Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Black Widow Cosplay

When the Avengers sequel premiered at the beginning of the month, the pub trivia I frequent had a special Marvel themed quiz. I'd done a themed quiz before, for Community, and Dan and I did incredibly poorly. However, I've got some friends who are huuuuuge Marvel fans and they talked us into joining their team.

Usually part of these themed quizzes is a costume contest and this one was no different. It was kind of a last minute decision to dress up, but I became inspired to be Black Widow.

For me, the costume was pretty straight forward. Black tight shirt, black tight pants, my Mara Jade harnesses, a black leather jacket, and some curly red hair.

Black Widow Costume Cosplay

For being kind of thrown together, I was really proud of my costume. I put a lot of time and effort into my hair and make up for the "effortless yet requires a crap-ton of effort" look.

And it totally paid off! I won third prize in the costume contest! It helps when you have Dan yelling in the audience and the winners are determined by crowd volume. I walked away with a pen sketch of the Avengers by a local artist and an Iron Man comic book. My friend Jeremy should have won with his Winter Soldier costume, but he took home second and a Punisher painting.

Image Source

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While our team had the best costumes, we didn't do well at the trivia contest itself. A respectable seventh place. The questions just covered way more material than they told us to study. It was still a great night, though. We assembled well.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Project House Update: Installing Some Windows

So, when we last left the workout room (our spare bedroom), it looked something like this. In the 22 months since we painted the room and installed some new light fixtures, we bought a pair of new windows for the room. Then, the windows sat, uninstalled and wrapped in plastic, for another 15 months.

Fortunately, Dan finally conned his friend Jimmy into coming over to help install them, like he helped with the sliding glass door. They promised me they could install both in one day and I honestly didn't believe them, but they were incredibly efficient. They had one ripped out and had moved onto the second before I had the chance to take pictures.

And in what I'm sure was an effort to prove me wrong, the new windows were set in place in record time. The new windows have much thicker framing than the old ones, but they also have, you know, insulation from the heat, so it's a worthwhile compromise. I prefer the white interior and the exterior is the same dark color as the sliding door.

By the end of the day, they had shimmed them into place, screwed them down, and sealed them with insulating foam. Over the next few days, Dan caulked and painted the exterior and we suddenly had gorgeous new windows! The interior still needed some work, but we decided to wait and clean up the interior once we had decided on window sills.

So, the windows sat with torn up interiors until last weekend. Dan and I finally came to an agreement on window sills. That will be an entirely separate post in the near future, but it did give me the green light to go ahead and spackle and paint the window surround.

Hopefully we'll finish up installing the new beautiful window sills over the long weekend and the room will be the most completed room in the whole house. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Work Out Wednesday: Zumba

When I was a sophomore in college, a friend and I went to a bellydance class together because we were both too scared to go alone. She never went back. I went back for over a year and eventually became something of a teacher's assistant. The teacher got pregnant and couldn't perform certain moves under doctor's orders. I became her demonstrator, standing at the front of the class showing how to do the moves to the new students.

I absolutely loved that weekly class and I was so sad that the class basically died after the teacher had her baby.

That was eight years ago. In those years, I've repeatedly tried to find an adequate substitute. I've tried DVD workouts. Dan and I have took a Latin dance class together. I tried a zumba class that was a trainwreck. It was even a New Year's resolution last year to find a new bellydance class. And I failed at it.

After the holidays and the Superbowl and eating all the terrible food at the beginning of the year, my weight hit a number that was not good. It lit a fire under me to recommit to my goal of finding a new bellydance class. I had some different options all lined up when I got an email at work.

The campus of my work decided to start hosting free work out classes. Yoga, zumba, boot camp, all sorts of things. After realizing how expensive gym members could get just to do similar classes, I decided to give zumba a try.

I was so incredibly nervous for the first class, but afterwards, I was so proud of myself for going. I was an instant addict. The twice-weekly classes have become the highlight of my week. In the past few months, the only classes I've missed are for things I couldn't reschedule or for my business trip.

I haven't noticed a difference in my body (although my zumba instructor says she has), but I'm ok with that since there have been other great perks. The class starts later in the day, so I actually stay at work longer now and get more done. More importantly, the class has basically exposed me to a large percentage of the women who work on site with me. While the class is fialry small, ranging between one to two dozen people, there's such a small fraction of women who work on my site that it's allowed me to meet a lot of them.

And it doesn't have any of the qualities of a crappy workout class. We are all beginners, so there's no judgement. The songs rotate every couple of weekly so we're always learning. The room is huge so we all have our own space. It's free! And it's on site! I don't have to drive 30 minutes out of my way to stand in the back of an overcrowded room full of model zumba snobs.

I absolutely love it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

North Carolyn-a

So, it's been a while. Yeah, no denying that one. My life has gotten busier and I haven't dealt with that well. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, I can motivated and catch up on some things I've been meaning to document, but no promises. Explanations, yes, promises, no.

Oddly enough, one of the calmer moments of the past few months was a business trip I took to North Carolina. It was two coworkers and I setting up a robot system for a BIG customer. So, I had to pretend to be professional and everything. Have you tried building a large robot system in slacks? Ugh, I was just lucky my slacks still fit since they hadn't been worn in several years.

Fortunately, everything with the install went very smoothly so we could have some fun in North Carolina. Charlotte in particular. While I wasn't overly impressed with the things for a tourist to do, we still had fun.

First night in, we had traditional Southern seafood at the Riverview Raw Bar near our hotel. It was a beautiful night and it started a trend of eating all our meals al fresco. Granted I passed on the seafood for a veggie burger, but it was a great hole-in-the-wall to get some Southern flair.

Since this was a BIG customer we visited, we gave ourselves an extra day in case things went wrong. Lucky for us, we didn't need it so we got to explore downtown Charlotte.

My manager was one of the coworkers in Charlotte with me and since I'd already argued with him once on what to do with our spare day, I didn't argue with him this time. He chose the Discovery Place, a science museum for children. It was a fun morning, but it did feel creepy being three adults without kids in a place designed for children...


Look how cute and green this lizard was! I don't know what it was eating on the wall, but so adorable. Maybe peanut butter. I'm still unsure if the smudge was supposed to be there, but he sure enjoyed it.

I blurred out my coworkers faces, but it was pretty funny watching two middle aged guys try out science projects meant for kids.

My favorite part of the museum was the bed of nails exhibit. You laid on a platform, held down a button, and were lifted by hundreds of nails. An incredibly odd experience.

We rounded out the day at the most charming restaurant I've ever been to called The String Bean in Belmont. I wish I'd taken a picture, but we sat on a patio, under strings of lights, sipping vintage-inspired sodas, eating good food, and enjoying the perfect evening.

It was an exhausting trip, but it could have been worse. The work had a few hiccups but we moved past them. No bickering between the three of us. And the best part? It started on a Tuesday and ended on a Friday. No weekend interruptus. Beautiful.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Project House Update: And Now For a Coat of Paint

I know I've complained a lot about tiling the fireplace, but it is official! All the tiles are up! I wrote the whole post and realized I had left that out! That last time you saw it, it was almost there, but patchy. Not anymore! Now onto the next problem with it! Yay...

In the continuing saga of the fireplace we will never finish, did you ever expect paint to come into the picture? When we started this project, I didn't either, but it will hopefully act as a much needed band-aid. Let me explain.

The original facade of the fireplace had tiles around the opening. When we chiseled them off, it took some of the material off the inside of the opening. 

Dan's original plan was to mix up some grout that matches the color of the tile and coat the edge of the opening, all the way to the fire housing part (what is that called? The part where the fire actually sits. The part that is past the opening.)

We made a couple of attempts to match the color and it wasn't going well. We were close, but not close enough where I comfortable coating a four inch fireplace section with it.

I came up with an idea that would minimize the amount of grout we would need. We'd paint the entire interior of the fireplace and just grout right around the edge of the fireplace. Just the first inch, inch and a half, into the opening. It would be enough grout to round the jagged tile edge and cover the damage from removing the old tiles.

Rustoleum makes this great paint that's meant to handle high heats. {Sidenote: the high heat paint we used was basically their spray paint in liquid form, so the fumes were quite intense. If you plan on using it, paint outside if possible. Since we had to be indoors, we opened every window in the house and had all the fans on, with a box fan pointed directly into the fireplace.}

It's amazing how one simple coat of black paint unified the interior of the fireplace. It's almost two dimensional now.

