Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Doing the things...

...that a spider can... ... like getting stuck in a tree apparently.

Monday, January 26, 2009

31 Days

You know i generally avoid news - it is just so darn depressing. However, when i sign into e-mail i do at least read the headlines on MSN and Yahoo. Of course that means i am also exposed to the filler on the front pages and i admit that i sometimes click and read whatever catches my eye. Over the weekend there was a story about women who did one tiny self-improvement thing everyday for 31 days and how that one little change added up over the month. I am interested in self-improvement, but i am inherently lazy and a creature of habit so this sounded just right for me. Though i am still going to the gym and working on yoga i have found that my regiment at home has suffered (read : non-existent) since the holidays (read : Labor Day), soooooooo for the next 30 days (i did it this morning already) i will set my alarm clock one minute earlier and do crunches before i get into the shower. So says I!

Pharmaceutical free

I think that some people just don't quite get the Nikiverse. For instance, if I were to say, "We were driving through this neighborhood when I saw a huge bear with a tattoo and a mohawk; he was wearing ripped jeans and declaring his affection for the nation's capitol," there are people who would suggest that i should stop imbibing illicit narcotics. Or that i should start taking some prescription ones. To those people i say : NYAH! I don't look for the insanity, people; it is just there.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tight Squeeze

Today we did a special program for a festival of young astronomers. Normally i'd never agree to a Starlab on a Saturday, but i thought it was a worthwhile endeavor so i said yes. The four shows went great. The site, however, was special - they put us in a classroom. Ever seen a portable planetarium? It's big. We normally perform in the gym. Today we shoehorned it into a classroom : Doesn't that look cozy? Alarming doesn't really quite capture the reality of me seeing this room or AJ trying to position the Starlab as it inflated.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Every year for Christmas my dad sends me a box of the greatest citrus Florida has to offer - the honeybell tangelo. It is sweet like candy and tastes like you are eating orange juice. It is ridiculously yummy. Plus, i love the funny bell shape. Though it is a Christmas present, the box doesn't arrive until January cause that is when they are ripe. look at that box of loveliness My box came about 2 weeks ago and we have been eating and enjoying them since. I commented at work that i was sad that i was nearly out of honeybells and when i got home guess what was waiting for me? YES!!! Another box of orangey goodness! Turns out the growers were supposed to replace my brother's shipment cause something was wrong with it, but they resent my shipment instead. Since it was their mistake i don't have to send it back and i have more honeybells. Come on over if you want one.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jacket Drive

If you live in or around Baltimore there is a Jacket Drive for the homeless going on at the Inner Harbor, partnered by the Maryland Science Center, the Aquarium, CBS Radio and St Vincent dePaul. From noon to four on Saturday January 24th there will be a van and promotional tent on the Aquarium side of the harbor and 2 collection vans at the back door of the Science Center. People donating gently used jackets and coats will receive coupons for buy one, get one free admission tickets. Come enjoy the cultural institutions downtown and help those in need.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I never really saw the point of tags on posts until i went to find something from last year and had to search 3 months of archives to find it. For that reason i am slowly adding tags to all of my past posts. I've done the most recent 50 and am delighted to see that the most heavily used tag is insanity. hmmmmmmmm Only 398 more to go!

