elaby: (Anthy - Rainbow)
I'm happy to finally unveil something that's been months in the making: Rachel and I have started a blog together!

Arboreal Rainbow

This summer, while we were spending a quiet week dogsitting for our friend Bethany's adorable puppies, Rachel and I decided that we wanted a place to chronicle our story and preserve the some of the precious bits of our lives together. We came up with the blog name Arboreal Rainbow as a meeting of the symbols we both love best: trees for me and rainbows for Rachel. It evokes the image of rainbows living in the treetops.

We only have a few posts so far, but we plan to add all sorts of things, from knitting adventures to tea reviews to the story of how we met. I hope you'll take a look! <3
elaby: (Watson - Writers read)
This spring, as we drove home from the Fairie Festival, Rachel and I talked about how we could make our lives more like how we felt when we were there. We decided that we wanted to rearrange some of the rooms in our house; one of these plans was to make the guest room on the first floor into my library/office and move the guest room upstairs. Rachel has her studio, and before this, we'd said that the Temple Room upstairs was my space, but I never completely got comfortable there. As lovely as it is, it it's a hassle to keep temperate because it's stifling in the summer and unheated in the winter.

We wrote up how we'd do it, complete with graph-paper models of both rooms and a step-by-step moving plans. Last week, we set the plan in motion.

Pictures galore! )
elaby: (Vocaloid - Miku sings (deep teal))
Rachel and I went on a whale watch yesterday -- Rachel's first ever and my second, though the first was long enough ago that I don't remember much about it. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

This morning, though, I was going about my business, getting ready for work as normal, when I got suddenly very sick. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but I think it was due to dehydration (it was pretty hot yesterday, even though I tried to drink a lot of water on the boat). So I stayed home and slept until noon. I feel worlds better now but exhausted, so I'm writing up our adventure.

I don't have very many pictures because I was too entranced, too captivated by the whales to try looking at them through a viewfinder. But I do have one or two :)

The whale watch was out of Rye, NH and was organized by Granite State Whale Watch. Rye is one of the prettiest towns in New Hampshire: it's located on our teeny tiny inch of coastline and is home to Odiorne Point State Park, the Seacoast Science Center, rolling dunes, bird-filled estuaries, really nice beaches, and about a hundred eye-popping mansions. The sun was out bright as we drove down the shore road past all of these and made our way to Rye Harbor.

Rye Harbor

We got there about a half hour before the ship was going to depart, so we got a pretty good seat on the starboard side near the bow. It was HOT waiting for the ship to leave; there was a bit of a breeze but it didn't do much against the sweltering sun. Once we started moving out, though, the wind picked up and it was utterly perfect.

Rachel bought me a hat at the ticket counter, and I was very glad I had it!

Me on the Granite State Whale Watch

I was pretty much exploding with excitement, and as soon as we started moving, Rachel was too <3

Rachel on the Granite State Whale Watch

We chugged out past the harbor walls and caught a glimpse of some harbor seals on the port side of the ship. As we passed the Isles of Shoals, the captain told us a bit about the islands (although I could scarcely hear him over the sounds of the engine).

It was such a gorgeous day, with the sun blazing above and the horizon swathed in haze, creating a pale shimmering curtain against the blue sky. I always expect the energy of the ocean to be this deep, heavy, mysterious thing, imposing and powerful, and that's how it is with your legs in it on the beach... but out there on the water with the wind and sun and the sparkle of the waves, it just felt free. Light and floaty and untethered.

The first whale we sighted was a fin whale, the second largest creature to ever live on earth. They're the most commonly sighted whale near Jeffery's Ledge, the bountiful feeding area we were exploring. This one was identified as Dingle, a whale they see pretty often. It was so, so huge. Its black back with its small curved fin kept sliding up out of the water and in again as it sent plumes of breath up. The ship turned to keep it in our vision, so we watched it long enough to recognize the extra-arched back that signaled a deep dive. It came up again for several more breaths every five or ten minutes.

After we spent some time with this whale (and a couple of minke whales that we could just see in the distance), we moved along to explore some more.

The next thing we came upon was a surprise: a basking shark. We could see its dorsal fin puttering along (the naturalist narrating the whale watch said that they normally can only see basking sharks on calm days because their fins aren't visible in choppy water). It didn't notice us for a while and so it swam quite close to the boat, and we could see its huge, grey bulk just beneath the surface. Basking sharks are the second largest shark in the world (and they only eat plankton!). It was pretty amazing because the fin whale hadn't gotten close enough to really see any of it except the parts that came out of the water.

Next we encountered another fin whale, Crow. This one came closer and closer, finally close enough that we could see the swoop of paler grey coloring just behind its blowhole. The whale's skin shone a gunmetal color in the sunlight. Then, as we all watched spellbound, it sunk under and resurfaced again right next to the ship. Its fin breaking the surface was incredible to behold. It lifted its head slightly out of the water -- something neither it nor the other fin whale had done -- and the naturalist pointed out its white lower jaw. Fin whales are asymmetrically colored and only the right side of their lower jaw is white. It was so beautiful, so amazing, that it took my breath away. I think it raised its head to get a look at the ship, because it was so close by.

The next whales we saw were both humpbacks <3 And I got a couple of pictures of the first one! This is Patches, a humpback that Granite State Whale Watch sees frequently but hadn't encountered yet this season, so they were really happy to see him.

Here's Patches' back as he started curving for a deep dive.

Patches the humpback whale's back

And here's his beautiful tail!
Patches the humpback whale's tail

We got to watch him dive over and over, displaying the unique pattern on his fluke as he went down. When he was at the surface, we could see the most remarkable thing -- his white pectoral fins shone an incandescent green underneath the water. The next one we saw was called Quill, and gave us an equally impressive show. Humpbacks are so lovely -- I would love to see one a little closer <3

Eventually our time was up and we had to turn back. But on the way back, just past the Isles of Shoals, we saw a bunch of harbor porpoises! They were splashing around, feeding, and a flock of gannets were gathered around them. Once or twice we saw their dark silvery backs arch above the water.

Back in Rye Harbor, we talked to the naturalist and some of the interns and adopted a humpback whale, Owl (for Athena).

We #adopted a #whale named owl! :3

It was such an experience, full of wonder and amazement. Whales are such beautiful, otherworldly creatures. I want to go on another soon <3
elaby: (LotR - Galadriel smiles)
Sunday I woke up with a sort of “nothing sounds fun to me today” feeling, until Rachel remembered that she wanted to go buy some plants for our offices, and I perked up immediately. She convinced me to leave the house without showering first (always a hard sell) and we ended up running ALL OVER THE WORLD and having many adventures.

First, we went to breakfast at the Wooden Spoon, a little local place that serves platter-sized pancakes, only takes cash, and always has a line out the door. Pancakes, waffles, and the restaurant’s signature grilled cinnamon roll were ruled out because of my decision not to eat eggs, and I instead had a large serving of home fries and their homemade toast. So delicious! We spent breakfast talking about Majora’s Mask and our current troubles at Snowhead Temple.

After breakfast, we stopped at Salmon Falls Stoneware, a local pottery studio that makes really amazing high-quality stuff. I won a gift certificate a few weeks ago at the movies (just by spinning a wheel!) for an oil lamp, and we decided to pick it up. The store and studio are mingled: the front shop has the “best” pottery stacked on shelf after shelf, and a door leads to a labyrinth of rooms of less expensive “seconds” (perfectly sound but the designs are sometimes a little blurred) that merge with shelves of unglazed, drying pottery. It’s so much fun to wander through.

We chose an oil lamp (number 531) in “Mountain Berry” and got a bottle of lamp oil with the gift certificate. We also picked out a coffee mug (number 311) in Blue Green Vine and a beautiful little dish that’s not listed on their website. It’s about four inches across and has scalloped edges and a raised image of a teapot in the middle. It also has a beautiful crackled glaze of blue-green glass around the teapot. We’re going to use it as a tea bag/tea ball holder <3

Then we moved on to the main event! Wentworth Greenhouse :3 It was such a glorious soul-balm to be there among the plants, in the warm, moist air. It seemed like there was no one there when we arrived (it was probably around eleven by then and they were open since eight) but ten or fifteen minutes later, the place suddenly FILLED with people. The greenhouse is mostly a gardening supply store but it also has a large display area, teaches classes, and hosts (or used to host?) the local winter farmer’s market, so it’s a big place. The display area has some of the most lovely exhibits. My favorites are a huge urn overflowing with succulents, some vertical wall-gardens with moss and teeny blobby plants, and an entire bed made from live flowers complete with a leafy patchwork quilt and branches for a canopy. They also have finches <3

Rachel and I wandered among the houseplants for a while and I dithered over choices until we found someone to advise us. Since my office is climate-controlled and I sit right near a window, I had a lot of options. I had pretty much decided on one of the string-of-pearls plants (a succulent) when the guy who was helping us showed us over to the ferns.

FERNS. My heart delights in ferns. He said they were easy to care for, so I looked through them and one delicate, bushy beauty with tiny lobed leaves caught my eye. I picked her up and she was perfect. I felt the kind of love one usually feels toward a small furry animal. We explored a bit more (and I chose a string-of-pearls as well) and we found someone to help us pick out the right size pots. We told her we’d be keeping them in our offices, and when she saw my fern, she said, “Oh, maidenhair ferns are probably the hardest ferns to take care of... I’m not trying to be negative, but are you sure that’s the best choice?” I felt like somebody wanted to take my kitten away. Imagine, if you will, a kind gardener looking concerned and a little chibi Katie hugging a plant and screaming “MINE! MY BABY!”

In fact, what I said was that I wanted to try, so she told me all about how to take care of it. I think I have a good chance of keeping it alive from what she said about placement and watering. It’s so beautiful <3

The gardener repotted our plants for us (for free!) and gave us all sorts of encouraging advice about how to take care of them. It was wonderful. I was so, so elated when we left. We decided to deliver our plants to our offices right then so we wouldn’t have to mess around with them in the cold Monday morning. It was a really good idea – we helped each other carry our pots in, and after we dropped them off at my office, we went to Street for a late lunch (a nifty restaurant in Portsmouth that serves street food from all over the world). We shared a vegan bibimbap and some amazingly good curry fries :3
elaby: (Holmes and Watson - Heart)
We had a pretty busy weekend for one where we didn’t have anything planned!

On Friday, our gaming group got together for L5R – always a fun time :3 There were satisfactorily arranged marriages, drug trafficking, a giant freaking oni who very nearly walloped us (but was vanquished thanks to Kyo-san’s two well-placed knife-to-the-nuts thrusts and Kirito-san’s awesome Matsu badassery, set aflame with divine fire by Satomi-san!), and a plan to reinstate the Hare Clan! Hahaha we’re an ambitious bunch XD

We got up on Saturday morning and immediately set to shoveling off the porch roof, which is flattish and was covered by a 3-4 foot snow drift. Heavy snow/freezing rain was forecasted for Saturday night, so all the local radio channels and so forth were telling everyone to clean off their roofs. There have been a lot of collapses lately. We climbed out the temple room window and shoveled and pushed snow off the edges, carefully keeping close to the house wall. It was done in about 40 minutes, much to our relief!

After that we flopped about in exhaustion and played Majora’s Mask until the afternoon, when we ventured out for lunch/dinner at Popover in Epping. I also discovered that I somehow own only one pair of jeans (where did the others GO? O_o) so we went shopping and I got a nice pair for $10 at Marshall’s. It’s getting hard to find the style of jeans I like (i.e. somewhat baggy) since even the supposed “straight leg” jeans at Dress Barn were skin-tight. I also got some dress pants at Dress Barn and they’re very lovely and comfortable, but I discovered today that they have no pockets >_<

We got groceries after lunch and drove home as the snow started. It kept up into the night but didn’t amount to a lot (haha, in comparison to the snow we’ve gotten lately! It was about 5 inches or so).

On Sunday it was WARM WTF (around 40) and the sky was blue and it was GLORIOUS. When we were out at Target in the morning, we saw an entire flock of cedar waxwings in one of the trees – I’ve never seen so many at once before. They’re my favorite birds and they’re so pretty; they remind me of spring and herald good things. I counted 24 in one tiny tree, scarfing down berries, and there was another tree full of them too.

We’ve been watching Flea Market Flip on Netflix and we fell in love with a dresser that one of the teams had decoupaged with old love letters, and we have a beautiful dark wooden desk that we picked up off the side of the road last summer…

So off we went to antique stores to look for letters :3 We didn’t have a ton of luck, but we did find one nice letter dated May, 1890 from a pastor’s wife to a friend describing how her family was settling into their new parsonage after moving. There was a really cute part about how her husband had just gotten a new cart and all she could see when he took off in it was a cloud of dust and pedestrians staring after him “in wonder” XD

A letter from May 22, 1890

We also found some really beautiful postcards with photographs of pretty ladies (actresses, I assume) and flowers. The messages on the postcards are all in French!

French postcards found while thrifting

The other letters we found weren’t very long so don’t suit our purpose perfectly, but they were cheap so we bought them anyway. I think they were being sold for the stamps on the envelopes (we saw a TON of empty envelopes at the antique stores for stamp collectors). We also got some Easter post cards and a few pretty Valentines. One of the Valentines is from one man (or boy, perhaps) to another <3

Easter postcards from our antiquing adventure

A Valentine, To Master Earnest Morgan from Master Frank

I also discovered an interest in Wedgwood pottery. I went to the Wedgwood museum/factory in England when I was there in 2001, and I thought they were pretty then, but I’m especially drawn to the classical imagery now. Most of the jasperware pieces are covered in beautiful classical ladies with flowing hair and dresses, with little winged babies and trees and things. They’re so beautiful and smooth and cameo-ish, like the figures are emerging from within the porcelain. We saw some green and purple pieces (along with the more popular pale blue) that were really stunning. I didn’t buy any, but they ranged from under $10 to over $100 at different antique shops, so there’s a good variety of prices. I want to learn more about the different designs and maybe find a couple that I really love. I don’t have a collector’s instinct but I long to have something to search for when I go antiquing. Letters are definitely going to become something we always look for :)

We didn’t end up finding enough letters to cover the surfaces on the desk that we wanted to decoupage, but we’ve decided not to decoupage it anyway. Instead, we’re going to lay out the letters and post cards and put a slab of clear acrylic over it (like glass). That way, we can swap out letters and things when we find new ones :3
elaby: (Last Unicorn - Unicorn)
Happy Imbolc, my beloved friends <3 We got home from Florida and our joy-filled, relaxing visit to [livejournal.com profile] songtoisis this morning around 1:00 a.m., with no flight problems whatsoever on our return trip, and today it's blizzarding again. I need to sit today and reflect on all of the wonderful experiences I had this weekend, but I wanted to share with you a letter I received in my e-mail from my city's mayor. I've always generally approved of him for his politics but I didn't know a lot about him personally, and this letter is at the same time beautiful, inspiring, and touches me as a pagan. What he writes about is very appropriate for Imbolc. I was very impressed when I read it, and it's kind of amazing (and new) to feel an affinity with a political figure like this. He was also New Hampshire's first openly gay mayor, which is just extra wonderful to me <3

The Mayor's Corner

In Memory of City Councilor
Marcel Hebert, Ward 3

Winter can be unforgiving for most of us. The lack of warmth, sunlight and forced hibernation begins to take its toll as storms continue to batter us, and temperatures remain low. However, there is a deeper natural meaning hidden in the darkness of winter if one is only willing to look. Winter is nature's way of forcing us to slow down, recharge our energy, re-evaluate our goals and prepare for the coming rebirth of spring.

It reminds us as we look out our windows or observe through our travels throughout New England, that despite being surrounded by death, warmth and rebirth of life will occur. It is with nature's message that we can be inspired to celebrate life and its brief magical moments, to endure all of its joy, pain and sorrow and yet be thankful for the time we were able to walk with friends and family.

The Somersworth City Council Family, City Manager and I, are saddened by the loss of our colleague, Councilor Marcel Hebert. While the emptiness Marcel leaves behind cannot be replaced, we are blessed by the memories of his humor, wit and dedication to the home we all call Somersworth. It was impossible for anyone who had a conversation with Marcel to not walk away with a smile on their face. It is these memories which will continue the legacy of Councilor Marcel Hebert.

The Tao Te Ching, a classic Chinese text written between the 4th and 6th century BCE, is a base of spiritual guidance, celebration of life and daily wisdom. One of the writings of the Tao speaks of morning. "Greet the dawn. This is your miracle to witness. That is the ultimate beauty. That is sacredness. That is your gift from heaven. That is your omen of prophecy. That is knowledge that life is not futile. That is enlightenment. That is your meaning in life. That is your directive. That is your comfort. That is the solemnity of duty. That is inspiration for compassion. That is the light of the ultimate".

With each and every sunrise, let us not only celebrate the blessing of our life, but the lives of each person who have walked with us on our journey. Let the warmth of the morning remind us of the joys they brought us, and of their dedication and sacrifices. With the promise of a new day, let us rededicate ourselves to living life to the fullest and becoming the keeper for our fellow brethren.

Sincerely,
Mayor Dana Hilliard
elaby: (Lestrade - CJ <3 guh.)
I had a really nice, low-key Christmas. We invited my parents over to our house on Christmas Eve and ate delicious appetizers and desserts. We popped Christmas crackers, played with the little toys inside, looked at nineteenth-century photographs of Kittery Point (where my parents and I grew up, not to mention both sides of my family going wayyyy back), and giggled over a Victorian young woman’s health and hygiene guide I borrowed from Rachel’s library.

On Christmas morning, Rachel and I drove over to my parents’ house with three boxes stuffed full of gifts. We ate bagels for breakfast, opened the stockings (a Rachel tradition! My family always opened stockings last, but we converted when Rachel joined us :3), and spent the next several hours opening presents. We open them one at a time so everybody can watch <3 I was very blessed with goodies this year! Here’s a run-down of my favorites:

- Additional RAM for my laptop. It makes SUCH a difference! My laptop only had 2 MB before, and just opening/closing Text Pad was a nightmare. Heaven help me if I wanted to open more than five tabs in Chrome. Now I have 8 MB and things work so much faster. I can actually load multiple .gifs now without Chrome asking me if I want to kill the page!

- Rachel got me a set of Lord of the Rings sampler teas from Adagio <3 <3 <3 IT IS SO COOL. Teas include White Tea of Kings, Elevenses, Wizard’s Grey, Second Breakfast, Barrels of Tea (the only one I’ve tried so far – DELICIOUS), and Enchanted Tea.

- My parents got both of Rachel and me Fantasy Life, a 3DS game that we absolutely adore. It’s a mixture of questing, crafting, and monster-slaying where you’re able to choose a Life (like a profession – I’m a cook right now) and improve at it until you’re a master. You can switch Lives as often as you want so you can experience all of them, and your progress in previous Lives remains the same. The plot is charming and the dialogue is hilarious. I have yet to become frustrated with any aspect of the game, which is really remarkable. I love it <3

- I got two books on Neolithic tombs and monuments, one that explores the spirituality associated with them and one big coffee-table book full of lush photos. I can’t wait to immerse myself in both of them.

- Aster got some really badass new clothes, which you can see on my Flickr. She also got a gorgeous pink/purple galaxy-patterned sweatshirt which I haven’t taken pictures of yet.

- I got a DVD of AKB48’s documentary, To Be Continued, which follows their career throughout 2011. It’s swoonworthy. They’re all so freaking cute. It had a lot of interviews and discussed how they’re encouraged to put their personality into their performance (when most of them assumed they’d have to conform to a specific “idol” image). I don’t know how much of it is fabricated for the fans, but they seem to really care about each other and consider themselves a family.

- Rachel got me several scarves from Mexicali Blues on sale, and they’re soft and happy <3 I’m wrapped in one right now! I also got some flannel-lined khaki pants (man, should’ve worn those today ¬_¬), a sweater, and some socks at the L.L. Bean’s outlet. Yay for discount Bean’s clothes!

- We took advantage of the Fable Tribe closing sale to get a bunch of gorgeous Glamourkins <3 <3 <3

We had snacks for lunch, as usual (chips and dip, devilled eggs, crackers and cheese, and nuts), and lasagna for dinner with my mother’s apple pie afterwards – she makes the best apple pie known to man.

This year, I took the week after Christmas off, for the first time (when we weren’t traveling to Colorado) since I graduated from college. It was PHENOMENAL XD We spent whole days playing Fantasy Life; we visited bead shops and stocked up on varied and nutritious bird food for the finches; we moved a table my dad had fixed up for us from my parents’ basement and set up a new doll photography area; we went to the movies TWICE IN ONE DAY (something I’ve never done before XD Made possible by a movie gift card I won at work and my manager’s holiday Chipotle gift card); we cleaned and rearranged and flopped around doing nothing. I had to go back to work on Friday, but I was one of three people in the office so it didn’t feel like a “real” work day. I haven’t had such a relaxing holiday in a long time :)
elaby: (LotR - Legolas looking back)
I have the day off tomorrow! :D And that is a wonderful thing, because today I helped finish the biggest case at work that I've ever taken part in. It came down to LITERALLY THE LAST MINUTE. I am a noodle-person now. I surely have fewer brain cells than when I woke up this morning.

Tomorrow, I plan on wrapping presents, doing yoga, having lunch with Rachel on campus, and going to oil painting in the evening. My painting teacher is putting on a student art show in January, and I'm going to be in it! I have one painting to put in so far; I hope to finish another, but I'm behind on it because it was too snowy (and I was too peopled-out) to go last week.

I'm very excited for Yule/the Solstice on Sunday. Rachel and I are planning to make a Solstice feast for dinner and then we'll have a ritual with candles and bells.

I think we have all our gifts bought, or at least the materials to make them. The gifts we'll be sending to friends through the mail may be a little late this year ^^;;

The other night, when we were getting the trash and recycling together to put out, Rachel ran and got me and insisted that I come outside with her. I didn't have any socks on but I put my bare feet in my fleecy Bean boots and bundled into a coat and followed her outside. It was cold and the sky was extremely clear, and Rachel showed me how one particularly bright star on the horizon was twinkling, flickering, and visibly changing colors from white to red to blue like a Christmas light. The stars were so bright that we could see the Milky Way. Rachel showed me Orion's bow, which I honestly had never realized was visible before. The stars were so brilliant and flickery, like you could see what they were made of. As I was looking up at them, I saw a shooting star <3
elaby: (LotR - Galadriel blue)
Comings and Goings

Rachel’s parents are visiting us right now, which is really nice <3 Her mum has been out a couple of times this year to handle Gramma stuff, but we haven’t seen her dad for a year and a half, so it’s wonderful to get to spend time with him. He’s currently up north visiting his family and Rachel’s mum is staying with us to visit Gramma, who’s been in the hospital. The poor old lady is just getting more and more confused. She knows who people are (in general) and is fairly calm most of the time, but she’s never quite sure what’s going on or what’s been happening to her at any given moment.

Last night, Rachel’s mum taught us how to make stitched bead stars. It was SO much fun and so easy, and I love how mine came out:

Bead star

I want to make a million more!

Prehistoric Monuments

Lately I’ve been having a surge of interest in stone-age monuments like Newgrange and Stonehenge. I’ve always felt a connection/fascination with barrows and passage-tombs (I blame Tolkien for terrifying me with them and Brian Froud for telling me faeries live in them). When I was younger, I had a very vivid dream about being inside one. It seems like the less available information there is about a time period, the more I’m interested in it – my favorite part of Anglo-Saxon England takes place before Christianity arrived to help people write things down, and now I’m very interested in prehistoric Britain. I’m especially interested in the monuments that include stone-carvings (like Newgrange has) and ones that were erected to align with the solstices. Learning about the daily lives and religion of the people who built and used these places excites me. I’ve asked for a couple of books for Christmas :3

Rachel’s brother and sister-in-law currently live in England, and we want so desperately to visit them – both to get to see them (which we hardly ever do) and to sightsee. My dream vacation would be a folklore/history/pagan-themed tour of the U.K. It would include visits to so many Neolithic and Anglo-Saxon sites, and probably a great many locals giving me the side-eye for my epic amounts of squee. Newgrange has a lottery where you can be chosen to enter the barrow (!!!!!!!!!!!!) on the winter solstice, when the rising sun illuminates the passage and falls on the spiral-carved stone at the end. SO. AWESOME.

Reading

Because it’s winter and this time of year always gets me in the mood for some Tolkien, I’ve been reading Unfinished Tales, a compilation with notes of some of Tolkien’s unfinished bits of lore. It’s fascinating because it gives little details about the characters and shows how Tolkien’s conception of them changed over the years. I have the vapors for Galadriel, so it’s especially exciting that there’s so much content about her. My favorite bit of knowledge is this:

So, Fëanor, right? Elf of extremely bad judgment who made the Silmarils, shiniest of the shiny gems, and was so possessive of them that he got a large portion of Elves booted out of Valinor and subsequently triggered generations of tragedy and warfare? In those gems, Fëanor captured the light of both of the Trees (the pre-Sun-and-Moon gold and silver trees that lit the world) and he was inspired to create them because Galadriel’s hair was the color of the light of both Trees mixed together. He begged her three times for a lock of hair, just a single strand – but Galadriel told him to get bent because he and his lust for personal glory creeped her out.

AND SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS LATER, SHE GIVES NOT ONE STRAND OF HAIR, BUT THREE… TO A DWARF.

I can just see her graciously handing her gift over to Gimli as the Fellowship depart Lothlorien, and Gimli walking off with little hearts popping over his head while Galadriel turns toward the Halls of Mandos to righteously give Fëanor the finger. As Rachel said when I regaled her with this story: “Wow, long game.” XD

I love that lady.
elaby: (Cheburashka)
My birthday was Tuesday, and I’ve had a really wonderful birthday week <3 Rachel gave me one of my presents earlier in November, because I was sad and she wanted to cheer me up. It was an exquisite acorn necklace, made out of a real acorn cap with a droplet of amber-colored glass as the acorn itself. Inside the glass, there’s a beautiful metal oak leaf that’s silver on one side and orange on the other. It’s so lovely, and I cherish it <3

My mum’s birthday was the Friday before (November 14th) so we took her to Dobra Tea in Portland on Sunday for our joint birthdays. They moved to a new location, and while it feels a bit smaller, it’s lighter and more airy because it’s right on the street instead of inside another building with no external windows like it was before. The tea, as always, was perfect. I can’t remember the name of mine, but it was from an island in China with a thousand-year-old tea tradition and a statue of Guan Yin that looks out to sea. I also had warm pitas and goat cheese. Rachel had a spicy Middle Eastern tea with honey and almond milk, with rice Casablanca (rice mixed with fruit, nuts, spices, and honey), and my mum had rose tea and a couscous dish with olives and feta cheese. We perused Mexicali Blues in the Old Port and then headed to Whole Foods (the closest one to us), where we bought some sweets and some things for dinner.

For my birthday, my parents got me some cute tree ornaments and a Blu-ray of the Miku concert I went to in Los Angeles in 2011 (gosh, that long ago!). It’s the Western release so it had English subtitles for the songs, which was beyond wonderful. Along with a really skillful, close-up recording of the concert (*swoons*) it also had a “Making of Mikunopolis” short that had snapshots of Miku doing touristy things in California. ADORABLE. My parents also got me a new pair of black and red plaid pants for Aster <3 She's borrowing Taylan's shirt here.

Aster in her new birthday duds

On my birthday, Rachel woke me up by plomping my gift bag down on the bed beside me and going “Happy birthday, daahling!” like Norma Desmond XD I was still half asleep so I just took one of the wrapped presents out and hugged it and laid back down. But I eventually woke up enough to open them :3 She got me the most wonderful present: recent reprints of Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies books, where the original watercolors were scanned using cutting-edge technology to show every bit of detail. Unlike one of the more recent collections of the Flower Fairies poems, which doesn’t reproduce every illustration exactly like the original, the books she got me include all the illustrations in their whole, unedited forms. They’re breathtaking – a perfect combination of botanical drawings and fairy artwork. I’ve started to read the poems to Rachel in bed before we go to sleep, because poetry deserves to be read aloud <3 Rachel also sneakily bought me a beautiful amethyst bracelet with a tree charm at Mexicali Blues when I wasn’t looking XD

It was so nice to get so many Facebook wishes on my birthday. My coworkers brought me whoopee pies and a Barnes and Noble gift card, and after work Rachel and I had dinner at the Olive Garden with my parents as another joint birthday celebration. My parents had another present for me: a delicate necklace with a silver Moon Stick pendant (Sailor Moon’s first weapon/purification item). There are tiny clear gems in the pendant, and it’s the perfect size – identifiable but not gaudy. I love it so much!

On Wednesday, we saw [livejournal.com profile] _melisande_, and she gave me a gift card to Michaels so I can buy more oil painting supplies <3 I’ve been feeling a little trepidation about the coming winter and how it’ll effect my mood, and this all was a lovely bright spot in the cold November <3
elaby: (Madoka - Sayaka Kyoko forehead touching)
It's been forever since I put up a bunch of pictures, but I've been taking them all the while :) I find that I like taking pictures better than I like looking actually through them and uploading them XD Rachel and I have been doing all sorts of happy things together this summer: taking walks in the elegant old Victorian cemetery down the street, going to the beach, seeing fireworks up close and personal at our neighbor's Fourth of July party... and today, we did a little redecorating and rearranging in our bedroom to give it more of a cozy, witchy, magic-cabin-in-the-woods feel.

Lots of pictures ahead!

Violets, gazebos, waves, and exploding stars )
elaby: (Miki - Sky)
My gastroenterologist is pleased with my improvement, and advised me to keep up what I'm doing for the next six months *headdesk* So much for my assumption that I'd get to add foods back in after a month of the elimination diet. I'll keep avoiding wheat, soy, eggs, and nuts until September. I honestly haven't been feeling as deprived as I would've expected, though. It's hard to find wheat-free baked goods that are also egg-free, but we've found some, and we're prepared to get creative.

Yesterday, there were leftover hotdog buns at a party Rachel's library threw, and she brought them home with the suggestion that we go and feed the ducks today. The idea filled me with delight. Of course, we didn't know WHERE we would find any ducks XD We tried two tidal rivers before we finally gave up and decided to go feed the seagulls instead, but as we drove toward York beach, I thought of one more place to try... When I was a kid, my mom and my grandmother used to take me to this duck pond in York. We'd stop at the Cumberland Farms and buy a loaf of Wonder bread first. One time, as I was standing right up at the fence, an overzealous goose bit my sneaker. Geese are pretty terrifying when you're a toddler. I had no clue if we'd be able to find the place - I hadn't been there in 20 years, if not more. But I knew it was kind of... that way *gestures vaguely to the left of the main road* so we took a random road that looked to lead in the right direction, and THERE IT WAS. I was so impressed with myself that I yelled something to the effect of "FUCK YES!!!!" and startled Rachel XD

The pond was frozen over except for a little open area that was teeming with ducks. The geese were still there (presumably descendants), and today, I hand-fed them pieces of hotdog roll without the slightest danger to my footwear. They were still overzealous. The ducks were mostly Mallards with one or two American Black Ducks mixed in, and even an American Black Duck x Mallard hybrid. Pretty cool!

After that, we drove down to the beach for a picnic, because it was 40 degrees, holy crap. We ate on the Nubble (the local lighthouse) and bird-watched there, too. We saw Buffleheads, Surf Scoters, White-Winged Scoters, Great Cormorants (magnificent!), and - MUCH SQUEALING - Harlequin Ducks! I'd never seen any before, and they're SO pretty.

Rachel and I talked during lunch about how birds for her are like knitting for me - we love them because our wife loves them, and we love to go on outings related to them, even if they're not "our" personal hobby. I'm so lucky <3
elaby: (Yeta - Winter)
We've had a wonderful Solstice and Christmas season. It seemed to come upon us so fast, but we got organized quickly and I really feel like the gifts we gave and received were meaningful and a good use of our funds. Because I just got my new camera, a lot of the gifts I received were photography-related gear :3 And so I took TONS of pictures.

Tons of pictures of ornaments, people, and presents. )
elaby: (Madoka - Homura is badass)
I'm left with so many things to think about after the glorious weekend I spent with the Blue Moon ladies in Illinois. It's so easy there to feel meaningful, loved, important – like you're contributing to the betterment of the world just by the simple act of existing. I can't say I didn't have my moments of discomfort, because those are to be expected when I'm around other people as consistently and intensely as I was there, but the worth of my experiences far outweighed any personal awkwardness and internal walls I ran up against.

Now that I'm back home and back to work, I'd like to make my "regular" life more like those few days, rather than merely clutching the memories to my heart. There's no doubt that these sort of "spiritual retreat" experiences – the Blue Moon gatherings, the Fairie Festival – feel like a "time out of time" where the rest of my life and its stresses and mundanities can't intrude, but I think it would do me good to try to infuse my everyday with those feelings and experiences rather than just thinking of them as little cut-off islands of time that could never be replicated under "normal life" conditions. These retreats will always be the most special of my spiritual and personal growth, but such growth doesn't have to be confined to them.

All I need now are concrete ways to accomplish this.
- Meditate regularly. Put it on the calendar. Monday evenings.
- Incorporate some kind of ritual into daily life.

Wednesday, after much re-entry woe, Rachel declared that my mission this year would be to discover what I have to offer. I was lamenting that I wouldn't be able to lead a workshop because I don't have any pass-on-able pagany knowledge or skills. One of the things that came out in me the most this past weekend was a desire to learn. I crave thorough knowledge of a subject that means something to me. I feel like I'm forgetting so much that I learned in school – I've been out of it so long that I can't even talk about Shakespeare with confidence anymore – and I want to fill those empty brain-spaces with something again. I want to revolt against the idea that the older you get, the harder it is to learn new things. Most of all, I want to crowd out the "screen-saver" portions of my consciousness that default to obsessive worrying.

The good news is that there are SO MANY THINGS in the world to learn :) I'll just have to narrow down a list!

- Botany/herbalism: I want to learn to identify plants when I'm walking past them in the field or woods. I'm not interested in practicing herbal medicine, but I would like to learn more about it, specifically the metaphysical and culinary properties of various herbs (for spiritual and cooking use as opposed to medical use).
- Crystals: I'd like to have in my brain some solid idea of the metaphysical properties of common crystals, and ways to use them other than "carry this in your pocket".
- Healthy eating: There are several things in this area.
----- I want to eat primarily foods whose ingredients I recognize.
----- I'm curious about the "detoxify your body" trend. What does it mean? Is it right for me? If it is, how can I do it safely?
----- What does it really mean when something is "certified organic" and what benefits do those foods have?
----- Can I buy humanely sourced milk products and eggs in my area?
- Tea: I already know a little bit about the different types of tea from a class we took, but I'd like to cement that knowledge in my brain. I'd also like to memorize the best steeping times/temperatures for the general categories of tea and the serving customs from various cultures.
- Green living: Okay, I recycle and I don't eat meat and I tried fitting public transportation into my lifestyle. How else can I shape my day-by-day to be more ecologically conscious?
- Victorian housekeeping: I want to reacquaint myself with all the fascinating information I used to know about how the Victorians did laundry, how they planned and cooked their meals, how they managed their hygiene and clothing, etc.

If anyone knows things about these subjects or has recommendations for reliable books, websites, resources, directions I should go, etc., they'd be welcome :) I trust you folks more than some published experts out there.

Right now I'm not so much feeling the usual "I'm worthless if I don't create" angst. It's more of a voracious need for knowledge. I've tried creating without knowledge several times (unwisely) and every time, it became obvious that expecting myself to be, for example, a SEWING WIZARD without learning how to sew first* only leads to frustration and self-recrimination. Neither of which I need.

*For some reason, there are certain things that my intuition tells me I should know how to do as naturally as walking. Sewing is one of them. It comforts me to speculate that this may be some kind of past-life thing, knowledge that was second nature to me once. Regardless, though - in this life, I have to learn how first.

It's hard to admit, but learning – the taking in and mulling over and synthesis of information – is much easier and more fulfilling for me than creating. That's why I have two degrees in literature instead of any in writing. Although I find creation ultimately rewarding, it carries a lot more self-doubt and frustration; I've always found learning to be immensely rewarding and mood-lifting just in itself. I downplay the importance of learning because it feels more "for me," while creating has the potential to benefit others. That's something I need to work on turning around. What's wrong with spending time doing something only for me? And the more I learn, the more I can better help others.
elaby: (Link - Don't stop)
The other day I discovered a series of woodland trails not five minutes away from our house. I'd always wondered what the "Recreational Area" sign behind the skeevy and oft-deserted gas station was all about, and on Monday, while Rachel was at her knitting group, I decided to drive down there and see.

The well-kept dirt road past the sign wound through the woods for longer than I expected, and ended in a little grassy parking lot. A couple of trails headed off into the trees - pine, oak, birch, and aspen - beyond which was a glinting pond. There was a sign that told of a picnic area 0.2 miles away, and rest benches every 0.2 miles until the 1 mile mark at the other side of the pond, in a different town.

It was a glorious evening, mid-seventies and all slanting sun-rays, and so I headed down the path toward the pond. First, I came across this mysterious structure:

Newly discovered park

I have no idea what it is, with its half-turret shape and iron railings around the top, but a curiously symmetrical hole in the wall led away into the hillside.

Newly discovered park

Beyond the structure, the path split, and the way I took came out presently at the water's edge.

Newly discovered park

There were paths all over the place, leading up into the woods, but I followed one by the shore, where birds and dragonflies flew and crickets sang.

Newly discovered park

The land rose sharply on the other side of the path, and there were root-woven staircases that would take travelers up to the forest, where I could see the backs of wooden signs. I climbed up after a ways and circled around to find myself in the reported picnic area. This was one of the signs:

Newly discovered park

The others described the kinds of trees in the area, with leaf-identification charts, and the kinds of fish that could be found in the pond.

While the other paths had been narrow and winding, the main path up here was wide, clear, and level. It would probably be well suited for bike-riding.

Newly discovered park

There were some AMAZING trees - towering pitch pines, wider around than my arms could reach, with furrows in their bark two inches deep. Some were blasted and white, but still standing strong on either side of the path.

Newly discovered park

I turned back as the sun got lower and walked through a shadowy section where rare beams of sunlight shot through like spotlights. I tried to get pictures of them, but they didn't come out well.

I can't wait to go back and take Rachel :)
elaby: (Droplet trees)
Most importantly, I am happy beyond measure that DOMA was declared unconstitutional yesterday. In many areas of my life, I'm very optimistic, but I honestly never expected this to happen, even though I recognize that the country has been moving in a very promising direction. Those who want to deny same-sex couples legal rights, in spite of their utter irrationality, have always seemed to hold so much sway over public opinion and our laws.

Not now. The first thing I saw was a jubilant tweet from [livejournal.com profile] twelvepetals, and I thought "No, she must be talking about something else…" And then Rachel e-mailed me in all caps and size 80 font, and I swear I couldn't stop grinning (or focus on my work) for a good long time. It's hard at my job to know who I can talk to about this - everyone is accepting of me, thank goodness, but they all have different political opinions and I didn't want to feel alienated by anything other than utter excitement. I settled on one of my coworkers, a woman who I know has dated women, and we squealed over instant messenger for a while. Later, one of my other coworkers got a work-related e-mail regarding DOMA (I work in insurance) and was like "What's this DOMA thing?" A chorus of "I dunno" rose, and I skipped over and told them. They were all very happy for me :)

I still can scarcely believe that my marriage is recognized by the federal government. When I think about it objectively, how sad is that? I'm shocked at the reality that my marriage - proof of which I have in actual paper form, from the town hall and everything - is now considered to exist by the federal government of my country.

As usual, [livejournal.com profile] mermaiden says it best:

Marriage doesn't fix anything, and at the same time, it begins to fix everything. I have been the victim of hate crimes, almost every single one of my queer friends has been the victim of hate crimes. By being seen as equal by our nation, the tide of hatred MUST begin to change. This isn't about marriage, and it never WAS about marriage. It's about the dignity of a human being. By being afforded equal treatment by the country in which we live, it sets the standard for how we should be treated by everyone else. When we were second class citizens, stabbing a lesbian was something that happened all the time, in ways you never heard of (I never reported the hate crimes committed against me...want to bet how many others haven't, or have but got nowhere?), but as the tide of the very basis on HOW WE ARE TREATED changes because we are recognized as EQUAL, everything else will begin to change.

I've found this page very useful in both understanding a post-DOMA country and in seeing just how many of my rights were limited or utterly taken away by this awful act: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/resources/entry/after-doma-what-it-means-for-you

Second, I wanted to share some of the things we did last weekend when Rachel and I went with Rachel's mother to Errol, NH, the area where Rachel's parents and grandparents grew up.

Adventures and pictures beneath the cut! )
elaby: (Last Unicorn - Unicorn)
I've been working on a post about the Fairie Festival for the past few days, so hopefully that's coming soon <3

Rachel and I had a really lovely day today. It's been ridiculously hot in NH (yay 99 degrees when I left work yesterday! o_o) but we got the air conditioners installed in our bedroom and TV room. Last night, when we got home, it was clear from our jungle of a lawn that it was time to mow. Rachel loves to mow (I always offer!) so while she did so, I walked around barefoot in the ankle-high grass and looked at all of our flowers. There was also a bird calling in our Grandpa tree and I wanted to figure out what it was :3 (I didn't.) Right now we have irises, some beautiful purple things that probably lupins, bleeding hearts… it's gorgeous. I can't believe our luck that so many amazing flowers were planted here before we arrived. We planted some out front (and they're doing great!) but the most magnificent ones were already here.

Something wonderful and strange happened to me. There's a poplar tree behind our garage that I call our Mama tree, and she feels very protective to me. I always greet her when I'm over there and thank her for looking after us. There's another tree, also a poplar, beside her, and I tend to forget it's there. Last night, I said to Mama tree, "Maybe sometime I'll get to know that tree better."

Later, when I was falling asleep - not dreaming, but scarcely awake - the Mama tree told me who the other tree was. And I can't really remember what she said. It was something about the other tree being a/the Goddess, and I remember being surprised because I had been under the vague impression that the tree had a male sort of feeling. I wish I could remember exactly what she told me, but at the time, it was such an important revelation.

Today, we went bra-shopping (such fun XD) and I managed to find some inexpensive ones. When we were at Kohl's, I found the CUTEST DRESS… It's this one. It was in Juniors, so I assumed it would never fit me, but Rachel convinced me to try on an XL and it ended up fitting really well. Er, except for the fact that it's ULTRA SUPER SHORT XD But it's so incredibly mori that I was envisioning wearing it over a longer skirt anyway, which is what I'll do. It was also on (humongous) sale, so I didn't even feel bad buying it. I've discovered that I like pink, which is a color I never thought I liked - or never allowed myself to like because I thought it would mean I was conforming to society's dictation of what color I should like as a woman? Well, I like it. Nobody should tell women that they ought to like pink, but nobody should tell them they can't like it, either, or that liking it makes them unfeminist.

Afterwards, we went up to Portland to Dobra Tea, which was our main destination. They were having a poetry/book reading, which was really cool, though unexpected. It was nice to get to hear people's stories. I had a chilled tulsi tea and milk with bobas, and it was INCREDIBLY delicious. We also had warm pitas and goat cheese, my favorite of Dobra Tea's snacks. While we were there, Rachel asked me if I had a lot of weekly points left (we're doing Weight Watchers), and I said I did… so she lead me to a secret destination <3 Cupcakes! Portland was beautiful today - much cooler, with petals blowing on the sea breeze.

When we got home, I went to greet the other poplar tree (I'm not sure yet how to address her), and her upper branches were lit by the sunset. I hope I get to learn more about her.
elaby: (Holmes - Leap the couch)
I'm typing this in my writing nook :3 Right now, it looks like this:

Katie's writing nook

It's too dark in it to take a picture of the inside :\ I have a stick-up battery operated light on the ceiling, but it's very dim indeed. We make the journey to IKEA last weekend and when we were there, I got a very pretty little lamp. I just need to drag an extension cord over here.

I felt compelled to update my LJ with the things we've been doing lately!

York Beach
I had been missing the ocean a lot lately, and the weekend before last, I turned to Rachel and told her I had a sea-craving. Seeing as she's the best wifey in all existence, she was like "Get in the car! :D" So we did XD (We ate lunch and took care of some chores first, but forget that.) We drove to Long Sands in York, Maine (about 45 minutes away) and bought some doughnuts and walked around on the beach, because that's what you do. It was very high tide, but on one side of the beach, there was still a strip of sand. York Beach in the winter is dog-land, and we saw all sorts of cute puppies! And several people with metal detectors. One guy and a boy dug a very large hole but apparently didn't find anything... they didn't fill it back in, either :\ I noticed that another dude who was metal-detecting always filled his holes back in. There were also some surfers (brr!). It had been pretty cold up until then, but that day wasn't bad. We didn't even need mittens! We walked all up and down the beach and listened to the surf, and it filled up my personal ocean reservoir.

IKEA
Last Saturday, we went to IKEA in Stoughton, MA. The Friday before was Bonus Day at work - I got an "exceeds expectations" on my annual review this year, so I was fortunate enough to receive a bonus :) Normally my coworkers all go out after work on Bonus Day but it was snowing that morning and practically nobody went into the office. I did, but I left at noon to work from home because Rachel's university curtailed MINUTES AFTER SHE GOT THERE and she would have been stranded if I hadn't gone to pick her up. ANYWAY, IKEA!

We drove down and braved the most ridiculously bad traffic to wander around that grownup wonderland. In case you've never been to one, IKEA has a showroom floor with a labyrinth of rooms set up to look like different styles of kitchens, living rooms, offices, bathrooms, dorm rooms, etc. It was interesting being there while owning a house - we had always gone before when we still lived in an apartment, and there were so many DREAMS and IDEAS and abstract "If we had a house, we'd do THIS!" This time, we were looking for things that would fit the actual space we already have. It was nice because it was less wistful. Also, with our new car - we recently traded the unreliable PT Cruiser for a Ford Fiesta - we couldn't transport big pieces of furniture, so that made decisions easy. We got some desk lamps, some chair cushions, some curtains, and a few other decorations. I love IKEA's stuff because it's reasonably priced and the point of most things is to be space-efficient and practical.

By the end of the day, we were both starting to feel peopled-out (there were BAZILLIONS of shoppers there) and I was getting to the point where I wanted to either hide under a desk or run for the nearest door. The way the store is laid out funnels you toward the exit, and you kind of have to follow the flow in order to get there. We made it to the checkout, after which there's the reward of a cinnamon bun shop, and we bought cinnamon buns and Swedish drinks - Lingonberry juice! Elderflower juice! I felt like a fairy.

Spring Ahead
Spring Ahead murdered me this year. Sunday was fine - we cooked a really lovely brunch for a couple of friends, with vegetarian biscuits-and-gravy and fruit salad and lavender lemonade and lemon cake. Somehow, Monday morning was fine too, even though I got up earlier than usual to meet [livejournal.com profile] hak42 for breakfast. But Tuesday - ugh. I felt so bad when I woke up, exhausted and sick. Wednesday morning was the same, and Thursday was even worse. Most times I'd feel okay by mid-morning, but then the next day it would happen all over again. I felt less horrible Friday, so I can only hope that I'm starting to get used to the time change.

Dollies!
I was able to order myself and Rachel new BJDs because I got my bonus :) Rachel got a FairyLand LittleFee Ante (who has already arrived!) and I ordered a Momocolor Lucy. (Note: We get just the dolls, not the clothes or wigs shown on the web site :3) I'm so incredibly lucky to work for a successful company that appreciates and rewards me. As much as I sigh about how the subject matter isn't interesting, it's a really good job and I'm fortunate to have it. Also, we got an e-mail the other day at work that my company has joined several others in the Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal (DOMA is the Defense of Marriage Act) because of how dehumanizing and harmful the act is, and because it's bad for business. My company has always been very vocal in GLBTQ rights and marches in the Boston Pride Parade :3

Anyway, this morning, we finally did our long-planned Solstice dollie gift exchange photo shoot. It was so much fun to pose them and use all of the to-scale accessories we've made/accumulated over the last few months! I also wired Lavinia to try to get her to stand up better (it didn't really work, but she does pose better now). Click on the link to go see all the photos in Rachel's LJ :)
elaby: (Cheburashka)
Oh, December. I always think "I'm not someone who gets stressed out by the holidays!" Ha. Ha.

We've been really busy the last couple of weeks, and luckily many of the things we've been doing have been fun things. Our after-work and weekend hours seem packed, though. I have physical therapy for my ankle twice a week (it's going well) and there have been lots of things going on at both my and Rachel's workplaces that require cooking, baking, present-buying, schedule-rearranging... @_@ Because the holidays are coming up, we're trying to cram in a few visits to relatives we won't be seeing on Christmas along with making and buying presents and helping out with stuff at our local Unitarian Universalist church. We were going to go to the Hanging of the Greens there yesterday, but we decided we just had too much to do at home :\ That stretched-thin feeling of never being at home was creeping up on me last week, though, so it was ultimately a good thing.

I'm weaving some Christmas presents this year, and it makes me super happy :D I always wanted a craft that's as fulfilling to me as knitting is to Rachel, and while I don't know if I can achieve that level of squee when it comes to crafts, I find weaving really fulfilling and I look forward to doing it. I wish my loom was more portable XD It's not something you can whip out at a cafe after you're finished your sandwich...

(Okay, now I want a Tofurky sandwich so bad. I may have to stop by Trader Joe's and get some sliced tofurkey. <-- Written earlier today. Had a Tofurky sandwich for dinner! Best 6-point sandwich EVER!)

I'm also really excited because, for the first time ever, I took the Solstice off work. This is the first year I've really had the opportunity because a) I have paid vacation time now and b) this is a New England Christmas year, whereas last year was a Colorado Christmas year. We're going to do a ritual at home during the day and then go to the Solstice service at our U.U. church in the evening :3 SO EXCITED. As I've gotten older, I've longed more and more for the moment when the sun starts coming back. The Solstice means a lot more to me as part of my personal spirituality than Christmas does; Christmas has an important place in the realm of family tradition instead. Even though we're not Christians, we both grew up in Christian families (nominally Christian, anyway - with various strengths of belief at various times). I want to honor the traditions we made as children and that our families passed down, and also to treat with respect the beliefs of Christian people I respect, even if they're not my beliefs.

Also I've been drawing ponies like whoa and I need to scan them or something. I have yet to find an acceptable mixture between the Friendship is Magic animation style and my own style. So things are looking kind of awkward at the moment. My first attempt at deviating from strictly FIM-style ended up looking so much more like a deer than a pony that I just turned it into a little reindeer... ^^;;
elaby: (Clover - Rainbow)
Summer is going by so fast (July already?!), and here are the things I've been up to lately:

The House
Housework, predictably, takes up more of my time than it did when we had the apartment. The big difference is that I don't mind doing it nearly as much as I did there. I sort of enjoy vacuuming, guys. It was SO hard to vacuum at the apartment because there was barely floor space to do it in, and I had to find places to move all the things on the floor before I could really vacuum, and then every few minutes I'd have to stop and cut all the hair out of the carpet attachment. We have no carpets at the house, except for small ones beside our bed, and it makes it SO much easier to keep things clean. Doing the dishes sucks, as it always will, but our sink is so tiny that we do them more often, which makes things easier. I just get more satisfaction out of keeping the house neat than I did the apartment.

We've also been doing a lot of work on the house aside from day-to-day chores. Rachel painted our cellar door a beautiful green, because it's a little short hobbity door, and we're going to put a sign on it that says "Bag End" :D We finished unpacking the temple room yesterday, and it looks so beautiful (see Rachel's post for pictures). I can't wait to start arranging our altars. Rachel had the awesome idea of turning one of the closets into a meditation nook - I love enclosed spaces and a cozy closet decorated with pretty things would be perfect for meditating. I can't wait to make that room into a spiritual haven.

Weaving
I'm working on my second weaving project, a scarf. The warp is black and the weft is a vibrant rainbowy yarn, and the colors have been transitioning really nicely. Scarves go really fast! I'll need more yarn for my next projects. My heddle is a 10 epi heddle (that's how many holes and slots per inch are in the heddle) and I discovered this time that worsted-weight yarn is almost too big to fit through those holes ^^;; So I think I'll confine myself to sock yarn and lighter weights in the future. Weaving is so much fun :3 I find it very fulfilling, and it gives pretty quick results, which is helpful for someone who's just beginning in the craft.

Writing
I've been working, very slowly, on my Camp Nano novel, and I think it's coming along well. It's about Cora, who lives in a treehouse and is self-sustainable and wary of magic because of events in her childhood, and Ellspeth, who goes to an art school in the nearby city and was raised in the wilderness by sentient wolves, and is a secret unlicensed magic-user. There will be exciting locations and attempts to reveal Ellspeth to the authorities and memory-magic, and I'm looking forward to writing it.

LotRO
I love this game so hard. Lord of the Rings is very important to me: it's been a formative influence on me for over twenty years, from my writing to my art to my ideas about storytelling and literary criticism. Almost as much as the characters, the world itself is what keeps me coming back, and getting to run around it and experience it with my own characters at my own pace is incredible. Even if there was no storyline - and the storylines range from epic to routine to fun to adorable - I would get pleasure just from exploring the landscape. Back when I'd never played an MMO before, I don't think I really appreciated the scope of these games. Yeah, Final Fantasy games are normally pretty gigantic, but you can't always just run around them wherever you want. You have story paths you have to follow and places you can't get unless the story has taken you there. Zelda's been the same - you can't just walk somewhere without having followed the story there. In LotRO, you can pretty much go ANYwhere. You may get squished by a troll or scorched to death by a dragon or eaten by a warg that's seventeen levels bigger than you, but you can go there. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part, you can go where you want. The game developers and writers are very meticulous about their lore details, and it's a hardcore Tolkien nerd's dream come true. I've had to defend my choice to play this game to people before (both in terms of dedicating some of my free time to it and in terms of occasionally spending money on it). Video games are, for some reason, seen as "lesser" forms of entertainment by some people. Nobody would give me weird looks or say "I would never spend my time/money doing THAT" if I substituted "going to the movies" for "playing LotRO". And what do you do when you watch a movie? You experience a story, you watch moving pictures, you think about what's going on. When you play video games, you experience a story, watch moving pictures, and think about what's going on - and you're forced to make choices, think critically, make decisions that will effect the outcome. I'm not saying that video games are better or more worth my time than movies or TV shows, but for me, they're on the same level of quality and worth.

Rachel is playing now, actually, and I think I'll be off to join her :3

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March 2016

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