joanna irl

St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, 2015

St Patrick's Day J and J on the River

Well. J and I have now experienced our first St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. Maybe next year we’ll check out the south side parade, but for this year we just headed downtown to see the green river and catch the (surprisingly short) downtown parade.

Chicago River St Patricks Day

We got there around 10:30 in the morning, so maybe an hour after they dyed the river and it was a vibrant green. Tons of people lined the bridges and sidewalks and riverwalk to get a good view, but it wasn’t difficult to navigate by any means. Until we tried to see the parade.

Chicago St Patricks Day views

Turns out the parade is in the park and only about 4 blocks long. I’m not joking. So thousands of people tried to cram into a four block stretch of road to see. We weren’t close enough to do much other than listen, so we retreated toward the train. Along the way we stopped into the Elephant and Castle pub for a snack and a festive beverage. While there, we were surprised by a roving bagpipe band who came into the pub and gave a twenty minute concert, all of two feet from our little table. Win!

St Patrick's Day J and J EXCITE FACE

Mostly it was just nice to be outside on an early spring-like day. See how excited we were? There was sunshine and the snow’s almost completely gone and I felt like I could really breathe again. We’re definitely still adjusting but the warm weather is helping tremendously.


And I’ve seen flowers. They DO exist! (Pardon the blur of this photo, I was a long way off on my phone but I needed to DOCUMENT.)

SPRING is here! Flowers!

joanna irl

In Defense of Christmas decorations on November 1

I can already hear the oh-so-festive sounds of groans and moans, the snide comments and the weeping for our future.

The Christmas decorations are already in stores.

Truth be told, I saw Christmas trees in Macy’s back in September (which was just weird), but now that it’s November, I’m a lot less bothered. I know a lot of people gripe about this, and will make comments about “forgetting Thanksgiving” (come on, no one really forgets Thanksgiving), but I’m about to offer you a reasonable defense for (seemingly too) early Christmas displays.

First, the so-called “forgotten” Thanksgiving. No one forgets Thanksgiving. The “problem” with Thanksgiving is that it doesn’t have much in the way of marketing, and the origin story most of us learned in school is entirely too simplistic. That’s okay, though, Thanksgiving has turned into a national time to give thanks for what we have, for our blessings and abundance, and to spend time with family. And that’s great! But you know what’s missing?


For Thanksgiving, kids will mostly be relegated to the “Kids’ Table” while the adults swap family stories or watch football or the like. This is really and truly an adult holiday, and therein lies the marketing gap. There aren’t Thanksgiving “treats” to buy, costumes to wear, and decorations are limited to generic autumn things or cornucopias. Plus Thanksgiving is a strictly North American holiday (even though harvest festivals have ancient roots), and in November the only one in the US. There isn’t the appeal of a wide range of cultural backgrounds the way there is with Christmas or even Halloween (which is increasingly celebrated in other countries). It’s a great holiday and an American tradition, but it isn’t a BIG holiday. It’s more on-par with July 4th in the US: celebrated nationally with traditions of its own (including a specific type of meal, be it a cookout or turkey dinner) but really with little buildup and done by the next day.

So setting aside Thanksgiving, isn’t it entirely too much to have Christmas displays nearly two months before the actual holiday?

Not at all.

While I agree that most of it before about November 1 is pushing it (with the exception of craft stores, which I’ll get back to momentarily), by the time we get to November, we’re careening toward one of the largest holidays in the world. Think I’m exaggerating? As of 2011, an estimated 2 billion people are culturally (if not religiously) Christian. That’s 2 billion people celebrating Christmas. Factor into that the size and scope of the marketing in our own country, and you have a behemoth of a religious holiday.

On a smaller scale, besides an important religious holiday, Christmas has become (in our country, and many other western countries), focused on coming together with people and exchanging gifts. This costs a lot of money, be it in travel expenses, purchasing (or making), and possibly shipping. There are a lot of things we “need” for this holiday, and this huge chunk of expenses is easier to take if spread out over two months instead of one. Plane tickets are easier to find (and more affordable) with more lead-time, gift purchasing can be done in small spurts, etc. It makes sense to get people thinking about it early, and it makes sense to have things ready to go for people who need to shop early.

And speaking of shopping early, crafters are a huge category here. One of the growing trends (which makes me very happy, as it’s moving us away from the wholly commercial aspect of this whole business) is handmade gifts and decor. The thing about this is that, in order to make any kind of quantity, a person needs enough time to gather supplies and actually produce the items in question. Even making cards (which I did until a couple of years ago) took time and patience, and I often started looking for my supplies in August or September so I’d have time to find everything I needed and make them all.

Finally on a personal note, there is a tiny minority of us who have loved ones overseas for the holidays, and we all have to make sure their holiday packages arrive in plenty of time. The US Post Office has already said that for military, standard post service deadline is November 12.* That’s next week.

So when you’re out this week and you see Christmas displays and hear Jingle Bells, just take a minute before you make a snide remark, take a minute and get a little perspective. There might be someone shopping for another Christmas spent apart.


*Standard post is the equivalent of “parcel post” and means going by ship somewhere. If you do priority (or air) mail, you have almost another month. But check the chart anyway.

joanna irl

Holiday party… in March?

holiday party j and j

Last weekend we had our very belated holiday party with J’s command. It’s a holiday party because, y’know, they missed ALL of the holidays while on deployment. Plus it was a homecoming party.

holiday party girls

It was nice, and a bunch of people who are becoming our friends came, and we had a good time. Mostly it was fun to dress up (and I finally got to wear my dress from the wedding I didn’t make) and J wore a new outfit and we enjoyed talking to people and meeting new people and all of those things you do at command functions, except it was better because the command is SMALL and only about a quarter of the people came (I think… maybe half?) so it didn’t feel too crowded and overwhelming.


I don’t have much to say, because really going to these command dinner parties is a lot like going to a wedding where you only know the bride and groom and none of the guests. There’s even a buffet line and bad dancing, with most of the dance floor occupied by the younger (i.e. the below-ten-years-old) set.


Still, I thought I’d share some photos. So there you go. ^_^

joanna irl

Halloween Kitties and other shenanigans

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted. No internet in our new residence has posed more of a restriction than I thought. So here’s the mini-update:

J and I rented a place in San Diego– YAY!
We went to Disneyland for 3 days for my birthday weekend (first time he’s spent my actual birthday with me in years)– YAY!
J checked into his new command and a week later deployed– BOO!
I managed to get all of the boxes opened and mostly unpacked and put away in a week– YAY!
And now I’m in North Carolina and reunited with my kittens– YAY
Today is Halloween– YAY!

The wind and rain from hurricane Sandy has blown down a lot of our fall leaves, and since it’s been cloudy this past week I haven’t gotten many good photos like I did last year. Maybe in the next week or so it’ll clear enough that I’ll get some. At any rate, I offer here some kitty photos, since it’s been three months since I’ve had any to share. ^_^

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conservation ftw

Thoughts on Chimpanzee (the movie, not the animal)

As this weekend was Earth Day, it was also the opening weekend for the new Disneynature movie, Chimpanzee. And as I have every year, I went with a group from the zoo to go see it.

It’s always interesting to go see an animal movie w/ zoo people because we see things with that perspective. So the comments afterward were along the lines of this:

“At least they didn’t personify the chimps quite as much as in the lion one last year.”
“Why does there have to be an ‘invading force’ and all that, why not just say the other group needs more food to support itself?”
“Why are all of the ‘bad guys’ in these Disney movies named things like Scar? Or Fang?” (My contribution? “I like the name Roscoe…”)
“I wonder how much they edited it in the studio for _______ scene…”

You get the idea.

The footage was beautiful, though. I especially liked the parts where they filmed rain in slow motion as it poured down on mushrooms and leaves, and a part where they showed phosphorescent fungi. This is what I really like about these type of movies– the high definition, gorgeous footage of the wildlife and of places I’ll probably never see in my lifetime.

So yeah. I liked it overall.

Last thing for tonight and then I’m going to bed (I’ve been up since 4:30, which is a whole other matter). A friend sent me this:


joanna irl

Easter Monday

I missed my post yesterday because of the holiday. And today’s will be brief.

Easter was nice. There was extra music at church and I went to a pot luck with an egg hunt, which was fun. The Easter bunny doesn’t seem to be a big thing here, though, which is a little weird for me, but I did read myself The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes as is my Easter tradition. That link takes you to an article in the New Yorker where the author says she has only met one person who read the book as a child. I’m one of those people. It’s interesting because the book has (especially in recent years, it would seem) gained a lot of popularity for its message that despite racial, class and gender bias, a little country girl bunny with brown skin can realize her dream and be the most celebrated of all the (five) Easter bunnies. I’ve loved the book as long as I can remember, though I didn’t know until recently just how old it was.

So there you go. Find a copy of Country Bunny and enjoy it, even if you were too old for one of the Easter bunnies to come to your house this year.

joanna irl

Field trip to the vet

I guess you could say I’ve had a productive day. Of sorts.

I was up late last night for no particular reason (well, I was decorating Easter eggs pretty late, so there’s that) and noticed that Caspian’s ears felt very hot to the touch, so I called the vet. Our vet is open 24 hours a day, even on holidays, for emergencies. I described the fever, and a couple of other symptoms (observed discharge a couple of days ago, etc) and was advised to bring him in first thing in the morning if I didn’t want to take him right THEN. As I didn’t much want to drive to the vet at 1:30 in the morning, I elected to get up at 7 and take him in around 8.

When I got there, a friend from the zoo was working (she’s a front-office person for the vets’ office) and I sped right through the walk-in process.

And after an hour there…

I was told Caspian is probably constipated. Oh, and angry. Very angry.

So I came home with some kitty laxative that he’s reluctantly taking (I guess it must taste all right, but it’s a paste and therefore weird) and instructions to “keep an eye on him” as if I’d do anything else.

After that I vacuumed and steam-mopped the floors and then settled in to finish my Easter egg decorating, which I did. You can see the final product here. ^_^ I’m especially proud of the Harry Potter and Doctor Who eggs, though I’m really pleased with the Celtic designs I did and want to make more. Just not right now. I have more eggs than I can manage at the moment.

joanna irl, society of dabblers, the geek life

Egg-stravaganza gets a little Geeky…

So, today I decided I wanted an art project and being that it’s Easter weekend, I decided to color some eggs. After a quick search online, I found some really fun egg ideas, including egg geodes (where you wash out the shells and make multicolored salt or sugar crystals inside of them), but my favorite idea was the easiest– Sharpies to color the eggs! I did a quick search and couldn’t find anything saying the Sharpie would hurt you (provided it was only on the egg shell), but I think I’ll still check them for color before I eat them later…

I also found a new method for boiling eggs that keeps them from getting rubbery and keeps the yolks from turning green.

So then I dug out all of my Sharpies (turns out I have a lot of them) and started coloring… I did one that looks sort of like a little Faberge egg, then one that has a sun and moon (because of a book I loved as a kid), and then… well, then I noticed that I have a coupld of silver Sharpies… and that I could probably make an R2D2.

Continue reading “Egg-stravaganza gets a little Geeky…”