Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How To Fix A Warped Pan: John's Bonking PAN-demonium

Wow, apparently a bunch of you have warped pans at home! So by popular request, John's back again to show you how to flatten out those wobbly buggers - and all you need is a straight ruler and a rubber mallet! I would never have thought to do it this way, so once again I'm amazed by my hubby's ingenuity.

Take it away, John!

I hope this... pans out... for a lot of you. (Heeeeey oh.) I know it helps John to have new projects to focus on and share with you guys, so please keep the video suggestions coming! Tell me what build projects are on your wish list, something around the house you'd like to fix, or anything else you'd like to see John tackle on camera.

Oh hey, and since we're talking cookware I asked John what his favorite knife was... and it turns out that not only does he have a favorite knife, he REALLY REALLY has a favorite knife. I was unprepared for this level of enthusiasm, y'all. John pitched this thing to me like a match-maker on commission at a single's party, what whaaaat. 

Apparently it's the bee's knees. And apparently the way to John's heart is a really sharp knife.

I'm just cracking myself up over here, don't mind me.

 Anyhoo, John has made us dinner almost every night for the past 2 years, and is forever looking up reviews and trying out new knives, so I'm gonna say you can trust him on both pan bonking *and* knife recommendations.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What's A Little Therapy Among Friends?

I wrote this post over 10 days ago, tinkered with it for a few days, and finally shelved it because I decided it was too controversial.

Then my friend Briana posted something that hit home with me. She wrote about how useless she feels right now: how she can't deliver food, or sew masks, or 3D print respirator pieces, and it's breaking her heart to just SIT HERE when she wants to help.

That drove me back to this post - because this is a way a lot of you in Briana's situation can help. And in fact when I wrote this I was thinking about Briana and a few other friends in particular: people who are both empathic by nature and really excellent at being engaged listeners.

This is still controversial. This may not be feasible for a lot of you. But you know what? I can't deliver food or sew masks or 3D print things either, so this is me offering what I have, in the hopes that it helps, even a little, even one person.


I woke up this morning (OK, this afternoon) thinking about therapy. Not my own, not for me, but for you. For my friends, my family. See, over the past few months I've experienced the bewildering benefit of having a scheduled hour each week to talk through my panic with a professional therapist, and now I want everyone I love to have that. I want you to have that.

But we all know therapy is a luxury most people can't afford, especially here in the U.S.. I'm extremely aware of how fortunate I am in that regard. Having a single hour carved out each week for me to talk about what's on my mind has been incredibly grounding. It's freeing. It helps me take out all my fears, line them up in front of me, and give them a frank look-over. And when I do that, my fears lose their teeth. They shrink. To paraphrase Mr. Rogers, the unmentionable becomes mentionable, becomes manageable.

And now here we are, you and I, separate but united in the things we need and want. Because after our physical needs are met, what we all most want is to be safe, to be heard, and to be loved.

And here we are, as a global community, amazingly enough, with a lot of fears, a lot of restless boredom, and a lot more time on our hands. So many of us want to help, to leap into the fray, but since we have to self-isolate we don't know how.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Pinky?
What if - and bear with me on this, hear me out - what if we all became deputized... emergency... therapists. What if we started scheduling an hour a week with each other through FaceTime (or Zoom, etc) to give the most sacrificial and loving gift we have to offer: our time and loving attention.

Obviously this comes with a metric ton of caveats, and if you're already thinking through red flags and "But what about...?" - VALID. I am by no means suggesting any of us can replace licensed mental health professionals. However. I know most people - or at least most Americans - don't have access to therapy, and right now we're facing an anxious time when even the most stable among us are feeling shaken. I also know many of you have the incredible ability to be a good listener, and right now you could do so much good with that gift.

Here's what I'm thinking:

1) Pick a friend. Someone you've known a while, someone you love, someone you genuinely enjoy hearing from. Not that you just enjoy talking to, mind you, but hearing from. There's a difference. If that hasn't narrowed it down enough, also make sure this friend is someone who seems like they'd benefit from a weekly check-in.

2) Ask that friend to commit to a one hour conversation via FaceTime every week with you. Put it on your schedules. Treat that time as sacred, as a formal appointment. Lock up the pets, tell your family not to interrupt, the works.

3) During that time, focus on your friend. Make the conversation entirely about them. Ask how they're doing, what they did that day, what's weighing on them. Ask, then really listen. Keep asking and listening until the hour is up.

And that's it. Now do it again next week.

Quick cat break, because Eva insisted I show you her belly. She'd also like to know why you haven't given her a belly rub yet, because cats don't understand quarantines OR social boundaries.

So what's in this hour-a-week thing for you? Absolutely nothing. Only the knowledge that you are giving something life-giving and useful and loving. This is a sacrifice most people would never make... but if I know this community, then I bet some of you are willing to step up and be the loving exceptions.

If you have the emotional energy you could even make appointments for a few friends, spacing them out through the week. If you're the empathic sort who soaks up emotions to your detriment, though, then be careful. Don't take on the world. Remember you can't "fix" anyone. Choose who you focus on wisely and selectively, and only do this if you have a therapeutic outlet yourself.

Which brings me to:

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Postmodern Pinky & The Brain, The Medieval Mandalorian, And Trap Door Kermit

 I have a full backlog of awesome internet finds to share with you guys, so let's get crackin'!

 First up, Bitty Bitey Ones usually only sculpts dragons, but when they came out with a rare CAT dragon, I knew you guys had to see:

SWOON. I love the markings, and the twisty horns! Give them a follow on Facebook to see more cuties.


Most of you probably already know Postmodern Juke Box, but on the off chance you missed their cover of Pinky and the Brain, I HAVE to include this:

Guaranteed smiles!


Muppet fans, prepare to Kermit flail. Richard Riley made something absolutely incredible for his house, and I am SO JEALOUS:

 It's a life-sized Kermit descending from the ceiling through a trap door! AAAAAAH! Head over to Richard's FB post for more photos and details on how he did it - and while you're there, give his replica page a follow.


 This is, hands down, the cutest thing I've seen in days:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

New Video! Easy 3-Step Woodgraining: Make Your Painted Furniture Look Like Stained Wood

John's pretty much finished with his big Sherlock room build, so now we're just waiting to install it. (WOOT WOOT!) In the meantime, and by popular request, we thought we'd share a little furniture building secret:


The secret here is this is NOT stained wood. It's painted. 

See? Totally different wood grain, with none of that ugly pine pattern showing through.

Here's the complete surround without the fireplace in it, so you can see the painted inner edges: 

The sunlight makes it glow extra red; I'll show you a more accurate color match in a sec.
This faux finish lets us use cheap plywood, so it's great for budget builds, and best of all it's easy to do! There are only 3 steps, using materials you can find at any hardware store. A more complex piece like this could be a little tricky because of the angles, but flat sides or shelves are super simple:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

My Two Best Tips For Thriving In Home Quarantine

Confession: it's kind of embarrassing how little my routine has changed this past week.

What HAS changed is how many of you are also suddenly at home full-time, figuring out how to lead happy, productive lives apart from other people. I'm seeing a lot of boredom, social media overload, and an overall sense of floundering in these foreign, solitary waters.

I've been a professional home-stayer for over a decade now, and while I do have to watch out for my agoraphobia to flare up, for the most part I've been an incredibly content, entertained, and dare-I-say productive social distancer. (You know, before it was cool. :p)

So as a self-proclaimed expert, let me offer two easy pieces of advice for you newbies. Both of these have to do with how you start your day, whether that's bright-and-early or overcast-and-midafternoon like me.

1) Get completely dressed before leaving your bedroom.

Pick out an outfit, do your hair, wear fun jewelry, and especially wear shoes if you can. (Shoes make a huge difference for me; bare feet signal my brain that it's Couch Time.) Most of the outfits you see me post on Instagram never leave the house; I wear them just for me. Picking out fun colors or a geeky t-shirt helps me start my day on a fun and creative note, and also makes me feel like I'm ready to get to work.

This quarantine is the perfect time to experiment with your wardrobe, btw. Try a different Disneybound every day, or dress your way through the rainbow. Wear hats or scarves! Paint butterflies on your face. Have fun. Then take a selfie for posterity, or post it online to encourage others.

Whatever you choose, resist the urge to wear your PJs all day, every day. That's fun for a weekend, but I promise you an all-day PJ habit will drag you down fast, and turn your days into a depressing drudgery. Also if your PJs are really that much more comfy than your day-to-day clothes, BUY NEW CLOTHES. And learn to embrace stretchy fabrics!

2) Make a daily "To Do" list

This changed my life, gang. Accept no substitutes!

Every morning I sit down with breakfast and jot down what I want to do that day. But here's the secret: The list isn't just work stuff! The list is everything and anything I'd like to do that day - even things I want to think about. On my list today I have things like Call Bianca (a good friend), Make Brownies, Brainstorm New Wall Finishes (for a future project), and Do Your Nails.

Adding fun things to your list is essential, so each morning brainstorm what you *want* to do, in addition to things you *should* do. What memories do you want to make? What activities make you feel better when you're stressed?

Don't overload your list, though. If you add too much your brain could do that thing mine does where it looks up at the mountain, switches to white noise, and then leads you to the couch to binge How It's Made for 4 hours. So stick to 15 items or less at first, then add on from there.

If you have a set routine every day, print it out and either laminate it or put it in a plastic sleeve or picture frame, so you can use a dry-erase marker on it. My laminated list is a smeary mess, but here's how it looks right now, halfway through my day:

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

FoE & Tell: Toothless the Hufflepuff, Hobbit Needlepoint, & Baby Shuri!

A lot of folks have stepped away from social media this week, and I don't blame y'all a bit: even the best of us need to limit our scroll-time right now, just for our own mental health. If you're missing my blog posts because of that, though, you can sign up to get them by e-mail! Just click the first orange circle in the top right-hand side here on Epbot, then click "Get Epbot delivered by e-mail." Boom. No more missed posts.

Now, let's take a look at some of my favorite Fans of Epbot posts you may have missed! This Facebook group continues to be a respite of geeky goodness for me, and I love y'all SO MUCH for continuing to share the light and laughs. So here we go, all the good stuff, with zero toilet paper memes:


 In the comments Kate explained how they could tell which House each of their girls belonged to, and it was almost as cute as these photos. I love that parents learn their littles' personalities so young.


It once took me about 10 years to finish an 8X10 cross-stitch, so this? This has me IN AWE:

Click this one to embiggen for details:

Woooooooow. That is stunning, Anne! 
(P.S. The art is called "A long long adventure" by Jian Guo.)


While we're on a Hobbit theme, look who Helen met:
Frodo himself, Elijah Wood!

Helen made the giant Prancing Pony tankard out of EVA foam, not to mention her entire cosplay. You can follow her on IG at @of_the_fforest.


And one more for Hobbit fans:

Anyone else with a Cricut eyeing the scrap pieces of wood in their garage now? This could be dangerous. :D

Donna Jo is over here spreading all the smiles:

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Staycation Crafts: 10 Fun Kits To Make While You're At Home Chilling

Remember when you were a kid and you'd get a little kit with all the pre-cut foam or clay or whatnot to make the Pretty Thing on the cover? I LOVE THOSE.

So since most of us have a little more time at home right now, I thought I'd put together a list of great craft kits on Amazon. And puzzles. And models. Basically anything that includes all the tools and materials we need to make something fun, and also that has good reviews, costs less than $20, and ships Prime so we can get to crafting ASAP.

Naturally, I got REALLY carried away.

Turns out there are so many cool craft kits now, you guys. And not just kid stuff! I'm talking needle-felting, string art, miniatures models! My head is spinning. I found kits for every skill level, from coloring to crochet. I'll link you to my complete list at the end of this post - since I'm still adding more - but first, here come 10 of my favorites:

This is a smaller model kit, about hand-sized. I've put together other UGears models and love them, though they can occasionally test your patience. You pop out the pre-cut wooden pieces and assemble, no tools required. I think this one would be pretty with some painted-on gold and black accents, don't you? 


Next, can we talk about how far paint-by-number kits have come? These are NOT the forest scenes and portraits of puppy dogs I grew up with:

Always check the comment photos on paint-by-numbers kits, since the real thing doesn't always look like what's advertised. Happily these two are pretty bang on, though! I've got several more options in my big list, too, so keep scrolling for those. (I found at least 4 I want to paint!)


 This comes with all the supplies you need to make Harry and Dobby, instructions for making everyone, AND a wand crochet hook?! Omigosh. Adorable.


Next is sort of a reverse coloring book: Scratch-off art!

This is a 36-page book of scratch-off mandalas with the most gorgeous colors - and it comes with the stylus tool you need to do the scratching. The comment reviews have even prettier photos than the official ones, which is always a good sign. I love the partially-revealed designs, so magical.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Binge-Worthy Shows That Are Like A Warm Happy Hug

You know what we need right now? Happy shows. More laughs. More wonder. Less news.

Personally I *always* need happy shows, so I'm forever on the lookout for more streaming series to watch. (I like shows better than movies.) So here come my Top 3 I've binged in the last few months:

1) Glow Up (Netflix)

Most reality shows have too much drama for me, but Glow Up is British, so there's none of the usual American nastiness. Plus it features incredible make-up art! It's not quite as jaw-dropping as Face Off (remember that gem?), but after a slow start with the first episode, Glow Up serves up some seriously stunning looks. We get to see the makeup the entire episode, too, not just for the last 30 second reveal, which I love. I also like that Val, one of the judges, makes the contestants cry from happiness more often than not. Val is so over the top that she could rub you the wrong way, but I enjoyed her kooky vibe and the fact that she yells "DING DONG, DAHLING" when she loves something, hah. Plus by the end of the season Val is more human, more relatable, and even cries over some of the eliminations. So sweet!

One big caveat with Glow Up: be prepared to disagree with the judges a lot. Some of their eliminations are straight up CRIMES, and the only thing that kept me going was the fact that everyone WAS so sweet. So you'll have to let your sense of justice go, and just enjoy the pretty visuals and lovely interactions.

2) Star vs The Forces of Evil (Hulu)

I've been wanting to watch this show for ages, ever since I met a reader cosplaying as Star (Hi, Rebecca!) - and recently found I could stream it on Hulu!

This is a fast-paced show (each episode is really two-in-one, so they're short) of non-stop action and zaniness, so it took me a minute to adjust after binging the slower-paced The Repair Shop. The animation is fun, the characters are sweet, and the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny - and sophisticated enough for adults. If you love Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls, this is on that level. HIGHLY recommend.

I have a caveat for this show, too, and a question for those who've seen all of it: The second season... does it get better? Because I've been dragging myself through it, and... bleh. Star isn't even in several episodes, which is a big part of the problem, and it's gotten surprisingly violent and depressing for a cartoon. So, yeah, Star fans, should I keep going? Should I skip ahead? Or do I just re-watch Season 1 and enjoy it as a stand-alone season?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

6 Handcrafted Necklaces I'm Currently Drooling Over

It's been too long since we looked at some drool-worthy art necklaces, gang, so grab your wish-lists and gather 'round!

Starting with:

This Laser-Cut Barn Owl by BirchPlease!

Not only is this absolutely GORGEOUS, it will help you find all your fellow Labyrinth fans. Heck, I'm already singing "It's Only Forever" just looking at this. :D

Next, a teeny hand-sculpted bird in a dome by AliceDufeu:

 SO CUTE. You get to choose your bird's color, and whether she comes on a snowy or grassy base. 

I'm having a hard time choosing my favorite, but it's between the yellow and teal right now.  I love the bright colors with the green grass!

Speaking of greens, look at this magical "Heart of the Sacred Forest" by MiraCrafts:

She hand-sculpts all the branches and greenery around the gem! There are more shapes and colors in her shop, too.

Back to winged things with this Honey Bee Pendant from Ewing Workshop:

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Recreating The Set Of Sherlock: Building A Screen-Accurate Faux Fireplace & Book Shelves

Two years ago John and I recreated the famous Sherlock wallpaper for our friends Chris and Christie, who are MASSIVE Sherlock fans.

Remember this?

Here's the post if you're curious how we did it. What I wouldn't give to have had a Cricut back then...

Back then we planned to transform their entire living room into a screen-accurate recreation of Sherlock's living room, but due to scheduling and the material cost, the project got shelved.



 As a refresher, the other side of Sherlock's living room - across from that wallpaper - looks like this: 

To pull this off, John will have to build three fake wall sections, two custom bookcases, and a MASSIVELY complex faux fireplace that opens up to reveal hidden storage for electronics. (Ok, the hidden storage part is optional, but we're extra like that.)

The fireplace is by far the hardest part, so that's where John started. Since he's almost done with it, I thought I'd share some build photos so we can sit back and ooh and aaah together.

Cool? Cool.

First, here's a fantastic 3D rendering of just the fireplace by Gabriela Vanova, which John has been using extensively as his reference:

He printed out several different angles of this, which has been invaluable since the set photos are always so dark.

Next here's John original blueprint showing how the three wall sections will fit in Chris & Christie's room:
 They have an open-concept house, so this will be on one end of a larger living space. The areas with the diamond pattern are faux walls John will be building out, so the shelving and fireplace will look recessed/built-in.

Because everything depends on the fireplace, and the fireplace tiles dictate those dimensions, that's where John started. First, he made some fake tiles:

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Fear Is Never Stupid

If you're like me then you're seeing a fascinating range of reactions to the coronavirus right now. They run the gamut of "BARRICADE YOURSELVES IN YOUR HOMES" to "IF YOU DON'T LICK THE SUBWAY YOU'RE LETTING THEM WIN" - with "them" being some vague amalgam of the opposing political party, the opposing media, and/or terrorists.

Most of us fall somewhere in-between, and I'm not about to tell you what you should be doing, much less what you should be feeling. The only reason I bring this up at all is I'm seeing a bunch of well-intentioned (I hope) shaming going on, and regarding THAT I do have something to say.

::drags over soap box::

Ahem hem hem.

Calling someone stupid for being afraid DOESN'T HELP ANYONE.  

The same goes for calling them silly, overreacting, fearmongering, or evil.

This applies to more than viruses, and it's just as unhelpful if you're dismissive ("There's nothing to worry about!"), bullying ("Stop feeling that way"), or patronizing ("You only feel that because you're brainwashed, misled, etc.").

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but remember that good intentions aren't enough when you're commenting online. Even if you're right about whatever point you're making - and that's assuming you are -  no one is going to listen until you start with a little grace, a little love, a little consideration for the fact that we're all out here fighting a hard battle.

And if you are afraid, if you're one of us a little closer to buying a hazmat suit than a plane ticket, then let me tell you the steps *I'm* taking, as someone with an anxiety disorder and prone to panic. (I know, I know -  I said I wouldn't tell you what to do... but here I go anyway. :p)

1) Learn the essentials to make your own informed decisions. Go to the World Health Organization and the CDC and read how COVID-19 is transmitted and what you can (and can't) do to protect yourself.

2) Do that stuff. Do what you need to feel comfortable when it comes to things like traveling.

3) Don't judge other people for doing their stuff, or for not feeling as afraid as you.

4) Once that's done, TURN OFF THE NEWS. Don't wallow in it. Don't track every new case. Practice a little faith, a little trust. Remember to breath. Remember to laugh. Remember to live.

5) Wash your dang hands.

I'm not saying it's easy, and if I sound dismissive, please know I'm not. Big Stuff like this is extra hard on those of us with anxiety, so it takes extra work to not let that Panic Monster get the better of us. Be ready to ask for help, and check in with your loved ones to see how they're doing.

Whatever you're feeling right now, regarding the coronavirus or anything else, know that your feelings matter, and there is nothing wrong with you for having them. We can't switch off our emotions at will; they just ARE. But to paraphrase a wise Headmaster, it's not our feelings that define us, it is our choices. So choose to be kind. Choose to ask for help when you find yourself spiraling. Talk about it, get that fear out in the open. Then remember I love you, this WILL get better, and a whole bunch of us are right here, right now, rooting for you. 

And so is Suki, provided you give her belly rubs.


I've been on a puzzle kick lately - they're like a mental pacifier at the end of the day - and this rainbow palette is giving me heart eyes:

1,000 PC Rainbow Jigsaw Puzzle

Come to think of it, I guess I'm also on a rainbow kick. Give me all those happy colors!

Monday, March 2, 2020

CRAFT TIME: Let's Turn A Classic Mickey Ears Hat Into A Baseball Cap

I don't know about you guys, but as much as I like some of the classic Mickey Ears hats, I just never wear them:

For one, who wants to wear a chin strap? And for two, I need a hat with a brim when I'm at the parks, or else I'm Squinty McSquinterson in the Florida sun.

Still, when I saw these gorgeous rainbow ears for $2 at the Disney Clearance Outlet, of course I had to grab a couple pairs.

You can't get these this cheap anywhere online, but if you want the same hat it's also on Amazon for $11 Prime! The original price was $20, so that's still a great deal.

At first I tried attaching the felt hat to a baseball cap, which sort of works... but ends up looking like a hat on a hat. Not good. 

After a little more deliberation I decided to remove the ears and the patch and transfer them to a $2 baseball cap from Michael's. I felt a little bad cutting up the original, but this gives me something useful and wearable instead of just another purely decorative set of ears.

And you guys, LOOK HOW CUTE:

 Now THIS I can wear to the parks! It's a hundred times more comfortable than the original ears, and just as pretty!

The process of combining the two hats was a little trickier than I expected, so let me walk you through it and give you a few tips. 

You Will Need:

- pliers
- a pointy craft knife
- small metal snips
 - fabric glue
- scissors
- (4) 1/4 inch grommets (any color) & a grommet setting tool

(If you don't have a grommet setting kit, here's a $10 one on Amazon that will last you forever.)

1) First use your craft knife to cut around the two grommets holding each ear in place.