joanna irl, the geek life

11 Guilty Pleasures

The other day I was in the craft store, looking at all of the autumny things (as craft stores always have things two months early for MAKING things), and discovered that the GOOD kind of candy corn was in stock. I promptly bought myself two bags. That got me thinking: I know there’s a contingency of Candy Corn Lovers and also of Candy Corn is TERRIBLE and Must Be Burned folks. I’m in the love it category… for the first bag. Then I’m done for the year. But I’ll admit that the first bag of candy corn of the year is the first of the following…. 11 of MY guilty pleasures.

  1. Candy Corn!
  2. Domino’s Pizza. This is another one where I know there are people who don’t like it (loudly) and they even had a whole ad campaign about IMPROVING THE RECIPE, but it’s always been one of my comfort foods. To me, it’s in its own category of pizza: there is GOOD pizza (like a really good New York slice) and then there’s Domino’s. It’s a different food and sometimes I crave it specifically. Give me another kind of pizza and it’s just not… right.
  3. Monster-based reality TV. I’m looking at you, Finding Bigfoot. But really, any kind of show where we’re SCUBA DIVING LOCH NESS to find Nessie, or CAMPING IN THE GRAVEYARD to find ghosts or SCALING THE HIMALAYAS to find a yeti and I’m in.
  4. Eating macaroni straight from the pan. I feel this needs no explanation. I even use the wooden spoon I used to stir in the cheese.
  5. Pressed penny machines. I know there’s no reason to feel guilty about this in particular, but I try to get them from everywhere I go.
  6. Hair extensions. Most people have never seen them. They only come out on rare occasions, usually involving some type of costume wearing. But sometimes I need a little pink or blue in my life and… well, it’s a way to not have them ALL the time and just when I feel like it.  I’m thinking of getting some platinum blonde ones, too.
  7. Geek chic. I got to the point a couple of years ago where I had entirely too many tshirts. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I gave a LOT of them away… but they accumulated. I mean, how cool is it to find a Doctor Who shirt?! But then suddenly you have four of them… and a couple of Harry Potter shirts and some My Little Pony (okay, only two, but I HAVE them), not to mention my team shirts… and I needed another outlet. So my new thing? Geeky jewelry. I have necklaces that are Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, I have My Little Pony earrings and a bracelet… subtle! And most people have no idea what it is. (By the way, this type of thing is ideal birthday gift fodder. Just saying.)
  8. Tea. This isn’t something I feel exactly guilty about. It’s more that I have SO MUCH TEA in the pantry all the time because I’m always wanting to try new kinds. And I really do drink it all. Really. But I’ve got more tea than the average person needs if I’m honest.
  9. Wendy’s french fries. This is another food-genre thing. Other fries just aren’t the same. But I will most definitely go to a Wendy’s and order a SALAD with a side of fries. What? I like their salads!
  10. Spiced Pumpkin candles from Yankee Candle. I always acquire a LOT of them when they go on clearance at the end of the season, and it is my FAVORITE scent, but then I never ever have time to burn them all before we move and EVERY SINGLE TIME I give them all away because I don’t want to pack up 30 candles that are half burned.
  11. Dragonvale. It’s a game on my iPad and I’m a little bit hooked on it. Only a little. If I can’t get wifi, I don’t really worry about it. But when I DO have wifi… I’m checking on my baby dragons. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes twice.

So that’s it. There are probably more if I sit here and think long enough, but eleven is really enough to be getting on with for now.

joanna irl

California Friday: a glowing sunset

One of the things I miss about Hawaii is the sky. There were rainbows everywhere and the sunsets were always spectacular, as long as I didn’t go out to the beach specifically to watch one. Then it was always cloudy and weird on the horizon. But a few nights ago I caught a really gorgeous one as I was finishing my errands. Here you go.

August sunset 1

This was my initial view as I stepped out of the last stop on my list of errands. I decided to walk down the sidewalk a little and get a better view. I got this:

August sunset 2

And then I had to drive home. I was going south, so the sunset was out of the right hand window, but I stole glances at traffic lights. Finally when I got close to home I pulled down a side street and took this one:

August sunset, church 1

Seeing the steeple of the church lit, I got a little closer….