Mass production

All of the New Year's cards are mailed (though the overseas one just went out today cause i actually had to go to the post office to do that one; sorry Francie) and it is still January; i consider that a success. In truth many of them were out before January 10th (which is my arbitrary goal that i have never actually made) but this year i had a lot of ones that i needed to find new addresses for so it took a bit longer to get the fourth and final mailing done. I was telling someone the other day that i made 98 cards this year and she wondered how I produce so many similar cards. It all starts with the list. I write out the list of who i want to send cards to so that i know how many i need to make; generally i have 3 lists - A for the people that have to get cards, B for people that should get cards and C for people i would like to send cards to but there is some issue like i don't have their address or it has been several years since we've been in contact with each other. The A, B and C lists this year combined to 105 people so i knew i'd need 2 large packs of card blanks and that the card base would be white (cream only comes in packs of 40 so i'd have to by 3, making it too cost prohibitive). Next comes a design. Normally i have a stamp, an image, a paper or a concept that i want to use; this year i started with the idea of a ribbon across the center of the cards. I had some Michael's gift cards from Christmas so i decided to splurge and get new paper. I found this awesome black flocked paper and turquoise ribbon and calculated how much of each i needed to buy to make the cards. The big glitter leaf was born out of the pattern on the paper. Time to prototype. This is the most time consuming part of the process cause i want the card to be nice, but reproducible. When i am make one card at a time i can put 15 intricate steps together and spend 2 hours on it, but mass cards have to be assembly-lined. You can see from the picture that the prototype is a mess as i try a bunch of different things. Once i am pretty sure of the design i start to get the materials ready. Flowers get ripped apart; Paper and ribbon get cut into the proper lengths. I will assemble one or two cards to figure out which adhesives are best for which job (this card used brads, tape runner, terrifically tacky, and 2 sizes of glue dots) and then set up a production line. (wow, the lighting was really different in those, huh?) To keep from going insane i will do some little jobs like punching a hole in the base of each leaf or coloring silver brads black with a sharpie all at once, but do big jobs like folding, stamping, signing and assembling in batches of 20-30. I also addressed, labelled and stamped the envelopes in batches of 40ish. When i finished a set of cards i would write them out and pop them into the envelope ready to go; that's why there were separate mailings and those of you at the front of the alphabet got yours a week before poor Rickki W and Kathy V. Having a system laid out keeps me from getting bored, prevents Arthur Itis and his gangsta cousin Carpel T from visiting and allows me to accomplish something every night instead of the process dragging on and on forever. There are always flaws in every system, like when i ran out of mono glue at 2 am and production came to a stand still or the fact that the middle mailing (about 30 cards) went out without the "09" written on in turquoise sparkle ink, but overall the process works for me. Right now i am working on 50 cards for an event promoting my Etsy shop and from conception to completion it will take about a week.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Wonder Days

Everybody loves a good promotional day at the museum. I volunteered to work Winter Wonder Days today - appropriate as it was 20 degrees outside - and made sure i was properly theme accessorized : - glittery snowman pin on lapel of uniform - sparkly snowflakes in hair - snowman nestled in braid - fuzzy mitten and snowflake charm on name tag (hey Jean - remember when you made that charm? feels like 100 years ago, doesn't it?) We had several exploration tables set up to see ice up close, to see how salt affects ice and to learn what conditions cause winter precipitation We froze bubbles by blowing them over a pan of dry ice (look at the bottom of the pic) There was a room for exploring the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees and then make your own tree. As well as a table for cutting out snowflakes, either your own or following a pattern: There was a wintery themed puppet show including a walrus singing "What a Wonderful World" I was stationed at Salty Snowflakes where you paint on black paper with super-saturated salt solution. I went for a snowman to welcome people in: Of course i got paired with an artist who did a Baltimore Ravens shield snowflake show-off Much fun was had by all who attended, but now i need to go find lotion cause it feels like the salt sucked all the moisture right out of my hands.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Because Sleep is Over-rated

I have taken up yet another third job. Like my last one it is at my current place of employ, but for another department. Before i was working Friday nights from 5-8 for visitor services; now i am taking the same shift, but working on the floor with visitors in out earth science and astronomy current news centers. I really like working in different departments because it gives me a better understanding of how the museum works (or doesn't work) as a whole. plus, i already have the uniform. Not to mention the extra money is going into my cruise souvenir fund.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Information Central

I have posted before about the white board that is the hub of our corner at work (how can a corner have a hub you wonder - geometry has no meaning here) and how it keeps us both informed and entertained. There will be times where it doesn't change for days and then there will be one day where everybody has something to share and you have to fight for room : This is Carrie's version of me flying to my Disney cruise, with Minnie and Mickey drawn by Erin (oh, did i not mention that i'm going on a cruise? i'll tell you about it later) When you spend A LOT of time in a van this is what you get - fun with alliteration; Lindsey and AJ vow to try it with every vowel.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I like books

I do really, really like books; I love thoughts and words and pictures in my head.
I'm fascinated that something as mercurial as emotion can be captured in 2 dimensions; the concept of written language is cool.
I've always been a voracious reader, but living without cable for nearly 3 years has given me the time to rediscover books.
Living on the same road as the library helps, too.
 I always intend to review the books i'm reading like the fabulous Kaaren, but i never do. Instead of resigning myself to complete failure I offer here a brief-ish rundown on what i read in 2008 with some highlights. [note - if i say NEW obviously i mean "new to Niki" cause i am always years behind (or ahead) of any trend]
Books read : 104
# of rereads : 7
Non-fiction : 7
Children / Young Adult : 50
Newbery winners : 15
Graphic novel / comic compelations : 12
Science Fiction : 3
Fantasy : 29
Mystery : 16
Best : The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo - i really love this book; you can read my purple review here
Worst : The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan - supposedly about the banality of evil this book was in fact, just banal itself. The evil wasn't really that evil, the secret wasn't terribly shocking considering the circumstance and the characters were downright unlikable. If time were money I'd demand a refund.
Best new children's series : The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley - there are 5 books so far in this twist-on-fairy tales series that are quick, fun, witty and yet still manage to delve into slightly deeper themes.
 Best new adult series : the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich - i've read 12 of the 17 books about the New Jersey bounty hunter and enjoy the idiosyncratic characters and pure escapism plots; i mean her car was smashed by a garbage truck for goodness sakes.
Fascinating and Fantastical : One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - i'm still confused; the characters have the same names and you can't really tell if it is fantasy or allegory, but i liked it and there were some breath-taking uses of language; i wish i could have read it in its original language cause i bet it was even more beautiful.
Most Over-rated : Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield - i've heard about the "shoe books" forever and checked out several at a time, but was so unimpressed by the first one that i didn't bother with the rest.
I was so amazed and delighted at the end that i immediately flipped to the first page and started over : The Life of Pi by Yann Martel - love, love, loved it and will not comment on it at all so as to not influence anyone else's enjoyment other than to say if you haven't read it, do.
Enjoyed it so much that i read passages aloud in the van, but then was so angry at the end that i threw it to the floor and physically stomped on it : Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquirel - loved the format, the use of language, the imaginative characters, and the unique plot; hated the ending - HATED IT - but i still recommend the book anyway.
Not at all what i was expecting award : Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling - Kipling and New England? Kipling and fishing? What? Liked it once i got over the surprise though the dialect dialogue was a bit thick.
The You Fail award : Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire - didn't finish reading it; i tried and tried but couldn't muster enough interest to continue past about 100 pages of this 3rd Wicked book.
Most impactful : The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran - perhaps i was influenced by being exhausted, hot, grimy and a bit tipsy while cleaning out Douglas' mother's house the day before her memorial service, but i cried from beginning to end as i read it sitting on the floor amidst the never-ending piles of crap.
Glad i finally got around to reading it : the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett - i've only done 6 of the 25, but at least now i know what everyone is talking about.
Loved the movie so much i read the book : The Prestige by Christopher Priest - i was spellbound by the movie (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in the same place? Yes, please) but couldn't imagine how the book could've been written cause of all the twists and turns; the book is very good and twisty in its own right, but different from the movie in a lot of little details, like character and plot. I highly recommend both though they have little in common.
Liked the book so much now i want to see the movie : The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy - a compelling "what if" based on a real-life crime, it is gritty with interesting characters and an ending i didn't see coming until it was almost upon me.
Most infuriating Author's Afterword : Brisingr by Christopher Paolini - i reread the first 2 books in the trilogy when the third was published in September only to get to the end of the third and find out he'd decided to make it a series so now in 2 years i'll have to reread all 3 before the 4th comes out - if i'd known that before i started i would have just waited. Good book, though.
Wait, i thought i read this before : the last 4 books in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis - i thought i'd read them all when i was younger, but The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew and the Last Battle were completely unfamiliar when i read them in April; they're all good, but Voyage of the Dawn Treader is still my favorite. And if you're going to read them, for goodness sakes read them in the order they were published and not in the ridiculous chronological order they are currently being sold in.
Surprisingly good : The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - i tend to avoid anything that might have been in Oprah's book club, but i had a free copy of this book and i really enjoyed the strong female characters and the basic message of finding your own power on spite of your surroundings.
So moved by it and it captures some of my own philosophy so well that I want to hand out copies on the street corner : The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - i loved it; read it; read it now.

