Archived entries for Life

Pumpkin Patch

Back in October we went out to a local farm to pick out some pumpkins for carving and just have fun in general. If there’s one thing I know about my in-laws it’s that they like to have fun which is not at all a bad thing. In fact, I think I fit in fairly well:

One of the play areas for kids (we didn’t see the height restriction until after we were leaving…) had a bunch of tricycles for a derby. Unfortunately, all of the tricycles had flat tires and/or messed up handlebars. Trying to push each other didn’t really work well, either. But it was ridiculous and fun, which sums up this day.

What on earth is he doing, you ask? Well…

Once he saw the Pumpkin Sling-shot there was no dissuading him. The object, aside from launching tiny pumpkins across a field for the fun of it, was to try to land a pumpkin in the window of a pickup truck or to hit one of two other targets. No one made it in the window while we were watching but they sure tried.

The next day it was time to carve pumpkins. In order to carve them, though, you have to take out the guts. I attempted to clear my own out but I really couldn’t stand the slimy, gross feel of it. Michael to the rescue!

I chose a rather ambitious carving: a Weeping Angel from Doctor Who. The Angels are creepy enough on their own but I found this sketch done by Vinh-Luan Luu when browsing Google Images. (See? “Google Images” is NOT a source! Everything Google returns links to a site of some sort, even if it’s not the original credit. *Pet Pinterest Peeve*) The fact that the Angel is trying to look makes it that much creepier. Perfect for a pumpkin. It took hours, partially because I’ve never tried anything like this. There was a lot of learning going on. In the end I’d say it was well worth the effort.

Somehow I ended up with the easier to carve pumpkin. Michael’s turned out to be a bit of a beast. At one point he took a drill to it because it was so tough. I’m glad he kept at it because his pumpkin turned out pretty darn cute.

Yes, that is Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. We’ve both watched the series and are completely unashamed.

By now our pumpkins are decomposing in a compost heap but it doesn’t matter. We all had a fun time picking out the pumpkins and spent a lot of time together carving them. This is what family and friends are all about.

Before & After

I’m hitting several birds with one post here. One of my Ink Rally ’12 goals is to blog more. Another is to get my office cleaned up and better suited to creative pursuits. And an ongoing goal of mine is to keep my living space in a better state so I’m chipping away at three of those and following up my last post about cleaning habits with Before & After photos. Taking befores and afters is something that the creator of UFYH strongly advocates. While it sounded well and good I usually didn’t bother. And if I did, I never posted them. Not so today! The visual progression is amazing and it really helps to show just how much I did.

The “office” is our second bedroom. It is ostensibly for our computers and awhile back I tried to make room for my art stuff. Lately it’s just become a catch all for stuff that I don’t have room for anywhere else and just feel into disarray. I didn’t get finished with it today but I sure made good progress!

On the left: husband’s desk area. I really didn’t intend to touch his stuff. Not yet, anyway. Cameo by Midna! The right is my desk and a whole lot of other crap. I knew this was going to be a long project so I made sure to set the timer on my phone for 20 minutes so I’d have a set time to work before break time. After that 20 we had this:

Ok there’s some progress, mostly with the pile of stuff under my easel. After 20 more minutes cleaning and I think lunch I ended up with this!

I did not include photos of dusting off my desk and trying to further organize it because I forgot. It was super dusty and now it’s not. I also moved some of the boxes over to the corner so that I can walk straight to my desk. One of those boxes contains a bunch of my scrapbooking stuff that I have no other way to store. One contains a bunch of notebooks and folders that I’ve been hauling around for I don’t know what reason. I’m going to tackle those another day. But basically, after just one hour total of work, I no longer feel waves of anxiety when looking in to this room.

Not bad for one day, right? But oh, there’s more. I had let the kitchen also fall into a heap with two day’s worth of dishes and some groceries that didn’t get put away. It was certainly at a “this is bugging the crap out of me” level so I decided to do something about it. Left: before I got started on anything. On the right, after 20 minutes of putting away recycling, starting dishes, and putting away a few items.

And then somehow I forgot to set a timer but going by timestamps on the photos it took me just half an hour to get to this:

Dishes: all dried and put away. Counters: sprayed down with vinegar and wiped up. Stove: wiped off. (The tin foil is there because Zelda likes to jump on the stove. We’re trying to break her of that.) Sink: scrubbed out with Bar Keeper’s Friend because every time I wash pots, pans, or skillets they leave black marks in that poor sink of mine. Also? That is not linoleum in the kitchen floor. That is the carpet I constantly lament. And there is no good place for me to leave the trashcan so it gets shuffled around depending on what I am doing in the kitchen.

I call this day a great success! I know that there are people who will read this and not understand why I think so. You know what? I’m not even going to explain myself again, just pass on a piece of advice from a friend: the worms in the backyard are there for your dining pleasure so hop to and leave me alone!

Housekeeping epiphanie

I have never been a neat person. In college and at my old desk job I tried to say that I liked to work in organized chaos. I could generally find whichever piece of paper that contained information relevant to the task at hand within… a few minutes. My monitor was usually covered in sticky notes because computerized task lists? Who has time to set those up! There would be occasional times when I’d feel like “This is IT. I need a clean space before I can do any more work.” So I’d buckle down and clean. Like the “organized chaos” excuse, that was another excuse to put off doing something. When it came to my house I kept telling myself so long as it was “cluttered” but not “filthy” aka experiments aren’t growing in the kitchen sink and everything else is at least sanitary, my house isn’t nearly as bad as some others I’ve seen, that was good enough.

Part of the problem is that I have never enjoyed cleaning. For one, I have a texture issue when it comes to stuff like dealing with drains or sink experiments and overall I don’t enjoy touching things that are dirty. Also, there’s the part where perfectionism becomes a detriment instead of an asset. I would tell myself that since I wouldn’t ever be able to keep the house perfect then why should I bother doing anything other than the minimum? And, for pretty much all of the first years of our marriage, I was the one working full time. Having to do the cleaning on top of everything else was such a huge chore that I developed an intense dislike for it. (This isn’t an open invitation to discuss the relationship I have with my husband. It’s just all part of the gig. We’re working on it.)

Even more excuses that are slightly legitimate are the problems I’ve had with headaches, whatever is wrong with my back, and whatever it is I’ve done to my knee. Those are stories of their own but I’m beginning to accept that sometimes, I just can’t do anything because of the pain and that doesn’t mean I’m a worthless person. So those couple of days that happen every once in a while where I end up not moving off the couch? That is completely OK. I can’t change the fact that I get headaches that knock me on my ass every once in a while. But these still count as excuses.

Then I got to thinking about how if my apartment is a disaster with just the two of us and at the time just two cats, what would it be like if we do manage to add another human to the household? And at the time there was the wanting of a third cat, which we did just last week when we adopted Zelda. If I think I’m drowning in laundry and dishes and cat hair now, what would happen if there’s a third person to clothe and feed!? Especially one that will undoubtedly be making messes of one sort or another for a long, long time? Something needed to change. Continue reading…

Zelda

Spoiler alert: we found a cat to adopt and she is awesome. You’ve probably already seen photos of her on my twitter or instagram. (Or Facebook, if I have anyone lurking. Which I probably do.) If you haven’t, here is the princess* herself, along with her adoption story.

*We’re calling her princess, mostly as a joke because one of our friends basically said “Anything but Princess Fluffy Butt. Well, Zelda is technically a princess, therefore Princess Zelda.

We’ve had Midna and Poe for a little over four years. It was the right thing to get two of them. They have had a playmate and there was a cat for each lap. I’m not exactly sure when I changed my mind about two cats being enough. It may have something to do with seeing cats from the shelter at the pet supplies store. That store sponsors the local animal shelter and has a satellite adoption center in the store. Nearly every time we needed cat food or litter I’d go by and look at all the kitties.  Usually I’d say no, we don’t have enough room, I don’t want a third cat to clean up after, it’s just too much.

During all of this Michael said he wouldn’t mind a third cat but he wanted a male Maine Coon kitten. That’s pretty specific but I started sort of keeping an eye on the shelter’s website. We had looked for Maine Croon rescues but didn’t find any that were close. I am a firm believer in not buying bred animals, not when there are so many in shelters and rescues exist for almost every breed. Somehow I was coming around to a third cat not only being OK but to really wanting to get one. Continue reading…

Allie & Anberlin

Favorites. It’s really difficult for me to single out something and say with certainty “This is my favorite”. When someone asks me to name a favorite whatever I freeze and feel all sorts of anxiety. I have no idea why. There’s probably a thousand reasons and a psychologist between me and the answer but I very rarely pick favorites. Not so this week. This week it’s all about Anberlin. I’ve been carrying on about their latest album all week on twitter and I just had to write more about it because my excitement cannot be contained.

Ages ago I used to listen to Air1 while working on college assignments. Hooray internet that could handle streaming music! (I am a child of the dial-up era.) There’s a much longer story about listening to “Contemporary Christian” music but this is about an alternative song that I first heard on that station my sophomore year. That song was “Change the World” by Anberlin. I don’t remember the exact feelings I had when listening to that song but I’m replaying it now, listening to it as I write, and I just feel. But back to college. A friend of mine also liked their music and gave me a copy of their first album Blueprints for the Black Market. And I loved it. Glass to the Arson and Cadence are still some of my favorite songs. I spent a lot of time driving in college and I will unashamedly say that I sing in my car when I’m by myself. Usually loudly, and usually pretty badly. But I don’t care because it’s fun. This CD got a lot of play.

Time passed, as it does. I was busy with a double major and working to put myself through college. That second part inevitably resulted in not having much spending cash. I didn’t keep up on music for a few years and didn’t get Anberlin’s next two albums when they were released but I did eventually get them and fell further in love.

Never Take Friendship Personal is their second album. This played pretty much on repeat when Michael and I drove up to see his family for the holidays. That was a 9+ hour trip each way so that’s quite a few replays. Paperthin Hymn is simply amazing. It gives me chills. The sound of the album is different from Blueprints but not in a “what were they thinking?” way. It’s more like evolutionary, which is actually what I think about all of their albums.

I don’t remember when, exactly, that I got Cities but there are so many excellent songs on it that it further cemented my love for the band. Godspeed, A Whisper & A Clamour, Unwinding Cable Car, Dismantle Repair, Inevitable, Hello Alone are all such fantastic songs. And the last song. What can I say about (*Fin)? The lyrics are so absolutely fitting to things I was and have been going through that it’s impossible to put into words what I feel when listening to it. It’s long but so, so worth listening to.

New Surrender was their first album on the Universal Republic label. Many fans seem to think it their weakest release and I have to admit that there are only one or two songs that would make it in to an all time favorites list. However, it’s still great music. I think it deserves more love. While writing this post I listened to some of the songs again and I think that while it may not have the immediate draw that the other albums have it’s still Anberlin and isn’t an oddball at all.

Before the release of their fifth album I found out that the band was on twitter. Twitter is an amazing tool when used properly. Updating fans about when new music is coming out? Proper use. (I was ridiculously happy when I got the notification that they were following back. Now to get them to @ me!)

That album was Dark Is The Way, Light Is a Place. Pray Tell was one of the first songs that I remember listening to off of this album. It’s the song that made me think holy crap, Stephen Christian (lead vocalist) is fantastic. It’s evident on all of the other previous albums but Pray Tell is just that good of a song. Not everyone could sing something like that. The whole album is full of fantastic songs. This is also the first album of theirs that I listened to and thought hey, this is a really new sound from them but it is still Anberlin. That’s also probably evident with their other albums but this is where it got me. I have played the hell out of this album. Again, I have issues with favorites, but this and Cities were tied for favorite Anberlin album.

