Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I'm having one of those weeks where everything I write is so painfully bad that someone should just confiscate my keyboard for the good of humanity. (Must. Make. Words. GO.)



I mean, most of you don't see my FB updates anyway, so it's only KIND of cheating to post this here, right?

Aaand the winning response from you readers:

This is why I love you people. And this week, Adrienne in particular. 
(Wink wink, Adrienne. WINK WINK FINGER GUNS)

UPDATE: I just realized that picture's pretty small, so here's a bigger version.
(If you're confused then you should go watch all 11 seasons of Supernatural, by which point you'll have forgotten all about this, but at least John's "Hello Assbutt" shirt will make sense, so we can call it a draw.)

Ahh, but wait, I have more!

Lisa T. just shared the most INCREDIBLE prehistoric dinosaur wreath over there:

... complete with light-up volcano erupting magma ribbons!


Lisa made the volcano herself from cardboard covered with Sculpey, spackle, and paint. It's open in the back to cut down on weight, and the moss at the bottom covers the light switch. 

Lisa didn't mention where she got her dinos, but you could always age some cheap plastic toys with a quick wiped-off coat of black paint to get a more realistic look, like hers.

I have several friends who love dinosaurs, so I'm almost tempted to try a year-round version! I bet you could use a different greenery base to make it less Christmasy, and maybe swap the ornaments for some appropriately prehistoric looking flowers? You're a tough act to follow, though, Lisa!

Ok, I gotta get back to fighting these new writer's block fairies. Hope you guys are having a better week than I am! Toodles.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Lily's Christmas Card

This was the card we sent out this year - and I'm still not sure how many people noticed John's little Easter egg:


Whatever you're celebrating this season, I hope you have an incredible day filled with all the laughter, hugs, and good food you can stand.
And to those struggling to find the "merry and bright" right now: you're not alone. You're never alone. {hugs}

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wanna See My House?! AKA, Annual Christmas Tour of 2015

It's finally time to show you guys all my holiday decorating efforts throughout the house! Starting with one of my favorite shots, which of course is of the new steampunk room:
Mmmm, glowy.

That's getting ahead of myself, though. Let's back up to the first room you see coming in:

There's the Harry Potter tree again!

The view from the front door:

  If this is your first look around our place, you'll notice we have a bit of a steampunk vibe throughout, not just in the back room. I like the dramatic, vintage vibe - and of course big pictures of fantasy airships never hurt.

This is a little 1960s ranch style house, but the open floor plan makes it seem bigger, which is nice.

The gear table between the sofas.

And the apothecary cabinet in the dining room.
(You can click any pic to embiggen - at which point you'll notice these pics are before and after I de-cluttered the cabinet top. :D)

Looking back into the steampunk room:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Our Harry Potter Tree 2015

I didn't make too many changes to the Potter tree this year, but who could pass up the chance to post more pictures of this sparkliness??

We added my Wizard chess set to the room on a tray John built from scratch. It's not quite done yet - I plan to add some gold flourishes to the sides - so I'll post another picture when it is.

I upgraded our Hedwig tree topper by giving her outstretched wings. The idea hit me when I found these $5 angel wings at JoAnn's last Halloween:

The wings came with elastic straps for a toddler to wear. I just cut those off, cut the wings apart (they were joined together with Styrofoam) and then poked heavy wire through in a C shape to attach them to the owl body:

I like how much bigger they make her!

We also added a few more little owls. We're always on the lookout for nice feathered owl ornaments now:

Unfortunately Hedwig tends to get lost in the white ceiling in photos, but at least you can see her better IRL.

Another small upgrade: I repainted the floating candles so the aging would show up better:

Before and after.

Now some pretty tree close-ups:

I nixed the flying keys this year, but still have plenty of snitches, broomsticks, parchment scrolls, potions bottles, and one-offs like Luna's glasses, the Marauder's Map, a chocolate frog box, and a mini Monster Book of Monsters.

And thanks to some of you awesome readers, I have new goodies this year! The little Harry & Ron sweaters are redonkulously squee-worthy, then there's the floating Howler ornament, a Hogwarts crest, and other pretty paper bits:

You guys are totally outclassing me here, I want you to know that.

 Here's Ron's sweater:


My only new contribution was the little cauldrons, stuffed with wisps of sparkly cotton "smoke."

Next year I hope to make the parchment scrolls with floating quills a lot bigger and longer, so they extend down the whole length of the tree, like ribbon garland:

Aaand one final up-tree shot:

I hope you guys liked the eye candy, since my annual Christmas House Tour is coming up next! (AKA, the one time a year our house is SUPER clean and sparkly, which only happens for these pictures, and which only lasts about 30 minutes before explosive crafting and/or CATS and/or aimless snacking happens to mess it all up again.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars Katie Visited The Set of Force Awakens!!

Here's your feel-good story of the weekend: our own Star Wars Katie was invited by LucasFilm to visit the set of the new movie during filming! [Kermit flail] AAAAAA!!

... and she's getting SO TALL!
(That's just a little jealousy coming from a 5-foot Hobbit, Katie. Pay me no mind.)

Katie's mom, Carrie, wasn't allowed to write about the visit 'til now, so imagine keeping THAT inside all these months. With the movie out, though, she's finally free to share all the heart-warming details over on her column, Portrait of an Adoption. It's a semi-long read, but totally worth your time. (I won't spoil anything, but I *will* say I have a new found respect for Harrison Ford.)

I think there's a little of Katie in all of us, so watching her journey - and seeing how others in the geek community continue to help her along that journey, even after so many years - is exactly the faith-renewing shot in the arm we need sometimes. That *I* need sometimes. So thank you, Carrie, for sharing it with us, and thank you Katie, for being you - and for letting your mom share.

Carrie also includes a spoiler-free review of the movie in her post, which I really appreciated. So even if you haven't seen the movie yet (like me!), it's safe reading. So go read!

Speaking of the new movie, it's been fun seeing all the costumes you guys are wearing to go watch it! So as a bonus smile, here's one shared on the Epbot FB page: an oh-so-dapper BB-8 dress by Cressie Teague Lewis:

How clever is that cape?! Love it.

(And I just realized that's a light saber umbrella!)

John and I aren't planning to see TFA until Wednesday, but lemme tell ya, my resolve to wait 'til the weekend crowds die out is weakening. I don't see how I'll be able to dodge spoilers that long! o.0 Cross your fingers for me, guys!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Frizzy Flailing Under Fire

On Tuesday I staggered out to do a little gift shopping with John -  my first real outing in weeks - and I had the whole post-sickness, frizzball frumpy no-makeup thing going, and a fan recognized me in the aisles of Barnes & Noble, and I was so embarrassed I stammered something about how if I hadn't just been sick for a month I'd be all over her (YES I ACTUALLY SAID THIS, right in front of her male companion), then my whole face caught on fire and John started smirking because I never blush, and finally to distract everyone I gave the poor girl a pin I found in my purse, and she said some lovely things before backing away slowly, turning, and sprinting for the exit.

Ok, maybe that last bit was an exaggeration, but I'm sure she wanted to.

"Oh gosh, ohhhh gosh, I think my whole face is red. Am I really red?" I hissed to John once the couple was out of earshot.

"Yes, but it's adorable." John said.

Then I wailed a bit, and John gingerly suggested that maybe I *could* do something with my hair, and I wailed a bit harder until I got distracted by a pretty Alice in Wonderland puzzle which I made John promise to buy me for Christmas.

Look how pretty.

As we were walking out later - and while I was still frantically finger-combing my hair - John remarked, "I know you didn't want to be seen like this, but you know what? You're Jen from Epbot. People love you enough to overcome their shyness and come say hi to you. C'mon. That's pretty awesome."

And it is.

So if you ever see me somewhere in public, PLEASE say hi. Just know that I may accidentally come on to you and then turn into a tomato.

But at least you'll probably get a pin out of it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And Now... The New Steampunk Christmas Tree!

I decided to completely overhaul the steampunk tree this year, the better to fit our shiny new steampunk room. I also moved the tree over here:

I liked the teal chairs flanking it so much, I decided to go with a teal and copper color scheme. Fortunately I already had enough ornaments in those colors, so I didn't have to buy any new.

Next I added in two strands of multi-colored patio lights that look just like hot air balloons, plus my own crafted hot air balloon ornaments:

I've had these patio lights for nearly a decade, and this is the first time I've found a proper use for them. Aren't they pretty?

There are also a few steampunk ornaments, like clock hand snowflakes by my friend Sharyn, and these papercraft gears by my fav steampunk jewelry artist, Friston.

The tree's most striking feature - and the one I'm most proud of - is the airship tree topper with its twinkling "smoke trail" garland. Here's a quick Vine to show you the twinkle effect:

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Steampunk Christmas Wreaths

I started Christmas decorating extra early this year, since I knew the steampunk room was going to take some time. This is our first Christmas after the big room renovation, so I was starting from scratch - and with me still fighting off the dregs of a 3-week ear & sinus infection, it's just as well I had so much done early. [Urg]

I'll show you guys the new steampunk tree soon, but first: wreaths! I wanted a matching pair to hang over these two windows on the main focal wall:

I started with two blank wreath forms, then used what I had on hand (Deco mesh, berries, etc.) to wire together a simple, classic design. Trouble was, even with a few small gears mixed in, they just weren't steampunky enough. In fact, they were kind of boring. Bleh.

Enter John the problem solver, who took one look and said, "Why don't we put giant gold gears behind them?"

And so we did:

The gears are made from light weight foam board: John taped two sheets together, drew the gear using a large ruler and some math, then cut out the pattern with a craft blade. After that it just took a few blasts of gold spray paint, and voila! Gears!

We poked small holes in the gears for floral wire, and then wired them directly to the wreaths. They're hung with a bit of rough twine from removable Command hooks, which are hidden under the window valances.

For the finishing touch I hung one of my steampunk nutcrackers in the center of each wreath:

Friday, December 11, 2015

Our Glass Nixie Clock Case!

Sometimes John and I go on a multi-project binge, and then I neglect to actually blog the finished products 'til many weeks/months after the fact. So here's an attempt to catch up: our glass Nixie Clock display!

Most Nixie clock kits are displayed in clear Plexiglas boxes, or set in slick, minimalist bases. Those were a little too modern for me, but I also didn't want mine in an antique clock or wood box, since it's being displayed on a dark shelf. I finally stumbled across this inspiration in a Nixie clock discussion forum:

Its maker, Baragon, used upcycled light fixtures for the end supports, but I bet you could also use cheap vanity mirrors. In fact, that's how I set out to build ours, but finding the right size glass quickly became an issue.  I may start looking again soon, though, since I still love - LOVE - those end supports.

The tricky part, of course, was finding an affordable glass tube exactly the right size to house the clock. Specialty places online could make me one, but that would cost at least $60. Pass.

Then I remembered this thing my grandmother gave me a few years ago:

1973 crafting at its FINEST.

Yep, this Ye Olde bottle cutting kit was still new in the box, and begging to be taken for a test drive.

We grabbed a $5 vase from Wal-Mart, and gave it a go.

The kit worked like a charm, but we quickly learned that cheap glass vases can get super thin in the middle - so thin, that the glass will break unevenly, with jagged edges.

So next we found a beautifully thick glass vase over at Home Good for about $12:


This one took forever to cut. You only score it once, but we had to heat-then-ice the score line at least 10 times before we got a beautiful, perfect break.

The kit also came with a glass polishing powder. Pour some into the bottom of a pan you don't want anymore, and rub the cut edge around:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Since I've Been Sick: Captain EO, Festive Lily, and Misty Watercolor Meeeeemorriiiies!

After two weeks of being down and out with a mild cold-turned-ear infection, I still have broken glass shards for sinuses, I'm half deaf in one ear - which is completely clogged - and near-deafened by the loud ringing in the other, which is not.

I've been living in front of the humidifier, sleeping sitting up, drinking gallons of ginger tea, and using the neti pot once a day. I've been through a 5-day regiment of antibiotics, I'm taking huge doses of garlic and probiotics, regular doses of ibuprofen, and just recently Flonase. The only thing I'm NOT taking is Sudafed, since even this misery is preferable to a panic attack.

It's been SWELL.

Every night John assures me, "You're going to wake up all better tomorrow." I think he may stop, though, since the medicated glint in my eye turned especially murderous this morning.

Still, it could be worse, and today I think - I hope - I'm finally turning the corner.

I've had just enough energy to do a few things while I've been sick. Here are my favorites:

Last week, the day before we realized I wasn't getting better, I was getting an ear infection, John helped me make a special trip to Epcot. I was pretty weak even then, but I was on a mission: to say both hello and goodbye to an Epcot classic:

The last time we'd seen Captain EO - and the first time, for John - was in California six or seven years ago. He'd never seen it here at WDW, and I hadn't since it first opened when I was a kid. Blame my agoraphobia, which makes me panicky in theater situations.

I've been working on that, though, and I was determined to see EO one last time. (It closed permanently December 6th.)

The place was practically empty, so I got some nice pics of the lobby area:

Fuzzy panorama shot:

Inside the theater, a cast member let us sit in the very back row, usually reserved for the disabled:

They'd already turned off all the special features, so the seats didn't move and there were no water or air affects. Even so, it was awesome seeing EO on the big screen again. I literally sat at the edge of my seat, bopped around to the music, and wondered WHY I'd waited so long to do this again.

So in case you're keeping score, that's:

Jen: 1, Agoraphobia: In your FACE! 
(I'm bad at smack talk, I know.)

Just walking to EO had drained me, so we headed home right after. On the way we talked about this year's Christmas cards, and I suggested taking some festive - but ridiculous - photos of Lily.

John set it up, and somehow we got the whole thing staged, shot, and edited in one night. I'm keeping the final design a surprise for now, but here's one of my favorites from the "reject" pile:

"We must never speak of this again."

And finally, and most recently, I've been trying something that's honest-to-goodness artistic for the first time. John cut some watercolor paper into ACEO size, bought me a $4 Crayola set, and told me to have at it.

 I'm still getting the hang of it, of course, but it's been surprisingly nice just experimenting.

Here I'm trying out different outlining styles:

 I hope you guys like the middle one, since that's what I went with. o.0

Those will be gifts for a few special people who I hope wouldn't have preferred a nice candle or something.

And speaking of gifts and awkward segues, I just listed a final batch of Epbot pins over on Etsy. Anything that doesn't sell by tomorrow (Thursday) night will be pulled, so if you'd like a pack in time for Christmas, be sure to grab it now!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Festival of Trees 2015, Pt 2: Wreaths!

You've seen my favorite trees from this year's Festival, so now it's time to check out the wreaths!

The first thing I noticed in the gallery this year: lots of wreaths hung on or in elaborate gold frames.

And I approve. 

Such a great way to jazz up an otherwise lackluster wreath, or to highlight a showstopper! 

Granted, ornate frames aren't cheap, but even a simple one like this can make a big impact:

There are little colorful butterflies on this one - if you can't see them, just click to embiggen.

Some warm floral numbers:

And sweet snowy owls:

This seashell wreath has a rustic mermaid silhouette in the middle:

And here's one made entirely of retro-kitsch ornaments: