Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Ski Series Part 2 (Big Sky Montana)

Though Sun Valley was (to me, at least) an obvious choice for my first big ski trip out west in nearly a decade, when it came time to plan another ski vacation it was a bit more difficult to choose a destination. In the end, though, Big Sky Montana won out.

I mean, do you have to ask why? ;)

We almost always try to plan our vacations during 'down times', so when we chose early February for our Big Sky trip we didn't really expect much to be going on. But as it turned out, we booked during their Big Sky Blue Grass Festival - which meant that there were some really neat things going on while we were there. For instance, the Big Sky Annual Dummy Jump...

...and of course, plenty of blue grass music. The only concert we were able to attend was the benefit one featuring the Special C's, but it was amazing. Especially as the $25-ish per person tickets included heavy hors d'oeuvres and drinks (mainly wine).

There are other activities available at Big Sky as well, of course - ones that happen throughout the season, such as sleigh rides and snowmobiling, snowshoeing and tubing. There are also a couple of fire pits, and when we were there they were pretty much the place to hang out later in the evening ;) Otherwise, the only one we had time to check out - outside of the special events that were happening - was the rescue dog demonstration. This happens every week and it was definitely a neat thing to do for a little while one evening :)

Now, the reason we didn't have very much time to enjoy other activities is because we were doing a ton of skiing, of course! It snowed a lot during the time we were there, which meant nearly constant fresh powder (though it also meant poor visibility, blah). While I personally wasn't brave enough to go up to the top of Lone Peak, I enjoyed some great skiing on the lower front of the mountain and in the Southern Comfort area as well.

In terms of trail difficulty, it was interesting that I'd been told that Sun Valley has one of the higher rating systems out west - as in, their trails are harder than those at other resorts that are rated the same - but to me, Big Sky was at least even with Sun Valley's ratings. Perhaps their trails were even more difficult.

One thing I do want to note - it was awesome that they had photographers set up on many of the slopes. The only unfortunate thing about this was that their prices were over-the-top insane, at least for my budget - but it was still cool that if you wanted a picture of yourself skiing, you just had to look at the schedule and be on any number of trails during a couple-hour-long-stretch to get some awesome professional photos taken.

The one 'problem' with our trip to Big Sky is that we skied all day, and by the time we wanted food in the evenings it had usually been snowing for hours and we didn't feel like driving. So while we had a couple of decent meals, it was nothing like the way we gorged ourselves on awesome food in Idaho. Fondue Stube in the lodge was pretty decent, and our included breakfasts were pretty good as well (though BOO to the fact that they only offered the waffle bar one morning the entire time we were there!). There was also a 'burrito shack' at the top of the Swift Current Quad, and though it kept short/weird hours, it was good for a quick snack or lunch while skiing, for sure.

All in all, while I have one more big ski trip to review I will say that Big Sky was really the best at a few things. First, if you like bluegrass, going for Big Grass is certainly a must. And if you can get a clear day (or more), the views here are incomparable. If you're an advanced skier, I also suggest Big Sky because I certainly haven't experienced skiing like this anywhere else. And like Sun Valley, it doesn't have that "in your face" Big Ski Resort feel. People here are friendly - employees and skiers - and that always helps the enjoyment of any vacation. (At least in my opinion.)

And that leads me to a rating. The thing is, while I generally had a great time, in the end I didn't enjoy Big Sky quite as much as I enjoyed Sun Valley. But really, they had different downsides, and they're completely different mountains/areas/etc. So I'll go with a 3.75/5 and say that maybe someday if I have the guts for some ski lessons/to get over the really horrible fall I took 10 years ago, I'll go back and try this resort again. Pin It

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...I majorly failed at fabric shopping this weekend. I went to nearly every fabric store in Greenville without finding something even halfway good enough for a new Cersei gown. (There's always a chance that I'm being way too picky...heh.)

I confess...that by the end of this coming weekend I will have worked 17 out of the past 20 days - and 2 of those days I worked both jobs. Needless to say, I can't wait for January to be over.

I confess...I've actually got all these great ideas for blog entries...buuuut no time in which to write them. :-/

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday, Volume 1

Sadly my blogging has been in a bit of a slump lately, and in hopes of picking things back up a bit I thought I'd start a Throw Back Thursday series. I'm hoping to focus on geeky things, though that may change depending on my mood ;) For this first TbT, though, I want to talk about one of my favorite television shows ever...

I was introduced to X Files by *E*, my high school boyfriend, and after just one episode I was hooked. In fact, I was sick on Thanksgiving my senior year and yet somehow had an awesome day watching an X Files marathon on what was then the SciFi channel. (Ugh, 'Sy Fy'. Ugh.)

And come on, when Mulder and Scully finally kissed in the New Year's episode? Be still, my heart! I didn't even know what 'shipping' was back then, but yeah, I definitely shipped these two...how couldn't I?!

Admittedly, the later seasons of X Files weren't all that great. This was yet another show (alongside other series I loved at first and ended up being disappointed in, like Lost and Weeds) that was dragged out far longer than it should have been. I mean let's not lie - without Mulder and Scully, X Files lost so much of its heart.

But I still have some great memories of this show - my Thanksgiving '99 binge, having 'X Files Nights' with two of my girl friends every Sunday throughout my freshman year of college, and even hunkering down in a hotel room at Daytona Beach (yes, while on vacation) to watch the series finale in May 2002.

And now that I've written this, I want to dig out my set of DVDs (yes, I have the full series!) and do a re-watch. So excuse me while I hibernate for the next couple of months...I mean, it's winter and miserable anyway!

(Kidding. I don't have the luxury of hibernating. But a slow and steady re-watch is definitely on my radar.) Pin It

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My 101 in 1001: A [sad?] conclusion.

Well, my 101 in 1001 challenge ended last week. But...as anyone who follows my blog on a regular basis may have noticed, I hadn't posted an update since early June :-/ Unfortunately, between working two jobs and doing a ton of traveling the past several months, my 101 in 1001 progress took a backseat.

While I did complete a few more tasks between June of last year and my January 15, 2014 end date, my challenge wrapped up with 30 of my 101 things left incomplete. To be fair, some of them turned out to be a bit lofty - visiting a content other than North America or Europe, for instance, which sadly never happened due to monetary concerns. But to be honest, many of the items that I didn't get around to weren't all that lofty...taking a hot yoga class being one of them (though admittedly I balked at the idea of spending $25 for a hot yoga class when a regular yoga class is only $10).

Of course, to make myself feel a little better, I'm going to claim a third category - tasks that never should have been on there in the first place. or should have been replaced at some point. I did replace a few things that became what I thought was next to impossible, but looking back I should have known that with four cats and two dogs (one of whom is questionable around other dogs) there was no way I was going to be able to take on a foster dog ;)

Would I do another 101 in 1001 challenge? I don't know, maybe. But at the same time, 101 is a pretty big number, and 1001 is a nearly ridiculous number of days...it seems to me that while spreading it out over that long a period may make it easier to complete more lofty tasks, it also makes it easier to let the challenge as a whole fall by the wayside, either for long periods of time or simply for good. So most likely I'll call it a worthwhile but slightly foolish thing to attempt and move on to things that I truly enjoy focusing on.

Though I did look back and try to see if I at least LOOK different after 1001 days...not so much? I don't know! Haha. See for yourself

Taken just a few days after my 1001 challenge started...

Me on New Year's Day 2014...so about two weeks before the challenge ended :)

And hey, at 71/101, I at least finished 70% of my goals...which in the end isn't too bad, I think :)

For reference, I've left my full list behind the cut -->

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...I don't even remember why I skipped Monday Confessions last week. I feel like there was a reason for doing so, but hey, maybe I just got busy.

I confess...my 101 in 1001 time is up, and I kind of feel like I failed miserably, but I guess I should still take stock and write a post about it. Because hey, maybe it's not as bad as I think ;)

I confess...between running a 5k Saturday morning and then taking the dogs for a two hour hike late that afternoon, I definitely overexerted myself this weekend and am likely going to be perpetually exhausted all week.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Ski Series Part 1 (Sun Valley Idaho)

I recently went on my fourth ever ski trip out west - three of which have been in the past two years - and while visiting Keystone Colorado I realized that it was past time for me to do a series about these trips. Mostly because I feel the need to extoll the virtues (and bring up the cons) about the amazing ski resorts I've been lucky enough to visit.

My first Rocky Mountain ski trip was actually way back in 2003; I visited Jackson Hole Wyoming for my 21st birthday (yes, I'm old). That's not the vacation I'm going to write about today, because to be honest I'm sure that area has changed a lot in 10 years - but it's important to mention because while I was there enjoying that resort, numerous people told me that if I loved it there, I needed to check out Sun Valley in Idaho.

About eight years later, I did just that.

Infamous Sun Valley Lodge 'snow sun'

Now, there were some minor issues with our trip - ones that couldn't be helped (there'd been next to no snow out west that winter; then - go figure - there was a snowstorm that almost kept us from leaving Sun Valley at all), and ones that could (I didn't quite know what I was getting into when booking a room at the Lodge - the Sun Valley website isn't very clear about a lot of things, and the couple of times that I called with questions the women I spoke to acted as if I had no business to be asking them questions). As it turns out, the Lodge isn't right at the base of the mountain as I'd been used to - you have to take a 10-ish minute bus ride to get to the lifts. Unfortunately, the front desk and bell hop employees were also rude and generally unhelpful, but as a whole the Lodge was a really nice place to stay. Our room was big, the Duchin Lounge was enjoyable just about every night, and the giant hot tub was a blast!

Also infamous...the Sun Valley Lodge 'hot tub'!

As for the skiing, probably because there isn't a hotel or condos at the base of Bald or Dollar Mountains, the Day Lodges are amazing.

River Run Day Lodge

Seattle Ridge Day Lodge

Though Idaho hadn't gotten that much snow by the time we visited in January 2011, Sun Valley has the most snow making capability of any mountain out west, so we still got some great skiing in. Some of the better trails were located in the Seattle Ridge area of Baldy, while Dollar Mountain turned out to not be a necessary stop at all.

One thing I was pleasantly surprised with was the food in the area. We had an amazing Sunday Brunch at the Lodge (it's a staple at Sun Valley and a must for visitors!), and another pretty much perfect breakfast at Moose Girls in downtown Ketchum.

Brunch at the Sun Valley Lodge

As for dinners, our favorites were at Bald Mountain Pizza at the Lodge Village and Cornerstone in downtown Ketchum. The service at both was stellar and certain dishes - the Caesar salad pizza at Bald Mountain Pizza and the mac'n'cheese at Cornerstone - are not to be missed :)

Delicious mac'n'cheese at Cornerstone

While there are some cool things to do in the area - shopping and bars in Ketchum, movies in the village at Sun Valley lodge, tubing, ice skating, etc. - we skied a lot during the day and drank more than a little bit at night (usually while listening to great live music at the Duchin) and mostly just relaxed in the hot tub outside of that. But to this day I have to say that I had more fun at Sun Valley than I have on any other ski trip since.

Quaint downtown Ketchum

I'll leave you with one final note: If you're a skier - but most especially a skier who loves nostalgia - Sun Valley is a must visit. Even considering the lack of fresh powder and the somewhat annoying daily commute from the Lodge to the mountain, our trip was over far too soon...and all of the memories are good ones. I'd rate my experience here a solid 4/5 :) Pin It

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Favorite Geek Clothing Finds

So here's the deal: I am *not* a stylish person.

Sometimes I get lucky and find one outfit that's awesome, or throw something together and it works. But most of the time I'm totally lame when it comes to clothes and fashion, and I'm pretty much okay with that. Honest to God, I prefer lounging in soft pants and cozy shirts and my faux-leather-and-sheepskin men's (yes, men's) slippers.

Lately, though, 'geek' themed clothing has really exploded, and thank God for that. In the past I've found some random Star Wars shirts and worn them pretty much until they fell apart...but they were just t-shirts that happened to have Star Wars screen prints on them, not anything that was cute enough to wear, say, out to a bar.

But that's all changed now, and I want to share with you some of my favorite geeky clothing finds and the awesome websites where I discovered them :)

First and foremost: I bow to the amazingness of Mitmunk. This Etsy shop makes printed leggings, and it's a stroke of luck that they ever have some in my size...but throughout the past few months I've been lucky enough to collect three awesome pairs.

The yellow bionic ones pictured above are by far my favorites, but I also have a pair of their armor leggings and a pair of their crusader leggings. As a warning, the sizing is a bit weird - I usually wear a medium in leggings, but in Mitmunk I'm an XL. Not really sure what's up with that (maybe it's because they're Canadian?), but whatever. The material is nice and the printing is great (especially considering the detail) - basically, the quality is very high and I love them and I stalk their Etsy shop on the regular looking for different styles in my size.

Next up, one of my friends randomly shared something from the Her Universe Facebook page a while back, and I fell in love with several of their shirts. They've got some really cute items - some of which are amusing, as well - from fandoms like Star Wars, BSG, Walking Dead, and more.

Two of the best shirts I found on Her Universe are a scoop-neck sweatshirt with the BSG seal on it, and the "Ricktatorship" dolman top pictured above. They seem to add new items/designs fairly regularly, too. (To be honest, I probably need to stalk this site as much as I stalk Mitmunk... ;) )

Lastly, I've even stumbled upon some pretty awesome finds at major chain stores. My favorite is probably the Jurassic Park sweatshirt that I found at Target a coupe of months ago - because we all know how I feel about Jurassic Park.

Depending on what fandoms you're interested in, though, I've also seen everything from pajama pants to t-shirts to accessories at not just Target, but Old Navy and Kohl's as well. So hey, keep an eye out!

(On a side note, I've also found some funny screenprinting designs on websites like Skreened and Redbubble, though sadly the types of shirts on which these designs are offered aren't usually of the cute/fashionable variety. Still, it may be worth it to peruse them once in a while...)
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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writer's Block Wednesday: Into the Wild & Chris McCandless


I first read Into the Wild in 2008, and not long after that I saw the movie as well. Chris McCandless was an intriguing person; like many others, what drew me to his story was his utter devotion to solitude and his rejection of possessions, money, and even titles and recognition. The thing is, I'm only human, and I'm honest enough to admit that I could never come even remotely close to walking away from all of those things with the idea in my head that I'd probably never come back to them. But McCandless? He tried so hard that he literally gave (or is 'lost' a better word here?) his life for his beliefs.

Personally, I'm in the "wow, what he wanted and tried to do was admirable, but the fact that he basically died because he knowingly walked into the wilderness unprepared was decidedly not admirable" camp. And to be honest I probably lean toward the latter end of that thought; while I don't understand those who outright ostracize Chris McCandless, my sympathies probably lie a bit more with them than with those who glorify him.

That said - and not that my opinion here really matters, per se, but I'm going to put it out there anyway - he wasn't a bad person. A bit ignorant, perhaps, but from everything I've read it is clear that he was modest and that he really did put a vast amount of importance on truth, on absolute honesty. I myself feel the same way, but often struggle with the act of being entirely truthful and absolutely honest.

Though I think that Jon Krakauer did a decent job of telling McCandless's story - and though I agreed with many of the conclusions he drew - the questions left unanswered (despite pages upon pages of conjecture) are what kept me from giving this book a better rating. Basically, I felt as if Krakauer would use hundreds - and sometimes even thousands - of words to explain a theory, only to turn around and refute it with what he actually believed happened. And personally this made me feel as if the book had far too many 'filler pages' - that the author was trying to make the book longer and in doing so not actually presenting any worthwhile information. Because of this, upon first reading Into the Wild I could only bring myself to rate it 3/5 stars.

However, recently there has been more research into Krakauer's main theory regarding the death of Chris McCandless, and I was quite interested to find that a new article had been published about it in The New Yorker - by none other than Krakauer himself. I'm hoping that the findings detailed in this article - that there is essentially proof that McCandless was in fact 'poisoned' (for lack of a better word) by something that would have been safe for him to eat in most circumstances - will lead to a revision of Into the Wild (the book). Because while there are still chinks in the story, the information about the problems wild-potato seeds can cause someone who is in McCandless's weakened state should serve to not just round out the story that Krakauer tells, but also dampen the attitudes of at least some detractors.

Another thing that I think is important to note is the information brought to light about the McCandless family history, most notably in Chris's younger sister's Carine's open letter that is posted on the website Chris McCandless: Now I Walk Into the Wild. I won't go into detail here because this isn't my story to tell, but suffice it to say that there is a lot of vague information and outright misinformation out there about the nearly charmed upbringing that Chris McCandless supposedly experienced - and with a bit more insight into his family life, it's a lot easier to understand why he wanted to step away from society, find himself, experience the beauty and the solitude and the serenity of nature.


The following are some quotes from Into the Wild that really spoke to me. I may not have the strength of character that Chris McCandless had (though I think it's also that I'm not quite so willfully ignorant about the dangers of trying to live off the land completely by myself in a harsh environment), but it's damn near impossible to read these and not want to reach for something bigger than myself, to measure myself, to give in to my passion for adventure, to live for truth and truth alone, to lose myself for a while.

To live intensely and richly.

"...you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances."

“Some people feel like they don't deserve love. They walk away quietly into empty spaces, trying to close the gaps of the past.”

“I read somewhere... how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong... to measure yourself at least once.”

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."

“I'm going to paraphrase Thoreau here... rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... give me truth. ”

“We like companionship, see, but we can't stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again.”

"I have some good friends here, but no one who really understands why I am here or what I do. I don't know of anyone...who would have more than a partial understanding; I have gone too far alone.
I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly."-Everett Ruess(via Into the Wild) Pin It

Monday, January 6, 2014

Monday Confessions

I confess...I'm more than a little upset that I got slammed into from behind by a snowboarder on my last day of skiing at Keystone. Not only did him hitting me mess up my left hip/leg, but my camera broke during the 'accident' as well. All because some kid wasn't paying attention. GRRR.

I confess...because I need a new camera, I'm thinking about selling my DSLR. I never use it - it's simply too much to lug around - and I'd rather get some money for it and then use that money for a new, nicer, smaller camera that I can take just about anywhere. I guess we'll see...

I confess...I have no idea what I'm doing with my life right now, and yay for that! ::sarcasm::

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 in Review/Looking at 2014

How do I even begin to sum up 2013?

Without going into detail, the past month has been a rough one. I've got personal and health concerns building up, and because of that...well, some days I feel like I'm going to explode. Or maybe implode. I'm not really sure which is the more appropriate term ;)

I guess maybe I'm weird because even when things are rough, I can joke about it. Or at least, I've been told that's weird/bad/whatever. But hey, in the words of Van Wilder (and no, I can't believe that I'm quoting this, for too many reasons to count) - "You shouldn't take life too seriously. You'll never get out alive."

So on that note, I think it's important for me to focus on the best things that I experienced this year. After all, no year has ever been perfect...but looking back, I'm pleased to say that the highlights from this one were pretty damn outstanding.

First, Big Sky Montana taught me that I really have no idea what I'm doing in terms of skiing. (No. Seriously. That mountain was scary, and I've been skiing for 15 years now.)

Then I went to MegaCon in Orlando and met Michael Hogan. And he asked me why I wasn't in the brig. And it was awesome.

And at the tail end of that Orlando trip, I *finally* got to Drink Around the World at EPCOT on Saint Patrick's Day!

Next up was an awesome trip to Boston to see Muse in concert...and go to a Sox game! Oh yeah...they won! Clearly my 'lucky socks' helped...

Not two weeks after returning from Boston, surprise surprise...I was on the road again. This time to Ohio for the first ever Ice & Fire Con...and I can't even begin to describe how elated I *still* am that it was such a success.

While summer was mostly spent working (two jobs), there were certainly some highlights to be had...Memorial Day at Lake Lure, for one :)

And I also got to be involved in MonsterCon in Greenville! I was on several panels and of course also dressed up in costume, met some fun new people, and was generally excited that Greenville finally had a convention.

Once August hit, my life became one heck of a blur. I traveled up to Connecticut for my cousin's wedding (the first time I'd left Greenville since Memorial Day) and rounded that trip out with a couple of days at my best friend's family cottage on Lake Mascoma in New Hampshire. It was beyond perfect...we were lazy and ate a lot and drank Bloody Marys and I read and read and read.

Of course, that trip did cause one small problem...I got behind on my Dragon Con costumes. Because less than two weeks after returning from my little 'break' in New England, it was off to Atlanta for [what is still] my favorite convention.

After Dragon Con, though, the fall of 2013 was quite a blur. Beginning with a trip to Vegas with 12 Australians...

Almost immediately followed by an...um...interesting...weekend at Anime Weekend Atlanta...

 To the ridiculous shenanigans of "Not*a*Con" in Ohio...

And then a trip to Orlando with my entire family (and as always, time to hang out with my friends who live in Florida)...

Right after that I had one of the most amazing (and in many ways, surreal) experiences of my life - Walker Stalker Con. Why was it so amazing and surreal? Well, besides the fact that the convention itself was a blast, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a roundtable style interview with ANDREW LINCOLN. I'm honestly still not 'over' it ;)

The rest of November was chock full of more work and traveling, including several days in San Diego to participate in training for a new accounting module we're using at my day job. Thankfully, though, I also had time to 'play' in that city...meaning I got to do a brewery tour and see Balboa Park and eat at a lot of awesome restaurants.

Though I missed traveling to New England for Thanksgiving and then had a sort of "I'm about to be 31" life crisis at the beginning of December, I did my best to enjoy my birthday at Disney World - and, for the most part, succeeded...thanks to some really great friends.

I wasn't much feeling the holidays this year, but of course Christmas happened. At least it was in Greenville, and I *suppose* that, despite my Scrooge-like attitude, I enjoyed some of Christmas. Time off from work, hanging out with my pups and my family, and even sporting the perfect hat for my mood...

And hey, in the end I wrapped up the year skiing at Keystone and Breckenridge, with pretty great weather to boot - and a crazy weird blur of an 80s-themed New Year's Eve! (Seriously, I've been overusing the Hot Tub Time Machine joke all week.)

As for today, the first day of a new year? Well. I'm not one for resolutions, so you won't see me making any. I suppose at this point that I just want to spend this year focusing on the things that I want out of life. I'm not going to go into detail, but I will say this - those things probably aren't what people would expect me to want. So...I guess we'll just have to see. Pin It