Friday, September 30, 2016

Can We Make PEGs A Thing?

A close friend of ours had something bad happen yesterday, and while John and I waited for news and paced the house and looked helplessly at our phones, something occurred to me:

You know how we say, "Please let us know if you need anything," to people in pain? And how that's just putting the burden on *them* to tell us how to help, right when they're least capable of thinking straight?

I think we can agree that doesn't work.

But what if we each had a list: a Personal Emergency Guide. A PEG. And on this list, just like a medical ID bracelet or an In Case of Emergency notice, we could record how and when and to-what-extent our friends and family can help during a crisis.

Obviously you'd have to fill out this list before there's trouble, when you're clear headed, but once it's done you can invoke your PEG at any time on social media. Even better, post it now, so others can reference it as needed.

So what goes on a PEG? Any and everything you'd want to know about your friends when you're trying to help them feel better. Something like this:

I'm no graphic designer - John helped me do this much - but you get the idea.

Obviously you'll want to tailor your PEG to fit; these are just some basics to get you started. Remember this is for emotional emergencies, though, not everyday. Think about how you cope with fear and bad news and sadness, and about what's helped in the past.

In the same vein, don't assume you already know what your friends need; everyone is different, and pain changes things. That friend who hugs everyone may want space, or the distant, cynical one may want company - you never know, and only they can tell you for sure.

I'm planning to post that graphic on my personal Facebook, and ask my friends to fill it out. Call me awkward - 'cuz I am - but I appreciate some guidelines when life gets messy. Maybe you do, too. If so, grab that graphic (or make your own!), and let's start some conversations. Let's learn something new. Let's be better friends.

Now it's your turn: what'd I miss? What would you add to your PEG, and what do you wish your friends would add to theirs?

P.S. Our friend's situation yesterday turned out OK, and we were able to visit and laugh and have an awesome time together. I'm lucky she took charge, though, and simply told us what she wanted. That's all a good PEG is, really, so however you express it, just get one out there, k?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Reveal! My Mini Bath Makeover

I finally put the finishing touches on my little bathroom makeover, so drum roll, please, because I have BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES. Woot woot!

(Seriously, aren't B&A's the best? Sometimes I go binge on Better After to get my decorating fix.)

Now, to be fair, I don't think my "before" was awful:

There were mostly practical issues that prompted the redo: cracking walls, a broken exhaust fan, and too much dusty clutter.

The light and fixtures had been painted several times already, and were ready to retire:

Plus I didn't like the wall color. Or the over-the-door towel rack, which kept the door from opening all the way.

John was raring for a new project, and had the room mostly gutted before I even knew what I wanted.
Boy moves fast.

He only mostly gutted the room, though. My secret shame, the 1960s peach shower tile, still lives on behind the shower curtain:
Someday, shower tile. SOMEDAY. [meaningful glare]

Within two days John had installed a new exhaust vent in the attic, door, trim, vanity, sink, light, fixtures, and painted the ceiling, trim, and walls.

The new, wider vanity meant we had to shift the mirror and light exactly 2 inches to the left. ARG. I at least helped come up with a solution for the light:

We traced a pretty shape onto plywood, which John cut and routed to make this backer plate. Since our new light has a smaller base than the old one, and since we had to move it over a few inches, the hole in the wall would show without this piece to cover it. Yay for less drywall work!

Here's all of John's work done:

The new wall color is a petal-soft peach, and I lurrrrve it. 

I actually hated to add anything after this point; it's just so clean and pretty! But sadly I still need towels and toiletries and stuff. Bah.

Right, here we go, big reveal time!

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Best $10 I've Ever Spent At Epcot

If you know Disney's Epcot then you're probably familiar with Mitsukoshi, the Japan pavilion's famous mega-store. It has everything from anime toys to Japanese candies, and is THE shopping destination of the World Showcase.

Anyway, last time I was there I stumbled across this:


And while I know nothing about Gundam, much less Gundam models, this was friggin' adorable and ONLY COST $9.99, so heck yeah it came home with me.

Very little of the box was in English, so I had no idea what to expect insideor if I'd need glue or paint or special tools. Worst case, I figured it was a $10 gamble.

