Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Critters, How Do You Want To Do This??

I have a slightly unusual way of finding new fandoms, guys: I follow the cosplay.

John and I go to so many cons that its easy to track the newest and most popular shows, because anyone who cosplays will tell you: that's a labor of love you reserve for the very best. So if I see a sudden tidal wave of characters from something I don't know, then heck yeah, I'm gonna check it out.

Plus then I get to call it "research."

[Me, in my 6th hour of watching anime: "I'M WORKING, JOHN."]

Cosplay is how I first discovered (and fell in love with) Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, My Hero Academia, and getting to the point of this post, Critical Role. [insert Mercer's eyebrow lift here]

I first started watching Campaign 2 of Critical Role last August, I think?, and I've JUST NOW caught up. This is a fandom that demands massive amounts of your time, but pays off in so much heart, laughter, and even occasional tears.

Hang on, I should probably back up and tell you what it is.

Critical Role is a web show/podcast where "a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons." It's led and DM'd by Matt Mercer, who my fellow Overwatch players know as the voice of McCree.

The 4-hour (sometimes longer!) show is live streamed on Twitch and YouTube every Thursday night, and Campaign 2 is currently up to Episode 48. That's over 192 hours of content - and their last campaign had 115 episodes. Yeah. Wowza.

Now, if that description sounds less than compelling, believe me, I understand. I actually started listening to the show as a way to help me fall asleep at night, ha. After a few weeks something terrible happened, though: it got so interesting I couldn't fall asleep. Then I realized I needed to WATCH these people, not just listen to them, because they often make jokes and react to things the others are doing, rather than saying. And since they're all pro voice actors who drop in and out of their character voices, there were times I couldn't tell who the heck was talking.

Once I was actually watching the show, I realized I had to watch all the announcements, too, because they were so funny. Then I had to start reading the comments (breaking the first rule of the internet, I know) for all the fan theories and in-jokes. Then I had to watch all the fan art at the end, because it was gorgeous and often illustrated parts of the previous show.

So yeah, a few months in, and I was a fully fledged Critter. (We even get a cool fan name!)

Now I'm converting the cats.

Again, this is a fandom that asks a lot, and the pay-off (at least for me) can be a slow burn. Even now I find the show drags sometimes, but then it will sneak up and sucker punch me with an amazing twist, or a sweet back story, or a heist-gone-wrong. Plus you can't spend this much time with 7* people without feeling like you know them, and sitting in their virtual circle (...triangle?) feels like hanging out with friends. (*Technically there are 8 in the cast, but Ashley isn't there much.)

For most of Campaign 2 the show had this hilariously groovy 70s themed intro. There's a new animated intro now, but it has major story spoilers, so stay away if you're not caught up!

There are two married couples in the cast: Matt & Marisha (Marisha is on the right in that pic) and Laura & Travis (middle). A lot of fans like to joke that Sam & Liam are married, too, because their bro-mance is real and adorable and often the most hysterical part of the show:

Liam's and Sam's characters are actually a couple in the show, but not in a romantic way. Sam plays a tiny goblin girl, and Liam is a... well... hobo wizard. I won't spoil anything, but their dynamic remains the best, purest, most heart-warming story arc in CR, and I can't wait to see where it goes.

I won't go into the other characters because there's just too much, and I'd probably accidentally spoil something. There's a little of everything, though: from the mysterious, angst-driven type to the immature joker to the warrior to the snarky hedonist. They also have guest stars sometimes - other voice actors - who honestly keep getting better and better. Oh! And as the DM, Matt plays every other character the team talks to, which has yielded pure GOLD on a number of occasions. (His flirty Dwarven barkeep was a personal favorite.) The best has to be Pumat Sol, a firbolg shopkeeper with three clones, a magical supply shop, and a voice like a tipsy Canadian angel. I'm telling you, PURE. GOLD.

Right, I think I've raved and rambled long enough. SO.... any fellow Critters out there? Have you cosplayed any of your favorite characters? Crafted anything? Started playing D&D? Spill! Tell me in the comments, or share your pics on FB or IG so I can see!

And if you're not a Critter (yet?), I hope you'll give the show a chance! I recommend starting with Campaign 2 like I did; it's a fresh start with everyone playing all new characters, so it doesn't matter if you've seen Campaign 1. You can watch the first episode right here on YouTube. Just a cautionary note for parents and/or anyone listening at work: there are F bombs GALORE, which took me a while to get used to. There are also plenty of crude jokes and characters drawing wangs on everything, so proceed and parent accordingly. :D


Psst. Hey. Need anything on Amazon? Then how about using our links to shop? It doesn't cost you anything, and helps pay a few bills around here. Thanks, peeps!  USA, UK, Canada.

Monday, January 21, 2019

TWIP: All About The Cats

I realized last week I neglected to include a single cat picture in my favorite photos of the week, so rest assured I'll be making up for lost cuteness here today.

But first, let's take a selfie:

I accidentally 'bounded as Dean Winchester this week, which was a perfect excuse to finally use the pie emoji:

I'd like to thank all of you who responded with pictures of your own home-baked pies, Supernatural gifs, pi formulas, and yes, even one celebratory photo of Pinkie Pie. YOU ARE ALL MY PEOPLE.

This week has been mostly boring adulting stuff: more doctors, some landscaping, planning big home repairs, bleggity bleg. This is me while adulting:

This is also how my friend Bianca displays her Mickey ears.  
(Btw, did you see Disney's new pink donut ears? SO CUTE.)

John and I installed a window shelf for Bianca's cat Ramsey, who has the most creepy cool eyes:

He's snuggling his new shelf there. I think he approves.

 Eva, however, DOES NOT:


She's a jelly one, that Eva.

Ok, her turn:

Look at my baby girls spooning! I died, y'all.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

10 Awesome Artists To Look For At Epcot's Festival of the Arts 2019

My favorite Epcot festival starts this weekend, gang, and runs through February 25th - so make your plans now! The Festival of the Arts features new food, musical acts, live demonstrations, exclusive merch - allll the things - but the standout for me is, of course, THE ART. 

Disney has been great about recruiting fresh new artists for their WonderGround Tent at the Festival, many of whom I've been following for years. It's such a thrill to watch long-time friends and favorites getting pulled into the Disney family, so let me brag on my personal Top Ten this year, k? 

- Ashley Taylor

Ashley is a friend-of-a-friend and an inspiration for artists everywhere. I've heard so many stories of how hard she worked, drawing in her free time after work every night, never giving up - and a few years later she was touring the world with Her Universe. Amazing. So it's kind of fitting that two of Ashley's new Festival pieces feature Cinderella!
My favorite, though, is her STUNNING World Showcase print:

Ashley licenses a lot of her art on clothing through Her Universe, so I can't help but hope this ends up on a skirt someday. 

Here's a closer look at one those Cinderella pieces, which has LITERAL foreshadowing, you guys:
Love it. Watch for these prints and more at the Festival, and be sure to follow Ashley on IG! (She's a beacon of positivity and encouragement online, btw. I love that about her.)

- Jason Ratner 

Jason is a new find for me this year, but I am OVER THE MOON for the Festival prints he's debuting:


(Thanks to those of you who sent this my way; I love that y'all think of me when you see great Figment stuff. :D)

But wait, Jason has more:

I love these colors!

Aren't they stunning? Go follow Jason here on IG to see more of his work. 

Also, all of these artists have their Festival schedules posted on their accounts, in case you'd like to meet them in person.

- June Kim

This was all I needed to see of June's Festival prints - I'M SOLD - but she just posted this sweet Tiki one, too!

June also has lots - and LOTS - of original work online, like this:

Monday, January 14, 2019


First things first: we got some sub-70 temperatures over heeeeeere!

Booya. Bring out the boots.

I showed you what a mess our back room was last week, so here are a few progress shots from my week's work:

And here's the shelf that had all the stuff I accidentally gave to the thrift store:

I still managed to fill it up - and I think I like it even better now, so s'all good.

It looks super dramatic at night with the spot lights on:

 See my crystal seahorse up top, how it glows with the light behind it? I LOVE THAT. And on the other side is a spinning light bulb things that turns from the heat of the spotlight, which makes the shadows flicker just enough that we're forever looking for spiders on the ceiling.

This week John and I went to my favorite antique mall, and barely got through 20% of it before they closed for the day. I managed to wrack up plenty of fun finds, though:

Here comes my most popular find on Instagram; so many of you pulling for my crazy office dreams:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Noisy Cricut

I got a new toy, you guys, and I need someone to tell me how to play with it.


[whispering] It's so beautiful.

(For once we don't mean you, Suki. Sorry.)

The beautiful thing is a Cricut Air 2, for those who - like me - didn't know what they look like.

I've been telling lots of you that I've been thinking about getting a cutting machine for over a year now, but then John caught wind of it, found a sale, and brought home this beauty. I had no idea they came in teal, so... BONUS.

I've been watching a bunch of "instructional" videos on Youtube, and can I just say, most of what I'm finding are pretty bad. But funny. One lady kept dropping the camera, then she'd lose control of the zoom feature so the computer screen would suddenly zoom in 'til you could see the pixels, and where I really lost it was when she spent a solid minute of dead air time scrolling through a menu because she couldn't find a file that *I* could clearly see, so I'm sitting there yelling at the monitor "IT'S THERE! IT'S RIGHT THERE! CLICK IT! CLICK IIIIIT", and by the time John came in I was laughing my fool head off. Not because I could do any better, but because that was the final edit she put on Youtube. Then again, she gets the last laugh because I watched the whole thing, so there ya go.

Anyhoo, once I was armed with over 2 tedious hours worth of "instruction" from Teh Youtubers, I proceeded to watch in horror as John plugged the Cricut in and figured it all out on his own in about 5 minutes.

So not fair.

This is not a review, and I can't say if this will ever be worth the $200, but I will say that within an hour John and I were giddy with the possibilities. We've done a lot of tedious papercrafts here over the years, and most would be a snap to revisit with this thing. In fact, it took John less than 10 minutes to take our existing template of the Hogwarts House Nightlights and have the Cricut cut one:
This looks way better than my hand cut versions - and only took about a minute to do. Whaaaaat.
Now I know what all my friends are getting for Christmas next year! (Hint: it's not a Cricut.)

 Here's the machine set up, btw:

 We still have to find a space for it in my office. o.0

The first project on my list for the Cricut is revisiting the Craft That Got Away: the one that so many of you have spotted in the background of my house photos, and have been asking about for years now:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Jen Gems: Robin Hood Marries The Princess Bride, "Get Help," & Rainbow Llama Balloons!

Raise your hand if you never thought the best commercial ever would come from WALMART, of all places.

::slowly raises hand::

If you don't believe me (about the best commercial part, I mean), just watch this:

I'm also loving how they clearly paid top-dollar to have some genius film production place make this, then uploaded it to Youtube with the most understated title of all time: "Grocery Pickup - Famous Cars." Like whoever uploaded this had no idea what was happening, and so had to ask Kate, the office's resident geek, who spent 10 minutes excitedly explaining every single reference, but she overwhelmed the poor guy so badly that his only take-away was "famous cars." Boom. There 'tis.


I'm sure I've mentioned Riker Creatures here before, but her latest creation is especially squee-worthy:

Snuggle mode, ACTIVATE.


It's been ages since I featured a good geek wedding, so please tell me you've seen the marriage of Robin Hood & the Princess Bride (PUN INTENDED) over on Offbeat Bride. Somehow Kaitlyn & Blaise managed to be magical, elegant, and drop-dead hilarious all at the same time, so I am in awe.


Every wedding should have a kick line.

 Lanterns instead of flowers! And they're all wearing elf ears! I hope they came down the aisle singing like in LoTR. Hit the link up there to see the rest; so many pretties! And from the photos I'm pretty sure the bride & groom did the dance from the movie, yesss.


Over on the RPF's Facebook page, group member Zachariah convinced Tom Hiddleston to do "Get Help," and IT IS GLORIOUS:

I love it when celebs play along. Also now I need to watch Thor: Ragnorak for the 10th or 11th time.


If you're like me and STILL haven't gotten a new wall calendar for 2019, I just noticed ThinkGeek has a few left at 75% off, including this beauty:

Monday, January 7, 2019

This Week In Pics: Singing Celestina, Failing Diets, & Buh-Bye, Gingerbread House

This year I thought I'd go back (way, way back) to posting some fun(?) life updates with all my favorite phone photos from the week. Mostly because I'm too disorganized to fit all this stuff in separate posts. ::shameless grin::

Starting with the highlight: I got to see my favorite show at Universal three more times!

 Celestina Warbeck and the Bashees put on "Nothing Like A Holiday Spell" for Christmas, and I am obnoxiously in love with it. (Here's my favorite song.)

The crowds were intense - even worse than the week between Christmas and New Year's! - but I gotta say, all the extra people made watching the show more fun. So much hooting and hollering and singing along - you could tell the performers were eating it up.

 Check out the "snow" in all these sunbeams, so pretty:

 And one more beauty shot from around Diagon Alley:

I've been playing with a new photo app called Pixaloop, check this out:

Friday, January 4, 2019

It's only January 4th and I'm already a month behind

You ever have SO MUCH TO DO that all you can manage is to sit through another episode of Brooklyn 99? ("NINE NINE!!")

My to-do list literally has "write to-do list" on it. This... can't be good.

So anyhoo, while my house sits in shambles from uninstalling Christmas, and the end of year paperwork piles up, and last month's leftovers develop sentience in the fridge... let's talk about what my friend Serena of Living By Disney put up today:

Go read her post on IG for more thoughts on this; she hits it right on the head. (And while you're there, follow her for amazing Disney coverage. She's one of us. 'Nuff said.)

I've talked about managing our social media feeds before, but I needed this reminder today. Especially now, when I'm drowning in New Year's Resolutions and feeling overwhelmed about where to start. One thing we can ALL do, right now, is take control of what we're feeding our brains on social media, and be a little more intentional about how we choose to make ourselves FEEL.

Case in point, I'm noticing Bored Panda is really ramping up the "Outrage Porn" lately. You know, all that stuff designed to make us mad and race to the comment section to express our outrage - like this one at the top of my feed RIGHT NOW:

Must. Not. Engage...
(Pun intended. Always.)

Obviously these posts are showing up more often because more people on clicking on them and commenting. We're rewarding bad behavior - yep, I'm guilty, too - and ultimately hurting ourselves by filling our feeds with negativity and cruelty.

So as much as I like some of Bored Panda's other content, and even though I do my best to scroll past these growdy ones, I'm unfollowing the page today. It took that nudge from Serena to remind me that I need to be more mindful of what I'm looking at, and more importantly, how it makes me feel. If a page routinely makes me hate humanity, then hey, MAYBE I SHOULDN'T LOOK AT THAT PAGE.  Ground-breaking stuff, I know, but at least that's one Resolution I think I can manage this week.

How about you? Are you with me? Will you look a little harder as you scroll this week? Will you take note of the stuff that makes you feel happy and inspired, and also the stuff that makes you feel angry or lesser? And as a flip side for unfollowing the bad, how about leaving a nice comment or sharing your favorite posts from the good? (Quick shout-out to all of you who share on FOE for keeping my feed full of happy nerdery - and to the mods for keeping it a safe space. Love you guys!)

And finally, since we all post our OWN content, too, even if it's just for friends and family, here's one last challenge: Be the feed you want to see in the world. 


Now, let's see what the winner of my sunny Pygmy Puff is going to name her! (Drum roll, please.)

 ::Virtual Random Number Generator Spinning::

Aaaand the winner is Jamie, who will be naming Puff "Lemon Drop!" Aw, so perfect. Congrats, Jamie, and please e-mail me your mailing address so we can ship Lemon Drop your way!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

How To Make Your Own Huffle Bumble Pygmy Puffs

The Huffle Bumble Pygmy Puffs started as a funny tongue twister I came up with late one night during Party Prep, but John & I quickly realized we had to make some for our Harry Potter Escape Room. We told our guests that some magical pets had accidentally locked themselves in the room, so it was up to them to solve the puzzles and free the pets.

We piled the Puffs in the final treasure chest, and let the teams adopt one as a reward. I really didn't think many people would want a Puff, but to my surprise they were a HUGE hit - to the point that I ran out! Ack!

So since I had to make another small batch anyway, I thought I'd show you guys how to make your own Pygmy Puffs.

Fun Fact: These guys have feet!

 I love having that little surprise when people pick them up. :)

I should mention that these particular Puffs took me FOREVER to make, but that's mostly because I used some really difficult materials, and because we needed nearly 20 of them. If you only want one or two they're actually a pretty simple DIY - and even easier if you don't add stripes!
So here, let me walk you through it. We'll start with the Puff part, since you can use furry puff balls for a lot more than just Pygmy Puffs - and they're surprisingly easy to make!