December 19, 2011

Surprise Birthday Party

Bri's boyfriend Dan decided to through her a surprise party this year.  Her birthday is two days after Christmas, and is often the case with birthdays around major holidays, it's often overlooked.  We threw it early, as it both proved it was not forgotten, and guaranteed the largest number of people could come.

She showed up at the bar where we were waiting, looking ready to hurt someone.  The story to get her there was apparently panic inducing.  We pretty much forgot to yell surprise when she walked in.  And then she started crying.  Then I panicked.  Thankfully, it turned out to be a happy and relieved cry that it was a happy occasion.  She'd never had a surprise party before.

After some food and a few drinks, we walked over to the local bowling alley.  I'm a horrible bowler.  I think my score from the first game was a 29.  Even with bumpers on the second game, I had a whopping 112.  I had a shot called a pickleback, which was some kind of whiskey shot with a pickle juice chaser.  I love pickle juice, but even I was surprised by how well the two went together.

Victory dance
We ordered a funnel cake a la mode, and had them put candles on it.  Bri wanted to show it off, but as I was taking pictures, one of the funnel cakes, complete with flame, fell off the plate and into her lap.  We had all had too many drinks to be properly horrified that an open flame was in her lap, and instead we all collapsed into laughter.  Thankfully, no one caught on fire, and the damage was limited to a plate full of ice cream.  On the plus side, I got one hilarious action shot.

Bri's Birthday Funnel Cake
It was a fun night.

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December 18, 2011

Christmas #1

DS and I decided to do Christmas with each other and the cats today.  It was the last full day we had to ourselves at home, without work or other obligations.  Also, I was in the mood for a pick me up.

Most of our gifts for each other were mostly things that we needed and wanted, but for whatever reason, had not gotten around to getting for ourselves.  The gifts for the cats were more whimsical, and honestly, bought more for Felix than Winston.  Winston likes two things in life: rabbit fur covered mice, and edibles.  Felix is much more well-rounded.  We got them a play tube, a toy that rolls and has feathers and burlap, and a packaged set of interchangeable sushi toys filled with catnip and with velcro pieces to attach to a stick and string.  So far, neither cat has been very interested in the tube, though I was thoroughly surprised to see Winston immediately get in it.  It was a short-lived excitement.  He hasn't cared about it since.  I'm more surprised that Felix doesn't care about it.  In fact, she seems afraid of it.  She's always seemed very fond of small, enclosed places, so I had thought she would love this thing.  I figured she'd love the rolling toy, because she can sink her claws in the burlap, and chew on the feathers, and roll it around the floor.  All of which have been true.  They both love the sushi toys.  I wasn't sure if the catnip would win over Winston, but he's been attacking them with gusto, so long as we pick them up.  Felix, in typical fashion, is quite happy to drag them around the house without our intervention.

Here are some photos of our decorations and Winston attacking some sushi.

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December 14, 2011

Engineering Christmas Party at WHYY

Tonight was the annual holiday party for the Engineering School.  It's held somewhere different every year.  Last year it was at the Academy of Music, which is the same place the ballet is held.  This year it was at the studios of WHYY, which is essentially Philadelphia's PBS station.  It was really cool to see the studios, and even though they weren't filming tonight, the control rooms were still functioning since they were still showing taped things on air.  

As seems usual at this point, the evening started with cocktails and appetizers.  The empanadas were amazing.  Elmo was running around, which was interesting.  Then there's the big sit down dinner.  This year we had three different  buffets with different kinds of food.  DS and I felt it was important to try all of them.  The kimchi pancake things with the aioli sauce... wow.  So good.

After dinner there's always some entertainment.  This year, it was a live performance of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!  It was hosted by Carl Kasell and Patrick Stoner.  They used two professors as the contestants, and it was pretty funny.  Afterwards, they were both kind enough to hang around and talk to people and have their photos taken.

Carl Kasell enjoying dessert
 Mr. Kasell has been doing radio for 62 years.  Just let that sink in for a bit.

Dessert was so delicious.  We had spiced apples, gingerbread, chocolate mousse tarts, hibiscus cheesecake, and some kind of pistachio brittle.  I had all of it.  Some of it more than once.

One of my favorite things about these parties is that I get to dress up.  I don't get to do that a lot often.  This year I felt like doing something different with my hair, and this is what I came up with:

Up-do for the Engineering Christmas party
I got a lot of compliments on these earrings, which I made just before the party to match my dress.  I'm afraid people think I wove the pearls together, but alas, I bought them that way.  One person even asked how to find my shop, so fingers crossed!

December 13, 2011

Visiting Family

This weekend, DS's mom, sister, and niece all came up for their annual viewing of The Nutcracker.  The latter two had seen it three years in a row by three different ballets.  It's sort of their thing.  So we talked them into seeing ours, which had the added benefit of finally getting them up here to see us.

Our niece is 9 and really wanted to see things like the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross house.  That was easy for us to do, since we live within a few blocks of all that stuff.  Saturday morning we walked around looking at some of the close stuff.  One of my favorite things to show people is Elfreth's Alley, which is the oldest continuously inhabited street in the United States.  As a nice bonus, the residents had decorated for Christmas.  We also toured the Betsy Ross house, where the Betsy impersonator talked to us for a long time, and made our niece a paper star using the same techniques used to make the first flag.  We checked out the Liberty Bell, where we learned that the name came much later in its life when abolitionists adopted it as their sign of freedom.  Then his sister wanted to see the Love statue, so we went across town to see that.  On the way back, we checked out the plaza where all the giant game pieces are, which was a lot of fun.

We had some time before we had to get ready for the ballet, so our niece and I made some jewelry, and I taught her how to play The First Noel on the piano.  It was a lot of fun to see her trying so hard to get it right, and I was super proud when she could finally play it through without messing up and with correct fingering.

The ballet was magnificent.  There was a full orchestra and a choir there for the music.  The sets were really cool, and some of the costuming was just gorgeous.  This was my third ballet company viewing of The Nutcracker, and it's always interesting seeing all the little ways companies do things the same and differently.  The pas de deux at the end was just so great.  Our niece thought that part was boring, but it was the more technical part that probably doesn't look as impressive when you're small and don't understand how hard standing on en pointe and being pulled across the stage with one leg up in the air really is.

