Thursday, November 16, 2017

Potter Party Spoilers: Come See What We've Made So Far!

I mentioned this before, but John and I are throwing a Potter Christmas party again this year, this time with a Fantastic Beasts spin.

I've been gleefully sharing process shots of some of our many projects over on my Instagram Stories the last few weeks, but I thought I'd compile them all into one big progress post here, you know, for posterity. So let's see how many things you can guess we're making!

I plan to turn several of these into tutorials, btw, which I'll start sharing soon. There's just too much to share all at once after the party, plus I think it's fun to ramp up the antici....


So I hope you'll forgive the semi (and outright) spoilers.

First, some background silliness:

Learning is fun!

For those of you who judged me for having a tree up the day after Halloween: IT'S FOR WORK I PROMISE. Or at least for lots of experiments.

That's one of the best parts about starting prep so early; John and I've been trying a few things we've never seen anyone do before, so it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out WHY no one's ever done them before. You know, like piping a fog machine through your Christmas tree. [NOTE: DO NOT ATTEMPT.] [Although it was pretty fun 'til the smoke alarm went off.]

I really want to show you the videos I took documenting our attempts, but they include a pretty major spoiler. I promise I'll show you our hilarious smoking tree once the spoilery thing is revealed with its own tutorial, though.

Speaking of which, here are some obvious hints:

I painted these one at a time with simple craft paint and water. Tedious, but I like what a difference they made. If I were to do them again I'd go darker, though; as the feathers dried they lightened up much more than I expected.

I should mention here John is very against this post, and while proof-reading it he kept yelling out across the house: "You're showing them THAT? And this?! There won't be any surprises left!"

Oh yes, there will.

More silliness:

I haven't posted these next pics anywhere yet:

Monday, November 13, 2017

I Went To My First "Harry Potter Dapper Day!"

There's a small fan-run event here in Orlando (and also LA) called "Dressed To The 9 3/4s," held in the Wizarding World sections of Universal. It's essentially Dapper Day with a Harry Potter twist (um, YES PLEASE), so yesterday John and I went along with a few friends to check it out!

I really liked the low-key, friendly vibe of this event. Disney's Dapper Day (which is next weekend) has gotten SO big that Disney had to ban official group meet-ups, so it's more intimidating to strike up conversations and meet fellow Dappers, what with everyone going their own way.

Here at 9 3/4s, though, it was a small enough group to allow everyone to be together, chatting and mingling about, but large enough that you still felt part of a group. The outfits ranged from fun to fabulous, and to put a sparkly cherry on top, most of the new Christmas decorations are up now around both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley! So prepare for lots of outfit shots *and* magical scenery:

 (I've decided I need to embiggen all my Snitch ornaments now.)

The toothbrush! So wrong, so funny.

Here's the whole group all together:

Several more showed up later, but this gives you an idea of how many we had. And I'm sure it'll keep growing every year!

John and I even found some Huffley things in our own closets to wear, though I forgot to get a picture of us together. (Oops.) Here are the photos I shared over on Instagram:

I sewed the little felt badger face on my $10 Walmart purse late the night before, and both it and my wand holster were a big hit. 

And John's show-stopper shot:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Jen's Gems: Bubble Worlds & Automatons!

Some of my favorite finds this week:

This "South Asian Wonder Woman" by Deepica Mutyala is absolutely stunning:

Found via the RPF group, where Susan always shares the best stuff.


Over on Instagram I've started following Lady Arcoiris, who makes some of the most incredible clay and resin jewelry:

She hand-sculpts the tiny figures, then embeds them in resin to form her "Bubble Worlds." (And yes, the sell out fast, ha.)

Dying over this Zero pendant, plus look at little Luna!

Go follow her for so much more.


I'm endlessly fascinated by antique automatons - always have been - and some great ones passed through my feed this week. First there's the Joueuse de Tympanon, built for Marie Antoinette in 1772,  which STILL PLAYS TODAY:

Then I stumbled across some videos by Robo Theater, a German puppeteer doing an apprenticeship in Japan, I think? Anyway, she took these at Susumo Higashino's Karakuri Ningyo exhibition. (Google tells me "Karakuri Puppets" are what the Japanese call their automatons, so look up that term for more goodies.)

