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Year 1

Well, it's a month since my last post, and it's September 22nd, so that can really only mean one thing- it's time for another whinge about how I miss my horse, who died a year ago tomorrow. The three people who read my blog can be thankful that I usually list those posts as 'private'. 

How do I measure this year? Let's examine the Rent version-
Daylight: I work in a windowless building, so this is pretty limited during the winter, but abundant in the summer. Not sure it's a particularly useful unit of measurement as it fluctuates so much.
Sunsets: ditto
Midnights: okay unit of measurement, as that is my normal bedtime. I've seen most of the midnights this year.
Cups of coffee: .05 (I hate coffee)

Hmm, the Rent measurements aren't really doing much for me. Let's try Rent if it were written by a bunch of emo scene kids-
Oversized sunglasses: zero
Bottles of black eyeliner: three
Self-injuries: probably a fair number. I'm clumsy, and I did a lot of hot gluing this year. That always leads to pain. But not on purpose, so it doesn't count.
Concerts featuring people who wear black eyeliner and sing about cutting themselves: one

Hmm, worse than the first try. Perhaps the Scooby-Doo ending?
Large slobbery dogs: one, occasionally
Conspicuously painted pedophile-type vans: one, occasionally
Pairs of knee-high socks: one, occasionally
Old men in rubber masks who would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those darn kids: one, occasionally (I hate to ruin a good run)

So it looks like I have had, occasionally, a Scooby-Doo type year.

How I really measured my year:
Nights woken from terribly vivid nightmares about my horse, usually because I've been screaming in my sleep: 84 (yes, I kept track)
Weekends spent scanning and editing old photos of my horse: three
Times I've ridden: three
Friends lost because of horse: 1.75
Friends gained because of horse: 2

My life revolved around Dancer for so long that it has been a very strange year without him. I am no longer Dancer's owner, the 1st Level dressage rider, the girl who raced the school bus on horseback, or any of the other thousand people he allowed me to be. Now, I am just me, and I have to find out who that is after losing my point of reference. Hopefully, I've gotten a little closer to an answer after the last 12 months.

Black Swan (aka the Big Foofy Dress)

I went to 4Pi-Con this weekend, where I debuted the BFD that I started in November of 2006. It's finally (almost) finished!!!!!! It needs a wig and some touch-ups, and my dream costume will be done (for the moment, I'm ignoring the structural issues. I choose to believe that they do not exist.)



Jul. 29th, 2009

I just had one of those annoying days. The kind where nothing went wrong, things functioned smoothly, I accomplished what I needed to, and yet I feel that it was an unsatisfying day. I went to work, got stuff done, enjoyed a rainshower on the way home (and a thunderstorm after dark- yay!), talked with some friends, and made some progress on my costume, but it's somehow... unfulfilled.

God, I need barn time. That's the only thing I can think of. Where's a horse when you need one? Kitties just aren't doing it for me today.

P.S. LiveJournal, contractions do not require spell check. Neither does your name.

The Storm at John Martin Reservoir

Ahh, one of my favorite parts of living on the Plains- massive, chaotic, and uncontrolled destructive forces of nature!!!!!!!

After the trip through Cimarron National Grasslands (see post below, which I finally finished) we camped at John Martin Reservoir in Colorado. This body of water blocks the Arkansas River, a rapid and narrow waterway before it pours into the reservoir, only to become a slow moving, widespread mudhole in Hutchinson. Shortly after eating dinner, a huge storm brewed over the lake. We battened down the hatches on the camper, took our gear to the shelter house, and settled in. Mom fretted, Shannon and Preston kept her company, and Tom and I stood outside to watch.

This is the hook of the storm. If it was a hurricane, it would be the eye. The hook is where the tornados form something like 99.8% of the time. The yellow bit shows the sunset hitting the clouds on the other side of the eye.

