Friday, November 30, 2018

The Best of Orlando's Festival of Tree 2018, Part 2


I've got a full course of antibiotics in my veins, a song in my heart, and a raging case of insomnia.

Who wants to look at more Christmas trees?! (And wreaths.)

Let's start with a fun one, which I will present in the form of a riddle:

Q: What do you do when you're stumped for a tree topper? 

A: You take a cue from Captain Picard:


(Hoo boy, you're getting 4:30-in-the-morning Jen right now, gang. Sorry/YOU'RE WELCOME.)

This tree was sponsored by a local fabric store - so genius theming - and was covered in hundreds of pretty trims and fabric scraps:

Check out the garland; this would be a fun way to use leftover fabric:

I also like the idea of covering ornaments in fabric, like little wrapped presents!

Next, another bright green and bronze beauty:

That ribbon placement... I think I like it?

This tree had rotating ornaments - super fancy - but my favorites were the mini terrariums:

It doesn't show well in photos, but those terrarium balls were gorgeous in person. Like little hidden worlds tucked inside the branches!

The best part of this next tree was introducing John to the term "Putz House," which he 100% thought I was making up, and even looked mildly scandalized when I said it again - loudly - as a group of elderly ladies walked by.

Putz Houses are little paper Christmas houses like this, though, promise. :D

This tree was FULL of pretty Putzes (hee), but the best is that church topper with the tissue paper windows:

The snowy shelves at the base of each house are clever, too; really helps the houses stand out.

There were TWO Nightmare Before Christmas trees this year, here's the second:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When You've Got Zero Thanks To Give


Did you like how I posted about getting ready to do ALL the Christmas things, right before I dropped off the map, unexpected-trap-door style?

(John made this gif. Bless you for correcting that glaring omission in the gif world, sweetie.)

Fortunately I'm guessing most of you have been too distracted by the Thanksgiving long weekend to notice. See, I'm a master of scheduling sickness that way. (Or a... sick scheduler? Eh? EH?)

This past week has been a hazy blur, quite literally as I've been locked in my bedroom with the humidifier cranked 12 hours a day. (The framed art on our walls has actually wrinkled. ACK.) I can't remember the last time I was this sick - if ever - so I'd forgotten what it was like to have life screech to a halt.

Well, of course LIFE didn't stop, but I sure did. It wasn't so much like hitting a brick wall as it was like skidding over a soggy sponge and floomphing down into a mud puddle full of piranha and those freaky ear bugs from Star Trek: Wrath of Khan.

(Sometimes, when I freestyle, my analogies lose confidence.)

Anyhoo, I won't bore you with details, but going from viral bronchitis to a sinus/ear infection and then I think some flu mixed in? was negative five stars, would not recommend. I'm still on the mend; stabby ice picks in both ears and super weak, but I'm able to stay conscious for a few more hours each day. I'm even wearing a bra again (you're welcome, universe), which is really the crappiest way to celebrate feeling better, right? It's like, "Oh you can breathe without coughing again? Quick, go put on restrictive clothing and answer a month's backlog of e-mail! YAY ADULTHOOD!"

(Kidding. I never answer e-mail.)

John, meanwhile, is still coughing after nearly a month, though he says he feels fine. He also claims he doesn't need tea or steam or honey or medicine or hot liquids, so let's all have a collective Liz Lemon eye roll in his general direction:


Now a little serious talk.

I decided a bunch of years ago that I would never post anything hopeless online. That no matter how sad or panicky or angry, I would always at least end by sharing a little light, or a little faith that things will be better. It's been a beautifully helpful guideline, if only as a reminder to myself to look up when things get dark.

All that to say, I've been offline not just because I was sick, but because I haven't been able to find that light. I've been so excited, eagerly planning these few weeks all year, and I was already behind, than BAM. Suddenly not being able to move - much less work or shop or decorate or craft - left me darn near inconsolable. Being sick was one thing, but missing out on my favorite holiday crafts and sales and time with friends while simultaneously watching both blogs grind to a halt? Oof. Not good. I've been angry and petulant and so sad I've literally sobbed into my soup - twice. I'm not proud of this, but I'm putting it out here for a reason.

Actually, a couple of reasons:

First and foremost, I think it's poetic I was feeling so entitled and angry on Thanksgiving. I needed that kick in the teeth, that reminder how much I take for granted. The day hit me especially hard - so weak! - but with John's help I emerged, wraith-like, from my fog cocoon to have dinner with friends. Almost everything went wrong: John's bread rolls imploded, inedible, and his turkey was - well, it was turkey, how good can that be? - the gravy was watery, then our friend accidentally used salt instead of sugar in the sweet potatoes, and honestly by the end we were all laughing so hard that it was the best Thanksgiving meal I've had in years. Afterward I crawled right back into bed, but for those few hours I remembered what was important. For those few hours, I really was thankful.

Which is the other thing I've been contemplating: that this, too, is temporary. (Well, let's hope with the sickness thing.) Some people - some reading this post right now, even - are in pain ALL the time. Some people are always this weak. Some people never have the option to make pretty things or decorate their houses. Even at my worst, I have the hope and promise that I won't always feel this way.

And finally, the main thing I'm taking away from 7-days-and-counting of Life on Pause: it's not just about the little things, you guys. It's about the tiny things.  John holding my hand on the couch. A fresh cup of tea. Seeing what necklace Kim Joy is wearing today on Great British Bake-Off. When we're miserable we get tunnel vision, usually laser focused on everything bad. But this past week when I could shift that focus onto a good thing, even a little, that's when I remembered there is light.

The trouble is, I didn't remember those tiny things matter in what I'm doing, too. I let myself wallow. I forgot my rule. I dumped all my sadness on John, and made him suffer, too. Maybe if I'd made myself write for you guys, I'd have remembered to look up.

So hey, if you're out there wallowing right now, look for the tiny good things. If you have someone to hold your hand, grab on. If you find yourself spiraling, turn on British Bake-Off, or start a meme war with a friend on Facebook. Don't be like me and isolate yourself to focus on what you're missing or what's wrong; find some good right here, right now.

I'm still a million miles behind with a splitting earache, but I'll do what I can and try to take it easy on myself for all the rest if you will. Deal?

Now let's watch this rap battle so all the non Flight of the Conchords fans out there will get my hee-LAR-ious reference from about 10 paragraphs ago: 

[Warning: mild language]

"Did Steve tell you that?!" :D

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Best of Orlando's Festival of Trees 2018

It's my most wonderful post of the year, you guys: CHRISTMAS TREEEES! 

... And a few wreaths.

John and I are *both* sick now (and laughing to keep from crying, ha), but the fact that I'm still this stinkin' happy to sit down to edit photos and write I think shows I'm making proper life choices.

In case you're new here: every year I check out our local Festival of Trees, photograph my favorites, then report back with all the latest designer tree trends and my favorite ideas to steal. It's a hoot, promise.

So let's head in!

The lobby tree this year was a vision of fluffy white feathers and bright red cardinals:

Plus see all that extra greenery? Those lime greens look AMAZING with red and white, and that color combo turned out to be pretty popular this year. You'll see more in a bit.

We spotted one of my top favorites first thing:

LOOK AT THESE COLORS. They decorated a whole tree and mantel based on that fabulous wallpaper!

In the tree there's a mix of peacock feathers, pomegranates, oranges, and more lime green... greenery:

Obviously the orange and teal are my favorites, but that indigo blue really steals the show:

It practically glows. So, so pretty.

Over on the mantle there's this fantastic garland of dried autumn leaves and berries:

I would never think to use Fall leaves for Christmas like this. It's so good with all the citrus!

Moving on with a bad pun segue, 'cuz you guys, I've never felt this way before:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

These Unicorn Light Bulbs Are Making My Brain Melt In The Best Possible Way

::runs in::


I meant to post some Festival of Trees pics today, but then 2 things happened: 

1) I woke up with John's never-ending cough...

... so I gotta go wallow next to a humidifier for a bit.

But secondly - and this is the awesome part -  on the way out of the Festival I found the most beautiful things ever in the gift shop, of all places. I've never seen these before anywhere, and I can't even find them online (WHUT), so you have to see this loveliness this very second. HAVE TO.


The Unicorn Light Bulb!

(Yep, that's a LIGHT BULB.)

 Oh hey, I just realized at this angle it looks like a Christmas tree. Bonus.

This is meant to hang upside down like a pendant light, though, so it's really more of a diamond. (Although you could put it in a lamp. Hmm...)

But wait, THERE'S MORE.

There are two more shapes, with slightly different colors:

 This one is tufted like a hot air balloon, and glows more pink and orange.

 You can see they're not TOO bright; definitely just a pretty accent, not for actual lighting.

Then there's a giant round bulb in mostly blues and purples:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Magical Wizarding World Pics & A Little Life Rambling

Well helloooo, you. I have a pile of pretty Potter pictures here, plus a desire to sit and chat. Cool?


I should mention I've decided not to stress (or at least TRY not to) over the fact that Epbot is basically becoming a Harry Potter Christmas blog this month. This is brave, this is mildly obsessive...THIS IS ME.

 I promise after the Hufflepuff party and next month's fabulous Christmas con and then the Festival of Trees and everything I'll get back to other fandom things. Probably. [Cut to me running madly through twinkle lights yelling "I'M NEVER GOING BACK YOU CAN'T MAKE MEEEEE!!"]


Oh hey look, my favorite Alley:

I took this a few weeks ago before all the pretty garlands went up, so it's much sparklier now.

I love looking for new angles; pretty sure you could blindly point your camera in any direction in the Wizarding World and find something beautiful:

Look at that crest and plaster work. LOOK AT IT.

If you stand to the right side of the steps during Celestina's show, you can get some lovely crowd-free shots:

I can't wait to see her Holiday Spell show again. Eeeee!

Goblin armor is best armor.
(The tiny suit is the one that assembles itself when you wave your wand, so you have to time this shot just right.)

Ever notice the corbels inside the Forbidden Journey gift shop?

I need to find a place for one of these in our house. And then, you know, steal and/or make one. 

(Picturing myself standing guard while John goes at one of these with a chisel is brightening my afternoon. Just sayin'.)

I played with a lot of window reflections, with limited success:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Dressing To The 9 3/4s At Universal Orlando

Last year John and I went to our first Dressed To The 9 3/4s Day - essentially Dapper Day for Potter heads - and had so much fun it went on our yearly "must do" list. It's a fan-run event, and still small enough to have that intimate, everyone's-friends-here vibe - something I really miss at the literal Mega Cons we usually cover.

Well, yesterday was the day again, and you guys - hard as this is to believe - it was even better this year. 


It's a Jacob/Queenie sandwich!

One of you is friends with Will in the middle there, and sent him to find us for a selfie. HI, SOMEONE!! Also Will stabbed me through the heart later - keep scrolling for that photo, ha.

So sassy. SO EVIL. :p

I missed the big group photo by about 15 minutes, but here's a shot by Travis Kirk to show you how many people we're talking about:

See? Just enough folks so you feel like a part of something, but not so many that you block traffic. (Well, unless you count all the Muggles who stopped to stare and ask questions.)

Last year John and I had a big posse of friends walking around with us all day, but this year we flew solo (duo?) for the first hour, then were joined by one or two more as the day went on. This made it so much easier to mingle and meet folks, though - to the point that John had to drag me away a few times. (I LIKE TALKING ABOUT COSTUMES. What.)

 Let's see if you can guess this trio's theme; it took me a second:

Did you guess? 

They're the Snitch, a Quaffle, and a Quidditch tower! WHAAAAAT. (See how they have Quidditch goal posts for canes, and her Quidditch necklace?

More pretty details:

She has a tiny snitch and quaffle on each wrist, and a Beater's bat in her belt! 

More Fantastic fashions:

 And a stylin' Professor Sprout:
 I want to steal her shoes.

Some people walk towards the light, I walk towards the color:

Friday, November 9, 2018

DIY Cake-Eating Huffle-Plants: Because Flower Arranging Has Never Been THIS Fun

Yikes, where did this week go?! Sorry to drop off the map there; John relapsed from his "cold" - which turned out to be viral Bronchitis - so it's been hectic over here on the party-prepping front. He's still pushing through, and I think may finally - FINALLY - be better, but we're looking at the mountain of projects ahead and freaking out juuuust a little, haha. Still having fun, but also lying awake nights going "WHAT HAVE WE DONE?!"

Let me show you one of the few things I've finished and installed and am actually super happy with, because they were a blast to make AND make me grin:


My Cake-Eating Huffle Plants.

Not canon in any way, so don't hex me, Potter purists; I just needed more magical plants, and after the Mimbulus debacle I've put off making a mandrake for now.

Besides, look at these sweet lil' faces:


Now with their lights on:


I know these give off serious "FEED ME SEYMOUR" vibes, but since they're 'Puff plants I've decided they're on a strict pastry diet, no human flesh.

Plus they were so fun to make! Here, let me walk you through it:

Monday, November 5, 2018

My Funniest Fail: Making A Mimbulus Mimbletonia

Our Hufflepuff Common Room needs a lot of plants, so John and I've been scouring local thrift stores for every $3 bunch of greenery we can find:

It's a jungle in here.

That's filler, though, since of course we also need more magical plants.

On that front I have one "bad" project and one good to show you, so let's start with the bad, since it's funnier. Making one of these:

Oh yes, it's that blasted Mimbulus Mimbletonia. This "quick" project has taken forever and failed on so many levels, but you guys claim you LIKE seeing my fails (a collective masochistic streak, I presume), so here, let me walk you through our many and varied screw-ups.

Screw Up The First:

This started as a great base of Styrofoam balls, but John should have started with it already in a pot, since it's nearly impossible to cram it in one after the fact. Didn't realize this 'til the very end. Oops.

The Problem #2

A crappy expanding foam job that I had to mostly carve off again. I'm kicking myself for not taking a before picture - it was quite funny - but here's the after:

 I later learned there IS a way to build spray foam up in little sections, which is what we should have done instead of letting loose all in one go. Again, oops.

Third Time's The Harm

Thinking, "how bad CAN it crack, really?" I covered the whole thing in air-dry clay. I wrapped it in a wet towel, since Internet People claim that helps prevent cracking.


Four Score & Many Tears Ago

Trying to salvage the clay layer, I carefully smeared on a coat of Crack Shot spackle paste, which doesn't shrink and remains somewhat flexible. (Why didn't I start with this instead of the clay to begin with? Your guess is as good as mine. ::siiiigh::) 

Fortunately Crack Shot smooths out beautifully with just a little water and a rough washcloth after it dries, so I was able to get an OK finish on it: