Thursday, October 31, 2013

Costumes Done Right

Halloween has gotten pretty ridiculous in some ways. (To be fair, so has Christmas.)

Chuck & Beans

I've been over the Drool-Inducing Costume of Uncreative Idiocy since before it started. Now, it's almost impossible to find a prepackaged women's costume that isn't focused on getting laid as quickly as possible. We all get it: sexy mummy, sexy Mad Hatter, and sexy pizza are all a thing (NSFW links, duh). Try a different adjective; you're starting to sound like a bad romance novel.

This is one of many reasons I prefer to craft my own costumes. I've always really enjoyed pushing boundaries and pretending to be someone I'm not. For example, these are some of my previous costumes.

Tigger
A hobo boy
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull
Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde

Sure, baring it all is bold and sassy. But I think it's bolder to think outside the conventional and be true to your inner badass.

That's why I'm Freddie Mercury this Halloween.


We're all a little bit Freddie at heart, I think.


P.S. For fun: terrible sexy literary costumes to try!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Books I Want: Sorrow's Knot and Hyperbole and a Half

Today's a beautiful day in the neighborhood because there are some amazing books coming out that I've been anticipating for months.

Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Bow's first book, Plain Kate, has totally enchanted my life. It's gorgeous writing (prosetry, more like) with a dark story and great characters. One of my favorite things about it was the shadow magic that was so crucial to the plot, which dark and creepy and everything I love in a ghost story. It's also why I'm glad Sorrow's Knot is focused on shadow magic.

Binders are women who tie knotted cords that are full of magic, and the goal of these cords is to hold back the uneasy dead, who dwell in shadow. Otter, whose mother was also a binder, anticipates becoming a binder until her power turns and begins to tear her apart.

Read some great reviews here, and if you're not convinced yet (which you should be), read an excerpt here.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half is a different kind of book entirely. These are collected stories from Brosh's blog (plus some great new stuff), all about her overimaginative childhood (and adulthood), Special Dog, Helper Dog, and a sneaky hate spiral (I hope). She draws artfully terrible pictures with MS Paint that illustrate the story and tell stories of their own. All of it combines for the kind of raucous laughter that should be reserved for the home, unless you want strangers at the bus stop to think you're crazy.

(They might think that already, but such laughter would just cement it for them. I say who cares - read it wherever your eyes will let you.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh, Goatley...

Happy Monday! Are you the big goat or the little goat? This morning, my head felt like the little one.

video

I'd love another day off, but that would be greedy of me. I had a great weekend, with lots of reading, knitting, time with Spousal Unit, and a few hours of wool carding at the farm.

"You're not allowed to have better facial hair than me. C'mere, let me nibble it."

This is one of the sheep I helped shear in the spring...

...and this is the resulting wool, cleaned, dyed, and ready for carding.

I made seven rovings, which can now be turned into yarn!

I really like the cotton candy one. And the blue, purple, and green one.

Arranging the flower box cornucopia, just like my mama taught me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Troy Noir, Private Eye: Part II


The dame gives me the low-down on Paulson. "He's been a high-stakes gambler for years," she says between sips of wine. "Poor idiot doesn't know when to stop, though. So he pulls schemes like this to make it up."

"Like what?" I ask. Going in, all I knew was he scammed like the best of them. No one mentioned this dame as his partner, either.


"His latest one was trying to sell air. As in, the air we're breathing right now. Not one of his better schemes, but would you believe some people were falling for it?"

I'm a little shocked as she pulls a bottle of wine from her purse. Granted, she's been putting them back, but I'd have figured her as a flask kinda girl.

"He's near the tracks," she says, nodding toward the railway by the river. "When you find him, offer a glass of this. He won't be able to resist."


"'Tears of the panther,'" I translate with my flawless Italian.

"It's his favorite, but this bottle has something ... special in it," she says.

Getting directions, I head out, looking like the classiest wino in town with the bottle at my side. Near the tracks, this shady character is looking around.


I offer him a glass of wine from the start, figuring it will relax him. Paulson doesn't even blink; he says yes as I realize I've forgotten both a cork screw and a glass. I shove the cork into the bottle and hand him the whole thing, and he pulls a crystal goblet from his jacket pocket. What kind of guy is this? I wonder.

He sips, casually talking about the fool he just sold some air to. It doesn't take the dame's trick long; he begins to slur after a few minutes, and as the train comes rushing by, I cuff him.


"You won't get away with this, Noir!" Paulson shouts as the cops lead him away.

But I already have, and I'm satisfied at another job well done. Now I'll be the one selling air to the foolish.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Troy Noir, Private Eye

It was a crisp day in early October, one of those that makes you glad you wore long johns, and also makes you wish for something with a little kick to warm your belly.


I headed to the local joint to have a shot of whisky, but they were all out, so I had to settle for wine. I don't know why I go to that place. The wine made me look distinguished, but do I look like a guy who cares? I had bigger fish to fry. I was on the case, looking for the guy who skimmed my client in a ponzi scheme. Naturally, the cellar was the place to start, but my clues were few and the wine was weak, so I couldn't get the ideas flowing. I headed out back to see if I could find anything there.


Sure enough, this dame's out back. She has a smile like she knows things, right? Like she's there for more than just the wine. Any other PI would have fallen for it, but I was focused.

"What do you know about Paulson's set-up?" I asked her as she ran a hand through her red locks.

"Beg pardon," she replied, "But what makes you think I know anything? I'm just here for a drink."


She was good, this lady. Her lips were sealed, but some wine loosened them pretty quick. "Sure, I know what you're talking about," she said after a few glasses. "Paulson and I had other business together, but he cut me out of this one. If I give you the right clues, will you pay him back for me?"

I ain't in the business of killing, but this dame could be the end of me, I thought. "I'll lock him up for you, how's that?"


To be continued ...
Part II

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

25 Things Before 30

Holy carp. I'm going to turn 30 on my next birthday. Which means I'm 29 right now. It seems odd, but I haven't directly thought about that until now.

Anyway. In the spirit of cutting myself some slack, I've decided some of my goals for this year need to be easier to achieve. Hopefully I'll get higher than a technically failing grade this year - I'd be satisfied with at least a D.

1. Pet a penguin (or at least have fun writing letters to zoos about why I should be allowed to).

2. Get three rejection letters for my novel.

3. Read at least 15 books during the year (my reading pace this year was pathetic, but that was due to the novel). Five should be from my to-read list on Goodreads, and one should be Isaac Asimov.

4. Read six books from six continents, plus something about Antarctica.

5. Make cannoli.

6. Make something Norwegian that I don't often make, like fruit soup or sandbakkels.

7. Make applesauce.

8. Get serious about house hunting about a year from now. If that doesn't end up being a possibility, then ... well, I'll find something to do instead.

9. Knit the mittens that a character in my book wears (blue, orange, and yellow, with green turtles).

10. Crochet some cool Christmas ornaments.

11. Yoga. Three times a week, minimum.

12. Hang out with my friend Liz. It has been too long.

13. Use that awesome red sock yarn that I got for my last birthday - probably on this.

14. Bake yeast-based bread more often (I make it about twice a year as is).

15. Use the crock pot a lot. (This will help make life less stressful.)

16. Visit the Vitense climbing wall.

17. Learn to do woodcarving/whittling.

18. Next summer, have more useful plants. Much of what I have now just sit there and are green.

19. Go camping.

20. Fix the sewing machine.

21. Get a working bike.

22. Take a yoga class.

23. Fix the chip in the car's windshield before November 15.

24. Meditate more than once every other month (not counting the sessions at work).

25. Remember those socks I started? FINISH THEM.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

25 Things: The Year in Review

Yesterday continued to be the most wonderful birthday in the world even after breakfast. I finished draft 4 of the book, got a massage, had a great bath, and went to The Melting Pot for dinner with Spousal Unit, where he showed that he really does listen when I talk about things, even if I feel stupid for wanting jewelry for my birthday (because it's so not me).

A blue opal necklace! (October's birthstone)

Anyway, that's not what I came here to talk about. I came to talk about my 25 things that I did in the last year (or tried to do). Lately, I've been trying to cut myself some slack, because things have been rough and my standards are always so high that they're asking me, "Dude, where are all the snacks?!" So I will go easy on myself when interpreting whether something was accomplished or not.


1. Take a creative class - painting, writing, etc. - I'm counting this even though the "class" I took was free - I still created a pendant for myself.

2. Bake something extra-difficult. Then make other people eat it. Because I'm evil. - This was Kaelin's pigs-in-mud birthday cake.

3. Get a bike - if not for myself, for Spousal Unit. - Well ... we have a bike. It just isn't in working order. Still, goal accomplished.
4. Volunteer somewhere - like a children's museum or an animal shelter. - Did not happen. Sad face.
5. Take Spousal Unit to Mall of America, as he's never been there. - Also did not happen. It was a crazy-busy summer.
6. Read a book about quantum physics. - Nope.
7. Finish the end of the novel, by the end of the year, so that I have a complete draft to rip to pieces, rearrange, and rewrite. - Done. Like, forever ago.

8. Check off steps 1 through 6 of my revision checklist. (Not as big a goal as it seems - I'm already halfway toward most of them.) - Done.
9. Write at least 200 words a day for the novel, starting November 1. I'm totally serious about this thing. - I didn't achieve this every day (nor in November), but some days I wrote more, and I got into a good habit of working on the novel every day. I'm pleased.
10. At least prepare a letter and the first chapter to go out to a publisher. - Done. I am awesome.
11. Get a kitty. - Two kitties acquired. Level up.
12. Go to Germany again. Or somewhere else awesome - I'm not picky. - Nope, nope, nope. Travel seems to be my main barrier here.
13. Mod Podge/paint a bookshelf. - Done. It's ugly, but it's done.
14. Go to Aztalan with Spousal Unit. - Did it.
15. Knit socks for myself. - I knit one ... but in the spirit of being good to myself, I'm going to give myself 3/4 of a point for good intentions.
16. Save a predetermined amount of money. - Done.
17. Visit three Madison museums - the first on my list is the Mustard Museum. - Did it. Went to the Mustard Museum, the historical museum, and the Chazen (even though we were only there to hear music, I think it still counts).
18. Finish all of the quilt squares and sew them together. (This doesn't mean finishing it, as it will still need a border.) - Yep.
19. Continue to exercise regularly. - Nope. Running is on hold, and I'm trying to get into a yoga routine, but it's slow going.
20. Reach a point where I do not expect to experience physical pain on a daily basis. I've given PT a shot; next up is massage and a chiropractor. - Pain isn't daily anymore! It's still more frequent than I'd like, but this is progress.
21. Continue to see the shrink. - The shrinkage has gone well.
22. Get my tattoo. This includes figuring out exactly where I want it, and how much of it I want to get at once. - Hasn't happened yet. It's on the way soon.
23. Go to a concert. I don't care what kind - indie, jazz, classical, Irish - but it has to be live, and it has to be more than just one person making musical noise in a room I happen to inhabit. I miss live music. - I went to two concerts this year, Shen Yun and The National!
24. Try to make music of my own again - as in, practice and become somewhat proficient again. I will pick between mandolin, piano, and flute. - Did not happen, and I think I'm saddest about this one. Music is great.
25. Research hunting, and possibly go hunting - I'm thinking turkeys, or maybe fishing. More on this idea to come - if nothing else, I want to go to an archery range. - Nope as far as the hunting stuff. But I don't think I wanted to do this. It was an interesting idea, but as I had no true interest, that's fine. I should have hit up the archery range, though.

Overall, I achieved 16 and 3/4 of my goals, comparable to the previous year, when I achieved 17 of them. That's great, but one year I'd really like to have a passing grade on this. Maybe I'll continue the process of being easy on myself and set some gentler goals for the next year.

Or maybe I'll do like I always have and push myself to boldly go, even when it's difficult.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me (Courtesy of Spousal Unit)

Spousal Unit is the best.

Yesterday started off with me forgetting my lunch. Spousal Unit had told me that he was working a later shift due to some West coast webinars, so we had driven separately. I called to ask him to put my lunch in the fridge, and he volunteered to bring it to me before he had to work. He brought it in, looking quite dapper in his work clothes, and hustled back out the door.

Shortly after that, word got around my department that I was taking today off because of my birthday. So people started saying happy birthday and wishing me well and asking what I was doing for my birthday, and because I'm quite an odd duck, I got a little stressed about it.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciated all the well wishes and that my coworkers care enough to pry because they want me to feel appreciated. I feel very lucky to have coworkers who pay attention to that kind of thing. But having all the birthday wishes burst forth when I'd almost managed to keep it a secret made me feel a little like Yzma.


Fortunately, about ten minutes later, a gorgeous bouquet showed up on my desk and my stress disappeared.

Hi Allison, Happy birthday eve! Love, Spousal Unit

But that was just the start of the best birthday ever from the best Spousal Unit ever. At the end of the day, I drove home, parked the car, and walked up the stairs to find this.





He knew that I wanted to spend my birthday at home, lazing around and enjoying some alone time, unlike for his birthday, when we both took the day off and hung out together. Any other spouse might be mildly offended at his significant other wanting to be alone on her birthday, but not this guy. I'd also mentioned how I was likely to spend at least part of my day off cleaning, because that's what I do.

He took Tuesday off, made up an elaborate story about why we had to drive separately, dressed up like he was going to work just to bring me my lunch, cleaned the entire apartment, decorated the whole place, and parked the car on the street so that I wouldn't have a clue about the surprise till I saw our front door.

Then, he gave me my presents early so that I could enjoy them on my day off. "The record player is freshly dusted," he said before he let me open my eyes to this.

Wine, a plush Snoopy, bubble bath, my favorite tea, and a Radiohead LP!

Later, I opened the fridge for something and saw a bottle of champagne. "Oh, that's for your mimosa tomorrow morning," he said. "You can drink it while I make you breakfast in bed."

My birthday has already been thoroughly amazing, thanks to the wonderful man I married.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's the Apple Farm, Dontcha Know

Last weekend, we visited Eplegaarden, "da apple orchard vit da Norvegian experience." They have pretty much everything you could want in an orchard/pumpkin patch experience.


Awesome animals were among them. Here, Spousal Unit and his goat friend model their fabulous hiar.



We picked a small bag of ginormous apples - honeycrisp!



Sandy picked her first pumpkin - ever!


A great bluegrass group serenaded us as we paid for the produce.


Even the shop in the big red barn was charming. This clock ran backwards!

Ole &Lena's Time: Going back to the Good Old Days

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gravity-Defying Water

Sometimes, little things are really amazing to me. Look at the clouds here - wisps of moisture floating through the sky, carried on high currents of wind to a place far from us, far from now, where they will fall as rain, rise to the sky again, fall as snow, and evaporate, over and over. Some particles might abandon the cycle to be one with a lake or a stream. But they will eventually join the same cycle again.

I am amazed that conditions on this planet are right for such a complex system, not to mention all the others in the sky and on the ground and in the oceans. And I am amazed that those little wisps of moisture can be so beautiful while ignoring gravity.




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ode to a Pomegranate


Sunset skin
hiding pinpoints
of blushing ambrosia
easily burst
as the whole
breaks

in

two, then more
while mining the seeds
dull and placid promises
now stripped
from the bitter
flesh.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crazy Cat Lady


Our cat Titania, adorable and sweet as she can be, really freaks me out sometimes.

This usually happens in the middle of the night. Early on, she doesn't come to cuddle; she stays away until we're half asleep. Then she hops on the bed, walks up next to my back, and falls over into me as though she's lost all muscle control. Then we all fall asleep.

Things are fine for the first few hours, but usually, I wake up at some point in the night. Maybe it's a loud truck passing by; maybe it's a storm. After the disturbance has passed, I notice the kitty beside me, zonked out.

At least, I think she is. She's so still and so quiet that I start to get worried. She's never this motionless - she's a little terror, running from room to room, knocking over vases and eating plants and stealing my yarn. In my sleep-addled mind, there is no good reason for her to be like this. I lift one of her legs and it just plops down beside her.

And then I think that I've killed her.

Surely that's what happened. Did I roll over on her at some point? Was she too close to me and too asleep to notice as I came crashing down? I lift another limb or two. I poke her. I can't tell if she's breathing. Finally, I lift her up in the air and feel her react as I break the spell of sleep.

For a few minutes, I am utterly relieved.

Then she starts running back and forth across the bed.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stress + Whipped Cream = Sleigh Ride. No One Ever Said I Was Good at Math.

Yesterday evening, after my second day in a row of writing absolutely nothing (which hasn't happened in many moons), I was so befuddled that I put a can of whipped cream in the freezer, then promptly forgot I'd done so and blamed it on Spousal Unit.

Before bed, I made the mistake of asking him to open and pay his credit card bill so I could send the check in the morning. Turns out our last payment never made it to them - I have never lost a check in the mail, so naturally, we have no record of it ever existing aside from a skipped number in our bank statement.

Stress like that is a bad thing to have before bed. I had just made a cup of tea, and it stayed in the kitchen, full, all night. This came after a surprisingly jubilant afternoon and, combined with the unusual heat, made for a tossing-and-turning night.

This is probably part of why I started singing Sleigh Ride in the shower this morning. It's going to be a weird day. Which is why I gave myself two little heaps of whipped cream on my oatmeal today.

I deserve it, damnit.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Romancing the ... Dinosaur?

Mom (and all others who don't care to read my thoughts on dino sex), steer clear today. There's some weird stuff happening up in here.

You all probably remember the terrible romance book covers I've posted in the past. I think those are all lovely in comparison to these over-the-top books.

Spousal Unit found these. Christie Sims writes dinosaur erotica. As in, woman-on-monster lovin'. I'm kind of horrified (but not really surprised) that this exists.


There is nothing sexy, attractive, or even remotely entertaining about interspecies relations when it comes to dinosaurs. Or even gryphons. Even that triceratops - that tiny, unrealistic triceratops - would maul you before he'd buy you flowers and take you dancing. Not cool. I prefer my romance with a little less death and stabbing.

There's also the issue of lingerie. If these women are randomly pulled back in time, where they somehow decide that sexy dinosaur time is their only ticket out of there alive, what are the chances that they were wearing "clothing" that nice? Pretty slim, I'd say (unless there happens to be a prehistoric lingerie store nearby, which I kind of doubt). If it was me, there's a 50-50 chance (or maybe higher) that I'd be caught in granny panties.

Not that I'd be showing them to dinosaurs. Ugh.

Some of these actually involve cavemen coexisting with dinosaurs - which sounds like creationism at its peak until you consider the tiny little minor detail of it being erotica. Some even include the tagline that this is "not your mother's erotica." There is nothing less sexy than that phrase.

Plus, this sounds like a terrible sequel to Liam Neeson and Ben Stiller movies.

Taken at the Dinosaur Museum
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