Monday, July 30, 2018

July Art Roundup: Foxes, Owls, & Sailor Moon Astronauts

Time to drool over some new art!

I fell hard for Anna Jano's stylized foxes at MetroCon:

This one also comes as an enamel pin!

And the rainbow kitsune version:

 I don't think this last one is available as a print, but look at these sweet kittens!

I melted. Anna, you should offer this one if you don't already!
And the rest of you, go check out Jano's online shop for more.


Gawki has a surreal, dream-like style, and I love their bold colors:

Plus it's hard to beat a chibi Deadpool riding a unicorn:

Friday, July 27, 2018

MetroCon 2018: My Favorite Cosplay Finds!

Thank you so much, guys, for all the cheerleading and positive vibes after my SuperCon post. I hit a real low point there, but I'm happy to report that MetroCon (plus some better self-care) cured me of my photography and convention blues.


I still struggled a little with my camera settings, but the atmosphere at Metro instantly put me at ease. It's a smaller con, so less crowds, plus there's a dance floor right out in the main atrium when you walk in, with people jumping in to dance or just hanging out and mingling - super chill.

 (From my IG Story that day)

When John and I first walked in Friday afternoon the dance floor was in full swing, with maybe two dozen cosplayers all dancing to Cotton-Eyed Joe - then Gangnam Style. We stood and watched for a few minutes, laughing and cheering from the sidelines, and darned if I didn't get a little teary-eyed, because it was just so happy, you guys. In all the stress and bustle of chasing after convention photos I'd lost sight of the best part: geeks hanging out, being silly, being proud, being themselves. Not chasing down another autograph, not rushing to be somewhere; just having fun with friends, celebrating fandoms they love.

I don't know if it's because Metro is smaller, or younger, or more anime-centered, but for whatever reason it's one of the most joyful cons I've ever attended. It's why John and I had to come back after last year: the Hamilton sing-along in the atrium sold me, ha. I love the feeling of community and inclusiveness, and thanks to the Tampa Convention Center's open floor plan, that community feels more front-and-center, not tucked away in panel rooms.

Another thing I love about Metro: the vendor room. Ohhh, the vendor room. It's an explosion of glittery anime loveliness, pastel rainbows and chibi plushes and colorful art everywhere. I had to stop and shop several times, distracted by shimmery jewelry and novelty purses and fuzzy dinosaurs. I clearly need to watch more anime, because I saw so many fandom things I loved but didn't understand!

Now, ready to see some cosplay?

I'd say Chuck E. Cheese here in a Lolita dress perfectly encapsulates the spirit of MetroCon:

THE GIANT SHOES. Omigosh. So cute.

Kuzko from Emperor's New Groove struck the perfect pose:

And here comes a stunning Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip:

[Aurora: Taylor On Tour, dress by DavidforDisney Phillip: Duy Truong Cosplay]

John insisted we ask for this guy's photo, and I'm so glad he did. Look how dramatic:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

New Video! How To Replace Wall Plugs & Light Switches

Hi guys!

John and I are back from MetroCon (which went SO much better, stay tuned for photos!) with another home remodeling video, this time on how to replace your old wall plugs and light switches. Whether you're doing this purely for looks or because you have some wonky outlets that don't always connect right, this is an easy upgrade for older houses.

Note I'm not changing any wiring around in this video; I'm only swapping out old plugs and switches for new ones. If you need to add or move anything, call in a professional. But if you're like me and are just looking to swap them out, then here's how:

Safety PSA: Be sure you have that voltage detector on hand to verify there is no power in the wires before you touch anything. This is very important, gang. Especially in older homes, where the breaker box alone should not be trusted. Always double check with a tester! You can grab one at any hardware store for around $10.

Edited To Add: Someone asked about those metal side tabs on the wall plugs: those connect the top and bottom of the outlet, making them one circuit. If the tabs are broken then there are two circuits happening. Regardless, just make your new plug match the old, and you'll be fine. (John tells me in some funky situations only one of the two tabs is broken - again, just make it match. Assuming your old plug worked correctly, then so will the new one.)

Our remodel is humming along, and I hope to have a walk-through update soon, along with a quick look at how John and I did the drywall - from studs to texture - all by ourselves. It was extra work not hiring anyone, but we saved ourselves over a thousand dollars. And I gotta say, it looks good! Like, almost professional good! It's so satisfying tackling something we said we'd never try again, and realizing it wasn't quite as scary as we thought.

I've been watching your feedback, and I'm hoping to shoot the following videos going forward. Tell me what I'm missing, k?

- How to paint trim next to carpet/paint trim in general
- How to install laminate flooring
- How to replace sink faucets & toilets
- How to replace a chandelier/ceiling light fixture
- How to patch a hole in drywall
- How to install new interior doors (This one's especially difficult, so I still have to convince John you guys are up for it, ha.)

And finally, though I'm not sure how we'll film it - maybe just a talking heads/podcast style? - we've been asked about how to budget and plan a whole house renovation. This would include a full price breakdown of what we've spent and where we shop to get the best deals, how we prioritize, and when to hire a professional versus trying to DIY. I'm pretty excited about this one, just have to figure out how to keep it interesting and as brief as possible, since I know I tend to talk a LOT in these videos.

Stay tuned for more convention photos, and a report from MetroCon!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

DIY Sherlock Apple: Making Moriarty's Famous "IOU"

My friends Chris & Christie are HUGE Sherlock fans, and are steadily turning their living room into Sherlock's apartment set. (Remember our Sherlock wallpaper stencil?) So for Christie's birthday I decided to surprise her with a little Sherlock prop I haven't seen many people try before:


See, Christie also loves Moriarty - even did this bang-on gender-swapped cosplay of him at Dragon Con several years back:
So the apple seemed like a perfect fit.

It took me about 3 nights, since I had to wait on things to dry, but in the end I had this:


Lucky for me (and for you, if you want to make your own) there are some VERY realistic fake apples out there. They're even weighted! Check your local craft stores - or I remember finding some at Walmart back when I did my glowing poison apple. It shouldn't cost more than 3 or 4 dollars.

Other than the apple, all you need is a craft blade, a stick of chalk, epoxy putty (I used the leftover epoxy dough from our Thestral build, but an air-dry clay might work, too), and a little craft paint.

 Then if you want to go the EXTRA mile, go on ebay and buy a used Leatherman Squirt S4 multi-tool in gray:

This is the exact make and model of the knife Moriarty leaves behind in the apple. New ones cost around $60, but you can find them used for closer to $20.

Now, let's carve up an apple!

First sketch the I O U on your apple with chalk. Use reference pictures on Google for this to get the size and shape as close as you can.

Next start cutting with a craft blade:

You only need to get through the skin here, which is a thick flexible plastic. It helps to use a sawing motion - and go slow!

Peel off the apple skin, revealing the Styofoam underneath.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Florida SuperCon 2018 and My Big Screw-Up

Unfortunately I had some major photography issues at SuperCon last weekend, so after we left early on Saturday I was only able to salvage a handful of photos. [sob] BUT! John did take some fun video on Friday, so here's a look around the con:

Plus I do have a few cosplay shots I managed to save, so let's take a look at those, starting with my favorite original find:

Tamotoa-inspired warrior! See how she has his crab claw for a sword, and his treasure-crusted shell for a shield? My photos don't do her justice; her makeup and coral headdress were SO COOL.

This Genji from Overwatch was rockin' light-up accents in his armor:

We've long since established I have a high tolerance for creepy dolls, so while *I* think these anime masks are pretty dang cool, your mileage may vary. 

 I'd only seen these kinds of masks online before, so it was neat spotting some in person!

 A little Hocus Pocus:

And a Beauty with her gender-swapped Beast:
 Gotta say, I'm loving this trend of lady Beasts.

 Spotted these three outside the main hall:

 I'm especially loving Poison Ivy's cape and headdress - the roses are so pretty!

This Bender and Ted I think must have been friends since they were walking the floor together, and both are INCREDIBLE foam/fur builds:

Monday, July 16, 2018


We've gotten pretty close here, you and I.

You know my proper bra size and how I deal with menstrual cramps, and *I* know that you like to read about those things sometimes. Weirdo.

So anyhoo, I figure you may as well know this, too, since I've stumbled across something again I think could help my fellow sufferers out there:

Hi, I'm Jen, and my stomach has hurt since the second grade.

Over the last 6 weeks or so, though, I've been on something called the Low FODMAP diet, and wow.  Wow. I think this could be the answer to most of my life-long stomach problems... which is huge.

A little background: You name the gut problem, and I've probably had or have it. GERD, IBS-C, IC - really I just like collecting acronyms. School was agony (the trend of skin-tight jeans didn't help), on my first-ever date with John I had to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom from the pain, and since then I've been to the ER with chest spasms, spent more nights than I can count pacing the house, sleeping sitting up, guzzling pills and supplements, and just generally whining and feeling helpless.

Over those early years I was tested for everything: I drank barium, got strapped to tilting tables - the works. All I was ever diagnosed with was reflux and a "nervous stomach," though, so I stopped seeing doctors and resigned myself to a life of pain.

Giving up milk and ice cream last year helped immensely with the reflux (go figure, right?), but even after the chest spasms were gone I had a near-constant aching, along with the more embarrassing aspects of IBS-C. (My fellow 'BSers know my pain, amirite?) It all felt so normal, though - just part of being me - so I often forgot anything was wrong, or could ever change. I still vividly recall the rerun of Scrubs where Elliot jokes about not having "poo'd" in 4 days, because I was like, "Wait... that's bad?" Ha!

It's all been getting worse, though - plus some new pains, which were spiking my anxiety - so out of desperation I convinced John to try the AIP with me in May. The AIP is an insanely restrictive diet meant to reduce inflammation for people with autoimmune diseases, and since I have Hashi's, I figured it would help.

A week later I was more miserable than ever; the pain was somehow worse, plus now I was queasy all the time. Bleh.

We went to another GI doctor, who wasn't all that concerned, but offered to run a bunch of tests. When I balked at the dual endoscopy/colonoscopy, saying I thought it was food-related, she said she'd heard of something called FODMAP I could try. It's a special diet, pretty new, meant to help folks with IBS. She didn't know anything more about it, though - and she'd never heard of AIP.

I went home and looked it up, and discovered most of the things we'd been eating on AIP - things like apples, sweet potatoes, avocados, cassava flour, honey, almonds, garlic, and so on - are all big no-nos on Low FODMAP.  I'd been eating the worst possible stuff, which is funny now, but was super disheartening at the time. (Our pantry was full of expensive AIP foods and flours, dangit!) I moped it out, though, and with John's help took a breath, switched gears, and started all over again.

Just one day on Low FODMAP, and the queasy pain went away.


Since then I've been living my best FODMAP life, and even with several slip-ups, I feel so much better. I remember what it's like to not have a stomach ache again! And the constant whale song gut-gurgling? Gone. AHH SWEET SILENCE. I even switched from my $50 probiotic to a $10 one, and don't need my other "moving" supplements either, thank goodness.

I still hurt sometimes, which could be my missing something in what I'm eating (I'm not great at checking ingredients), or maybe my gut is still irritated. Overall, though, I really think this is a root cause to my pain for all these years. Again, this is huge.

If you're unfamiliar with Low FODMAP, as I was, it has to do with the carbohydrates in food and how they're broken down in your gut. Certain sugars don't digest properly, and while those sugars are in some obvious things, like beans, they're also in things I'd never have suspected, like mushrooms or beets. Plus, who ever heard of a diet where you can't eat apples?

This explains why my own attempts to fix my diet never worked; I was missing all the non-obvious FODMAPs. Not to mention eating apples every day with lunch. (Arg.)

To give you an idea, here are some of the things you can't have on Low FODMAP:

The one good thing about transitioning from AIP to Low FODMAP? You suddenly have waaaaay more food options, so Low FODMAP doesn't feel all that restrictive. Don't get me wrong; it still sucks. Just not nearly as much as AIP.

The biggest challenges for me on Low FODMAP are avoiding onion, garlic, and wheat. There are lots more restrictions, but those seem to be the hardest to avoid when ordering take-out, which we do a lot. (Try ordering anything in a restaurant without onion in the seasoning, oof.) I can have most gluten-free breads, though, and even regular sugar is OK, so helloooooo, gluten-free cookies!

I should note this isn't a diet to lose weight, it's to feel better. It's also technically an elimination diet, though I don't plan to add anything back in anytime soon. Since I can't eat most things at restaurants I'm definitely eating healthier, though: lots of homemade soup and chicken and rice. The gluten-free bread and bagels at Aldi are fantastic - better & cheaper than Udi's - plus they have some little boxed cookies I like:

 Don't get the Snickerdoodle ones, though; they made me gag. Urk.

While you're at Aldi (which I *highly* recommend for slashing your grocery bill in half, but that's another post), pick up these sesame chips, too:

SO TASTY. John and I've been eating these since long before the diet; they're just that good. I like them better than potato chips.

Because Low FODMAP isn't low-carb I don't feel deprived, and being pain-free this long has me way too happy to miss my favorite forbidden foods. (Though in time I'm sure I will. Guacamole, I hardly knew you.)

Anyway, I'm no expert, and I'm not trying to give you a guide for starting Low FODMAP yourself; that's what Google is for. I just wanted you to know this option is out there. If you're like me and have life-long stomach problems, and you're fed up with feeling rotten, maybe give it a try!

Oh! And if any of you are already on Low FODMAP, what do you think? Any tips? Favorite recipes? Favorite take-out options? Please, hit me up in the comments; I'm getting tired of chicken and rice every night!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Geek Girl Replaces Ceiling Fan, Somehow Doesn't Electrocute Herself

At long last, I've got our first video tutorial from the big house renovation! I've insisted on doing all the work in these myself, which has slowed us down a bit, ha. I want to prove that mere mortals can do this stuff, too, not just John - who I suspect was born with a cordless drill in his hand and an innate understanding of electrical wiring in his heart.

I actually changed out three ceiling fans for this video, just to get everything sorted in my head enough to teach you how. I've helped John change dozens of fans before this, but this was the first time I did everything on my own - and I gotta say, it's kind of a rush!

Quick Safety PSA: Old houses (and sometimes even new ones) can have some really funky wiring going on. Be safe, and always have an electrical tester on hand to double-check that the power is off after you flip the breaker. (I know I say the tester is optional in the video, ignore that.) If you see ANYTHING you're not sure of up in that ceiling box, stop and call in a professional. Please. The last thing we want is you endangering yourself or your home, and bad electrical wiring can be scary, burn-your-house-down stuff.

Fun Facts: John once melted a screwdriver on faulty wiring here in our own home (our breaker box failed, this should NOT happen), and another time I was blown back on my butt when SOMEONE flipped a breaker while I was still working. (coughcoughJOHNcough) So please, take your time, respect the wires, and make sure the power is off.

Right, now that I've scared the pants of you: this really isn't as intimidating as you think. I promise you DON'T have to pay a pro $200 to come change out a light or fan every time, because the wiring itself is surprisingly simple!

Enough chatter, here, let me walk you through it:

I hope this inspires some of you to grab some tools, and get to work! As always if you have questions, hit me up in the comments - John & I'll do our best to answer.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Friends & FOE: Mermaids, Puns, & TOM FRIGGIN' HIDDLESTON

When I'm not showing you guys what John and I are up to, I like to share stuff that will make you smile, or get inspired, or feel more connected to the community here.

In thinking about that the last few months, and how I could do it better, I realized some of my favorite stuff online is being shared by you readers, right there in my Facebook feed. So let's check in with some of the awesome, silly, nerdalicious stuff happening in FOE lately:

(Don't worry, I get permission to share first!)

 First up, Kelli has a new color-changing mermaid tail!

Look how it shifts from purple to green!

Seriously, how dreamy is this? I have two mermaid friends (besides Kelly), and every time I see them I feel like a kid in fairyland. How many people get to say they're friends with mermaids?

This post from Lindsay makes me want to bring a stuffed animal when I travel:


One of my favorite things is your convention photos, especially if you made your costume and/or get a pic with a celebrity! I've never done the celeb thing myself - and don't ever plan to - so I am living vicariously through posts like this:

Friday, July 6, 2018

Today I Learned Something From My Friend Chris

I meet a lot of cool people thanks to this blog, and Chris here is one of them:

John and I first met Chris and her hubby Brandon while they were on vacation here at Disney, and we've had a standing date since for every time they visit. They're the best kind of nerds and One Of Us - trust me, you guys would love 'em.

Chris is in a wheelchair, and she tackles life with relentless optimism and spit-take-inducing humor.  I mean, she's a graphic designer, and this is her shop logo:

:D :D :D

(Go check out her Disney tees; they're awesome.)

Chris also drops some serious sit-back-and-think life observations on her personal Facebook from time to time, and a little while ago one of these socked me right in the gut - so much so, I asked if I could share it here with all of you.

She said yes, so I'll let Chris take it from here:

[transcribed from Chris' FB post, so you don't have to squint]

Dear a number of folks I came across today who will never hear this because I'm too cowardly to say this to you directly:

One you: I don't need your sad, sad eyes while you holler out to "have a blessed day." 

And other you: please don't wish I "feel better soon" with your pinched face, or give me a heartsick "good for you" when I tell you I'm not sick. 

Oh, and THIRD you: do you think you're having a ~real moment~ with me by catching my eye as I leave and noting how "at least it's nice just to get out for a little while, huh?" and then capping that with a conspiratorial wink and sage nod of ~understanding~? 

I am out today with my dear friend. Just out - having lunch, doing some shopping. I know I'm in a wheelchair and she's in scrubs, but that's because she was excited to hang out right after her midnight shift so she came right over without changing. She's not my nurse, but it wouldn't matter if she was. You make me forget the pep in my (figurative) step I had from how much I like the cardigan I'm wearing and the way I got my hair looking kinda on point by myself and how much I was digging this new lipstick because now I'm fighting the feeling of being a rolling sad sack. 

I don't want to be a part of Your ego boost. My leaving my house isn't consent. I can and do ignore a You here or a You there but god, there were so many Yous today and You All emotionally exhaust me. Please, please, just talk to me like a regular grown ass adult with a real life, or don't talk to me at all.

 That was a Facebook memory Chris shared from last year, so she also included this addendum:

Woof, this day was a doozy and it was followed shortly thereafter by some complete rando who came up to me midway through singing at karaoke, throwing her arm around me and filming us with her phone (surely to get posted to her Facebook as inspo-porn or sent to Upworthy as inspo-porn or something equally cringy). 

At least that one I kindly but firmly called on the carpet afterward and thoroughly explained why it was all Super Not Okay. I was proud of myself (and loved my friends for their outrage/self-control at letting me handle it), but I still cried most of the way home from the bar that night.

Yowch. Anyone else cringing with me through all of that? And yet, is anyone else able to vividly picture it all happening, because we see this kind of behavior all the time? Maybe even know folks who do it?

I think that's what got me the most: it's not that those people were trying to be jerks. They honestly thought they were doing a good thing, when in fact they were being patronizing and selfish. Selfish, because it made them feel good, not Chris. Like they were the hero for noticing her, for cheering her on. And my heart is pricked, because I can only hope that in the past when I've seen folks in chairs or with other visible disabilities - a common occurrence at Disney -  I hope I didn't fall into that trap of, "Oh poor them, let me smile extra bright in their direction, just in case!"

Thanks to Chris I can see how self-centered that is, how potentially damaging. We all fight hard battles, and we all deserve bright smiles, not just the ones with the most visible battle scars. No one should be singled out of a crowd for patronizing head-pats and "atta girls" just to make the rest of us feel magnanimous - no one. And going forward, I hope I can think a little less about what makes ME feel good - about how *I* can be a hero - and think more about what my friends and fellow fighters through life want. About what makes them feel most respected and most comfortable.

I hope Chris' posts made you sit back and think, too, and maybe kicks off some conversations tonight around the dinner table. There's nowhere else online I'd feel safe even broaching this topic, but our tribe has proven again and again that we can talk and learn and challenge each other here, even admit our own failings, and do it in a safe space. I love that. I love that you guys make me a better person.

And thank you, Chris, for letting me stick you in the spotlight today! Love you, and see ya real soon.


[Quick Editing Note: I originally wrote that "Chris happens to be in a wheelchair, but she tackles life with optimism, etc." Several of you pointed out that my wording was problematic, so I changed it and did my best to understand why. Just as this post is trying to point out, I want to do better, and I appreciate the grace from folks who corrected me. 

At least one of the corrections was quite cruel, however, which makes me wonder: If you rip people apart for not knowing the exact right words - especially when they're trying quite hard to get them right -  how are we ever supposed to learn? You make us afraid to talk about things, and fear will only lead to more ignorance. Grace, guys. Please. A little goes a long way.]

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Video: Epbot Renovation Update!

Hi guys!

Our whole house renovation is chugging along, so let me show you what we've done so far:

And just for fun, here are a few progress pics from my Instagram Stories. (Be sure to follow me there for sneak peeks, silliness, and LOTS of kitten videos.)
 I'll be changing out every outlet and switch in the house - which is another tutorial we'll be filming. I'm excited to use a new kind of clamp outlet that *should* be less tedious and time-consuming than the traditional ones, though, so there's that. 


 My pet project. (Get it? "Pet?" Hurrhurrhurr)

 Oh! Here's what that carpet looked like fresh out of the attic, with the blackened paper wrapping:

 (Upon examining the paper wrapping later, though, we learned it's actually from '74, not '64.)

 See? No green was showing at all when we found it!

And for those of you who need a good (horror?) story prompt: we ALSO found a change of men's clothing in the attic, stuffed into a grocery bag. The jeans were partially inside out from when someone pulled them off, belt still in place, plus there was a wadded up button-down shirt.

No blood stains, though, or I'd've been calling the cops. Ha! And... EEEK! Amirite?

And finally, because A) I actually like this selfie, which never happens, and B) the #BadJokesForFOE hashtag is contagious:

(Yes I filtered. My skin is NOT that smooth. But those eyebrows are alllll me. :D)

Please keep those questions and suggestions coming for what you want to see in the house! Next I'll be showing you how to change out a ceiling fan, toilet, and outlet plugs, but after that we can cover wall tiling and patching, sink faucets, door handles, paint, a dishwasher install... so many options.

We're also kicking around the idea of doing a podcast style Q&A - maybe we could even livestream it? - for general house questions. It's all up to you guys, so sound off!

Stay tuned for more, and have a great 4th, fellow US 'bots!