Thursday, December 22

All's Well That Ends With A Well (Part II)

One of the great ironies of the Well Project was that connecting the piping and power supply between the well and the house involved getting our new tractor out and digging a (four foot deep) trench diagonally from the corner of the house, through the yard, and across the driveway to the side of the garage… exactly where we'd already planned to dig one to run power to the garage. (Regrettably, garage power and well power aren't allowed to share a trench. * sigh * See: Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.)

The second portion of that particular irony is that although we were equipped to do that portion of the project ourselves, we couldn't do it until the giant rig holding the pounding equipment was finished and moved.

Just to round it out, we threw in a third bit to that irony: the weather. Almost two full weeks into not having any water, the Well Guys promised they were really close to done. That Thursday, they showed up but only stayed long enough to drill 10 feet. Then they decided the weather it was too distasteful (cold rain) and they were going home. Now, I sympathize, I really do, but it had been all over the news that the weather was going to be nice and Friday and then take a very nasty turn that Saturday. Ergo, I was more than a little frustrated about that let's-just-go-home decision.

As predicted, that Friday was nice, and they showed up around nine in the morning and drilled a whopping 5 feet before they hit the gallons per minute they needed to be done.

So what did they do? They went home!!

Never texted or called either of us to say “hey, we hit what we needed to, FIY.” Even though they knew we needed to finish digging the trench once their truck was out of the way, and the weather was great, and we all knew the weather was supposed to turn horrible on Saturday. We had no idea until we got home that afternoon and we called them! I may have been slightly not happy over the fact that both of us could (and would) have left work immediately and had the trench done by dinner time, if only we'd known. Blarg!

Anyway, obviously we got started asap and worked until it was too dark to keep going Friday night, but we still ended up out there in freezing rain and snow Saturday morning desperately trying to finish. Finally, soaked to the bone, with everything coated in mud, we were able to get everything finished, up, and running that Saturday. (Then spent the next day Sunday out there finishing up getting the giant trench in our front yard/across our driveway refilled.)

We were officially without water for 14 days, and the entire fiasco was gruesomely stressful across the board. It was also thought-provoking and, in a few unexpected ways, reaffirming. We came through, learned some things we hadn't expected (or necessarily wanted) to, and crossed one more enormous project off the list for 2016.

Muddy Arthas, muddy floors, mud everywhere!
All's well that ends with a well, I suppose!

Wednesday, December 21

All's Well That Ends With A Well (Part I)

A trench from the corner of the house
up through the driveway. Blarg.
Columbus Day Weekend (waaaay back in October), we woke up Saturday morning with a pretty clear plan for the weekend, as is our habit. (Hazards of me being an ISTJ… I plan somewhat compulsively. What can I say?) Everything started out normally – coffee, getting ready for the day, and then up and out for the first thing on the list which happened to be a quick run to Lowes to pick up something we needed.

When we got home, we each had a few things to do. When I turned the handle on one of the water faucets and got nothing, I didn't panic. I assumed my Love was just changing the water filter or something and I'd missed a memo. Not a big deal… until he walked up behind me, took one look at the not-running water and said “that's not good.”

Obviously, investigations ensued. Naturally, we checked all the easy stuff first and worked our way out from there. Long story short, we discovered (to our substantial alarm) that the morons who built our house (without planning anything) installed the well alongside the driveway… right next to shifting ledge rock… which, over time, shifted into the well casing, causing a catastrophic collapse well below the surface.

Not surprisingly, everything got progressively worse from there. The top of the well was so collapsed in that mice had made a residence in it, which was disgusting. (Thankfully, the wall of rock they'd built it on top of kept them and their nest fully separated from our drinking supply prior to the abrupt loss of everything.)

Given that the well casing was destroyed, the well pump couldn't be recovered and we were faced with the unwelcome prospect of digging an entirely new well. Or, more accurately (because this is a mountain of shale), pounding a new well rather than drilling. Which, as it turns out, is a nerve-gratingly slow process – particularly when you have to do it just as the weather is turning from Fall to gross Winter-is-coming dramatics.

The well guys brought in a giant, truck-mounted pounder and parked it in our driveway alongside the garage, and began the drawn out process of getting us a new well. This, of course, delighted our furry babies. Did you know that digging a well creates oodles of MUD? Mud is the Best. Thing. Ever. according to bored border collies. (Note: I completely gave up trying to keep the floor more than passably clean for the duration of this adventure.)

So, for two full weeks while the well guys worked on that, we had no water.

Logistically, of course, that meant doing water runs to a neighbor's every day to fill up five gallon buckets with water for bathing, dish washing, filling the toilet tanks, and other necessities. Thankfully, once we got a system down, that was far less stressful than it could have been. (Thank the Force for empathetic neighbors, a ready stock of five gallon buckets, and the fact that all the drains/septic/etc. still worked without interruption!) It just made everything take longer.

Not how we planned to spend most of that month, for sure.
Fun fact: With access to enough mud,
Nenya turns into a direwolf...

(Rest of the story tomorrow in Part II.)

Sunday, July 24

From Around the Web

So, I've been bookmarking stuff I meant to post about, and decided that some of them (while fascinating) didn't need whole posts of their own. Ergo, please enjoy today's roundup of weird/scary/strange things I ran into online:

1. The Bizarre Realities of Internet Mapping. You know how your computer has an I.P. address? Turns out that due to the vagaries of internet provider mapping processes and data limitations, arbitrary points are sometimes used as a destination 'assigned' to oodles of individual I.P. addresses that can't be more specifically pinpointed. Guess what? If your home/property happens to accidentally end up one of those amalgamated points, things can get all kinds of crazy very, very fast.

2. Food and Dating. This link I'm posting just because it strikes me as positively bizarre to think that someone might pass up on meeting the love of their life over dietary restrictions. I mean, I get it to a degree... we all have to eat every day, and things like Paleo and gluten free will therefore impact you every day for the rest of your life if you choose a spouse with eating restrictions. But, seriously? Would you really not date/marry someone who was perfect in every other way just because they had (usually through no fault of their own) an allergy to something or other need to avoid certain foods? Talk about a hundred and one ways to unnecessarily be unhappy and alone forever!

3. Fitbit Data is Admissible in Court. This qualifies as sci-fi showing up in real life, in my opinion. And/or a prime case of "hey, maybe you should have thought this through first..."  Short version: someone accused someone else of rape. Her Fitbit (fitness tracker) info was downloaded and submitted as evidence in court. It showed her version of the story didn't mesh with recorded data, and her case got thrown out. Cue the next "ripped from the headlines" Law & Order episode!!

4. What Happens When You're Both Too Drunk to Consent?  I'm not even going to try here... just go read it. Then ask yourself what kind of lunatic world we have to live in for this to be a thing. Then ask yourself what would have happened if the girl had chosen a guy who had two more drinks in him and couldn't remember any more than she could... can you sue each other for rape and both legally be right? What exactly is the resolution for that? (Aside from everyone getting something more than Hutt slime for brains...)

Let's end on a good note, shall we?

5.Verbing. Aka, how to make a word when the word you need doesn't technically exist in the form you need. Not going to lie, I do this ALL the time... I just didn't know it was such a formal, well thought out thing!

Tuesday, June 28

Find Your Extraordinary

Have you ever picked up a book expecting it to be fair, and been pleasantly delighted to find it far exceeds your expectations? At first glance, Find Your Extraordinary looked like another average business/positive thinking/self-help book. I figured it would be good for a few fun quotes, but didn't have terribly high expectations.

What I found, once I got started, was a funny, upbeat and refreshingly down to earth book that I'm so glad I had a chance to read. A veteran of the tech industry now happily founder and CEO of the Stella and Dot family of brands, Herrin is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. In FYE, she reaches out to set others (primarily women) straight about what being successful is (and is not) and what takes (and what you'll need to leave behind) to get there.

Along the way, she covers a smattering of the usual subjects but - much more importantly- tells readers the kinds of unvarnished (but positively portrayed) truths they need to really find success. (Pursue your own definition of success, not others'. You can't have it all, but you CAN have all what's truly important to you. You will fail and have setbacks; it's not the end of the world - get up and try again.)

Best of all, she completely sidesteps or intentionally diffuses some of the bitterest and oldest standing feuds in the field: working moms vs. stay-at-home-moms, glass ceilings, work/life balance, and how women treat each other personally and professionally. Direct and firm, but kind, she lays waste to most of the things that women get hung up on and lines readers up on a healthy path to a better future.

All things considered, I think my favorite quote from the book encapsulates both Herrin's upbeat and encouraging writing style, and the pragmatic perspective that makes this book worth every penny and minute spent reading:

Do not confuse passion with fantasy. Living your passion will include doing things you detest doing. Things you are not good at. Things that scare you. Things that bore you. This is because you live in the real world, not on a unicorn farm.”

Monday, June 27

Sunscreen That Won't Make Your Skin Crawl

Okay, another short post today of stuff that's just randomly been on my mind. Today's topic: Sunscreen.

I'm not going to rant about the nasty crud stuffed into most commercial sunscreens, or wail about how sunscreen causes cancer – honest. All I'm here to do is point you in a helpful direction if, like me, you struggle to find a sunscreen that: 

(a) Isn't full of scary things;
(b) Doesn't feel horrifically gross and make your skin crawl; and
(c) Can consistently be easily found/ordered/purchased.

After lots of research and some experimentation, I'm officially a fan of Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen (SPF 30).

(This is not a sponsored post. Just trying to save other people time and energy I wish I hadn't had to invest in this project.)

Anyway, long story short, this stuff is clean, won't bother your skin (even if it's sensitive), and can be conveniently ordered from Amazon if your local grocery store doesn't have it. (Note: Lots of them do.) It's not quite as durable as some of the other stuff out there – you'll need to reapply if you're spending all day in the sun, but for me that's a fair tradeoff.

Is sunscreen something you worry about?

Saturday, June 25

Your Scrabble Word for the Day

Have you ever run across a word somewhere and just thought to yourself “that would be the best freaking Scrabble word ever”?

It happens to me all the time. Most recently, with this little gem I thought I'd share in case you've got a game planned or just generally appreciate slipping fancy words into conversation to enjoy other people's blank stares… not that any of us ever do that, of course…

Word of the Day: Machiavellianism
Definition: Viewing others as self-serving.

What do you think? Good Scrabble word? Yeah, I think so, too!

Thursday, June 23

How To Recondition A White Board

Clean Shiny White Board (Not mine, because I suck at
DIY photos... source)
Today's post is short and sweet, but I'm putting it up anyway because it's been on my mind.

Did you know you can recondition a white board for dirt cheap? The secret? WD-40.

No lie! All you do is scrub the white board down thoroughly (one of those nylon scrubby sponges works really well for this – you don't want to scratch it, but you do want to get all the old marker and dirt out). Dry it, then spray the surface with WD-40 and rub it in. Let it dry, and repeat if needed until you get a nice, fresh, glossy finish.

Tip: Much like waxing a hard wood floor, several thinner layers work better here than fewer, thicker ones. (See, Love? I was paying attention when we waxed the floor this year…)

I am a big fan of white boards for a lot of things, and the big one I keep just off my kitchen (which, incidentally, has been used daily for something like eight years) periodically needs redoing. I just finished reconditioning this past weekend, and thought the process might be worth mentioning in case it helps someone else.

Are you a white board fan?

Tuesday, June 21


It's a universally recognized truth that technology is wonderful… when it works.

Almost as often, it does a convincing job of embodying one of the circles of Dante's hell, causing chaos and aggravation where there shouldn't have to be any. I'm sure I'm far from the only person who has sworn furiously at a laptop that refuses to acknowledge the existence of a printer physically positioned less than a foot away, even though both are plugged in, powered on, wi-fi connected, and came in packaging that asserts they'll effortlessly auto-connect. Right.

I've long found ebooks to be a prime example of how the miracle of technology should work in our favor but usually doesn't.

Book Dragon (Source)
After a series of time-wasting, headache-inducing attempts to get ebooks on my Kindle from a variety of sources (such as free book review websites I belong to, the library system, etc.), I adopted a hard-and-fast rule of strategically avoided any ebooks that didn't come directly from Amazon. Everything else just seemed to cost more time and energy jumping through hoops, searching for files, or trouble-shooting why the book wouldn't open and display properly than I would have invested actually driving to the library and picking up a hard copy.

Just about the time I was starting to seriously believe that Dilbert's Mordac Preventer of Information Services might actually be real, my local library system did something amazing: they integrated Amazon with Overdrive! Whoo hoo!

For those of you who are not book dragons too cheap to fuel your own addiction (and therefore independent of the library), Overdrive is an online ebook and audiobook system that libraries can buy into. Library patrons then sign in using their library card info to 'borrow' digital materials. Some people swear by it, but personally I've never found it to be less than a huge pain to navigate and utilize. I mostly just stopped trying a couple years ago, in fact.

Recently, while looking for something in particular, I discovered entirely by accident that my library system's Overdrive setup has been upgraded! Now, when I select an ebook, one of the download options is a direct link to the book's page on Amazon. Instead of “buy now” the the button says “borrow now”. Click it, and the book is sent instantly and directly to my Kindle – no fuss!

End result: I don't have to fight the crazy, construction-mangled traffic patterns to get to the library. Instead, I remain happily hermit-ed away, reading for free on my Kindle, no headaches required.

There wasn't really a point to this post except to (a) post about something good that makes me happy, and (b) encourage you to go sneak a peak at your library's Overdrive page and see if you are the beneficiary of such an upgrade yourself.

After all, with Mordac's efforts plaguing most corners of daily life, sometimes it's a huge win to be reminded that there is hope for the kind of smoothly integrated, make-life-easier techology sci-fi has always promised us.

Sunday, June 12

Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body [Book Review]

I first heard about Cure when it popped up as highly recommended by health guru Chris Kresser. Once I started reading it, the was no question about why he loved it. Author Jo Marchant digs into the question of exactly how accurate the old maxim “mind over matter” really is, how far it actually goes in real life, why it works, and how we could (and in some cases already do) harness our minds' abilities to affect our bodies in radically positive ways.

The book covers a lot of ground, balancing science and research with the wide-ranging stories of real people either benefiting from mind-body science or whose dilemmas are driving the next wave of research. Marchant explores the situations and applications of/for everyone from pregnant women to burn victims to chronic disease patients to children growing up in poverty. She does an excellent job of making the science reader-friendly; you don't have love or be an expert in biology, chemistry, or neuroscience to get what you're reading and follow along. I occasionally thought there was room for improvement in the structure of some of the chapters, but over all it was a well-constructed and thought-provoking read.

The best aspect of the book, in my opinion, was the positive and affirming nature of both the stats and the conclusions. Marchant clearly demonstrates the value and potential of highly controllable factors such as placebos, rituals, and personal, intentional and compassionate care to revolutionize health and pain management in constructive, drastic, and economically powerful ways. She makes a solid case for integrating 'holistic' and 'alternative' health practices based on the mind-body connection with mainstream practices in ways that stand to benefit all of us. Perhaps even more importantly, Cure gives both individuals and care providers what they need to know to be empowered to take better care of themselves, their families, and their communities.

Tuesday, May 24

Spoiled Again

After spending most of last weekend outside doing yard-related projects like planting our garden (hooray!), we started this week by tackling an indoor project. By we, of course, I mostly mean my talented husband again. (I just helped with the cleaning parts.)

I've long been wishing for a table/shelf surface over the washer and dryer in the laundry room. As is usually the case, there's been just enough room to drop things between and behind the machines... but not enough to easily retrieve them. Also, the contoured surfaces of the machines made them natural dust magnets.

So, after a little ingenuity, a lot of measuring, and some patience, look what he made for me! Isn't it beautiful? My picture really doesn't do it justice. It fits flawlessly snugly, is a snap to clean, and reflects the light so the entire space feels brighter. I'm extremely happy with it, and just had to show it off. It's good to be spoiled!   : )

Friday, May 20

Spoiled Wife

A couple years ago, when we were prepping to go to ComicCon (check out our costumes here) my husband taught himself leather working. He did a fantastic job on several pieces that we needed both times we hit ComicCon, including custom holsters for Malcom Reynolds' and Mara Jade's guns, and Mara's jump harness and belt.

Somewhere in among our costuming adventures, I came to the unwelcome conclusion that I needed a new purse. I dislike purse shopping to about the same degree I dislike being forced to buy new clothes. [Hint: A Lot.]

The one I'd been using wasn't really big enough for every day use, particularly since I am one of those people who really prefers to carry a book around if there's any possibility I'm going to have to wait somewhere. It had seemed functional when I bought it, but didn't end up being quite as good in practice as I'd hoped.

So, I headed to pinterest. If I had to shop, at least I could do some browsing online to narrow down my options instead of actually trekking to a store, right? Naturally, I found something that looked really good... for $250. I never have, nor ever will, pay that kind of money for a purse. Ever.

I pinned it anyway, as a general style reference and reminder to myself that I couldn't put off finding a new purse forever. Then I forgot about it. Until my husband saw the pin pop up and said, casually, "I could totally make that for you."

And he did! I picked red, because it's my favorite accent color (and goes with 90% of my wardrobe), and he got some wonderfully soft red leather and made me a new purse, just like the one I'd pinned, only better!

My photos don't begin to do it justice, but I'm delighted with it and just had to share about what a spoiled wife I am. : )

Wednesday, May 18

Food For Thought

Recently, I ran across two articles that provided an interesting juxtaposition of views on Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. 

The first asserted that women are being short-changed and taught to "think small" by books that masquerade "domestic obligations" as enlightened self-help. The author suggests that we're all being pushed back towards 1950's ideals of model wives in model homes, vacuuming in our pearls and heels when we buy and read books that advocate minimalist living or prompt us to put too much attention into our homes. 

The second article was written by a consummate bookworm, and encouraged people to set their own boundaries when it comes to implementing lifestyle suggestions like Kondo's "spark joy" criteria. As the author eloquently points out:
[Books] are not impersonal units of knowledge, interchangeable and replaceable, but rather receptacles for the moments of our lives, whose pages have sopped up morning hopes and late-night sorrows, carried in honeymoon suitcases or clutched to broken hearts. They are mementos...
 What struck me about reading the two articles so close together was the way that the first author misses the real value of books like Kondo's entirely, while the second - although advocating wariness of and adaptions to such suggestions - very clearly gets it.

Regardless of whether they are enlightened self-help or domestic guidance manuals in disguise, or if we agree with their suggested methods or not, books that make us reflect on what we truly value  are exceptionally important. In a world that where we are perpetually fed other people's expectations and exposed to image-saturated advertising (both overtly and covertly), prompts to step back and ask questions like "what sparks joy for me?" play an indispensable role in preventing ourselves from drowning or getting lost in pursuits, possessions, and practices that don't really serve us.

If I hadn't run into these articles so close together, I probably wouldn't have given it much thought. I've already read Kondo's book, applied what worked for me, and moved on. But it was nice to have an impromptu reminder of the wisdom that can be found in sometimes unexpected places, and of the value of occasionally stepping out of the bustle of daily life to reflect and make sure I'm putting my time and energy into things that really matter.

Monday, May 16

Where Do I Apply for Global Warming?

Our newly expanded rhubarb bed. Two mature plants on
the right, two new ones on the left.
 Can anyone tell me where to apply for global warming?

I keep hearing about it. It's in the news, discussed at massive international seminars and conventions, and giving all kinds of environmentally conscious people serious heartburn.

But for all the fuss, I am displeased to report that it's May and it snowed here. Not the beginning of May, the ides of May. And not just a little flurry - a full bore, whirling-snow-everywhere-to-practically-white-out-conditions snow that stuck to the garage roof and the porch until the sun came up the next morning.

As someone who has fruit trees already starting to show green and thinking just beginning to blossom, this nonsense is unacceptable! We know better than to try to plant our garden proper before Memorial Day, but there's nothing we can do about timing of the trees or the rhubarb plants.I will not be a happy camper if we lose our chance to get fruit because of unreasonably crazy weather patterns.

So if anyone knows where I can apply for global warming and get some proper spring-heading-for-summer weather out here, please let me know.

Our new asparagus bed! Fully planted, but not yet sprouting
anything noticeable. Exciting anyway.

Wednesday, May 4

ComicCon (Warning: Long Post, Lots of Pics)

Us at ComicCon two years ago as Malcom
Reynold and Inara Serra.
In honor of today being Star Wars Day (may the fourth be with you!), I thought it appropriate to finally get around to posting about our awesome trip to ComicCon back in March.

It's taken me forever to post about this not because it wasn't awesome, but because it was so incredibly shiny and there was so much to tell that it was difficult to even begin figuring out how to post about it all! Thankfully, the fact that it's Star Wars Day lends a little structure to this post and makes my life easier.

Last time we went to ComicCon (two years ago) we went as Malcom Reynolds and Inara Serra from Firefly/Serenity. Eric was decidedly the more recognizable of that pair (mostly because Inara has a different outfit every episode rather than a trademark one that's easy to place). That resulted in him being the one who garnered the most initial attention. (Though lots of girls were envious of my red satin dress!) 

We opted to hit the ComicCon in Salt Lake again because (a) it's big enough to draw big name stars without being so big you can't get tickets, and (b) the city is very navigable and visitor friendly. (Although I won't get off on a tangent here about all the awesome food we got while we were there, I must give kudos to SL for having a slew of top-notch restaurants that make online menu perusal and reservations easy, and don't so much as blink when you tell them you need to eat gluten free! )

Us at ComicCon this year as Luke and Mara Jade
Skywalker. Note the purple light saber because
I'm "morally ambiguous". Hahaha!
This year, we went as Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker from Star Wars. 
Obviously, Luke is well known, though the movies really don't do him justice. He's much more powerful, creative, and fun in the books! (He was Rogue Leader, after all.) His wife, Mara Jade, played a huge role in the Extended Universe (EU) books but is no longer considered cannon now that Disney has bought out the franchise. (Note: This is positively criminal, because she is amazing.) For those who have not read any of the books, Mara Jade was raised from childhood to be the Emperor's Hand... aka, personal assassin who reported directly to the evil Emperor. She met Luke when assigned to kill him... happily, the whole blaster-to-the-head thing didn't stop them from starting a strong friendship when she opted not to kill him after all. She has red-gold hair, green eyes, a snarky personality, is never caught unarmed, and is possibly the last person in the galaxy you want to piss off. After the Empire falls, she becomes second-in-command of a smuggling/information brokering organization before eventually becoming a Jedi and marrying Luke. She then spends what remains of her life running around saving the galaxy and restoring the Jedi order with him and raising their son until her untimely death at the hands of the Sith Lord Darth Caedus (aka Leia's eldest son Jacen).

Mara's exclusion from the new round of movies has made a lot of people nostalgic for her character, so this year I was the one who tended to garner more instant recognition as we walked around. That may also have something to do with the fact that Luke wears traditional Jedi robes, and Mara never lost her penchant for the bodysuits she wore as the Hand and a smuggler...

Mara Jade, getting rid of a few Weeping Angels.
A friend with a 3D printer made one of the pieces for Mara's jump harness; my talented husband did all the rest of the leather working involved in the harness, arm bands, and weapons belt. I cannot begin to tell you how much I wish belts like this were standard attire. Look - lots of room for a blaster, to hang your light saber off of, even room to pack a few thermal detonators if you want! (And really, who doesn't want to keep a few on hand, just in case?)

Luke and Vader face off.
Happily, with the new movies out, there was an abundance of other Star Wars characters to interact with. It was kind of sad to see a lot of the younger kids have no idea about the EU, but I was impressed by the number of people who knew who I was and were happy to see Mara Jade not forgotten in the cosplay world. I was also delighted to see both an excellent Vader and top notch Mandalorians, as well as a generous sprinkling of famous sith lords. (Note: Mandalorians are bounty hunters/mercenaries ala Boba Fett.)  

This year, I definitely wanted to get to some more panel discussions. We hit a few duds (and left them early), but we also sat in on some really, really good panel discussions. My personal favorite was the one of structuring your life to support creativity, which was hosted by professional authors and illustrators. We also got a sneak peak at the trailer for the new World of Warcraft movie, sat in on an energetic debate about one-season wonders and their untimely demises, and a heated debate over which Star Trek captain was the best. (I'm still genuinely shocked that that one never devolved into a fist fight, given the passions involved.)

One of the things I personally loved about sitting in on those panels was watching other geek couples in the audience. In a lot of venues these days- even traditional ones like churches - marriage and strong, loving relationships don't get a lot of respect. This feels doubly true, I think, for people like me, who have physical touch as a Love Language. So it was incredibly refreshing to spend three days surrounded by examples of really happy couples enjoying things they loved together. There were fun couples costumes, couples snuggling together while hanging out at panels or in the halls outside conference rooms waiting for panels to start, and couples holding hands (or claws, depending on their costumes!) while wandering the vendor floor. In case you're wondering, this respect for strong happy relationships and lack of self-consciousness in showing it appears to be distributed equally between the good guy/Light Side/hero side of things and the villain/Dark Side/Hoarde proponents.

Luke takes on a Mandelorian!
We spent a lot of time just wandering around the main vendor floor being overwhelmed by shiny things, doing impromptu photo ops with people, and appreciating other people's awesome costume ideas and creativity. I had a great time talking to the people at the book/publisher booths and insanely expanding my reading list. As much as I adore amazon, it's nice to occasionally talk to real people who actually listen to your preferences (and 'can't stand' list) and can make informed suggestions about what you might like next. I also did a lot of drooling over shoes. I am definitively not a shoe fetish person, preferring to only ever have a handful of shoes at a time, but I'm apparently not above shoe voyeurism because I ogled a lot of gorgeous heels and boots this trip! In my defense, there were some really nice, really fun shoes, boots, and other creative foot wear! As usual, I was a bit of a hair voyeur as well. I was super happy with my own red locks, but I'm always impressed by the way some people can pull off electric blue, purple, and other unique colors. 

Okay, I think that's all the rambling. Now on to a smattering of fun pics! These are in no way a comprehensive representation of all the awesomeness we saw, but they'll give you an idea of the diversity and creativity you encounter just wandering the halls. 

Mara's jump harness, in progress.

Emperor Cusco from the Emperor's New Groove.
Beware the groove!

Luke Skywalker vs. Xenomorphs from Alien. Hooray meta!

I am so glad someone did this! Giorgio Tsoukalos (sp?)
from the History Channel. If you haven't seen him, seriously go
to youtube and look him up. Lol.

Kaylee's shindig dress from Firefly!

Really good Leeloo from The Fifth Element. Multi-pass!

Mr. and Mrs. Terminator, cybernetic eye and all!
They were super nice, incidentally.

This guy gets the Dad of the Year award for ComicCon this year.
Their costumes were super simple in construction and cheap in material, but really well done. Kudos to all
geek parents who teach their kids thrifty creativity and not to be shy about what they love!
(Just like mine did.)

This girl was hysterical. She wandered around with a couple Disney princesses.
Her book is titled "How to Be An Evil Stepmother for Dummies"

Friday, April 29

Holiday Reminder

Did you know that there are four holidays next week?

Tuesday is Teacher Appreciation Day.
Wednesday is Star Wars Day.
Friday is National Nurses Day.
Sunday is Mother's Day.

If you have any teachers or nurses in your life, take a moment to offer them so encouragement!
Then put on comfy clothes, pop up a generous batch of popcorn (with lots of butter and some sea salt!), grab the original Star Wars trilogy, and settle in for a marathon! 

PS - Want to plan ahead? 

May 21st is Armed Forces Day and May 25th if Geek Pride Day! Of course, Memorial Day is May 30th. 

What are you celebrating in May?

Friday, April 22

Syruping & The Hole Project

In theory, according to the calendar, it's been spring since March 20th. In practice, the weather has been all over the map thus far this year, which has made it hard to plan and anticipate outdoor responsibilities and projects. Despite the unpredictability, we've managed to have some happy successes

Exhibit A: Syruping

I'd pretty much decided by the end of March that we weren't going to get any maple syrup this year. Between the random spikes in temperature and prompt re-freezes, it looked like the trees were going to bud (and make the sap bitter) before we got the proper temperature spread we needed to get decent flow.

Fortunately, my husband is more optimistic than I am and realized that we had a second chance in the beginning/middle of this month. The temperatures fell into line, we threw taps and buckets on the trees, and spent two weeks boiling down sap. Voila! Maple syrup! We got an outsdoor burner in a different style this year which made a big difference, and I'm very pleased both that we got a generous amount of syrup and that we learned some new things that will be useful in the future about expanding our production.

Exhibit B: The Hole Project

This month, we had the pleasure of taking delivery of our very own tractor! My brilliant love did a ton of research in advance to identify what we needed and sort out the best option for our requirements. The end result is a shiny new Kubota BX tractor… well, it was shiny until we started using it! Now it's a bit on the muddy side, but I'm pretty sure that's a sign of love when it comes to utility vehicles like that, right?

We've got a number of projects lined up that the tractor will play an essential role in, of course, aside from the standard things like snow management every winter. One of our more pronounced projects underway at the moment is stump removal. We've been steadily taking down trees that were fall hazards to the house or that seriously impeded light to the house/garden areas of the yard since we moved in. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a generous number of stumps hanging around that we'd like to also remove. If you've ever tried to dig a stump out by hand, however, you'll appreciate what a daunting, time-consuming, and often back-breaking process that can be. Compliments of the Kubota, it's getting a lot easier!

This is the current progress on an absolutely enormous and stubborn stump in the back yard. It's still too heavy/too solidly connected to rip out, but with a little more time digging it'll be gone, opening up valuable yard space for other things.

Spring/Summer weekends are going to be even more precious and packed than usual this year, but it's encouraging to finally feel like we're off to a really good start on all the things we hope to get done around the property.

Thursday, March 3

The Productivity Project

Everyone is busy, all the time – or at least so it seems, these days. As a result, maximizing productivity to make the most of our time is, not surprisingly, a huge source of public interest.

Openly obsessive about productivity, author and blogger Chris Bailey turned down several high-paying job offers to spend a year exploring and experimenting with the subject of productivity to find out what really works and what's just hype. Initially, he chronicled his experiences on his blog. When his year-long experiment ended, he culled the best and most valuable findings from his work and turned them into a book: The Productivity Project.

Clearly written by someone who values efficiency, the book walks a neat line, being fluidly easy to read while still concise and extremely well organized. Every chapter starts with an 'estimated reading time' and a clear statement of the key takeaway (which I loved), and ends with a short, highly relevant “exercise” to help readers implement what they've learned. Bailey strikes a valuable balance between research and personal experience, reminding readers that despite some universal truths (we each only get 24 hours a day) every person and situation is unique, so our individual solutions may be too.

I found myself constantly flagging pages to come back to and chew on again, and will definitely be rereading this and recommending it to others. Far and away my favorite part was the author's emphasis on the fact that all productivity improvements come down to manipulating one of three core components: time, attention, and energy. This simple but high-impact framework really (and positively) changed how I looked at a lot of things I've been doing and gave me valuable direction for future choices.

Monday, February 8

5 Fascinating and Thought-Provoking Links

Just what the title says... links I've found in the last couple months that made me happy or made me think.

Steam-punking a back brace to look like cosplay armor. AKA why it is awesome to be a geek/have geeky friends. This definitely got me thinking about the intersection between creativity, the Maker Movement, and the eminently practical ways in which we love on people in everyday real-life situations.

Shut Up, I'm Amazing. A fantastic reminder that our internal voices matter. Serious food for thought on the reality that we have both the power and the responsibility to be intentional about how our words - spoken and unspoken - shape our lives.

What Color Lightsaber Would You Wield Quiz. I am delighted to report that (like my new hero Mara Jade) I got purple, which means I am unapologetically "more morally ambiguous" than your average Jedi. Or, as Mara puts it, "I fight exactly as fair as my opponents" and have an "undiminished capacity for mayhem."

How Do You Define Strong? "So what is strength? Well it depends on our sport, lifestyle, and goals."
This is a somewhat technically oriented article written by a strength trainer, but I really appreciated the message at it's bottom line (and written between the lines): arbitrary fitness standards, goals, and measurements are largely pointless. What matters is how you define strong for your personal body and life. If what you're doing or measuring doesn't serve to bring you closer to strong as you define it for yourself, give it up, throw it out, and replace it with something that does. 

How to Move (and Fly) A Body. "Because, well, we seldom die where it’s most convenient." A random and fascinating look at the kinds of realities and logistics that are surprisingly relevant and entirely predictable, yet rarely considered until the worst possible time.

Bonus link: The Fictitious Pregnancy of Mara Jade.
This is a short, hysterical non-cannon story from the Star Wars universe in the tradition of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.  It isn't the best edited, or the best in-character portrayal of everyone, but it's so funny and well put together that it more than makes up for what it lacks.

Sunday, February 7

Happy [Belated] Clean Out Your Computer Day

I'm rather a fond of unofficial and off-beat holidays, and the ISTJ in me doubly appreciates when unofficial holidays serve highly functional purposes. Last Tuesday was a perfect example: National Clean Out Your Computer Day.

In this age of digital everything, it's all too easy for our computers, phones, and other devices to become cluttered with old and duplicate photos, ambiguously named files, defunct links and bookmarks, and other outdated remnants. Data storage being what it is, these things are easy to ignore on a day-to-day basis, but the sad truth is that they tend to cost us time and energy when we can least afford it. As anyone who's ever ransacked their hard drive for a critical file needed on short notice knows, clutter gets frustrating fast when you're in a hurry.

Interestingly, I was reminded several times in December by unrelated sources that the difference between businesses/households that thrive, succeed and function smoothly and those that don't can often be summed up in one word: systems.

Even exceptionally simple systems, when well designed and followed consistently, can radically reshape our lives for the better. It can take a couple tries to establish and refine systems that work for our unique needs, and the creation or reformation of habits is usually involved, but the relative payoff is huge.

I didn't get my computer (or my Pinterest account) completely cleaned out last week, and I admit I'm still actively working on establishing and revising systems for a variety of aspects of my life. I also have yet to address at all the whole necessity of properly backing up important files. But I did appreciate the reminder that this is an area worth focusing on, and the challenge to pick up my pace in this respect. After all, what better time to roll up one's sleeves and do a little digital purging an organizing than when it's cold and inhospitable outside?

What about you? Could your digital life and personal/professional systems use some refining this year?