Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Best of Party Decorations - Part 4 - Maprilween 2011

Here are a few pictures from the party we had on Saturday.  We usually do Aprilween, but because April was so busy, we pushed it back to May. Thus, Maprilween.

Hand-made banners

It looks dreary in the morning-after light, but the photo corner has become the cornerstone of our parties.

Exhibit A. Photo by Chris Clanton

Exhibit B. Photo by Chris Clanton
 Some people really went all the way with their costumes this year.  If there had been a prize for most unwieldy, least-likely-to-get-in-the-door costume, it was this homage to the Wizard of Oz.  What you can't see are the black and white striped stocking, red sparkly shoes and beer-holder.

Photo by Chris Clanton

Lastly, make sure that you delegate tasks according to one's skills.  If someone is good at mowing the lawn and washing the dishes before the party, let them.  Don't force a square peg into a round hole by trying to make them purchase party snacks. All you'll have to show for it will be 8 mini Reese's cups and a miniature bag of Jelly Bellys.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Softie Bananas

Yesterday I went to make a smoothie...

but there was something different about one of the bananas.

It had gone soft!

Voila!  After months saying how I was going to fabricate a banana, I've done it.

This is just a prototype.

These are tracings of an actual banana.  Feel free to print it out and make your own banana.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer Book Club!

Freeze Dried has started a summer book challenge for June over at her blog.  Here's what she's got to say about it:

  • Come up with a list of books that you want to read by June 30, 2011. The list could be as short or as long as you'd like. Those books gathering dust on that shelf there? You want to put those on your list. The ones you're already reading? Perfect, throw them on there too. And feel free to pull from my booklist on the sidebar.

  • The goal is to write one post a week about the book / books that you have read during the week. If you haven't finished a book before your post it due, that's cool beans!, post anyway - talk about your thoughts on the book so far.

  • Ping me so I put you on the blog list again.

  • I think it's a great idea now that J and I have time to read (well, I've always had it, but reading together is awesome).  Once I figure out how to put the little list up on my sidebar, I'll get cracking.  We're halfway through the second book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, A Clash of Kings, and I'm about to start Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone, a reinterpretation of Gone With the Wind.

    Scarlett O'Hara and Mammy.  Image from Popular
     I haven't read Gone with the Wind, but growing up in the South and having seen the movie a few times, I think I can skip it.  If it's between reading "American Classics" and trying something by a marginalized writer, I'll go with the latter.  Gone with the Wind is pretty solidly in the American consciousness, so it's like I was born with it in my harddrive.

    More to come!  I need to do a little write-up on Vox, the classic phone-sex novel by Nicholson Baker.  It's more awesome than it sounds.

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Tutorial: The Fourth Doctor's Scarf

    Aprilween is fast approaching (or, long belated as it were) and J and I are just now finishing our costumes. After wasting an afternoon with the failed ideas of giant starfish and geometric hats (I really wish I'd taken pictures of these horrible things) I went to my dress closet and decided to match a party dress with a mask and call it quits.   J had been pondering an incarnation of The Doctor (from Doctor Who), but another friend beat him to Number Eleven (Matt Smith).  He's always been fond of the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker.

    The 4th Doctor, from Wikipedia
    Baker played the doctor for seven years, long enough that most people consider him THE Doctor.  We're low on time and resources, so we decided to focus on the unusually long scarf that was the Fourth Doctor's trademark.  Others on the interwebs have made recreations of his scarf (most specifically, doctorwhoscarf.com), but we went the easy-peasy route.  I'll show you how we did it!

     J, you're not THAT kind of doctor!

    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Best of Party Decorations - Part 3 - My 2010 Bday!

    Photo by Chris Clanton

    My signature construction-paper dangles, aqua ribbon bordering the room

    Snack table: any opportunity for a punch bowl
    Pink and aqua! I was really feeling this color combo.

    Photo corner, where Chris Clanton took AWESOME pictures of everyone.

    photo by Chris Clanton
    Photo by Chris Clanton
     Ever have a great party, but forget to take pictures? I've found if you create a space to get your picture taken (and you have an awesome photographer friend) people will be drawn into that space.  Everyone likes a good picture of themselves.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    At least it's Friday

    Well, I had to turn down the job I had a great chance at because of a measly $3,000, and I found out today I didn't make the cut for the big job.  It's been a week.  I guess the pressure is off now, and I don't have to debate with myself about whether to take a job if I could be moving.  That's solved!  The sadness may not make sense-- because I am not as anonymous as I used to be, I don't talk about my job.  I enjoy what I do, but I have a bad relationship with my supervisor, and all the time I have worked here has not made any difference in that, and not for lack of trying.  What do you do when you do your job well but your boss still doesn't like you?  Well, cry in the bathroom of course!

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    How many applications?

    J has finished eight applications in the past two days. He is a powerhouse.  I'm much better prepared for the future job hunt after my big job application, but helping him proofread and nit-pick on words is good practice.  I like to be a part of things, and this is more fun than scanning a dozen Google alerts for applicable job listings every day. (Anyway, I'd usually ignore the qualifications if it was in a cool city.)

    We finished Game of Thrones last night, and it was so awesome at the end I cried.  Not because it was sad, but because it was the end of the book, but because the ending and what happened to one of my favorite characters was so amazing, terrifying and cool I couldn't hold it in.  And that is why I love reading.

    For those of you not into reading 4,000 pages of this series, you can watch it on the TV, or on the secret internet.  The title sequence alone gives me shivers.  From a maker's perspective, this thing is intricate as fuck and so beautiful (even if it is just CGI).  It looks real enough for me.  If you are geeky enough to read an interview about the making of a title sequence, here ya go.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Best of Party Decorations - Part 2 - Aprilween 2010

    What is Aprilween? Halloween in April, of course.  J and the Painter (his old roommate/our old roommate) celebrated Aprilween in college, and together we have way more awesome memories from this holiday than its parent holiday.  For one, a lot of costumes are ruined by an October Halloween.  Coats don't go with most costumes.  Sure, you see plenty of young women dressed as sexy dental assistants not wearing coats, but they have obviously made their choices.  Hrmph.

    Secondly, there's no Halloween pressure to come up with something grand. You just do it for the fun of it.  Like, when you get a present that isn't a Christmas present, it is so much better.  Because there's no hubbub around it, and it's less likely robbers are going to kill you in your sleep for your gifts in July.

    Thirdly, there must always be a thirdly, costume parties are my favorite thing in the world.  I hear that is even pretty normal for me.  I've found that while it's hard to get everyone to participate at a dance party, almost everyone will come well-equipped for a costume party.  And it's soooo much easier to sidle up to a lovely single lady/gent and talk about costumes than pretty much anything else.  I used to have parties with large tubs of neon PGA punch, and now I have parties where people are dressed like puns and 80s movie references.  I'm betting an equal amount of people are getting laid afterward.

    front of the house, pre-party.  The Painter likes earthy colors, but this is the closest you can get a a party store.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Best of Party Decorations- Part 1 - Branson of the Future!

    Ok, first things first-- what is Branson?  Since we're in Arkansas, we refer to Branson, Missouri.  It's hillbilly Las Vegas, or what Las Vegas would be like if  you took away the drinking, prostitutes, fun, gambling and sand and replaced all that with elderly white people and Starbuckses.  It's where pop and country stars go to die (Nelly was there recently!).  It's the place people tell you they are going for a vacation, and you smirk inside and think about how sad that is that they are excited about Branson and then realize what a smug asshole you are and have to go listen to some Smiths.  But really, how hilariously terrible is a butterfly exhibit called "White Flight" in an area not exactly known for racial transcendence?

