Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Harry Potter Cat Tree, Because Our Kittys Are KEEPERS


 Behold its glory. 

Yep, our sisal fabric arrived yesterday, so John and I were finally able to finish our newest build: the Kitty Quidditch Tower. All that's left is adding a pillow inside, and fashioning some hanging snitch toys for them to bat at. (I'm thinking I'll sew felt wings to a craft pom-pom.)


Features include two interior cubbies in the tower, padded vinyl beds in each hoop (held in place with Velcro), and sisal-wrapped posts for climbing. The roof peak is open on both sides for easy jumping up to the hoops.

As for the cats, our two girls were inseparable from this thing the second we dragged it inside to start painting. They love sleeping on the hoops and fighting over the top spot. And now that we've added sisal for them to climb? Oh yeah, HUGE hit.

If you follow my Instagram Stories then you've been watching this build take shape for about two weeks now. I got the idea when I spotted a round tube on a cat tree somewhere online, and immediately thought of a Quidditch goal post. I sketched out a design for John, who loved it so much he instantly sat down and drew out a to-scale version:

(Our original plan was to have the hoops be enclosed tubes with holes for jumping. We changed it on the fly during building.)
Lots of you have been asking for templates, but drawing up plans are a massive amount of work for John, and he's already moving on to bigger party projects over here. (You're welcome to keep asking him on FOE, though; I know my hubby, and he can't say no to you guys for long. :D)

So while I don't have a template to share, I'll do the next best thing I can: build photos and a general walk through. If you're an experienced wood worker, then this shouldn't be too hard to recreate.

We started literally from the ground up with a one-inch thick MDF base and posts made from two 2X4s screwed together:

Monday, October 15, 2018

12 Insanely Creative Halloween Wreaths To Spook Up Your Season

Last week I went looking for Halloween inspiration - just anything different and quirky - and I found so many awesome wreaths. I wasn't even looking for wreaths, you guys, but after my 5th or 6th "Whaaaat, THAT IS BRILLIANT!" I switched gears and just started compiling a list of all my favorites to share.

Starting with this so-perfect-I-bet-you-want-to-make-one-with-me Maleficent wreath:

All we need is a spray-painted wreath, glittery craft foam, some ribbon, and a cute googly eye! I'm itching to go buy the stuff and make one right now.

I love non-traditional wreaths, and this felt ball design is so sweet and cheerful:
By My Sister's Suitcase, click for the tutorial!

Or how about using the wreath like a shadowbox frame, and making a little scene inside?

By Manal Aman for Martha Stewart

There are lots of cute owls in the shops right now, so this is another easy DIY that packs a big punch.

This next one is not a craft tutorial - it's for sale - but Nancy Freeman was an INSTA-FOLLOW once I spotted her Little Shop of Horrors wreath:

How fabulous is this?! I'm in love.

Nancy also makes headband versions of Audrey and this faaabulous Demogorgan hair flower:

I know I'm veering off the wreath path here, but I think you'll agree the detour is worth it. Go check out Nancy's Etsy shop for more - it's all so, SO GOOD.

It would never occur to me to sculpt a Halloween wreath, but that's exactly what artist Zachary Jackson Brown did:

SO CLEVER - and all built on a base of a Styrofoam ring! Someone should do a traditional man-in-the-moon in this style, right? I like how bright Brown's design is, though, and how it rides the line between cute and creepy with that realistic eyeball. ::shiver::

That one obviously takes an artist to make, but here's something more doable for us mere mortals:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Quick Craft: Spookify Your Candy Bowl For Halloween

This quick craft is SO quick I'm almost not sure it counts, but there's hot glue involved, so I guess I'll allow it. :D

Remember this floor lamp John disassembled for the Game Room makeover?

He removed the top half of the light since we never used it, so I turned the metal part into a display stand for our Sorting Hat.

That still left the plastic lamp shade on top left over, though, and here in the Yates household we aim to use ALL parts of the junk animal.

Sure, the shade had a big hole in the middle, but I figured it could made a good Halloween candy bowl. So I went to the dollar store and grabbed 3 plastic skulls, a rubber rat, and a strand of battery-operated lights:

 That's $5 in materials, plus some hot glue.

To do this yourself, you really just need a plastic bowl, the skulls, and hot glue. The rat and lights are optional. 

(Btw, "the rat and lights are optional" would be an amazing sentence to hear out of context. That is all. Carry on.)

Arrange the skulls in a nice tripod formation, then hot glue them to each other:

Now hot glue the bowl on top of the skulls.


Well, I also had to hot glue the rat into the middle of my bowl to cover the hole.


After that I arranged the light strand inside the bowl, covered it with cheap Halloween candy (because if we buy the good stuff this early I *will* eat it all), and bam. Now I'm done:

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Jen's Gems: Dragon Cowls, Lost Star Wars, Cute New Disney Figs, Timey-Wimey Fabric, & More!

It's been ages since I did one of these, so I have quite the backlog! Here are some of my favorite finds from around the web lately:

Choly Knight of Sew Desu Ne gives away free plush patterns from time to time, and last Friday she shared something PERFECT for Fall:

I am so tempted to buy some fleece and actually try sewing again, you guys. SO TEMPTED. Go download the free pattern on Choly's site here, and follow her on FB for the most adorable plushies!


Star Wars fans, have you seen the lost Michel Parbot documentary from Empire that just popped up on Facebook?! I've only watched the first 15 minutes so far, but this thing is phenomenal: all behind-the-scenes looks at filming, props & scenery, and interviews with the primary cast. (Watching Mark train for one of the lighsaber fights in a random backlot warehouse was my favorite so far.)

The whole thing is an hour long, so grab some popcorn and go watch it full-screen here on Facebook.

Less fun, but equally fascinating: If you haven't read HuffPo's article "Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong," please do so. It's definitely a long read, and it drops some depressing facts at first, like this:

... but at the same time, there's a huge amount of vindication here for the long scoffed-at notion of "healthy fat." There's also a psychological examination of why overweight people can't - or won't - band together for support, and how the medical community is almost criminally negligent in their shame-based treatment. Read it, please. It's world-shifting.


Now more fun stuff:

David Rose took this picture at the Labyrinth Masquerade Ball, and it makes me so happy I could burst like a giant toasty marshmallow:

Dappered-up Dana & Tully from Ghostbusters... WITH GLOWING TERROR DOG MASKS.

I just... I mean... YES.  I'm grinning like a goof over here. I will love these two forever and always. Anyone know who they are?


More awesome: my friend Jason of Red Rocket Farm met a McCree cosplayer at Dragon Con who showed off her incredible prosthetic arm:

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Game Room Makeover & Tour: Come See Our Nerdy Stuff!

Now that the big renovation at the other house is done, John and I are back to working on our own house. It's been nice getting offline and working on something tangible this week; gets me out of my own head, so to speak, and gives me something fun to focus on.

John's Fan Cave was our first priority, as it was bursting with clutter and the last room in the house to still have carpet, which is a huge dust trap and far too tempting for cats to pee and/or chew on. (Arg.)

 Just... so much stuff.

More of the Before:

The art situation had gotten out of control - we'd been tacking up frames willy-nilly, and were flat out of space -  and the big wall unit was so cram-packed you couldn't focus on anything. Total dusty chaos.

Getting all that huge furniture out was half the battle, but let's pick up here:

That's old terrazzo underneath.


This laminate is the same John used in the renovation house. It's from Home Depot, cheap, and the easiest he's ever installed - you can see he did the whole room in about an hour and a half. Anyway, A++, would recommend.

Here comes one of my favorite upgrades:


And here's how the wires come out in the corner:

I love this, since we have a lot of wires to hide! (Mostly speakers; we love our surround sound.)


John is a sentimental pack rat, so it took some convincing to get him to purge and prioritize a little. He came around once I pointed out all the new art he's been wanting to hang, and that we could dedicate a whole wall to Harry Potter. At this point John did a full 180, and declared he wanted the walls Hufflepuff yellow. (Aw yeeeah.)

Now, take it from a former pro painter: yellows are scary. To keep it from going too bright or sickly, we color matched our favorite Hufflepuff pillow, which is more of a neutral gold:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mixed Up, But Baked In A Beautiful Pie

I've been feeling a little stuck, a little mixed up, lately. Anyone else get that way?

Where a combination of the news and social media and seeing friends hurting leaves you heart sick inside, and IRL stuff offline - like work and laundry and fighting with the post office because Customs sent back all your international pin orders, or fixing that broken front door handle, or airing out the moldy smell from the car that's STILL there after buying mulch last week to spruce up a yard overgrown with weeds in the sweltering 94 degree heat even though it's October, Florida, so what the actual heck - all those things keep getting in the way of stuff you actually want to do.

Plus, as too many of you know, there's that one-two punch of a panic disorder coupled with an invisible illness. (Spoiler Alert: still have those. Dangit.) I hate feeling light-headed and jittery but somehow exhausted so much of the time. Mostly because when I get bad like this I'm scared - so stinking scared - of dying. Like, all the time. Every knee wobble or dizzy spell, I'm like, "Welp. Here it comes. This is it. And there's still so much I haven't done yet."

You'd think that would make me go all Hamilton inside, get fired up for the time I have left. You'd think I'd be working like a fiend, grabbing life by the cosplay horns, and writing like I'm running out of time.

But I'm tired, peeps. Tired, scared, and just trying to survive my own body's onslaught of misfiring autoimmune defenses, adrenaline, and wackadoodle hormones going "AW YEAH BABY TIME!" when it is most certainly NOT "baby time," ovaries, so chill the eff out.

So yeah, instead of working harder, instead of funneling my fear into hyper-productivity, I slack off. I binge-watch comfort shows, I take my meds, I cry while watching this Sara Barielles/Jessie Mueller duet from Waitress, because that shiz is raw and cathartic and the way Jessie sings "pie" is my favorite - and I wait.


Look, I know it's going to be OK. I know my panic and Hashi's flares with my cycle, and I know things will be better in a week or two. I'm at the bottom of a well looking up, knowing a ladder is coming. That just doesn't change the fact that I'm still down here, ticked-off, tired, obsessing over if-onlys.

But it's not just me down here, is it? You - yeah, you - I see you. I got you. We may lose days or weeks at a time, we may lose career opportunities, we may even lose friends who don't understand, but we know the value of this fight. We know how precious the good days are. We cherish every belly laugh, every friendship, every piece of art or new fandom to obsess over. (Oh hi there, Critical Role...) We try to surround ourselves with light and laughter, with geeky shows and toys, with happy things we can cling to when life gets hard. It's why we're friends. It's why I love you. And it's why I work as hard as I can, when I can, to share smiles and silliness and new fandoms and art and all the beauty in life I can scoop up. Because this is our arsenal. These are our weapons. Others may not see it, but we are fighters.

And by God, we will fight.

Be right back, gang. Just gotta go slay some monsters.

P.S. If you need a good cathartic cry, close the door, turn up the volume, and watch this:

Repeat as needed.

Now scootch over, and pass the tissues.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Sweet Story Of Real Heroes At Dragon Con 2018

I originally shared this in my Instagram Story, the same night it occurred back during Dragon Con. I've had a few people request I share it here, though, plus I wanted to add an update, so here goes:

Let me add that all 3 of these cosplayers missed the big photoshoot they were there for, and without a second's thought or hesitation. The professor knew Dana a little from earlier shoots, and when she told him to go, to not miss out, he brushed off her protests with a smile and an assurance that her health was the only important thing.

When John and I left the group we assumed the crisis was over, when in fact it would take them all another two hours (!!) to transport McGonagall to her room just one sky-bridge away. There were no wheelchairs available (something I'll definitely be mentioning to Dragon Con) so the three had to carefully walk the poor lady through the suffocating crowds - pausing often for her to sit and rest - to get just one hotel over and up to her room. (In the hotel's defense, we did have paramedics quickly on hand; you can see them in my video. Just no wheelchairs.)

On the bright side, I'm told that by the next morning the professor was right as rain.

Before they parted ways that night, the trio went back to the area of their missed photoshoot and took this for the professor:

I hope she keeps it as a happy reminder of friends and cosplay family.  :)

These three make me proud to be a geek, you guys. They're the perfect examples of the kindness and kinship I feel every time I'm at a con, and I hope you'll go show them some love:

Joker is Dana Elliott, Superman is Jason Spencer, and Dr. Poison is Claudia Martinez. (Links to their Instagram accounts.) They have no idea I'm doing this, but I wanted to shine a little light on their kindness. Thanks for stepping up, you three!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

MegaCon Tampa Bay 2018: The Best Cosplay Music Video!

