blk: (house)
People have been asking me about those pavers I talked about planting, so I went back in time and took pictures of what I did.

cut for pictures )

Two weeks later it's still holding up nicely, the dirt hasn't washed onto it too badly, and the baby clover is growing. The main problem so far is that it appears I put one of the pavers a fraction lower than the others, and it tends to collect water in heavy rains. And of course, come winter will be the test of whether it actually holds up to frozen ground. I suppose worse case is I dig it up and do it again. Total time working was about 2 hours, and now I know the theory for when I want to do something similar (on a much larger scale) in the front yard.
blk: (sudopie)
I've got 7 more hours to write my Carnival weekend review post before I'm no longer in the correct month!

Carnival was pretty low-key this year all around. Less turnout for a lot of stuff, but plenty enough that I still had a great time.

Friday I decided to take a day off work, because I could, and because previous years I've usually wandered around campus finding visiting people for half the day anyways. At noon I picked up a boy from school early and we hit Mobot, which turned out to be very sparse due to rain and also only 4 mobot entries total. The boy stayed for a round, then went home, while I mostly wandered around looking for things to do. I grabbed some food and wandered some booths at Midway, eventually meeting up with various friends and the other kid, then heading home.

click for album

Saturday was beautiful weather, so I went back to midway to take some pictures of the bookshelves in KGB's booth (among other things), then to the usual lunch at the SCS alumni reception, then to the CSLBBQ, which was also subdued, then home for some games.

Sunday was also beautiful weather, which makes for a great pie party. I finished up my pie making just after people started arriving. This party was smaller than last year, with 60 people (10 under age 18), down from 80 last year, and 27 pies. The back porch and yard and trampoline got plenty of use, along with the boffer swords. I was still in boot, but was doing just fine walking around.

click for album

Pies as recorded included ham and spinach quiche and quichelets by me, chive gorgonzola quiche by pliny, savory greens quiche by cgs and jess, spinach quiche by joel, vegan chicken curry pot pie by scu, tiramisu twinkies and a tasty attempt at berry tau by bc3p, pear pecan by mj2q, pecan by shafeeq, chocolate pecan pielets by pliny, chocolate pecan by bblum, chocolate chipotle by adam & rehana, peach habanero by otherjim, GF black raspberry by nolans, blueberry by lisa, vinegar pie and cheesecake by ivan & lyndsey, apple pie by david, butternut squash by benoit & guests, a brownie pie with a cookie dough "pi" on top by anonymous, and a store-bought oreo cake by serra. Apparently the unspoken pie theme this year was pecan.

Pies were all completely consumed! The first year of no leftovers. Around 8p the usual exodus of people happened, but bigger than usual, leaving only 5 people left. So we cooked at mostly ate 4 more pies (pizzas), and played a riveting game of Small World until late.
blk: (cathat)
Look! I made a Thing!

Pretty sure this is my first real sewing project ever. I used [ profile] xuth's sewing machine and everything. (Well, technically I guess it's my second, as the rough draft hat isn't pictured.)

I chose this project because winter hats are a ridiculous annoyance for me. It is difficult for me to find ones that work for me (fits around my head right, doesn't slide up off my slippery hair, completely covers my ears without squeezing them, has space to tuck my hair into, and is of appropriately soft/non-itchy material), and I am just absentminded enough that I lose them at about the rate I find ones I like. Well, no more worries about that!

From past hats I decided I liked the pillbox form, and found this option and was about to order, like, three of them, before realizing that that sort of thing -should- be rather easy and cheap to make, particularly if I wasn't really picky about the details being totally precise. Having decided that, I then had to actually do it before winter was over and I didn't need a hat anymore. So yesterday I timed my trip to teh local big box cheap fabric store with superb luck, while they had a good sale on fleece and remnants, and get a few colors. Then today Xuth patiently talked me through making measurements and a pattern and how to use a sewing machine and I made my first one!

