Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Mini Tree For Moaning Myrtle

John and I have been working on a Harry Potter Christmas party for months now, and it's all happening this weekend. 


[patting down hair] Ahem.

So while I try to get a million things done before Saturday without spontaneously combusting in a fit of squealy nerves, allow me to show you... our bathroom door. [eyebrow waggle]

 I kid, I kid. I mean, that IS our bathroom door, but I'm gonna show you so much more.

Only not in a creepy, open-the-door-on-your-half-dressed-relative kind of way. Promise.

Let's just skip ahead.


Part of our bathroom.


 My Moaning Myrtle mini-tree!

The idea came to me when John and I spotted this spigot ornament at JoAnn's:

It's blown glass, so incredibly light, and thanks to coupons and sales we got it for less than $5. It's attached to the wall with the adhesive strip from a Command Hook.

I thought it would be funny if Myrtle decorated her own tree using things she had on hand in the bathroom. So John found a pearl strand in the bridal aisle that's perfect for tiny soap bubbles, then later I found a dozen iridescent glass ornaments at Michaels for $3 (Score!) for big bubbles. The rest of the decorations I made with toilet paper, floss, and Q-tips:

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November Art Roundup: Bookworm Dragons, Superhero Snowmen, & House Owls!

Time for my monthly roundup of favorite art finds!
And since a lot of us are busy decking those halls, I've got a few festive options this round, too.

For example: 

Charlie Thurston's "Wedge on the Ledge" is the Star Wars version of Elf on the Shelf you never knew you needed:

It comes with a cute little storybook and a paper Wedge you can hide around the house!

Wedge & the booklet are $15 over at Charlie's Etsy shop, but enter the promo code "epbot" for 20% off any order over $10. Be sure to check out Charlie's other art & kids' books, too! (Promo code expires Monday at midnight, so act fast.)


Bianca Roman Stumpff has some new prints I *know* you're going to love:

Book worm dragon! And lookit the teensy owl!

Here's my new favorite:

I'm actually helping Bianca put together a coloring book - just cleaning up her line art digitally - and so far, this has been my favorite to work on. I lurrrve this lil' steampunk gal.

Bianca's adorable strawberry Gryphon is being discontinued soon - a TRAGEDY -  so grab it now:

Only $5 on clearance! I need to buy like a dozen.


Christie Cox's superhero snowmen are just what your stocking needs:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

MegaCon Tampa 2016: The Best Cosplay, Part 2

I got a little derailed there from finishing up my MegaCon Tampa coverage, but I'm back with the second half of my favorite cosplay! (Did you miss Part 1?)

Let's start with some breaking news. 

That's right, you heard it here first, guys and geeks:

Kylo Ren is a Hufflepuff.

So maybe there's hope for him yet?

Although I'm not sure Han would agree...

(He's only sleeping, I promise!)

A lovely Hawkgirl:

And Doctor Sonic!

Not gonna lie; I love that security had to inspect the screwdriver. (That's what the green bands are for.)

 I chatted with the mom of these two for a bit:
 She made everything herself for her kids to wear, including this rockin' Zelda armor for her daughter:

John and I did our best to convince the mom SHE should dress up, too, but she said she just loves making the costumes, not wearing them. I can respect that. So hey, hats off to all the crafty geek moms out there!

 Again, this was a few weeks ago, so there was a little more political cosplay than usual:

Monday, November 21, 2016

A New - And Better! - Way To Make Floating Candles

Two years ago my DIY floating candles for our Harry Potter tree got a lot of attention online, so you might recognize these:

Those are battery-operated candles, though, so if you need to make LOTS of them - say, more than 10 or 20 - then the battery cost alone starts to add up. (They each take 2 AAs)

The only other floating candle method I've seen uses toilet paper rolls and LED tealights. The tealights are too small for the rolls, though, so you have to use hot glue to make a "shelf" inside the roll, then hang the candle from the roll itself with a V of fishing line, making it hard to hang straight.

I don't like the look of the fishing line V or the TP roll seams, and I'm too lazy to collect and paint dozens of TP rolls, so I set out to find a better, easier way.

And here it is:

My method requires no painting (unless you count the "wax" drips), no fiddly hot glue shelves for the lights, and no fishing line Vs. These hang directly from the flame tips - so they hang straight - they only cost a few cents more than the TP method, and best of all, you can make them any length you want!

 Here are a few hanging:
Instead of toilet paper rolls, my candles use cream-colored card stock.

Want to see how I did it?

Then let's make some candles!

You Will Need:

- cream colored card stock, cut in sheets 5.5 inches wide by however long you'd like your candles to be. (I did a variety of lengths)
- paper glue (optional, but handy, since it dries faster than Elmer's)
- Elmer's/white craft glue
- hot glue & hot glue gun
- battery operated tealights (I ordered these 100 from Amazon for $36)
- clear thread or fishing line (quilter's thread is great)
- white craft paint
- Dremel (not pictured) *or* a heavy duty needle 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Am SOOO Over-Thinking This... Right?

We've had an especially busy few weeks, what with an out-of-town con, visiting family and friends, some meetups, birthdays, events, etc, so I've let some stuff slide. I've gotten behind on work, neglected my stretches, missed some meds. I've found myself compiling useless lists in my head, getting overwhelmed, and then staring at my phone to numb the urgency. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This might not be the best strategy.

Last weekend we went to Dapper Day so I could take pictures, and I caught a bug that makes me shaky and tired and utterly useless... until about 4AM, when I am wide awake and shaky and utterly useless. So I've been lying in bed a lot, stewing and sighing and - ug - thinking.

You know those feedback loops our brains get stuck on sometimes? How come those are never about nice things? Like, why can't we endlessly obsess over that perfect trip to Disneyland? Or the way our favorite person looks when s/he laughs? But noo-oo. It's all, "Oooh, you shouldn't have said that thing last week!" Or, "Surprise! You forgot so-and-so's birthday and now they secretly hate you." Or, "Hey, remember that time ten years ago when you got fired? WASN'T THAT AWFUL?? Let's go relive allll the tiny details in slow-motion and with color commentary from your inner self-loathing again. And again. And again and again and again!"

This month I learned a family member thinks I don't work, and is disgusted by it. She thinks John and I are independently wealthy (hoo!) and sit around making costumes all day. She's never been to Epbot, and brags to others in our family about this, because ew, blogs.

We see her all the time, by the way, and talk about Epbot pretty often. So, I was a little rocked. I mean, I'm fine, and this *does* explain why she glazes over every time I say the word "steampunk," so it's actually kind of funny.

Or... bah, maybe I'm not fine. Maybe I'm a people-pleaser, and relatives more so. Maybe I fret for days before posting personal, anxiety-related things, and rely on you guys to assure me it's OK that I do. Maybe I pour my heart and soul into my photos, my projects, my proud cheer-leading of the things I love. Maybe this blog is the one contribution I make to the universe that I feel actually matters from time to time.

Maybe I'm just a little "peopled" out, a little sick, and need some quiet to recoup.

Cats and/or stuffed animals always help.

I'll never blame folks for thinking I don't work. I get to do things I love, and a lot of times I get paid for it. That certainly doesn't seem like work. I'm surrounded by joy and creativity and support, and most of the time I don't have to wear pants. If that's not the American dream, then heck, let's all move to Ottawa and eat Beaver Tails. (The pastry, I mean, not actual beaver tails. [Those wouldn't taste nearly as good.])

But I really do try. I put me into the things I do. Then I agonize over whether those things are good enough. I take too much time, I stay up too late, I neglect John. I lose sleep, I re-write 'til it's memorized, and I fret over readers who tell me their pain, searching for just the right words to lessen it.

I feel less when I'm not working. Useless. Unfulfilled. Like all I've done 'til now was for naught, and all that really matters is my next post. I can recognize that's not entirely healthy, but on the flip side, when I really nail a post? When I've written something I'm proud of, or show you something new I love, and think you'll love, too? Best. Buzz. EVER.

And when John brings home letters from the PO box, saying I helped? When I look at Fans of Epbot, a community that's doing its best to lift each other up, and come together, cross divides, all grounded on a foundation of commonality I helped spark? When I get e-mails and fan art that show I do have an impact?

(A reader named Jim drew this after my Panic Victories post... and I love it.)

Or when a reader gets tongue-tied or cries, because of meeting me? Me, the girl who got fired that time. The girl who says the wrong things and who will forget your name. The girl who messes up, who's ashamed and uncertain and just, you know, trying.

Those things aren't a buzz. They're a reason to keep trying.

I'm a people-pleaser. Always have been, always will. But I hope, with your help, I'll aim to please the right people, and learn to care a little less about the ones who will never be impressed, no matter how I try.

As I lay staring at the wall this afternoon, I thought again about my favorite quote from Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel." I closed my eyes, and thought about how *I* feel around each of my closest friends and family. The answers actually kind of surprised me.

I realized some of the people I most want to be around are the ones who make me feel less, inadequate, uncertain - even ashamed. I realized these were the ones I was forever trying - and failing - to impress.

But other family and friends, well, just the thought of their presence made my shoulders loosen, made me feel relaxed and confident and creative.

We rise or sink to the level of those we choose to surround ourselves with. I've always known that, but this was the gut-check I think I needed. Because I need to be around that second group of people more in my life. And I need to tell them that.

So my challenge to you - because heck yeah, let's make this a challenge - is this: Close your eyes and imagine each of the people in your life, one by one, sitting in front of you. Think about how their presence makes you feel. You might just be surprised. Then orient your life, best you can, to be more around the ones who make you the best you. More importantly, tell them they make you the best you. I can say from experience, there is no greater compliment.

And now I'm going back to bed. Hugs, high fives, and I'll see ya on the flip side.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Disney's Dapper Day, Fall 2016!

Twice a year here in Orlando there's an unofficial Disney event called Dapper Day, and it. is. awesome. Simply put, you dress nice, show up, and gawk at all the pretty outfits. Most have a vintage flair, and there's Disneybounding galore, but really, almost anything goes.

All the feelz for this Inside Out group. :)

Last Saturday was the first Dapper Day held at Epcot, since it usually alternates between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. I was excited about the change of scenery, until I realized it was also the last weekend of the Food & Wine Festival, which draws massive, massive crowds.

Given the shoulder-to-shoulder walls of people, the vastly larger park to spread out in, and the fact that public Dapper Day meetups are no longer allowed (boo), it was a real challenge photographing people this round. That said, I still found plenty, so prepare for eye candy, peeps!

Starting with my friends Christie and Chris as R2D2 & C3PO (check out his socks!!). Christie made her dress from original 1920's instructions - no pattern - then made a Mouse Droid sequin purse to go with it, which is seriously the coolest.

Then Christie's sister Robyn was BB-8!

Seriously, this group raises the bar every Dapper Day. Love 'em to pieces.

Now let's talk about this EPIC Space Mountain purse:
And she's dressed as a vintage flight attendant with Tomorrowland pins!

An oh-so-pretty Suffragette:
Gotta say,  I do love having Spaceship Earth in the background. It's like Past meets Future.

Dapper 1940s Wonder Woman:

And the most delightful Nightmare Before Christmas trio:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Adorable Twinkle Eye "Sea Ponies" Will Make You SQUEE

If you could use a little sunshine and rainbows for your eyeballs, then I've SO got you covered:


I stumbled across these handmade (yes, handmade) "Sea Ponies" in one of my daily meanders through Instagram last week. At first I thought they were the actual My Little Pony "SeaHorses" from the 80s, but nope, these are original sculpts by an artist in Germany! (And they're WAY cuter.)

They're perfectly 80s My Little Pony, though, right? Hittin' all the best nostalgia feelz. They're made from polymer clay, and I cannot - CANNOT - get over how perfect the paint jobs are.

Because, get this: the artist, Dirk, will do custom matches to vintage ponies!

Twins! Right down to the hair!

And one for the original Apple Jack:

There are also a few fandom ones, like Pokemon and this Sailor Moon:

I  love how they "float" on the seashell stands. So clever.

In addition to Sea Ponies, Dirk also makes the most DELIGHTFUL Twinkle Stars:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

MegaCon Tampa 2016: The Best Cosplay!

It's election day as I type this, so today I voted, did some shopping, then spent the last 5 hours editing cosplay photos. Not gonna lie: I'm pretty happy about this. There's no better way to forget national angst and troubles than taking an up-close look at insanely creative cosplay geeks. So, to everyone I'm about to feature here, thank you.

Now, let's talk about the inaugural MegaCon Tampa that happened two weekends back. (If you're just here for pictures, feel free to skip down, heh.)

The final numbers came in at 30,000 attendees, significantly less than Tampa Comic-Con, which is held in the same convention center and nabbed a cool 50K attendees last August, and less than half of MegaCon Orlando, which I believe topped out around 75K last year.

All that to say this was a perfect sized con for newbies and/or for those who dislike massive crowds. The Tampa Convention Center is one of my favorites, as it's small enough to never get lost, big enough to breathe, and filled with THE best light for photos in the common areas.

 Light! Glorious light!

Entry and ticket purchases were smooth, security was there but not intrusive, and queue lines were nicely managed and manageable. The vendor room felt cramped with too-narrow aisles, but that's a minor quibble, because the cosplay game was STRONG, y'all. Overall I'm really liking MegaCon's new owners.

That said, I have one major gripe regarding the handling of the headlining celebrity, David Tennant. Tennant put this con on the map - he's never been to a Florida con before -  so MegaCon wisely put his face on all the advertisements to drum up business. But here's the thing: Tennant was only there on Sunday, (it was a 3 day con) and his one-and-only panel cost an additional fee of $25.

Not cool, MegaCon.

I have a vested interest in my griping: John's sister & her hubby flew down from Maine to see David Tennant at this, their first-ever con. We paid for a photo, so she at least got 3 seconds to stand beside him - and I hear got a bit weepy, natch, 'cuz he really is the sweetest:

...but that was it. Tennant's panel would have cost our group an extra HUNDRED DOLLARS to see, and we'd already paid more than that for the photo!

Again, not cool, MegaCon.

Right, end of griping. There's cosplay to gawk at! 
And besides, how can I gripe when this little boy's wheelchair is the Hogwarts Express?

::SQUEE!:: It even had lights on the front!

In fact there was all KINDS of great Potter cosplay there, possibly because Mathew Lewis (aka Neville) was one of the celebs that weekend. 

Here's a first: ever see someone dress as a box of Bertie Bott's?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

We Faux-Painted Our Garage Door!

Actually, John's been sprucing up the whole front of the house this past week, but the garage door is the bit I think you'll find most interesting.

Here's the "before":

Ok, so the garage isn't actually in frame here, but you *can* see our row of bushes representing Darwin's "Evolution of Shrub."

 For some reason those left four bushes have been half-dead for years, and no amount of fertilizer or bug sprays had any effect, while the right four went on their merry way getting bigger and bigger and mocking our every attempt at symmetry. ARRRRRRGG.

Less visible is the faded paint, old wasp nests in the window trims, and one severely washed out, faux wood grain garage door. 

How washed out, you ask? Well, here's the only "before" I could find, taken just as John was starting to repaint it with an orange base coat:

I still can't believe it was that bad. I think the camera makes it look a lot worse. Yeah. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. [shifty eyes]

Here's the base coat completed, and the brown glaze started:

For the first coat of glaze John did a horizontal striƩ, meaning he dragged the brush sideways only.

This was a little too high-contrast, though, and had some light patches. So we did a second glaze coat of a soft vertical striƩ, to even it out.

Once the glaze dried, John taped off and painted black squares on top to simulate windows:

An easy trick, but super convincing from the street.

John also installed some decorative hardware: straps and handles. Now we're all FANCY.

And check out our new orange(!!) door, which I am LOVING with the darker garage. You can also see the ridiculously dinky bushes we planted. (They're native Maui Ixora, in yellow.) Plus we repainted the front walls and trim, to clean those up:

Getting those old bushes out was HARD, btw, and John managed to further blow out his rotator cuff doing so. I need to look into some form of one-armed straight jacket to get this guy to sit still. He's on anti-inflammatory meds and doing his stretches, but every week he goes and builds/lifts/rips out things and roughs it up again - so feel free to berate him in the comments for me.

Oh, did you notice the pretty new window box?

More of John's handy work! As I joked on Instagram, let's see how long it takes us to kill the plants. (I am BAD with plants. Baaaaaad.) I do like my combo of Blue Salvia and Marigolds, but I think I need something drapey up front, right? Something to hang over the edge? Gah, plant stuff is hard.

I dream of someday jack-hammering up our nasty old driveway, but for now, at least the house looks cuter. That said, if you have suggestions for making ugly concrete driveways look better, PLEASE share. Any of you tried concrete stain? Or that pebble coating stuff? Or jack-hammering it all up and starting over? :D