paint to darken it, and then added a keyhole cover:

 The keyhole also has some gold rub n' buff on it to bring out the design.

(I thought about hanging the matching key on the side, but my sense of symmetry won out.)
Oh, and you can see the little tail propeller I painted brass in that photo, too. I even added a tiny screwhead; it doesn't spin, but it looks like it could!

I'm still a little iffy about the chain harness, but it's not permanently attached, so I can always change it later:

 And an outside shot:

Really love the rust against all that green! 

(In fact, I'm tempted to get a green gem for the eye - or maybe just some translucent plastic? Hmm...)

Happy Saturday, guys!

(PS - I've drastically reduced the file sizes of my pictures for the last few posts, which I'm hoping will reduce Epbot's load time. Anyone noticed a difference? Older posts will still drag, so it'd just be the home page that loads faster.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

An Everyday Geek Girl Tries An "Everyday" Corset

About a year ago I accidentally discovered that a corset can drastically reduce menstrual cramps. (I even blogged about it - remember?) I was cosplaying at the time, and spent a blissful 8 hours or so pain free - until the moment I removed the corset, when I almost immediately doubled over in agony.

After that experience (and a lot of research) I bought one of those stretchy Spanx-like "body slimmers" to wear during crampy days. It definitely helped, but it just wasn't tight enough. I found myself folding it over into a smaller and smaller band, trying to get that extra snug fit right around my lower abdomen. It never stayed put, though, so I was constantly tugging at it and re-adjusting. Not good.

My cosplay corset was an overbust style, and not really practical for wearing around the house. (But by all means, enjoy the mental image of me in my Lady Vadore corset with sweat pants. :D)

So I set out to find an affordable "everyday" corset.

Which was really, REALLY hard. Seriously. They're all satin & strappy this or bondage that. Nothing practical or meant to be used as actual, you know, underwear.

Eventually I stumbled across Lucy's Corsetry, a fantastic resource for all things corset-y.

Lucy has about a bajillion video reviews of all the major corset brands, and over at her website she has helpful lists of corset sellers broken down by price range, style, dimensions, etc. It's a little overwhelming for newbies like me, but after several hours of research and meandering, I decided to buy this simple cotton underbust from Orchard Corset:

Lucy also has discount codes for some websites, so with her 15% off this corset costs a little over $60. (A great price for a decent quality corset.) The cotton breathes, and the underbust style lets you wear your own bra, which is a bonus - 'cuz we all know how important wearing the right size bra is now, right?

[Note: This particular corset is made for those of us with less curve. If you've been blessed with more of an hourglass shape, then try this style.]

I'm obviously pretty open-minded about corseting, but before I go on I'd be remiss if I didn't mention there are definitely WRONG ways to corset, so please do your research. For example, my chiropractor was dead set against my wearing one, because he believes it could weaken my back muscles. Since I only wear it for relatively short periods of time, though, I don't think that's a major concern. I also have no intention of getting into the extreme body modification areas of corsetry, since I'm pretty grossed out by the disturbingly tiny waists of the 24-hour tight-lacing crowd.


Ok, safety caveats aside, lemme tell you about my past few months with a real, honest-to-goodness, "everyday" corset - that I don't wear everyday.

It's awesome.

Here's why:

Comfort for Cramps:

I had some really severe menstrual cramping this month, but I only needed a single dose of Tylenol the whole week, and no hot packs at all! I just tighten this sucker up and the stabbing agony subsides to an almost comfortable dull ache. I tug the corset down so it sits a little lower than usual for cramps, too, which feels much better - and more importantly, it doesn't budge!

Improved Posture:

In addition to the crampy days, sometimes I wear the corset while I'm working. This is because, despite my having a perfect ergonomic setup at my desk, I still manage to slump, twist, and cross my legs most of they day. I catch myself making a perfect C with my spine more often than not, hunched over the keyboard and jutting my head forward like a turtle.

The corset stops all that.

