Monday, August 31, 2015

I Can't Stay Away from You, England

It had been almost a year since my last business trip to England, so off my manager and I went.And this time, it was to a whole new customer which meant whole new cities.

This time, we were based in Southampton, so in our first bit of free time for exploring, we drove toward the coast and just wandered around.

My boss likes old architecture and history bits, so he directed us that way.

Towards crumbling churches,

and the remnants of the former town wall,

and the ports, where the Titanic sailed from.

This was all well and good, but I made sure to swing by a Superdrug to stock up on all of the British only products I had been missing. I even used part of that bath bomb bar during my hotel stay to take a nice bath after a long night of work.

Because we actually worked overnight on this trip, there was a lot more time to go exploring. I was a zombie from exhausting for the majority of it, but still. We got to see a lot.

The second day of exploring, one of my coworkers who is based in Germany came with us and he really wanted to see the preserved boats of Portsmouth. So off we headed to a slightly different coastline.

At the end of the day, we had dinner in one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants, which was a first for me. Who knows? Maybe it's the English equivalent of Olive Garden, but it was damn yummy. Only downside was that he hovered over me in book form for the whole meal. A little creepy.

On this trip, I finally talked my boss into going in to London. We boarded a train from Southampton and spent the morning at the Natural History Museum.

Do you know what the Natural History Museum has? Dinosaurs! So many dinosaurs!!!!

From there, we grabbed lunch at Pret A Manger and spent the afternoon taking in the touristy sites of the city. Like Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament,

and Trafalgar Square,

and the British Museum. Unfortunately, the museum closed about 20 minutes after we arrived, so it was a mad scramble to see as much as possible. I'd visited it before with Dan [link], so I wasn't heartbroken, but I did get to see some of my favs.

For the first time since my first trip to England when I was 15, I saw the Tower of London. I mean, I didn't want to go in and the crown jewels and stuff, but the outside was cool. We walked to entire perimeter, strolled the river by Tower Bridge, and then went and finished up the day with a big (veggie) burger dinner.

So, after a very long day, we took the subway back to Waterloo station to catch a train back to Southampton. If you're a newbie to their train system, it can be quite overwhelming, staring up at all the boards of train lines and schedules, trying to find the train that will get you home right now. After a few minutes, we had figured it out, gotten through the turnstile, and were hustling toward the train.

Apparently, the train was about to leave, so my boss ran up to it and hopped on. However, he hopped on a first class carriage, so I shouted at him to wait because we didn't have first class tickets and so we should go down the train in get in one of the other cars. But as soon as he jumped onto the train, the door slammed shut behind him and I was left standing on the platform alone.

Now, maybe there was a way to delay the train and get him off of it or get me onto it, but that really wasn't clear at the time. So I just stood there as the train rolled away.

What followed was about 20 minutes of me figuring out how to get back through the turnstile, finding another train to take, and just general panicking. Fortunately, I figured it out and headed back to the hotel. Here's my evidence of my solo train trip, with the conductor checking tickets. My train had fewer stops than his so I ended up at the station about five minutes after him.

It was a hell of a trip. A tiring, draining trip that, although fun, has put me off traveling for a while. At least traveling with people, I suppose...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jurassic World Recap

OK, you know how I've become reaaaaaally terrible lately about posting anything in a timely manner? I keep thinking I'll finally catch up, but it's not looking good.

Anyway, here's a post I should have written over two months ago. I'm just the worst.

The Jurassic World Premiere! We did the 7PM show the night before it officially premiered. Like I mentioned in my Jurassic World prep week post, I dressed up in my awesome dinosaur onesie. {Sidenote: please excuse the poor quality of the pictures from inside a dark movie theater.}

It was a wee bit warm in the onesie. It is fleece and it was June in Tucson. Granted, movie theaters are always cold, but it wasn't cold enough. I really thought I was going to overheat by the end of it.

You know what's a weird feeling? Trying to sit for any length of time with a fake tail. The only comfortable way to sit was with it sticking out from between my legs. I may or may not have taken this picture to send to one of my friends who couldn't come with us as an obscene text.

Since this movie was a big deal to me, I wrangled up as many friends to come as possible. There were probably a dozen of us. It was a great time.

In a weird twist I still don't fully understand, I was the only person dressed up for my showing, the first showing. However, sooooo many teenagers dressed up for the second showings of the night. Here's me and Dr. Grant and Ian Malcolm.

There were also two guys in full raptor Halloween costumes. They were getting full applause from the movie theater lobby. I slowly plauded after them until I caught up and we had a little dinosaur circle of excitement. After the movie itself, it was the highlight of my night.

Since it has premiered, I have seen Jurassic World three more times: once with my mother, once in 3D with my friend Kristine, and this past weekend with my friend Bekah.

The first time I saw it, I was a little disappointed. It wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be. However, in seeing it several time since, I really like it now. There is still a lot of backstory I wish they could have covered, but ignoring that, it was a great movie.

Not all of this post is horribly late. I wrote a review of the movie the first weekend I saw it. Here's an excerpt of it:
Some people who have seen Jurassic World have called it sexist. I'm not sure if I agree. I'm not sure I disagree.

Yes, there are only five female speaking roles in the entire movie. They include: Claire, the female protagonists; Vivian, an employee who manages park services from the control room; Zara, Claire's annoyed assistant; Karen, Claire's sister and the kids' mother; and Zach's nameless girlfriend. 

However, the remaining three female characters are played with incredible nuance that make them real, not necessarily 'strong'. Claire is a HBIC. Her job is her life and she takes no prisoners. But, at the same time, she is shown trying. She tries so hard to have authority and control. We're supposed to believe this effort for control is counter intuitive when dealing with such a fluid, flexible system, but I interpreted it differently. She's not exercising control to bend nature to her whim: she uses it to be taken seriously by all her male coworkers looking down their noses at her. She's the odd woman out and she doesn't want any mistakes that they can pick apart. As a woman who works almost solely with male coworkers, this may be one of the first characters I've seen to portray this feeling correct. When things do start to go wrong and crumble, she pushes back against the men who try to take over with mixed results. You can see the fear in her eyes as she loses control to these men who don't have the parks or the animals best interest at heart until she breaks and goes rogue, working to fix the situation without them.

You would think Claire would be my favorite character given how I relate to this redheaded control freak, but you would be wrong. My favorite was Vivian. She is feminine, nerdy, vulnerable, and good at her job all at the same time. She wears sun dresses with leggings. She is one half of the pair that basically runs everything from the control room. She cries when people are killed. She worries about the safety of the visitors. And, in a minor spoiler, (SPOILER BEGIN) she shuts down a man who tries to play 'hero' and kiss the girl. She had a boyfriend, but she just doesn't talk about him at work. That would be unprofessional. (SPOILER END).
In that initial review, I was a little too hard on Claire. I've grown to appreciate her character a lot more. I've watched youtube tutorials on how to get her make up look. I've found her shoes and bought them. They frustratingly didn't fit, but still. The movie has grown on me each time I've seen it. 

I'm so glad that the movie didn't disappoint me and that it did amazingly well, basically guaranteeing several sequels.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

This is just a post of my cats sitting in weird places

Apparently my cats have been extra rambunctious lately and getting into all sorts of things they are not supposed to. Here is the evidence.

Whenever I'm in the workout room (which is rare, let's be honest), Rusty loves to be tall by laying awkwardly across the weight rack.

Sam prefers to cuddle with Dan, so I will accept anything I can get from him. Even if he is only 'cuddling' with me in an attempt to cross my leg bridge to get to my ice cream bowl.

Being the lovely, little pain he is, Rusty shows no fear about jumping into unknown places. Accidentally forget to close the fridge door and he suddenly has all sorts of new things to smell.

Last one. Having a laundry pass through should be a nice feature of our house. However, with our cats, it's just a tiny door into our bedroom without a lock. Sam loves to have a good cry in front of the pass through until you push it open for him.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Project House Update: Repainting and Recessing

Yes, I am still alive. I've just been busy. In the irony that is blogging, the more busy and exciting life is, the less of it gets recorded. It's going to get worse before it gets better, so let me try to spend the next few days catching up.

For the Fourth of July, Dan and I took a week of vacation time. Since I'm stressing over money because of Dan's shop construction, we knew we wouldn't be doing any traveling this year. So, with our time off, we decided to stay in town and get some things done on our to-do list.

Now, you may know that I post a yearly to-do/status list of our entire house. If you were to look at that last version of the list, you'd find none of the projects we actually did.

Several years ago, when we moved into our house and started fixing it up, we got the bold idea to paint the front three rooms of our house vibrant yellow. Fortunately, we talked ourselves out of painting the front living room yellow once we'd painted both the entry way and the dining room. We accidentally used semi-gloss instead of matte and hadn't swatched the yellow before painting so we quickly grew to dislike it. However, in true stubborn fashion, we also refused to repaint because it would be admitting we were wrong.

I finally broke on our first day of vacation. We had some house guests for that first day and when one of them asked what we'd be doing with our time off, I spewed, "Repainting the entry way and dining room," much to Dan's surprise.

Projects like painting two rooms should be easy, but if you've ever done house projects before, you know how these things spiral. The first day was simply moving all the furniture from the rooms, removing switch plates and light fixtures, and popping off all the baseboards.

The last time we painted, we left the baseboards, but since then, we've removed them in the corresponding rooms, so these ones needed to go. One day we'll get around to installing baseboards in the whole house. (As Dan says, "Once I have the shop, it will be easy.")

Day Two was patching holes from the baseboard nails, sanding and smoothing the paint line between the walls and the edge where the baseboards used to be, and working on the recessed lighting.

Yes, that's right, recessed lighting. Dan remembered late on the second day why we hadn't decided to repaint earlier. He made the argument that our dining room needed more lighting and since it would tear up the ceiling to run the wires, he wanted to do it all in one go. He quickly talked me into the idea and I had to quickly talk him out of six light fixtures since four would be plenty {Sidenote: to whatever website Dan found that said you should have recessed lights every four feet, screw you. My dining room would look like a grocery store if you were correct.}

He sketched up the lights locations, mapped out the studs, and started carving into our ceiling to pass wires through studs. I'm so grateful how handy he is with all of this electrical stuff. The initial plan only had him cutting two holes to drill and run all the wires, but he needed three in the end. All of this also meant a fun new tool for Dan so he could perfectly cut out the circles for the light kits.

Also, Dan decided to fix anything in these rooms that had been poorly thought-out by the previous owners. For one, our dining room has this giant empty wall where I've always wanted to put a big piece of statement art, but there was a security system speaker mounted right in the center of it. So, he punched a hole in the wall and ran the speaker into the room on the opposite side.

Secondly, our doorbell. The unit was large and it wasn't very loud. It had always gotten under Dan's skin that our house has an intercom system, but the doorbell wasn't part of it. After some online research, he found a $50 part that would let us hook the two systems together. He wasn't 100% sold on it, but we decided to gamble and rush ordered it. I'm so glad we did. You can now here the bell in every room of the house. For now, we just used a blank outlet plate that matches the wall to cover the hole from the old doorbell chime.

At this point, all of the days started to blur together, but it was many trips to Home Depot and Lowe's for supplies, for paint, for light fixtures, for painter's tape and liners, etc. It was time-consuming with a lot of edges to cut in, but it was a pretty stress-free project. We both agreed on painting the entry way the same white as the hallway and the dining room the same green/gray as the front room. We just put on some podcasts and spent our days painting, then our evenings swimming, and our nights relaxing.

It was a pretty great little vacation and at the end of it, we had this to show for it.

As a summary, here's all the big and little things that changed in those nine days:
  • Repainted the entryway white
  • Repainted the dining room the same color as the front room
  • Installing and wiring four recessed lights with a dimmer
  • Relocating the security system speaker for a smooth dining room wall
  • Upgrading the doorbell to ingrate with intercom system so the bell can be hear all over the house and the chime unit is no longer necessary in the entryway. 
  • Removed and patched all the baseboards
We're still on the look-out for some nicer light fixtures for both rooms, but for now, it's enough of an improvement to keep us happy for a very long time.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Project House Update: The List - Version 3.0

So, there wasn't a lot to show this year in terms of house updates. We did do a whoooole lot. Many projects, like the fireplace, have eaten up numerous weekends. Other projects, like the shop, have required so much planning that we haven't really seen any pay-off yet. And other projects, like getting the bricks resealed, took time and money, but the results are invisible to the naked eye.

Slowly, but surely, our house is coming along. We've finally have a significant amount of prep done and a bunch of our ducks in a row so that Version 4.0 of this list should be amazing.

If you'd like to go back and see what we've accomplished in previous years, click one of the older versions of this list below, otherwise, let's see what's changed!

June 2013: Version 1.0
June 2014: Version 2.0

* means something Dan wants to do and I am trying to talk him out of.
# means something I want and Dan is ignoring and hoping I'll forget/change my mind.
bold means something new or completed since the last version of the list.


Done: Painted, installed new light fixture, set up corner table, hung some art, modified closet 
To Do: New flooring, new baseboards, maybe repaint a more neutral and subtle color#, new light*, coat rack or console table.

Dining Room:

Done: Painted, hung curtains
To Do: Hang some art, new flooring, new baseboards, new light fixture, new chairs, redo dresser into china cabinet, maybe repaint a more subtle color.

Formal Living Room:

Done: Hung curtain rod and curtains, hung ceiling fan, painted, upgraded light fixtures, tiled fireplace, bought lamp
To Do: Make mantle for fireplace, new floors, new molding, build built-in bookcases, get fireplace working, arrange furniture, hang art.

Kitchen/Breakfast Nook:

Done: Painted, new ceiling fan in breakfast nook, removed awkward ceiling fan in kitchen, installed new microwave, purchased refrigerator
To Do: New floors, new cabinets, new range instead of built-in oven and cook top, new counter tops, additional lighting under cabinets, pendant lighting over the sink, new bar stools, finish painting chairs for breakfast nook, new windowsills in nook*, new sink.

Great Room:

Done: Painted, purchased entertainment center, hung art, hung TV, routed cables through the wall, new coffee table, added more seating, new ceiling fan*, hung star mirror.
To Do: New floors, new molding, maybe repaint a more subtle color#, widen doorway to entryway, add sofa table.

Master Bedroom:

Done: Painted, installed new ceiling fan, purchased dressers, new blinds blades, hung curtains, purchased bed frame
To Do: New floors, redo fireplace, install crown molding, new door (instead of stupid sliding pocket door)#, find side table for Dan, more lighting.

Master Bathroom/Closet:

Done: Replaced sliding glass door, removed and patched toilet paper holder, upgraded toilet room
To Do: Paint, new floors, new vanities, remove overhead dry wall pocket*, new mirrors, add wall sconces, french doors into closet, new shower*, new shelving and organization in closet, chandelier, twinkly lights around top, furniture (including a standing mirror and an island/ottoman)

Guest Room/Guest Bath/Guest Closet:

Done: Painted bookcase and end table, bought bedding, painted room, installed new ceiling fan, window treatments, magazine shelves
To Do: New floors, modify bed frame, new cabinets and counter top, new toilet, new shower doors, paint bathroom and closet.


Done: Paint, new lighting, hung art (1 and 2)
To do: New floors, add baseboards

Hall Bathroom:

Done: Hung some art
To do: Penny floors!, paint, remove wall to create one space, new toilet, update tub, new lighting, new cabinets and countertop*


Done: Hung art, new dresser
To Do: Stain shelving, remove desk and install cabinets, built-in cat box, new window treatment, paint, new floors, new lighting, new window, new ceiling fan, new desk(s).

Workout Room:

Done: New windows and window sills, wiring for ceiling fan, paint, ceiling fan, new lighting
To Do: new floors, new window treatment, base boards

Laundry Room:

Done: Purchased washer and dryer, electrical work on lighting.
To Do: Paint, new floors, move sink into garage, build platform for washer/dryer, purchase deep freezer, straighten out crooked pantry, install some shelving, find bench and storage for shoes, new lighting.


Done: Built Turtle's habitat, removed pokey bush
To Do: Remove gravel, plant some trees, fire pit, build housing to hide pool pipes, convert exterior shower into a shed, replace outdoor lights


Done: Removed fountain, planted some trees, removed a ton of dead cactus, new porch lights
To Do: redo driveway, paint garage door, new driveway lights, paint pergola

Other things we've done: new roof, updated pool solar heating, adobe bricks sealed.

Other things in progress: build Dan's external shop