Sorry for the blurry photo, but I wanted to show the difference between a shelf cloud, which creates the wall cloud, source of the rotation in a tornado. If you watch the movie Twister and you're from Kansas, it's a riot. The whole theater was in tears when Meg Ryan said something like "That looks like a wall cloud!" and pointed... at a regular cloud.

This photo was taken less than 10 minutes after the wall cloud illustration above. You can see how quickly the cloud has lowered, darkened, and gotten a heck of a lot closer. This is from the opposite end of the building.

Back at the front of the building (about 30 seconds later) you can see how much the wall cloud has changed. It's hard to see in the pictures, but the slow rotation that preceeds a funnel was very visible to the naked eye. Compare that bumpy bit in the center to the next photo, which was shot 20-30 seconds after the previous one.

That bump is considerably bigger, lower, and more menacing. The rotation has created a drop in barometric pressure, which is what draws the funnel downward.

In the next three pictures, you can see the rotation. The light triangular cloud in the center first appears on the left, then the right, then the center left. It's part of the wall of the funnel, not the funnel itself.


Nothing developed out of it while we were in sight of the storm, but we did get to see the Vortex 2 team drive by, 2 vans of which are from UMass-Amherst.

Immediately after the funnel crossed the lake, the hail hit our shelter house. Some of it was golfball size, and it did a good amount of damage to the vehicles. The camper has to have the roof replaced because of the dents, and Tom's Nitro needs to have a lot of dings removed. The larger hail was bouncing about four feet off the ground when it hit.

100%, the best part of my vacation.

Road Trip

I went home for ten days this month to go to a family reunion in the next state. (So I flew 2,000 miles to drive 600 miles to the reunion, then do it backwards the next week.) I'm on day 9, and so far, it's been a great trip. My mom, stepdad, two cousins and I all went out to Colorado with a pop-up camper and a travalong grill/smoker trailer monstrosity my stepdad welded together.  We took 3 days and 750 miles to get about 400 miles (on the shortest route) away from home. And it's true what they say- the journey is more important than the destination.

Lady Liberty
Sometime in the late 40's, the Wheatbelt BoyScout Council decided that we needed a replica of the Statue of Liberty in every county in the state, and set about to fix this glaring lack of patriotism. There are 105 counties in Kansas, but current locations are only known for 16 of the statues. You know there are at least 5 of them relegated to some old farmer's shed out back, and I'd wager another 10 have been forgotten in government storage somewhere. Mom and Tom took a picture of one- just one!- last year. Now there is an Epic Quest to capture images of all 16. On this trip, we bagged 3. I blame my aunt- according to my mother, she started it. The upside to zigzagging across the southwestern quandrant of the state to find the Ladies? This gem in Liberal, in which my cousins and I convince the 'rents that it's their turn to pose for the picture.



Also along the way, we spotted this amazing fountain. This fountain was behind the Pratt statue and the Avenue of Flags memorial. You can see why, with its stunning structural and architectural elements, it was given pride of place in the park. From left to right, that's my mom, Shannon, Preston, and Tom showing their dumbfoundment. I think my favorite detail is the sewer grating.

May 4th, 2007 showed the world that there was a more terrifying force than that of an F4 tornado. Greensburg, KS is home to the world's first F5 twister. Estimates range that the base of the funnel was between 1 and 1.5 miles wide, with wind speeds in excess of 200 mph. The town had no idea that only 5% of their buildings would remain standing the next day. Instead of admitting defeat, this town drew together and decided to rebuild, with a positive side to the destruction. They were given a clean slate, and setting out to live up to their name, decided to create an enviro-friendly community, with low-energy construction, powering town buildings through solar and wind power, etc. The town is the first of it's kind in the country. It's also the home of the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well and the World's Largest Pallastie Meteorite, named Space Wanderer. Space Wanderer is currently stored in the saltmines in Hutch, and the Big Well is covered by a small structure you can peer into (and when there is a busted window, reach through to snag spare change people have tossed in. That would be me in the red doing the scrounging in the photo below.) There are signs around advertising free land to all takers who want to move in. Mom, Tom and I visited Greensburg three years ago on another summer vacation. The difference was astounding.

Oh yeah, see that diagonal pole slanting across the top of the picture? That pole is about 8 inches around and made of 3/4 inch thick metal. It used to be vertical. The wind pushed it over. If the tornado had touched it, that pole would be impaled through some piece of farm machinery two miles away.

Samson of the Cimarron
My mom and Tom went camping last year, and my mom is in love with this bridge that was near their campsite. Seriously, every time I'm home (and several times when I've called) she asks me if I've seen The Picture. It's a really impressive bridge, and it's a really great picture, so I can see why she's proud of it. I don't have a copy of it yet, but that's only because mom went to bed before we transferred all of her Kansas Vacation Images for the last couple of years. It's only a matter of time before I get to replace this stock image with The Picture.

While we stopped to eat lunch, I took pictures of flowers and this cool fence thing that we couldn't identify. I realized after I got home I didn't take a single picture of the bridge.

I Don't Think We're in Reality Anymore, Toto
One of the most recognizable Kansas superstars never existed. Dorothy Gale, Frank L. Baum's famed character from the Wizard of Oz , (and her little dog, too) were from Liberal. Of course, Liberal seized upon this golden opportunity, and built a house, garden, and museum to honor the books and movie. While we elected not to take a 30 minute tour of Dorothy's House and the Magical Land of Oz, we did go to the Coronado Museum (which plays the movie in a never-ending loop. All. Day. Long.) and walk through Dorothy's garden, where Shannon, Mom, and I violated the Tin Man. Talk about Buns of Steel! Mom started it.


I see lightning outside, so I will finish this tomorrow.

... aaaaand by "tomorrow", I really mean over a month later. (It's July 23rd now. Happy birthday, Das!)

Camping, Part One
Our next stop was our first camp site, the Cimarron National Grasslands Park. After driving on the highway through miles of prairie, we turned off of the highway to drive through more miles of prairie. We got the camp set up, then watched a lovely storm pass just a few miles away (notice the shelf cloud at the bottom right horizon, by the yellow patch of sky? That's a hail- and funnel-spawning cloud formation. We got the edge of the hail, but luckily the storm didn't generate any funnels that we could see). There was hail, some nervous tension, and afterward, a double rainbow, the second of which my camera couldn't capture.


After the storm, Tom read his new Clive Cussler book while the rest of us played some card games. When the 'rents went to bed, Shannon, Preston, and I made a campfire so we could have s'mores. While Preston and I were filling a cooler with water to put out the fire, we heard Shannon shout. The raccoons that had been rummaging through the garbage stole a bag of marshmallows from the table two feet behind her.

The Cimarron National Grasslands
My family took me seriously when I said living in Massachusetts made me miss the prairie an unbelievable amount. I miss the horizon, I miss the storms, I miss the smell, and I miss the feeling that the land is big enough to be yourself, which doesn't make sense if you haven't been there. I especially miss the night sky, which is so huge as to make you feel simultaneously bigger than the whole world and completely insignificant. I've never been somewhere that you can look out at the stars and be aware of how far away they are and, no matter how cliched, that they are close enough to gather into your hand and carry in a pocket. I'll put my poetic license away now (I think it's expired anyway).

We spent the next morning driving through the self-guided tour of the Grasslands. We saw an artisian well, passed the graves of the frontier sheriff's daughter, who died in a flash flood in 1914, and visited Point of Rocks, where you can still see the Santa Fe Trail stretching into the distance. If you want more pictures and info, check out this site, Kansas Photo Tour.


For those of you having trouble seeing the Trail, the most visible signs are outlined in red. The blue arrow points to one of the fence posts that have been placed along the Trail as guides. Check it out in the first photo and see if you can see what I'm talking about. This picture was taken from the top of Point of Rocks, one of the most significant landmarks on the Santa Fe Trail. If you didn't make it to the Point, and the springs there, you died of dehydration.

Every year a group of reenactors and history buffs hitch teams to wagons and drive a leg of the Santa Fe Trail. I think that would be cool, except as a woman I'd be stuck driving the wagon and taking care of a brood of chilluns, and true to one of my favorite games, I'd probably contract diptheria or drown fording a stream. 

This was one of my favorite parts of vacation. I felt a little bit more like myself after being able to stretch my eyes.

Three Corners
Less known and less popular than Four Corners, Three Corners celebrates the convergence of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. It's four miles down a gravel road, and while we were impressed by it, there's not much to see, just a weathervane and this manhole cover, which is a geodesic measuring device thingy. It checks to see how much tectonic plate movement has occured and in what directions in comparison to other similar plates stuck in the ground around the world. Of course, none of the other plates have words written out in soldering iron, deliniating three states of AWESOME. I think this was my mom's favorite part, even more than the Statues of Liberty.

The next post is going to be long, since it covers what was probaqbly my very favorite part of vacation, and there are lots of awesome pictures.

I hope the three people who actually read this are enjoying my vacation!

(As a non-vacation-related side note, am I the only person who finds LiveJournal's lack of vocabulary disturbing? Stepdad, dumbfoundment, quadrant, reenactors, and artisian are not glamorous foreign words that it can't be expected to spell correctly, although I realize some of them may not be in everyone's blog. But "Chilluns"? "Chilluns" passes the spell-check with flying colors! Or would that be collers?)

My Favorite Austrian City

I recently got my copy of Vienna Teng's new CD Inland Territory. It's marvelous. There is one song I don't like (much) but most of them are classic Vienna- a mix of gorgeous piano & vocal songs, and some songs that pull from different musical backgrounds. In case you want it, here's my review. (The picture is from a concert a friend and I went to in September 2007.)

1. Last Snowfall. Beautiful, like I've come to expect from this artist, but lacking. Very sterile, very safe. I feel this was a poor choice for an opener. When I heard it, I was anticipating the entire album to sound this way. Focus on the lyrics instead of the tune. The background singers are nice. Favorite line- "But if I were that kind of grateful, what would I try to say?"

2. White Light. Reminds me of another one of her songs, from a previous CD, but I can't come up with it. Tone, beat, key, all are similar to another. Argh! Why can't I come up with it? At any rate, it's an upbeat tune if you ignore the lyrics, which seem to be about everyone dying sooner or later.

3. Antebellum. One of my favorites on this disc. The intro piano and the tone of her voice at the beginning reminds me of Now Three. The male solo reminds me of early Michael W. Smith. The lyrics make me think of an interracial Romeo and Juliet set in the Civil War South, but instead of killing themselves in a horribly complicated and simultaneously underthought plan, they just go their separate ways.

4. Kansas.
Best. Title. Ever. Having said that, it's also one of the strongest songs on the CD (and one of my top five). It starts out slow and moves forward to a soft conclusion, with stirring piano. I'm so taken with the song itself that I haven't bothered looking for the meaning in the song. Favorite lyrics: the start, which really does describe the Plains, "I'm nice and empty like Kansas."

5. In Another Life. The music makes me think of the soundtrack to a silent cartoon, perhaps about a carnival. I love the different lifelines presented- coal mine workers, revolutionaries, child brides. Not that they are enviable lives, but that they tie together.

6. Grandmother Song. Reminiscent of a revival. The storyline is excellent; I can see my great aunt telling me similar messages (only more polite. Maybe.) "How can you make a living doing that? Why aren't you married yet?" and the minute I bring someone home, "He's not good enough for you." The story of the grandmother is also good- the things she has lived through, the rights that we would have had in her time, and the modern life that we take for granted. Vienna's music is stronger for having included styles that aren't her normal fare.

7. Stray Italian Greyhound. The obligatory love song. Upbeat and not overly sappy. The song really moves once the percussion starts in the chorus. Favorite line: "The sudden burst of sunlight and me with my umbrella, cross-indexing every weatherman's report. I was ready for the down slide, but not for spring to well up."

8. Augustine. Reminiscent of the piano intro for Mt. Shasta. Good, but not outstanding. Favorite line: "Will you ring for Augustine tonight?"

9.  No Gringo. I can't decide if this is supposed to be a story of Mexican immigrants now or American immigrants in the future. Regardless, it is one of, if not my very favorite, song on the CD. The imagery is excellent- you can easily see yourself as the narrator. The clapping is similar to the gypsy dance scene in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa. Favorite line: I dunno. I can't choose, but listening to it this time, it's definitely American immigrants.

10. Watershed. Intro sounds like Feather Moon. This song doesn't really do much for me. It's nice, but I can't focus on it, even when listening to it for the purpose of writing this entry. Favortie line: "I've done this many times before you watched the pattern take form."

11. Radio. Terrorism has never sounded so good. (As a song, not as an ideal.) I don't like the chorus, but the verses are excellent. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I wouldn't listen to this song because the chorus is so unappealing, except the verses are wonderful, and the bridge in the middle sounds like The Killers on Hot Fuss.

12. St. Stephen's Cross. My other favorite song. Thisone has it all- lyrics, a good story, quality vocals, and lovely lovely piano. What can I say, I'm a sucker for Vienna's ballads. Favorite line: "She found him standing, looking lost, in the shadow of St. Stephen's cross. He closed his eyes, and heard no sound, btu her breathing moved against his brow."


Black Pants

This is nothing spectacular, but it's something I've done recently that *actually* qualifies as a refashion instead of just a stash-busting exercise. I have a pair of pants that I bought for an interview several years ago. In desperation, I got petites, which is fine if I n ever washed them (and I admit it, that first day, they got worn straight from the shopping bag). But the minute they hit water, they shrank about three inches up my leg. Since I tend to wear large clunky shoes, this really lends itself to the ever-so-fashionable "highwaters" look. Over spring break, I decided to fix them I tried letting out the hem, which you can see on my right leg in the first picture, but it still wasn't long enough. I grabbed some black on black pinstripe and made a pair of cuffs. The results are highly comfortable, and can be worn with even the tallest of my big clunky shoes

. Black pants before     Black pants after close

The after picture shows a close-up of the two fabrics, before ironing. I know they still look short, but I do have my foot up on the edge of my sewing table. Trust me, they are nice and long You can see from the old hemline how much length I really added.

Soft Blue Shirt

Back in the early fall, I picked up a lusciously soft men's button up shirt from Claiborne at the thrift store. I paid less than 5 dollars (we have an expensive thrifty's due to being in the Five College valley. They know the students will shell out more than the general public, but they also have a better selection most of the time, and high turnover of clothing.) It was too large in the sleeve, waist, and shoulder, and a little too long. I wore it all winter, but now that spring is coming, I wanted a short-sleeved option. Similar to the tuxedo shirt from several months ago, I chopped it up and sewed it back together according to Simplicity 4077, View E, sans ruffle. I think it looks much more flattering. I tried putting in a single dart along the spine instead of two seperate side darts, and I'm not sure I like the result, but I also can't undo it because of the fabric.


I wore it to choir yesterday, and it was very comfortable. I made the collar using the cuffs, and it feels too long since it overlaps if I button up all the way. I might change the buttons out, but I'm not sure what I'd prefer. The current buttons are a boring grey-tone. 

Quick and Easy Kitty Toys


My kitties love to wrestle with humans- feet, hands, whatever- and feel that they have the right to do so without invitation. To help break them of this habit, I got some cheap stuffed animals and placed catnip in their tummies. I thought that might make them more appealing than my feet. (I've smelled my feet before, and I've smelled catnip, and I can guarantee you that I'd choose to put catnip in my mouth every time. Unless there were large sums of money involved. Then I'd reconsider.)

This is the quickest project, and gives your cat a safe object to bite, claw, and rabbit kick without leaving unsightly scarring. It might also let you sleep without the joys of being awoken by a vicious attack in the middle of the night. I think photographing the steps made the project take three times as long, and as you can see, I wasn't worried about getting any Glamour Shots.

Last year I found the cutest stuffed animals at Dollar Tree. They were all marine-animal themed, and I haven't seen them since, so I'm really glad I picked them up that first night.  After throwing them in the wash, I opened up their belly seams, stuffed a small bag of catnip in the middle, stitched them back up, and let the cats have them.

I've included pictures if you feel you need a step-by-step tutorial. Plus, there are cute shots of kitties fending for their lives against ravenous sea monsters, and that's always fun.

Step 1: Open A Seam

Use your seam ripper to cut some of the threads. The hole only needs to be about an inch long. Here we can see Mr. Nibbles, a hammerhead shark, showing off his abs (and his quadruple bypass scar) for the ladies.

Step 2: Make a Small Bag
Using some scrap fabric, preferably a light weave like the sheer I've used here, make a bag by folding a small rectangle in half and stitching two edges. Pour dried catnip into the bag, then stitch shut. You can see here that I haven't worried about the niceties of folding my bag inside out, trimming the seams, or even making sure it's squared. Trust me, your kitties are only concerned with the contents.

Step 3: Insert Bag into Toy
Stuff a catnip bag in each toy. Tuck it up toward the head area, as this seems to be the place most cats like to grab so they can rabbit-kick the crap out of things.  I'm not going to include a photo of this step- if you can't figure this out without image assistance, I'm not sure you should be trusted with needles and a sharp pair of scissors.

Step 4: Stitch the Toy Closed
I like to use a blanket stitch to close my seams. If you look closely on the following picture, you can see the faint scar on The Dugong, right below my thumb. This is where I inserted his first pouch of catnip last summer. He had tears in the seam both above and below my original stitching, so I guess the blanket stitch holds up nicely.


Step 5: Give Your Cats Their Fix
Kemmei demonstrates the finer points of killing dangerous stuffed toys here. For some reason, both of my cats prefer The Dugong. I guess it's true that the blood of the innocent tastes sweeter. I like to refresh the bags every few months. I figure if I can't smell the catnip, it's time to put a new stash in.

Beaded Curtain

Waaay back in the fall of 2002, my roommate Cali and I decided that our dorm room desperately needed a beaded curtain. We drove to the store when the Christmas goods had just arrived, and bought six boxes of garland- three each of lavender beads and silver stars. In mid- construction of our curtain, the dorm supervisor told us we weren't allowed to hang any sort of coverings over our door, as it was a fire hazard. We took down what progress we had made, put away our craft supplies, and resigned ourselves to living in an incomplete dorm room for the rest of the school year.

Today, while looking for My Little Ponies in my closet Rubbermaid totes, I found the remnants of our purchased goods. Firmly believing that crafts follow the principle of 'better late than never', I now, 6.5 years later, have a beaded curtain. Due to the use of the supplies on a Christmas tree two years later, it is more of a beaded curtain/noren since it is only chest length instead of reaching the floor. I think this can only be a good thing, because of the cats.

I'm going to try my hand at making a tutorial now, and since this is a very easy project, it should be a pretty clear tutorial.

Hot glue
Pipe, Dowel, broom handle, curtain rod, etc.

Step 1
Cut garland to desired lengths. I wanted a more organic look, so my garland is a average length, not perfect.

Step 2
Arrange garland in a pleasing pattern on your workspace (which, in my case, is the floor.)

Step 3
Measure width of door frame- I measured the opening, not the frame itself. Transfer measurement to pipe. If you were concerned about the asthetics of using ugly pieces of PVC, this is the ideal time to paint your hanging apparatus.

Step 4
Hot glue your garland on to your pipe.

Step 5
Hang and enjoy!