for you

The Nikiverse has been a pretty tense and testy place of late so here is a sweet gator with a rose. Why? Why not.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I would not consider myself an extravagant person. I like really nice things, but i've worked at a non-profit my whole adult life so i'm pretty much at piece with not having everything i like. you won't believe what i bought. I love, love, love this perfume. Love it. Did i mention that i love it? I had a tiny little sample of it in high school. I hoarded it and sparingly used it drop by drop. It was too precious to me to waste. I managed to extend the life of that wee vial for as long as humanly possible. I wore the final drop when i lost my virginity. I love this perfume. Really. However, it is freaking expensive. For years and years i've wanted some, coveted it, dreamed about it. You will never believe it, but for the first time ever it was in the locked case at WalMart. It was still more than i would normally pay for perfume (or almost anything), but it was way cheaper than normal. So i bought it. Sometimes ya just gotta treat yourself.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Whole Lotta Holiday

Less than a week in and it feel likes 2009 is already getting away from me! Coming back to work after 2 weeks away is so busy it sometimes makes me wonder if it is worth it to go away at all. Anyhoo, i'd planned on a little post every day over the last week to show the rest of my holiday, but i think i'll just cram it all in one. Here we go : Favorite Presents I got a lot of good stuff, like a new briefcase that i desperately needed, but there are 2 that really stick out as being awesome Yes, that is a Hello Kitty lunch bag. It makes me smile; i really giggled when i realized she was holding a pink lunch box on my pink lunch bag Wanna cookie? My sister got me 21 watches, well really one watch with 21 bands How freaking cool is that? Pick a color, any color. Plus there are matching bezels for each band Boxing Day Brunch My sister sent a present for me and a present for mom, but she also sent a present to both of us from Swiss Colony. I love, love, love presents from Swiss Colony and this year she sent us one of the breakfast combos with 2 pancake mixes, a wee ham, syrups, jellies, and date bread. Mom wasn't feeling real great on Boxing Day so she slept in and i laid on the couch watching the House marathon on USA. At about 1:00 i made us brunch with apple cinnamon pancakes and fried ham Nokomis Beach It was unseasonably warm in Florida so i went to the beach on Saturday It was so warm in fact that i went swimming; the water was cold, but bearable. I love swimming out until you get to the place where you can't touch bottom anymore and i love how you have to actively swim against the waves and wind and tide just stay in the same place. It was really peaceful in the Gulf except when the pelican buzzed my head to see if i was food or not. This beach is one of my favorite places on the planet. My grandparents used to bring us here when i was little; it was were i learned to love the water. The water is this cool shade of green that is like jadeite It is always kinda weird to be in a totally different climate than you are used to; i mean swimming in December? Plus while i was laying out a lady bug came to visit; at home all of the insects are long dead or gone. I noticed something at the beach this year : you can tell locals by the fact that they face their chairs towards the sun, while the tourists face towards the water RIP Basketville I also spent some time driving around and going to some of my favorite local spots. I was horrified when i saw that Basketville was closed. This was a quintessential Florida store - it had high end interior design items and candy gator eggs. I bought my dad a really nice set of windchimes here one year, but the next year i got him a statue of a frog playing croquet. It was a mish-mash of kitchy, crazy things and $200 baskets - really. I'll miss you, Basketville. Sloth I spent a great deal of time doing the most un-Niki-like thing I can think of : watching tv for hours at a time. Literally i laid on the couch with a warm breeze blowing through from all of the open windows and watched cable. It was unproductive and, considering how much i ache from seeing my trainer last night, actually counter-productive in some ways, but it was really, really, really relaxing. Overall, i'd call it a lovely holiday. Now back to reality.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

serious botany

Many people (meaning me) don't know that Thomas Edison had any interest in botany - he did. In fact, he and his friends Ford and Firestone were trying to figure out a way to grow rubber trees domestically to cut down the cost on car tires. In addition, Edison's wife was an avid gardener. So the Winter Estates are filled with unusual plants; in fact, some of them are now illegal to import to the US. One of the first things i saw (but couldn't get a non-blurry picture of, sorry) was this HUGE bougainvillea - it was a wall of plant : Yes, that's a streetlamp next to it. Even blurry that's impressive considering that the plant commonly looks like this : (my dad's yard) It was Florida so there was citrus, but citrus i've never seen or even heard of : And plants that looked like they were out of a dream : I don't remember botany being this interesting in school.