Kitchen Is Done!

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 2:36 pm on Monday, December 19, 2016

We have successfully remodeled our kitchen.

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This is something we’ve wanted to do for nine years, since moving into this house in 2007.

Here’s what the kitchen used to look like:

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As you can see, the kitchen that came with the house was probably 50 years old. It was dingy and needed to go.

I mentioned in this post how difficult it is to tear out your kitchen and put another one in. At one point, the kitchen looked like this.

We had people install the cabinets and counters, but we did everything else, including painting, plumbing, electricity, and tiling the backsplash behind the stove.

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One day in an antique store we ran into a vintage tile mural of Don Quixote fighting a windmill. It was hand-painted from Spain. I knew right away I wanted it for behind the stove.

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Up close:

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Now the house is 90% remodeled.

Nine. Years. Later.

Whew.

Yellowstone National Park Part 2

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:36 am on Thursday, December 15, 2016

Here’s more from our trip to Yellowstone National Park. See Part 1 Here.

Yellowstone is the Earth’s largest active geyser field.

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We’ve all heard of Old Faithful Geyser, but it is one of hundreds of geysers in Yellowstone. There are so many that the landscape steams with them.

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It rained for part of our trip, so many of my geyser pictures didn’t turn out, but they are quite a sight. Some look like the mouth of a dragon. Some look like bubbling mud puddles. Some shoot water hundreds of feet into the air.

My favorite was the Grand Prismatic Spring. Here’s a picture of it from the air:

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Because of the fall weather, we didn’t see that version of Grand Prismatic Spring, but what we did see was fascinating. The colors in the spring are caused by heat-loving bacteria. As such, each area is a different color and pattern, often reminding me of stained glass.

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I have to stop myself from posting more pictures. I mean, the mud looked like this.

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And this.

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I would definitely go back to Yellowstone. We barely scratched the surface of what there is to see there.

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Ominous witch cloud bringing the rain.

Yellowstone National Park Part 1

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 11:31 am on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In October, Kyle, Gideon, and I went on an RV trip. We rented a Cruise America RV and drove over 3,000 miles through Nevada, Idaho, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Glacier National Park in Montana, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Portland, Oregon. Here’s the route:

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The RV looked like this:

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We covered a lot of the country, but the highlight of the trip was Yellowstone.

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For one thing, the park has the best wildlife viewing I’ve ever experienced. On this trip, we saw buffalo, elk, coyotes, antelopes, deer, chipmunks, bald eagles, and big horn sheep. Most of these were in Yellowstone.

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At one point, a huge herd of buffalo crossed the road right in front of us. The bulls sounded like bears growling.

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Speaking of bears, there were signs of them everywhere. For example, these claw marks:

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Yellowstone has a varied landscape that includes forests, waterfalls, plains, a huge lake, and even its own Grand Canyon.

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Because of all the volcanic activity, the earth was all kinds of cool colors, red, pink, yellow, orange.

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The fall foliage was colorful too.

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And of course there were the geysers. PART 2 HERE.

Wildacres Writing Residency

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 9:00 am on Friday, October 28, 2016

In September, I attended a writing residency at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a terrific experience. I can’t say enough about Wildacres and the people who run it. They help all kinds of artists by giving them the gift of time and peace to work, which is valuable and important work.

For my residency, I got to stay in a cabin and write for a week. There was no Internet, cell phone, or distractions. I wasn’t sure if I would like that. I imagined being lonely and restless, but I was delighted to find that I’m a natural hermit. In fact, half the time I didn’t even leave the cabin to go to meals. (Don’t worry–I stopped at a grocery store on the way there.)

Here’s the outside of the cabin:

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The inside had a full kitchen, a king-sized bed, and a table where I spent most of my time working:

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I also worked on the deck until I figured out that North Carolina bugs really like to bite me.

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It was inspiring to be in a forest, especially since my book is set in a forest. I saw so many animals while there. I saw a bear, first of all. (I was in my car.) I saw a doe and a fawn. I saw tiny owls, butterflies that looked like fall leaves, lizards with blue tails, and the strangest spider ever, the Arrowshaped Micrathena.

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The Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most beautiful places in the United States and I plan to keep going back. While at Wildacre, I took tons of pictures of the Blue Ridge Parkway, all while singing this song to myself.

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Kitchen Cabinets In

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 8:01 pm on Sunday, October 23, 2016

How did you spend your weekend? Aside from a hike in the local park, I spent it putting my stuff away in my new kitchen cabinets. Here they are, along with the muscular harvest of the last of the 2016 Meyer lemons.

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Still to do: install a new light, paint one wall, tile the backsplash, replace the blinds, replace the faucet, and–most importantly–put in the countertop. We’re going with black quartz.

It’s a lot, but for the moment, I’m just happy to have cabinets again.

Majestic Humboldt

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 8:43 am on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I’m writing something based on Humboldt County, where I grew up, and where I go fairly frequently. So I took a road trip there earlier this year and spent some time in the old-growth redwood forests.

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Majestic, huh?

A few more pictures.

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This is the kind of forest I grew up with. I saw so many beautiful places this year, but these forests continue to be in the top.

Here’s What’s Going On With Me

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 9:30 am on Monday, September 26, 2016

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* Along with several other writers, I answered this Q&A question on Howlarium: How does your partner handle those periods when you need to be in your head, be alone to talk to yourself, to lament the latest publisher’s rejection, or otherwise tend to your creative life—how does your partner make room? Interesting talk about it can be difficult for other people to understand the weird needs of writers. Click to read more.

* I went to a writer’s residency in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a great experience. I’ll write a post about it soon.

* I took a trip to Humboldt County to research something I’m writing. It was a great experience. I’ll write a post about it soon.

* My novel was a finalist in the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

* Kyle was on a podcast talking about computer security.

* He’s also Chairperson of the Advisory Board for Purism, which I think sounds so fancy.

* We’re remodeling our kitchen. You guys. It’s stressful. Right now our kitchen looks like this:

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* We’re about to go on a 12-day RV trip. We’re renting an RV from Cruise America and driving through Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.

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* When we get back, Kyle is going to Amsterdam to speak at the O’Reilly Security Conference. I don’t get to go, but that’s okay. I’ve traveled plenty this year.

What’s going on with you?

I Went Up In A Hot Air Balloon

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:26 am on Sunday, June 5, 2016

When it came to celebrating Marcia’s birthday this year, we decided to go on a hot air balloon ride, something both of us have been wanting to do for years. It’s great! I recommend it, even though you have to get up before the sun comes up to do it. Here’s a picture of the sunrise:

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We watched them blow up our balloon, which was exciting to see.

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Marcia and I went with five other people, including the pilot. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this, but it turned out that it was fun to go with other people. We were all first timers and experienced it together. Here we are in the basket right before take off:

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Going up in the sky is smooth and surreal. It feels like being in a slow, exposed elevator. You’re an inch off the ground, and then feet, and then suddenly you’re very high up:

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At first, I was scared and had to fight against thoughts about dying/crashing. Then I got used to it and enjoyed the gorgeous views.

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I even got the nerve to look over the side of the basket. I saw tiny cows and horses, vineyards, cars, and trees. We also flew over other hot air balloons.

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Landing was fun. It turns out that hot air balloons don’t have a lot of control where they land, so they end up going down in all kinds of weird places. We ended up in a field surrounded by high grass and hundreds of tiny hopping tree frogs.

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A van had to come and get us out, which meant attaching a strap to the balloon and towing us through the air. In a way, it was the most exciting part.

After that, we went to lunch in Napa and then to a Calistoga spa. Neither of us had done an expensive spa treatment before. We had facials. Here I am in a spa robe.

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I don’t know if I would bother with a spa again but hot air balloons? Definitely.

My Husband Is An Interesting Man

Filed under: Kyle Rankin,Personal — Administrator at 2:21 pm on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I’ve been married to Kyle 14 years this June. One of my favorite things about him is that he never ceases to explore his intellectual interests in a curious and accomplished way. Here are some things Kyle has been interested in lately:

* He decided to take up Speed Cubing, which is when people solve a Rubik’s Cube quickly. I think he has it down to 2 minutes so far.

* He’s 3D printing an entire tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, which will be the size of a turkey when he’s done.

* He’s reading all eight volumes of the The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He’s on volume three.

* He taught himself to play Bach’s Invention #13 on the banjo.

But I was most excited about his decision to make croissants. I love croissants, and I know how difficult they are to make. It was an elaborate, three-day process of making croissant dough, laminating it, taking it in and out of the fridge at various times, then cutting it:

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And shaping it:

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And letting it rise again before finally baking it.

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We had them on the morning of Gideon’s 4th birthday. They came out fresh from the oven, and they were exactly right. I say that as someone who has high standards for bread.

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They may have looked a little stripey, but they were all the things a croissant should be: crunchy, buttery, soft in the center, with good layers.

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Seeing these excellent croissants, my dad said to me, “You know, everything Kyle does turns out like that.”

And it’s true.

Spring Is Sliding Through My Fingers

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 8:42 am on Friday, May 20, 2016

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You might think I’ve forgotten this blog. I haven’t. There’s just so much going on and it’s a low priority. Here are some things that are happening this May:

* I have a few articles coming out that I’m very excited about. I will post them when they’re published.

* I’m going to the Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency in June. I’ll be studying with Paul Harding, who wrote Tinkers, which is a great book. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’m nervous and excited and worried about missing my son.

* Gideon is turning 4 this weekend. It’s a weird pressure to plan a kid’s birthday. You want him to have the best time ever, even though you know your son is perfectly happy playing with a rock. I’m making a cake. It has been requested that there be cherries on top.

* I planted my garden:

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* For Marcia’s birthday in June, I’m finally going on a hot air balloon ride. I’ll post pictures. We’re also thinking of getting facials, another first for me. Yes, I’m selfishly using my best friend’s birthday to tick off life experiences. She’s cool with it.

* Upcoming things that are happening: remodeling our kitchen, another artist residency, vacation to somewhere, finishing a novel, editing the other novel, writing writing writing.

* My house is haunted:

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