This one paints different pictures:

And this one does a many-stepped magic trick:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Our Figment Rocker Plans Are Finally Here!

I know, I know, that took forever. I bet some of you don't even remember that we made a Figment dragon rocker.  But we did, and it looked like this:

We later donated it to Give Kids The World, where it lives in a playroom on property.
(Life Goal Achievement: UNLOCKED.)

Since we put so much work into it - and enough of you expressed interest - John and I've been working to make a printable template to sell on Etsy, just like we did for our AT-AT. To do that we had to build another rocker, though; our Figgy was a little too small, and the template wasn't perfect.

So John took our original rough paper templates, scanned them, smoothed out the imperfections in Illustrator, and up-sized everything by about 15%. He also simplified the design a bit, to make assembly easier. Then we began the tedious task of making another dragon rocker from scratch, and photographing the whole process for the instruction manual.

This time I used a different color scheme to show you can also make this a more generic-style dragon; it doesn't have to be Figment:

This would be super cute for medieval or fantasy themes, or even dinosaurs if you take the wings and horns off (Stegosaurus, anyone? :D) I'm also hoping someone makes one in pink, because how cute would a pink dragon be.

 The only noticeable difference construction-wise is this new design only uses 2 layers of MDF for the body instead of 3. That makes construction much easier, while still being just as strong and cute.

 Well, maybe not so cute from THIS angle, but all rockers look weird head-on. :D

Also like the AT-AT rocker, we've formatted the template so you can print it on your home computer; you just tape the pages together and cut everything out. As for difficulty level, if you're comfortable with a jigsaw and a power drill, then this is in your skill set.

The step-by-step instructions are filled with pictures and diagrams, and are written at a beginner's level. (I can say that because *I* understood them well enough to write them.) If you hit a snag, though, John's e-mail address is right there in the download, and he's great at walking people through trouble-shooting.

Right! That's enough sales pitch. If you'd like the template and instructions - all 39 pages of them - then you can grab the digital download in my Etsy shop for $20.

But wait, there's more!

Maybe building your own dragon rocker is a little too daunting right now, but you still want one. 

Well, as circumstances would have it, we happen to have ANOTHER dragon rocker we don't plan to keep. This one. So, er... any of you want it?

If so, and if you're local to Orlando (or willing to travel or pay for what I can only assume will be extremely expensive shipping), then comment below! Tell me who you want the rocker for, or what kids' room theme it's going in, and I'll pick my favorite to win this one. I'll announce the winner in my very next post, so remember to check back!

UPDATE: It was really hard to choose, gang, so in the end I narrowed down my top picks and then had a random number generator do the rest. And the odds were in Noreen Kelly's favor! So please shoot me an e-mail, Noreen, and we'll arrange a time for you to pick up your new dragon. :)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Quick Craft: Mickey Ears Pom Pom Cap!

Ages ago I spotted a girl at the parks wearing a baseball cap with pom pom Mickey ears, and fell in love. I've since learned they're from Tokyo Disneyland (of course), come in all different colors, and cost about $60 on ebay:

I forgot about it until earlier this year when I saw Melissa make her own pom pom hat in pink over on Instagram, and fell in love all over again:

A post shared by Melissa (@incindysshoes) on


You Will Need:

- a plain baseball cap (this one is $3 at Michael's)

- two pom poms in a matching color (These came from a friend's pair of new shoes, ha. Where do the rest of you buy pom poms? I NEED MORE.)
- your choice of iron-on Disney patch

I found this sweet sequined Mickey patch on Etsy for just $3.50 with shipping - YES PLEASE - and it worked great, but obviously you can go nuts here picking any cute patch.

Ironing a patch on a round hat is a little tricky, but you've got this. You just need a large metal or oven-safe glass bowl, like this:

Secure your patch in place with 2 straight pins through the ears:

... then put your hat over the bowl, a wash cloth over the hat, and start ironing the patch in small sections:

Friday, November 3, 2017

John's Birthday "Blues"

Some of you *may* have noticed it was John's birthday yesterday. We spent the later part of the day at Magic Kingdom, mostly so we could see the new fireworks show, Happily Ever After. Anyway, John tells me if I'm going to spend so much time on my Instagram Stories then I should at least put them somewhere more people will see them, SO... prepare for photos, videos, and disjointed Disney rambles. :D

John in his birthday suit outfit. Look how blue he is! 

And here's the kind of cutting-edge commentary you get in my Stories:

Yep, two days after Halloween Disney had already switched to full Christmas mode - though the castle lights and the big tree aren't up yet at Magic Kingdom.

Not that I'm complaining about Christmas decorations, of course. :D Plus I love the Dapper Dans. If it ever comes up in conversation you WILL hear about the Disneyland Dans and how they rode their bicycle-built-for-4 just for me that one time, because it. was. AWESOME.

Oh hey, here's some stuff I haven't posted yet: cool new phone cases!

 The Madame Leota one has a 3D sculpt of her face on the back, just like the tombstone. Love it. The Figment one is the wrong phone size for John, but then he tells me he'd rather have the perfect Hufflepuff case instead? So hey, if you have any recommendations...

And this one has fun little sparkles in it:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween Highlights: Costumes & Dragons!

For Halloween I asked you Facebook followers to share your costume photos, and BOY DID YOU. If you haven't seen that thread, then I *highly* recommend scrolling through the over 400 photos, because your fellow Epbot readers are SERIOUSLY talented. You guys dressed as everything from burning books to whomping willows, plus you dressed your kids, your pets, and your horses?! Yep. I was blown away, and it kept me hugely entertained while I was on Door Duty for the approximately 3 billion trick-or-treaters who flocked to our house.

In hindsight, I think our last-minute Halloween decorating may have had something to do with the extra crowds:

A post shared by Jen Yates (@epbot) on

Spoopy dragon!

I'm telling you, put a giant dragon skeleton on your roof, and you'll have a Field of Dreams situation on your hands real fast. (It also moves and shrieks, but we turned that off so it wouldn't scare the littles.)

(Oh, and it's from Big Lots, but we got it several months ago.)

But back to your costumes.

Again, you should go see everything for yourself, since photos are still coming in, but here are a few of the ones that grabbed me so far:

Because every character is better with a little Wonder Woman thrown in, am I right? 

And speaking of Ms. Prince:

Aaa! If only every princess dress was this lovely... and came with a sword down the back. :D

The car! The Weasley wig! The dad who probably got called Groot all night! Hee! Love this.


And another great family cosplay:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fighting "Toxicity" One DM At A Time

A lot of you know John and I are currently addicted to Overwatch, the online mutliplayer battle game. Since I first wrote about it in June we've both gotten quite a bit better, learning, leveling up, watching tips videos, and generally falling headfirst into the fandom.

There's a problem with Overwatch, though, particularly as you reach the higher levels. Something gamers calls "toxicity." We'd read about it, of course, but since neither John nor I use voice chat in the game, we figured we were immune from the nastiness and bullying you hear about in discussion boards and comment sections.

John's more of risk-taker than I am, so after a few months he jumped into the harder aspects of the game: 3 on 3 battles, and even the officially ranked Competitive Play. These are where the serious players come out, and it made John feel good to hold his own with increasingly skilled teammates.

This is more John's story than mine, so I'm going to let him tell you what happened next:

"A couple weeks into playing, I was doing pretty poorly and we lost. All of a sudden, a little icon popped up on the bottom of my screen, showing I had a message from one of my teammates. That never happens. Surprised, I opened it and read, “Why don’t you learn how to aim. You suck.

Ouch. I did my best, the other team was better, no big deal, right? But here was this random person telling me I sucked.

I'll be honest, I didn’t want to play anymore after that. I moped around, I thought about responding with something snide or mean. What, like this guy never had a bad game before? 

A day or two later I shook it off and started playing again, but sure enough, there were more angry messages. Teammates blaming me for our losses, even when I did well, or angry because of the character I chose. (The perils of being a Symmetra main.)

That's when I had a sinking thought: what if ALL private messages in Overwatch are like that? Mean, critical, lashing out? So I did a little Googling, and yeah, they are. That's pretty much all the players use the messaging feature FOR. I guess that’s what they mean when they say a game is toxic.

I decided then and there to be different. I decided that every chance I got, I would send notes of encouragement and praise to fellow players, whether they were on my team or playing against me. 

“You're a great Hanzo.”

“You killed me SO MUCH. Awesome!”

“That was unbelievable. You are so, so good.”

Just short little things, since I'm typing with a controller. A lot of times it's just an "awesome Reaper" - or whatever character they played.
The reactions were amazing, once people got past their suspicion. Everything from a simple "thanks" to returned compliments to friend requests. So many friend requests. Because NOBODY DOES THIS. When you see that message icon pop up, it’s always somebody being mean to you. That’s just the way it is. But because this small touch of kindness was so unexpected, it was so much more powerful."

Jen, jumping back in here.

John and I talked about this over lunch back at Dragon Con, about how sending a positive message in Overwatch was completely subverting everyone's expectations, and whether that was even a good thing.

"You realize just by messaging people you're making them think something bad is coming, right?" I asked. "I mean, that little ding from a DM is awful; it scares the crap out of me."

"Yes," John said, "But people only expect the message to be bad because they've only gotten bad messages, or read that they're all bad. What if they started getting good ones? What if they got so many good ones they stopped expecting DMs to be mean?"

I sat there and thought about all the times I'd already watched John lose a game in Overwatch, all angry and frustrated, then immediately message the person on the opposite team who'd killed him the most times - and tell them what a great player they were. I thought about the day I found him looking blankly at his laptop, game system off, because the first of several strangers had told him he was terrible at doing something he loved.

I sat there in that noisy food court, looking at this guy who'd made the impossibly hard choice to repay evil with good, and marveled. Sure, it's only a game. But it's more than that. It's a tidal wave of angry people lashing out in frustration, ruining people's days, hurting feelings, ostracizing and excluding behind a veil of online anonymity -  and here's my hubby, pushing back, one DM at a time.

I know most of you don't play Overwatch, but you do interact with people online. So I'm issuing a little John Challenge today, to you and to myself: Put more positive than negative into your fandoms, your tribes. Stop yourself the next time you feel like lashing out online, and instead find someone to praise. Give a little unexpected kindness. That's the best kind.

And if you do play Overwatch, let me challenge you to send out a compliment in-game this week. Bonus points if it's to someone you just lost to. (This challenge is also for me, since I've never messaged anyone before!) Let's make it a habit to send out at least one nice note every time we play. Maybe make that your signing off routine, after your last game.

It's not much, I know. It's just a drop against a tidal wave of toxicity. But drops have a way of running together, growing stronger, and forming a flood.

So pass it on.

PS. I found these memes while I was looking for a good Overwatch screenshot, and they made me LOL:

(For you non-players: Anna has healing darts in-game; she has to shoot you to heal you. :D) 


Now let's announce this month's art winners!

My wild card winner is: Max Martin
The winner of the Marvel Roundup print is: Wordwitch
And the winner of the Sailor Moon print is LizSie

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

October Art Roundup: Potter Princesses, Lumiere's Library, & Papercut "Tiny Worlds!"

Time for my favorite art finds this month!

I'm really liking Heather Hitchman's use of line art with just a touch of color:
 She also has full-color works like this:

Her shop has over 140 listings, go see the rest!

 These Potter Princesses by CJ Major are too cute:

Ariel found the Triwizard Tournament egg! Love it!

 And for my fellow Overwatchers, CJ's "flip" posters showing the characters with an alternate skin are suuuper cool:

You can hang them either way! 

Check out Major's Etsy shop to see the rest.


TJ Lubrano from the Netherlands has just stolen my heart with this Hedwig print:

And continuing the book theme, she also has this Cogsworth & Lumiere print that lets you choose from a bunch of different quotes: