Holiday Preparations, An Email Digression, A Call for Assvice

Oh y’all. It is finals week here, which means that things are simultaneously wonderful and horrible. I am so, so close to being done and to starting my holiday break, and yet I am still so, so far from that.

[333/366] Wine Glass

I’ve created the final exams for two of my three courses, but I still need to write one more. Once I give the exams, I’ll have 140 of them to grade before determining final semester averages and such. It is a lot left to do, and yet it isn’t. The only really stressful factor is dealing with the steady stream of emails from students who are fretting about the exam and/or worried about their other grades — as is only natural, of course.

A little digression, if you don’t mind: Email existed when I was an undergrad (ca. 1996-2000), but back then most of my professors didn’t use it. I had an account I accessed via VMS (anyone remember VMS?), used mainly to write to my friends at faraway schools and my boyfriend back in my hometown. I did not ever email my professors. I often wonder what I would have been like as a student if email use had been more widespread on my campus back then. Would it have replaced the regular sit-down meetings I had with my adviser every semester, when I had to get his signature on my registration card before I would be allowed to stand in the hours-long queue and wait, hoping to get into my desired classes? Would I have developed the same close relationships with my professors over email exchanges as I did by sitting down with them in their offices — and occasionally smoking cigarettes with them (!)? I don’t know; what was it like when you were in school?

At any rate, there’s no use longing for the old days. I’ve got emails to answer and that’s just how it is.

Extra Branches

On another note, this time next week, I will be done with fall semester and ready to sit on my duff until early 2013. Ahh, I can hardly wait! I have been working so hard this semester, and it’s all been good (interesting, challenging, both new and familiar) work, but I’m ready for time off. Winter break is my favorite time of year. I love the holiday season; winter weather is my favorite; everything about it is tops!

I’ve already put the holidays in action in my place. I love white lights and snowflakes and I love to have a tree. Here’s what I’ve got going at the moment:

Snowflake Garland
Snowflake Garland
Falling Flakes.Tree
Another Ornament Self-Portrait

Now, once I get through finals week, I’ll really be able to soak it up. Flannel fir tree pajama pants, flannel snowflake sheets (a dangerous flannel-on-flannel combo at times), Silk nog spiked with bourbon, holiday treats, Christmas movies, Pandora’s Jazzy Holiday station (try it!). I’ve also got my birthday to look forward to (the big 3-5) and a trip up to Iowa to enjoy some cold weather and hopefully some snow and, oh yeah, also to meet my boyfriend’s parents. ‘Twill be fabulous. As long as I can avoid making a fool of myself.

Really, though: any tips? Etiquette tips? Like for when you’re going to be staying with your significant other’s family for a week at Christmas time and you’ve never met them before? I welcome your assvice people, and that is a rare occasion, as I do not normally suffer assvice kindly. Hit me.

Giving Thanks

I’m full of gratitude this year, in ways I haven’t had the chance to be before. It’s been an interesting year, for sure. Twenty-twelve started out with a slew of no-good, stupid, vexing shit, but hot damn has it turned around! The last six months have been downright wonderful.

[200/366] Exploring

Sweet Guy.Posing

[164/366] One Happy Dog

One thing I am thankful for on a daily basis is that in May, when Egon had his second disc rupture and needed a $5,000 surgery, friends, family, and strangers from the internet gave me and Eegs the support we needed to get it done. I am still amazed by all that warmth and generosity — it changed both our lives. While the operation did not give Egon the use of his back legs again, it did likely save his life. The ruptured disc had already caused softening and deterioration of his spinal cord by the time he went into surgery, and he was lucky to recover without it spreading and becoming fatal. I am so thankful that he got the help he needed, that he made it through surgery and recovery, and that he and I have now adjusted to his new care and routine. We’re both as happy as ever.

[288/366] Baby Jades.[286/366] Habanero from last night's tacos.

[155/366] BW Velos

I’m also incredibly thankful for the series of events and small moments that led me and my boyfriend together. I started the year in a relationship that was basically an illusion, precariously held together by a bunch of lies. Getting out of it (or finally deciding to, I suppose) was an ugly experience. It was hard to take action and for a while I felt paralyzed. I suppose the painful process of removing things from your life that aren’t working is, if viewed differently, also the process of creating fertile space in your life for new things to grow. Either way, it isn’t easy, but it is of course worth the trouble. Thank goodness I did! Now I just find myself full of happiness and excitement; I feel grateful and lucky and confident. The sense of wonder I felt when I wrote this hasn’t left me. Having a person in my life whom I trust without question is something I appreciate every single day.

Campus.Eegs was just chillin' with me before school. Wish I could've stayed home and hung out with him, but SOMEBODY has got to pay the bills around here!.[252/366] To the Moon.Where the Magic Happens, Part I..Hotel system down and we can't check in yet. Not a problem when the bar has Basil Hayden.. [306/366] Sunbeam Dog.Breakfast. Poem I'm currently obsessed with (from Poetry, January 1939).[235/366] Representing.Lounging.[209/366] Permission to Run.[204/366] My cute new mug.[176/366] Sunday Bike Ride.More amazing cherry tomatoes from my plant!.[192/366] Encore.Loving life right now..Reading material.[77/366] Ready for the Party.[181/366] More Edna.Flowers (the green ones are my favorites).Hey, short guy.

I am also, as always, thankful for good friends, family, challenging work, coffee, health, running, good food, bourbon, books, biking, champagne, flowers, television, and poems.

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is lovely, friends!

Fall is Looking Up

[282/366] Flowers, Evening Light

Things are good here. Fall is on its way, and I took advantage of the crisp, five-o’clock air yesterday evening to go on a little photo walk through my neighborhood — with my real camera, even! I have been seeing these lovely wildflowers for the past couple of weeks, but when I notice them I’m usually on a run with no camera or phone to capture a picture. This time, I set out with just that intention:


And Halloween is approaching! I love Halloween. As an adult, I’ve also started to enjoy horror movies — I was never allowed to watch them growing up because my parents had some strict ideas about television, so I missed a lot of the classics along the way. Now it’s time to catch up! My boyfriend was simply shocked at how many of his favorites I’ve never seen, so we have made it a plan to watch some classic horror films this month, in keeping with the season. If you’re a horror movie fan, which are your personal favorites? Leave a comment and maybe we will put them on our list.

In other pop-culture news, I’ve got a new TV show obsession. You know how much I love Gilmore Girls, so you might be wondering how it took me this long to check out Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new show, Bunheads. Well, the reason is that no one told me about it! Heh. I just saw it suggested on Hulu recently and checked it out. Sutton Foster, the star, is no Lauren Graham, but she’s good and continuing to grow on me. Kelly Bishop is fantastic as the mother-in-law — but really, when is Kelly Bishop not fantastic? Never. Bunheads has the same fast-paced, witty dialogue I know and love from Gilmore Girls and the story is quiky and charming. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, you might like to check it out.

And something fun to look forward to: next weekend we are going to see The Lumineers in Atlanta. I am very much looking forward to it! Have you heard their album? I like it a lot. Really looking forward not only to the good music but also a night out of town with my guy.

Hands up if you love fall as much as I do!

Growing Things

Since I have decided to embrace spring and such, I figured I may as well finally put some plants out on my patio, as I’ve been thinking of doing since I moved in. This is a bit of an adventure, as I don’t really know much about gardening and most houseplants I have tend to die pretty quickly. Some perish at the whim of Flannery the Cat (who, most recently, annihilated an entire aloe plant) while others simply just start to turn brown or lose their foliage for no reason. I am convinced I have a black thumb.

So, obviously, I’m a little nervous about the fate of my new plants — but at least if they’re on the patio they will be safe from the reach of feline claws. Now all I have to worry about is not over- or under-watering them, not burning them up with too much sun or shading them too much, and ensuring the holes I drilled in my new pot are providing adequate drainage. Uh, so, no biggie. I’m sure they’ll be, um, fine.

Anyway! Today I bought a few different annuals (gerbera daisies, marigolds, and moss rose) and put them all together in one big pot. I figure since they’re annuals anyway, it’s not exactly a long term committment, you know? I mean, I’m wary. I’ve been burned before. I thought my Rosemary bush was here to stay, but it started dying from the roots up shortly after the new year. What a disappointing surprise, when I thought it was going so well!

Moss Rose.Marigolds
[84/366] Flower Pot on Patio

My new flowers, on the other hand, are bright and pretty and make my patio a little happier, but if they don’t work out I can try something else in the same spot.


I also bought a basil plant — I haven’t had one of these around in a while, and I really loved it last time. It’s so wonderful to have fresh basil (my favorite herb) that I grew myself, ready to use in salads and pesto and such. Plus it smells amazing. If this all goes well I am looking into getting some dill, too.

[83/366] Sunset at Home

All of these plants and this pleasant weather are making me feel like sitting out on the patio drinking beer and reading good books and forgetting my other obligations. It turns out it’s a pretty nice place to watch the sunset, actually. Maybe not as glamorous as the hotel balcony in Florida, but this sunset-watching spot has the distinct advantage of the fact that it is attached to my home. It seems like spring is off to a good start around here — I hope it stays that way!

If you have any container gardening tips, hit me with ’em!

New Season

It’s certainly spring around these parts, a fact I am reluctantly willing to admit now that the season has officially begun. We didn’t get much of a winter here in Alabama, except for a few cold days there in December when I was able to wear my slippers around the house without suffocating. Ahh, memories. Winter is my favorite season. I love snow and cold weather and sweaters, coats, scarves, and boots. I like root vegetables and red wine and hot coffee. I like Christmas and my birthday and snow. Did I mention snow? Did I mention that we didn’t get any this year?

Nonetheless, winter is over and I suppose it’s time for me to stop complaining about its state of nonexistence. Time to go out to the not-a-cherry-tree and take a photo of the blossoms, like I do every spring.

Tree Blossoms
Blossoms & Sunset

This time it was an amazing act of bravery, I assure you, as the entire tree was teeming with bumble bees. Horrifying. But pretty nonetheless, I suppose, if you are into that kind of thing. As I glanced around me I saw a dogwood tree on the other side of a fence and wandered around in a sort of circuitous manner to get to it and take some more photos. This one was also crawling with various insects. The things we do for art, man.

Dogwood and Crickety Thing

My winding path, however, took me down to a part on the edge of the lake that I normally never visit or see, and it gave me the perfect angle to appreciate the sunset over the water, the reflections, the wakes left by a pair of ducks swimming around, and the nice framing of the lakeside trees.

[79/366] Sunset on the Lake

With all of this pretty stuff around me, I may as well embrace the new season, even if the the thought of the coming hot weather (It’s in the 80s already and only going to get hotter) does not exactly fill me with joy. I am going to do my very best to enjoy the flowers popping up everywhere, the pleasant neighborhood walks, and afternoons and evenings spent hanging out on my patio, which is where I am again as I write this very post.

Flowering shrub right across the street from my house..[76/366] House Cleaning
Greetings from my outdoor office!.Spotted on my walk to & from the gym today.

Today I bought a little glass-topped table to put outside so I can have a place to put my laptop (or a beer), and it makes all the difference, I think — after all, my lap is usually occupied by a small dachshund.


I spent the first half of spring break in Florida with my friends Becky and Sunny, and we had a lovely few days. The time was divided between a couple of nights at S’s parents’ house near Tampa (one on the way down, one on the way back) and a couple of nights in Fort Myers with trips out to Gasparilla Island/Boca Grande and Sanibel Island.

I hadn’t been to the beach since 2007, and hadn’t been to a sunny, warm, southern beach since years before that. I was definitely looking forward to spending some time with my feet in the sand. Mission: Accomplished. Here are some of my favorite photographs from the trip:

Boca Grande and Gasparilla Island State Park:


Shoreline Waders



Light House

We saw the lighthouse on the island — how different from most lighthouses I’m familiar with, like this one at Heceta Head in Oregon! — and walked the beach, enjoying the shells and the friendly birds and the absolutely gorgeous water and sky. So lovely here.

Sanibel Island and J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge:

[71/366] Cycling

Flying Pelican

Sunning Himself


Osprey Perch

Stand-Up Paddleboard

Here we rented bikes for the day so we could ride through the wildlife preserve and stop to see all the birds. My friend Sunny is an avid birder, so had some birding binoculars with her, and I captured these photos with a 55-200mm zoom lens on loan from Becky. The biking was quite fun for the first half of the ride, when a gentle tailwind helped us pedal ourselves and our full baskets of stuff even on the single-speed cruisers. Riding back to town in a ripping headwind was, let’s say, less leisurely. It’s kind of hard to pedal when your entire torso is all upright like a huge sail and you don’t have any gears. Oy. Nonetheless, an exciting day, finishing with some lounging on the beach watching the stand-up paddle boarders.

Fort Myers, Hotel Balcony Sunsets, and a Very Old Banyan Tree:

[70/366] Askew




Sitting on the hotel balcony every night watching the sun go down and drinking wine was probably one of my favorite things about the trip. Our view was spectacular and nature put on a great show for us every night.

All in all, a fantastic trip and definitely worth spending many, many hours in the backseat of a VW Beetle. Coming home and back to reality was less thrilling — a story that will have to wait for a later post.

Creative Projects for 2012

For the past two years, I have taken at least one photograph a day as part of Project 365, and it’s been one of the best creative efforts I’ve participated in lately. I have really loved documenting my days and my years in this way — looking back over the photos brings back so many memories of days and details and moments that might otherwise have faded away. As you might be able to predict, I’ll be doing the project again this year, with a bonus day thrown in because it’s leap year!

As always, I’ll be sharing a lot of the photos here, including the most recent one in the sidebar. You can always follow along with everything on flickr, too, if you like. I often take more than one photo a day, and everything will wind up there. If you’re doing Project 366 (or something similar) this year, would you leave me a comment so I an follow your photos, too?


In other photography goals, one thing I would really like to work on this year is portraits. I have gotten pretty decent at photographing dogs and still-lifes of food and drink, but portraits are often difficult. First of all, I tend to take pictures indoors in low lighting, making it easy to get a blurry one if the subject moves. Second of all, well, not everyone wants me sticking a camera in his or her face, you know? Dang, man, but why do people gotta be so difficult?

Talk to The HAND.

At any rate, to get myself inspired, I made a new photo set of all my favorite portraits since I started flickr (and digital photography, at all) back in 2005. There’s a pretty big range of quality and technical skill represented there. I think some of those might have actually been taken with a Motorola RAZR, the camera phone I had before I got a digital point-and-shoot, iPhone, or DSLR. Man oh man. Anyway, I chose my favorites just based on how much I liked the photo, the moment, the memory, or whatever it was I captured. I’m hoping that as I keep trying to take more portraits going forward, I can work on improving them technically and capturing the subjects better, too.

(Note to my friends: be ready! I could come for you at any time.)

Walrus, Dubious..Good Lighting

Regarding the blog in general, I also have some more thoughtful posts in mind that I’d like to write, including some relationshippy stuff (from my past, not my present) inspired by Allstate’s Mayhem Guy commercials, thoughts about the way I eat (spoiler: eggs and dairy are now occasionally involved), and credit card debt. Love, food, and money? That sounds serious. Hopefully not too serious. Often I get into writing simple recaps and wry remarks here, and I don’t wind up putting as much thought and planning into my posts as I’d really like to. I’m going to work on that, but, you know, in my own way.

Festive Weekend Antics

Well, it’s That Time of Year. Finals week has begun as of today, and I have basically finished my holiday decorating. What this means is this: while I still have plenty of work left to do for the semester (what with giving final exams and grading of said exams and grading of essays and averaging of grades and easing of students’ frayed nerves and handling of students’ complaints), I have mentally declared myself finished with the semester and am already in full holiday mode (like you didn’t see this coming).

This is an odd place to be. So much work, on the one hand, and a steady influx of jazzy holiday tunes, festive beverages, flannel pajamas, and peppermint-based candy, on the other hand. At least I am adequately fueled with sugar for the work ahead.

Standing up.[338/365] Photobomb

As you can see, the holidays are making everyone a little goofy. The dogs are vigilant in the kitchen and dancing for treats, and someone feels the need to photobomb my daily Project365 picture. In all seriousness, the dogs had woken us up at 7:00 Sunday morning to go outside, so we decided as long as we were up we would get on the task of making cinnamon rolls and mimosas, which we ate while watching Cannonball Run. At 7:30 AM. And then proceeded to nap on the couch.

The weekend was spent being almost exclusively lazy, as has become the norm. Saturday morning I got up early to go race a 10K with Brunbec and Jenniac (recap to come when official results and, hopefully, photos are available), but after that I indulged in plenty of relaxation. We lounged and relaxed with the dogs and generally were very merry indeed. W and I have been watching season one of Torchwood, which I really love (although not as much as Doctor Who, but that probably goes without saying), and have occasionally been putting on old Christmas episodes of our favorite shows for a bit of something festive.

Tree Reflection.Tree Reflection
Ornaments and Lights

Speaking of festive, I am really happy with how my tree and decorations came out. I have had the idea for years now to make cut-out paper snowflakes to hang from the ceiling, and this year I finally executed it! It looks so great in person, but was annoyingly difficult to photograph. This collage-style Instagram manged to capture the overall effect better than any of my DSLR images:

Today I did this and I love it! Much better in person, too.

So much fun! I feel like leaving them up indefinitely (though I likely won’t). We also took some photos of the dogs in front of the Christmas tree, because, let’s face it, when you have dogs as cute as these three, there is really no other choice.

Piper & Oliver.Egon

W’s dogs Piper (Chihuahua) and Oliver (Jack-Russell/Shih-Tsu mix) are so darn photogenic; it’s easy to get great photos of them. Egon, with his black fur, presents more of a challenge, but I think I managed well enough.

Today it was back to work, of course, and I’ve been crossing things off my to-do list with a vengeance. Well, more accurately, I have been delicately tapping in the check-box on my iPhone “Reminders” app, which is surely less satisfying than really striking through a list item with the decisive stroke of the pen. In a way quite similar to how cell phones robbed us of our ability to really slam the phone receiver back down into the cradle to punctuate the end of a telephone argument, the iPhone task management apps have removed the page-ripping pen strike-out from our productivity notations. Sigh. Technology, man. First there’s being friends with your bosses, exes, and frienemies on Facebook, and now this.

In other news, next week is my birthday and I’m having a few people over for drinks and snacks. What is your favorite simple party snack? I need ideas!