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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Trimming the Tree

It's not really Christmas until the tree is up. Which, for us, means Christmas usually starts the day after Thanksgiving. (Just because Dan is on the ball with putting the tree up doesn't mean I'm on the ball writing about it.)

Since it is so much work to put it up and decorate it, I wanted ti turn it into an event. To start it off right, two piping hot cups of cocoa. Topped with chocolate covered marshmallows made during the epic afternoon of Buck Eyes.

In our house, the two cats have completely opposite opinions of the Christmas tree. To Rusty, the tree is the greatest thing ever. It's something to chew on, to climb on, to play with. He needed to be involved in every step of the process.

And to Sam, it's just there. Something to hide under occasionally, but that's about it. Here's what he was up to the whole time the rest of us were working.

After many thwarted attempts by Rusty to climb the tree and Dan and I having our annual argument about the proper time to put on the tinsel garland (it's always BEFORE the ornaments, you animal!), we finished the tree. Please excuse the crooked tree topper. We're too lazy to care to fix it.

This year, I caved and bought an ornament before Christmas, full price and everything. Completely new territory for me. For a change, I wanted a nice, elegant ornament. When I came across this beautiful vintage-inspired snow globe with a deer and tree inside (sorry that it is hard to see), I knew it was destined for our tree.

Don't worry, I hung it far, far from this guy. He's getting better and better at pulling ornaments off the tree. He's actually really delicate with them, holding them in his paws, until he gets bored and just drops them.

Such a classy tree. Snowman garland, stuffed dinosaur ornaments, a cock-eyed tree topper, and one grown-up snow globe ornament. It sounds crazy, but I don't think I've ever had a tree that's made me smile as much as this one has.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Giving Back

In my efforts to get in the festive mood and feel the spirit of the holidays, I had forgotten that one of the most important things about this time of year is 'good will towards men'. To be grateful for what I have and give to people who are not as lucky.

My sister works with kids in foster care and she asked both my mom and me to sponsor a child and buy them some presents. I wish I knew the name of the kid I bought presents for, but I do know he's 16 months old and likes trucks.

I'm not a very charitable person and I'll go back to the regularly scheduled shallow Christmas posts tomorrow, so I have no place to get high and mighty, but take a second this time of year to think about what really matters to you. Do you really need another set of festive napkin rings or could that money give a smile to someone having a hard time.

Just don't think about it too hard while shopping for presents at Target or you experience a hurricane of emotions like I did. Only slightly embarrassing...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Framing Santa

Growing up, one of my favorite parts of my mom's Christmas decorations was the display she made of all our childhood pictures with Santa. On the counter, next to the Christmas candy jar, she proudly showed off the half dozen pictures of my sister and I sobbing and crying while visiting old Saint Nick.

{Sidenote: I was all prepared to include a picture of my mom's display but she didn't put it out this year. Geez, Mom! So, you know, imagine it looks similar to these pictures I creepily took off of google.}

Image Source
I wanted to continue this tradition at my house, but since I have no children and taking cats to the mall seems like the worst idea ever, my husband, my sister, and I would just have to do.

Two years ago, the three of us took one of my favorite pictures ever with my friend Santa Jerry. It is completely deserving of a shining spot in our Christmas decor. So, given that I am a hoarder of sale picture frames from Target and Aaron Brothers, I sent the pic to Walgreens to be printed and cleaned up a frame I had sitting around. Apparently I'm really into seasonal art now...

And here's it is!

It's not much of a collection, but someday, when we have gaggles of kids and all sorts of Christmas pictures to put out, this one will still have a starring spot, showing our kids that it's ok to be weird and have fun.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Nailing It

For my birthday this year, a friend of mine gave me an Essie winter nail set. Reds and simmers and shinies. What better to get me in a festive mood than festive finger nails?

Since I'm indecisive, I couldn't choose between the colors. Each nail got it's own shade and level of sparkle.

While I am notorious for not being able to keep my nails nice, hopefully a lovely Christmas manicure can survive the upcoming weeks.

And yes, I know this is kind of a short, lame post, but you guys, 25ish days of Christmas posts are hard. They all can't be complicated or flashy. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Giftz for Catz

Hello humanz. It is I, Rustholomew. Samsicle has conveniently distracted the red-furred human so that I can tell you something very important: what to get your feline masterz for Christmas.

We have been very good all year and deserve the best. We let you rub our belliez without biting you too hard. We make sure there are no small objectz cluttering up your surfacez. We keep your magazinez well perforated. You owe us.

Christmas Gifts For Cats

1) A patch of grass. If your masterz are indoor only catz like we are, they would greatly appreciate a touch of the outdoorz safely inside. We promise we'll let it live at least a week. Don't judge us if we roll in it.
2) A laser pointer automatic toy. It's no secret: our momma is lazy. She meanz well, but she getz bored quickly. Much too quickly. This toy will move that evil red dot around for hourz and let our bum of a momma off the hook.
3) A cat castle. This is not a cat condo. It's a full-on palace. With pillarz to scratch and cavez to hide in and platformz to lounge on. Just make sure to assemble it in a lovely, sunny corner.
4) A window screen seat. All the joys of being outside without all that annoying dirt. Perfect for those spring dayz when the birdz are being too chippy and the air is warm and fragrant.
5) Good, human food. It's a holiday. We deserve some good food, not that crunchy crap the female human getz in a big bag from Target. I prefer meatz and crunchy, salty crackerz and Samuel wantz sweet, creamy dessertz.

And then there are all the free, easy giftz of the day, like boxez and scrapz of wrapping paper. And bowz! How we love bowz!

Just so you don't think we're bratz and shouldn't be receiving all these glorious presentz, here's purr-roof that we are adorable. Someday, Sam will hopefully learn how to be as photogenic as I am.

That is all. You may now return to your normal perusing of I Can Has Cheezburger. Good day.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Buck Eyes

Dan loves Christmas. It's got to be his favorite holiday. Some years, we're more festive than others, but every year, without fail, he must make Christmas cookies. And the top of that list is always Buck Eyes.

I'd never heard of Buck Eye cookies until I started dating Dan, but apparently they're a Midwest thing. A peanut butter 'dough' (basically peanut butter and powdered sugar) dipped in melted chocolate. They've got to be terrible for you, but they sure are tasty.

In the quantity Dan's family makes them, a batch can take a full afternoon. Fortunately, when his parents came to visit at Thanksgiving, we teamed up.

Once the dough was all blended in the stand mixer, Dan and his mom got to rolling the eyes.

I'm pretty sure Dan planned it out so he could watch the big football game while making these. (Suck it ASU! Pac-12 South Champs!)

They were rolling them out a lot faster than I was able to dip them. {Sidenote: full disclosure, I am not very helpful at making these. I got put in charge of dipping for the first time and was just goofing around trying different methods. Fondue fork actually worked pretty well}.

Everyone took a turn at dipping them this year. Dan's dad uses a lot of chocolate on his.

A batch of these is sooooo freakin' big. They took bag home with them, but we still have a freezer bag brimming with them. By the time Christmas rolls around, we'll probably be sick of them, but at least they freeze well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blogmas 2014: This Ain't No Ugly Sweater

One of my big goals this holiday season was to get the perfect holiday sweaters. Ideally, I'd end up with two: a 'cute' winter, knitted sweater and an 'ugly' Christmas sweater. While I have yet to find the perfect 'cute' sweater, I have the PERFECT 'ugly' sweater.

My friend Rebekah was obsessed with ugly Christmas sweaters and kept sending me all the great ones she found. In a sad twist for her, but a great twist for me, she bought her sweater before she found this beauty.

Image Source
IT'S A JURASSIC PARK CHRISTMAS SWEATER! If you can't tell from the picture, it's a T-rex holding candy canes who is about to eat Santa on the toilet, a la the first Jurassic Park. And I can't believe I didn't notice until now the green pterodactyl.

There is no level of excitement and caps lock can explain how happy this sweater makes me. I don't know why I waited almost a week to buy it, but it arrived yesterday and it is now my favorite article of clothing.

It's remarkably well made and well fitting on me for a $30 men's sweater. The trees are knitted, not printed and the knit is clingy enough that you wouldn't necessarily think it's a men's sweater.

Besides Rebekah's ugly sweater party, I definitely plan on wearing it my last day of work this year. Nothing like an amazing Christmas sweater to make all the other engineers jealous.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Fun Gifts for Women

When I was making my Christmas wishlist this year, I had a bit of a revelation. Every year, my wishlist is made of clothes and jewelry and home decor. I always get lovely things, but they're kind of boring, right?

Remember Christmas when you were a kid and everything you got was fun? I miss that, so my goal this year is to turn it into the Christmas of fun! Here's what on my list and maybe you'll be inspired to get someone in your life something fun, too!

Fun Christmas Gifts For Women

1) A big-ass super soaker. I would have so much fun annoying Dan with this thing. And now that we live at a house with a pool, it's the perfect pool accessory. I couldn't find one as big as the ones I had as a kid, but this one could still do some damage.
2) A fake fish. It moves and everything. This little guy would be so cute in my office and may keep me saner for just a bit longer. All the fun of a real pet with none of the scary risk of dying.
3) A murder mystery jigsaw puzzle. Have you ever heard of these? I've done two of them and they're quite cute. Each one comes with a little novel of a mystery. The story stops before revealing who-done-it and you then assemble the puzzle to solve the mystery. I have to admit that the clues in the puzzle are pretty obscure so I have yet to figure one out completely, but they do come with a handy answer booklet, too.
4) A fun videogame. I'm not a big fan of shooting games or roll-playing game, but I love me a puzzle game. This game 'Chariot' is a two person co-op game where you work together to navigate increasingly hard vertical mazes while carrying around your father's coffin. It sounds more morbid than it is. Although, if Dan and I played together, it could get very bloody very quickly. 
5) A shower radio. For some reason, some of my most vivid memories from being a teenager were blasting my music and dancing around before, during, and after my showers. Why can't I continue that as an adult? Other than my commute, my life has been lacking music, which is odd given how it motivated me when I was younger.
6) Skip-It. Well, I don't think they make 'official' Skip-Its, but this is as close as they get. I remember being six or seven years old and spinning my Skip-It in the driveway until the little counter on it rolled over. I can relive that now on  my back porch and it's almost like exercise.
7) A fancy paint-by-numbers. I'm not very artistic. I can't draw a straight line without help. But I do like to make things. I found this great line of paint-by-numbers I'm excited to try of famous works of art. If it turns out well, maybe it'll be wall-worthy.
8) A record player. For a reason that makes absolutely no sense, I bought a record. Yet, I own no record player. I like the idea of vinyl, of putting on an album and listening to the whole thing. On my Ipod, a song is lucky if I listen to it for 90 seconds. I can't remember the last time I heard a full album. It's not too cliche if I want to get into vinyl, right?

So, this Christmas, I encourage you to include something fun on your list for Santa. When you're forced to sit down and think about what you find fun, you may just have a full-identity crisis like I did. It's a lot harder than you think it would be. If you come with something of your own, let me known below!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blogmas 2014: Kick Off!

It's that time of year again! Blogmas!

My attempt to get in the Christmas spirit by blogging every weekday until Christmas! There will be posts about decorating, crafting, baking, and gift wishlists. I will be taking note of everything I do Christmasy in the next few weeks.

So, if you have suggestions for this Grinch to get in the festive spirit, let me know below! And feel free to follow along with this year's post on the "Blogmas" tag under "Recurring Themes" on the right-hand sidebar or catch up on what I did last year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Project House Update: That Needed to Get Done, Right?

Both Dan and I have the full week off for Thanksgiving. While it's nice not to have to work, it's even better to have all sorts of time to get stuff done on the house. Unfortunately, there's a bit of a bump in the road: in laws. I love my in laws, but my husbands productivity drops to zero when they stay with us.

So, it's a fun little game I play, seeing how much I can get him to do before they come into town. In a dirty move, I decided we needed to reorganize our entry way closets and pulled everything out of them the second he left me home alone. One was filled with all our luggage and the other with our cleaning appliances, like the vacuum and brooms. Why we were holding onto so many old, broken suitcases was beyond me. There was no reason we couldn't chuck most of it and fit the contents into just one space.

With the closets empty, Dan got inspired to just redo the whole closet while we were at it. Just one, the one I had completely emptied. Since I wasn't planning on this being a project, this is the best 'Before' picture I managed to get.

And here's a small portion of the mess I made pulling it all out.

We did three big things to the closet.

First, we removed the coat rod. "What? How could you remove the coat rod?!" Well, we did and here's why. Numero 1: it's Arizona. I don't think we've ever had guests over and they've been desperate to hang their coats. Numero 2: it's the front entry way. Dan and I rarely, if ever, leave through the front door. We store all our coats and bags in the laundry room.

Second, we painted the walls. They were the same creamy/beige most of the house was originally painted and they'd been pretty banged up from the dirty wheels of the luggage.

Third, Dan installed some shelves. While we'll leave the other closet shelf-less to store taller items like the vacuum, this one didn't really need any height to store things. In a twist of fate, Dan had removed some shelves in the garage to replace them with stronger ones. Wouldn't you know it, they were the exact right width and height for this little closet.

And without further ado, here's the 'finished' product.

Eventually, a different set of junk will go on the shelves and we'll hopefully get rid of another car full of donations, but it's better. For now.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dare to DIY: Thankful for Art Deco

It's Dare to DIY time again! I'm not very crafty, but every year I get inspired by Michelle at 'Decor and the Dog'.

For several days, I tried to get hit by creative lightning, but nothing was happening. Pinterest is pretty unhelpful when you live in Arizona. There are no ways to craft with colorful leaves when there is no seasonal foliage.

While I wasn't finding anything autumnal, I was becoming insanely fascinated by everything Art Deco. Golds and silvers and jewel tones and geometric patterns and swirling vines. I don't know how I've gotten obsessed, but I am.

Anyway, becoming frustrating, I searched for 'art deco thankful' and found this lovely print at an etsy shop. While it's a very nice print, my immediate reaction was, "I can make something like that."

There is always something to be thankful for. Always.

In a great twist of fate, I found a frame at Target for 70% off at Target that's both art deco with its gold detailing and fall with the burlap matting.

I know these sorts of things are usually more about arts and crafts, using modpodge to stick something to something else and VOILA! Centerpiece! But, for me, making a print design is so much more challenging. It took me almost four hours to make that image. Hunting for art deco borders, downloading different fonts, learning how to use the free online photo editing software better. It took a bit of time, but I think the results are totally worth it.  

If you'd like to print it out for yourself, that's totally cool. It's formatted for 8" by 10".

I know it's not for everyone and it's so incredibly niche, but this thing makes me so happy. When I couldn't find a Thanksgiving decoration that I liked, I'm proud of myself for bringing one into existence. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Have You Seen A Cat Play Fetch?

It's been a while since I did a cat update post, I think. And if it hasn't, well, I don't care because I finally caught this little cutie on film playing fetch! There are two things Sam loves: being scared by absolutely everything and fetching up things.

See that hair tie in that picture? He most likely stole it from my hair stuff drawer and then cried until I played fetch with him. He'll play fetch with just about anything. My hair ties, tiny pieces of plastic he digs out of the trash, cat toys, and his newest favorite is the Nerf darts from Dan's birthday dart gun.

[Sidenote: I'm still trying to get the hang of taking video, so please excuse the fact that the camera rotation is all sorts of crap.]

And just so I'm not playing favorites, here's Rusty playing with the cat teaser.

Yes, I am a crazy cat lady and don't care at all. They're too cute for me to care.

Monday, November 17, 2014

All Souls Procession 2014

One thing Tucson is known for is it's Dias des los Muertos celebrations. For anyone unfamiliar with the Mexican tradition, it's a day just after Halloween where you honor the dead. Since I'm not hispanic, all I know of the tradition is how my city celebrates.

Every year, several days after Halloween, tens of thousands of people paint up their face and parade through downtown, the All Souls Procession. At the end of the route, it turns into all out craziness; the closest comparison is that it's like a mini Burning Man festival.

This year was my first year participating. It was both more and less crazy than I imagined.

First of all, the most important part: the makeup. It was a lot of cheap face paint, eye liner doodles, and a fabulous red lipstick.

Two tips for anyone else doing Day of the Dead makeup. First, it is possible for eye liner to stain your eyebrows. Second, face paint is worth the money you pay. It was like having a face covered in lip gloss. Just like a breezy day, my hair kept sticking to it. It almost drove me insane.

My friends and I went out to dinner beforehand, half of us already in our makeup and half not. Thankfully, I brought along my makeup for touch ups after eating and the eye liner was passed around so no face was blank.

After a bit of a walk over to the parade route, we spent close to an hour just watching the parade march past us. There aren't a lot of 'floats' in the parade, but many groups have themes and some people make elaborate mini-floats, sort of single shrines carried by just one person. There were mariachi bands and bagpipe bands and high school bands and acrobatics.

After watching for a while, we got antsy jumped in! You don't fully grasp how many people are there until you're in the middle of it. With everyone made up, you could be standing next to your sister and not even know. You're just surrounded by a sea of strangers. It actually became kind of overwhelming.

We never made it to the end of the parade. By the time we had walked out of downtown and under the highway, we had been on our feet for hours and knew we had a ridiculously long walk back to the car. So, we missed the burning of the urn filled with prayers and the music and displays. We heard mixed reviews of it later, so I don't feel that bad about leaving early.

But we didn't go straight home. Nope. We stopped at a late night diner and had us some pie. In full skeleton face makeup. I wish I had gotten a picture of us, but we were already getting enough looks as it was.

One boy skeleton eating supreme lemon meringue and one girl skeleton eating coconut cream.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I Love Lamp

At the beginning of the month, Dan and I hit up our local antique's fair. [link] For the past few months, we usually come home empty handed. It tends to be the same kind of stuff over and over and while it is interesting to look at, there hasn't been anything that really popped out at me.

This time was different, though. One of our favorite booths had this awesome lamp. A talk brass floor lamp with five arcing arms. Almost identical to the one below.The main difference is this one isn't really shiny anymore. It's got some wear and patina, which makes it look more vintage, less 80's.

Image Source
I wish I had taken a picture of the actual lamp at the booth, but I figured that wouldn't help with any negotiating. I'd seen it in their booth back in October, but didn't say anything at the time. I had given it a once over, but Dan laughed it off. It was fate for it to still be there. It needed to be mine.

One of the ladies at the booth told us her husband would probably sell it for $100. The husband told us he'd let it go for $80. We walked away, then came back and offered him $60.

Then Dan and I walked our giant new lamp home. 

For now, it sits in two pieces in our torn apart living room. It will live in that room once we've finally finished the fireplace, but it's too large for any other space.

Once the room is completed, I'd like to move our sectional into it and position the lamp behind it, kind of like this:

Just image a lamp and a sectional in place of this cheap Target lamp in the corner of our living room.

I really can't wait until I can actually put all the things that are supposed to go in this room in their rightful homes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let's All Do the Cat Trap

'Cat trap totally sounds like it could be a dance. Someone work out what that would look like, ok?


Have you seen this cat trap trick on Buzzfeed? It's kind of stupid, but I had to try it. Probably just because of how cute and bug-eyed the cat in their example is...

Image Source
It's really as simple as it looks. You take some tape and create a circle on the floor. That's all the trap is. Then, you wait and laugh and laugh when your cat has to sit in the spot. If you have a cat, you know. The floor could be completely empty except for one thing and they HAVE TO sit on it.

That said, I was incredibly surprised when my cats did this:

They never got near it. I let the trap sit on the floor all night. Nothing. It's like they knew and were laughing at me about it.

Smug little baby boys.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Let's Take a Field Trip to the Power Plant

I still don't understand how exactly I ended up at the Tucson's power plant with all my coworkers. From what I've pieced together, one of my coworkers, Mike, met one of his neighbors at a home owner's meeting. Turns out this guy is only in town for a couple of months while he set up the new solar power plant installation. Bing bang boom. Mike has convinced him to give our entire department a private tour.

Since the power plant is no longer along my commute, I was completely unaware that they were even building anything new. To sum it up, they've basically built a 400 meter field of mirrors which they can angle to reflect sunlight at a length of tube overhead. Water runs through the tube and is heated to super saturated steam which then powers the turbine.


Our tour started with a little lecture in the construction trailer on how all this works. Then, we moved onto the fun part: walking around under the mirrors. Since the installation wasn't up and running yet, all the mirrors were facing the ground, to protect them. It made for some great pictures.

The great thing about this new solar installation is that it uses water. Other installations of this type tend to use oil and need some sort of heat exchanger, which lose efficiency. This system uses water, the same water that is already being turned into steam in the gas portion of the power plant. It means that when it's daylight and the solar power is running, less gas is needed to power the city. The new solar portion reduces the energy needed in an existing system, which is apparently a very big deal to those in the know.

The water pipes run a hundred feet in the air above the mirrors. These specially-coated tube can be serviced by a little trolley suspended below them. That is a job I would not want to have.

So, next time you're driving along I-10 and you look over at the power plant, you can say you know what that ridiculous tower and mirrors are.