Friday, September 21, 2018

Dragon Con 2018: My Favorite Cosplay!

Some of you were worried that all those Dragon Con videos John and I took this year meant I wouldn't have photos, too, but NEVER FEAR. We worked in shifts, rotating between video, flash, and no-flash photography, so I still have lots more cosplay eye candy to share.

Now hold on to your hats, 'cuz there's a Storm a-coming!


Still one of my favorite pairs to photograph:

 [Jareth: Elliot's Cosplay, Sarah: Alexie Star Cosplay]

I couldn't decide which shot I liked better!

Black-out flash is still the most magical to me, but since that isn't always possible I have plenty of regular light photos, too:
Gorgeous art nouveau Sailor Moon group.

Proof that sometimes - though admittedly very rarely - I *do* go outside:

 Christine DaaĆ© from Phantom of the Opera! 

See, it takes either a theme park or amazing cosplay to lure me out in the heat. :D

This was one of my first photos of the weekend, and I swear it gave me a grin that didn't go away for 4 days:

 Mr. Tumnus! EEEE!!

These two ladies practically glowed; I didn't have to boost these colors at all:


This 8-bit space pirate from Metroid was absolutely surreal when he moved. I love optical illusions like this:

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The House Renovation Is Done, And I Have "Before" And "After" Photos! Woot woot!


Yep, that took nearly three months, but our big house renovation is finally finished, and John and I are ready for bigger and better things - you know, like planning our Harry Potter party. :D

First, though, let's get to the best part of any house project: the before and after pictures! John put them all together for you in a fun video:

Fun Fact: I originally did the video intro and a whole walk-through, but then our computer ate it. Grr. Rather than go put on makeup and do the whole thing again, I told John it was his turn in front of the camera. ::evil grin::  I will say he does less dancing than I did in mine, but otherwise, A++, Sweetie.

Now let's go over the Less Fun, But Still Interesting part:


Originally we estimated it would cost $11,000 to do everything we needed to in this house. Then we decided to really challenge ourselves, and revised that estimate all the way down to 5K. In the end, the whole thing cost us around $7,000. So overall, we're still pretty pleased.

Most of our upgrades were cosmetic (doors, trim, closets, paint, lighting, fans, etc.), but there were also safety improvements as we replaced and corrected tons of faulty electrical wiring. (Just... so much.) Both bathrooms got new, safer plumbing & fixtures, and we added a dishwasher for the first time to the kitchen. Then the biggest improvement (in my opinion): We added roughly 30 square feet to the tiny master bedroom - also enlarging the master closet - by moving an entire interior wall over. Oh, and we eliminated a small closet & back-set the fridge in the kitchen, so it doesn't stick out in the walkway anymore.

Let me break down the major parts of that 7 grand, so you can see where (most of) it went. I'll also tell you how we saved the most money along the way. Most of our materials came from Home Depot and Lowe's, but I'll note our other sources as I go:

$1,000 - replacing the defective main breaker box. This was a major fire hazard, and we couldn't even get our insurance until it was done. One of the few jobs that we hired a professional for.

$850 - granite countertops for the kitchen, including install. This is a steal of a deal, which we got by shopping locally on Craig's List & agreeing to use a shop's remnant pieces.

$850 - all new interior doors and closet bi-fold doors (material only)

$400 - Dumpster rental (Found via Craig's List)

$350 - 4 ceiling fans (including light kits), 4 ceiling lights, & necessary electrical. (Fans were $50 each on Ebay - search for "52 inch Black Hugger Ceiling Fan", and you'll find a bunch of them. The blades are reversible, so they look more like bronze with wood blades when you flip them over:

$150 - A/C repair & maintenance (hired out)

$250 - new wood laminate flooring in master bedroom (material only)

John got this laminate from Home Depot, and raved about it being the easiest laminate he's ever installed - which is saying something, considering we've installed thousands of square feet of laminate over the years. Even better, it looks nice! I love all that crisp white trim with it.

$475 - Bathtub & tile refinishing (hired out). This was to turn the 70s yellow tile & tub a fresh clean white. Definitely worth the money to hire a pro for this, gang. John and I refinished a tub & tile ourselves years ago (they sell epoxy DIY kits), but it didn't last. This one looks way better (they apply it with a sprayer, so it's glossy smooth) and already seems more durable.

$250 - Exterior & interior door & cabinet hardware, including knobs, hinges, bumpers, etc.

$850 - New wall materials: drywall, studs, mud, texture gun, plus crown molding for the entire house. (We saved a TON of money on trim, molding, and a few odd-sized doors by going to U-Save, a local reclaimed building supply outlet.)

$150 - Closet bars and shelving:

$450 - Kitchen & bath faucets, plumbing, new toilet, & new vanity for master bath. (Faucets were from Amazon; those are always much cheaper online. Our big bronze kitchen faucet was only $80!)

$300 - cordless window shades. We used these ones from Amazon.

$200 - interior paint & caulking (We again saved a ton of money by scooping up two 5-gallon buckets of discontinued wall paint from Lowe's. It was old, so we had to strain out some lumps, but we got a $35/gallon paint for more like $5/gallon. SCORE.)

$300 - Carpet re-stretching & cleaning (hired out)

And few of my favorite smaller bargains:

$30 - Dining room light & spray paint: We picked up the chandelier at a Re-Store thrift outlet, then spray-painted it bronze.

$80 - Dishwasher: We found a barely used dishwasher from a Disney timeshare which replaces all its appliances every 2 years. It's pristine, and this model is still selling at Home Depot for $400! Again, found via Craig's List.

$50 - solid marble countertop for guest bath: This vanity is an odd, non-standard size, so we were facing spending a few hundred on a custom granite top to fit it. (The original yellow counter had to go.) As luck would have it, John spotted a vintage white marble top at U-Save that was the exact right size. He lugged it home (it weighs a ton), polished it up, and voila! A fresh marble vanity!

So purdy.

All of those amounts add up to almost exactly $7k, but keep in mind I rounded up on most of them to account for all the little expenses: things like new plugs & switches, rental fees for the Load & Go truck, miscellaneous hardware, etc.

And that's it! I hope this was helpful to those of you contemplating your own home projects. As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments, and John or I will do our best to answer.

If you missed any of our video tutorials from the renovation, go check out our YouTube channel! I've got instructions there for replacing a ceiling fan, a toilet, a faucet, electrical plugs and switches, and also tips on how to paint trim next to carpet. You can also watch us discover the house's original carpeting and tile from the 1970's, which was HYSTERICAL.