Monday, January 30, 2017

Universal's Harry Potter Celebration 2017

Last weekend was Universal Orlando's "Celebration of Harry Potter", and I have pictures.


Universal may not do a huge amount for this event, but there's no extra fee for admission, and it's worth the trip just for the guest costumes. The guests wear and do some amaaaazing stuff, and I will forever love Uni for allowing us adults to dress up. We can only hope it never becomes so much of a security issue that they ban costumes like Disney did. Fingers crossed!

With all the costumes around, HPC feels like a mini-convention in a theme park, and needless to say, the people-watching is fantastic.

It was also nice and chilly (yay 65 degrees!), so no one was sweating through their robes.

As for the park-added elements, you get two expo buildings, a Sorting Hat "experience", and the main stage at the front of the park hosts some presentations and cast Q&As. I promise all of these sound more impressive than they actually are.
 The Sorting Hat Experience: they hold a hat over your head, the speaker plays a pre-recorded voice announcing your house. (If you're wearing any merch or express a preference for a House, that's the one you'll get.)

This year the expos were a bit lacking, so many folks were irked after waiting upwards of 3 hours in line just for a photo op (albeit a very cool one,) a tiny handful of costumes/props, and a gift shop.

The main expo building. The yellow building-within-a-building there is the line for the "studio tour" photo op, which averaged 1-2 hours. (After waiting an hour or more to get into this building.)

The only film items on display here were these costumes from Fantastic Beasts:

Let's not talk about how spotlights in a dark room make everything impossible to photograph. Bleh.

Mina Lima's booth was awesome as always:

They're the company responsible for all the posters, packaging, books, and graphic art in all the films:

They had some new Fantastic Beasts prints and postcards out, which are gorgeous:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Take Your Daughters To See Hidden Figures This Weekend

And while you're at it, take your sons, too. Take your friends and your family and your co-workers and friendly-looking passers-by, but especially - especially - take all the young women in your life, because wow, you guys. WOW.

I knew from the reviews this was going to be a great film, but Hidden Figures still knocked me back in my seat. Watching how these three women - and more like them - contributed to NASA and the space race of the 1960s was eye-opening to say the least, but done with so much heart and humor and in-your-face bravery that you WILL leave the theater ready to take on the world.

Hidden Figures shows the racism of the 60s at every turn, and those images and attitudes cut deep. They'll make you mad, because they should make you mad. But through every injustice, Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary prove themselves to be mighty warriors. They don't quit, they take the future into their own hands and work harder. They speak up. They educate themselves. They're brilliant and  strong. They show a dignity and a professionalism and an ethic we ALL need, perhaps more than ever today.

I love that each woman has a different path and a different set of obstacles, and overcomes them all completely on her own. There is no rescuing in this movie. No lucky breaks or the hand of fate. It's hard work and gritted teeth and more self-control then I *know* I'll ever have. Plus actors Taraji Henson (Katherine), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy), and Janelle Monae (Mary) bring these women to life with grace and steel; you couldn't ask for a better casting.

As for the other characters, it's odd seeing Sheldon from Big Bang Theory (aka Jim Parson) not wearing a geek shirt, but beyond that, he's essentially Sheldon minus the charm: arrogant and irritating. Kevin Costner shines as Director Al Harrison, though. You're gonna love him. And young John Glenn.

That's another thing: I like that Hidden Figures gives us light and love and humor among the struggle. We get to laugh and cry a few happy tears. We get to leave inspired to do more, and to do it better.

It's rated PG for "thematic elements" (?) and a little language, so this is a safe one for kids. No sex, and the only violence are brief news clips of protests.

So please, take your daughters, your granddaughters, your nieces and their friends, take them all to see Hidden Figures this weekend. Don't wait for the DVD. If for no other reason than to tell Hollywood: YES, THIS. We want more of this!

 And if I still haven't convinced you, then watch this trailer:

Now I'm off to Universal for their annual Harry Potter Celebration this weekend - stay tuned for pics!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium's Complete Music Playlist!

Here's something probably only a few of you will find even remotely exciting, but *I* think it's awesome, so HUMOR ME: I've managed to get my mitts on the complete playlist from Toothsome's Chocolate Emporium!

Toothsome's is the new steampunk-themed restaurant and "dessert foundry" here in Orlando, and they play THE best collection of steampunk music I've ever heard. (You might remember how I raved over the music in my photo tour.) It's upbeat and jazzy and just plain fun. John and I've eaten at Toothsome's over half a dozen times now (I know, it's a hard life we lead,) and each time I hear new, fantastic songs, but Shazam hasn't always been able to identify them.


Before you go imagining an Ocean's 11-style heist, I should probably mention one of the managers very sweetly gave me the entire 3-page print out of their playlist.

Then I went the extra mile, and made a Youtube playlist of nearly every song on the list, IN ORDER. Aw yeah service! Have a chocolate milkshake while you're listening, and you're practically there.

 Sadly there are some songs missing, because 2 of the albums weren't on Youtube. Still, you get 70 songs out of the 87, so not too shabby!

You can start listening here:

If you click over to the whole playlist you can see all the names, artists, and albums. I can tell you now, though: craziest thing on there? Chocobo's Theme from Final Fantasy 3. Ha! Someone had a lot of fun researching and compiling this thing.

For you completionists, here are the missing albums I couldn't find on Youtube: 

Paris Nights, by 615 Music
I love Paris! Classic Gypsy Swing, by Café Chill Lounge Club

And finally, since I wanted them for me anyway, here are the other most heavily used albums from the playlist. Most are compilations, so it's still a wide variety of artists:

(Links to Amazon, where I just discovered you can stream it for free with Amazon Prime. Nice!) 

 White Mink, Vol 3 (also free to stream for Prime members!)

I hope this gives you guys some fun new tunes to explore! Now I'm fighting back the urge to throw a steampunk dessert party. :D

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Tricks for Old (But Pretty!) Junk

John and I spent last Saturday stomping around one of the nation's largest outdoor antique fairs again, and our sinuses still haven't recovered. Something between the dust and the trees and the 85 degrees (if you please, mon amis) has our allergies intent on destroying both us and everything within sneeze-blast-radius. Bleh.

Still, it was super fun. I've mentioned Renninger's Antique show before, because with over a hundred acres of the best junk ever, it's like shopping in a giant interactive museum. Plus there's live music and bad-for-you food and old toys and stuff, so do your worst, allergies. (Oh wait, you did.) (ACHOO!)

Blurry aerial view of Renninger's. It's massive, and extends way out into the trees on the right.

We had a relatively small haul this round:

That's a $3 toy blimp I hope to clean up (wouldn't it be a cute Christmas ornament?), and the most ridiculously fancy candy dish I've ever seen. It's heavy and the glass is cool and it cost $10, though, so yeah, no-brainer.

You're going to judge me for these next two, but I'm OK with that:

I can't help it, you guys: I LOVE THIS CHEESY OWL ART. We'll hang it next Christmas for our Potter party. The seller threw in the little statue for free (we paid $15), which'll get a painted makeover later.

Anyhoo (get it? HOO?), getting to the actual point of this post, I spotted some nifty upcycling ideas out at Renninger's. Check this out:


John and I both went moon-eyed over this metal-and-glass cloche. It's massive, and was in one of the nicer tents, so we were sure it would be hundreds of dollars. Turned out, less than 50. Why? Because it wasn't originally a cloche; it was a hanging light fixture the seller just turned upside down.


Tell me you're not going to look at light fixtures in a whole new light from now on. Pun intended.

(We didn't buy it because we have nowhere to display it - remember my clutter-management rules? Broke our hearts a bit, I'll be honest.)

Next, you've probably seen wind chimes made with old silverware, but this seller took the idea a step further, and incorporated silver teapots:

Hard to see, but there are crystal drops leading from the spot to a lily made of spoons, with the chimes (which are more spoons and forks) hanging from the flower's stem.

I love the crystal water stream - so clever! - and the cutlery chimes sound surprisingly sweet.

These things are impossible to photograph, but here are two more designs:

No one uses fancy silver pitchers and sugar bowls anymore, so I am LOVING this idea! It takes something out from the cabinet and gets it out in the open where you can appreciate it.

This last upcycle idea is all me, so lemme see what you guys think:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Quick Craft: DIY "Honorary House Elf" Apron

Remember the House Elf apron I made for John to wear during our Potter Christmas Party? It really works for any time of year, so I thought I'd share the templates in case any of you'd like to make your own.

But first... 


 Werk it, John!

Aw yeah GQ!

Um, I think we got it, thanks...

No, really, THAT'S GOOD.

Aaaand SCENE.

What's fun about this is you can use any color apron, so... house colors anyone? Hmmm?

Plain aprons can be hard to find - John searched all over town before finding this one at Bed Bath & Beyond - but I found some cute shortie style ones over on Amazon Prime for less than $10.

Best of all, there are over 20 colors to choose from!

So, once you have your apron, download these graphics I put together in Photoshop:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Epcot's New Festival of the Arts Is A Figment Love-Fest

On Friday John and I spent an exceptionally soggy day checking out Epcot's first ever Festival of the Arts.

The rain may have put a damper on things - literally - but it also kept the crowds and temperature down, so I'll take it.

Best thing of the whole Festival greets you right behind Spaceship Earth:


Isn't he perfect?! Gah. I want one in my front yard. (Would that be weird? Because I'm ok with being weird.)

And another surprise awaits you just past the fountain:

These living statues will look familiar if you've been to Disney Springs lately, though they're different designs and on new custom platforms. I've been trying to figure out the themes: Copper is obviously Earth/Nature (wind power, flowers, etc.), and Silver is Space, but Gold is... steampunk? I... I don't get it.

Whatever, I got the coolest shot of Gold:

HDR is fun.

And that's the actual sky color! Talk about a literal gray day.

(All of these were taken with my iPhone 6S. I edited this one with Snapseed - also on my phone -  but most of the others were done in Adobe Lightroom.)

Over in the Odyssey Building there are daily art presentations on stage:

Plus themed food and drink and exclusive merchandise:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January Art Roundup: Owls, Elves, and Phoenix Masks!

Time for more of my favorite geeky art finds! I skipped last month, so buckle up for plenty of eye candy.

Starting with the gothic grunge styles of Vaughn Belak:

Looove this one:
 Anyone else thinking Secret of Nimh? Just me?

 Belak also paints groovy, glowy-eyed ladies:

 Head over to Belak's online shop for prints, which range from $17-$22.

 Next some pretties by Kelly McKernan:

Prints start at $25 in McKernan's online store, and there are LOTS more. Go see!

The dark fantasy paintings of Dustin Panzino are just a teensy bit creepy, but wow do they draw me in:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Eat Your Heart Out, Sorting Hat

John's been making custom Hogwarts House banners for group members over on Fans of Epbot the past several days, and now we've brainstormed enough funny ones that I think they have to be shared.

Each graphic is a transparent .png, so just download your favorite and use any image program to layer it over your profile picture. We made 3 options for each House: