Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Graceful Photo Restoration

(I'm still catching up after our trip to VA, so please excuse these shorter non-posts while I get myself in order!)

Last week at my parents' place I scanned a few old photos of distant relatives. I've always wanted to try fixing up a damaged antique photo, and this one in particular caught my eye:

My great-great-grandmother, Grace.

(Interestingly enough, I believe she comes from the Eastwood side of my family - which would make her distantly related to Clint Eastwood.)

I worked on it on my laptop while chatting with family, and after two tedious hours in Perfect Photo, I had this:

I'm sure it could be better, but I think that's the best I can do!
There's something kind of magical about bringing an old photo back to life. I could do this kind of work all day; it's actually quite soothing. (And after a week of travel, family, and stress, I could use some of that!)

Oh, and John linked me to a Reddit thread where folks can post old/damaged photos and other Redditors will fix them up for free.  I'm especially awed by the ones where they add color, like this. So. Cool. 

Any of you have neat old photos you've restored? Or how about good displays? I'd almost be tempted to get into scrapbooking, just to make a decorative album for old restored photos like this!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

This Week In Pics - Post Christmas Check-In

As the Bloggess likes to say, this is not a real post. But here's a little of what John and I have been up to this week.

On Christmas Eve we discovered colonial Williamsburg celebrates the season of Silent Night by blasting the crap out of everyone's eardrums with nonstop cannon fire - and it. is. awesome.

Awwww yeeeah.

Later there were lines of mini-bonfires and a fife & drum corp:
Cool stuff.

On a random note, I downloaded a free photo app called Snapseed this week - on the recommendation of Tom Bricker, the famous Disney photographer - and I'm really liking it so far. Amazing tools, filters, and frames, and it's ridiculously easy to use. If you take a lot of phone pics (and these days, who doesn't?), you should give a try.

A quick before & after, after playing with a few of Snapseed's filters.

I love antiquing up here, and while in a fabulous old clock shop today I spotted a familiar face:

 A relative of Madame Leota, perhaps? :D
An old shot for comparison:

We also spotted some seasonal nightmare fuel:


Now that Christmas is over I can show you the Borderlands cross-stitch I made for my friend Missy:

And for my friend & CW co-writer Sharyn, a Spock cat pin cushion:
 I can't take credit for him, though; he's custom made by Kathleen of Fat Cat Crafts
(The bad pun is all me, though. Of course. ;))

My mom is making me post this next one:

Just for you, Mom. 

(We got a little silly towards the end there. I think there was more frosting on us than the house.)

John and I got each other a few geeky toys and goodies, but I think our friend Renee wins the gift-off this year. See, a few weeks ago John forgot Renee's name during a random conversation, so I jokingly suggested to her later that she should emblazon her name on the tackiest Christmas sweater she could find, and make THAT his present. So she did.

Yes, it lights up. Yes, her name is in a giant heart. But it's the enormous velvet bow with the jingle bell underneath that REALLY makes it work. 

For his part, John couldn't stop laughing for ages. I think his new sweater *almost* topped the glorious new Hobbes plush Renee also made for him. (And how cool is that??)

We know Renee because of this site, btw; like many of our closest friends these days she's a reader-turned-fan-turned-friend, and yet another reason why I freaking love the internet and this community. We may be scattered across the country and the globe, my friends, but gosh dang it, we can still be besties.

And on that sappy note, I'm off to watch my hubby teach my father and brother how to play Skyrim. And maybe eat more cookies. Because during the week after Christmas, you can never eat too many cookies. [serious nod]


[Update: Since so many of you have asked, here's the pattern Renee used for Hobbes. And it's even free! Woot woot!]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reader Show & Tell: Geeky Christmas Style!

Over on the Epbot FB page, Audra A. shared her gorgeous steampunk gift tag ornaments:

I've been stockpiling these steampunk sticker sets by Jolee's Boutique , and now I have even more ideas of what to do with them! (Why does December have to go by so fast? I could be making Christmas crafts for at least another month.)

Oooh, and Helena over in Sweden made all kinds of fantastic steampunk ornaments for her tree. I'm really digging this riveted style, which I think she made with clay:


And I love - LOVE - her idea of using tiny fancy lightbulbs as ornaments!

Not Christmas, but check out the sweet Kaylee cake Nicole W. made for her daughter's Firefly-themed birthday party!


Laura P. made a festive "binary tree" for her computer nerd father, inspired by this comic:

And Kaaren M. used pages from duplicate Buffy comics to make these for an ornament swap:

Love the little frames in the center - great idea!

I know I already did this month's art roundup, but I HAVE to show you this "Turtle Dove" by Kei of Imaginism Studios:

Ack! I want to pet that little feathery head!

I don't have anything new I can show you guys just yet, so here are the two spots in my office NOT covered in an explosion of wrapping paper, glitter, and craft flotsam:

Just realized my Orange Bird antenna topper looks kinda macabre up there. Whoops.

Kermie says "Hi-Ho, happy holidays!"

Hope you guys are having a great week, and managing to stay sane with all the holiday craziness! And please keep sharing those nerdy Christmas crafts on the Epbot FB page; I take breaks from the insanity to go see your posts, and they keep me happy.  :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

A New Kind Of Book Paper Garland

We all made paper chain garlands in pre-school, of course, and by now you've probably seen those gorgeous ruffle book page garlands over on Pinterest, but neither style was going to work for my Christmas tree. The chain was too small, and the ruffle was way too big - so I finally came up with a style that fit juuuust right:

It took a lot of ornament maneuvering, but I managed to fit the garland on there, after all! 
[Pro tip: it's always easiest to put the garland on first, not last. :D)

Here's a close up:

My idea was to make something that looks like crimped ribbon from a distance, and I think it works! And while it took me a long time to get the process down, once I did I managed to zip through each piece in about two minutes. It goes surprisingly fast, if you do it right!

So, here's how to do it right:

First, you will need:
- book paper
- scissors
- small paper brads (mine are brass, but use your favorite accent color)
- small paper eyelets (any neutral color - they won't really show)
- a Crop-A-Dile tool* OR eyelet setter (*link goes to Amazon; only $15!)
- two small paper alligator clips

Step 1) Trim the rough edge off your paper and accordion-fold it lengthwise:

2) Now trim off your last fold - the one with the blank side margin on it:

3) Use your fingers to gently pop out the center of your paper, like so:

4) Gather one end back into the accordion fold, and secure it with your paper clip:

5) Repeat on the opposite side:

6) Use your Crop-A-Dile or eyelet tool to set eyelets in either end of the paper:

This secures your folds in place, so no glue, tape, or staples needed.

And... you're done! See how fast that was?

If you want your garland a little skinnier - as I did - then at this point you can fold the top edge down and carefully scrunch the center folds together, like so:

Be careful not to force the folds too hard, though, or the center lines could rip.

Once you've made a bunch of these, use your brads to attach the ends together, making a long chain:

My brads were just barely long enough, but they worked!

Use your new paper garland on mantles, doorways, trees, slow-moving pets, etc, etc.

Oh, and fitting the paper garland on a tree isn't nearly as hard as I thought it'd be. Each paper section naturally curves inward, so it folds beautifully around the branches, and the sharp paper edges grip the needles so it won't slide off:

Tutorials for the paper bows and pinwheel/rosettes here.

I hope some of you will give this a try! I'm pretty hooked on making paper ornaments now, so I think I'm going to keep adding right up 'til Christmas, if not after.

That's it for me, so happy Monday, guys! 

(I can say that 'cuz I'm going to see the Osborne lights at Disney tonight, and it's going to be under 60 degrees for the first time this winter. BOOYAH.)

For my fellow pinners.

PS - Even with all its legions of uncredited/unsourced content, Pinterest still drives an incredible amount of traffic here to Epbot. So if you're one of those awesome people who actually pins correctly from the source - thank you. Truly.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Week in Pics: Cat Onesies, Cross Stich, and Haunted HDR

We've been struggling with Lily's over-grooming again, so the vet has us trying new meds. While we waited for those to kick in, though, we needed to prevent her licking a bad spot on her side - and desperate times called for desperate-but-adorable measures:

That's a hacked-up baby onesie - and Lily was surprisingly pretty ok with it. 
It worked, too; her side is healed and she's back to being her nekkid furry self. :)

I got a Christmas card in the mail that put a wonderful grin on my face:

 AnnaMay! I love that her folks used one of my pics for their photo card - LOVE. IT.

I'm working on a new cross stitch pattern:

Not gonna lie: I was tempted to stop there. :D

I've been watching Arrow while I stitch each night, and it's not bad! The main guy Oliver makes Anakin in The Phantom Menace look animated, and all of the characters are so gorgeous it's actually kind of annoying (ie the "awkward" tech girl who just stepped out of a Victoria's Secret catalog), but the story so far is great. Plus Harry Dresden is in it, so, booyah.

I discovered those cheap plastic snowflake ornaments you see everywhere make grrr-reat! gift bows:

Perfect for shipping or stacking, too! Just use a little blob of E-6000 to stick it to the ribbon. (And if you spell out the name with leftover scrapbooking stickers, you don't need a tag!)

Btw, I love wrapping so much I used to beg my friends to bring over their gifts so I could wrap everything for them. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

I don't mention it much, but John and I meet readers out at Disney almost every week some months. It's a fun way to hang out with fellow geeks, and we've now met new friends from all over the country/world that way. (Plus some weeks it's the only thing that gets me to leave the house - and you just can't put a value on that.)

Anyway, Wednesday night I spent a blissful few hours with Rachel - my new photography buddy - while her hubby Jeremy and John patiently waited for us to take oodles of long-exposure HDR shots around the Magic Kingdom. My favorite was when a cast member let us hop the queue chains in front of the Haunted Mansion, so we could sit on the ground and get shots like this:

I'll post a few more later, when I'm done playing with them all in Photomatrix. (Although I have a feeling Rachel's will put mine to shame; the woman knows her stuff!)

And now for the winner of this month's art roundup, since I'd like to mail it out in time for Christmas: 

Congratulations, Sarah Wilson
Please e-mail me your mailing address & choice of art from my Pinterest give-away board!

 Have a great weekend, guys!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December Art Roundup & Give-Away

Whether you're shopping for gifts or just looking to deck your own geeky halls, I think I've got you covered this month!

First up, the fantabulous ACEOs of Jessica Grundy:

Who knew an Alien could be cute? NOT ME.

There is so much more where those came from, too, and all of Jessica's art cards are only $3 each! GO NUTS, PEOPLE. (Everything also comes in larger sizes, too, up to 13X19.)

I'm especially loving her circus series:


Btw, if you want to buy art as a gift, I recommend sticking to smaller sizes like these art cards - unless you know for sure the recipient wants a particular piece. Speaking as an art lover, I can tell you there's a special kind of panic when someone gives you a big piece you *know* you don't have room for.

 With that said, if you know someone who loves The Rocketeer, then by all means, buy them this:

"Like A Hood Ornament" (Ha!) by Danny Haas
 (10X7 prints start at under $18)

I fell in love with this print at that little FX convention last month, so much so that I'm planning to displace a large Tara McPherson poster so I can hang it in my office. THAT'S LOVE.

 Danny has a crisp graphic style that I can't get enough of, so it's hard to pick just a few favorites. This one's really popular, though:


And you I bet a lot of you will recognize this, since it went viral a while back:

If you like those, then check out his site for Doctor Who, Sherlock, and more!

Oh, and Danny actually gave me that Star Wars print for the give-away board (did I mention what a great guy he is? No? 'Cuz HE IS.) so comment below if you'd like to win it!

Reader Carol C. introduced me to the fantastical steampunk art of Mark Jason Page, and I am thoroughly smitten:

And not just because of that mechanical seahorse. (Although, c'mon, look at that seahorse.)

Page's prints are all limited editions on fine rag watercolor paper, so they don't come cheap. The Seahorse Carraige up there is $150, and this beauty titled "The Blue Legion" is $200:

The print is a whopping 22X16, though, so talk about a showpiece!

One more:
So perfect.
Head over to Page's site to see the rest!

(While browsing his site I learned that Page is a Disney Imagineer. My delight just doubled. Disneyland Paris has a steampunky Tomorrowland, you know. SO WHY NOT HERE? [sob])


To get us in a wintry frame of mind, here's the latest from Amy Mebberson of Pocket Princesses fame:

"Letting Go," 13X19 Giclee, (LE of 50), $125 at Acme Archives

 I haven't seen Frozen yet, but I'm loving all the fan art coming out! (This one is officially licensed with Disney, though, so I guess that's less "fan art" and more... officially licensed... art. :D)

And now, to end on a more affordable AND Christmas-y note: I've just spent a lovely few hours browsing cheap holiday art on Etsy, and I'm going to share. (If you buy small pieces it's easy to tuck them away with the rest of your decorations come January, and swapping out a few frames around the house is one of the easiest ways to decorate!)

So. Check it out. These are all ORIGINAL pieces of art for under $20 each. Save me from myself, you guys - or so help me I WILL buy them all.

 "Blue Squirrel" Original watercolor, $12 by Kristina Brozicevic

"Little Red Bird" Original Colored Pencil Drawing, $15 by Jennifer Nilsson

(She also had an adorable little red fox in a stocking, but I just bought that one. MWUAH-HA-HAA.)

Small Angel Painting (2.9X4.7), original watercolor, $15 by Kristina Valic

 Mixed Media Snowman on wood board, original art, $20 by BrightEyedLucy

If you like any of those be sure to click through to the artists' Etsy shops to see more of their work.

And finally, not exactly original art, but still pretty:

Sure, you could DIY these with some old sheet music/book paper and vintage clip art, but if you don't want to be bothered then grab the candy cane for under $10 at WinterBerry Cottage or the holly for $8 at MadameMemento.

K, that does it for this month! Now, you know the drill: comment below to enter to win the art of your choice from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board! And I'll ship anywhere, so comment away, internationals! I'll announce the randomly selected winner in a few days.

The give-away has ended, and our winner was Sarah Wilson! Thanks, everyone!