The paint looks kind of streaky in the pictures, but That's mainly reflection from the flash. There is some streaks, but you don't notice it in real life. Also, the thought of having to endure the fumes for another coat of paint is not worth it right now.

We'll have to grout a small strip around the opening, but I'm much more comfortable trying to color match a small strip of grout than a thick one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunrise (which is way to early in January) at Old Tucson

You know what I've been doing for the past few months? Training.

No, really.

The idea of running another race became jammed in my brain. I picked a race far enough out that I could work up to it, and then I did it. All the working up and all the racing.

Miraculously, more than actually running the race, I kept to my training schedule.

Seriously. I did. I didn't miss a single run.

It wasn't much, but three runs a week, progressively getting harder. And while I can't say I successfully completed all of them, I tried. Like, really freakin' hard. Through Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's and birthdays and visiting to see Dan's parents over the break, I ran three times a week.

This race wasn't anything fancy or difficult. It was a four mile trail race through Old Tucson Studios, the place where all the old westerns used to be filmed, but now, the place us locals take our out-of-town relatives.

And I did it. Ran all four miles on a ridiculously chilly January Sunday morning. I even beat my goal time of 48 minutes (my 12 min/mile pace) with a time of 46:24. Not impressive for a runner, but impressive enough for me. {Sidenote: it was a fun run, but I don't think I'll do it again. Because it was a trail course, it was a little too claustrophobic for me to be comfortable.}

Although, I did start to feel like a runner in the last few weeks of training. Mainly, unfortunately, due to my injury. I tweaked something in my hip and with each run, it got tweakier, if you know what I mean. By the day the race rolled around, I was already starting to limp a bit. However, it didn't hinder my running, so I pushed through. Four miles of running made my hip its tweakiest, though.

Afterward, I limped pretty severely for a week and a half. That was a fun conversation to have with each and every one of my nosy coworkers. Yes, I'm fine. I just pushed myself too hard running because I am terribly out of shape and this is my body rebelling against me.

Several weeks later, the limp is almost 100% gone. Last week, I started working out again, anything but running, to let my hip get some additional healing. This week is the scary week, though, because if I plan on trying the Cinco De Mayo run again this year, I have got to start training again. I've got to add two miles to the end of the Old Tucson distance, which will not be an easy feat for me.

We'll see how it goes. Getting a hip replacement at 28 years old doesn't exactly seem reasonable in order to run a 10k...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Brief Fling with Louisiana

Have you heard that I'm a wedding photographer? No? That's because I'm not.

It all started a couple of months ago. My uncle sent out invitations to his upcoming wedding and my mom, sister, and I joked about going. No that the wedding was a joke to us, but because the wedding was on the other side of the country and, to be honest, my family isn't the fly-to-a-wedding sort of people. Anyway, somehow the joke spiraled until it became a reality. I found myself in my parent's living room, booking plane tickets, hotel room, and rental car for a weekend trip.

And then it spiraled even more. Upon RSVPing to the wedding, my uncle asked my mom to be his photographer. Let's make this very clear: my mom is not a photographer. She is an artist and takes a lot of very pretty facebook pictures, but she is not a photographer. She couldn't exactly say no to the request, so I tried to take some of the pressure off of her by volunteering to take pictures as well. The majority of my luggage for the three day trip was my camera equipment.

The one little bit of site-seeing we got to do was a swamp tour. If you have the chance to do one, I highly recommend it. We had the whole boat just for the three of us. Since it was winter, all the reptiles were out sunning themselves on logs, so we saw so much wildlife. My mom had done a swamp tour in the summer once and didn't see a thing!

Here's the lovely little swamp we motorboated about.

My mom, on the boat, enjoying a beauty day in a swamp.

Our tour guide/boat driver. I want to say his name was Gary? He was very dynamic and friendly.

Giant cyprus trees

The first little alligator we saw.

The deeper we went into the swamp, the bigger the gators got...

...until we came across this giant guy.

He had to be at least 12 feet long. I love the neck on him. He's a real life dinosaur!

After the tour, we had just enough time to grab some Hardee's and eat in the hotel room while getting ready for the wedding.

It was a nice wedding. Minus the two and half hour drive both way, I had a lot of fun. I took over 900 pictures, met some cousins I had never met before, and had a slumber party with my mom, my sister, and my aunt.

Makes me sad we don't do things like this more often.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Goals for 2015

New Year's Eve, at almost midnight, it began snowing in Tucson, Arizona. The year ended and a new one began and as Dan and I drove home from a party at our new friend's house, the world was covered in white. It was a literal blank slate. Clean, crisp, and gorgeous.

On the long drive home, we had a lengthy discussion about the past year. While it wasn't necessarily a bad year, we decided it felt like a place holder. Nothing major happened or was accomplished. Great things did happen and bad, sad things happened, too, but the year, as a whole, was a wash.

We summarized the year by three things: 1) Our amazing vacation to Hawaii, 2) Dan getting a promotion (which I am so proud of him for that I forgot about it completely. I am under the assumption, because he is such a good, hard worker, that he is constantly getting promotions.), and 3) Making a lot of new friends.

For the most part, those things weren't on my list of goals for the past year, but I am very happy they happened. Let's go through what I hoped to accomplish one by one.
  • Take better care of myself
    • Get a new dentist - Done! A
    • Get a new doctor - Nope! F
    • Go for more walks and hikes - Didn't happen as often as it should have, but it was a definite increase from 2013. B
    • Wear more lotion and wash my face more often before bed - I can say I thought about doing this more, but the follow through left something to be desired. D
    • Take up bellydancing again - I don't think I did a single dance class or dance workout in 2014, but it wasn't because of a lack of trying. I just never found a class I wanted to try. But since I did manage to complete the 30 Day Shred, I'll cut myself some slack. C
  • Take another crack at the Cinco De Mayo 10K again - Nope. I thought about it. I trained for it and when the time came to sign up, I knew I wasn't ready. Rather than put myself through that pain again, I said no. Because of that, I knew I needed a better strategy for 2015. I've been training for an upcoming race for months now. While I don't think I'm where I need to be yet, I'm getting closer and I'm actually sticking to it. I've only had one run fall apart on me. Just one! So, while technically, I failed at this one, I learned from it and hopefully won't have the same failure in 2015. F
  • Go to the Nutcracker Ballet - I gave up on trying to trick Dan in to taking me, so I took him instead. A
  • Stop making excuses
    • Finally buckle down and lose the newlywed weight - Nope. Maybe this year will be different? F
    • Be more of a force at work - My job is in a better place than it was in 2013, but that was more from the added time and experience than anything I actually did. D
    • Take a vacation! Yes! A
    • Contribute more to the house remodeling. This one didn't go exactly as I had planned, but it wasn't a failure either. Over the past year, I've come to the realization that how I contribute to the house is different than Dan. I'm more of a planner and a motivator than a carpenter or tiler or builder. I can help with the execution, but I am much better with everything around it. My job is planning out the project and then all the finishing touches at the end when Dan has already moved onto a different project. C
See? Overall, kind of a waste of a year. But with the symbolism of a crisp, clean New Year's Day, I think 2015 will be a big year and here's why...

Goals for 2015:
  • Say 'Yes' more. Sometimes, it's nice to stay in on a weekend with leftovers and a movie, but the long term effects of saying yes and doing something you don't want to do and getting off the couch should outweigh the laziness.
  • Be ready for my ten year high school reunion. Whether this means dropping 20 pounds or getting into the head space where realizing that it isn't a competition and I should be happy just to see people I haven't seen in years has yet to be seen.
  • Find a way to advance my career. While in 2014, I felt like I was finally a member of my team and a legitimate engineer, it's time to kick it up a notch. Who knows what that means right now, but I'll get there.
  • Find a doctor. Really this time. 
  • Eat more fresh food. Go grocery shopping more often. Cook more. Experiment with cooking vegetables and ingredients that scare me. Snack on more fruit.
  • Attempt a long race. I'm not going to limit myself to which race I try, but try to complete a race in the 5+ mile length.
  • Make some more youtube videos. Filming youtube videos scares the bejesus out of me, but I find the process so fun at the same time. The true goal would be to film one a month, but that seems like a lot. If I can make more than the two I made in 2014, that'd be cool. 
  • Embrace being a nerd. This year, I became friends with a great pair of girls who LOVE everything fandom and nerdy. They're so open and vocal about their nerdy passions. I love nerdy things, but I'm not very forthcoming with it for the fear that someone will tear me down for not knowing enough. For getting something wrong. I'd love to go to some sort of Comic-com or convention with them this year. Just lean into the nerdiness.
  • Take another vacation. The Hawaii trip was so good for us. While we probably can't afford to take a trip like that two years in a row, taking some sort of time off and getting out of town will be well deserved. 
  • Be me more often. Over the last couple of years, I really started to find myself. To really figure out who I am and embrace it. Yet, I still am so timid about just being me. About stepping on toes or being seen as unprofessional or worrying (like an idiot) about the ramifications of just being outwardly happy. It's time to filter myself less, in both positive and negative connotations, and living with the results.
I usually do better at the more concrete goals, but at the same time, those tend to stress me out more. After reading the book "The Happiness Project", I've learned one of the easiest ways to accomplish goals and resolutions is to review them often. I don't know if I could have told you what my resolutions for the past year were until evaluating them today. To combat this, I've even put a monthly reminder in my calender to evaluate my progress. It doesn't take much to stick to goals if you can remember to stick to them and make little bits of advancement along the way.

Here's to a great new year, guys!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Picking a Star(bucks)

Maybe I'm becoming a basic white girl, but I love me some Starbucks. Something about it makes me feel very grown up. Stopping before work to pick up a latte. Taking a break at work and walking with a coworker to our little on site shop. Finally knowing the terminology and not feeling like an idiot when I place my order.

However, since I'm fairly new to coffee, most of the Starbucks menu is unexplored territory. It would take me weeks to try everything, so I started smaller and more festive: the seasonal Christmas menu. My goal was simple: try all five flavors and pick a favorite.

  • Gingerbread Latte - the only one I've already tried. It's quite tasty and Christmasy, but it didn't taste enough like the gingerbread baked good. Yes, the creamers I buy at the grocery store are always pastry flavored, like cinnamon bun or snickerdoodle, so I expected a fancy $4 coffee to realllllly taste like a cookie.
  • Caramel Brulee Latte - the one Starbucks screwed up. This may have been quite tasty, but I'm pretty sure my local Starbucks left something out. Maybe the correct version is yummy, but I'm not going to waste more money hoping that is the case.
  • Peppermint Mocha - my first mocha. Why didn't anyone tell me mocha is basically coffee hot chocolate? Mmm so tasty. Is it a dessert? Is it a breakfast drink? Who cares, it was delicious.
  • Chestnut Praline Latte - a latte with some nuts on top. It's simply a caramel latte with some crushed up nuts on top. Eh.
  • Eggnog Latte - the first time I tried eggnog. Maybe they don't actually use eggnog, but this is the closest I've come to it yet. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. However, it was just a latte with a bit of a kick. Something tangy in there. I wouldn't call it especially festive or Christmasy.
So, the winner was definitely the Peppermint Mocha. It is now my signature holiday drink. And I'm fully embracing the 'basicness' of this declaration.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Wreath of Car-olyn

Wrath of Khan? Anyone...?


In a domino sort of events, after last Christmas, I ended up with a wreath hanger but no wreath.

A wreath had always been missing from my festive decorations, but I didn't really think twice about it until wreath hooks were like 70% off after Christmas. My sister talked me into buying one, telling me that she would give me her old wreath.

Well, about two months ago, there was a series of unfortunate event that left her wreath beaten and eaten by several different types of animals (it really is quite a long and convoluted story). All of this, of course, before the wreath had made its way into my hands. She still gave me the wreath, but it is definitely not front door worthy now.

So, still determined to have a nice wreath to hang on that shiny, new hook, I headed to the store that solves all my problems: Target. Most of their wreaths were pretty run of the mill until I came across this guy. The last one of its kind, it's bright and happy and ridiculous. The perfect kind of wreath for me.

And don't worry, I didn't let that beat-up wreath go to waste. For now, it's part of my winter centerpiece. You can still see some of the styrofoam cranberries that have been cracked open by all kinds of little teeth, but that's ok. It gives it character, right? Maybe, if I'm ambitious, it'll get a coat of spray paint before next year.

It would probably work better on a larger table, but let's be real, I don't eat at the table so it's really a non-issue.