Then. Then. Again, because of twitter, I saw when they first announced that they were working on a sixth album. And then I learned that they were going to be working once again with Aaron Sprinkle, the producer they worked with on their first three albums. At that point I said to myself “I hope that this album has all of the best parts of the first three but uses the sounds from Dark Is The Way and once again shows a new sound for the band that is still quintessentially Anberlin.” They announced that the name of the album was Vital and weeks later came the update that Self-Starter, the first song on the album, was online. When I finally got to listen to it I waited with crossed fingers.

I didn’t have to wait long. By the time the chorus came around, heck as soon as I heard the intro, I knew that they had done exactly what I’d hoped for. The band has introduced more electronic and synth elements and they’ve evolved again. Still Anberlin, but newer and better but not in a way that makes their previous albums obsolete. They followed with Someone Anyone and I was further convinced that this was going to be an excellent album. I almost broke the replay button listening to those two songs. I was hooked.

That was in August. The album wasn’t going to be released until October 16. At the time it felt like forever but I remained stupidly excited. Then a whole bunch of stuff happened. You wouldn’t know it to look at my blog archives but the last two months have been ridiculous, mostly not in a good way. Maybe someday I’ll write about it. Anyway, sitting here today it feels like it wasn’t all that long ago that I first heard the songs and started rabidly awaiting October 16.

Cover Art for Anberlin’s sixth album, Vital.

Then October 11 came and Anberlin announced that there was a live stream of Vital available to listen to. I may have immediately ran to my laptop to get that up ASAP. And then the magic happened. I listened through once or twice (or thrice) and was blown away. There was just a few more days to wait but I wanted it for my own right then.

Late Monday night I saw that the download was available but I was already in bed. I wanted to sleep that night so I waited. So Tuesday I woke up and started arguing with iTunes about accepting my information so I could pay for my preorder. And then it was mine. I’ve listened to it through close to ten times by now. More, since it’s taken me a while to write this. I cannot get enough of it. I keep tweeting about it because I cannot keep it to myself. I’ve even posted on Facebook and I barely post anything at all there because Reasons. I don’t even know why I can’t shut up about it. As previously stated, I don’t pick favorites. But Vital is so… perfect. I cannot pick a favorite song. I cannot pick a least favorite song. I love the whole thing. The music is amazing. The vocals are fantastic. The lyrics are wonderful. I realize at this point I’m gushing but seriously. I think this is the best album I have ever listened to. Listening to it makes me happy. When I’m not listening to it I’m thinking about the songs. OK maybe that’s obsessive but there is something to these songs that is making me feel. It really is all of the best parts of their previous albums and is so much more and exciting.

I can say that at this time, this is my most favorite album and Anberlin is pretty solidly my most favorite band ever. I’ve been listening to all of their albums on shuffle this morning and it just doesn’t get old. There’s no “skip skip skip skip OK skip skip YES skip skip skip” going on. Just one good song after another.

I am so, so lucky that this came out when it did. Like I said, the past two months have been ridiculous and not in a good way. There’s been a lot of drama, uncertainty, and disappointment. I haven’t been blogging because I just can’t figure anything out. Having this music, and their music from over the years (even New Surrender!) is just… perfect. This album is perfection. It’s helping me to focus on the good things that are happening. The fact that I’ve listened to this band through college, marriage, health issues and work issues, and now everything else that’s going on is beyond words.

If I’ve managed to persuade you to at least give a listen, several of the songs I’ve mentioned are available for full streaming on their SoundCloud. The live stream of Vital is no longer available but the album can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, and at Best Buy. (I really want the Best Buy exclusive for the bonus tracks! But the bonus track available on iTunes is also definitely worth getting.)

Disclosure: I have received no compensation for this post. This is all because of true adoration for this band. None of the links in this post are affiliate links. I just want EVERYONE to listen to and enjoy this band.


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