Inside: four sheets of snap-out plastic pieces, and a sheet of tiny stickers. 
And as it turns out, that's all you need. (Yay!)

The pieces twist out easily from their plastic frames, and then snap together, no glue needed. 

And what really blew my mind? There are plastic ball bearing joints, so the Gundam is completely articulated! You can twist and pose his feet, legs, arms, hands, waist, and head.

Snapping the plastic pieces together is easy, so the only part that requires actual skill are the teensy tiny stickers:

Some were so small - and fit into such tiny nooks and crannies - that I had to smooth them with a toothpick. The metallic blue ones look amaaazing, the solid white ones, not so much. (If I do another, I might leave the white off.)

The kit instructions are an Ikea-like map of numbered illustrations, so nothing a good squinting-and-staring won't (eventually) decipher.
Since I love jigsaw puzzles and those tiny Metal Earth models, this little Gundam kit hit all the right buttons for me. I put it together in two sittings of maybe an hour each, so this is easily a one-night build.

Ready to see the finished product?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Best Of Dragon Con 2016, Part 3

(Did you miss Part 2?)

Kicking off Part 3 with the cutest - yet fiercest - little Kratos from God of War:

He was posing better than most of the adults! Respect.

Gadget from Rescue Rangers:

 I feel like I should know this next one, but... help?
Aha, this is Alphonse Elric from Full Metal Alchemist (thanks, Kay!) rockin' some stellar foam armor. Check out the inner blue lighting!

A picture-perfect Old Man Luke:

Plus some weird science from The Brain That Wouldn't Die:

Apparently this is Jan in the Pan. Ha! Thanks,  commenters.
Her body was hidden inside a draped cart, and she had a mad scientist on hand to wheel her around.

Our own Knights Who Say Ni debuted Friday night, but since I couldn't lug my camera along, here's a shot from John's phone:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Think I Must Be British

After only one episode of Very British Problems I've realized I must be British. MY PEOPLE! Come! Let us cancel dinner plans and sit awkwardly in our separate homes together! 

Further proof? My deep-seated adoration of The Great British Bake-Off, Sherlock, and afternoon tea and biscuits. (Because "biscuits" are COOKIES, you guys. Awww yeah.)

If you've never seen the show, or read the book or Twitter feed, here's a small sampling of Very British Problems:


I think you could almost make the case - as I'm about to - that it'd be more accurate to call the show Very Introverted Problems, since we introverts tend to be the black-belt level gurus of social awkwardness. I find it fascinating that an entire nation might identify so strongly with the things I've always figured made me a weirdo. I mean, here in the U.S. bold, chatty extroverts are always shown as the ideal, so it's refreshing to be reminded that's only a cultural standard, not a universal one. (If you're curious about this, check out one of the most impactful books I've ever read: The Introvert Advantage. Total perspective shift.)

There seems to be a higher percentage of socially awkward introverts in geekdom, possibly because instead of being out at bars or parties, we're home binge-watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. (Which I just did, and which I *highly* recommend.) (The book is also fab.)

Obviously there are still loads of geeky extroverts among us, which is amazing, since they're the ones introducing us to each other. And filling the awkward silences. And cajoling us to go to that con and meet that actor and stay out just a little too late. Many - if not most - of my dearest friends are extroverts. They stretch my comfort zones in the best possible ways, give me courage, distract me from my panicky times, and don't hold it against me too much when I cancel last minute because I just need to go home and be quiet now.

If this post has a point, it's this: America and our media tends to make introverts feel outnumbered, unnatural, and like we need to change to be "better." To borrow from my newfound homeland, that is total bollocks

I say, learn who you are, get comfortable with your nature and your process, and find ways to be your best, happiest you. Do what works. Learn how to communicate your needs. And when you need some encouragement after a particularly draining day, go watch Very British Problems. It'll remind you you're not alone, because we are all here for you. In a virtual sense, of course. Because it's been a long day and we're all a bit pooped and maybe we could try again for next week? Yeah. Like that.

(You can find Very British Problems - as well as Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - on Netflix streaming.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The 10 Punniest Cosplays Of Dragon Con 2016

The next time you see a crazy mashup costume, think fast: you could be looking at an epic geek pun.

In fact, here are the 10 punniest cosplay mashups I've found from this year's Dragon Con; a mix of my own pics plus several more I found combing through galleries online.

1. Piggy Stardust
 Cosplayer: Amanda Ayer


Three Kermit Flails for an epic Bowie/Muppets mashup!

2: The Purple Rain-ger
Cosplayer: Billy Light of Deconstructive Studios 

That's Prince plus Power Rangers, everybody.
And please note the hair on the helmet, for it is glorious.

3. Lisa Frank-lin 
Lisa Frank + Benjamin Franklin = the most colorful Founding Father?

4.  Gand-ALF 
Photo by td2timemvp

Your cats shall not pass.

5. Beaker Gone Rogue!

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Faux "Respirator" Mask For Cons - Free Template & Tutorial!

A few days before Dragon Con I dashed together a quick and casual mask for me to wear during non-cosplay times. I'm more comfortable in masks, plus this one has functional cotton filters to help protect against con crud:

Considering that most of my fellow DCon friends fell victim to the crud - and for once I didn't! - I've gotta say, this is one cosplay accessory that can actually be good for your health.

That mask was a very quick, make-it-up-as-you-go affair made from leather scraps, so after the con I decided to make another one - only this time out of craft foam.

The instructions are largely the same whether you use leather or foam, so it's your choice. Leather is more comfortable and durable - and less steps to make - but foam is easier to find, and of course the vegan option. The leather I used came from a bag of scraps from the craft store, so it didn't cost much - I think the whole bag was $10? - but I also used waxed cord and a specialty punch for the stitches, which adds to the cost.

In fact, let's break down the materials. 

You Will Need:

- Scrap leather OR a large sheet of 3mm craft foam (Make sure it's 3mm! The 1mm is too thin.)
- A 1.25 inch PVC sink drain coupler, which is the thing on the left here:

You can find it at the hardware store for a couple of bucks.

- A set of plastic hair rollers from the Dollar Store (you'll only need 2)
- 3/4 inch elastic  (for the strap)
- small rivets with setting tool
- Waxed cord (for leather) or regular thread/cord (for foam)
- black plastic spray paint
- Gold Rub N' Buff (or gold paint)

If you're using craft foam you'll also need contact cement, cheap craft paint in black & brown, and a water-based sealer like Mod Podge.

And for specialty tools (ie stuff beyond paint brushes & scissors), you'll need:
- A heat gun or hair dryer
- A hot glue gun
- A hacksaw

Now, let's make a mask!

First, download and print this template:
It took me a lot of trial and error to get that shape right, so please, learn from my frustration.

Cut it out, and trace two pieces onto your leather or foam:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Best Of Dragon Con 2016, Part 2

(Did you miss Part 1? Go see!)

Continuing this year's Labyrinth theme, I was lucky enough to see this enormous Blue Worm puppet in action:


His eyes and mouth move, and he was operated/held up by long metal rods:
(This one is BEFORE his morning cup of tea. :D)

I got to chat with that fellow holding up the front - who is one of the puppet's creators -  and he told me they had Karen Prell operating the Worm at one point. SO FUN.

Once again Dragon Con's low lighting meant cosplayers get some spectacular effects with LEDs:

 Another stellar MALEficent, and check out the lighting on that fawn's antlers and neck. I've never seen an effect like that before - really diggin' it.

Also crushing on these vikings from How To Train Your Dragon:

Ruffnut and Tuffnut are especially fab. Check out that hair!

 Ziggs from League of Legends:

 I used to joke that if I didn't recognize a character/costume, it was probably anime. Now I'm having to amend that to "either anime or League of Legends." Because there are so many LoL costumes. Most of which make me want to play. :)

 Hawkman and Hawkgirl:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book Review: An Adventure With Captain Hook's *Daughter*? YES PLEASE

Egads, you guys, it's been waaaaay too long since I recommended a good read. Partly because I'm not reading enough books (bad Jen, baaaad), partly because I've decided to reserve my reviews only for books I'm ultimately going to recommend you read. So now that I've just posted that spoiler (OOPS), let's talk:

Hook's Revenge, by our very own Heidi Schulz.

I say "our very own" because Heidi is a reader, and actually sent me an advance copy of Hooks' Revenge a very, VERY long time ago. She's also pretty active over on Fans of Epbot, which is where I discovered this fabulousness from her premier party:


Ok, so obviously any author who dresses up to match her book theme is already someone we want to be friends with - but can she write?


Hook's Revenge is a quick, easy YA read focusing not on Captain Hook of Neverland, but on his daughter. Young Jocelyn Hook never knew her father, but at age 12 she is charged with avenging his untimely demise by hunting down and destroying a certain infamous crocodile.

I love stories that revisit and twist classic fairy tales, and Hook's Revenge does that in spades. We get dashes of the familiar - Smee! Peter Pan! Neverland! - thrown in with an all new adventure and new characters. Jocelyn is the typical rebel we love in all the great stories: the girl who - to borrow from that song John won't stop listening to - refuses to "sit still and look pretty." She is daring and brave and loyal, and her adventure is one of those delightful romps parents will enjoy reading to their little ones.

I especially adore the way Schulz wrote Peter Pan, who is such a minor character he barely graces a dozen pages. It's Peter Pan exactly as we know him, but written from the perspective of a modern, independent young girl who has no time for "silly boys." Jocelyn's conversation with Peter as he attempts to "rescue" her from her own pirate ship is gold. I was half-tempted to include some here, but no; there is too much. You'll just have to go see for yourself.

Hook's Revenge is listed with an age range of 8-12, so it's a safe family read. There's one line about Jocelyn seeing some corpses early on that was a teeny bit icky, and the crocodile *might* scare especially small listeners, but that's about it.

Oh, and one advantage of my taking two years to read Schulz' debut novel: she's already released the sequel!

In Hook's Revenge: The Pirate Code Jocelyn sets off to find her father's famous treasure. Niiiice. If you've already read it, be sure to let me know what you thought in the comments!

And if you're looking for more recommended reads, hop over to my Book Review Page. My top favorites are starred, so you can scroll down quickly and see if we have similar taste. Plus there are a LOT more recommendations in the comments there, which I'm still working my way through!


Now, let's announce some art winners!

The winner of the "Dogtor Who" print is: Science and Static (Trapeze)
The winner of "The Targaryen Girl" is: Crystal Pauley
And my wild card winner is: MaiiLuna

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Best Cosplay of Dragon Con 2016, Part 1!

Here we go, peeps, back into that magical fairyland where so many of the U.S.'s very best cosplayers and costumes come out to play.

 Since John and I had two new cosplays to debut ourselves, and spent a lot of hours either inside giant foam helmets or junk piles, I "only" took about 1600 photos last weekend. I also worked at being more selective this year, only chasing down my very favorites, and sacrificing quantity for - I hope! - better stories and quality. Fingers crossed that means I can actually get everything posted before next year this time. ;)

But enough talk. Let's get to the eye candy.

First up, here there be Dragon... Con Mermaids!

Yep, once again there was a Mermaid meet on Thursday afternoon, this time in the Sheraton pool.

I've featured my friends Alexie and Christie before in their tails (go here to see them better), but here they are again, swishing their stuff:

Now on to the dryer - and mercifully cooler - areas of the con:

The new Ghostbusters were heavily represented, which made me happy. I even spotted a fantastic Gilbert in her pleated skirt suit, clutching a copy of "Ghosts From Our Past" - but since I was holding a shrubbery at the time, I didn't get a pic. Anyone have one?

And then... there were these guys:


Not gonna lie; I love this. Way to flip those "sexy" costumes around, fellas! And once again I find myself jealous of a man's legs, because Ginger Beard, you are WERKIN IT.

We were wrangling Agnes when this happened right next to her:

 Terrible shot (sorry), but LOOK at that fabulous Scooby Doo diver! His helmet even glows!

Thursday night was the Bunny Hutch contest, so there were lots of fun mashup Bunnies around: