Archive for the ‘this and that’ Category

I’m really bad a titles, y’all. Blog post titles, anyway. But I feel like most of them are at least pretty informative about the content of the post.

We moved into our house in California back in late December, and Jared checked into his new command in early January, and in theory he was supposed to get 10 days to help get the house set up and us settled, but the Navy being what it is, he got to take his leave in….March.

Handily enough, I also had spring break in March so we lined the dates up and took a fantastic 10 day staycation in southern California, because sleeping at home and driving a little further is cheaper than flights and hotels. I won’t go into all the details, but here are some of the highlights! I might make more detailed posts about some of the individual outings (like the Food & Wine festival) in the next couple of weeks, but no promises.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival

I’ve done the EPCOT version of this, which takes place in the fall and involves a lot of international fare around the World Showcase, but the DCA Food & Wine Festival centers on California-grown products and flavors, which is a really neat idea.

Each stand focused on a region or specific ingredient, such as avocado (avocado ice cream was interesting, and the flavor grew on me), citrus (lemon ginger mules and orange chicken), or strawberries (strawberry frushi was wholly new to me and soooo good). We had a great time, and between lunch and dinner managed to try everything we wanted to from the lineup.

And since it was a vacation week, we stayed for World of Color, the DCA nighttime water and light show! We don’t often stay that late as it begins around 9:45pm and we were driving home, but it was fun.

And afterwards because most people had gone home, we hit up our favorite rides that had too-long lines during the day. Nothing like walking straight onto Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and riding it in the dark!

Whale Watching and Exploring Little Italy San Diego

One of the things I miss about Hawaii is the proximity to whales. They are here, of course– gray and blue whales have migration patterns that take them past the southern California coastline– but you don’t usually just look out and see them.

Since it’s gray whale migration season, we scheduled a whale watching trip out of San Diego harbor for an overcast morning in the middle of the week, and were rewarded with four gray whales! They were huge, and moving northward as a group.

After whale watching, we hung out in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego. This area was settled by Italian immigrants who came for the tuna fishing, and the buildings retain much of the charm of the historic neighborhood.

There is also plenty of good food, and we had amazing pasta followed by gelato and sightseeing. The Catholic church there is particularly beautiful, and open to peek inside of during the week (when there isn’t a service).

Universal Studios Hollywood and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Neither of us had been to Universal Studios Hollywood before, though we’d been to the theme park in Orlando a few times. One of the things that struck me about the Hollywood location is that it is actually at the studio, and that it grew out of the old studio tours that began over 100 years ago, in 1915.

You can still go on the studio tour and see the back lots they use to create places like “New York City” or “London” or even “Whoville” from the Grinch, among other places.

And, of course, the theme park is now home to the second installation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This park has the smaller Hogsmeade area, just like the first part added in Orlando. (There are rumors that started before this part of the park even opened in 2014 of a Diagon Alley expansion but I’ve not been able to find any firm confirmation of it. I wouldn’t doubt it, though– Harry Potter is probably one of their most marketable theme park experiences, and is the best park of their theme parks in terms of immersion and overall experience.)

We enjoyed our afternoon in Hogsmeade in an ongoing drizzle, which was nice because it kept the crowds to a minimum and left us with much of the “village” to ourselves. And I can confirm that hot butterbeer is the superior version of the 3 they sell, especially on a cool, rainy day.

WonderCon 2018, Anaheim

We capped off our staycation week with a weekend in Anaheim for WonderCon 2018. WonderCon is produced by Comic-Con International, the company who puts on San Diego Comic-Con in the summer, and is I suspect what SDCC used to be about ten or fifteen years ago. That is to say that it’s large (with an exhibit hall floor of a similar footprint to SDCC) and brings in some well-known faces in both comics and general pop-culture, but is still small enough that everything feels accessible. We were able to make it into every single panel we wanted, which is physically impossible at SDCC. Also, small businesses can still afford floor space in the exhibit hall, so I got to see a lot of local indie designers I like (and interview a few for Geek Girl Pen Pals).

Highlights of the panels I attended included An Afternoon with Patrick Rothfuss, which was a spotlight panel featuring the author wherein he told stories and sort-of answered questions; The Science of Pacific Rim, with scientist panelists debating the feasibility and possible biology of the giant robots and creatures from the Pacific Rim series; and a screening of an episode from A Series of Unfortunate Events, which just added season 2 to Netflix this past weekend.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of my favorite book series, and I’ve been enjoying the show quite a bit. The screening was introduced by Nathan Fillion (which meant a reeeaaally packed out room– though I managed to score second row seats!) who plays Jacques Snicket in the 2nd season.

And then it was Sunday and we had to come home and go back to “real life” the next day. But it was a fantastic 10 days and the very needed break from the whirlwind of the last several months. I feel more balanced in this whole school/life thing and that’s good, too. I’ll leave you with my “Easter kitty” and wish you well. 🙂

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It has been nearly six years since I first wrote up a cheeky little blog post about not believing North Dakota is a “real” state.  Six years later, and it continues to be my most-read post, and I also continue to get some really rude and yet really humorous comments from people who don’t know how satire works. (You can scroll to the bottom of that post to see them, along with every time I’ve linked to the definition of satire in response. Nobody ever seems to want to follow up after that. Strange.) Just this week it’s been more than 4 times as popular as anything else I’ve posted, and I’ve been purposely sending people the links about my novel.

photo taken by me in Fargo, North Dakota, 2007

I love a good conspiracy theory, which is why I wrote my own. I also got a kick out of posting all of the photos from my own visits to North Dakota along with the very tongue-in-cheek things I wrote. But I’ve realized over the years that I haven’t given enough space here to my other off-beat interests and weird hobbies, so maybe it’s been a little out of context. I’m going to try and fix that a little.

Things I enjoy include, in no particular order:

  • Weird roadside attractions.
  • Cryptozoology (and cryptozoologists!).
  • Conspiracy theories, particularly if they involve aliens, which, at some point, all of them eventually do.
  • Historical murder mysteries.
  • Folklore, especially about things related to everything above.

Michigan Upper Peninsula, 2016

I know that many of these things are related, and overlap, but culture is such a weird and wonderful thing, and humans come up with such clever ideas for things that I find myself fascinated. I will go out of my way to see a giant pickle barrel turned into a house, or to make a stop at the UFO Crash Museum while on a cross-country roadtrip. I will watch shows about the hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, and tales of haunted houses, because they’ve all got one thing in common– really interesting humans.

Foamhenge (near Natural Bridge, Virginia), 2007

Humans are, if nothing else, creative. We come up with fascinating stories about the world around us, and our tendency to share stories (and embellish them when we re-share) leads to all kinds of fun tales that linger in corners and forests and small towns. It’s why I love the podcast Lore, and why I have a real interest in where Foamhenge will be relocated, and why I will pay money to see a Mystery Spot. We create little mythologies around us all the time, in the name of art or nostalgia or just the fun of the story.

Roswell, New Mexico, 2014

So what about you? What’s your favorite folklore/conspiracy/roadside attraction?

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Well, this is embarrassing.

It’s been roughly six months since I posted my last entry to this blog. A lot has happened since then that I could have blogged about and just… didn’t. I’ve been busy. This is not an excuse.

I’m not really one for public declarations and sweeping “improvements” for a new year (which, after all, is a pretty arbitrary point in the year that we’ve all just collectively agreed to use as the reset point in our calendar), so I won’t promise to do better this year. In fact, it’s likely I won’t post often in here at all.

There. Is that a reasonable expectation? I hope so. Then again, I’ve come a long way in the last year and I’ve made a peace treaty with Living in Chicago (which isn’t my favorite thing ever but I’m finding things to enjoy anyway). So there may be more I feel like saying this year.

That being said, I intend to post more about my travel (which is, happily, frequent) and about things I’m enjoying at the moment and other things that are on my mind. We’ll see how it goes. I have other personal goals, too, of course, but they are, y’know, personal. I may post about them as they happen. I may not. I will tell you that one of them is to be kinder to myself and part of that is not feeling bad if I don’t hold to a schedule for things like this. It’s okay. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself some grace, too, if you’re reading this.

So welcome to the new year. It already feels better than last year. Do you have any resolutions? Have you picked up an old project again, or are you starting something new?

Jo and Jared at the basketball game

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The other day while out running errands, I wound up at the Ogilvie Transportation Center, which is the Metra hub downtown. I ran my errand, ate some lunch, and headed back toward the station. Along the way, I noticed signs for “Chicago French Market.” Color me intrigued.

Inside I found, not French food (which is what I expected), but a full local market, complete with produce, meat and cheese, little food vendors and, yes, even some macaroons.

They had a seafood counter that reminded me of the famous one in Seattle (though of course much smaller), and little areas with gorgeous chocolates.

There was, after some wandering, a good group of other little shops selling flowers and small trinkets, and international/gourmet dry goods, which I enjoyed pouring over.

All in all it was a very neat place and I’m glad I discovered it. If you want a quick bite with multiple options available, or if you’ve got a little time to spend at the Metra station, you should check it out.

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This will mostly be a photo post, because I think there is plenty to see and I couldn’t add that much to what already exists. This weekend we went to the Chicago Botanic Garden to see the early spring blooms.The garden is free, though there is a per-car fee to park, except for military, which get in for free. Thanks, Botanic Garden! ^_^

BotanicGardenBlooms1
Just the first bulbs are up right now, the rest of the garden still sleeping after a long winter, but those first bursts of color are hope physically formed after all the snow.

BotanicGardenTrees

We walked along the water where the white trees are still waiting for their leaves.

BotanicGardenCrocus

And we sat in a field of giant crocus, running rampantly out of their plantings.

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All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend the day before Easter.

(Even MORE photos below.)

(more…)

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Chicago Field Museum, exterior
Saturday, J and I visited the Field Museum for the first time. We’d intended to go to the aquarium, but that line was around the block, and they share a complex plus it was on my wish list… So there we went! It was, in a word, huge. We spent most of the day there and still didn’t get to really see everything, but we got to most of the exhibits. It’s a really interesting blend of both old and new, with dioramas going back over 100 years, many of which are amazingly accurate, along with very modern interactive exhibits that span everything from natural history to anthropology.

Chicago Field Museum, entrance hall
The entrance hall was grand, of course, and I enjoyed getting to see Sue the t-rex in person. I also learned they aren’t sure if she’s actually male or female, but is called “Sue” after the woman who found her. We saw a movie included with our admission about the process of finding fossils and the particular discovery of Sue two decades ago; she is still the most complete t-rex skeleton ever found.

Chicago Field Museum, Sue

It made me think of the tyrannosaur exhibit we saw nearly a year ago in Sydney, and how much it seems like we know about these extinct animals, and yet how little we really do know, and about how much of that knowledge comes from this specific specimen. It’s mind boggling, really.

Chicago Field Museum, fossils
We saw so many exhibits that I couldn’t even begin to name them all, but my favorite single item was probably this composite fossil because I’m always fascinated to see things preserved together. Sometimes when you see individual pieces it becomes easy to think of them as single plants or animals, but then you see something like this and you can almost picture the whole little habitat where they lived. We also spent a good bit of time in their collection of Egyptian artifacts, and in the reassembled burial chamber with actual 5000 year old carvings on the wall around us.

I came away with a remarkable perspective on just how everything is related and about our shared history. It’s fascinating to me to see how far humans have come, and how much has changed on our planet of the millennia, and to be able to come face to face with it is pretty amazing.

ice on branches
My other small story for today is about dealing with what seems to be the never-ending snow. Most of it melted this past week and the grass started to show in most places again but then the flurries came back and the ground is covered in snow again. One of the things I’ve done to help make things feel a bit less bleak is to bring the spring inside: I’ve gotten a few bulbs and they’re happily blooming in my kitchen window.

tulips
Sometimes it’s the little things, right?

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meadow near El Capitan

Happy October! It’s time for another monthly roundup of stuff I did in other places. Yay!

Newsy things:
Heyheyhey, I got invited to join the staff of International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club as a “Ninja.” Whoop! Just means I’ll be doing more behind-the-scenes stuff, really, particularly in January once I’m (theoretically) unpacked and a bit more settled, because…

This is moving month. EEP. The movers come in less than two weeks and I’m trying to clear things out (which is hard in a small space) and use up consumables and all sorts of things.. Expect not much posting between now and then.

For our last weekend roadtrip, we went to Yosemite National Park this weekend! I’ve got a ton of gorgeous photos to go through asap and try to get posted for you, but the photos in this post are a sneak peak.

Half Dome, overcast day

Things I wrote:
As usual, I’ve been posting stuff in other places. Over at IGGPPC, I’ve got two movie reviews, a Hobbit Day celebration, and an everyday cosplay post.
The Giver was excellent, and much better than any of the other dystopian teen world movies I’ve seen of late. It ought to be because the source material is fantastic.
The Maze Runner was enjoyable and I’m interested in what’s going to happen next. I like that we don’t have all the information going in, and that we learn things as the protagonist does.
Huzzah and Hooray, it’s Hobbit Day! We celebrated Sept 22 over at the site, too.
Everyday Cosplay: Some things happening this month and links to other articles. Just a roundup of stuff I liked this month.
I was also featured as part of the September Staff Picks, which you can check out over here if you like.

Tunnel View after storm

So that’s about it for September. Internet might be patchy in October, but I hope to have some fun things to share about the Great Moving Adventure. See you soon!

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