It ended up just a tad bigger than I wanted, and I didn't quite get the back seam hidden properly, but it was still a hat! I was going to just stop there, but Justin came down then and tried it on, and decided he liked it, so I gave that one to him and set out to make myself another. The second one I sized down slightly, but then messed up twice in getting the seams to be properly hidden and had to cut off about a half inch or so of mistake. So it ended up just slightly smaller than intended, but it still fits. And the seams are a little crooked in places, but mostly it's exactly what I was trying for. AND I figured out the correct topology all by myself that time.

It's cozy and soft and warm and covers my ears without squeezing them and I can tuck my hair into it and it's pretty and I MADE IT. And if I lose it or decide I don't like it, I can make more. Bwahaha.

blk: (icicles)
So there was this con a couple weeks ago. In past years I've been to this con as a Spicy Braider (or as reg staff), but this year that wasn't to be. Since I suddenly had a bunch of free time and energy, I decided to try A Project.

The Costume )

The Con )
blk: (avatar)
This weekend was a nice calm stay-at-home weekend for me after last week's con-people-boston-visiting whirl. (The writeup on that one will come later)

It started with a bit of a busy-ness, as I prepped for my first Soup Swap Party. This involved making two large pots of clam chowdah (bacon and non) and doing a whole bunch of house cleaning, taking care of stuff that had piled up over the last couple weeks. The party was a huge success!! Despite a very snowy day, people braved the roads to come deliver soups to my house. We had a fantastic variety (enough to please GF folks, vegetarians, and meat lovers) , with no overlaps, and a few very strange ones that turned out really well, as well as bread and beer and a few other snackin's.

I put my own tweak into the party, where instead of just swapping blindly, I asked everybody to bring a small amount to be heated up and eaten, then we used teeny party cups to get a few bites of each soup. This worked fabulously, IMO, as it meant I got to try things that I normally would have thought too weird, without committing to a full quart. The parsnip soup and dill pickle soup turned out to be two of my favorites! Even the swap went smoothly, with mostly the right number of people wanting what was available. My clam chowdah was super popular (either that or everybody was trying to butter up the host), which tickled me. We finished up the night with some light games, and traded recipes online. I'm looking forward to trying my hand at making some of them.

Sunday I got to wake up to a nice clean house and laze around for a while, as I had mostly no plans except to go out and plan in the snow with some friends later. Eventually I walked down to Frick Park. The snow was light and fluffy and pretty much perfect for the sledding we were doing, and the main hill was surprisingly not very busy. We ended up with six people and three sleds, all of which fit two (or three!) people each, and ended up just tossing ourselves down the hill for an hour in various fun configurations, one of which was the three sled train. I haven't sledded like that in years and I had pretty much forgotten how much fun it could be. I took one spill while doubling with Charlie, unfortunately on the one time where I decided to try to video our trip, which meant that when we started tipping precariously, my main thought was to protect my camera and not my head, so I did a fun little slow rollover, ensuring that I'm going to be sore tomorrow. Eventually the hill started filling up with smaller kids who weren't smart enough to actually look uphill while they weren't sledding, which made things less fun for me, so after a quick detour over to the actual blue slide of Blue Slide Park (which was also good for sledding on), I invited people back to my house for snowbuilding and hot chocolate.

We didn't quite make it home before running across my neighbor who was in the process of shoveling out his front yard ice rink. Upon greeting, he offered us a spin including lending skates, so two people took him up on that while the others of us attempted to make some snow sculptures. Eventually the cold started getting to me and the hot chocolate part of the afternoon happened inside my warm house, complete with peppermint marshmallows. Exhaustion was really setting in for me, though, and after everybody else left I ended up flopping down on the couch for a short nap, until a kid bugged me about dinner. Fortunately, I apparently hadn't quite reached my soup limit yet, and had thought to prep a big crockpot of chili earlier in the day, which was delicious. I realized I was probably so exhausted because I was dehydrated, so I fixed that as well, which did help some. I'm still feeling pretty wiped out and mildly headachey. Having fun is hard work! But worth it. I was tagged in various pictures on the Book of Face for people who are on there, but they're not public so I'm not linking directly from here.

Expecting a cold and snowy week this week, and likely a snow day Tuesday, as temps drop back down to -9F around here. Brr. Fortunately, cold makes for excellent soup weather...
blk: (icicles)
Now that the latest cold snap has passed, it seems like a good time to revisit [ profile] xuth's and my recent vacation getaway. This year we escaped to Black Moshannon State Park in the middle of PA. We chose this spot because there looked to be a fair number of hiking trails accessible without needing to drive anywhere, and also because they had a "modern" (heated) cabin still available for cheap.

Black Moshannon bog

We and a friend headed out Monday afternoon through fairly uneventful traffic and arrived in good time shortly before sunset. After some minor complications (needing to acquire some emergency kitchen gear), we settled in, had dinner, and played a game. It was cold at that point but no snow yet. Tuesday morning it started snowing enough to settle a layer of white on the ground, so it finally felt appropriately wintery, and we could actually snow hike. I took us on several loops around the main campsite that first day, totaling approximately 7.5 miles, with minor elevation changes and off and on snow. The afternoon gave us a brief clear sky to see the bog, although all the information signs on the boardwalk were snowed over. We got back before dark, thoroughly exhausted (at least I was). I got in my yearly game of Iron Dragon (which I was doing great on until events started kicking my butt and I ended up losing horribly) over dinner and dessert and lots of tea and gingerbread.

a quick very clothed group shot

Wednesday after breakfast we headed out to one more loop we hadn't gotten to the previous day. It was much colder that day. The only temperature reading we had at the cabin said 20F, but after being out in below 0F just a couple days ago, I'm inclined to say that the park temps were much lower than 20F. Fortunately there wasn't much wind, but we needed to stay moving and covered to be comfortable. There wasn't any new snow since the previous day, so we could see a lot of fresh tracks from various overnight visitors. We identified several different deer and rabbits. We also saw prints from what looked like a housecat and various other small skittery things. After just a couple miles, we decided to take the rest of the day to relax with books and napping and tea in a warm cabin.

Allegheny Front Trail goes UP

Thursday morning had brought more snow, the soft light kind that settles and turns everything a nice fluffy white. After a quick cleanup we closed up shop and drove over to the park office to try to find maps for the best way to briefly explore the Allegheny Front Trail, a 40 mile loop that went around the park. We opted to explore the "Front vista section," which went up and down and along the eastern ridge. Sure enough, less than a mile in, the trail turned very up, and involved clambering up snowy rocks for a while. The rest of the day was some variety of up or down, and was definitely very challenging terrain. After an hour and a half of walking we hadn't yet reached the next road, but decided we needed to turn back in order to get home before sunset. Another hour and a half brought us back to the road and the car, where I was very very happy to sit and not walk any more. Later studying of maps brought us to conclude that we had probably only traveled about 2 miles along the trail (so 4 round trip) in three hours. Sheesh. But I was exhausted enough by the end of 3 hours that I certainly wasn't up for more, so I guess that was it.

We came home to a quiet house and a grateful cat and several days of relaxing. Overall a good vacation.
blk: (braids)
Well, I made an idle comment elsewhere that my hair is currently blue and pictures were demanded. I suppose technically I don't really have blue hair and I more have blueish "hair."

I used to do minibraids in my hair on a somewhat regular basis, because it's a lot of fun to wear. I mostly stopped after college as my hair was simply too thin and long to do a reasonable-looking job, and instead turned to doing smaller numbers of braids with things braided in. About a month ago I saw pictures from a woman on reddit who had done yarn braids, and I realized I could do this thing!

So after a recent minor trim, I went and looked for a pretty color of cheap acrylic yarn. I wanted something that was vaguely close to my actual hair color with a bit of color, and I ended up with Red Heart's Earth and Sky, which is a variegated brown with some light blue streaks through it.

Oh, but you just want pictures, don't you. Well fine.

I whip my hair back and forth )

It took me a total of about 5.5 hours to put in, although the first hour of that was a lot of trying things out, so I suspect some of that could be lessened. I used about 200 yds of yarn, although that's only about 4 oz of yarn so it's not much heavier, but definitely bulkier. Sleeping the first night was a little awkward but I think I'm used to it now. Not sure how long I will leave them in. I figure 2-4 weeks would be sufficient for me to get plenty of enjoyment out of it. It's been 4 days now and it still looks about the same condition as when I started.

Quite happy with them so far.
blk: (elfcycle)
Yesterday [ profile] ravens_prentice and I made plans to go see Romero, Phipps' resident corpse flower before it closed.

like the flowers that fade )

where is the victory? )

like a thief in the night )

This weekend I hope to catch up on things I expected to do last night but didn't because I was playing a fun but long game, like pick up apples, wash things that need washed, run, make new bike helmet bling, and read a book.
blk: (spicy)
My much-neglected todo list tells me that I never did an Arisia writeup for this year. But beyond just showing off braid pics, these posts are good for me for future planning. I'll probably backdate this so I can find it in the future.

points of interest )
blk: (spring)
The calendar can't fool me; today was totally spring. I'm NOT LOOKING at the forecast for later this week.

I've been thinking for, oh, at least the past 12 months or so that after 6+ years of riding around and 2+ years of mostly daily commuting on my current Craigslist find, it was time to gift myself with a New Bike. I wanted something that I knew was fit to me and I knew was good quality and would last, and ideally would be lighter and wouldn't take as much regular fiddling with. So last week I went to Big Bang Bikes on recommendation from an acquaintance at CMU. Glenn the owner is a really nice guy who seemed to know a bunch about bikes and never made me feel stupid for not knowing anything, patiently explained all the adjustments he was doing, and fitted me to a bike that felt nice. They didn't have the exact bike that I wanted in stock so I had to wait until one came in.

Today I went down and gave it a test ride, and decided it was pretty much all that I wanted. [ profile] xuth gave me the thumbs up that it was a quality bike, and Glenn offered a fairly hefty discount, so I ended up walking away with a super early birthday present to myself. I am now the new owner of a really nice new Trek 7.4 with disc brakes and it's PRETTY. Also fun to ride. Still have to transfer over all my gear but for today I'm enjoying how light it is.

on the north tip of herrs island

Then we came home and decided it was too beautiful of a day and after all I needed to test out the bike so we dragged the boys out and dragged all their bikes out and dug up helmets and water and bike carriers and eventually piled everything into or onto the car and headed down to the bike trail. We meandered around, crossed a few bridges, went around Washington's Landing to shove some local history at them and take a picture to appease all the friends and relatives who say I don't take enough pictures, then to Pizza Sola for dinner, and finally back to the car, totally exhausted. Ended up being 15 miles total.

Now I am thinking of acquiring some yarn to make new helmet hairfalls that will match the blue trim on my new bike...
blk: (avatar)
Trick question: What's different?

Answer )
blk: (axial)
It's been quite the week! Enough that I want to post about it, at least. We've spent the last few years really enjoying getting rid of the kids for the xmas week, and going somewhere secluded to relax and be outside. This year was no different, except that family obligations poked their head in, so we went back to Ohio instead of elsewhere.

sunday through thursday, in ohio )

adding some color

Friday I tackled the ice and snow on our sidewalks, as Pittsburgh had decided to allow winter in while we were gone. The rest of the weekend has been mostly doing a lot of lazing about, cooking various things, shoveling show, going to a couple parties, and attempting to get over these coughs. Mine has settled into being the better part of laryngitis and some vague coughing after I did a bunch of talking/socializing on Friday afternoon, and sounds pretty awful, but I'm otherwise feeling fine, so I think it's just the last bit of recovery. I made some pretty ice decorations and took a long walk through Frick yesterday.

Tonight we're off to another low-key party, hopefully one where I don't have to talk too loudly. Going to ring in de new year all quiet und sottle-like. Yarrrr.
blk: (bike)

blk, with helmet hair
I've been commuting to work primarily via bike for a little under a year now. My commute is about 20/25 minutes to work/home, total of about 5.5 miles (depending on the route I take).

My bike has been nicely accessorized. I've added a computer (although I accidentally lost the miles of the first 6 months when I changed the battery) and a rack so I don't have to carry a backpack. I've added lights, fenders, a new seat, reflective velcro straps, and some cute helmet bling (that I promised a picture of, so here it is!), clip pedals and shoes.

I'm pretty good at estimating how many layers of clothing I need to be comfortable. Above 60 °F, shorts and a wicking shirt, and not much else. Below 60, pants or shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt. Below 50, add a windbreaker and switch to full-finger gloves. Below 40, add ear warmth, and have warm socks or booties, and warm gloves. Below 30 (freezing), swap to balaclava, add a base layer, add another layer of gloves (although they'll still end up half-frozen), and definitely have booties. Sun bumps the effective temp up at least 5 degrees, and going more uphill generally means one less layer. Add optional glasses in case of sun, dust or precipitation.

Physically, I'm definitely stronger, although it's annoying hard to tell, sometimes. My average speed and total speed vary so much depending on the lights that there's no real change. It took me about 6 months of riding up the hills before I no longer felt like I WANTED TO DIE after going up the biggest ones. And another few months after that before I was able to generally up my ride by a gear. I still feel wimpy and slow, particularly as warmer weather means more cyclists on the road, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them zooms past me while I'm working up the hill. I try to appreciate the exercise and fresh air and general niceness of bicycling, and not compare myself to other people, but some days it's hard. I'm putting effort into getting better, though, trying to get at least one big push/sprint into the ride each way to build more muscle.

One improvement I CAN see is that my bad knee almost never hurts anymore. That's awesome.

The schedule freedom is nice, particular with the craptastic bus system here, that keeps getting worse.

I'd like to eventually switch out my current rack + box for a better fitting rack + panniers. And maybe a more powerful light. Or maybe a faster bike. But overall things are working well.
blk: (stilts)

Pictures from the Not Quite Pittsburgh Juggling Festival that we went to a few months ago, taken by the photographer Bill Allen.
blk: (icicles)
LJ catchup: December

Since moving in together, One thing [ profile] xuth and I actually have a lot less of is time without any of our kids around. So we've been taking advantage of the big holidays - when school is out and visiting families is normal - to go out on our own and enjoy some quiet time. This xmas, after stopping in Columbus for a couple days, we drove down to a secluded cabin in Germany Valley, WV, for a few quiet days of hiking and sightseeing.

how pale is the sky that brings forth the rain )

I've really enjoyed the past couple years of snow hiking we've done, and have decided to definitely do some next year as well. We'd love to find other people to go with. Anybody out there interested in driving out to some remote region, renting a cabin for a few days of kids-less quiet and relaxation, and going out hiking in lovely freezing cold weather with us? Now taking applications...
blk: (spicy)
Time for another yearly Arisia post!

This was my second year in driving there with [ profile] xuth and boy instead of flying on my own. Although this year we had the advantage of a much larger car, which somehow still seemed to get completely filled up with Stuff. The drive up was better than last year, with no rain or snow or toothaches, but we still hit heavy fog in going through Connecticut, which is not all that fun.

breath of winter )
blk: (axial)
I have a lot of things I want to post and catch up on, but I figure I should post this one before Halloween is too far gone.

[ profile] xuth and I went to a costume-encouraged wedding in SF the weekend before Halloween. Here's how we ended up: you think this happens every day? )
blk: (bike)
In a rare moment of a free summer weekend - no kids in town, and no other big plans - [ profile] xuth and I decided to head down to Ohiopyle, PA for a couple days. Not to play in their rapids this time but to ride on their bike trail. So we grabbed the last available tent site in the local state park campground, packed up the (new and improved and larger) car with bikes and such, and headed out after work on Friday.

trails and pics )
blk: (cmu)
So Carnival weekend happened.

It was a busy time, starting from Thursday early when houseguests started arriving. My house no longer has infinite houseguest space, but fortunately, there are others who can fill in for that. Thursday evening, there was socializing with newly in-town folks until we all fell over.

Carnival... )

... and Pie! )

People hung out and played games until reasonably late. Our last houseguests left early Monday, and magically, the house was quiet and clean and peaceful, which [ profile] xuth and I are enjoying immensely. Overall, fantastic weekend. I had a great time, I can't wait to see y'all again, and I don't want to do it until next year. :)


blk: (Default)

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