Saturday, June 29, 2019

Art Roundup: Galaxy Whales, Mermaid Hair-Scapes, & The Cutest Sorting Hat Ever

It's time for more of my favorite art finds! 

And hey, even if you're out of wall space (like me), there's always more room in your feed. Everyone I feature here is fighting the same old algoritym battle, so if you like what you see, give them a follow! I've found that having an IG feed full of geeky/fantasy art is a sure-fire way to make me smile more, so consider this good for your mental health... if not necesarily your bank account. :p

First up, Wenqing Yan of Yuumei Art:


Wenquing paints the most intensely coloful, dreamy landscapes:

She also has a huge emphasis on nature, and how it clashes with technicology, pollution, etc.:

In Yuumei's online shop you can buy prints, totes, tees, and even these gorgeous wall scrolls!

::grabby hands::

Go shop, then be sure sure to follow her on Instagram!


Danielle Boinay paints entire worlds in her mermaids' hair, and it is MAGIC:

Look at this rainbow!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Build Your Own Flip-Up Window Seat! For Your Cats. Because Your Cats Get All The Cool Stuff. :D

For a while now we've had two problems over by our dining room window:


 The first problem was that Eva's stick-on window shelf was a huge eye sore. (It has her baby blanket over it in that pic.) The OTHER problem was that Suki the Beast is too chonky to get up that high, and so she didn't have a window seat of her own.

Now, Suki is a bit of a bully, so it's good Eva can escape to her high perch unscathed. But c'mon. LOOK HOW SAD THIS IS:

Suki singing in cat yowls: "I want to be... where my sister is."

We always had a dining room chair under the window so Suki could look out, too, but that was ALSO an eye sore - and with only a few feet between the wall and the dining room table, I worried a shelf would take up too much room.

Our solution? A flip down window seat. That way we can fold it flat against the wall when we have company, so there's still enough room around the table!

Here's the shelf flat against the wall, and Eva trying to figure out where her seat went.

John built this from scratch, but the design is pretty simple:

1: Build or buy a basic wood shelf. It helps if it has a slight overhang around the edge - you'll see why in a sec.

2: Build or buy basic wood shelf brackets that are long enough to support your shelf:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Self-Hate Battle Plan

I wrote my last post, "No Pictures, Please", three years ago, and since then I've had both wins and losses. I've actually struggled with some of these issues for over a decade, starting back when Cake Wrecks hit the best-seller's list, and forced this already camera-shy introvert into the limelight. The panic of losing my anonymity was only compounded by the fact that I didn't like the way I looked.

I never thought I'd get better, and often dreamed of being the eccentric recluse author, hidden in deep shadows for the rest of my days. But to do what I love - to connect to people through this blog - I knew I had to show my face. So I tried. Eventually I fought back my self-loathing enough to film some Youtube videos - a thing I never thought I'd do - and over the years I've shared quite a few photos of myself here on Epbot. I won't say it's ever been easy, but there have been times when it was easier, at least. There were even times I liked a photo of myself! I was making progress.

When I stopped pushing myself, though, it always got worse.

I reached a point of not only avoiding photos and mirrors, but even neglecting my own appearance. After all, what's the point of wearing nice clothes or styling my hair when there's no use, no hope?

More dangerous, I found myself so anxious at the thought of going places where fans would see me that I was tempted to cancel important trips and plans. Even visits with friends became a challenge.

I'd be so ashamed of these feelings that I would get trapped in a loop: hating myself for hating myself, struggling to overcome a feeling I still don't understand, struggling to understand how everyone else seems to be fine with how they look, while I'm just over here... stuck.

Then I posted "No Pictures" last week, and was OVERWHELMED.

It turns out that not only am I not alone, I am SO not alone that I'm starting to think our club of self-hate is in the majority. In the first 24 hours I had hundreds of DMs, e-mails, and comments, ranging from teenagers to 70-year-olds - and the vast majority were a unified chorus of "Me, too."

I'll be honest, some of your responses made me sob. The amount of visceral, unbridled self-hate among you was like a punch to the gut. I wanted to take it away. I wanted to hug so many of you, to cry with you and heal you and distribute light-up unicorn headphones so we could all dance this pain away.

Then I got mad. Because this isn't right, gang. This isn't right. This has to change. We have to fight.

Look, I know my feelings are lying to me, that the people who love me will find beauty in me no matter what I look like. I know physical appearance is the least important part of a person, and that all I need is a little confidence and a lot of kindness to shine through for people to enjoy looking at me.

I know this, but I don't feel it. Sounds like most of you don't, either.

So here's my battle plan.

Step One:
Declare War... On The Right Enemy

We spend all this energy hating our own bodies, but the truth is our bodies - our bellies, our double chins, our bad skin - none of these are the enemy. In fact, our bodies are our allies. (Or at least a neutral party. That's right, y'all, MY BODY IS SWITZERLAND.)

The real enemy is our own distorted self-image. It's the mental selfie with a self-hate filter that lies to us, hurts us, and actively works to bring us down. No one else sees it. I repeat, no one else sees what we see when we look at ourselves. We're attacking the wrong enemy.

So first things first: Declare war. Recognize what you're actually fighting: Not your weight, not your face, but a false internal image so deeply embedded that you've long since accepted it as fact.

This is so important that I need you to go back and read that entire section again. I'll wait.

Now, do you believe that, at least in your head, if not your heart? Do you believe the problem isn't in any way your body, but only your perception of it?

When the answer is yes, move on to step two.

Step Two: Gear Up

It's dangerous to go alone, so gather your forces. Don't have any? Just take a look in my comment sections here, on Facebook, and on Instagram. WE ARE LEGION. And we're gonna need to hold each other up.

If you don't have a group of friends in real life who will support you in this battle, then I highly recommend Fans of Epbot on Facebook. I've already seen half a dozen discussion posts over there sparked by my last post, and the amount of encouragement and celebration and support among virtual friends there is incredible. In fact, I have an action plan I'd like to propose for FOE, but I'll get to that a bit later.

You'll also need some weapons, and as any nerd will tell you, the mightiest is INFORMATION.
 (Art by Risa Rodil)

So do your research! Go see if Body Dysmorphic Disorder describes you, and if it does - or even if it doesn't - consider talking to a therapist. No shame. You go for physicals, right? Therapy is a check-up for your brain. It's good. It's preventative. It's healthy. And if everything I'm writing here today has you backing away, shaking your head, and insisting that may be fine for everyone else, but not YOU, then please. Talk to someone. I'm just a geeky blogger muddling through best I can over here; I'm no substitute for a licensed professional who can work with you one-on-one.

Step Three: Exposure Therapy

Thursday, June 20, 2019

No Pictures, Please: The Thing About My Face

I wrote this post nearly three years ago, but was too embarrassed to publish it. It's been in my drafts folder ever since.

Then a few days ago, I wrote this in my Instagram Story:

Your responses were so immediate, so overwhelming, that I'm *still* wading through my flooded inbox. (Thanks for your patience there, btw.)

Clearly, I am not alone in this struggle.

And I think we should talk about it.

So please consider this Part 1 to some things I've wanted to say for years, things I want to hear your take on. Remember this is from 2016, so I've had both wins and losses since then, but this is still my baseline. This is where I'm coming from. 

Part 2 will be my Battle Plan: the things and people I've found to help me fight. To help us fight. I'm still struggling to write it properly, so I hope you'll check back. 

But first, here's what I wish I'd had the courage to say a long time ago.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

FOE & Tell: Fairy Wings, Phoenixes, & Unicorn Corsets, OH MY

Today we find some of our friendly FOE (aka Fans of Epbot) at their local Ren Fairs!

She winged her wings, y'all, and LOOK HOW PRETTY:

This is gorgeous, and clever! I've never seen anyone make flower wings before!

Here's the rest of Rachel's fairy look:

 Oohhhh, I'm all about flower crowns and freckles. In fact I'd like everyone to wear giant flowers in the hair at all times, please.


 Meanwhile, at another Ren Fair, Raymond used my Phoenix tree-topper tutorial to make himself a fine feathered friend:

Jaw: dropped. That bird is on FI-YUR. And so beautiful!


Shanon made herself some "new" jewelry from a 15th century piece of armor, and I am agog. AGOG I SAY.

A hauberk is the bit of armor that originally covered the neck, so this is DOUBLY amazing. Love love love it.


I'm always torn at Ren Fairs between wanting to wear a full suit of bad ass chain mail and something over-the-top frilly, like THIS:

Friday, June 14, 2019

CRAFT TIME: Turn Your Board Games Into Pretty Display Books!

John and I were out shopping last week when I spotted a book version of a board game, which was kind of like this:

I immediately flashed to what our game shelf in the closet looked like, which was kind of like this:


Let's face it: we all hide our board games in the closet, not because we're ashamed of them, but because the boxes are hideous. No decor on earth is going to work with that garish jumble of colors and graphics.

Ahhh, but what if we could make those ugly game boxes look like pretty books, so we could display them out in the open?

Like this?

As a wise Emperor once said, 

"Boom, baby."

Here's what they look like from the front:

Aren't they pretty? I am so excited about this.


I modified each of these four "books" in a slightly different way, so I can show you some options for your own game box upgrades. The most exciting is my Scrabble box, since I was able to modify both the board and the box to be literally half their original size. (WOOT!) This is a huge space-saver for all those classic games that come in awkwardly long boxes!

Let's start with the one that's the easiest and the most useful, though: the card book.


 You can buy this paper mache box at most craft stores for $5 or less. It's not the best quality, though, so you may want to spend a few dollars more on a pre-printed version from any home goods store, which you also wouldn't have to paint.

I actually wanted to paint mine, because I found the perfect graphic to cut with my Cricut:
 I love the art deco vibes. 

 I painted the box with cheap craft paint, then sprayed on a glossy lacquer clear coat to give it a leather-like sheen. After that I added the gold vinyl cut with my Cricut. (This whole craft was basically an excuse to get to know my Cricut better. By the last one I was much more comfortable working in Design Space)

This little book holds all of our card games - 10 decks! -  which freed up a bunch of room in the drawer where they used to be:

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Jen's Gems: A Crafty Hogwarts Bed, The Kardashian LIbrarians, & DIsney Magic with the Dora Milaje

Here's an older gem that crossed my feed again today:

Paper Smaug, made from the pages of the Hobbit!

 That's by FarTooManyIdeas, featured on Laughing Squid


Some librarians from New Zealand got together to do a thing, and it's pretty much the best thing ever:

Bahahaha! I think they're even sitting on giant books!


One of the members of my local Slug Club, Gabriela, shared the most INCREDIBLE upcycle for her son Cash's bedroom, and you've gotta see this.

She started with an old Thomas the Train bed frame:

 ... and transformed it into the Hogwarts Express!

I KNOW RIGHT?! So many Kermit flails over here.

I was about to ask Gabriela if I could share her pics with you guys, but then last week she got her own feature over on Inside the Magic! Sweet! So just head over there for finished photos of the whole room, like this:

She made a train tunnel wall! THIS IS AMAZING.

And you guys, that's a real dog. Cash has his own Fang! (Cash's parents are going to dress him up as Hagrid this Halloween, can't wait to see that.)


Get ready to call me a liar, because see this lightsaber built by Alexander Jones?

It's made of cardboard.

No, really! Here's a process pic as proof:

I think the trick is using that metallic paper and/or metal tape; it's INCREDIBLY convincing. Go see Alexander's post on the RPF FB page for more process photos. (And if you're like me, get ready to have an intense desire to build a paper light saber. Dang.)


And finally, this Hayes Family Vlog shared by Backstage Humor comes with it's own squad of happy onion ninjas. You have been warned:

From the Hayes:

**Malia has an autoimmune condition called Alopecia that prevents her from growing hair. She is a perfectly healthy little girl otherwise. We use our fun character interactions to promote the idea of positivity, self love, and awareness for Alopecia**

There's so much good in this video, but mostly I'm in awe of  T'Challa and the Dora Milaje! They are incredible: so in character, nailing the accents, like they walked right off the screen. And then little Malia's excitement at meeting them! Ah! My heart is full.

I hope these filled up your heart, too, peeps. Now tell me, what's the sweetest thing you've seen online this week? Share your links in the comments!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Let's Talk About A 27 Year Old Star Trek Episode

John and I've been re-watching old Star Trek: TNG episodes during lunch lately, and it turns out - to my utter delight - that he hasn't seen them all.  

On Thursday we watched The Inner Light, easily one of the top 10 TNG episodes of all time, and which I could almost recite from memory. (It's the one with the flute, if that helps.)

About 20 minutes in John asked, "Wait, he's aging? HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN?" and I got the biggest grin, realizing he was about to experience this story for the first time. (Isn't that the best feeling?)

After the show was over, John spluttered for several minutes. It was glorious. What finally came out was, "So... so... this is the best Star Trek episode of all time, right? This is it? This has to be it!"

I told him it was definitely in the Top Ten, but that did get me wondering what the all-time best episode is. I'm sure there are plenty of Buzzfeed-style lists out there, and everyone's mileage will vary, but what springs to mind for you guys?

I've been pondering this all morning, and even though it's been decades since I've seen most of these episodes, I have so many particular moments that spring to mind: Q with the Mariachi band. That single tear running down Locutus' face. Troi as a "cellular peptide cake." Data's daughter Lal, pounding her chest as she feels for the first time. The ship's kids celebrating"Picard Day." Worf and his "warrier's drink." Lwaxana Troi doing ANYTHING. Oof, so many good, gut-punching, hilarious moments. 

(I know, I still haven't picked my top episode! This clearly needs more research.)

Speaking of the heir to the holy rings of Betazed, while it's not from a TNG episode, the moment when Lwaxana handed Odo her wig in the turbolift at DS9 is one of the best in all of Trekdom for me. I love that scene.
Also while I was looking for an episode photo for The Inner Light I discovered there's a commemorative plate for it. Whaaaat. Remember when we had commemorative plates for everything? Ha!

Now, don't get me wrong, the art is lovely... but how is it that Picard's kids - who are in the episode for maybe five minutes - made the cut, but not HIS WIFE who is in the entire thing?! I need to speak to someone's manager.

I vividly remember my best friend Chris having a TNG plate like this on his bedroom wall, btw. Ahh, the 90s.

I also found this gem of a factoid on Wikipedia - you'll have to embiggen it to read:

They made the classic blunder! NEVER underestimate the "emotional fury" of devoted fans when screen-used PROPS are on the line! NYAHAHAAAAA.

That inspired me to go see if there's any other Inner Light merch out there, and would you believe there is?

 You can buy an official probe necklace replica for way too much money on Amazon, ha.

Or for a free option (at least for those with Amazon Prime): I've been listening to this orchestral arrangement of Picard's flute melody while writing this, and it's absolutely gorgeous! Reminds me of the Shire theme from Lord of the Rings.

Now quick, tell me which TNG episodes John and I should watch next. (We're not watching in any particular order; just picking random seasons and watching a few in a row.) Yesterday we watched the two-parter where they time travel back and meet Mark Twain, which is another great one. Love me some Guinan being mysterious. :D


Oh hey, if you're not into overpriced probe necklaces {snerk}, but are still itching to shop, I have lots of fun nerdy suggestions in my Amazon lists:

I've linked all kinds of goodies, from Harry Potter and Disney to my favorite toys and puzzles, plus more mundane stuff like cat gear and the clothes I wear. I've left comments on everything I actually own, which is most of it, so look for the comment bubbles above each item to read my reviews.

As with all my Amazon links, if you purchase any of these John & I will receive a small percentage, but it doesn't cost you anything. So you get to shop, we get to feed the cats, EVERYBODY WINS. 

Thanks, gang. Live long and prosper.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Quick Craft: DIY Foaming Hand Soap From Your Favorite Perfume!

Here comes a SUPER quick craft that's made me unreasonably happy this week. It's also a craft for a very specific circumstance: namely that there's a scent you love that ONLY comes in a perfume or body spray, and that you'd like to have as a hand soap.

Or maybe you just have the supplies around and want to make some pretty, awesome-smelling soap for cheap. That works, too.

Now, I've mentioned before that my one and only true perfumey love is the now discontinued (sob) Vanilla Lace body spray from Victoria's Secret.

(Side Note: if you have an old bottle that looks like this somewhere that still has some goodness in it and that you don't want anymore, please send it to meeeeee:)

I could swear these older bottles smell better/stronger, so now I pay $60 for a bottle that once cost $12.95, ha. This is the scent I wore on my first date with John and on our wedding day, though, not to mention the one I wear 80% of the time, so it's completely worth it to me.

SO, this craft in a nutshell: I made my own Vanilla Lace foaming hand soap!

 Isn't it pretty? The orange and gold reminds me of those old bottles. Ahh, good memories.

I didn't use my precious $60 stuff for this, though, because I also recently bought a much cheaper bottle, which looks like this:

This one's from the newer stock, so it only costs about $15 on Ebay. It's lighter and doesn't last as long as the original, but still smells lovely, so I wear it around the house.

I'd just gotten that bottle in the mail when I was about to throw out an empty soap bottle from Bath & Body works:


And I got an idea. 

(You see where this is going.)

Again, easy peasy: I grabbed some unscented soap I already had under the sink:

... and mixed it roughly 60/40 with water (more soap than water). I took off the old Bath & Body Works labels, scrubbed the bottle clean, and filled 'er up with my new soapy water mix. (The pump on those bottles is what makes the foam, so you can fill it with any watery soap.)

Next I added about 40 pumps of body spray and 2 drops of food coloring to the mix. The 40 pumps barely touched the amount in my perfume bottle; it still looks full. This gave me a nice light scent, but you may want to add more to make it stronger.

For the coloring I added one drop each of red and yellow, which gave me a gorgeous orange - just like the vintage Vanilla Lace bottles I love.

This was a color test with the gold vinyl. Aren't they pretty together?

The final touch was decorating the bottle. There are lots of fun options out there, but I decided to keep it simple:

Monday, June 3, 2019

MegaCon Orlando 2019: Last Batch of Cosplay Portraits!

I know I've been taking my sweet time with the rest of my photo edits from MegaCon, so let me show you the rest of my favorites!


This is probably my favorite Queen Amidala dress, those colors are SO pretty. Originally she posed with her hands down in front of her, but I asked her to hold her arms out to show all that gorgeous fabric.

The original evil power couple.

 I left the convention floor lights in on some of these, since I thought they might add a little interest to the background, or maybe look like stars. Thoughts? Should I take them out?

These two got their fair share of double-takes:

It's always fun when cosplayers are look-alikes! Stan Lee in particular had a line of folks who wanted selfies with him. It felt respectful, though, and the fans I saw seemed genuinely touched to see him. Like, this is our way of continuing to celebrate a great man.

Here's my all-time favorite Dumbledore:

This cosplayer was also at the "Celebration That Must Not Be Named" in Universal last January, so you might remember him from my photos. John and I jokingly call Michael Gambon #NotMyDumbledore, because Richard Harris *IS* Dumbledore in our minds, so this cosplay, oof. Right in the feels


I especially love how Peter captures that mischievous eye twinkle, like he's about to whisper something hilarious to you about Snape before handing over a Sherbet Lemon.
Here comes someone else I love: Brenna is a wizard herself with body-paint, and her transfigurations are STUNNING:

(Art By BMazz)

Our flash made her blink - oops - but check out her floating Zero! She made him herself, and was walking him around on a leash.

Of course Sally needs her Jack, right?


It looks like I de-saturated the color, but I didn't! She's just in front of a black and white curtain.
(I'm leaving a little more background in sometimes, too, so it doesn't feel quite so blank and Studio-ish. What do you think, good? Bad? Indifferent?)

It turns out this pirate's name is Red, which makes sense, but I can tell you from experience she also responds to, "WE WANTS THE REDHEAD!"