Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Top 10 Posts of 2019! (Plus Some Personal Favorites)

I'm trying something new for my last post of 2019: a year's best-of recap! I've never done one of these before - probably because I never look at my blog stats - so let's take a meander through Epbot's back end (heyooooo) and see what you guys liked most this year.

I know it sounds incredible that I've never checked this before - who DOESN'T know what their most popular posts are? - but to be honest I just post what I like and move on. So today's recap will be educational for all of us.

Also I'm sure there's probably a reason I shouldn't disclose my readership stats, but... eh. ::shrug::

So here come the fun numbers!

An average post here - things like convention photos, art roundups, random life updates, etc - gets 6-8 thousands readers. That's all you super loyal readers out there, so, hi! Love you!

After a quick count I see nearly 20 of last year's posts snagged over 10K readers. Nice!

Now here's where the insanity of the internet comes in: of those top posts, 4 snowballed, and ranged from 44K all the way up to 82K - over 10 times my average readership.

Can you guess which one that was?

(This is only counting 2019, btw, so it's not my Everything You Need To Know About Bras post - which is still my top post EVER and has been read nearly 3 million times?? Sweet sugary Stay Puft!)

Right, enough intro, let's count 'em down! And since I'm bad at suspense, let's start with #1!

 Considering this post took me over 3 years to write, and was one of my most soul-baring, excruciating, and yet amazingly healing interactions with this community, I'm delighted to see it top the list for 2019.

I should note the follow-up post, My Self-Hate Battle Plan, went back to my average readership around 9K. I find that a little sad, only because No Pictures talks about the problem, where my Battle Plan offers what I hope are a few solutions. But hey, it's still out there for anyone to find and read in the future, so that's what matters.

I'm always saying to write about your personal passions, not what you think other people want to read - and wow does this prove the point. I never would have thought this would get such a response, but once again, a little honest fangirling brings us all together!

Awww, you guys, a Foe & Tell made it big! THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY. I love sharing some of your posts from Fans of Epbot, and this proves I should do that more often. These roundups are a lot of logistical work, since John & I have to work together to hunt down permissions & pictures, but it's definitely worth it.

Another sleeper hit I never could have predicted, and almost didn't post because it's so ridiculous! Clearly I need to stop overthinking my shorter posts, and just let the ridiculousness flow. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Good Riddance, Christmas: A Grinchy Look Back

Yesterday - Christmas day - my friend Kari remarked on Facebook, "I’m beginning to understand and relate to the Grinch more and more every year."

Over on Instagram, a reader and I were chatting via DM, and she said, "It's a weird season. We push ourselves in the 'spirit' of it, but it's an odd spirit that seems to demand sacrifice." [emphasis mine]

We exchanged laughing emojiis, but dang. Ain't that the truth?

My friend Adam posted, "I wish I could tell 2005 me that Christmas is always going to be the time you feel your shortcomings the most acutely." He went on to lament never having enough time, never DOING enough, and feeling like he was letting everyone down.

Any of this striking a chord with you, too?

Obviously this isn't new; we all know the holidays are brutal, especially if you're not feeling festive. There's just no room for anything less than a Perfect Hallmark Moment. There's no allowance for sadness, for anger, for loneliness or pain or even apathy. But we're human. We all feel those things. And when we feel things we're told not to feel, something's gotta give.

It wasn't 'til I got flattened this week by a run-of-the-mill head cold that I realized just how much I had riding on "the most wonderful time of the year." I didn't think I wanted all that much: just some conflict-free family time, a little last-minute crafting, a fun Epbot post or two - you know, the usual.

But when all of that was taken away from me, I discovered something quite ugly in myself.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

My Favorite Creepy Cool Finds From Florida's Largest Antique Fair!

Here in Florida the biggest attractions are, and in this order: theme parks, beaches, "Florida Man" headlines, cute retirement village golf carts, and of course, antiquing.

Ok, so antiquing probably isn't on the list, but it is for me! Not far from Orlando we have Renninger's Antique Extravaganza, a twice yearly blow-out where about 800 vendors from all over the country converge to fill dozens of acres of land with the weirdest, most wonderful junk.

The aisles are arranged under this enormous moss-covered trees:

... and assuming the weather co-operates, it's the best place in the world to wander for a weekend.

This is held every November and February, so they really do try to give us cooler wandering weather. (Hang on, looks like they've added a third date in January. Sweet!)  This last round John and I could only stay a few hours, but of course I had my phone ready to capture my favorite oddities.

The best thing about the November show is all the vintage Christmas decorations! I can't decide if this trio is more creepy or chic... or what's happening with that guitar. o.0

This adorable Snoopy diorama ornament is about as old as I am:

I love the porthole effect! Reminds me of the Disney windows with little scenes inside.

Ahh, but I also promised creepy finds, didn't I?

Don't worry, they can't hurt you. They've been disarmed.

(I know what you're thinking, and yes, I AM a hoot to shop with.)

Now for something gorgeous: 

How drool-worthy is this light fixture?? Curse my 8 foot ceilings. Curse them.

I also gazed wistfully at this old sign for a few moments:

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

FINAL REVEAL: Our Labyrinth Christmas Party Video!

For those who aren't sick of hearing about it yet, good news! I finally have all our photos and videos together to show you EVERYTHING John and I made for our big Labyrinth Christmas party earlier this month.

And for those who ARE sick of hearing about it: good news! This should be my final Labyrinth party post. 

So come on in!


And here's our big video tour:

One thing NOT included there is the food, and I think you'll appreciate our oh-so-punny menu:


 (We originally planned to serve "Jareth's (Meat)Balls in Junk Lady's Chunky Gravy," but our friends Thom & Jess brought Ludo's Tasty Rock Friends instead, which were indeed tasty, and also more family-friendly, ha.)

 Our bog punch was delicious, if I do say so myself:

We made it with ginger ale, frozen OJ concentrate, a little Blue Curacao, and floating lime sherbet. Then for an extra brackish color we added a drop of red food coloring.

Here comes my favorite punny creation:


Those are dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds, and let me tell you, gang, they were DELISH. Considering we made them purely for the pun, I was delighted by how quickly they disappeared.

And finally, the star of the table:

These stunning peach cookies tasted as good as they looked! Our friends Kevin and Katie made them using this tutorial, then hollowed out each half slightly so they could fit more peach jam.

Now let me throw some pretty detail shots at you from around the house. Starting with the Bubble Ballroom Photo Opp:

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Merry Menagerie: The Hidden Holiday Gem At Disney's Animal Kingdom


If you're a Disney fan, then odds are all you've been hearing from the parks lately is about the new Rise of the Resistance ride - which, believe me, is understandable. That thing looks AMAZEBALLS. Still, there's a new experience over at Animal Kingdom that's been flying under the radar, and it's pure Disney magic. I really think more folks should be talking about this, so here I am to fill the gap!

Hang on, first a quick shout-out to all the new holiday decorations at DAK, because I'm loving these owls!

The rooftops are lined with gorgeous animal cut-outs  - but again, I'm picking favorites:

OK, now on to the most magical part.

It's called The Merry Menagerie, and if all you've seen are a few photos, then I can understand why you'd be underwhelmed. Photos do NOT do this cast justice... so here come nearly five minutes of video that I guarantee will have you smiling and laughing right along with me:

I posted these to my Story on Friday, and I've been buried in sweet messages ever since. I love that these puppets and performers are making you all so happy! And to answer a FAQ: no, it's NOT weird to cry. Quite a few people who see them in person do, and honestly the only thing better than watching the puppets is watching people respond to them.

I know I said photos don't do them justice, but now that you've seen the Menagerie in action, here come a bunch anyway. :D

Thursday, December 12, 2019

I've Brought You... A GIFT: All Our Guests' Labyrinth Christmas Costumes!

John and I are working hard to get the final party video ready for you guys, but I at least have fun costumes to show you! One of the best parts of throwing elaborately themed parties is seeing what our friends wear, since most of them keep their costumes secret 'til they walk through the door. This year's theme was especially tricky to dress for, so I think you're going to love how creative they got!

Let's start with the glory that is John as Sir Didymus:


(Now I want to see a Didymus/Black Knight mashup from Monty Python, ha.)

Here's a look at the real Didymus for reference:

John's jingle bell socks really tied the ensemble together. :D He made the tunic shirt with sleeves himself, and the hat, and even made his own resin buttons when the ones at the craft store were too expensive. His gloves are from Amazon, along with the facial hair & eye patch, and he already owned the rest.

My turn!

 John made my sleeveless long vest/cape, and then I stapled strips of tulle all over it to look slightly feathery and shredded.

Sorry for the blur on this next one, but I look better blurry anyway. :p

I'm wearing a shorter flared skirt underneath, but I like it better with the cape/vest closed in front.

Now let's get to our friends.

Christie's costume (which is actually her wedding dress!) looked like it was MADE for our Ballroom photo opp:

 I checked, and there IS a dancer wearing a unicorn horn in the ballroom scene. I had no idea!

And then... John:


I don't know what's happening here, I just take the pictures.

Karen was also masquerade ready - though I forgot to take a picture of her in the matching mask:

 She made this herself out of two or three thrifted dresses, and the white train is from a wedding gown!

Rest assured, not everyone came in formal wear:

 It's Toby and one of his kidnapping goblins!  This was Stephanie's first time working with EVA foam, and she made her helmet and shoulder pauldron herself. She also had painted-on tusks and a goblin nose, which were adorable:


Also in painted-on tusks: Kari, 'bounding as Ludo:

I don't have my own photo of Kari (whoops), but here's her selfie in a fluffy orange cardigan, curly horns, and a giant necklace ring for the time Ludo put the knocker ring in his mouth. Brilliant and so' cute!

