Things have, as always, been kind of crazy. Health problems throughout the pets & family. Epic fail at getting the lawn done (first guy never showed up, second folks didn’t show, first guy showed and tried to guilt us into having him do it [which just makes me mad and determined never to hire him again], second folks showed to do estimate, rain kept it from happening, and now we’re waiting for a dry day).
Cahlash’s asthma kicked off again, so he spent part of the weekend before this one on oxygen, and has had to take his inhaler rather often lately. He’s also on antibiotics for a possible secondary pneumonia infection. Poor kitty. Wanna see what an inhaler looks like when prepped for a cat?
The first book review of the new year is of Yasmine Galenorn’s Night Huntress. I had some stylistic problems with it, but it was a very enjoyable book. Also, if you enjoy our reviews, please consider voting for Errant Dreams in the Preditors & Editors Poll!
Meanwhile, someone who shall remain nameless got me addicted to a game called Dragon Tavern. It’s a simple D&D-esque web adventure game. You don’t even have to give them your email address in order to create an account and play. Nor do you have to pay a dime, although there are ways to spend money on it if you really want that. If you don’t spend any money on it then it’s pretty good at limiting your addiction through limiting the number of turns you get per day… although you can even find your way around that easily by creating a ton of characters.
We also have a bunch of new items that I’ve been putting up at our Etsy shop and Shop Handmade shop, mostly a bunch of Richard’s gorgeous necklaces right now. Soon we’ll be cleaning out the level 70 designs at cafepress, so hurry if you want one!
I’m also addicted to DragonWars on Facebook. *sigh*
7:00 am: I forgot the pie crust dough would have to be chilled before pre-baking, and the fats frozen before making the dough. So we froze the fats over breakfast and made the dough afterward in the food processor. Now it’s chilling.
10:45 am: Phew! Mocha raspberry trifle assembled. Pie shell baked. Mini puff pastry shells filled with chocolate cream and topped with cool whip. Two versions of cornbread in the oven (sweet & not sweet). Sweet potato casserole assembled.
Monday morning: Well that’s the point at which I stopped having time to post. We made two stuffings (sausage mushroom, and ‘plain’), made the sweet potato pie, roasted the brined turkey, made bacon cheddar biscuits… We filled baked frozen puff pastry mini-shells with an agave tofu chocolate cream and topped them with a little cool whip, and you wouldn’t believe how stunning they were (not to mention I doubt anyone would have guessed they had tofu in them). Then we made garlic broccoli and some lightly buttered & parsleyed carrots at the last minute.
But the best part was all the cool friends who visited. Unfortunately a couple of them are allergic to cats and had to be doped up, but I think they enjoyed the food!
“Cyber Monday” at Errant Dreams: We have a holiday special going on at errantdreams.etsy.com, where we sell our handmade jewelry and bookmarks. All of the bookmarks I posted before November have been marked down in price by 20-30%. Also, from now through Dec. 31, if you have us ship within the USA and order a least $20 in products, you’ll get free shipping. Just place your order and wait to pay until I send you a revised PayPal invoice.
Here’s a sampling of items:
In addition, if you’re in a more practical and less fanciful mode, we have two cafepress stores (Caffeinaed Chicanery and Gamers’ Heaven) with T-shirts, mugs, etc. in a bunch of designs. Some randomly-chosen designs in each store will be reduced in price over the day today, so poke around and enjoy!
In New England we had little black crickets that didn’t even make me—notorious bug wimp that I am—nervous. In Maryland we don’t have crickets, we have Dire Crickets, a reference that any D&D geek will understand in a heartbeat. They’re about five times the size of the things in New England, and way weirder looking. They look like those old crickets after a radioactivity “incident” out of a horror movie about mutants. Worse, they can survive being played with, hunted, and even chomped on by my cat for more than an hour. They’ll repeatedly play dead until he loses interest, then go on the move again. I had to trap one under an empty tea tin the other morning until my husband woke up (I’m enough of a wimp under normal circumstances when it comes to bugs; it’s worse when I have insomnia and bare feet).
Latest book review: John Levitt’s New Tricks. Coming soon: a review of Patricia Potter’s Behind the Shadows.
Speaking of holiday shopping, don’t forget the etsy store (errantdreams.etsy.com), filled with hand-made jewelry, bookmarks, etc. in a wide variety of price ranges and styles! More going up every day, and more than 100 items already up; we’ve recently started adding the newest bookmarks we’ve been making. Here are a few example photos:
We’ve pretty much finished rolling out the level 80 T-shirt designs at cafepress. This means two things: first, we expect to phase out the level 70 designs around the end of the year; we’ll keep them on sale until then, so grab ‘em while you can! Second, we think the level 80 designs are even better than the level 70 designs, and the level 70 designs have been quite popular. So be the first to get your own!
Also, cafepress has added some new items, like travel mugs and the flip mino camcorder. Yes, a pocket-sized camcorder. What will they add next?! Pssst—level 80 items make great holiday gifts for gamers!
In unrelated news, I almost always put brief excerpted versions of my reviews on Amazon, just for the heck of it. I thought it was kind of cool when I went from starting out in the 700,000s (back before there were millions of users posting reviews) to the 700s. Apparently today they started calculating the reviewer ranking differently. Partly to stop people from “ballot-box stuffing”, or finding ways to rate their own reviews. Partly to emphasize whether a person’s reviews are seen as helpful or not, so that quantity doesn’t trump quality. And partly to emphasize newness of reviews, so new reviewers get a chance to climb up the ladder.
And suddenly my rank went, literally overnight, from 679 to 64. That’s pretty cool.
A while ago I spotted a church named “Christ Our Anchor” and ever since then I’ve found myself pronouncing it with certain… other… punctuation: “Christ! Our anchor!”
What can I say. I enjoy language humor.
New book reviews since the last time I posted them: Dr. Davis Liu’s Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely, on the US healthcare system and navigating it safely. Nalini Singh’s Hostage to Pleasure, which established for me exactly why so many people think so highly of her! And Laurel Anne Hill’s Heroes Arise, a fantasy novel that focuses on world-building. I’ve had a friend visiting all last week so I haven’t gotten as much done as usual, particularly in the realm of reading; it’s fun, though, because we’ve known each other since early college, which means I’ve now known her for literally half of my life.
In awesome news, we now have more than 40 items posted at our etsy store (errantdreams.etsy.com). That includes a great handful of beaded bookmarks—each one unique—as well as jewelry and a few trinket bags. Consider buying a beaded bookmark for a friend this holiday season! This weekend I also made some fun things like a garnet and silver filigree bracelet, so expect to see some of those soon.
We’ve also started posting our level 80 designs at cafepress! More to come soon!
…for, “my cat just tried to ‘help’ me do the step aerobics program, but I successfully completed it AND didn’t step on her.” And it should give you some sort of bonus points on your score. ‘Cause let me tell you, that’s a whole ‘nother level of difficulty!
Speaking of cats, the latest book review is of Jane Seabrook’s Purry Logic, which is just plain cool! I’m sorry that was it for reviews this week; Monday was a holiday, and then I spent most of the rest of the week working on other things. We’re THIS close to opening that Etsy store; I made a bunch more of those cloth bags; and I kind of got hooked on playing with a fractal program and turning the results into pieces of art:
I’ve also spent a lot of time working on our upcoming level 80 designs for Cafepress; speaking of which, all level 70 designs are on sale—and we’ll be phasing most of them out eventually, so get ‘em while you can!
There are at least three upcoming book reviews, though: of a health care book, a cookbook for cancer survivors, and a pricing/business book for crafters, most immediately. In the meantime, here’s a random bit of fun: (more…)
A couple of months ago I noticed that there was a new organic market opening near us. ‘Great!’ I thought. ‘We won’t have to go all the way into Annapolis for good produce and specialty flours and such!’ Eventually this last week I noticed that they appeared to be open (it’s hard to tell from the road) and I did a little searching online to find out their hours. Eventually I located their site. I discovered the owners used to operate a smaller health food store that mostly carried vitamins, nutritional supplements, and health foods, off somewhere on a side street in the area. They’d decided the time was right (and the newly-built location was right) for opening a real organic foods market. They opened on the 8th of August; we went in on the 31st. By the time we went in, it looked like they were already dying on the vine.
Anything perishable (meats, produce, dairy) was in short supply, and either in perfect condition (i.e. just laid out) or really piss-poor condition (i.e., no turnover, and I guess they can no longer afford to throw stuff out and turn it over themselves). I could only find one usable tomato. Of the three(!) quarts of milk on the shelves, two had expired three days earlier. The shop was very clean and very well-organized, so I don’t think it was a case of them not caring—I think they’ve just hit the end of their money and stuff isn’t selling. There was only one other customer in there while we were there, and at any other grocery store we go to it would have been prime shopping time (late Sunday morning, just before lunch).
It looked like they’d made some questionable decisions. The location isn’t great, IMO: it’s tough to see from the road at all. The only reason we noticed it is because I caught sight of it as the passenger; as my husband noted, if it had just been him as driver in the car, he wouldn’t have had the time in passing to read the sign (small sign on a reasonably fast highway). Also, we heard nothing about their opening other than the one sign I spotted, so I’m thinking they must not have done much in the way of effective marketing. When I searched online for them I found a couple of brief mentions in local forums, and one short article printed before they opened in a publication I’d never heard of.
I think they also made some questionable decisions inside the store. They appeared to be carrying a lot of highly specialized stuff that only a few people would want. Whole trays of wheatgrass, but no squash of any kind, either winter or summer? Don’t get me wrong, the bags of pappadum snacks are freakin’ awesome and I could gain several pounds on those alone, but I’m thinking most shoppers would rather buy chips. I’m glad I finally found a source for amaranth and teff flours, but so few people are interested in those that even the Whole Foods Market in Annapolis doesn’t carry them, and Annapolis has a higher-income selection of residents who are thus more likely to shop for such ingredients. (Besides, it isn’t huge as grocery stores go, and even people who want amaranth flour or teff flour will probably only buy them once every handful of months. So it’s not a great use of space.)
I feel really badly for them. They clearly put a lot of love into the store, stocking items they thought were cool and that couldn’t be found elsewhere in the area, and I loved being able to buy those things. They got top of the line checkout equipment with touch-screens. But they don’t appear to have done the market research necessary to make sure they had the right inventory, location, and marketing, and it was probably just the wrong time and place for such a store. Certainly if they stay open I’ll go there when I can for specialty stuff, but honestly, a lot of what I want an organic market for is the produce—and for that, it’s clear I’ll still have to go to Whole Foods.
In more upbeat news, in light of the crafting stuff we’ve been doing lately, I finally initiated a section of crafting links in the links directory. Feel free to sign up for a free account if you want to submit links for crafters’ supply shops, storefronts, community sites, or blogs. Just make sure it has something to do with hand-crafting!
Speaking of hand-crafting, here are a couple more shots of recent projects:
We’re getting closer to opening up that etsy shop—we’ll let you know when it happens! In the meantime, we do have some new stuff up at cafepress. I turned some of my flower photos and photomanipulations into gift items like mugs, prints, and greeting cards in our flower-lovers’ section. The mixed flowers section so far includes items with four different photos on them. Here are a couple samples of our new designs:
We also have a little bit of psychology humor for you geeks out there, with our ink blot test design:
No book review today, I’m afraid. Between taking a four-day weekend, dealing with a new cherry allergy (having a rash on the roof of your mouth and on your lips sucks), sewing a bunch of bags from that scrap of skull fabric, making jewelry, and putting up designs on cafepress, I didn’t quite finish the book I was reading. Soon!
I believe I mentioned that whole thing where I posted a bunch of texture images on DeviantArt. Well, hands down so far the most popular one is the hardwood floor texture, which has been downloaded 37 times in the past day and a half. This led to a wry observation on how popular our floor was.
I turned our slate porch surface into an interesting ‘window’ image, which I’m pretty proud of. I’m also playing with part of it to create an eventual banner for a possible craft-selling etsy store. Yeah, fine, that’s more than a little premature, but once I get an idea into my head I just can’t let go. And besides, I think it looks pretty cool!
Just to really pile on the artwork, here’s a new cafepress tabletop roleplaying design. It came out of some truly spectacular D&D fumble tales from the last few months:
Yes, it really does say “An arrow in the butt is better than a spear in the winkie.” Did I mention that our GMs have some particularly vicious fumble tables?
Here are the latest book reviews for you: Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Wild & Hexy and the awesome Jean Johnson’s The Storm.
The Little White Thing You Stand On (oops… I mean Wii Fit…) is WAY too much fun. We’re contemplating dropping our gym memberships, although we’ll wait to make sure that in the long run (say, a month from now) we still feel we’re getting an adequate workout with this. If that works out, it means the Wii and Wii Fit will have more than paid for themselves.
The aerobics stuff, like the running, is definitely enough to work up a good sweat and leave you out of breath. The strength training is surprisingly effective—it uses core conditioning techniques to pit you against your own body mass so you don’t need machines. The yoga stretches and balance exercises, of course, work perfectly with the balance board. Someday I hope they come up with a balance mat version that’ll allow a wider array of activities, but I think this works surprisingly well for now. There are quite a few benefits to working out with this thing, as silly as it may seem at first:
The ‘game’ format keeps things fun, challenging, and entertaining, not to mention less chore-like.
Since you can do this in your home, you can fit your workout easily in around chores, work hours, dinner, etc.
I find it easier to work out when I have the most physical energy and motivation—which for me is usually late morning. That’s a horrid time to exercise outside where I am, as I don’t deal well with heat & humidity, both of which are pretty nasty here. It’s also a time when I can’t get to the gym.
The workout pieces seem awfully short at first, but you swiftly ‘unlock’ extra reps and such, quickly building up to a level you’re comfortable with.
The board and program are surprisingly good at noting how you’re doing by measuring how shaky, steady, etc. you are.
Presumably they’ll be able to put out additional disks later with additional exercises on them—and there are already plenty to begin with.
The tracking and charting functions are so well-integrated that you hardly have to do a thing. It measures & tracks your weight, BMI, and exercise levels for you. No more having to remember to write that stuff down.
Because there are some easier exercises in there, such as one or two of the yoga poses and some of the balance exercises, I can imagine continuing to get exercises even on days when I’m tired, sick, sore, etc. That means fewer breaks in the routine of working out, which means I’m more likely to keep it up as a habit.
All in all, as silly as the concept seems, the execution is brilliant.
I was pretty young when I watched the G.I. Joe animated series as a child, but it was one of my favorite shows. So I couldn’t help taking notice—and poking around with a bit of trepidation and excitement—when I heard a G.I. Joe movie was coming. The photos look cool, and hey, it’s got Christopher Eccleston and Arnold Vosloo in it! I eagerly scanned the cast list to see who might be playing my favorite character.
But… wait… no sign of her.
I get why they’ve included Scarlett and Cover Girl as the requisite good-guy females. Really I do. They’re sexy. They’re comparatively girly. Lady Jaye didn’t wear any kind of cat-suit, didn’t have long hair. She isn’t the one the guys are going to drool over, and let’s face it, the movie folks are assuming (for the most part, rightly so) that their audience is made up of guys who want to see explosions, bad-ass combat scenes, and sexy chicks. So if you can only include a limited number of female characters, then you include the sexy ones.
But dammit, she was the character I wanted to be when I watched that show. She was a bad-ass chick who could save her own butt, and that was awesome (particularly back then). One of the things I immediately looked forward to when thinking about the new movie was seeing her re-made… but well, maybe I should count my blessings. After all, I’d rather have her not included at all than re-made as some sort of sex-pot, which is one of the other possibilities.
Still. Sigh… I’ll absolutely go see the movie anyway, but I can’t help being very disappointed.
In T-shirt-designing news, we have a new design. This one is both an MMO design, and a grammar geek design:
It’s one of those designs that’s really simple, but really versatile. The original concept had to do with the ‘meaning’ of the blue question mark in various MMOs: the repeatable quest. After all, there are so many delightful implications stemming from the idea of having a repeatable quest for the folks around you, particularly when you consider that most repeatable quests have to do with grinding faction.
Then there’s the straightforward grammar geek interpretation of the question mark as punctuation.
And finally, there’s the simple aim of confusing everyone who looks at your shirt and says, ‘huh?’
I guess you could say it has something for everyone.
And finally, today’s review just in time to still call it ‘today’s’: Linda Greenlaw’s Fisherman’s Bend.