August sunset, church 2

And then I went home. But it was a really beautiful evening. There are a few of them here. ^_^

joanna irl

Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten, or everything I need to know…

J and E in the kitchen, throwback

This week’s Throwback takes us to 1988 (or possibly early 1989) when I was in Kindergarten and my sister was still half my height. She’s a bit taller now.

Anyway, I chose this photo for a similar reason to the living room photo. It’s just a candid of us doing something (I’m not even really sure what, but my guess is that I’m snapping beans and E is trying to brush my hair. Always the fashionista, E’s been.) and it captures a moment in time really well.

Those shoes I’m wearing, for instance, are my VERY FAVORITE shoes I’ve ever owned. They are Chucks, or the Keds knock-off version, and I probably owned half a dozen pairs because they were the only ones I liked so my poor mother had to buy them in ALL THE SIZES. I just kept trading them for a bigger pair as I grew, which was a LOT back then. I was a tall kid.

The floor was linoleum, and I remember the blue squares being a lot more blue than they look in the photo. I used to try and stand in the small rectangular bits until my feet got too big. The heart-shaped rug wound up in my bedroom for a while, or a similar one did, along with some heart-shaped pillows. This was during the PINK phase of my life. Sometimes I still waffle back and forth in that phase. Dabbling in PINK if you will.

Yeah, I know I’m not wearing PINK in this photo, but that’s because I discovered teal (hence the shoes) and it rocked my world. I’m an 80s kid, what can I say?

Ohhh those ponytail holders. I had to have a HIGH ponytail and it had to be perfectly smooth or I’d have an absolute meltdown. If it got even the SLIGHTEST bit pulled, it had to come down or be fixed IMMEDIATELY. This was the year I acquired bangs, too. I kept them until 6th grade.

I remember that dishwasher, and how the lever locked it during wash cycles. The stove was directly opposite it. I feel like that microwave was very new and cutting edge at the time, too… and it’s funny how it doesn’t look much different than microwaves do now. I guess some things just can’t be much improved. Well, or they improve so slowly we don’t notice along the way. Incidentally, the green blobby thing on top of the microwave was a clay triceratops I made and painted. They were my favorite dinosaurs.

Even though it’s hard to see, there’s a purple violet on the window sill with a ceramic angel holding a number “1” in her hand. The angel was from my first birthday, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t wind up with an entire collection of them. Where would I put them now??

J in kindergarten, throwback

Oooh, you get a bonus! While digging for photos, I found this one, too, from around the same time. This was not long after my sixth birthday in 1988 and I’m with my two best kindergarten friends at the time (notice the qualifiers?), Katie and Shelley. We were in a class “play” as the Three Little Kittens. Sometimes I wonder what happened to them… but mostly just when I see these photos. It’s interesting to me how much I remember from kindergarten, and that I can look at class photos and remember names. It makes you realize how important it is when you tell kids things, because they absorb SO MUCH. Anyway, Katie and I (around this time) had a play date and we got into my mom’s eyeliner (which was in all sorts of fun colors… again, 80s) and did FACE PAINT. Eventually the eyeliner became face paint more than eyeliner anyway, but I recall playing with makeup and making an absolute mess.

So there you go. Kindergarten me. ^_^

conservation ftw

Wildlife Wednesday: California ground squirrel

ground squirrel, face

The squirrels are different here.

This is a California ground squirrel, and I am fascinated by these little creatures. Growing up on the east coast, I was accustomed to Eastern gray squirrels (which are everywhere) and the occasional chipmunk (which is very small and stripey) but I’d never seen one of these before. The first time I encountered any kind of ground squirrel was in Canada in 2007. It was the oddest looking little fat rodent, and I took a bunch of photos of it as it ran along the sidewalk and into the grass. (Side note: the funny thing about zoo people, even just people who spend lots of time in zoos, is that we get VERY EXCITED over things like this, ignoring the zebra or whatever in the exhibit. After all, the zebra will still be there later, this is WILD NATURE HAPPENING.) Anyway, that introduced me to the idea of ground squirrels. Needless to say, my upper-midwest relatives thought I was hilarious.

ground squirrel, chewing

These squirrels range all over California, all the way to central Oregon and Washington, and can be a foot and half long when full grown. This particular ground squirrel is a juvenile, so very small compared to what it will be. It was having a snack and I enjoyed watching it forage in the plants. The ones I’ve observed have been in groups, with burrows in the ground that they hide in when people (or predators) get too close.

ground squirrel, side

You can see the almost spotted pattern of the squirrel’s fur here. There is another type of ground squirrel in the state, the golden mantled ground squirrel, but it is more in the mountains and has distinct black and white markings that make it look much more like a chipmunk. At any rate, I find these little guys very interesting. Keep an eye out for them if you’re ever out walking.

conservation ftw

Tuesday Zoosday: The Africa Tram at San Diego Zoo Safari Park


Safari Park, cheetah

It’s been a while since I took my big camera out to the Safari Park, so one day last week I hauled it along with me. I always ride the African Tram (which is included in my membership) and I got some great photos. Here’s a little overview of the ride. One of the first exhibits you pass on the Tram is the cheetah exhibit, and this pretty girl was enjoying some shade on a very hot day. The exhibit cheetahs aren’t the ones who do the cheetah run; those are kept in air conditioning so their bodies don’t get overtaxed in the heat.

Safari Park,

After going past the black rhinos and the river areas with flamingos, you get to the first savanna-style exhibit. These are waterbuck, and they are shaggy and large and I love their faces. They are in one of the huge mixed exhibits that are part of what makes the park famous. This young one is one of many that are born every year; I learned that between the Safari Park and the Zoo, there is an average of at least one animal birth a day, all year, so seeing baby animals isn’t too uncommon.

Safari Park, wildebeest

These are gnus, or wildebeests. I always liked the word “gnu” as a kid, and it was fun to find out that wildebeest and gnus are one and the same. The striking markings on their faces warn predators that they can bite or jab with their horns if they are threatened. In the wild they live in immense herds, and as many as 1.5 million of them migrate together in late spring when the seasons change.

Safari Park, Somali wild ass

As you continue toward the back of the exhibit, you pass several more sections, including vultures and these, Somali wild ass. They look like they have zebra legs and many people mistake them for a zebra hybrid, but they are much smaller, have bigger ears and, of course, bray– wild asses are, after all, precursors to donkeys! I think they’re pretty.

Safari Park, pelican

Next as you start to round the corner at the top of the hill, you get a wide view of the park and the valley, but you also get to see more ponds and I always enjoy spotting the pelicans. There are three species of pelicans at the zoo and Safari Park, and I’m pretty sure this is a dalmatian pelican. The wide view of the park is gorgeous, but I think it’s easy to miss things like this when you’re looking too far afield.

Safari Park, Arabian oryx

Finally as you round the corner to head back to the Tram station, up on the hill they have a herd of Arabian oryx. These are some of my favorites to see, not only because of their beautiful fur and elegant horns, but because they are a conservation success story. While they still aren’t thriving in the wild at their former rate, they were extinct other than a handful in private collections just forty years ago. Two breeding herds were established in the US, and now several hundred have been born, and have started to be reintroduced into the wild. That is the point of conserving species in captivity: to educate the public and to preserve species until they can go back to their native habitat, if possible.

So that’s a little taste of the Safari Park Africa Tram. Hope you enjoyed the tour. More photos from that ride are here. ^_^

joanna irl

Beachy Brunch

2013-08-25 brunch photo

Yesterday I went to brunch with some friends up in Cardiff. We sat outside on the patio (which was an upper level) and got to have a fantastic view of the beach while we had eggs benedict and fruit and such. It was nice to sit and chat and have a (very late) breakfast and watch all of the people walking their dogs along the sand.

The only photo I took was of the inside portion of the place, because it had such beautiful stained glass windows. This one was my favorite. Unfortunately, the glare in the photo means you can’t see the water through the window, even though in person the bright blue ocean is perfectly visible. Definitely a place I’d go again.

joanna irl

Saturday Caturday: Leena approves of the porch furniture

Leena cat on the porch

She is enjoying BIRD WATCHING (since I don’t allow any of her preferred passtimes of BIRD CATCHING and BIRD MANGLING) in this picture. She’s always been the more adventurous of the two kitties (Caspian is sitting on the other side of the sliding door where he can “safely” watch the outside without having to, y’know, actually go outside) and likes to participate in whatever I’m doing.

The only thing that bugs me about her going outside is that she’s got so much white fur… and she also enjoys rolling in whatever dirt she can find. So I wind up with a dirty cat that looks DINGY on top of everything else. But I love how she sits with her feet all together and looks so dainty, even if she isn’t really.

conservation ftw

Wildlife Wednesday: California mule deer


One of the interesting things about living on both coasts is that some of the wildlife is similar… And yet not quite the same. On the east coast, white tailed deer are so prevalent that they actually pose a hazard to drivers along the roads. On the west coast, I’ve been introduced to mule deer.

Mule deer live in the Sierra Nevada mountains and in most of California. They are prey for mountain lions and feed on local vegetation, though sometimes they get into gardens.

One thing I really like about them is their antlers; mule deer antlers grow in thick and fuzzy, and one they are fully grown are often elegantly curved.

The place I’ve seen them the most is actually at the Safari Park. The come into the large grazing exhibits (like elephant and rhino) where they want be followed by mountain lions and can get the leftover hay, or eat the grass available. They’re all over the park, though.

conservation ftw

Tuesday Zoosday: who’s on exhibit, exactly?

SD Zoo condor, people watching

This photo thoroughly entertains me. The condor is totally people watching. He (or she, I’m not really sure) kept pacing back and forth, following certain people as they walked past the glass. Sometimes he would pick up a stick and parade back and forth with it. Finally, after a very long time, he grabbed one of the sticks and ran (yes, RAN) to the back of the exhibit.

Enrichment is important for captive animals; it keeps their minds healthy and active, staves off boredom and helps prevent obesity. (Yes, animals have all the same health concerns we do, too.) But sometimes the people are a type of enrichment, too.


joanna irl

Container garden: refreshed!

container garden, refreshed

This weekend, I made a project of refreshing my container garden on the back porch. My annuals had either started to die or just looked kind of bad, except for a couple here and there. I combined those remaining petunias and snap dragons into one pot (the one kind of in the middle, wide and gray looking) and replaced the hanging baskets with succulents.

Container garden, succulents

I have two succulents from before, an aloe and another that I’ve no idea the species, but they’re both doing really well on the back porch and I figured more couldn’t hurt. They’re good  when I forget to water them (which happens… I look out at the porch a lot but don’t GO out there every day), and they’re pretty cheap to buy. I got ten different kinds of tiny baby succulents. The kind of silvery one on the far right in this photo is called “Panda plant!” A lot of them have fun names, actually. From left to right in the front I have a “Powder puff” pchyveria, a golden sedum, and the panda plant. In the back is a crassula variety (non-specified) and a rainbow elephant bush. So fun!

container garden, succulents

I tried to choose plants that were different but complementary colors, and that had a variety of shapes to them to make the container interesting. This one has five different types. The one in the front of the shot is an echeveria “topsy turvy,” then a gibbaeum heathii and a purple scallops plant behind it, then a California sunset graptosedum, and the one in the back is a variety of jade plant called, I’m not kidding, Gollum. It was cool looking AND named for a Lord of the Rings character. Awesome!

container garden, daisies

The rest of the plants are mostly okay. My daisy has bloomed again, though it looks like it’s getting ready to go dormant for winter after this. The lavender didn’t survive at all, and I replaced it with a burgundy mum. The tree fern developed a weird yellow fungus type thing in its roots, so it died and I replaced it with a big succulent called a jelly bean (or pork and beans… but I like jelly bean better!) plant that I forgot to photograph. Anyway, the garden looks much happier now and I hope most of the succulents survive.