Then the winners of Largest And Most Impractical Costumes are...


Thom and Jess! They dressed as Henson puppeteers behind their False Alarms:

Monday, December 9, 2019

Behind The Balls: Our Labyrinth Christmas Party Progress Update, Part 2!

Our most studious stalkers already know this - or anyone who happens to be Facebook friends with one of our guests - but the big Labyrinth Christmas party all went down Saturday night.

And it was GLORIOUS.

You'll have to be patient with me, though, because as much work as the party was - and WOW was it a lot of work - it's another long haul to document it all to show you guys!

So while I gather and edit and fuss with getting all the glamour shots just right, here comes the second half of our build photos. This way you'll know how we did everything you're about to see in the Big Reveal posts later!

Starting with the surprise crowd favorite of the night, our Bog of Eternal Stench Bathroom.

That's more carved pink foam to make the door plaque. John used the Dremel with a pumpkin carving bit to carve the words, but a soldering iron can also work! (Just watch out for the fumes, they're toxic.)

The foam is so light we were able to stick it to the door with poster tack.

John went Hog(gle) wild with the Bog, so our guests got to experience a full canopy of mossy branches overhead, stones underfoot, and a sound track of non-stop farting and Ludo complaining about the smell. Even the most stoic personality was reduced to helpless giggles after just 10 seconds in there.

I realize this looks terrifying, but that's only because it is.
 (Here's the shower curtain we used. It's the perfect boggy backdrop - there's even a rope bridge!) 

 John built a contraption in the bathtub - essentially a giant T bar of plywood - that holds all the dead branches overhead. Our tree in the backyard is an endless supply of dead branches, so this was a cheap project.

BEHOLD OUR PROFESSIONAL SETUP. Ha! The painter's pole in the corner is holding up a green flickering spotlight, which looks suuuuper cool through the canopy.

John collected the Spanish moss himself from a nearby parking lot, grabbing whole bags of it to disinfect and dry in the front yard. (Gotta keep those neighbors guessing!)

He also bought this rocky contact paper to cover the entire floor:

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Orlando's Festival of Trees Part 2: Mini-Trees, Wreaths, & THAT'S NOT DAVID BOWIE

I thought it might be awkward to bounce back and forth from our Labyrinth Christmas party stuff to Festival of Trees again, but lucky for me I found the perfect segue in the Festival gift shop:

I can hear the marketing director now: "We need an ornament that is almost, but not entirely, exactly unlike David Bowie."

Also now I want to start a Holiday Wrecks blog. The mascot would be a T-rex in a Santa hat, and this would be my first post. 

Quick, someone slap some sense into me.

Plus I'm happy to report there are no more wrecks in THIS post, because I have so many more Festival favorites to show you:

Starting with some frosted Frozen vibes in Arendelle Aqua!

I liked the wreath behind it even more than the tree:
This has a subtle nautical touch, and I loooove the copper patina ship wheels and creamy gray foliage:


Because we're in Florida, of course we had a Jimmy Buffet inspired tree, ha:

So fun! Flip-flops on the tree skirt, and then Santa in a grass skirt:

The ornaments were all drinks and parrots and cute turtles, including a few from Margaritaville. just fabulous, happy stuff.

The topper on this mini tree reminds me of tentacles - anyone else see it?

I'm sure that's not what they were going for, but if you had an undersea theme going it would be perfect!

Another interesting topper: they set a wreath down in the top of the tree so it looked like a holiday nest for the owl!

Isn't that clever? I want to experiment with using small wreaths for tree toppers now.

The name for this wreath was just "Shoes for the Holidays" - but you KNOW what song it was inspired by, right?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Deck The Halls With Balls Of Bowie: Our Labyrinth Christmas Party Update

"How you turn my world, you precious thing PARTY. 

"You starve and near exhaust me."

Well, one out of two, anyway.

Soooo... hi!

As the countdown to our Labyrinth party ticks down John and I are swinging wildly from the depths of despair ("NEVER AGAIN") to the highest levels of giggle-fueled inspiration. ("Wait! The 'Toby Toss' needs CRASH HELMETS!")

Needless to say, this party is going to be completely ridiculous. 

Here comes a whole slew of props and projects, in no particular order.

(Fair warning: there are a LOT of double entendres coming with this party. We've decided to embrace them for maximum hilarity - so if ball jokes offend you, BEWARE, AND GO NO FURTHER.)

The last knocker sculpt I showed you got scrapped entirely; the Model Magic was a VERY bad call, and cracked all over. Not to mention it's not a good choice for sculpting fine details.

So I started again with these pink insulation foam layers, layering them up with tin foil:

(How's that for nightmare fuel?)

Then my friend Karen helped me again to sculpt a whole new face out of cheap air-dry clay:

This clay was so soft and easy to work with that it made a world of difference:


 The trick was to keep the clay wet, so it wouldn't dry out and crack. We spent 2 nights refining it, then immediately handed it over to John to make a brush-on silicone mold: