Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Work in progress

My nephew will be arriving in about 15 weeks (though his mama is already hoping for a little earlier than that).  It's a miracle that he's even on his way and we're all very excited to meet him, even if he's made this pregnancy absolutely miserable for my sister-in-law. 

I started planning the idea for this quilt as soon as I found out they were having a boy.  It's been surprisingly easy to put together so far.  I'm hoping to get a good chance to sit down and finish it next weekend so I can give it to them at the shower, but here's the quilt top, ready to go once I finish piecing the back together.






It's not perfect.  The corners don't match up as nicely as I would like, but I'm still pretty darn happy with it.  I can't wait until the little guy arrives. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Baby Blanket

I know I've been a lazy blogger, but we've been super busy around here.  It seems that everyone I know is having a baby right now.  Hubby's cousin just had hers a couple days ago, a friend is due in a little less than two months, my nephew will be here in January and my best friend has one due in April.  That's not including all of the acquaintances that are expecting as well.  So I've been in baby crafting mode during most of my free time. 

I met my friend Tracie at work and we instantly became friends.  When she told me she was pregnant, I was so excited and I knew I wanted to make something for her little one.  I pestered her for a long time to pick a name for her little guy so that I could get started.  I spent last weekend putting this baby together.


Please forgive the horrible lighting.  I wanted to get these done quickly so her gift could be wrapped up.  It's soft flannel with monkeys on one side (which sort of matches her theme for the nursery) and a pretty blue on the other.


I added an L for baby boy's name.  It's not perfect, but I'm pretty happy with the way it came out.  I can't help but laugh when I look at this now because less than an hour after I had completely finished the blanket and cleaned up my sewing space, Tracie texted me to tell me her husband is second guessing the name and says he doesn't like it anymore.  Great timing, eh?  Fortunately, baby's last name starts with an L, so I told her that if they change his name we'll just say it's for his last name.  I also told her she wasn't getting any more monogrammed gifts until after he's here and the name can't change. 

Now just two more months until he makes his appearance and gets to snuggle up.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Amanda Tapping on Supernatural

This got posted on Twitter yesterday.  Looks like Amanda Tapping (of Sanctuary and Stargate fame) is going to have a recurring role on Supernatural for season 8.  It's a little sad how excited I am about this considering that I don't even watch the show.  But I'm pretty sure I'd watch just about anything that had her name in the credits.  I guess there's another show on the list for the hubs and I to watch. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

I am the Messenger

I think I've found a new author that I love.  Markus Zusak's I am the Messenger is even better than The Book Thief (which is the first of his books that I read).  After stopping a bank robbery, Ed Kennedy receives a playing card in the mail with three addresses and he has to figure out what to do with it.  The story follows him as he deals with his friends and trying to figure out what he has to do.

The book is brilliantly written.  I love Zusak's way of telling a story.  It is wonderful and he has a different way of explaining and describing than you usually see.  One little piece of the story is fairly predictable, but there are so many surprises that it's barely noticeable and doesn't take anything away from the story.  His characters are very well-developed and all have their own personalities.  Ed, our narrator, is flawed but he tries so hard to do what's right, which makes him a great character.

I can say with certainty that I'll be picking up more books by Zusak in the future. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why my Husband is Awesome

When my birthday was coming up back in June, the hubs asked me what I wanted.  The only thing I could think of was the bracelet that I really wanted, which he did get for me, but he felt like it wasn't enough.  He said he wanted to make me something, which meant he would finally get to use the compound miter saw I got him for Christmas.  Really, I think that made it a present for both of us.

I threw out a handful of ideas like a hutch for the kitchen (he thought that was too complicated for his first project) and a new bookshelf since mine has no room and there are books stacked on my desk instead.  He didn't like that idea either.  Then I remembered that when we were still renting and had no backyard whatsoever, he promised me that he'd make me a picnic table someday when we had the space.  So I asked for it, and that's what I got.  He started out with some blueprints he found online (sorry, I have no idea where) and then adapted it so it would be much larger because we have a big family.  It now seats 8 people (4 on each side) and we have enough room to add a chair to either of the ends.  So it will last us a little while before we start needing to add an extra table.

Wanna see it?


He stained it with a redwood stain, but it's made from pine.  He also drilled a hole in the center so that the umbrella my in-laws bought us over a year ago would finally have a home.  


I realize you can't really see the umbrella in this pic because it blends in with the clouds, but it's there.

I love sitting in the shade at this table and watching the amazing view we have from our backyard.  I can't wait until the next big get-together we have where we can actually sit outside and eat and have room for everyone. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Getty

On our last day in L.A. we visited some old friends of my husband's who I hadn't had a chance to meet.  He worked for them not long after he graduated high school and they had a huge effect on the person he became so I was really excited to finally meet them.  We had a wonderful time and they took us to the Getty, which is a giant museum built into the top of a mountain.  It is a massive structure and it's gorgeous.


The view from up there is pretty awesome too.  


There's also a huge garden with a little manmade creek running through it.  If it hadn't been so unbelievably hot and we weren't completely exhausted from two days at Disney, we would have spent more time there.  Instead, we walked through the shaded parts and took a few pictures from up above.



We also got to see paintings by some really well-known artists.  The first is Irises by Van Gogh and the second is by Monet (but I can't remember the name of it).  Getting to see these was really amazing to me.  My elementary school was big into art and we studied a different artist each year.  These guys were second and first grade, respectively, for me.  I studied them again when I took an art history class in college.  I saw prints of these paintings so many times and I never really thought I'd see the originals. 



I really wish we'd been able to spend more time there as the buildings themselves are incredible and they're all full of art.  I know we passed by so much and I would love to return and see what other little things they have to offer.  Oh, and if you go, don't forget to grab a bite to eat at the cafe.  The food there is surprisingly good, especially considering that you don't really think of going to a museum for good food. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Legos are Awesome

We visited Downtown Disney after our first day at Disney.  After stuffing ourselves at the Rainforest Cafe, we wandered over to the Lego store because my husband loves Legos.  The outside has amazing giant Lego statues like these:

Lego Beauty and the Beast (I loved this movie when I was little).


Buzz and Woody!



This dragon is on their roof and is fighting the guy in the picture above.  The pictures don't do it justice because he is huge and he catches the light just right to make him look silver in the late evening.  


Inside the store they have even more awesome Lego creations, but on a much smaller scale.  These ones are all sets that you can buy and build at home yourself.  A lot of them are super expensive and I'm not really sure what I'd do with my very own Lego R2D2 (although I'm sure I'd find a place for him).  



It was hard to get a good shot of R2 here because he's trapped inside a plastic bubble that was super reflective and was determined to keep me from getting a good photo.  I'm really surprised my husband didn't try to convince me that we needed to have one of our own (although he did try to talk me into other Lego sets).  I think I might have caved for this guy though. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Soulkeepers

The Soulkeepers by G. P. Ching is the story of a young boy named Jacob whose mother disappears.  He's in a terrible accident the day that she goes missing and he has no idea if the memories he has of that day are real or not.  He's forced from his home in Hawaii and goes to live with family that he didn't even know existed.  While there he meets a mysterious neighbor and strange things start to happen to him.

I picked this book out because it was in the top free sci-fi books available for the Kindle and sounded somewhat interesting.  I'm not really a big fan of fantasy (which is what this really is, but Amazon is terrible at telling the two apart), so this book did take me a little while to get into.  The writing, however, is pretty good (though there were a few typos).  The story deals a lot with Christianity and Jacob's lack of belief.  I found the author's handling of such a usually touchy subject was very good.  It managed to avoid pushing any one viewpoint on the reader.

Overall, I wasn't terribly impressed with this book, but I know a lot of that is because I don't really like fantasy.  If you like fantasy, I would definitely recommend this book. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

World of Color

On our last night at Disney we watched the new World of Color show at California Adventure.  We were a little late, but we did get to see most of it.  This was the most amazing thing we saw in our entire vacation and, considering that Disney has some great sights, that's saying a lot.  Through most of the show my husband and I were in complete awe.  It's a magical combination of lights, water, and projection that comes together beautifully.  It was absolutely incredible and, if you're going to be at Disney, it's worth going to see, even with the massive crowd that it attracts.

Unfortunately, it's really difficult to get decent pictures of the show because it happens at night.  I got a couple of short videos, but even those are hard to see.   This is at the very end of the show, which, lucky for me, was when my camera decided to crap out so the video is cut short, but it gives you a little bit of an idea of just how awesome the show really is.  It's nothing like being there in person though.  I highly recommend it.  

video

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Disney Pictures

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things we saw at Disneyland.

Indiana Jones!  One of my favorite rides.  I wish we'd had time to go on this more than once.  Because of the Ancient Egypt theme that the ride has, the hubs and I spent our time in line making Stargate references.  It only made the ride better.


 While waiting for Star Tours there are a bunch of droids that are being unpacked from their crates.  The one on the right was seriously adorable, but we couldn't get a good close up shot of him. 


This guy is near the end of the line for Star Tours.  He scans passengers, which is what the screen next to him is.  Disney does a great job on the details because from the other side of that screen, you peak through and see what he's looking at and they actually look like real, working computers.


While exiting Space Mountain we ran into a little trouble with a storm trooper.  Also, my husband wants this costume. 


Far away shot of the Matterhorn.  It was approximately a million degrees while we were waiting to ride the monorail and we saw three guys climbing to the top of the mountain.


This is a shot in the new Carsland at California Adventure.  They did such an amazing job it really felt like we were out in the desert.  The scorching heat only helped the illusion.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Disneyland

My husband and I just got back from a little vacation to the happiest place on Earth.  I hadn't been to Disneyland in 12 years and it had been 17 years for him so we thought it was time.  We spent the first day at Disneyland and went on a ton of rides.  I have to say that the fast pass is the most awesome thing ever.  We would get our fast passes for one ride, then go on rides with short lines, then jump past a ton of people by using our fast pass.  It felt like we spent most of the day on rides rather than waiting in line. 

The heat was awful, though.  We picked the week that had a massive heat wave covering most of our state (hello, 112* temps) and so it was horribly hot, even in Anaheim.  However, we got an early start, went back to our hotel to cool off when it got hot, then went back to do some of the late night stuff. 

Aside from the heat and the crowds (I don't recommend going in the summer time if you can avoid it), we had a wonderful time.  We got to check out the new Star Tours ride, which is amazing.  Seriously, it was a huge improvement over the way it used to be and it was an awesome ride when I was little.  We got some Star Wars souvenirs at the shop that you walk through after the ride.  Husband got a hat (to replace the one he lost on Splash Mountain) and I got a shirt. 

We got to watch the fireworks while we were on the Matterhorn, which was a great treat.  They started before we got on the ride so we watched from the line, then got to see them as we went around the mountain.  

We spent the second day at California Adventure.  They were still in the process of building it the last time I was there so I was excited to see what it looked like.  I loved the early 1900s feel that it had.  We went on Soarin' and Grizzly River Run.  Soarin' was incredible.  We got front row seats and it really felt like we were flying over California.  There is some crazy technology involved in that ride.  Grizzly River Run was so much fun.  We rode a raft with six other strangers, but it was fun.  Both times we rode we chatted with our fellow passengers and really enjoyed the experience.  Also, we got really wet both times, which made for a nice break from the heat.  I prefer that ride to Splash Mountain.  Splash Mountain has one big drop and two smaller ones.  The big drop scared the heck out of me and we didn't even get that wet.  Grizzly River Run has a bunch of drops, but nothing terrifying, and you actually get wet.  It's probably not as great if you're there in February, but it's wonderful in August. 

We did a few other things on our trip, which I'll share later once I have all the pictures that we took and I stop feeling quite so much like a zombie. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Between the Bridge and the River

Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson (host of the Late Late Show and known to many as Mr. Wick from the Drew Carey Show) was a pretty good book.  It starts out seeming like it will be a story about the relationship between two young boys, but then they reach high school, stop talking, and grow apart.  It's also about two brothers who try to make their way in Hollywood.  It's about finding God and what makes you happy. 

Overall, it was a decent book, but a little hard for me to get into.  It seemed to jump between these characters who had very little connection to each other and then into chapters of a character telling a story.  There are also scenes and chapters of at least one character having a dream/hallucination.  It is not a lighthearted book.  There are some very R and X-rated scenes, which I can normally handle, but some of the characters are just such disgusting people that it was a bit more revolting than it might normally be. 

The book does have some pretty funny parts, which is not at all surprising considering that the writer is a comedian.  The writing style is good, even if I didn't find the plot particularly grabbing until it got closer to the end.  I did like the message that seems to come from the book.  It doesn't say that one has to find God in order to be happy, but one should at least be a good person.  One of the main characters says that the primary rule in life is to help others. 

I think I would read something else by Craig Ferguson, although I admit I expected this book to be a bit more on the humorous side.  It did show that there is more to him than just the funny guy we see on stage. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life of Pi Movie

Oh my gosh, they finally turned this book into a movie!  I first heard that it was a possibility years ago, but when nothing really came of it I figured that the idea had been pushed aside by other projects, but now it has a trailer.

I read the book many years ago when it first came out and I absolutely loved it.  I've read it three times and even used it for a research paper in college.  This is one of my all-time favorite books and I am so excited to see it turned into a movie.  I'm incredibly curious to see how the ending is handled.  If you don't know why, go read the book.  I can't recommend this book enough.  If you do pick it up, I realize that the beginning is slow, but stick with it because the second part of the book is absolutely amazing. 

Here's the trailer.  Check it out.


Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Clearly I Should Not be Left Alone

This weekend my husband went away for a guy's weekend.  His best friend is getting married in September and they're having his bachelor party.  While I wasn't really looking forward to a weekend spent alone at home, I didn't really think it would be too bad, but evidently I was wrong.

I woke up on Saturday feeling pretty good about being by myself for the weekend.  I decided to put food in the hummingbird feeder because it was empty again (they finish off our huge feeder just about every day).  For the first time ever it was actually an easy process.  That should have been a sign that something would go wrong.  I think I managed to pull the hanger off the hook because when I let go the whole thing crashed to the ground.  Somehow the glass survived the drop, but the plastic part is in a million pieces now.  In the process I also managed to get myself covered in sugar water as well.

Later I decided to drive into town to get a few things.  On the way home my air conditioner crapped out (which is so much fun when it's 95* outside), which it's been doing because I thought it just couldn't handle the giant mountain that my car has to climb to get home.  Then when I got home I looked at my dash to see that my car was majorly overheating.  Thank goodness I made it home because otherwise that would have been terrifying.

I know it could have been a lot worse, but it still sucks and none of these sorts of things happen when my husband is around.  Probably because I would have had him refill the hummingbird feeder and we would have taken our other vehicle to go shopping, but still.  I think he's just not allowed to leave me again.  Or maybe the next time he leaves I'm just going to lock myself in the house and hide.

Oh, I also had to kill my own spider and it was huge.  Finding that thing right before I went to bed was not good for me.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

This is Just Wrong

I was checking out Cupcakes Take the Cake this morning and searching for some yummy inspiration when I happened across their blog post on this baby. 

Photo from bettycrocker.com
Seriously?  This just seems way too lazy.  I will be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a cake snob and I prefer scratch cupcakes over anything from a box (and don't even get me started on canned frosting), but this just seems like absolutely no effort whatsoever.  "Just add water?"  Really?  What about eggs or oil?  What's that going to taste like if all of your fats (which are supposed to hold the cake together) are made from some sort of powder?

I can see the benefits if you have a last minute cupcake emergency, but in general it doesn't take very long to mix up a quick batch of cupcakes.  This reminds me of that pancake batter in the bottle.  That freaks me out too.  I just don't trust foods that are that easy to make.

Out of curiosity, if there's anyone out there who has actually tried this stuff I'd love to hear about how it worked and how it tasted.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

I recently read Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, who you might also know as The Bloggess.  If you've ever read her blog you know that she is unbelievably funny and that holds true in her book.  I loved this book.  In fact, it might just be one of my new favorites. 

It's a collection of stories about some of the crazier things that have happened to her from asking people to identify their penises while working in HR to having wild animals around her house as a child.  Her stories will make you laugh out loud.  Because of that, I don't recommend reading the book in public unless you want to get a lot of looks.  As it was, I read it in my own house and my husband still looked at me like I was insane a few times.  Her book does include some not-so-funny parts, but she still manages to write them beautifully. 

The book also includes the story about how she got Beyonce the giant metal chicken, which is one of my favorites.  I read it when she posted it on her blog last year and laughed all over again as I read it in the book. 

If you need a good laugh, I highly recommend this book. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I Hate Pop Culture

A few weeks ago, I saw this on Pinterest:
 
https://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/224877_444574482227285_1314659769_n.jpg

At first, I just laughed at the sentiment.  My husband and I have had the conversation many times about the difference in female characters (and male characters too, but we're focusing on females) in the awesome sci-fi shows we watch versus some of the more popular shows on television.  This pic has stayed with me over the last few weeks and it honestly makes me a bit sad now.

I will admit that I don't recognize the first three woman on the geek culture row (I'll get there, I'm sure, but there's only so much tv we can watch in a day), but the last two are both well-known to me as they come from two of my favorite shows.  Those two woman are great role-models for young girls.  Both of them manage to be completely brilliant while managing to also be kind, beautiful, and just generally good people.  They are not sexualized, despite the fact that they are gorgeous.

The women in the top row are largely famous for doing nothing more than exposing themselves to the public and allowing their stupid decisions to be broadcast to the entire world and yet I'd be willing to bet that most people could identify more people from the top row than from the bottom. 

I think about my four-year-old niece and the types of female characters she will grow up with and likely idolize as many children do.  She will see these women and perhaps think it's normal to show off her body to everyone or spend all of her time partying.  I wouldn't have a problem with it if these women were also intelligent and were showing off their bodies while also explaining astrophysics.  I think Jeri Ryan's Voyager character, Seven of Nine, shows that it can be done.  And certainly the women in the geek culture line-up also happen to be gorgeous.  I mean, Terry Ferrell used to be a model and Amanda Tapping, at 46, still looks stunning, but the characters (and in every case I've seen so far, the actors as well) are very intelligent women who don't use their looks to get what they want.  I think those are the types of role models little girls need (and little boys as well).  This idea that being stupid is fun or funny and that being intelligent is only for losers needs to change.  It's not science fiction to think that women can be both beautiful and smart and I'd like to see some better role models for my future children.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ape House

I recently finished reading Ape House by Sara Gruen.  I picked it because Gruen wrote Water for Elephants, which I loved.  I enjoyed this book, but not as much as her first novel.  Ape House is about Isabel Duncan, a researcher who works with a group of bonobos.  When there is a bombing at the lab where she works and the bonobos live, she must work to figure out where they are and get them back.  She turns to a reporter named John Thigpen for help. 

The book is interesting, but it seemed like there should have been more to it.  The book seems like it's missing something.  I think part of that might be because there seems to be foreshadowing of certain events that never actually happen. 

Outside of that, the book is interesting.  Gruen seems to do a decent amount of research for her books and it shows in this one.  She clearly researched both sign language (which wasn't entirely necessary, though it did make it more interesting for me) and bonobos. 

The writing is wonderful and flows really well.  It was easy to get lost in the book and suddenly look up to realize I'd read nearly half the book.  While this book wasn't as wonderful as Water for Elephants, it was definitely worth the read and I look forward to more books by Gruen. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope everyone out there has a fun and safe 4th of July!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Forgotten Books

In creating the list of books I've read (which you can find here), I realized that I left a few books out.  I read all of them while I was recovering from surgery so I'm not all that surprised that they were passed over.  It has nothing to do with how much I enjoyed them, though.

First I read Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton.  It was a Christmas gift from my husband and, while I started it on Christmas Eve, I quickly stopped.  I realized that I was going to fly through it because of how easily the book flowed so I decided to save it for my recovery.  I loved it.  It's Wheaton's story of how he created a new career for himself by writing and also about learning to be honest with himself and with the fans who read his blog.

He uses a lot of his old blog posts to illustrate not only his thoughts and feelings at the time the posts were written, but to show the evolution of his writing style and his story-telling abilities (which are fantastic, by the way).  I'd recommend any of his books.

Secondly (and thirdly, and fourthly), I read the Tenebrea trilogy by Roxann Dawson and Daniel Graham.  Dawson is well-known for her role as B'Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager.  She was one of my favorite characters on the show and I loved the episodes she directed so I decided to give the first book, Entering Tenebrea a shot.  I figured that if it was awful I didn't need to buy the other two books.  I ended up ordering Tenebrea's Hope and Tenebrea Rising when I was only about half-way through the first book.  I knew that I wouldn't want to wait to see what happened to the characters.

The story is about a young woman named Andrea who witnesses the murder of her husband and daughter.  She is taken in by an alien named Hal K'Rin who trains her to be part of his personal army called the Tenebrea.  Under his command she infiltrates a planet of humans who manufacture clones and ends up helping with a clone rebellion.

These books are so well-written.  They move quickly and have very vivid descriptions as well as great characters and an intriguing plot.  There are more than enough twists and turns to keep you occupied.  I rarely say this, but I would read these books again.  I can only say that about a handful of books that I've read so it really means something.  If you have any interest in science-fiction at all you should read them.  Even for the non sci-fi fan I think these books would still be enjoyable.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Name Change

I've decided to change the name of my blog to Vox Sola.  It seemed more fitting than My 101.  Vox sola means "one voice" in Latin.  It also happens to be a Star Trek reference, which is rather fitting for me.  Also, this blog covers more than just my 101 in 1001 list and eventually that list will be finished and the name really won't make sense anymore.  So I've changed it. 

It also happens to be the name that I picked on Twitter.  I'm @vox_sola over there.  So far, I mostly created it so I can easily follow some of the celebrities I enjoy like Wil Wheaton (@wilw), Amanda Tapping (@amandatapping) and Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess (@TheBloggess) along with a few others.  I doubt I'll be tweeting much, but if you're interested, feel free to follow me. 

Packing for Mars

My latest book was Packing for Mars by Mary Roach.  I'd heard good things about the author from both Epbot and from a Nerdist podcast where they interviewed Jeri Ryan.  The premise sounded interesting so I picked it up from my library.  Mary Roach writes books on scientific topics, but presents them in a way that is not only easy to understand by those outside the field she's studying, but also funny.   

Packing for Mars is a collection of information about the current NASA program.  It covers early NASA missions and some of the issues they faced along with how new technologies are tested before they're sent into space and information on the potential for our journey to Mars.  The book was published before NASA's budget was basically decimated, so some of the information doesn't stand anymore (like dates about when we might try to visit Mars), but the information in the book is still really interesting. 

I love getting my scientific information from someone so funny.  She shares some of the stories that she finds that don't generally see the light of publication, which not only shows the reality of what's happening, it makes her a more credible source.  I could definitely tell that she did a ton of research.  She also participated in a lot of the activities herself (when she could), such as a parabolic flight to feel weightlessness, and a visit to Devon Island to see how NASA prepares for missions on the moon or Mars.  The book is by no means comprehensive (that much information wouldn't fit in a single book), but it does give a good idea of what it takes to be an astronaut and how much planning goes into sending humans into space.  I highly recommend this book. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday was ten days ago, but I'm just now getting a chance to write about the awesome gift my husband got me.  Technically, I asked for it, including sending him the link in the right size. 

I got this baby:


I borrowed the photo from the seller's listing.  I found it on Etsy from a shop called Chain of Being.  They're out of Alameda, CA so for me they're relatively local, which was an added bonus.  The only downside was that it took almost a week to be shipped, though it did arrive fairly quickly after that (and I realize that the seller has no control over how long it takes to arrive once they send it). 

Outside of the slowness, I love this bracelet.  It's well-made and gorgeous.  Plus, it's nerdy without being obviously so.  In case you weren't sure, it's the planets of our solar system along with the sun and the distances between them are proportional to the actual distances between the planets.  Each of the tiny black beads represents about 40,000 miles.  A lot of work went into making these and I think it paid off.  I've worn my bracelet since the day I got it. 

The seller has a lot of other cool nature-based jewelry including a necklace with the different layers of the atmosphere and one that looks like veins and arteries.  You should definitely check it out. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Prometheus

This weekend my husband and I went to see Prometheus.  I have to say I had high expectations for this movie.  The trailer looked awesome and it had so many great names attached to it.  Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown.  It felt like they put all of their money into graphics and special effects (which, admittedly, were awesome), but they forgot to put enough money into the story.  It seemed like they wanted to have a big ensemble cast, but they didn't develop the characters enough.  The characters would make random decisions that felt completely contradictory to how the character had been up to that point. 

The acting is decent.  Charlize Theron does a great job (when does she not?) and Noomi Rapace did a pretty good job too.  Outside of that you barely get to know any of the other characters so they don't really have a chance to shine. 

Like I said, the graphics are amazing and there are some really cool shots, especially at the beginning.  Also, the setting that they chose for the beginning shots is incredible (it turns out it's in Iceland).  That said, it doesn't make up for a weak plot and poor characters.  I don't recommend seeing this one in theatres.  Save your money and get it from Redbox in a couple months. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Book Thief

I finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak last night and I have to say that I loved this book.  It's told from the point of view of death about a young girl who steals books.  He develops a fascination with her and ends up telling a story about her adolescence and experiences growing up in Germany during World War II.

The writing style is different than usual, which took me a few pages to get used to.  It's totally worth it, though, because it adds something to the book.  It's a bit haunting as well to hear so much about death.  However, it completely makes sense considering the time period.

The story is beautifully told and has very rich descriptions without seeming over done.  Dialogue was very realistic and if you read it you'll even learn a handful of swear words in German.  It makes sense in context, though.

The author has written a couple other books and I'm hoping to find at least one of them at my library.  I couldn't find them in the bookstore last night, but I was a bit rushed.  I highly recommend this book. 


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thank you, Wil Wheaton

I read Wil Wheaton's blog religiously and he's mentioned a few times that a friend of his does this podcast called The Nerdist.  That little tidbit stuck in the back of my mind, but I didn't really do anything about it.  I've been really bored with my current music selection and I wanted something else to listen to while I'm by myself at work so I decided to check it out.  As it turns out, it's not the best idea for something to listen to at work because I'm too busy laughing hysterically to get much work done.  I learned that the hard way when my coworker came back from lunch and looked at me like I'd lost my mind because I was crying from laughing so hard and I was all by myself.  That said, it's still awesome and something you should definitely check out.  So far I've only listened to two of them (the one with Wil Wheaton and another with Jeri Ryan), but I can't wait to listen to others.  I highly recommend it. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Kite Runner

I just read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which is the story of Amir and his life growing up in Afghanistan.  It starts out when he is about twelve years old and covers his relationship with his best friend, Hassan, and his father throughout his life. 

This book was incredible.  Engaging and descriptive writing that really gave me an idea of what it was like to grow up in Afghanistan during the last thirty years or so.  Not only that but it tells a very touching story that left me heartbroken a few times.  The book isn't exactly full of twists (though there is one big one), but it wasn't needed in order to keep me connected.  I read the book in four days while doing plenty of other things (including getting attacked by a bee, but that's another story). 

I will say, there are at least two parts that are disturbing.  Had I know that they were coming, I might have skipped reading it, so if you tend to be sensitive, I would recommend skipping this one.  However, the story that is told is beautiful and well worth those few moments. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Yesterday my husband and I wanted to get out of the house so we decided to go see a movie.  We checked out what was playing and picked Snow White and the Huntsman.  I was a little wary since I can't stand Kristen Stewart, but the trailer looked good so we decided to go for it. 

It's an interesting way of doing the traditional story.  She still meets the dwarves (though they have different names) and she eats the poison apple, but it happens a bit differently than in the Disney version. 

Chris Hemsworth plays the huntsman (who is never given a name) and he does it well.  I sort of expected him to play the traditional hero, but he's not.  He's a bit reluctant to help and he's a drunk.  As expected, Kristen Stewart is less than stellar.  I just couldn't get into her as Snow White.  She just seemed so useless.  It was partially the writing, I'm sure, because she wasn't really given a chance to do much until the end, but it seems like she should have had something to do other than just relying on other people to help her.  Charlize Theron is amazing as the evil queen, though.  She gives an incredible performance that left me with goosebumps more than once.  She was certainly the highlight of that movie for me. 

The movie was very well done, and there are some really interesting cinematic effects, but I just couldn't get over how lackluster Snow White was, both in the way she was written and in the performance.  I realize that Snow White isn't supposed to be the hero of her own story, but it seems to me they could have given her something to do or some sort of magical powers, since she's supposed to be the only one who can take down the evil queen. 

Overall, not my favorite movie, but still worth watching if for no other reason than to see Charlize Theron's scenes.  There's another Snow White movie out this year with Julia Roberts and I'd be curious to compare the two. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

On Saturday my husband and I spent the day mostly sitting around.  Well, actually we did stuff early in the morning, and in the evening, but we spent most of the early afternoon hours doing nothing but sitting around.  I got a sudden craving for macaroni and cheese so I searched for a recipe that wouldn't require me to go shopping and I went ahead and made it.  I started with this recipe and made a few little changes as I went. 


It came out pretty decently, though it was a little grainy for my taste.  I think it could have used a bit less flour in it.  Next time, I'll cut back on the flour, use a more flavorful cheese (I used extra sharp cheddar, but I think it needs something else), and add something else like yogurt or cream cheese to help add to the creaminess. 

Here's my slightly updated version of the recipe:

8 ounces of pasta (I just eyeballed half a box)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon mustard

8 oz shredded cheese 

Cook the pasta, drain.  In a separate saucepan, melt butter and add the flour.  Slowly stir in the milk.  Mix until the lumps are gone.  Add mustard.  Stir in the cheese.  Add pasta.  Serve. 

You can add whatever you like to the top.  I added salt to taste, some cayenne pepper, and bread crumbs.  The bread crumbs made it feel a little bit more like the baked stuff and added a nice flavor to it. 

I also recommend shredding the cheese yourself.  Pre-shredded stuff comes with anti-caking agents so that the shredded cheese doesn't clump together in the bag.  It changes how it melts.  It will, however, look like an obscene amount of cheese.  It took up an entire dinner-size plate. 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Origins

I just finished reading Origins by Randolph Lalonde.  I found it for free for the Kindle App that I have on my ipod and it sounded interesting.  It's a science fiction story, told from the point of view of Captain Jonas Valent, of a crew that is essentially forced into service after they are found participating in military simulations and doing surprisingly well.  He must take his largely untrained crew and defend their home from the corporations that are trying to take over. 

It's self-published, so I was a little wary at first.  It turns out it's the first in a series, thought I didn't realize that when I bought it.  The beginning is a little confusing.  It seems to jump around a lot, but the characters were intriguing so I kept going.  I'm glad I did.  There are a few minor spelling issues, but that's to be expected with self-published works.  I've found errors in books from big publishers.  It's not enough to detract from the story.  After my initial confusion at the beginning, the story got interesting.  It's well-written and the dialog is very realistic.  It has some pretty funny moments in it as well.  The characters seem fairly well-developed as well, especially considering that there's a message from the author at the end that explains that the story basically started out as practice for him with no intention of publishing.

I was a little disappointed with the ending, but it makes sense now that I know there are more stories that involve this crew.  I might have to pick one up just to see what happens to them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Top Ten Star Trek: Voyager Episodes


I hear a lot of people talk about Star Trek: Voyager very negatively.  It's the poor, unwanted step-child of the Star Trek world and everyone seems to love to hate it.  Personally, I loved the series.  This is the series that turned me into a real Trekkie.  I'd watched almost all of TNG before we started watching Voyager, and I loved TNG, but Voyager had much more interesting characters, in my opinion.  I loved that Star Fleet and the Maquis had to work together in order to survive.  I agree with a lot of critics that they should have used that conflict a bit more throughout the story, and it would have been nice to see them really struggle for a few episodes at a time rather than having everything fixed at the end of every episode, but it was still a great show.  It had very real characters and some fantastic acting. 


So, for those who are a little wary of watching Voyager, or those who just need to see that there were some really good episodes, here's my version of the top ten Voyager episodes. 

1.  "Thirty Days"

The episode starts with Tom Paris' demotion back to ensign and Janeway punishing him with thirty days in the brig.  He spends the episode writing a letter to his father about why he's there and what he thinks of the situation.  It's told through flashbacks, but is a very well-done episode.  Robert Duncan McNeill's performance is great.  He does a good job conveying Tom's regret that he disappointed his captain, but that he knows that what got him in trouble needed to be done.

2.  "Blood Fever"

There are a lot of people who don't like this episode because they think it's just an episode about sex.  While that is the basic issue that's going on, there's a lot more to it.  It's a continuation of B'Elanna's struggle with herself.  A Vulcan on board is experiencing pon farr (Vulcan mating) and he wants B'Elanna.  He touches her and she ends up going through the same thing, but doesn't know about it until she's freaking out inside some caves on a planet.  While the episode is really hot (Roxann Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill are adorable together), both actors do a great job to convince you that it's not just about sex. 

3.  "The Killing Game"

In this two-part episode, the Hirogen have taken over Voyager and they're using the holodecks to put almost all of the crew into simulations so that they can be hunted.  Most of the crew is in a World War II simulation where they believe they are part of the French resistance.  The crew has some sort of device implanted in them so they believe that they are the characters they're playing.  I enjoy just about anything that has to do with the resistance movement during World War II, so this combined two things I love, but it's also a very interesting episode.  They use Roxann Dawson's real-life pregnancy and Jeri Ryan gets to show off her amazing voice.  The fights with the Hirogen are also very enjoyable.

4.  "Real Life"

The Doctor decides that he wants to see what it would be like to have a family so he creates one on the holodeck.  They're perfect in every way, until B'Elanna points out that their perfection is unnatural and his experience is unrealistic.  She offers to make some changes to the program to make it a little less perfect.  The EMH has to learn to deal with a sullen teenager and an injured daughter.  This episode has made me cry like a baby every time I see it.  Robert Picardo's performance as a father watching his sick little girl in bed is very moving.  For a character who is usually comedic to be so emotional (and do it so well) really shows the acting strength of Picardo. 

5.  "Riddles"

This episode is Roxann Dawson's directing debut (which is why B'Elanna isn't in this episode) and she does a great job.  Tuvok, played by Tim Russ, has been his by some sort of weapon right as he discovers that someone is concealing themselves aboard the shuttle that he's on.  The weapon causes him to lose his memory and his Vulcan control.  Neelix helps him find a new function on the ship while they search for a cure.  Russ' performance is excellent.  It was nice to see him get a chance to show off what he can really do because he's normally so controlled and fairly boring. 

6.  "Infinite Regress"

After Voyager gets too close to a Borg debris field, Seven begins to embody a variety of people who were assimilated by the Borg.  Not only does this episode have some really funny parts (like when Seven believes she is a Ferengi), it shows a large range for Jeri Ryan.  She goes from playing a Klingon who wants to mate with B'Elanna to a little girl playing with Naomi and just about everything in between. 

7.  "Latent Image"

The EMH discovers that he is missing memories from a few months prior.  When he goes in search of what happened, he discovers that someone on board is keeping him from finding out the truth.  He discovers that Captain Janeway deleted those memories and she is forced to tell him that he lost a patient and it sent him into such a state that they nearly lost his program.  He fights for his right to not have his program altered without his consent and she agrees.  This leads him into a tailspin that sends him from completely fine at the beginning of the episode to a mental breakdown by the end.  Again, Robert Picardo does a fantastic job.  My favorite Doctor episodes are the ones where he isn't as funny as usual because Picardo really gets to shine.

8.  "Sacred Ground"

After Kes gets hit by an energy burst in a shrine while visiting a planet, Captain Janeway must go through a grueling ritual to try to save her.  This episode is Robert Duncan McNeill's directing debut (both he and Dawson have gone on to become great directors).  I love this episode.  Kate Mulgrew's performance and the wonderful directing make this a very powerful episode that furthers the relationship between Janeway and Kes.

9.  "Body and Soul"

When their shuttle is boarded by a race who hates holograms the Doctor downloads his program into Seven's borg implants in order to hide.  Seven is forced to share her body with someone who is experiencing all that life has to offer.  This episode has a great performance by Jeri Ryan and also manages to be hysterical.  The fact that the doctor is controlling Seven leads to some very interesting situations.

10.  "Remember"

While transporting a group of telepaths, B'Elanna starts to have very vivid dreams that turn out to be someone else's memories and she must figure out what happened to this woman.  This is the episode that made B'Elanna on of my favorite Trek characters and really showed what a great actress Roxann Dawson is.  Dawson herself has even said that this is one of the episodes that she's proudest of and you can see why when you watch it.  Amazing performance.

As you can see, I tend to be drawn toward character-driven episodes with great acting, which is something that Voyager was very good at at times.  There are a lot of other great episodes too.  What do you think?  Did I miss any of the great ones?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers Review

My husband and I went to see The Avengers this afternoon.  It turns out just about everyone else in town had the same idea because it was packed. 

I will start this by saying that I've never read the comics.  I just happened to enjoy all of the other Marvel movies that came out.  So, if it's not entirely accurate to the original story, I wouldn't know.

The basic plot is that Loki (Thor's brother) is back and he wants to take over Earth and turn humans into his slaves.  He has some new friends, the Chitauri, who are going to help him do that.  In order to fight him and save Earth, the Avengers must learn to work together, despite their differences.  

The movie was awesome.  The beginning did spend a little too long reintroducing the characters again in my opinion (except for Hawkeye, which is the one character I couldn't place), but once the actual story got going it was really good.  The movie is just under 3.5 hours and it flew by.  Definitely not a movie where you're checking your watch.  I've seen a lot of action movies that just seem to be focused on explosions rather than plot, but this one has a good story behind it.  All of the actors did a fine job, not that that's a big surprise considering the list of big names that they have. 

I also liked that it let all of the characters shine.  Each of them has a story going on in this movie and no one was more important than the others so it truly felt like they were coming together.  It didn't feel like it was just another movie about any one character with some appearances by the others. 

The ending leaves an opening for more Avengers movies, which I will eagerly await. 

I highly recommend this movie, especially if you've enjoyed any of the other Marvel movies. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Reunion

Have you seen this?  It's a short article on the ST:TNG reunion that took place in Calgary last weekend.  For the first time in 25 years, the entire cast got together on stage at a convention and talked about their experiences on the show.

Photo borrowed from the site above

For someone who is a huge fan, like me, this was great to see.  I love seeing the relationships they have to one another and their view of some of the things that happened on the show.  The bottom of the article also has a link to a video.  It has five parts so it's a bit long, but it covers most of their panel. 

Also, I have to say that Gates McFadden (who played Dr. Crusher) looks phenomenal.  It's been 25 years since TNG started and she manages to look the same. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Star Wars Day!

May 4th is Star Wars Day!  So to celebrate I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite Star Wars related things.

There are a lot of Star Wars cupcakes floating around the internet, but I think these are my favorites.  I wish I had the time and patience for something like these.  I'm pretty sure my husband would die of happiness if I made these for him.  I'm not entirely sure how they were made, but they're awesome.  Yoda and R2D2 are my favorites.

Speaking of R2, these shorts by Areyna Schmidt are amazing.  She painted them herself.  That's a lot of talent.


Lastly, the R2D2 ballerina.  There are no words for how awesome I think this is.  That outfit is gorgeous, perfect for a ballerina.  The fact that it's inspired by R2D2 just makes it that much better.


What sort of Star Wars inspired things have you seen lately?

May the fourth be with you (get it?).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blankets and Burp Cloths

Some friends of ours are having their first baby in July.  They're expecting a little girl and next weekend I'm going to a shower for the mom-to-be.  So I spent the other day making some little goodies for her new little one.

I made a simple blanket.


Both sides are flannel.  One is solid pink and the other is white with green polka dots.  I used a yard and a half of each fabric and just made it as big as possible.  I believe it's 38" x 52".  I would have appliqued the baby's first initial onto one of the corners, but as of now they aren't sure how they're going to spell her name. 

Next I made some embellished burp cloths.



These are really easy to make.  I just measured the center section and added about 3/4" on each side.  The fabric started out at about 20" x 6".  Fat quarters would easily give you two or you could use scraps if you have large enough pieces.  Fold the edges under and sew the fabric in place.  I made two with each fabric. 






I threw in a little sundress and a book to complete the gifts.  I can't wait to celebrate this new little baby next weekend and meet her this summer.

Sewing for babies is so much fun and these projects were really easy.  It felt really good to sew again as I haven't done it since we moved seven months ago.  Now I want to keep going.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ready Player One

I just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline yesterday before I went to work.  It's a story that takes place in the future where just about everyone spends their time inside a virtual reality called the OASIS.  When the creator of the OASIS died and leaves behind his fortune to the first person who can solve the clues he's left behind, the search is on.  The book is told from the point of view of Wade Watts, a young man who is one of the people trying to solve the puzzle. 

I loved this book.  It is filled with references to 80s music, games, movies, and television.  I'm sure some of them went over my head, but the ones that I did get were great.  While they add to the story for those who do get them, I don't think someone who was unfamiliar with them would feel like they were missing anything.  It's a very well-told story with interesting characters and lots of plot twists.  While some parts are a little predictable, I still thought it was a great book.  I only wish this weren't his first novel so there would be more to read. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Star Trek Technology

This just made my day!  I was on Pinterest and I happened to find a link to this baby.  It's a real-life working tricorder.  It's still fairly basic.  It's not quite as fancy as the ones they had on Star Trek, but it's a start.  I love being able to see things from Star Trek come to life.  Technology is an amazing thing. 

I've had this conversation with a few other Trekkies about the technology that we use today largely being inspired by things that appeared on Star Trek back as far as the late 60s.  Some of the ideas that they had in the 80s and 90s are spot on with today's tech gadgets.  We have touch-pads, Kindles (and other e-reading devices), and USB drives.  These are all things that showed up in Star Trek long before they hit the stores.  As a huge fan, I love seeing that we're going in that direction. 

Now I just need to convince my husband that we need one of these. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gardening

We had a brief moment of spring here not too long ago.  It's back to raining (though, fortunately, not snowing anymore).  The seasons seem to be confused.  We had almost no weather for the entire season of winter.  Then two days before spring started we got a crazy snow storm and it has continued storming on and off since then.  Hopefully this weekend will be the last of it. 

Anyway, the husband and I got it into our heads to take care of our lawn, which led to me wanting to plant something colorful in the flowerbeds outside our front window.  So we went off to Lowe's to find a couple flowers.  Then we saw that the vegetable plants were in and we ended up walking out of there with an entire garden's worth of plants.  I got my colorful flowers.  We bought two different kinds of daisies and a bunch of ranunculus* for the window bed.  They look so bright and cheery on the front of our house.  I forgot to take pictures of them though and it's cold outside right now.  Google them if you want to see pretty pictures. 

We also plants tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, and strawberries.  My husband planted a lemon tree that we desperately want to see grow.  Not only will it give us lemons, but it will block out that neighbor's view of our yard and it was much cheaper than raising that entire fence.  We also have a blueberry plant that is currently homeless in our yard.  If it ever stops raining we'll find it a nice home. 

Now I'm ready for summer and the ability to eat food from my own garden.  And there's only 5 more weeks until our farmer's market starts back up.  I love summer produce.


*Blogger's spell check doesn't recognize this word.  It wants it to be homunculus.  Seeing that made me laugh.  Reminds me of the Big Bang Theory.  Also, if your mom watches the show, don't call her a homunculus, even if she's only five feet tall.  She will not find it nearly as funny as you do. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Balsamic and White Wine Pasta Sauce

Last summer my husband and I went out to eat at a local restaurant that has amazing food.  They always have a seasonal menu to go along with the regular one and they had a pasta dish with a bunch of veggies and chicken in it and a balsamic and white wine sauce.  It is amazing.  I seriously thought about it for weeks after we went there.  I tried to find something similar online and either I suck at searching (entirely possible) or there's nothing on the internet like that recipe (less likely). 

I tried to experiment.  I knew it had garlic and white wine and balsamic vinegar.  I substituted water for the wine (because I'm cheap and I'm not a big fan of white wine), but I could not figure it out to save my life.  I had two massive fails under my belt and just couldn't seem to find anything to help me.  Then we went back to the restaurant.  I asked for that meal even though it wasn't on the menu (which I've done before) and she said they couldn't do it.  So I asked for something similar (no balsamic vinegar).  It was good, but not quite the same.  I took my leftovers home and added some vinegar to it the next day.  Amazingly, it tasted almost exactly like it.  I figured out that the trick was adding the vinegar at the end and I was determined to make it work. 

So I spent Friday night looking at recipes for a white wine sauce and figured out the basics (like simmering the sauce to burn off the alcohol).  Saturday night I made it and it's actually a fairly close approximation.  It's close enough to keep me happy throughout the year. 

I didn't measure anything, so these are just estimates, but feel free to try it and make your own changes.

1 cup white wine
2-3 cups water
2 Tbsp of garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt
pasta
whatever veggies you like

First, throw some EVOO and the garlic into a pan and saute it a bit.  Once it starts to smell really good add the white wine and water.  Add a touch of salt.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Start boiling your pasta.  I used angel hair pasta.  Taste the sauce.  If you can still taste the alcohol, keep simmering it (I had to check mine twice-garlic wine is not a good flavor). 
At the very end when the white wine sauce is done, add the balsamic vinegar.  Add more if you like.  The sauce should be a light brown.  Throw in your veggies and pasta.  I used artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes.  The restaurant also adds mushrooms and chicken.  Saute it all together for a few minutes and serve. 

Other than waiting for the sauce to simmer this recipe is really quick and simple.  Adding some chicken might add some time, but if you already have some cooked then it wouldn't take long at all. 

This is an delicious summertime dish when the veggies are fresh, but it's good all year round.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I finished Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy yesterday before I left for work.  I'm not sure if it's because I was expecting so much more from such a well-known book or if I'm just one of those few people who don't fully appreciate it but I found it a little lackluster.  Some parts of it were certainly funny, but it seemed like so much of it was unnecessary filler and the ending is so blah.  Adams has a pretty funny sense of humor (he had Monty Python connections and it shows), but I just didn't feel connected to the characters at all.  I feel like I might still be comparing everything I read to the Tenebrea trilogy by Roxann Dawson because I read it recently and absolutely loved it.  I tend to do that with really great books.  Hopefully I'll find something to really pique my interest soon. 

Resistance is Futile

I tried to resist; I really did.  Everyone kept posting about Pinterest and I thought I didn't need another social networking thing.  I even checked it out and spent some time looking at stuff before I signed up and I didn't really get the whole point of it.  So I waited and occasionally went back and checked it out.  I watched my friends posting on Facebook that they had pinned something new.  Then I found a few interesting recipes and some funny pictures and I decided to join.  Now, this is exactly how I feel:



I even found this on Pinterest.  I borrowed this from here

So suffice it to say I have a new time suck and I plan on spending even more time there.  If you haven't checked it out I highly recommend it.  Unless, you know, you have things to do in which case I don't recommend it because those things will never get done.  Don't say I didn't warn you.