The inflexible steel busk in front prevents me from hunching forward, and makes it just uncomfortable enough that I never cross my legs, forcing me to keep my feet on my little footstool instead. Being more aware of my posture also helps me remember to keep my shoulders and head back a bit more, too, so it's a win all 'round.

The corset won't let me slump on the couch as much, either, although I can still sit comfortably, even with my legs tucked up beside me. (Like I said, I'm not a tight-lacer.)

I understand now why antique furniture is so uncomfortable, though; you definitely need a smaller seat and a harder back rest when wearing a corset. Fortunately we just got new couches that are pretty firm and not too deep, though, so I can just tuck a pillow behind my back and do just fine.


It's not false modesty when I say I have almost no waist to speak of. My torso just doesn't go "in" - if anything, it curves out in the middle, like a ball. I've made peace with my shape, but clothes shopping has long been more of a defensive maneuver than anything remotely resembling "fun." Every t-shirt needs an over shirt, every dress needs a cardigan, and every skirt needs a long tunic top & extra wide belt - all designed to hide, hide, hide.

But - BUT! - last month I bought a cute orange dress, and thanks to this corset, I actually like the way I look in it:

#NoMakeupSelfie :D

With the corset I'm freed from over shirts and cardigans - a godsend when it's 95 degrees out, believe me - and discovering that I CAN have a waist even inspired me to try wearing shorts again for the first time in more years than I can remember:

 Look at me! I'M WEARING SHORTS!!
(Ok, so I never actually left the house in them, but still. Progress.)

Then I went completely hog-wild and wore leggings as pants. I know, I know - I'm ashamed of myself, too. I only wore them around the house, though, and boy HOWDY did John like it. o.0

 Think corsets = discomfort? Think again. I'm about ready for a slumber party in this outfit.
(Now everyone say "Hi, Lily!")

Have I mentioned that significant others are likely to appreciate your corseted shape, too? 'Cuz they are. And while I don't think that's a good reason to lace up, it's not a bad side benefit.

Now let's talk nitty-gritty details, since I'm sure a lot of you have the same questions I did. You'll find the basic how-tos at any corset site, of course, but here's what I've learned from personal experience:
Is it comfortable?

Once you're used to the pressure, and assuming you're wearing it properly, then yes, very! There's a stabilizing, elegant feel to it, too, which makes you carry yourself better - and that in turn can also make you feel better.

You're supposed to wear your corset over something, so it never touches your skin. This helps keep it clean (you can't machine wash a corset, and even dry-cleaning is tricky), and also more comfortable. I like to wear mine over simple cotton dresses, or over a t-shirt worn with a thin skirt. (Jeans are too bulky, unless you want to button them over the corset.)

I've never had a problem with the corset being too hot, but to be fair, I haven't worn it outside for more than a few minutes, and I tend to be chilly in the A/C.

How restrictive is it?

I can move a lot more than I expected, even laced as tight as I can comfortably make it. I can pick things off the floor without a twinge, play with the cats, eat, and walk comfortably on my treadmill desk.

The only real issue with sitting (provided I have a good back rest) is that my tracts of land really rise to the occasion. Heh. It's not uncomfortable; just a little weird to have the girls so much closer to my chin.

Note that I never lace so tightly that I can't breath from my diaphragm, though. There are guidelines for "chest breathing" out there, but the thought of not being able to take a deep breath when I want is panic-inducing, and would of course be a lot less comfortable.

Does it really help with anxiety?

I've read that some people do find corsets help their anxiety, because the pressure is like a supportive hug. I have not found this to be the case, though. In fact, I had to remove my corset several times within the first hour because I felt the exact opposite; like I was somehow trapped, and I kept focusing too much on how deeply I could breathe, no matter how much I loosened the laces.

I've learned to trust my instincts on which days to lace up, and over the months I've found myself quite eager to put on the corset some mornings, while others I know it's best to leave it off. This past week has been the best yet, probably because I've found that the tighter I make the corset, the better I feel (in regards to the cramps), so I haven't had any issues at all with anxiety. If anything, I almost forget I'm wearing it!

Can you put it on yourself?

Yep!  If you want to tight-lace to the extreme then I could see possibly needing help, but then again, I've managed to make mine tight enough that I couldn't quite breathe from my diaphragm, and had to loosen it up again. A quality corset has strong grippy laces & smooth grommets in the back that make self-tightening a breeze. (Check any corset site for how to properly put on a corset, and also how to "season it," - aka, break it in for the first few wearings.)

How long and how often do you wear it?

I've been averaging about 2 or 3 days a week, wearing the corset anywhere from 5 to 10 hours at a time. I never wear the corset to bed.

How do people react when they see you?

I don't leave the house much (please, try not to look so shocked), so I've only worn the corset out once or twice so far, and I honestly don't think anyone even noticed. Since mine is plain black, it almost looks like a vest or wide cincher belt - quite subtle. If you're worried about people staring you can wear the corset under your clothes, of course, but like a good geek shirt, I'm sure a corset can be a fun conversation starter with all the cool people out there. ;)

Since this corset has been such a success for me, I'm on the lookout for more everyday cotton or twill styles. I'd love to find a neutral brown shade, but so far, no luck. I'm open to spending more for a custom order, but there are just so many sellers to choose from! So if any of you more experienced corseters have advice, please share in the comments!

Ok, guys, what'd I miss? Ask your questions in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Random Photo Roundup: Catbus, Firefly Antiques, & GIANT SUNFLOWER YARD

Ordered a little something for John, and it finally arrived!

Catbus! He even has the mice running lights!

It's fun feeding John's geeky addictions. Plus this plush is perfectly purrrfect, don't you think? 
(Now say that three times fast.)

Went antiquing the other week. Found a place that filled us with... serenity:



(Admit it: even if you hate antiques, you'd totally shop at a sci-fi themed antique mall. So somebody get on that.)

Oh! And while we were there, I spotted these amazing steampunk salad tongs:


(I am SO FUN to go antiquing with. Ask anybody. Except John.)

While driving around one day I suddenly yelled, "OH MY GOSH!" and John yelled back, "WHAT?" and I said, "GIANT SUNFLOWER YARD," so he pulled an illegal U-turn so I could take this picture:

You're welcome.

Who wants to bet there were singing Lollipop Kids in there, but we just missed 'em?

In Disney news, this just seems wrong:

 So, so wrong.

But these replica trash can salt & pepper shakers? So right:

Obligatory Golf Ball Photo:

Fun Fact: Every time John and I visit Epcot - which is a lot - we stop at the restrooms on the right hand side on the way in, and then I stand on this curb, and I take another ball shot. Which is both way too much information on our restroom habits AND a surprisingly smutty-sounding way to say "Spaceship Earth photograph." 

That's my gift to you. Treasure it.

 And, last but not least, Lily says "hey."


(And for Lily's Fan Club: she's still onesie-free and loving it, thanks to increasingly smaller doses of steroids. I'll let you know if and when we find a better/more permanent solution for her over-grooming.)

Hope you guys are having a great week!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

DIY Harry Potter Death Eater Mask

Warning: this post contains several unintentionally creepy photos - plus one or two intentional ones. :D

So you want to be a Death Eater.

First off, shame on you. Really.

Second, hey, now you get to wear a cool mask! So let's make one!

Here's the one John and I just finished:

You Will Need:

aluminum foil
masking tape
paper clay (available at most craft stores)
sand paper
thin craft foam
metallic craft paints

To begin, you'll need a mold of your face. If you don't happen to have a plaster life-cast hanging around, then do this:

Er, that's John, in the process of mashing two layers of aluminum foil on his face. Remember to close your eyes and hold your breath, and try to get it as relatively smooth and face-hugging as possible. 

Before you take the foil off your face, have a friend wrap some tape around the edges, to help strengthen the over all shape:

Crumble up some more foil underneath to help support the face mold, and then get ready to paper maché, baby!

Cut your newspaper into thin strips, and for the paste, dump a cup or two of flour into a large bowl. Add water to the flour until it's a good, pancake batter-like consistency, stirring to get out the lumps.