    Gaga, Kanye and Justin Bieber masks, for those without costumes
    The idea for the party was to dress up like a celebrity or performer that you'd imagine would take a career dive and end up in Branson.  I dressed up as Gwen Stefani (I have major issues with her "Harajuku" schtick) but there were a few Biebers, Ke$ha, fictional characters who just wanted to be there, Adam Lambert and some Branson tourists.  Birthday friend likes a party with some real thought in it, so we put together a red, white and blue themed party with a photo corner where you could design a tack Blingee-inspired picture or get a photo with a life-sized Dolly Parton or Elvis impersonator.  The IRL Blingees* were my drunken inspiration, but said friend is an absolute Blingee genius, seen here at Use Your Allusion.  She has a master's in kick-ass.
    Job Bluth, of Arrested Development, showed up, also.
    Don't go to Dollar Tree for flag bunting. We bought all that shit.
    My "Hollaback Girl"-era Gwen Stefani.  And for the record, I put a giant pair of sunglasses in EVERY blingee I've ever made.
                                           Stars, flags and patriotic poofs.  Elvis can barely be seen on the bottom.
    The party was a tremendous success.  There was trepidation from people that coming up with an appropriate costume-- a pop star was one thing, but an aged pop star? With a dash of retro-futurism?  In the end, everyone just showed up looking as much like their character as possible, and with an explanation of just why they thought said character would end their career in the Show-Me State.  This was one of the only parties where I took the decorations down the very next day, they were that blindingly patriotic. 

    *IRL = in real life.  Check out Blingee.com to see what that actually is


    I decided to go for the pay-cut job, as it would be a much better working environment, but after being honest with myself I knew that with J out of a job, I couldn't justify a pay cut. Plus, I'd be working for a friend, and if it went south, I wouldn't want a friendship soured.   I'm a little sad, because I think it would have been great.  On the positive side, I got a letter from human resources (re: the big job) saying they were sending my application to the search committee, so it looks like I cleared the first hurdle.

    We've been doing a lot of talking about whether to stay or go, meaning, whether J should make more efforts to find something local.  I've been dissecting the chip on my shoulder about a "fresh start". Am I forcing a move?  I was playing the game for years, with moving as the main objective, so if I'm causing friction it's because I've been planning my life around it.  I hate to bring up resentment, but I feel like I'd be resentful if I had martyred myself at my job so he could get a cool one somewhere else, then we stayed.  I know I should let go of that, especially since I know I could.  I could have any of a hundred reasons why I want to move on, and it shouldn't be because THAT WAS THE PLAN.

    What do I really want? To be swept away somewhere else so I have no choice but to leave my job and start afresh somewhere else.  But that's a lot of pressure on J.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Graduation! Dr. J!

    Car-lot party decorations for Dr. J

    Me and Dr. J at his post-graduation party.  Lots of friends came by to wish him well.

    My sister's boyfriend didn't walk in the ceremony, but graduated with a bachelor's.  We put J's robe on him and took some semi-serious photos he could give to him mom.  Maybe semi-serious is an over-statement.

    Friday, May 13, 2011


    Liz Lemon in Nerds by andrewsalomone.com
    Blogger had some trouble yesterday so the award-winning posts of the last few days are lost in the mists. Supposedly they'll find their way back.

    I'm taking a few days off to celebrate graduation and hang with the fam. Have a great weekend!

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    Wish me luck!

    Instead of waiting the day it was due (tomorrow) and getting closer to my lucky number 13, I submitted my application to the big job today.  I have snakes in my stomach!  It feels good to have achieved a goal.  There's a small chance I'll get this job, and a larger one I won't.  But what matters is that in making my resume and cover letter, I proved to myself that I have great qualifications for someone of my age and experience, and enough references to drown a cat (not that I'd do that).

    Whew!  I feel like my biggest stressor is gone, and I can concentrate on the family gathering this weekend.  I was going to spend tonight freaking out on my resume, but now I'll go have a beer on the porch and tidy the house a bit for visitors.  Viva la Thursday!!

    Role Models: Lizard Lady sends me to college

    In this series of posts, I'll be posting about people who've given me good advice and set me on the track to where I am now. I'll be using pseudonyms and pictures that describe them, but it'll be pretty much anonymous. You'll know who you are!

    My senior year, I was pretty busy with drama club, journalism and songwriting, but otherwise I was a ne'er-do-well, padding my semesters with lots of "teacher's aide" hours that served as excuses for me to escape campus for lunch and guitar store hangouts.  My Fall semester, I got pulled out of my anatomy class* by my English teacher.  She and said anatomy teacher wanted to nominate me for the Earthwatch Student Challenge Awards. This was ostensibly a program to convince artsy kids that science wasn't scary, and involved a trip to some nature-y place to work with a scientist.  I was flattered that they picked me, but waited til the last minute to write an essay.  A few weeks later I learned I'd gotten in, and would be flown to Arizona for three weeks.  It would be the summer after graduation, so I'd already be getting ready to spend major time away from my family.   I was excited about traveling, but still not sold on science**.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Successes! Sort of!

    The deadline for the big job is on Friday, and I've got a stack of resume/cover letter edits to perfect.  There is also another job about to open, but it is below my pay grade.  If it weren't for J graduating and on a job search, I'd go for it. I'd love working for the boss there, but it would be a band-aid solution, I think.  If there were a way to up the pay, heck yeah! But I got two mouths to feed (and one of them is 31).

    I'm excited about the big job, though.  Even though I feel utterly green compared to the person leaving it (retiring), I do meet the requirements listed, and not just minimally.  It's strange writing a resume for a job within your organization. What to leave out? What do they already know? Is a level of informality ok? I have no idea, so I'm trying to play it safe.  They know who I am, so if they consider me or not, the written documents won't make or break me unless I mail them in with ketchup stains or lie about a presidential term.

    I've been reading the Ask a Manager blog religiously for the past month (honestly, for the past 5 years).  The great thing about that blog is that she almost always answers your questions, even if it doesn't warrant a blog post.  I read about her on Feministing long, long ago and reading that blog has helped me land a job, keep it, get better at it and hopefully get a new one.  Thanks Allison Green!  It must be good, if I've mentioned it in my own blog four times already.

    Other than jobs, my other good news is that I got into an art show with my little sculptures.

    Unfortunately, there isn't a venue for the show.  It's being put on by an organization that I have volunteered and served on the board of directors for.  It has been in the same place every single time with the exception of one year, but it looks like their luck ran out.  I know it is self-centered, but why the first year I was able to submit, and get in?  I have a super sad face.

    This weekend is J's commencement ceremony, and we'll be partying down with both sets of parents, my sister and his sister.  Everyone is awesome, so I'm looking forward to it.  It will be nice to have a few people to be with during the 4 HOUR GRADUATION.  Thank god for iPod touch games.  Tiny Wings, we are about to get to know each other very well.

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Status Report

    Last night as we were getting ready for bed, J asked me if I had my druthers, would I want to stay here or move.  That's not an easy answer.  From the start of our marriage (and even before) the plan was he'd get his PhD, and we'd travel on his career path together (since I hadn't figured one out yet). So, as he started to get finished up, I started to disconnect myself from my town.  I did not renew my membership on a non-profit board that could probably have used me there, because I didn't want to drop out halfway through the year.  I stopped work on a craft fair I had been wanting to organize.  I refused a nomination to the staff senate at the university where I worked.  Twice.  At one point, even after I realized the poor treatment at my work was not going to change no matter how proactive I became, I refused to find another job that I would just have to quit soon after. At many points in here, I gave up hope.  I packed things up.  I sold 1/3 of my belongings.  I decided not to plant the garden this year.  I have been protesting any large Christmas gifts for YEARS because I didn't want to move with them.  God knows we could have used a new couch a long time ago. I hit pause.

    But you can't hit pause on life. It keeps going, things accumulate, experience accumulates until it totally makes sense to go for that better-paying job even if the future is murky.  Submit some artwork to that show*.  Make some new friends and stop acting like they'll just be saying goodbye to you soon.

    So, do I want to stay?  If I hadn't spent the last four years preparing to leave, yes. Of course. I'd made good friends, good connections, I love my house.  But I feel like I've spent four years refusing to grow and soiling my reputation with a flaky assertion that I'd be "leaving soon".  That feels really bad.  I have a hang-up about looking like a flake, but I think that's because it's what I'm known for by now.  I'm the one who's always saying she's moving but hasn't gone anywhere.

    I shouldn't care what people think.  But I do care about all the wasted time and the negative parts of my reputation caused by it.  I want a fresh start.

    That puts a lot of pressure on J.  I know there was always pressure, but I think it's part of the bargain when he's the one leading the charge.  I've got a different kind of pressure, one that isn't as valued or supported, as evidenced by the lack of blogs about trailing/traveling spouses.

    I shouldn't be writing this blog-- I should be polishing my resume and writing a cover letter.  I have always been my worst enemy**.

    *Somewhat hilariously (not at all) put on by the non-profit I had worked with and resigned from.  But I just got an email saying I'd gotten in but they didn't have a venue, so there wouldn't be a show.  Great.
    **I'm not actually having a bad day.  It's just a real thinky day.

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Happy Birthday Dr. J!

    J's birthday was last Tuesday, but because life is weird and sometimes irritating, he had to give an exam and then help grade hundreds of physics tests.  On his birthday. Until almost midnight.  We're still winding down from dissertation time, and our celebrating of his birthday has melted in the post-diss lazy reading time.  That's all he wants to do.  We've gotten almost 400 pages into Game of Thrones*.

    Tree decorations

    J outside the porch, under home-made bunting and stars

    Decorations during the party
    I LOVE the way the decorations came out, but I'll admit they were created from a mind too lazy to drive to the store for streamers.  Years ago I bought a giant pad of rainbow-colored construction paper, and I've done several party themes with it.  Construction paper, string, tape, that's all I need when I'm really driven to do something.  I like the little flag buntings I've seen on Etsy**, and it really was very simple.  I'd like to try one made of fabric, too.

    I've made a few of these Mother's Day Brooches from Holidash, but so far they haven't come out as nicely as the creator's.  I've been felting instead of gluing, and my beginner felting skills may have something to do with that.  It's definitely good practice.  I'm making the one above for my mother-in-law, but I'm working on a blue one for my mom.  I've decided to do a variation on the one above, using rounded petals and a few sequins peaking out at the base of each petal.  We'll see.  I don't see her until tomorrow, so I have a little time to experiment.

    If it works, I'll post a little tutorial here.  Of course, all my thanks goes to Holidash for doin' it first.  I found a lovely wildflower in my yard yesterday (isn't it weird when you find one you've never ever seen before?) but it's not open yet, so I'll use this one as a model:

    The white part at the base will be ice blue sequins from this project.

    *Forgive me linking to a review of the show.  I just figure if you don't read fantasy, watching an episode of the show is more likely to start your engine for reading this book.  I'm hopefully obtuse when it comes to fantasy, and I usually need to be tricked into reading it.

    **Miko Designs is a really fun blog.  This lady has the best parties ever for her daughters.

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Game of Thrones

    The first order of post-dissertation life has been to buy a copy of Game of Thrones and read to each other until I fall asleep (that's how it goes in our house).    I'd never heard of the series until the show started up.  J and I watched the first two episodes and decided with how awesome it was, we couldn't wait to get the story week by week. We needed it NOW!  If you want to read a book so bad you'll run out at 10pm on a Saturday night and buy a damn copy, it is going to be good.  You are ready for it and you obviously need it.  Sharing that kind of a compulsion with J was wonderful.

    We read for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, and I'm excited to get back on the couch and get through some more. I feel like we've cheated, watching a few episodes. Now I see all the characters as the actors who play them in the show.  Luckily, I'm not familiar with many of them other than Peter Dinklage, who is fantastic. He plays (so far) the only likable person from the queen's side of the royal family of Lannister.
    Tyrion, seen slapping a most obnoxious character. CLICK for  animation.
    Also unexpected, the female characters are well-rounded and bad-ass.  Since I haven't read very much sci-fi/fantasy, it's easy to have low expectations of kick-ass ladies.  This series has them in abundance.  J and my favorite so far is Arya, the youngest daughter of one of the main characters (there are lots of characters).  She has a pet wolf and thinks dresses and princes are boring.  She is awesome.

    from http://hes-got-bear-hands.tumblr.com/

     Ok, I will stop geeking out now.  If any readers are also into Game of Thrones (show or book) feel free to geek the fuck out in the comments. But writing even a little about this means the blog has become unbalanced in Battlestar Galactica* content.

    *The only reason we aren't currently re-watching seasons 4-6 is because we started reading.  Then we can see who the final cylon is!**
    **Ok, we know who it is. But it's fun to pretend!