Friday, November 27, 2020

Orlando's Festival of Trees 2020: My Favorite Decorating Ideas To Steal!

::running in::



Ok, so that was rhetorical, since you probably read the post title. :p

 I was so happy our Festival of Trees is still happening this year, and even happier to see all their distancing & mask requirements, which meant John and I felt safe enough to go. It was definitely a bit smaller than usual, but don't worry; I still found plenty of goodies to show you.

In fact, as usual I took way too many photos to cram into one post, so let's start with some of my top trees. I'll post the rest - along with my top 10 wreaths and a few tablescapes - next time.

First up, a traditional style in non-traditional colors:

I'm getting serious Tangled vibes from all this purple, pink, and gold - it just needs a few lanterns and a hidden Pascal. :)

You may remember I'm mildly obsessed with tree toppers, and always looking for new trends. This year most of the trees stuck with floral sprigs up top, but I'm also a fan of these ball-like bows. Great proportion, and really finishes off the peak of the tree nicely.

Next, we're running away to the circus:

I'm a sucker for over-the-top themes, so don't expect many subtle trees on this list. This one has so many great ideas to steal, starting with the top hat topper and the extra large ornaments: see how they change sizes as you go up the tree? Mixing ornament sizes is a great way to give your tree that extra "oomph."

Quirky ornament ideas: bags of peanuts, giant wrapped lollipops, and little stuffed animals.

Oh! See that paper fan? I'm thinking about using some of those for one of our tree toppers this year, since you can get variety packs for less than $10 on Amazon. Big impact, low cost - plus it's something unexpected, a big plus in my book.

One last idea from this tree to steal, I really love this:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Dapper Day Fall 2020: Both At Home And In The Parks!

I guess one benefit of the time limbo that is 2020 is eventually you lose track of all the fun things you were supposed to do this year - which is my excuse for how I completely forgot Fall Dapper Day was last weekend. o.0

For Spring Dapper Day last April the organizers asked everyone to dress up and celebrate at home, which led to some truly magical gems where folks had photo shoots around their houses and yards with their pets and kids. (You can see all my favorites here.) This time, with both WDW and Disneyland Paris open, they had a hybrid celebration: some folks dappering it up in the parks, others at home. I love how this lets everyone participate, and honestly I hope there's an "at home" element for every Dapper Day going forward. 

But enough intro. Ready to see some dapper delights?

Let's start with a couple Epbot readers, who are the ones that oh-so-helpfully reminded me Dapper Day was even happening:

There's nothing low-key about Jillian's dapper flapper Loki - and I high-key approve. :D

Karen did a groovy 60s 'bound of Pluto, I love her makeup and the scarf "ears":

This group couldn't be at the parks for the weekend, so they celebrated a little early:

Any day can be Dapper Day if you believe - and convince a few friends to come with. 

Lauren is an amazing cosplayer and 'bounder, she celebrated with some stunning vintage Belle vibes:

I recommend checking out all the accounts I'm linking, btw; lots of great follows to add more pixie dust in your feed.

Fall Dapper Day is better than Spring for 2 reasons: A) it's marginally cooler here in Florida, so we sweat less, and B), more importantly, CHRISTMAS DAPPERS.

(Miss Bettie Bookworm)

 Flailing over Bettie's Nightmare Before Christmas look!

And check out Fifi in front of her sweet tinsel garland:


I want this whole outfit, Fifi, but especially your hat!

Brace yourself, because little Luke 'bounding as R2 is almost painfully adorable:

Friday, November 20, 2020

10 Easy Christmas Crafts Inspiring Me This Week

I'm glad I'm not the only one gleefully shifting into holiday gear extra early for 2020; that means I get to post even MORE Christmas crafts and decorations than usual, right? [decisive nod] RIGHT.

So let's kick off Tinsel Time with a few of my favorite crafts from around the web: some old, some new, but all relatively easy DIYs that are just super clever and inspirational.

- Christmas Gnome TP Rolls:

When I first saw this picture on Pinterest I assumed it was a toilet paper cover, ala those crocheted doll covers from my youth. (Anyone else have those on the back of your toilet when you were a kid?) These gnomes are *almost* that; there IS a TP roll inside, but the felt & yarn is glued right to the roll. I bet it wouldn't be hard to modify this so you can take the roll *out* again, though!

- Oversized Ornaments From Glass Globes:

I love oversized decor, and you could do so much with these! If your globe is clear you could add a little winter scene inside, or glue a silhouette to the front and back it with color-changing LEDs, oooOOoh.

These globes cost less than $10 at your local hardware store, but I bet a lot of you already have one stashed in the garage.

- Candy Cane Easels:

The easiest DIY ever, but also so cute and functional! Most of us won't be needing name cards this year, of course, but this would be a great way to display favorite greeting cards or little art prints. Tiny easels cost at least a dollar each at the store, so I love using something you probably already have.

- Plastic Wine Glass Bell Jars:

Monday, November 16, 2020

Magical Kitchen Makeover: Final Reveal!

I've kept you in suspense long enough - to the point that you've probably forgotten all about this project - so let's finally take a look at the mostly finished, Harry Potter-inspired, magical kitchen makeover!

(Btw, in this context "magical" = "super low cost," ha.)

(Also if you missed Part One of this kitchen re-do, go see it here!)

First let me remind you of the "Before:"

The kitchen was a glaring white box with harsh fluorescent lighting, bare walls, and roughly painted cabinetry. Completely at odds with the rest of the house, which our friend Dana has decorated like Hogwarts: heavy carved furniture, rugs, tapestries, and candles everywhere.

Our goal was to reduce the overall lighting but add more in the work areas, then add texture, age, and a little cottage-witch character by decorating with things Dana already owned.

Enough suspense, here's the "after"!


(Sorry I only have nighttime phone pics; try to imagine this brighter and sharper, k?)

You can see it's much cozier now; the lighting alone made a huge difference in warming up the space.

The old lighting was cold and gave everything a sickly blue/green tint:

And those bare white walls weren't helping.

John glazed the walls to give them an aged plaster look, and we added faux brick vinyl to the bulkhead up top to make it more interesting:

Hard to see here, but John also built a wall shelf over the fridge to fill that awkward space.

The kitchen also includes a small dining area, here's the "before":

Thursday, November 12, 2020

This One's For You, Torii

Several months back there was a giant box delivered to our P.O. Box. I'm talking a box that could easily hold, like, 4 cats. BIG. Inside was an overwhelming mishmash of gifts: bags and boxes of snacks, magnets, a tote bag, face masks, post-cards... a veritable cacophony of goodies.

Once I'd investigated and read through all the postcards, I learned that the box was from four of you readers: Gina, Valinda, Cissie, and Torii. They'd met through Fans of Epbot on Facebook, and had become fast friends. The box was a mini celebration of their first in-person meetup; they'd spent a whole weekend together, including a day at a local spa. Because they'd met through FOE they wanted to share the celebration with me, and sent along face masks and body scrubbers, plus ALL the fun snacks and sweets. 

Aw yeeeah.

But that was only the beginning! 

During their weekend they each brought postcards from their home states, which they used to write personal thank you notes to *me* for inspiring FOE. 

Then there were Harry Potter leggings and an incredible Hufflepuff purse that I think Valinda made, which matches the banner I have in my office!

I took this right after I'd finished opening everything, and you can see I've cried all my eye makeup off from this NEXT thing I'm about to show you.

So naturally the ladies made matching t-shirts for their weekend together. They called themselves the Bare Naked Ladies because of the spa "body shampoo"  experience, ha, and gave themselves nicknames on the back:

 From left to right that's Torii the Collaborator,  Valinda the Party Crasher,  Gina the Instigator, and Cissie the Mastermind.

So after reading all this I reached into the box for the last item, which promptly made me start crying. They'd made me my OWN matching shirt, y'all, and look what they wrote on the back:

They called me the Origin Story. Now I'm crying those happy tears again.

Oh yeah, and here's Eva telling me EXACTLY what she thinks of my request that she get out of the box, ha.

Listen, most of you only know me - and will only ever know me - through text on a screen. So you'll have to take my word for it when I say I genuinely wish I could meet you all in person, give you a hug if that's your thing, and buy you a Dole Whip. I really do care, so it hurts sometimes when I can't give each of you the individual attention and support you deserve. It's a weird balancing act, trying to be a friend to 10,000 people. I do what I can, I reach out in a few crisis points where I think it might help, but overall I know I'm just this flat text on a screen.

That's where FOE comes in. That's where FOE - and to a smaller extent, the Epbot Discord - has been a real life light and community to so many of you. Every month I get letters and cards telling me FOE is where you met your best friend. It's where you met your bridesmaids. It's where you found the people you video-chat or go to dinner with, people who are now part of your everyday lives, and helping you survive all those real life things 2020 throws your way.

This story also has a real life ending, I'm very sorry to say, as I've just learned that one of the Bare Naked Ladies, Torii, is suddenly extremely ill. There was almost no warning, and no one had any idea back when they packed up that big box for me. I've been filled with regret that I didn't share all this sooner; that I didn't publicly tell Gina, Valinda, Cissie, & Torii how much their gifts have meant to me. I've even kept that giant box tucked under my desk all this time, because as I told Gina today, "It's like I wanted to hang on to all this happy, and packing it away would be giving that up." 

Torii, I don't know if you'll get to read this now, but thank you. Thank you for taking a chance and reaching out to a bunch of internet strangers, for letting them be a part of your life. Thank you for inspiring me to reach out more myself, to take more chances on more friendships, because we need each other so much right now. You've made my world and my life better, just by being you. I will never forget that. And I will always be proud to be your friendships' Origin Story.

For everyone else here: please don't wait. Don't hide and hibernate 'til 2020 or the pandemic or whatever is over: live now. Love now. Of course be safe, but find a way to connect with people however you can, because in the end it is only our relationships that last eternity, only the love we leave behind that truly matters. 

I'll say it again, because even though I'm only text on a screen, sometimes that's just barely enough: I love you, and I'm glad you're here. You make the world better - you make Torii's and Gina's and Valinda's and Cissie's and so many others' worlds better - just by being you. Remember that today, and please, pass it on.


UPDATE: Torii passed the morning after this posted. Another reader, Adele, was at her bedside and read this post to her while she was still awake, and reports Torii shed happy tears to see such an outpouring of love from this community. Thank you again, all of you.

Torii and her husband have 6 young children, and there is a relief fund set up for the family here

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Happy Things Round Up: A Labyrinth Basement, The Child Minnie, & An Alpaca Eating A Banana

As I write this there is an emotional tidal wave hitting my social media feeds, y'all. I'm seeing mostly relief, since we're all ready for this election fight to be over, but whatever you're feeling, remember to take care of yourself, k? These next weeks and months are still going to be tough here in the U.S., and probably just as shout-y. Let's try to be gracious and loving in both victory *and* defeat, because others are watching, and forming life-long opinions based on our example. 

::flops down::

But first, help yourself to a drink/snack/pet cuddle, and come look at this cool stuff I found! You've earned it.  

Let's start with a good belly laugh courtesy of Amber over at EatDrinkCat:

Yep, she dressed as Bob Ross for Halloween.

And that is NOT a happy little tree. 



Over in Weird Secondhand Finds, Alice turned this vintage kitchen set...

... into "the rainbow mid-century canister set of my dreams... on a budget!"

Eeeeeee! SWOON. ING. Those colors are so dreamy.

Check out her original post for more details on how Alice did it.

Also in Second-Hand Finds, Tori shared this picture to show off her chair and side table, but I can't stop staring at this wall:

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

We Found The Best Way To Celebrate A Birthday During The Pandemic: A DONUT HOP

I never know what to do for John's birthday, but of course this year was especially hard. John doesn't really want gifts - he says he has everything he wants - and he doesn't like being the center of attention with parties or dinners even when we CAN have them.

(Old pic of John snuggling a... something... from a past birthday. ::head tilt:: What IS that?)

So at 2AM on his birthday Monday, I flopped down beside John on the couch and started throwing out the most "John-like" suggestions I could think of. Take-out from all his favorite restaurants for every meal? An all-day video game marathon? A Zoom group-chat with all his international friends?

And finally, half-joking: "We could spend all day delivering donuts to our friends around Orlando." 

John blinked, thought for a minute, and said, "I LOVE THAT."

Then he went to bed.
Of course that wasn't enough for me, so I started brainstorming ways to make delivering donuts extra ridiculous. I decided this was sort of like a bar hop, only with donuts, right? And "hop" = bunnies, and bunnies = WE MUST WEAR BUNNY EARS.

What can I say, these are the kinds of logic leaps the mind makes at 3AM.

I found some ears we could pick up in the morning at a local party store, then got to work whipping up some more photo props using free clip art and bamboo skewers:


My driving estimate was off, since we got started late: we were only gone a little over 8 hours. It didn't feel that long, though.

I had high hopes for this rabbit hat, but alas, 'twas too small. Although if it hadn't been $30, I may have had John wear it anyway, haha.

That t-shirt is my one actual gift to John: it's so HIM. It didn't arrive 'til the day before Halloween, though, so this is his first time wearing it. (His mask is also rainbow cats.)

The store only had 2 pairs of bunny ears left, but we made it work.

Seriously, paper smiles to cover the masks may be the best idea I've ever had, y'all.