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend.  I hope they get to come back soon, because we barely even scratched the surface of things to do in the city.  Plus I just love hanging out with them.  Maybe next time they'll bring the boys too!

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November 26, 2011


Just like last year, DS and I took a trip up to Bloomsburg to spend Thanksgiving with our friends David and Juliana and their family.  A lot of the foods were the same, but there were a few new things, including my brandied cranberries.  All foods were delicious.  They even made Alton Brown's mac and cheese in both the onion and no onion varieties, just for me.  The drive up was not as pleasant this year.  We left too close to rush hour, and I think perhaps we ran afoul of a wreck.  The normally ~2.5 hr trip was five hours.  There was one particularly bad section where DS took a nap, and 45 min later he woke up and we'd moved about 1 mile.

As a bonus, we got to see The Muppets.  I laughed.  I cried.  I had the joy of knowing that we helped introduce David's sister to the joy of the Muppets.  Apparently they did not watch any of that goodness growing up.  I know... It's mind boggling.

We got back on Friday this year, and after a quick clean of the house, we popped in Christmas Vacation and put up the decorations.  It's my favorite tradition with DS.  I'll put up photos of some of that soon.

BTW, left over turkey and ham on a homemade pizza is amazing.

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November 21, 2011

Busy Day

This morning I was awoken by a screaming neighbor.  I don't think that quite gets across what I experienced.  It was a S C R E A M I N G neighbor.  Well, the neighbor part might be a lie.  It was either the neighbor's babysitter (which would be really weird), or the person who lives under them.  At any rate, apparently this young lady was very irate with her (now) ex-boyfriend for waking her up during her very limited sleeping time.  Also, he was a selfish in the way he loved her.  And he didn't get rid of his cat.  Mark, how many times does she have to tell you, this is all your fault?*

So there was that.  At least I woke up in a decent mood and found it more amusing than annoying.  It was early for me, so I read Shades of Grey until I fell back asleep and had a little nap.

On to the busy part.  After waking for real, I made my way to the post office to mail an SGC order to the Netherlands.  I did a lot of laundry.  Okay, that's not very exciting.  I made brandied cranberries, which are delicious and made from our CSA cranberry batch.  Then I made butternut squash soup**, also from our CSA stuff.  I've really been into making soups lately.  I worked out, including 4.5 for real pull ups.***  Currently, the dining room table is set up as a mini photo studio, and I'm wading through 144 new product photos.  (Not 144 new products...)

Copper and Crystal Hoop Earrings by Sleep Goblin Crafts

I'm trying to spice up my product photos.  My stuff never gets picked to be in Treasuries or the Etsy Finds e-mails, and I just don't see where the items themselves aren't good enough.  That leaves the photography.  I'm happier with this new set, but it's still not amazing.  I have photo lights on my wish list, and that should help.  What do you think?  Give me some feedback!

Button Pearl and Garnet Earrings by Sleep Goblin Crafts


*I lost count around 15.

**I just realized I forgot the butter in that soup.  Eh, I added a bunch of spices, and I really like how it turned out anyway.

***Not all at once.  Though the first round was two, which is a new record for me!

November 20, 2011

New Painting and Table Runner

Little Nova, by Kaitlin Deering - 2009

This is mine and DS's first real art purchase.  The painting is titled Little Nova, and is by our friend Kaitlin Deering.  I adore it.  The rainbow colors, the little flecks of white in the black background.  It's magical and wondrous and makes me feel like I'm witnessing some miracle of space or the northern lights or something.

Felt Leaf Table Runner by Sleep Goblin Crafts - 2011
Also new, this table runner.  I finished it last night.  It's just felt cut in leaf shapes with some running stitches for veins, all connected together.  I wanted something that was very fall, and cheap and easy to make.

Felt Leaf Table Runner by Sleep Goblin Crafts - 2011
Now we just need a few more chairs, and this table will be ready for a dinner party.

Just a few things

  • 30 hours in, skyrim is still amazing, and i've only scratched the service
  • in the last month i've had visitors from 14 different countries to my etsy shop
  • most must of have been accidents, because they counted towards my bounce rate
  • looking at the keywords that bring people to my shop makes me scratch my head.  like, why did you get to me by searching for "rohan horse banner" when i'm fairly certain none of those words appear in my shop anywhere?  and you stuck around, so... i guess you found something that satisfied you.
  • there are a lot of things floating around my craft room that belong on etsy but aren't there.
  • they've probably been in there for close to 2 years.
  • the scarves all finally went up today
  • bought my first piece of for real artwork, a giant canvas title "little nova".
  • i swoon every time i look at it
  • dusted off my "acting skills" for this music video (i'm in there, i swear)
  • went rock climbing today with the husband and actually enjoyed it for the first time in 3 years, if not more
  • my hands did not enjoy it
  • need some calluses
  • reading "shades of grey" and am entirely engrossed in this strange strange world
  • i have 9 books to go until i reach my goal of reading 80 for the year

November 16, 2011

2011 Sleep Goblin Ornament

I have been quietly re-opening my Etsy shop for business over the last few weeks.  You might have noticed some activity on the store's Facebook page if you follow that.  I also started a Google+ page, just to cover all my bases.  So if any of you want some custom stuff made by Christmas, now is a great time to let me know so it can be done in time!

But the more important thing I have to tell you is that the 2011 ornament is done!  Well, designed.  I still need to "mass produce" them.  They're themed after the carol 12 Days of Christmas, specifically a partridge in a pear tree.  It took a long time to figure this one out.  I had originally planned on doing it last year, but it just didn't come together.  This year I had a brilliant idea for layered paintings, but I couldn't figure out how to incorporate the partridge in a way that made me happy.  I still love the layer idea, but it will have to wait for something else.

A pear tree painting inside an ornament.
After debating between sculpted paper, cross stitch, and felt, I finally settled on felt.  I had to figure out how make a 3d bird plush, which I'd never done before.  Normally I just sew two flat pieces together and put some stuffing inside.  I did some research and found out the partridge referred to was most likely a red-legged partridge, so I tried to make it look like that.  They have a lot of color changes in their feathers, so it's not perfect, but I'm cool with it.  Then I threw in some real twigs with some felt leaves and pears, and done!

If you like it, you can pre-order it for $10 through the end of November, and then the prices go up to more accurately reflect the time and effort put into them.  Also, if you're missing any previous year's designs, I found a bunch of half finished things that I'm going to try to finish up and put in the shop so I can be rid of them.  Keep an eye out for those as well!

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November 08, 2011

A Cautionary Tale of Switching Banks

DS and I recently decided that we wanted to go back to using a Credit Union.  We used one in Madison, and were very sad to say goodbye when we moved to CA.  There weren't a lot of options in Santa Barbara, it's a small place, so we went with Wells Fargo because it was easy to access.  We didn't love it.  They charged us fees for everything that the UWCU used to do for free, and this was before the crash that made banks decide to create a bunch of new fees.

When we moved to PA, we talked early on about finding a new CU now that we're someplace bigger (and, we're assuming, with more selection).  But we are apparently lazy at heart, because Wells Fargo was everywhere (they existed here alongside Wachovia before the merger, and so after the merger, well.. ) and it was easier to stay.  Then we get a notice that their policies are changing, and we should login to our account online to read them.  It's a good thing I did, because they were major changes.  The most notable being that basic checking accounts were going to cost $15/mo.  Yes, you read that right.  Per month.  That's $180 a year just to have a computer manage my money.  Money that the bank uses to make more money while it sits there.

We decided this was reason enough to finally make the move.  A word of warning if you decide to do this.  Switching banks takes time.  I wish we had started sooner, because we ended up with a deadline based on when we would get charged for having the checking account.  It made things more stressful than they needed to be.  I'm not sure what's standard, but the new credit union holds check deposits on new accounts for 7 business days, and accounts are apparently "new" for a full month.  There is also a further hold on checks over $5000, and specials holds for personal checks.  This meant that the way we did it, closing the old checking account, getting a cashier's check, and depositing it into our new CU, with weekends and holidays included, kept us from having any access to our money for 14 days.  Kind of ridiculous.  I sort of wish we'd just paid the Wells Fargo fee to electronically transfer the money to the new account.  But at the time, I was very turned off by the $20 fee.

Of course, had we started earlier, we could have gotten DS's direct deposit set up in time to go through the CU for November, which would have prevented all of these issues.  It didn't help that we did most of this on the first of the month, which gave us maybe 2 days to play with before we needed all that money to pay the monthly bills.  Thank goodness for parents and excellent CU customer service...

On top of all that, when I went into the bank to close my account, the person that helped me (who was, admittedly, very nice) did not ask which account I meant, and took it upon herself to only close the checking account.  So the savings account sat untouched, with a zero balance, which is a $5 monthly fee when under $200...  I didn't even know it was still open until told me I had a low balance of $.14.  I guess I got an interest payment?  I contacted the bank again and told them of the mistake and that the savings should have been closed.  I was informed I'd have to do it in person, because the balance on the account was not zero, or I could mail them a notarized letter and they could send me a certified check.  For 14 cents.  Which I shouldn't even have had if they'd closed the account when I asked.

So what I'm telling you is this.  If you decide to switch banks, find out what sort of waiting periods your new place has, and plan accordingly.  If necessary, get your old bank to give you enough cash to get by, instead of a lump sum cashier's check.  And remember that direct deposit changes and potentially take 3 weeks to go into effect.

November 05, 2011

In Search of Climbing

Today DS and I decided to explore.  We haven't really done this enough since moving here.  He had read that there was some decent climbing in Ralph Stover State Park, which is about an hour from here.  Today turned out to be crystal clear skies and a high of nearly 60, which is perfect hiking weather in my opinion.  We layered up just in case, grabbed the camera, and went off in search of adventure.

The climbing guide we were following took us to the picnicking and white water section.  This part was home to a late 18th century water-powered grist mill, and the park takes its name from its owner1.  However, the climbing section is in the "High Rocks" section.  While there is technically a road that connects the two, there is a pedestrian only bridge in the way.  So we bundled back into the car and tried again.

The High Rocks area is, as you might have imagined, high.  It overlooks a horseshoe bend in the creek, and there are 200-ft drops down to the river.  The rocks were often a bit purple, and reminded me a lot of Devil's Lake because of that.  They didn't seem nearly so slick though, so they are probably not quartzite. There were quite a few climbers there, though not as many as we would have expected for such a nice day.  That looks good for us being able to find places to set up once we start going there to climb.  There were a lot of bolted routes too, which isn't something I've personally encountered much.  It will be nice to use their built in anchors and not have to spend 45 minutes setting up the rope just to get started.

The day was lovely, both because of the weather and because the leaves were still hanging on and beautiful.  I tried to get a good feel of the place for you in these photos.

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1Ralph Stover State Park Recreational Guide

November 01, 2011

Some Feelings About Google Reader

When I discovered Google Reader, it was quickly considered a godsend.  Here, in one place, I could see all the things posts on the websites I frequented.  ALL THE POSTS.  IN ONE PLACE!  I would never miss another update.  It was amazing.

And then it quickly became immensely overwhelming.  I would log into Reader, and there would be 2000+ new things to read.  Reader became a chore.  A sad thing.  Something that filled me with anxiety and caused me to "Mark all as Read", completely destroying the very thing that made it awesome for me.

Then I started noticing the social features.  I realized that several of my friends had similar tastes as me, and that they subscribed to the same feeds.  These friends would share the posts they found interesting.  I realized that I didn't have to subscribe to every site I liked, I could just check my friends' shared items for some of them.  Suddenly, my daily reading list was something I could knock out in an hour.  That's quite a thing really.  The idea that in one hour I could ingest the entire contents of 79 different websites, plus those things my friends found worthwhile, is an amazing thing for me.  I felt connected and informed with the world around me in ways I never have before.  And if something on the internet was worth sharing and saving but not the whole site?  Well, there's was the "Note in Reader" button on my browser tool bar.

The best thing about Reader was that all of these things was in one single place.  I didn't have to go anywhere to read anything, because the entire article was there.  I even made new friends by enjoying the comments friends of friends left and realizing that their shared items would also be things I found interesting.  Many of those friends are people that aren't even on any other social networking site, and they are not effectively gone from my life.

Now I must say, I feel like Google Reader is a ghost town.  Can I still read the full contents of those 79 subscriptions?  Yes.  But who will I talk to about them?  Share them with?  The idea that I have to go to another site to see +1 items, which are snippets, and then click those to go to yet another site to read all of those items.. well, that's not going to happen.  I don't have time to do that.  If something that was shared wasn't something I was interested in, I could easily type N and be done with it.  Now I need to scroll through everything all of my friends have done on G+?  I mean, that's a lot of stuff.  I don't really care about most of that stuff.   Every picture they post, every time they're happy there was ice cream in the fridge, every time they go somewhere and check in...  This is not part of my "one hour to know what's happening in the world" routine, and it shouldn't be.  The option to have that data show up in G+ is not the issue.  It's that my Google Reader experience has been neutered into something far less useful in the process.

October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

This year, DS and I made our costumes from things we already owned.  I'm Totoro, and he's Yukon Cornelius.  Mine is a little disheveled from dancing.  Happy Halloween!

October 28, 2011

To-Do Lists

I've been keeping a to-do list on the marker board on my fridge.  It's mostly just a list of things I need to do around the house that I don't want to forget about, and the fridge is something I see many times a day.  Right now it says the following:

  • Litterboxes
  • Vacuum
  • Scarf
  • Thanksgiving Banner
  • Iron
  • Dulcimer Should Strap
  • Test Clear Plastic Ornament Idea
  • Blog
  • Upload Photos
  • Make Christmas gift list
  • Clean Kitchen
  • Totemsoul Updates
I'd cross off blog right now, but I actually put that on there to remind me to chronicle our going ons of the past couple weeks, and that's still not done...  As you can see, it's just a bunch of chores and craft things.  That last one is a website I've been working on for some friends lately.

Generally, I'm the only one that uses the marker board.  Sometimes I leave notes for DS on there so he'll see them before work.  However, today when I woke up, I found DS had made himself his own little to-do list:
  • Put away clothes
  • Work out
  • Wish list
  • Drink 17 beers
I cracked up.  I doubt he'll make it to 17, especially since we don't even have that many in the house.  But I can tell you he deserves as many as he wants, because he's had a crazy month.  Lots of deadlines and classes and travel and conferences with talks.  Here's to the end of October!

October 23, 2011


It would seem DS and I are developing a habit of being with our niece and nephew for carving pumpkins.  I just spent some time looking for last year's post about it, but it would seem it was during my "I forgot I had a blog for 6 months and all these posts are really back-posted" phase.  Lucky for you, I did take photos that were saved somewhere.

"Jack" or a princess.  Carved for (and with a some help from) Dorian.  The glitter was all her, but once it was lit up, I was in love.  -2010
Last year we had flown down to South Carolina for DS's mom's birthday, which isn't long before Halloween.  His grandmother Marie was also in town.  It was a really lovely trip, and DS and I enjoyed hanging out at his sister's house and carving pumpkins with the kids.

We thought this year we'd go back to having pumpkin carving parties at our place, especially now that we actually have friends here in town.  However, life seldom goes as planned, and this time we found ourselves in West Virginia.  Both of DS's grandmothers live there, and we were met by his sister and her family.  Wouldn't you know that the same grandmother from the last year's pumpkin carving had gotten pumpkins this year too?  I was not expecting that, but I was happy.  Carving pumpkins is one of my favorite fall things.  Not that that list is things is short.

The kids this year.  It's hard to believe how old they are.  <3
This year I ended up carving both pumpkins, though the kids cleaned them out on their own.  There was only one good carving knife, and even that was long and very sharp.  They have a healthy fear of knives after an accident last year.  Miles started out wanting a scary pumpkin, and we sketched out designs until he was happy.  And then he decided he wanted a pumpkin for God.  And the end result is probably more scary than his "scary" design, but he was happy with it.

Hearts=Jesus / Cross / Ears=Bibles / Fish

Dorian wanted something scary.  She took some time (interrupted several times by the need to run away from some bees that kept pestering us) before deciding on a ghost.  Carving out those little eyes and mouth with the big knife that I had was tricky.  And everyone was terrified that I was going to slice my fingers off when I was trying to shave down the skin for the rest of the ghost.  Dorian even made me show her my hands a few times to assure her they weren't bleeding.  She topped this one off by stabbing in "the head."  By the time we took the photo, Marie had reclaimed her knife.  You can still make out some stab wounds by the light shining through the slit though.

A ghost with stab wounds.
As with last year, we decided these pumpkins were enough carving for this Halloween.  Now we're looking forward to seeing the girls in his family when they visit us in December to see the Nutcracker.

October 19, 2011

Behind the Scenes of a Mobile Commission

Last November, a friend commissioned me to make a custom hanging mobile for their yet-to-be-born child's room.  I was given a photo of the crib set, which was "jungle" themed (with the exception of a giraffe).  Other than that, I was given free reign.

The thing with the giraffe is that I have problems with these themed sets that like to combine animals that don't really make sense.  I'd be fine with it if they didn't say it was a jungle theme.  Giraffes live in the savannah.  But this eventually got me thinking that I had an opportunity to make the mobile both awesome to display and educational.

I was told the child was expected in May, so I had "plenty of time."  However, inspiration was slow.  Very slow.  A whole year slow.  I worked on it in spurts, creating an animal here and there with months in between as I struggled with what to make next.  I probably could have worked much faster if someone had said, "I really love X, please make me something with these items in it."  Coming up with it on my own, I just have to wait until it feels right.

So it's about 5 months late, but in the end, I am glad I waited until I had something worth sending.  I decided to stick with the jungle theme, but make sure that all animals included would be something actually found in a tropical, wooded climate.  Not all of the animals would have to be from the same jungle, just so long as they had similar habitats.  I also wanted them to be animals you'd be likely to encounter at a zoo, but not necessarily the most famous ones.  And I wanted the animals to be removable for some kind of interaction.  My thought was that they could be used in story time, or something along those lines, with the idea being that the child would get to know the names of these animals and what they looked like.  Then visits to the zoo would be more exciting, and hopefully with less mindless screaming and banging on enclosure glass...

I ended up making the three larger animals first, and they were also the most spaced out.  Hand-embroidering the tiger stripes was probably not my best idea in terms of feasibility.  The final structure came recently, when I decided to hang the bigger animals as if they were walking around the base of a tree, with smaller animals hung higher as if they were in the canopy.  This idea was what finally triggered the creative juices, and it was mostly downhill from there.  I believe the last three animals and the tree all came together in about 5 days.

Each animal is roughly to scale with the others; the elephant is a tad small, but I made it as big as my single sheet of felt would allow.  They are all made of felt, hand-sewn and embroidered.  The smaller ones have a touch of marker for shading, since the stitches were pulling through the felt once the pieces passed a certain size.  There are wires in the leaves of the three, with loops for hanging.  To keep it light, the tree trunk is made of straws that are wired together, wrapped in paper, and then covered in felt.  I've never done anything like this before, so I just sort of made it up as I went along.

Because it was so late, and we hadn't talked about it in so long, I packaged everything up and quietly sent it along for my friend's birthday.  I included a little packet that said how to put it together, as the tree is actually two pieces, and the animals can be hung from various points depending on what looks good.  The packet also gave mini-bios, with pictures of live animals, for each of the animals included.

Now that the package is safely delivered, I can share the photos with you.  Soon I should have photos of it hung in the baby's room, but for now, here are the ones I took before shipping.

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September 28, 2011

Apple Pie

Today is my husband's birthday.  We didn't do a whole lot, as he spent most of the day working.  He got his present early (I talked his family into pitching in for an iPad, which he adores), so no presents.  But I did hang the Happy Birthday banner I had made for a previous birthday, and lit candles, and cleaned.


For dinner, I brined some pork chops, a la Alton Brown minus the stuffing, which DS grilled when he got home.  Then he grilled some eggplant, because between the CSA and my garden, we have SO MUCH EGGPLANT.  It was pretty tasty.

The best apple pie EVER.

But the best part was dessert.  Which was an apple pie.  That I made.  From scratch.  Let me tell you something.  I can make a mean dessert.  Also, the Pioneer Woman knows a thing or two about recipes.  By which I mean, everything I've made of hers has knocked my socks off.  I told DS I was going to make him the best apple pie he'd ever had, which apparently he did not believe.  It is his favorite dessert, and he once knew a girl who knew her way around an apple pie.  I was not afraid.  He has conceded, whether truly or out of his love for me, I don't know.  But I do know that the noises he made while eating that pie were all good.

One happy dude.

September 14, 2011

Three Decades

I'm officially in my 30's.  Since leaving Madison, a lot of the people that we tend to hang around are still in their mid 20's, and I can see the fear in their eyes when I tell them how old I am now.  I kind of enjoy it.  Truly, being 30 is no different than being 29.  Except that I find myself terribly excited.  Wait, was I excited last year?  (checking...)  Nope, I didn't even get around to making a birthday post.  Shocking!

Gifts from my mom, so I can "party."
I'm tolding a woman's 30's are the best years of her life.  Something about being comfortable in your skin and the bedroom.  I don't know how much of a difference a year will really make on the latter, but I can tell you that I feel 100 times better in my skin than I did this time last year.  Have I mentioned that I've lost 18 lbs?  Bri has been keeping me on a pretty tight workout schedule.  I even wore a real bikini at the beach last weekend for the first time in years.  Aside from the sunburn, it was awesome.  I'm not saying there aren't still things that need work.  Just that for the first time in a long time, those things are not something I think about constantly.  I am content.

I spent my birthday lounging around the house reading, and then several hours of band practice.  Tonight the band has a show at Millcreek Tavern, and we're debuting two new songs.  Songs I helped write!  Bri surprised me with a homemade cake, which was so delicious.  It actually had 30 candles on it, and it looked like it was some castle torch.  I don't even remember the last time I had candles on a cake for my birthday, and it made my day.

Bri with my Birthday Cake/Torch
DS showered me with gifts this year.  I finally own Settlers of Catan, which makes me so happy, even if you do need three people to play it.  I have my first 3DS game, Ocarina of Time.  And best of all, a serger!  This last gift has inspired me to get back to sewing.  I dug out a skirt pattern I bought a year ago, along with some fabric I'd been hoarding, and got to work.  I've never made anything from a patter before, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  It fits and has a zipper and everything.  I didn't bother lining it, or using interfacing (I don't even know what it's for, stabilization I suppose).  I figure I can get into all that stuff later.

A horrible photo of the skirt I made.  The lumps are because I have shorts on under it.
This weekend DS and I will be attending the wedding of one of my favorite people, Luke.  Which means we're heading back to Madison for the third time this year.  The weather is supposed to be lovely, upper 60's, and I'm very excited.  The rest of this week should be lovely.

September 06, 2011

PA Renaissance Faire

Apparently, around these parts, the Renaissance Faire is a big deal.  I'm told it's famous.  Bri was very bothered I had never been to one at all before, much less PA's.  So we took advantage of the Labor Day 2-for-1 special and took the boys.

I've always wanted to go to one of these.  I wish I'd had a costume.  I wish I hadn't been so sunburnt that it hurt to wear clothes.  I am thankful for Lidocaine spray.

This place was huge, and completely full of actors in period costume walking around and manning booths and performing, so you really feel immersed in Elizabethan England.  Well, except for all the people like me, running around in modern clothes with a giant camera.  When I walked in, two of the actors welcoming people freaked out because I had a "hand cannon."

It was a rainy day, and we weren't there for very long.  DS and Bri had to work for a bit in the morning, and then we all had band practice in the evening.  This is really the kind of place you should experience all day.  There is a storyline that the events follow throughout the day, and as that's one of the few free things, it's probably better to soak it all up.  We thought we were going to see jousting, but it was just the pre-joust that set up the story for the 6pm "joust to the death."  Lame.  We did see the human chess game, which was amusing.  Probably the best part was the whip/comedy/variety show with Don Juan and Miguel.  Those guys were hilarious, and if you get a chance to see them or watch one of their dvds, I recommend it.

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September 04, 2011

At the Beach in Avalon

We spent the day in Avalon, NJ at the beach.  Bri's family rented a house for the week and was kind enough to let DS and I crash with them for the day.  This was mine and DS's first trip to the Jersey shore, and I have to say, it was rather pleasant.  Much nicer than expected a northern beach to be.

The day started off cloudy and a bit chilly for beach play.  We took our time getting into our bathing suits, first walking to the Paper Peddler to pick up a copy of A Feast for Crows for Dan.  He and DS have been going through the Song of Ice and Fire books together, and Dan didn't want DS to get ahead of him.  I was rather impressed with this tiny little bookstore.  It had a much better selection than I expected of a place so small in the middle of a tourist district.

Once the sun came out, we head to the beach and each read our books while sitting in the sun.  It was the perfect temperature for me, so that the sun warmed my skin, but I never felt hot or sweaty.  The boys convinced us to get into the ocean, which was definitely on the cold side.  However, once we got used to it, we had fun jumping around in the waves for a while.

I didn't have a camera, but here is a photo of where we were, taken by ONG.

When we got hungry, we went back to the house for lunch, then spent the rest of the afternoon by the house pool.  I have to say, if you have enough people you like that are willing to split the cost of one of these houses, it's a really nice time.  The house was fully furnished, complete with washer and dryer and 3 bathrooms, and easily held Bri's entire family.  Very relaxing.

We had dinner at Oceanside Seafood, which was decent and well priced.  There were much better rated seafood places we could have gone to, but they were also insanely expensive.  This was also when my sunburn decided to show up.  Normally I can tell when I'm getting too much sun, but this time the breeze and the temperatures tricked me.  So I will be sleeping with ice packs on my stomach tonight.  No joke.  It hurts to move.  Hell, it hurts not to move.  Still, it was worth it.

September 03, 2011

Fall Beginnings

Fall is my favorite season, followed very closely by winter.  In my head, all of the wonderful things these seasons bring start in September.  There are all the holidays, the decorations, the colors, the smells, the FOOD.  Also, my birthday.  You guys know how nuts I am about my birthday, and this year is a milestone.  I'll be 30.  Apparently that makes some people feel old, but I say, MORE CAKE.

On Sept 1, Thursday, Bri dragged me to a bikram yoga class.  We had got a set of five classes for $25 through Groupon in the spring, and they expire in Nov.  We figured it was about time we used them.  Especially now that we're working out so much, we actually feel in good enough shape to get through a whole yoga class.  You know how I am about heat; I hate it.  It makes me sick.  So probably bikram yoga was a bad idea, but I figured that I'd at least try it.  It was 107° in there, and I felt bad the second we walked in the studio.  The first 45 min were standing poses, and I kept falling out of them and then sitting on the floor waiting for them to get to the next one, trying not to cry.  It was entirely too hot for me.  The last 45 min were seated poses, and my head tended to be in the draft of the back door, which someone had cracked open.  That made things soooo much better, and I ended up really enjoying the second half.  It was hard work, but the kind of hard work that makes you feel good.  Instead of the kind of hard work that makes you want to run away in tears.  I have 4 more classes...

On Friday I did my first pull-up since elementary school.  So I guess all this exercise is working.

Today DS and I have been mostly relaxing.  But when our chef friend gets off work late tonight, he's picking us up and we're going to the beach.  We live super close to the beach, but in the entire year we've lived here, we've yet to go.  So Sunday, BEACH.

Then on Monday, we're going to the PA Renaissance Faire.  Apparently it's a big deal.  I'm so super excited.  I've always wanted to go to something like this.  Bri keeps exclaiming about how I'll eat an entire turkey leg, but I'm more excited about the costumes and the jousting.  Because I'm a nerd.  And it's awesome.

Hopefully we'll have some good pictures of that stuff for you.

Oh, and before I forget.  My band is playing a show on 9/14, which is doubling as my birthday party (and also our cellists', whose birthday is the 18th).  We're planning to debut 2 new songs, one of which was my idea.  It will be the first time we'll perform publicly with DS and I included in the whole show.  Plus, someone is making me cupcakes.

I told you this month was awesome.

August 28, 2011

Speaking of Disaster...

Hurricane Irene was not nice to us.  Actually, I can't even blame the hurricane.  I never saw the winds get over 24mph, which DS and I experienced while walking around today.  24mph is not that big a deal as far as winds are concerned.  It rained fairly consistently, but it didn't flood; at least it didn't in my neighborhood.  I blame our little disaster on the guy upstairs and the maintenance people who told my landlord everything was fine.  The hurricane was just an inconvenience.

So here's what happened.  DS and I started getting rain from Irene early, around 1 in the afternoon.  We thought it would be a good idea to take photos of the view periodically.  That would give our families some  idea of how things progressed based visible distance and tree movement.  We took some videos.  We laughed at the balcony door (which is 10ft tall mind you) being hard to shut.  We remarked on the whistling noise around the door.  But most of the excitement felt had more to do with the idea that this was the start of a hurricane, and not because the storm was particularly exciting.  We've seen a lot worse from the thunderstorms that roll through here.

When we moved into this apartment, we had noticed evidence of water damage over the balcony door.  We alerted the landlord (who conveniently lives below us), he called the building manager, and masons were sent out to check on things.  I remember laughing because I had used my master degree training to hypothesize on the cause, and DS "pff"-ing me, and then the mason explaining the problem to me using my exact wording.  That was the last we heard about it.  Apparently these same people told our landlord the problem was fixed.

I tell you this so you understand why we did not immediately freak out when our ceiling started leaking. We texted our landlord, but didn't really expect a response since we could hear him having his own hurricane party downstairs.  We had been partaking of DS's latest batch of sangria ourselves.  I took some photos since we were documenting stuff anyway, threw a bucket and towel down, and went back to my video game.

Not long after that, DS went to bed.  As he does.  I continued to loosely monitor the leak and play said video game.  To avoid Leak 2 from exploding all over the floor as the paint broke, as Leak 1 had done, at some point I pricked it with a pin and drained it.  Leaks kept appearing, all over the balcony door, and I kept rearranging the buckets so our wood floor wouldn't be totally ruined.

This is what I was doing around 11:45pm when the ceiling collapsed on my head.  I remember kneeling on the floor, moving buckets, and then hearing loud noise.  There was a sensation of being covered, like a bucket of water had been dropped on me, and also kind of like a sheet the way it clouded my vision.  Except it hurt.  And I screamed.  Not an "oh shit, you started me" kind of scream.  An "i'mdyingohgoddon'tkillmeMURDERER" scream.  I felt my glasses get knocked off my face.  I felt like someone dropped a book on my head.

My eyes were full of grit, and burned, and I was afraid to open them.  I'm not sure I could open them.  I held my arms out away from me, like you do on instinct when someone drops a can of soda at your feet for example, and I stood there and screamed.  At this point, I wasn't entirely sure what all had happened. It was really fast and I couldn't see almost immediately.  I was barefoot, in pajamas, and I could feel that I was covered in something and standing in rubble.  I was terrified.  My adrenaline hit so hard I honestly didn't feel any pain from that first book feeling until at least a 1/2 hour later.

I heard DS stumble out of the bedroom, yelling for me.  I couldn't stop screaming.  He's not very coherent when he gets woken up that soon after falling asleep, no matter what the circumstances, and the screaming doesn't help.  I know this from past spider experiences.  So looking back, I'm sure a lot of the noise I heard after that was him running into walls trying to run to me.  He kept telling me to shut up, to tell him what happened.  I remember thinking he should tell me and that it was probably obvious based on what my feet were feeling.  He can see without glasses after all.

I must have gotten out that I couldn't see, and I guess he realized I needed to rinse my eyes out, because somehow we made it to the bathroom.  He turned the water on for me, and I spent some time rinsing out my eyes while I sobbed uncontrollably.  Not even tears, just loud noises that sounded like sobs.  It was like my body could not help crying out in some way; pure panic noises.  I calmed down a lot when I could finally open my eyes.  I tried to get some of the grit out of my hair, but it was hopeless.

We went back out to survey the damage and were floored.  White fluff was everywhere.  There was a 2.5'x4' piece of sheetrock broken in half on the floor.  What looked like mud was covering everything within six feet of the door.  I immediately grabbed the camera and started taking pictures, because I didn't want to take any chances of later being told we had exaggerated something.  The apartment has a way of not getting fixed...  DS was on the phone, trying to get the landlord, even though I was sure he had heard the noise.  I found out that pieces of the outer brick wall had come with the ceiling, which explained why I felt like I'd been hit with them.

The landlord came upstairs right away, and his face held the same shocked expression I'm sure ours had moments earlier.  He asked if we were alright.  We said we were.  This is when I found out I was bleeding.  There was an inch long gash on my forehead and I didn't even feel it.  My landlord said, "You should probably put some ice on that.  You're bleeding."

Over the next hour, I attempted to clean myself up some more, administered some first aid, took a bunch of ibuprofen to fend off the pain I figured would come when the adrenaline wore off.  DS and the landlord worked on cleaning up the living room and attempting to tarp off the upstairs balcony to help minimize further damage.  We asked why the masonry problem hadn't been fixed, and the whole "it is/it isn't" thing mentioned at the beginning came out.  While tarping off the upper balcony, the landlord found out there's actually a hole in the outer wall of the upstairs unit and the dude never did anything about it.  So a lot of rain, 150 year old bricks, and a hole in the wall meant a leaky ceiling for me.  My landlord is super mad at that dude (this is a condo building, and the landlord only owns our unit and his own) and the maintenance people for basically lying to him.  I think he's afraid we'll sue too, but we won't.

Today we tried to clean up as much as possible and covered the hole since insulation (the white fluffy stuff) kept falling out.  I feel like you'd probably expect after having a ceiling and bricks fall on my head.  Thankfully, the cut is pretty minor all things considered.  Right now is the first time I've let the ibuprofen wear off, and I can tell it was a mistake.  There are a lot of sore spots on my head and shoulders.  I wish I had a photo of how I looked when DS found me.  Apparently he had a moment where he honestly thought I'd been tarred and feathered.  That image would probably provide some comedic relief about now.

The rain stopped earlier, but not the wind.  We chanced it anyway and walked around a bit outside with camera.  My neighborhood seems to have been really lucky.  We didn't find any real flooding, or downed trees or anything.  The last of the clouds should be gone by 7pm, and the winds will drop under 20mph then as well.  We're supposed to hear on Monday when the masons and contractors will come fix the ceiling.  Thankfully, the 10 day forecast is rain free, so more leaking shouldn't be a problem.

I'm going to take some more painkillers and chill the rest of the day.  I hope your hurricane experience was better, and that my story will be the only scary thing you hear about.

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August 26, 2011

It's a "2 for 1" Kind of Week

Have I ever told you that before I decided to major in Art History in college, my ideal career was Storm Chaser?  I was hampered by not having the proper curriculum offered in my home state combined with a fear of leaving said state for school.  Which is kind of funny looking back on how far away I've traveled since then.  At any rate, I am not a storm chaser, but am still enamored of crazy weather.  I look forward to all major weather events and natural disasters with a childish glee that scares my husband.  He worries for my sanity.  It's not that I want to be in the middle of something that will kill me.  I have no death wish.  But the raw power of Earth is a beautiful thing, and as long as I can experience it in a way that keeps me alive, I will.

The whole time I lived in California, I kept expecting to experience an earthquake.  It's not like I wanted to the ground to rip open beneath my feet or anything; having some glasses rattle and my bed shake is plenty fine.  It never happened, though there were a few that were near enough to me that my family freaked out for me.  I didn't even know about them until I found I had a bunch of frantic messages on my phone.  So the fact that my first earthquake experience was in Philadelphia on Tuesday was disorienting.  I think if it had happened in CA, I would have been like, "whoa! this is an earthquake" and went with it. Instead, I woke up to my bed shaking, the whole building swaying, and thought maybe it was being torn down and no one had checked to make sure everyone was out.  Look, your brain does not function quite right when you first wake up.  Shut it.  The only casualty was my cuckoo clock, which fell and busted.  I think I can fix it, but all things considered, this was probably the best I could hope for in terms of experiencing an earthquake.  I'll go ahead and cross that off my list.

An electronic billboard on my way home from taking Bri to the train station today.

Just when I thought that was my excitement for the month, I find out there's a hurricane coming.  DS keeps telling me it's no big deal, and in hurricane terms, he's totally right.  As of this moment, Philly is still in Irene's path.  It's projected to be somewhere between a CAT1 and a Tropical Storm by the time it gets here.  Either one would be a first for me, and neither are likely to cause my building to fall down, so I'm excited.  To be on the safe side, we brought all my plants in tonight while it's still dry out.

This room will probably be infested with spiders now...

My tomato is still growing.  It's insane.  The netting is to keep the birds from eating the ripening tomatoes.  Bastards.
We live downtown on the 4th floor of a building, so flooding isn't an immediate worry as far as our stuff is concerned.  I suppose there's an off chance our building could float away, by which I mean like 0.05%.  However, both rivers surrounding us are expected to flood, and they're only 2.3 mi apart where we are.  The Delaware River is 2 blocks from me; I can see it out my window.  It's kind of weird, because we're not on the coast, but we're very close to the mouth of the Delaware, and it has tides up here.  So flooding in my area is entirely possible.  My weather app on my phone is also telling me loss of power is a possibility, so we've gathered the candles and charged all our spare batteries again.  The main thing I worry about with loss of power is losing the internet.  That should tell you something about our worry levels.  And probably something about how much I use the internet.

My plan is to read Game of Thrones, quilt, and take photos.  Maybe I'll even get inspired to write another song.

August 23, 2011

Song Writing

Bri helps us with a beat while we work on some polymeter.
I think I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  DS and I have officially joined the band Designer, which is based in Philly.  I'd describe the music for you, but honestly, I don't know how.  I recommend you check out the website to learn more.  DS plays bass, and I mostly play flute, though there are plans to add my mandolin and hammered dulcimer to the mix.  The other instruments are piano, drums, cello, trumpet, and guitar.

It is so much fun writing music with these guys.  So far we have one full song nearly done, and we're working on a second.  I'm excited to say that the second is based of something I wrote, which is probably the best complement anyone has given me.  That's sort of how the band does things.  Someone will bring in a little something they were playing around with, and then everyone sort of jams until magic happens.  I say magic, because that's what it feels like to me, but honestly, it's more like a lot of talent and a really well rounded group.

The band had written one album already when DS and I came along.  We didn't really want to change the overall sound of those songs, since they're already released and awesome, so we've been writing some parts that fit in.  Otherwise we'd just be sitting on stage waiting for the new songs to be played, which is no fun.  We played a show on August 10 at a place called The Fire.  We hadn't really been expecting to be doing anything other than the helping out we'd been doing on the song Thundersnow, but when we got there they already had a mic set up for my flute.  So DS ran home quickly to get it, and I played my first real show as a band member.

This is a band that, the first time my friends told me about it, I heard "we're in a band" and just nodded and smiled, assuming they were crap like most basement bands; but when we heard them the first time at their Christmas show last year we were blown away.  I remember DS and I looking at each other with our mouths open and being like, "shit, these guys are seriously awesome."  So the fact that they've asked us to join them is nothing less than an honor.  What I'm trying to say is, I'm so excited.

The really wonderful thing about this is that I've been spending a lot more time on my music.  I've had a hammered dulcimer for ages, but I only really started learning to play it this year.  I actually took my flute in to the music shop to have it serviced, which is something that had never been done in its 15 year existence.  DS and I look forward to our weekly practice like a breath of fresh air.  Not only that, but it's a lot of fun hanging with these people, and we finally feel like we have a group of "Philly friends," which helps it feel like home here.

Anyway, if you're in the area when we're playing, you should come check us out.  The show schedule is up on the website.  Until then, feel free to listen to the tracks we have posted online.

August 18, 2011

Lightning Storm

There have been a lot of thunderstorms rolling through lately.  Tonight DS and I had the presence of mind to go out on the balcony and enjoy the show.  I attempted to take photos of the lightning, but most of the time I missed.  However, sometimes those misses resulted in some really interesting color studies.  Enjoy.

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August 15, 2011

A Conversation with DS

me: what's with all these cops out tonight?
  ds: not sure.. maybe it's a response to all these flash mobs that have been roaming the streets?
  me: what?!? we had flash mobs and i missed it???
  ds: yeah, it's kind of nuts
  me: man, that's awesome. i'd love to see that!  why would the cops care about that? were they disrupting traffic or something?
 ds: what? no man, it's scary. they're like twenty 16 year old running around and knifing people
  me: oh. yeah, i don't think you know what a flash mob is
  me: a flash mob is where people show up like it's random and then do a dance routine
 ds: oh.  what kind of mob is this?
  me: that'd just be a regular mob.
I'm not posting this to make fun of DS, though I did laugh a lot at the time.  Mostly, I think it really illustrates how different our brains are.  And it's funny.

July 29, 2011

Minneapolis Re-cap

Minneapolis was wonderful. DS and I had been once before for a short one night trip to see the Yankees play the Twins. Though perhaps I didn't blog about it, because I can't seem to find the post now.  This particular trip was due to a conference DS needed to attend.  I tagged along to see Beth and Brian.

Arrive in the morning, temperatures 66, FANTASTIC.  Picked up at the airport by Beth and Brian, whom I am technically meeting for the first time even though I've known them for 5+ years.  Go to the "going away" party brunch at The Strip Club (no joke! but it's steak, so sort of a joke!) for one of Brian's sisters, where we met his whole family.  Have fenian french toast with an irish whiskey caramelized sauce.

Drop DS off at the hotel for conference stuff, then go to the zoo.  Get dropped off at hotel, eat, collapse in exhaustion.

Sleep in!  Wait around for people to stop having job stuff to do.  Dinner with Beth and Brian at La Casitas.  (Take phone call from Mom to tell her how to set up her wireless router.)  Stop by Minnehaha Falls.

Oooh and Aaah!
Photo by Beth

Sushi Lunch, eaten in the IDS Center downtown, which is a totally enclosed space full of sunlight and benches and trees and "rain."

Swim laps in the pool, work out in the gym, go to Brian's place and play Minecraft and League of Legends all night.

I don't remember what I did during the day!  But that night we were fed homemade pizza by Beth, and then Brian, DS and I played Settlers of Catan, and all four of us played We Didn't Play Test This At All.  And of course, you have to end a gathering with a YouTube party, so we did!

Photo by Beth
Fly home!