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.

Monday, September 17, 2018

This Year's Potter Party Theme REVEALED. Come See!

You guys. I can't hold back any longer, and besides, I need your help.

Together, I believe we can come up with the BEST ideas, crafts, games, and outfits (oh yes, THE OUTFITS)... 



But wait! There's more!

Not only is our Christmas shin-dig this year going to be a Hogwarts Slumber party, it's ALSO being hosted in the Hufflepuff Common Room.

Can I get a chair-dancing SQUEEEEEEEEE?


Now, as a reminder, here's what our back room looked like last year when we turned it into the Drowsy Goblin speakeasy for our Fantastic Beasts party:


And here's what the Hufflepuff common room looks like:

As you can see we already have the gold-toned bricks and wood accents, so our back room is already close to capturing that warm & homey feel. I'm planning to add wall planters and as many artificial plants as we can find at local thrift stores, plus we hope to craft some magical plants to hide among the "real" ones. I'll also have fabric House banners on the walls.... somewhere.

The focal point of the room is going to be a massive faux fireplace, built where our little bar and moving goblin painting were last year. Here are two inspiration pics for that:

Friday, September 14, 2018

The 15+ Punniest Cosplays of Dragon Con 2018

At most conventions you're lucky to see 2 or 3 punny mashup costumes, but Dragon Con? Dragon Con goes all out. Every year I keep an eye out for these groan-inducing beauties, so here's the best of what I've found (so far!) this year:

 Dragon Con:

Give it a minute.


She also had a wand; you can see her waving it about menacingly in our Sunday video.


(Photo by Smoove Cosplaya)

The hamburger bun buns!


(photo by Elizabeth Wilson)

Mister Steve Rogers

I wasn't sure until the puppet came out, then I was all, "YAAAASSS!" And please note he has Thor's hammer, which he told us he was just holding on to until "that nice young man" could come and reclaim it.

These two were at our first FOE meetup at Dragon Con, btw - more proof that Epbot readers are THE coolest. (Plus Wonder Woman is the Elizabeth who sent me Gand-ALF's photo!)

Wonder Bread Woman:

I honestly love this design; most puns are just funny, but this one is pretty, too!

Immortan Joe DiMaggio

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New & Improved DIY Cat Onesie: Skip The Cone & Make This Out Of An Old T-Shirt, Instead!

John keeps telling me I need to update you guys on the cats, which seems strange since the cats are pretty much ALL I post about over on my Instagram Stories, ha. I know most of you aren't over there, though, and yesterday we invented something sanity-saving that I think you cat Moms and Dads might appreciate:

These strappy one-piece numbers that really bring out their eyes. :D

Ok, really it's a recovery onesie, since both girls were spayed on Monday. We never intended to make these, though, because I thought I was prepared with these inflatable collars:


Both girls wriggled out of them in under 5 minutes. Turns out their safety collars inside the rings just popped open when they kicked at it. So we tried collars without the safety clasps... and Eva nearly strangled herself struggling with it. Terrifying. So, no.

We briefly tried our old DIY cat onesie, but it was way too big. Cute, but big:

Eva was still able to reach her stitches through the lower end.

At this point, desperation levels rising, John went out and bought the standard plastic cones. Suki did... ok?... in it, but Eva lost her furry little mind, instantly transforming into a 6-pound wrecking ball, flailing against every hard surface and giving me a succession of heart attacks as her little head bounced across the hard floors and walls. We tackled her, took the cone off, swaddled her tightly in the onesie again - plus a blanket for good measure - and sat down to regroup.

This is what a rough day looks like.

That's a long windup to tell you I found this "recovery suit" on Amazon while looking for a better collar:

It's only $9 and ships with Prime, but after squinting at it a moment I said to John, "We can make that out of an old t-shirt right now." John grumbled at first, like he always does, but then he got that thoughtful, calculating look that means MAGIC is about to happen. 

Furry Stegosaurus!
John's first prototype just had leg holes and straps, and it worked pretty darn well. The neck part stretched out quickly with the girls chewing on them, though, causing the whole thing to slide down after an hour or two.

Prototype #2 had a head hole and extra front straps. This was the winner for Suki, and she's still snug and happy in it two days later:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dragon Con 2018: Best of the Bunny Hutch!

Thursday night at Dragon Con always kicks off with the famous Bunny Hutch: a party and costume contest that invites geeks to mash up their favorite fandoms with Playboy Bunny and Heff outfits. 

The majority of Bunny Hutch costumes are actually pretty modest, so no pearl-clutching required. ;) It's all in good fun, and these are some of the most creative - and hilarious - costumes of the whole convention.

For example, there was a bunch of bunnies themed to pro wrestlers:

I'm not a wrestling geek so I didn't recognize ANY of them (sorry!) but this Randy Savage bunny was too gorgeous to pass up. Love it!

Gandalf and the Balrog seem to have made up:

Low-key wishing Balrog had an LED whip. Or would that be too much?

You KNOW I made a beeline for the Stay Puft bunny:
 The angry Stay Puft face on her ribbon is my favorite part. 

Grandmaster Bunny from Thor: Ragnorak:
And can we talk about that genius "cigarette holder" shaped like his melt stick? Bahahaha!!

They're not all funny bunnies, of course; some are sexy and terrifying at the same time:

Christina's metal bikini has spikes all over it. Whaaaaat. Even her metal bunny ears have spikes! If you look closely, you can see it's all made from collapsible colanders and machine screws. This is her own design, not a specific fandom, and she went on to win first place in the Bunny Hutch contest.

There aren't as many gents at the Bunny Hutch as there are ladies, but the ones that are there know how to make an impression:

 Negan Bunny (from Walking Dead), with a giant carrot instead of bat. YES.

UPDATE: I'm told he was calling himself "Vegan." Bahaha!

Here's a little Trek vs Wars for you: Klingon Bunny & Lando Bunny!

 This next pair is truly outrageous:

Friday, September 7, 2018

These Glowing Mushroom Lamps Are Pure Magic And I Want Them All, Please

I browse a lot of art and sculpture on Instagram, and a few weeks ago I stumbled across the most stunning picture:

Glowing purple mushrooms in a sweet open-air lantern? WANT.

This loveliness is the creation of a Ukrainian artist named Katya Sneg, and the second I clicked over to explore her account TheSnowMade, I fell down a rabbit hole of pure magic.

That particular lamp gets even sweeter the closer you get:

But there's more, gang. SO MUCH MORE.

Look at the painstaking detail!

 Obviously I am all about that glow, but Katya's creations are somehow just as breath-taking when they're NOT lit up:

I want to pet them. Is that weird?

More glowy goodness:

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

We Went To Dragon Con 2018 And All We Got You Are These Awesome Videos

Friends, geeks, fellow con veterans.

I come to you today exhilarated, bone-tired, and still in my jammies at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Yep, it's the day after Dragon Con.

This year John and I did something radically different with our coverage, and I'm beyond excited. You might remember that last year we finally puzzled out a way to take crisp photos in the low light by using black-out flash, but I wanted more. I wanted to capture the feel of the place, to show you all the madness and community and spontaneous play-acting that happens in the crushing Dragon Con crowds every night.

So in addition to my normal photography - both flash and non flash - John and I decided to shoot video every day of the con, and - here's the hard part - to produce a new video for each day of the con, too.

I won't lie, it was the hardest we've worked at any Dragon Con. We didn't attend a single panel or concert, and never even went into the vendor hall or Walk of Fame. Instead, WE FILMED. We took photos and video until the wee hours of the morning, then we were up 'til 5AM editing in the hotel. Sleep a few hours, then repeat, for five long days.

And it was SO. MUCH. FUN.

We got to attend two Epbot meetups, then met a dozen or more of you randomly throughout the con. So there were still plenty of breaks for socializing, laughter, and hugs. I honestly don't feel like I missed out on a thing. I got to do what I love most: commune with fellow geeks & capture great cosplay in new creative ways.

 Thursday Epbot meet up, photo by Jen Allen 
(We forgot to take a group shot for the 2nd one!)

What's more, by prioritizing our schedule & planning all my Low Fodmap meals ahead, I felt physically better and braver than ever: not a single Xanax needed all five days! YAAAAS. (That's also thanks to my new doctor and hormone regiment; thank God for modern medicine. I feel like a new person, so much stronger and calmer than just two months ago.)

I'll have lots more to show and tell you later, but while I'm still recovering, let me start by showing you our Thursday, Friday, and Saturday videos. (John hopes to have both Sunday and Monday up by tomorrow, so subscribe to our YouTube channel to see those as soon as they're live!)

(This includes the famous Bunny Hutch, where cosplayers mashup their favorite fandoms with Playboy Bunny and Hef outfits)


Friday, August 31, 2018

This Could Be The Harry Potter Room To End All Harry Potter Rooms, So Let's Steal Their Ideas!

Epbot readers Britney and her husband Sean spent the last five months working on this Harry Potter bedroom, and you guys, I think it's paid off.

Hold on to your sorting hats, Potter heads.

Let's start with the view from the door:

Over the bed are floating candles and a custom painted night sky, complete with fiber optic lighting:

The painting is by their friend and local artist, Spencer Douglas.

I'm going to pan around the room, starting with this wall of wizard portraits.

I love how Britney & Sean made themed vignettes everywhere, like this Death Eater shelf. Sean made the Azkaban prison number sign himself, along with so much more - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Potions shelf:

They crafted all of these themselves, using printed labels:

On the wall there are even some of Delores Umbridge's ceramic kitten plates!


Here comes one of my favorite things in the whole room: the owlery!