MegaCon Tampa Bay is the perfect "first convention" con here in central Florida; it's roughly half the size of MegaCon Orlando, not too big, not too small. A good range of celebrities, huge vendor room, family-friendly, lots of cosplay, AND it's held in my favorite convention center. John and I only had a few hours there each day last weekend, but it has a lovely relaxed vibe with just enough room for filming.

Oh that's right, I hope you're not tired of cosplay videos yet, gang, because we tried a couple new things this time and turned out so fun. EEEEEE!

So turn up your volume and get ready to grin - and maybe chair dance a little. If you can't turn up your sound then come back later to watch this; the music is ESSENTIAL, trust me. (Plus I'm addicted to this song now. Give it a chance, it's seriously so good.)

The intro makes me laugh every time; I love how he starts stab-dancing after the lady in pink, then kind of gives up at the end, lol.

I hope it shows that we went to the con with this song already in mind, plus a whole list of costumes to find to match up to certain words. It was like cosplay bingo, and even though we didn't find everything we hoped for, it added another awesome dimension to our weekend. (How many words & costume match-ups did you find? Some are pretty subtle.)

[UPDATE: For those asking, the song is Mighty and High by Can't Stop Won't Stop.]

John and I are still new at this, but I gotta tell you, I had a blast running around playing director. Lining up shots, suggesting poses, asking people to do or say certain things - and then being delighted when they busted out with something unexpected - it all brought another degree of joy to a thing I already love. The only downside was I had no time to take regular photos, so I'm afraid this video and a few phone shots are all you get.

The remote-controlled BB-Hei Hei kept falling over flat on his face, and it was HYSTERICAL. Probably my favorite thing at the whole con, haha.

I overheard her saying those clear sections are made from dollar store bubble tubes! So smart.

 These three are all readers:

[Batgirl: Merida Ann Cosplay]

 Also the 3 good fairies in the video at 2:33 are fellow FOE (and super sweet!) Check the video description on YouTube for more cosplayer credits: I've added all the ones I have for now, and will try to keep it updated.

[Blue Fairy: ColossalSmidgen]

I wish I could have gotten closer to these two for detail shots, because everything on them was stunning. They were obviously in high demand, though, so we could only take a few shots from behind other photographers, ha. They each had rhinestones all over their faces, and those flower skirts are amazeballs.

Getting back to the video: In addition to using a song with lyrics for the first time, John and I also tested out a new wide-angle lens. It required some trouble-shooting with our gimbal (we had to add a counter-weight to John's phone), but by Sunday we'd figured it out and managed to get some nice shots. Then last night we spent several hours together getting the edit right. The editing is still 85% John, but I help by making him change stuff at the 11th hour. :D

We ran into a handful of FOEs at the con - who are all in the video! - and even made a few new friends while out exploring the floor. (Exchanging business cards is totally the platonic version of getting someone's phone number, am I right? SCORE!) Cons are perfect for striking up a conversation with total strangers, and between me chasing down cosplayers and curious passers-by asking about our gimbal, John and I got to chat with dozens of awesome people.

I hope these made you smile! Our next convention isn't 'til December, but never fear: I still have lots more from Dragon Con pretties I'll be doling out between now and then.

Now, let's announce some art winners from my last post!

The winner of the Ariel print is Lindsay B.
The winner of the Baymax print is K-
And my wildcard winner is mel82178!

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September Art Roundup: Grumpy Yoda, A Poofy Fox Furball, & A Sweet New Take on Disney Princesses

It's time for my favorite art finds this month!

First up, Leanne Huynh has some stunning - and refreshingly different! - paintings of the Disney princesses:

 I love all these rough textures.

Then by contrast, look how soft Mulan's piece is:

So goooood. I love it when artists put their own spin on characters!

Huynh paints plenty of other fandoms and her own original characters, too.

Plus, Huynh has one of the cutest enamel pin sets I've ever seen:


Go browse Huynh's online store to see the rest of her prints and pins (prints start at $10), plus you can follow her on Instagram!


Carlos Fuenmayor has a crazy abstract/surreal fan art style... and I totally dig it:

C'mon. How could you not love this Yoda?

I like Fuenmayor's Star Wars stuff the most, I think:

It helps that these characters are so iconic; you instantly recognize them.

He's also got plenty of Marvel, DC, and other fandoms to choose from, though: