Saturday, December 29, 2018

5 Reasons You Should See "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" Before The New Year

Let's get this out of the way first thing: I'm not really a Spider-Man fan.

I don't dislike him, either. Overall I'm pretty "eh" about the friendly neighborhood dancing kid in the onesie.

Cut to last week, when two of my closest friends spent a solid 30 MINUTES raving to me about this new movie I'd never heard of, Into The Spider-Verse. I was... intrigued. So yesterday John & I went to see it with some other friends and their kids.

To demonstrate John's level of excitement for this film, allow me to present his FB update, written IN the theater just before the movie started:


Exactly two hours and 15 minutes later, John added this amendment:

Now, somehow neither of us saw a single trailer or image from the movie beforehand, so John and I went in with zero expectations - and I think that made it even better? So if you're as clueless as we were, and want to be completely surprised by an amazing movie, then close this tab and go see Into the Spider-Verse right now, before the rest of the 'net catches up and spoils it all for you. I can already see the groundswell starting, so I predict this is going to be the movie everyone's talking about for the new year. I mean, just look at the Rotten Tomatoes rating!


If you're Ok with knowing a few things, though, and/or have already seen the trailer, then let me break down 5 of the things I loved most about Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse.

1. Characters You Instantly Fall In Love With

Miles Morales is the Peter Parker I've always wanted - I just never knew it. I loved Miles from the second he appears on screen, crooning away with his headphones on. He's not the wimpy shy guy you might expect; he's confident and charming and just the right amount of awkward. You really feel for him as he navigates a new school, and the embarrassment of having a loving-but-strict cop father. (I won't spoil it, but THAT scene with his dad was John's favorite, ha.)

Beyond Miles, though, it's fun and refreshing to see an out-of-shape, older Peter Parker, strong parents (plural!), and a whole cast of side characters that grab you from the beginning. The subplot with Miles' uncle was especially good, and left me wanting more.

 2. An Animation Style That Will Make Your Spidey Senses Tingle

I'll admit, I was worried at first. The opening credits blast you with a frenetic flickering that promises full sensory overload - or at least a headache. That calms down once the story starts, though, and ends up being a blend of Pixar-level 3D, Borderlands-style cell-shading, and classic comic book dot colors, word bubbles like "POW!," and typed-out thoughts. If that sounds insane, IT IS, but in the best possible way. I haven't seen something this different since Toy Story, and it's exciting!

One thing I didn't like: there's such a heavy use of blur and double-vision overlays that you sometimes feel like you're watching a 3D movie without the 3D glasses on:

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

WDW's Christmas Tree Trail 2018, Part 2!

Happy Christmas and Merry Tuesday, peeps and Dizgeeks!

I have even more Disney Christmas trees to show you - and believe it or not, it was hard to narrow it down this much. I forgot to say last time, but the Disney Springs Tree Trail has 25 trees in it this year, and they're all fantastic - not a bad one in the lot.

So let's kick off with another of my favorite favorites, Pinocchio:

This one has so many hidden treasures, starting with Pinocchio's nose growing out of the very top:

It's jutting out of a birdcage, with a bird nest at the end! Ahhhh! Best. Detail. Ever.

From here you can also see the Blue Fairy's wand and Gepetto's violin.

I love Jiminy's "official conscience" badge. There are also wooden toys and small cuckoo clocks from Gepetto's workshop.

But here comes the best Easter egg, tucked away on the back right side:

Monstro, attacking a ship! Ahh-mazing.

You guys are going to love this next one, though my photos don't do it justice:

It was snowing at the time - or "snoaping," ha. I think that messed with my focus.

The Villain tree is covered with spell books and potion bottles, but the BEST part is all of Ursula's tentacles at the top:

Saturday, December 22, 2018

WDW's Christmas Tree Trail 2018: The Best Easter Eggs!

I never thought I'd say this, peeps, but I think I've had my fill of Harry Potter Christmas.

So how 'bout some Disney Christmas?

Specifically, this year's criminally overlooked Disney Springs Tree Trail, which has stepped up its game SO MUCH that I basically dragged my jaw through the whole thing.

I should probably preface that by saying when the Tree Trail debuted in 2016, it was... ahh... underwhelming. One could almost say "bad." Or "hilariously bad," if one were a bit snarky.

Behold, a 2016 example:

::sad trombone slide::

So we skipped the Tree Trail last year, which I've since realized was a mistake.

That's because, as it turns out, the Tree Trail is PHENOMENAL now. When we walked through a few weeks back I went a little nuts, taking over 400 photos. (Oops.)

Even if you've seen the Trail recently, I'm willing to bet you missed some of the best details. There are fantastic hidden Easter Eggs in a bunch of - it not ALL - the trees, and most took me a moment of searching and circling to spot. The Trail stays pretty crowded, so it takes actual effort to get that close or look that hard.

First things first, take a look at the Tangled Tree's glow-up since 2016:

YAAAASSSS. Now THAT is a Disney tree.

All the trees are this tall now, and overflowing with perfectly themed decorations:

Look verrrry closely, and you might even see several tricksy chameleons in the branches. (Click any pic to embiggen.)

The frying pan is front and center, of course, but if you circle the tree you'll find books and baking things from Rapunzel's days in the tower:

In fact, I found that almost all of the one-of-a-kind Easter eggs were hidden on the back or side of the trees, a reward for people who take the time to look.

Next up, Frozen:

The carrots up top are my favorite:

A bunch of the trees use more generic Christmas things - like that reindeer - as obvious homages to characters - like Sven. It's almost like Disney Bounding for Christmas trees, and I like it. Plus this is one of the more gorgeous trees with all those icy branches & icicles!

Olaf also gets a subtle shout-out with a big painted snowman ornament:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Quick Craft: Deathly Hallows Door Wreath

Here's a quick craft I left out of my Party posts, but I think you guys might like: I made a Deathly Hallows wreath!

Someone shared a very different version of this on FOE a while back, and I loved the simplicity of it. If you have a bunch of dead branches around the yard like we do, then that's the hard part already done for you. (See, I knew ignoring the back lawn would come in handy SOME day.)

Since I had plenty of sticks all I had to buy was a small grapevine wreath; for the rest of the decorations I used scraps of garland we already had. If you want to make your own you'll also need hot glue, twine, and floral wire.

This is pretty easy, but let me walk you through it:

First trim some sticks to fit snugly around the grapevine wreath:

You want them all touching the wreath, if possible, so you can wire them together. You also want them to form a triangle. (My triangle is pretty wonky, but I've decided that adds to its charm.)

Hot-glue the sticks in place to hold the shape, then lash each corner together with twine. I started by tying a knot around one stick, then made a figure 8 with my twine around the two sticks at each corner. It helps to hot glue the ends down after you tie off the twine. 

Once that's done, use floral wire to attach the wreath on all three sides of your sticky triangle.

Now the fun part: DECORATING.

I used Harry's wand for the center, but if you don't have a wand you can just use another stick. I thought it'd be fun to make a sprig of glittery branches come out of the wand, so it looks like it's mid-spell. Here I'm just setting stuff down to see how it looks.

I liked the asymmetry of having the garland curl up and over the wreath. Then I found this half-circle of berries in my stash that was perfect for the other side:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Potter Party House Tour: Final Reveal & ALL THE PHOTOS

Whether you're here for Hufflepuff Christmas Slumber Party photos, or you just want to see what the inside of my house looks like, I am HERE. FOR. YOU.

And look, I know it's been a whole week, but it's taken me this long to photograph, edit, re-photograph, bang my head against walls, re-edit, literally drive John from the house with my grousing about blurry photos, re-RE-photograph, re-RE-edit, and finally, compile this post for you guys.

What I'm saying is, I never want to see another photo of my house ever again.

Starting in our front room, just inside the front door:

You've already seen glimpses of our mascot tree in my first party post, but let's go in for a closer look:

Now a less closer look:

This tree theme was a last minute solution to two problems: where to put my awesome House plushies, and how to decorate the tree without using any glass baubles the cats could destroy.

We found the badger, lion, and snake at a thrift store for a few dollars each (although the snake was originally a dragon), then I bought this eagle on Amazon. (I wanted book-accurate Ravenclaws where possible.)  Our friend Sharyn made the House scarves, John made the badger wings & halo, and then everything else I already had, so this was the fastest and cheapest tree I've ever put together.  (Even the tree itself is a $30 pre-lit from Walmart that we already had, no extra lights or nuthin'. I mean, WHO AM I.)

The other decorations include the Hogwarts Express we made from a cheap train set, my DIY broomstick ornaments, some pretty aluminum icicles made by a fan, and then those gorgeous pennants are from this garland from Universal; I just pulled them off the long silk cord and made individual hangers.

We had some hilarious adventures getting the lion in place, since I originally smashed him into the branches, ha. Eventually we put him down in the cauldron base, and I tied his head up to the trunk so he wouldn't flop over.

As easy and inexpensive as this tree was, wouldn't you know it? It's John's favorite tree we've ever done.  

::thinks back to the 3 solid weeks of painstaking work on last year's Phoenix tree::

::deadpan stares into camera::

Moooooving on...

Suki is helping.

The curtain in our dinging room is really 4 separate banners hung side-by-side. The whole pack was only $15 from Target online, and they're gorgeous - highly recommend.

The best thing in the dining room is this suit of armor, which was drunkenly singing, snoring, and commentating all night long. I can't even explain how hysterical this was, so I'm making John upload the recordings for you to enjoy.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

FULL WALK-THROUGH: Our Harry Potter Escape Room!

Instead of a house-wide scavenger hunt for this year's party, John and I upgraded to a Potter-themed Escape Room - and we're never going back.  MWUAHAHAAAAA!

Yep, this thing was a blast to build and a huge hit with our guests. I'm already excited to start on next year's!

We used John's Game Room to set up, and limited ourselves to about half a dozen puzzles to keep the time limit manageable. We had nearly 20 teams to get through the room, so we aimed for a challenge that only lasted about 15 minutes.

Looking back, my only regret is limiting the team sizes, since it seemed like the larger teams of 3-4 had the most fun. (We suggested going in pairs.) These are definitely best done with a group, where you can shout and laugh together!

We put together a video to show you all the cool stuff, ready to see?

Now let me walk you through all the details! I'll also show you how we built everything, and link to some of the key products we used, in case you want to make your own. (Which you totally should.)

 Room overview. This space is only 10X10, so it's quite tiny!

(I know the theming is a little...meh... but we were more focused on the puzzle aspects. Next year I'll do better!)
 The other side of the room.

John built a slide-in shelf to cover our large screen TV in the middle of the wall unit:

This meant no video games for the final month while we finished prepping the room. :(   
We really sacrificed for this party, you guys.
 I had a lot of fun decorating the shelves. Everything here we already had around the house; I just gathered up everything shiny, old, or "wizardy."

Some of these decorations were already here, so that helped:

(This was a happy coincidence: all the artists of these pieces were at the party! House owls by Dennis Hansbury - who just made House-themed BATS, ermergerh. Papercut owl in the back by Charles Thurston, Sirius Black by Bonnie Wong, and the tiny badger figurine by Christie Cox.)

The rest of the stuff I packed up and replaced with more magical themed goodies:

I really like how this lower desk turned out:

That gold box was completely handmade by John, and is my favorite element in the room.

Here's a peek at the inner guts of its construction, see if you can figure out how it works:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Potter Party Pajamas: Come See What All Our Friends Wore!

As we all wait impatiently for me to get my exhausted kiester in gear and start posting final party photos and videos already (HURRY UP, JEN), let's take a look at what our friends wore! 

We had nearly 40 people crammed in our little house, so I won't show you EVERYONE - just the highlights that made me laugh the hardest or screech the loudest.

First the obligatory blurry selfie:


My badger hat is the creation of our friend and fellow CW writer Sharyn, who was our party's secret Santa Witch, giving away goodies left and right. (The badger hood I made way back when was too hot to wear, plus this one looks so much better!)

Now let's see what everyone ELSE wore:

Bahahaa! That's Dennis, Bonnie, Rachael & Matt. These two couples don't even know each other, but birds of a feather and Slytherins of a... scale?... flock together.

They all made their own Azkaban signs, and Matt and Rachael even brought their own pillows:

Plus Rachael socked it in the footwear arena:

A bunch of people made custom PJs using their Cricuts, and I was DYING over all the funny t-shirt slogans:
"The party don't start 'til I Slytherin" and "I believe in Thestrals." (I need a Thestral shirt now.)

Both Tim and Bianca are artists (along with half the crowd), so this is perfect. (Even the House stripes on their sleeves were made on the Cricut! Seriously, I need to get one of these magical machines.)

Katie and Kevin have more hysterical shirts, plus THE BEST SLIPPERS ERMERGERSH:

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Final Potter Party Update: Witches Get Snitches, A Niffler Repaint, & Our Goblet of Fire

So last night John and I filled the whole house with grease smoke from the banger we were test cooking, this morning John's foot went through the outside deck from a rotten board, and just now the garage door spring snapped (AAAAA), locking us out.


It's times like these I most love being married to John; the man is unflappable. He's a rock. He's an unflappable married rock with a cute Superman curl. Calamity strikes, and John just tilts his head, says, "Huh," and then sets about fixing every thing.

So, we have a garage repairman coming tomorrow (even we don't miss around with garage springs; they can kill you), John's already replaced the rotten board (mercifully a fluke from a pile of wet dirt underneath; the rest of the deck is sound), and the house, well, it may smell a little like sausages on Saturday. But that's OK, because we're serving sausages.

Speaking of our sausages (heyooo), quick shout-out to Whole Foods, of all places, where this fabulous meat department guy named Mark custom-made gluten-free Bangers for us - on all the properly cleaned equipment and everything, AT NO EXTRA CHARGE. Wha whaaaaaaaaat? They taste amazing, too - probably even better when you eat them in a house NOT filled with grease smoke.

Now let me show you more party crafts! Our final Big Build is in the Puzzle Room, so that's staying under wraps for now, but I have a ton of small silly stuff to share:

The second I spotted these gold ornaments at Dollar Tree I knew exactly what they were:

Giant Snitches! They even have the swirly design! 

All I needed were some of those silver glittery leaves/feathers you see everywhere at Christmas... until you start LOOKING for them, at which point they evaporate into the ether. I finally gave up searching and cut some thrift store leaves instead, which John spray-painted silver. Drilled two small holes, a little hot glue, and bam:

Giant snitches!

I even had the perfect place to put my big balls. (Oh, like I wasn't going to use THAT joke):

 Right over the Kitty Quidditch Tower! Which you can see I decked out with a little garland wreath around the window. (And you get a bonus kitty action shot.)

Eva says hi.

I hope to have better photos for the official party post, btw; these are all phone pics taken at night.

I assumed the cats would try to destroy the snitch garland, but amazingly, not a single nibble. They're too busy eating every other piece of garland and greenery I have out.

I'll walk you through all the Puzzle Room builds in a separate post, since there are a lot and I don't want to spoil it for the guests, but here are two small things:

Remember my $3 thrift store cage? I suspended my Soot Sprite (by the amazing Monster Cafe, go follow them!) from a bit of fishing line inside, so it's floating. This made me unexpectedly and ridiculously happy. :D I think it'll be staying out year-round in the Game Room after this.

And a slightly more complex craft:

I made all these rune markers from rolled out clay, which I cut with a bottle top. I used a straw to poke holes for the leather cords, pressed the symbols in with a wooden stick, textured with a stiff paintbrush, then painted & dry-brushed with craft paint. I already had the clay, tools, and paint, so this was a freebie craft. Love those. Plus I think they turned out really looking like stone!

The runes are attached to various potion bottles around the room, and are part of my favorite puzzle. You'll see all of that later, promise.

Not my craft at all, but I think you'll like this:

"Beware the Nargles" mistletoe, hanging over the doorway to the deck! This was a gift from one of you readers a few years ago (I'm sorry I don't remember which one!), and I love having the perfect spot for it this year.

The weekend after Thanksgiving - when I was still so weak from being sick - my one and only outing was to stagger to Box Lunch with John to buy this Niffler game:
 It was $20, down from $30. Honestly it's barely worth that much, but it's a ridiculously easy game for parties (you stack coins 'til the plate tips) and super cute, so, SOLD.

All the plain plastic pieces were making my eye twitch, though:

So... plasticky.

You know the drill: I slapped a bunch of black paint on everything, then quickly wiped it off again. Annnd:

 Look what a difference! Aaaaaa, bliss.

The coins took a teensy bit longer (HA), because I aged both sides of all 64 coins, then Rub N' Buffed both sides of all 64 coins. My hands looked like they'd been tarred and gilded by the time I was done.

Now you can see the designs in the coins, though, which look surprisingly cool!

This is mostly a game of dexterity; it's VERY HARD to pick up the coins with the little wand shovels:

I also aged the base, but the Niffler didn't need anything; he's great as-is:

And I found the perfect plastic tray at Walmart for $2! This way I can move the whole game around while keeping the pieces together. (It'll be on the coffee table in the Common Room.) 

 I have so much more, you guys, but let me end with the one that's made us laugh the hardest:

A few weeks ago we found the most incredible urn/vase thing at a thrift store for $8:

The inner jewel thing is orange swirly resin. I didn't realize before this, but WOW does that look cool in photos! It's actually a little less impressive in real life, ha.

Anyway, at first I thought it would go in the Common Room, since it looks like a trophy, but I never found the right spot for it. Then, as John and I were brainstorming ways to give out some door prizes, a FLASH OF INSPIRATION.

(Brace yourselves.)

We are hilarious, you guys.

(When I texted this photo to John he reported back that half the aisle at Walmart now thought he was insane, he laughed so hard.)

I should mention John has a long-standing, much vocalized dislike for Michael Gambon's portrayal of Dumbledore (#NotMyDumbledore), so a lot of our friends have sent this meme his way, and love to bring up the famously "calm" Goblet of Fire scene. (If you're lost, a quick Google will give you all you need to know - plus some laughs.)

We've also determined that, during the drawing, John will wear a long fake beard and attempt to body-slam the winners into the wall. You know, for authenticity.

And on that note, I'm off to try to finish this baby:

We won't stop thinking of new things to make 'til the moment the party starts. It's a sickness. A beautiful, stressful sickness. :D

Stay tuned for so much more. Just... just so much.  

Love you guys. TTFN!