Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Creepy Dolls Were On TV!

John woke me up this morning with the ominous words, "Something of yours was on TV last night."

(My first thought: Sweet Staypuft, not the flip-flops again.)

Turns out it's all good, though, because the thing in question was my creepy doll mobile, and the TV show in question belongs to none other than Chris Hardwick, aka Nerdist.  (Oh. MIGOSH. Nerdist. NERDIST SAW MY STUFF, YOU GUYS.)

Even better, Chris credits Epbot not once, but TWICE - and, AND!!, he says the name right. (I've noticed during park meetups that roughly half of you pronounce it "EEP-bot." Which is adorable. But wrong. ;))

Here's Chris introducing my photo with some fun descriptive terms that may have included "criminally insane:"

And here are the three comedians (coughcough PATTON OSWALT!! cough) tasked with giving it a funny name:

Patton wins.

You can watch the whole episode of Chris' show @Midnight online here, and the clip with the dolls starts at 12:20. [Note that the show is a bit raunchy, so watch at your own risk.]

Thanks to everyone who tweeted, e-mailed, and commented this morning to give me the good news, to Chris Hardwick and the crew at Midnight for giving Epbot it's very first TV mention (!!), and of course to the Bloggess for inspiring all this creepy craftiness to begin with. I'mma go have some cake now. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More Halloween Pumpkin Fun

I didn't carve a new pumpkin for Halloween this year (where DID this month go??), so instead I'll just share some of the fun/geeky awesomeness you guys have sent in:

First up, Amanda Y. showed some love for everyone's favorite bow-tied Doctor:

 While Kitrina B. went for the shiny bad guys:
 The Cybermen always were one of my favorite sci-fi villain designs. It's all about that helmet, am I right?

Annette E. got old school with some classic Disney puppy love:

Little Known Fact: Lady and the Tramp is John's favorite Disney movie.  I married such a sweet ol' sap. :)

Plus Annette also made these loony toons:

I hear Stephanie H. carved her pumpkin FOR SCIENCE:

Making a note here: "HUGE SUCCESS."

(Q: Does quoting Portal EVER get old? A: No, no it doesn't.)

 Sarah L. carved something truly UP-lifting:

Only Pixar can make a grumpy old man this endearing.

Hmm. I can't imagine WHY Christie S. would think I'd like her Halloween display...


I'm especially loving the fact that she used real marshmallows for Staypuft's hands: 


 Debi remembered John's fondness for Tigger, so she shared this bouncing beauty:

And Jennifer J. tells me she was inspired by my "light brite" pumpkin to make one of the most creative designs I've seen:

A gumball machine! Brilliant!
Those are colorful glass marbles embedded in the top - and I bet they looked awesome in person.

And finally, I'm afraid I've lost track of which of you sent this in, but check out this brilliant Dalek:

 I think the clear bubbles are gumball machine toy containers. SO COOL!
(Please let me know who I should credit if you recognize this!)

So, what geeky/fun awesomeness are YOU guys carving? Go share your pics over on the Epbot FB page, so the rest of us can see!

(Or, if you want more, here's last year's pumpkin roundup.)

Friday, October 25, 2013

DIY Antiqued Mirror Wall Panels (Or, "Fun With Muriatic Acid!")

I've been putting off this tutorial because it's kind of a monster project, but for those of you who want to try making your own antiqued mirror panels, I think this will be super helpful. There are other tutorials out there, but they all seem to vary a bit, plus John and I had to learn a lot through trial and error. Here's hoping our missteps will save you some time and aggravation!

Here's another peek at the finished product from my bedroom makeover, although of course you can use these instructions to age any kind of mirror.

So. You will need:

- cheap mirrors (Ours are 12X12 plain-edged squares, available in a 6-pack at Home Depot for $9.99) Buy extra, just in case.

- paint stripper, any brand (about $10 for a quart, which is more than enough)

- mineral spirits

- Pure muriatic acid, available at pool supply stores (less than $10 a gallon)
(Some tutorials try to avoid using this stuff, but trust me, it's the cheapest and most effective option.)

- plastic spray bottles

- Safety equipment: heavy rubber gloves, goggles, and face masks, if you have them

To begin, we'll be removing the the backing on our mirrors using that paint stripper:

Pour out a big glob and brush it around with a disposable chip brush or rag:

Your paint backing might start to bubble up immediately, or it might stay kind of streaky even after several minutes. Even in the same packs of mirrors, we saw a lot of variation:

See how the one in the center is hugely bubbled up, and some of the others look crackled like alligator skin, but others just looks streaky? I don't know why it does that. But no worries; that just means some of the backings will come off a bit easier than others.

It's very important that you not scratch the backs of your mirror, so remove the stripped paint as gently as possible:

It should wipe or scrape right off. (John used a plastic scraper, but a rag is better/softer.) If not, feel free to use a bit more stripper.

Once all the gunky bits are off, pour a little mineral spirits on your mirror and wipe off the rest of the residue with some paper towels:

Then follow THAT up with a quick rub-down of Windex or other glass cleaner.

When you're done, your mirror should be equally reflective on both sides - so be careful not to get the back and front mixed up. (The easiest way to tell? Press your finger to one side of the glass. If there's a space between your finger and its reflection, that's the front. The back will have no space.)

Again, there's a lot of variation among mirrors - even from the same manufacturer - so some might still have a bit of residue and streakiness after you're done removing the backing. Some might even have a gold film, like the one on the extreme left up there. THAT'S OK. Remember, we're aging these suckers, so we can chalk any imperfections up to "character." 

Ok, your mirrors are clean! TIME FOR THE SUPER DANGEROUS FUN STUFF.

First, gear up like you're cosplaying the guys from Breaking Bad. Then clear yourself a workspace outside or in a well-ventilated garage. Next, when you're ready, pour some muriatic acid into your plastic spray bottle:

It's going to put off a lot of cloudy vapor, like dry ice, only stinkier. Use your masks, and try not to breath it in. Feel free to cackle a bit and scream out, "LIVE, MY CREATION! LIIIIIVE!!" from time to time, though, just to keep the neighbors nervous.

Now, here's the thing about muriatic acid: it eats through stuff.  That's good for our mirror backing, which we're TRYING to beat up, but bad for that plastic bottle you just poured the acid into. Don't worry; it's not going to eat through your bottle and start dripping all over your toes or anything, but it WILL destroy the spray nozzle innards in about, oh, 20 or 30 minutes, give or take. SO GET MOVING. (If you have a lot of mirrors to do, like we did, then buy extra bottles. We went through 3 or 4 bottles for about 24 mirrors.)

After a lot of trial and error, here's the best method we found for applying the acid. Please, learn from my frustration:

1) Spray a light, even mist of acid onto the entire mirror
2) Immediately wipe that mist around with a paper towel
3) Wait a few seconds, and then spray on heavy, irregular splotches of acid however you like
4) When your splotches turn transparent (usually within a minute or two), rinse the entire mirror with water. (I recommend using the garden hose.)

Those first two steps are crucial for removing any last bits of mineral spirits or stripper still clinging to the back of your mirror. If you DON'T do them, here's what your mirror will look like after you apply your acid splotches:

In other words: basically nothing happens, and what does happen takes forever to show up.

 And here's the mirror AFTER those first two steps, and with the bigger acid splotches applied:

Big difference, right? It happens much faster, too; often in a matter of seconds, instead of minutes.

The acid application is where your artistic side comes in; you can add as much or as little as you like, but try to keep it random and somewhat natural looking. The edges tend to wear first on antique mirrors, so concentrate your sprays there - but don't be afraid to add some huge patches wherever; randomness is your friend.

Also, remember that with those spray bottles a hard squeeze gives you a nice even mist, while a weak squeeze will dribble out big splotchy areas. Experiment a bit; you'll soon get the hang of it.

Here are our acid-splotched mirrors reflecting the sky - which is why they look so black-and-white.

And here they are reflecting the garage:

As you can see, the acid ate away the reflective backing, so you can see the plywood board underneath.

John and I spent two nights stripping & spraying our 20+ mirrors, since it was too hot to work during the day in August. We set up big construction lights in the driveway, geared ourselves up like meth-making cray-crays, and sprayed clouds of acid all over the front yard at 2 o'clock in the morning. (The neighbors love us. Honest.)

So now you've got a bunch of splotchily transparent mirror panels. Time to replace the paint backing!

Now, here's the thing: every tutorial out there will tell you to paint your mirror backs black. BO-RING. I say, have fun with it! Experiment with different colors! Like, you know, brown. :D (In all seriousness, I've seen a gold & fuchsia backing on aged mirrors that was TO DIE FOR.)

Actually, after a lot of experimenting, here's what I did:

First, I sprayed gold (yes, GOLD) spray paint randomly in small sections on all of my mirrors:

Then I followed that up with a coat of metallic bronze:

This results in a slightly warmer, sparklier, and less severe finish than straight black paint would give you:

See the gold speckles? Again, subtle, but quite nice in the light.

And with that, your mirrors are done!

Now here's how we (or rather John) built the actual wall panels:

First, figure out your sizing. (Actually, you should really do this before anything else, so you know how many mirrors to age. So, go back in time and do that.) We used large butcher paper to help us visualize the panel size on our walls:

Next John cut a piece of plywood about two inches larger on all sides than our 10 mirror panels laid out, like so:
Then he added 1X2 wood strips to the edges to give the plywood board a slight lip.

We glued our mirrors down using construction adhesive (aka Liquid Nails):

Again, there's a gap between the mirrors and the slightly raised edges. Why? Because the decorative trim wood we applied next covers that gap perfectly, just barely overlapping the mirrors:


This is actually a finished shot, after we painted the trim. John installed the trim using ultra-tiny furniture nails (with no head) and a pin-nailer, and then we taped off the mirrors and painted the trim with my favorite chrome spray paint:

Once we finished peeling off that painters tape, it was just a matter of adding super heavy-duty hanging hardware (with short screws, of course - don't go cracking your mirrors!) to the back, and  hanging each panel in place on our walls:

And there you have it: two antiqued mirrored wall panels for about, oh, $100 in materials. SHINY.

I hope this helped someone out there, and as always, link me up with pics in the comments should you decide to try this yourself, guys!

Oh, and Happy Friday!

(For my Pinterest peeps.)


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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Netflix Shows To Watch: 8 Geeky Gems

John and I rely almost exclusively on Netflix Streaming for TV shows, so if anything there looks even halfway decent, odds are we'll give it a try.

I'm sure you guys are already familiar with the most popular sci-fi stuff there: Doctor Who, all the Star Treks, Battle Star Galactica, LOST, etc. etc. (And you ARE already watching Sherlock, right? RIGHT?! [meaningful glare] Good.)

So here's a list of some of the newer and/or lesser-known shows we've tried that I think you might like:

- Continuum

A lady cop from the future accidentally time-travels back to present day with her super suit. ("WHERE IS MY SUPER SUIT?")(Sorry. Had to.)  Here she teams up with a teenage computer genius and a local detective to track down baddies and - of course - try to find a way home. Plenty of action and good characters, and they just added the second season to Netflix Streaming!

- The IT Crowd

A BBC cult classic, though not for the easily offended. I just finished re-watching all 24 episodes this last week (it's only a half-hour show) and it has one of the most hilarious pilots ever, so at least watch that. Best of all, the show JUST released an official "final episode" last month, although that's not on Netflix. You can watch it here on Youtube, though!

- Haven

Kind of like Eureka, minus the town geniuses and with a female Sheriff (though technically she's an FBI agent). We're only a few episodes in, and aren't hugely impressed yet, but it's not bad. (And, hey, it took me a while to warm up to Eureka, too.)

- The Dresden Files

Another older cult-classic starring a gritty modern day wizard who uses a hockey stick for a staff. Like many great shows it was cancelled way too soon, so we only have 12 episodes - but I'm told the books by Jim Butcher are amazing, so maybe pick up there?

- Alphas

If the X-men were regular schmoes, or if Heroes was less angsty. I remember almost hating the first episode of Alphas, but eventually I grew to love a lot of these characters - so definitely stick with it, if you give it a try. There are 2 seasons total, both on Netflix - and I was heartbroken when it wasn't picked up for a third!

- Once Upon A Time

I love the premise of this show - where every fairy tale crashes together in a small Maine town - but to be honest, we didn't last very long even through the first season. Still, give it a shot; I know lots of people who really adore the series, and the first two seasons are available on Netflix. (Maybe John and I will try this one again - right after we finish with the third season of Nikita - which you should also be watching. :))

- Primeval

A geeky SWAT team hunting dinosaurs. I've talked about this one before, and... well... give it a go, and see how long you last. Eventually we couldn't take the gaping plot holes and bumbling idiocy of the main characters any more - but hey, we lasted a good 3 or 4 seasons! (There are currently 5 on Netflix.)

- Supernatural

(K, srsly, what the heck did the photoshoppers do to Sam? He looks like some kind of twig-waisted mutant! I'm not the only one seeing this, right?)

I devoted a whole post to this show last year, but I can now add that Supernatural evolves over its 9 seasons from absolutely terrifying to ridiculously campy - but it's ALLLLL good. (Although if you're losing the will to live through season 7, just skip that one and pick up again in season 8. It's BACK, y'all.) The show isn't even remotely scary anymore, which is kind of nice, but it has tons of heart and humor, great writing (minus season 7), and captivating characters. (I know Castiel is everyone's fav, but I love me some Crowley. Mark Shepard is an evil genius, I tell you.) Season 9 is just airing now, but the previous 8 are all available on Streaming.

Then there are a few New Shows I Haven't Watched But Know Other Geeks Like:

- Arrow
- Teen Wolf
- Lost Girl

Again, all on Netflix Streaming, so go browse and report back!

And finally, for something COMPLETELY different: if you're a crazy cat lady trapped in a mostly sane person's body - you know, like me and John - then check out My Cat From Hell.

There are only 9 episodes on Netflix, but it's basically The Cat Whisperer, and several of the stories are just so stinking sweet that John and I MAY have gotten a little weepy. The cat guy, Jackson, is this big tattooed musician with a great personality, which really helps when you want to throttle half of the cat owners on the show. ;)

So, what'd I miss, fellow geeks? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, October 21, 2013

AnnaMay, Our Exemplary Wonder Woman

I'm still trying to sleep off a stubborn head cold (why do these things always hit over the weekend?) but I HAVE to show you guys our greatest success as an online community since Katie-the-Star-Wars-girl's book o' encouragement:

AnnaMay's Wonder Woman costume!!

Before I show you the rest, a little back story:

AnnaMay is an Exemplar I featured last June. She has both a general anxiety disorder and a sensory processing disorder, so when she was teased at school over her love of superheroes - Supergirl and Wonder Woman in particular - she immediately stopped wearing all her favorite superhero t-shirts.

Her mom Andrea convinced AnnaMay to put on her favorite shirt again just for us here at Epbot, though, and just LOOK at that big beautiful smile:

AnnaMay's story really struck a chord with me, so I put out an open call to you readers for help in making her a Wonder Woman costume. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions that could have easily gone badly, but I hit the jackpot when Brooke Wilkerson and Teka England - both professional costumers with insanely impressive resumes - immediately and enthusiastically stepped up. (In fact, I turned away nearly a dozen volunteers just in that first day. Because you guys are freaking amazing. But you already knew that, right?)

What followed was a three-month long-distance project, with lots of e-mailed conferences, photo references, and measurements flying back and forth. During my Sabbatical Brooke and Teka kept the ball rolling with AnnaMay's mom, Andrea, which was a huge relief, let me tell ya.

AnnaMay was practically beside herself with excitement, and requested a true classic for her Wonder Woman costume: Linda Carter's:

Of course the costume would need to be made more little-girl appropriate, though, and AnnaMay's sensory processing disorder presented an even greater challenge, since nothing on it could be tight or restricting. Again, Brooke and Teka were amazing: they knew exactly what to do at all times.

Ok, you've waited long enough:

AnnaMay's mom took this shot; check out that Super Sass! WORK IT, GRRRL. ;)

Teka made the spandex body suit extra loose with a see-through mesh shoulder section for support, plus a separate elastic skirt for modesty. Gorgeous *and* super comfy!

Brooke was in charge of the boot covers and cape, which we agreed to shorten for wearability - and she even showed AnnaMay how to tie it around her shoulders so it wouldn't cut into her neck. GENIUS.

The cape alone is a work of art. In fact, go check out Brooke's blog post on all the gorgeous applique details - and for a photo tutorial on how to tie it around the shoulders.

The boots were another challenge, since footwear is a big trigger for AnnaMay's sensory disorder. Eventually they decided she would wear her favorite sneakers inside the boots, which Brooke made completely from scratch. (They have an invisible velcro panel up the back.)

The tiara, cuffs, and lasso were my responsibility... so I bought them on Etsy. :D (In my defense, these look much better than anything I could have made.)

As wonderful as all this is, the best part for me was learning that AnnaMay and her parents would be visiting Orlando for the Disney Halloween party -  so John and I got to hang out with them last week!

Oh, and on the way in to see them at the Contemporary, we stumbled across this Super group:

 Love it.

We spent a few hours at the Magic Kingdom with AnnaMay, her parents Jay & Andrea, and her Nana, Nana. :) It was a fun group. AnnaMay was shy at first, but by the end of the afternoon she was happily chattering away at my side. She even asked me to take a photo with her and Buzz:

(It was about a million degrees outside, so AnnaMay shed most of her layers for the afternoon.)

In some ways it was like going to Disney with a mini-me, since AnnaMay has a lot of my same anxieties regarding rides and transportation. She did great, though, and you'd never think she was missing out at all, between the character greets and shopping and the few rides she did go on. Plus she had the Halloween Party to look forward to; John and I left them just before that started.

A huge, HUGE thank you to Teka and Brooke for making this Wonder-full costume possible, and to all of you readers who leave such encouraging comments on all my Exemplar posts. You guys let me do things I've only dreamed of, and I've never been more proud of our community.

And, of course, we owe all of today's happy feelz to this brave little Warrior Princess:

Thank you, AnnaMay!