Now dunk your paper strips one at a time, squeeze off the excess, and start laying them over your foil mask:

 Remember to lay your strips in different directions as you go.

You'll want about three or four layers for a good, strong mask. You can speed up the drying process in-between layers by placing your mask in a 200 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Updated to add: Make sure you try on your mask again after each layer, since I discovered later that the paper mache can shrink and/or warp a bit. Re-mold it to your face as necessary, and then keep going. 

After your second or third layer, go ahead and peel off the aluminum foil from the back side of your mask:

This will leave uncomfortable scratchy bits of paste and paper, so do your final layer of paper maché on the inside of your mask, to smooth it out.

Once you're done with the paper maché, leave your mask overnight to make sure it's completely dry all the way through. You don't want any moisture left in there, or it could mold or rot. Which would be icky.

Ok, now you have a mask of your face! But odds are your face isn't THAT evil looking. (I hope.) So let's bring out your inner Death Eater!

Smooth on a layer of paper clay all over the mask, and then have fun sculpting some angry eyebrows, Angelina cheekbones, pointy chins - whatever floats your evil, evil boat.

Updated to add: If you add a thick layer of clay the excess moisture can re-wet the paper underneath, warping it. (While this didn't happen with John's mask, it did later with mine.) To prevent this, I recommend sealing your paper mache with a quick blast of sprayprimer.

Here's what John came up with:

All Death Eater masks have distorted mouths, usually with decorative grates or straps over them, so go ahead and smooth over your mask's lips, too. It helps to know which style you're going with first, though, so do some googling and find a design you like. Here's a sampling to get you started:

John decided to go with the mouth style on the very bottom right.

When you're happy with your sculpting, you can again speed up the drying by sticking your mask in a warm (200 degree) oven. Then give it a good sanding to smooth it further:

Now's also a good time to carve or drill eye holes, to help you center your design.

Next is the fun part: DECORATING.

Most Death Eaters have surprisingly pretty swirly bits on their masks. Print out a design you like, or just free-hand it on paper. Use those designs as a template on thin craft foam, and cut them out with scissors or a craft blade.

Also cut out your mask's eye holes, nostrils, and mouth with a craft blade. It will be a little shreddy, so just be patient and clean up the edges as best you can.

In addition to craft foam, you can also decorate with more paper clay, shapes cut from heavy cardstock, or even metal filigree pieces and charms. Sky's the limit!

For John's mask I added inner eyes lids made of clay, while he cut out a swirly design and mouth grate from cardstock and craft foam, respectively. Here they are glued down and based in bronze paint:

Don't worry if your foam cuts are a little rough; these masks are supposed to look old and banged up, so that's all "character."

Most Death Eater masks are silver, but they come in a wide enough variety that you can get away with almost any metallic finish. For John's we couldn't resist using our Modern Master's patina again, which turned out even better than we hoped:


Once we were happy with the amount of patina, John used a little liquid silver leaf on a Q-tip to highlight the mouth grate & forehead scroll. Then I used Bead in a Bottle paint to make a few "rivets" on those same pieces. Those extra finishing touches really make the whole thing sing:

... or not so much "sing" as "screech menacingly." Mwuah-ha-haaa.

To be honest, this whole project has been an experiment in Things We've Never Done Before, so John and I are mildly astounded at how well this turned out.

To wear your mask, attach string or elastic by drilling a hole through the temples and tying a knot, or by riveting the strap in place. Do NOT try gluing the strap to the inside of the mask, as the strap will only tear off the first inner layer of paper. (Ask me how I know! o.0)

Here it is in daylight:


And after I added some black drips on the mouth grate, for extra creep factor:


Next John and I will be finishing my own mask, which is still in the decorating phase. We're hoping to wear these to Leaky Con the weekend of July 30th, which is a Harry Potter convention here in Orlando. We've never been before, and while they don't have many big media stars, I'm psyched to see their emphasis on YA literature: Holly Black, Scott Westerfield, and John Green will all be there. Suh-WEET! Plus any excuse to hang with other local Potter heads, am I right?


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