New Year, New Project

While everyone was busy being thankful for the last year on their blogs, all I could think was (inbetween lusting after gorgeous photos of cakes and cookies and crafts and sweaters), “Man. My last year wasn’t all that fantastic.” No big projects completed that I was super proud of, especially in the knitting world. No huge job promotions. No turning of my life in a new and surprisingly amazing direction. We just trucked on like we always do, taking the changes and challenges on in-stride, but not being particularly inspirational or inspired. I got good grades, I designed and painted things, I typed a lot and took a lot of pictures of things, but nothing that bubbled to the surface while looking through all those wonderful accounts of the past year.

All I could dwell on were the negative aspects of 2011. To me, this is not surprising, as I tend to worry more about the world than most people. We moved across the country, and things have not exactly lived up to our expectations, and I feel like we are often struggling with this new life, especially monetarily. I worked hard at school and discovered upon moving back that most of the work that I had done had done nothing to move me further to my goal of nursing school. I have managed to get an entry-level job that I enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’ve studied in the past or am currently working toward. I helped to develop a great one-man show, but didn’t actually get to see it or help to create its production, due to the crappy, crappy timing of life. I know these things sound an awful lot like whining. I have no excuse, except that sometimes everyone needs the opportunity to whine.

Because of these factors, Dan and I have resolved to work harder to find the simple pleasures in our new life. To concentrate on the little things that we have and do that make us happy so that we can find happiness in each other and in the world, even though things might seem like they totally suck.

To encourage myself to embrace this, I started a 365 project where I am taking a picture everyday of something that makes me happy at some particular moment that day. I feel like further explanation of this concept would rob me of the joy of it, so here we go:

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Starting the new year off right with green tea and toast made by Dan (the only way to enjoy it, I think). Dan’s mom had sent us a Pepperidge-Farm-style basket with fancy little jellies in it, so I decided to have some with my toast that morning. Fancy grape jelly = happy Jinger.

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Dan and I broke out our new Zoku popsicle maker last night and made some apple juice popsicles. The process is quite intoxicating, with how meticulous and magical the freezing of those little pops seems.

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For Christmas, Dan got me some Steampunk-esque dice for D&D. This…is a huge step for Dan. Dan does not really like D&D and does not really understand why I love it so much (although he understands a little more after reading my post about it). For him to give me a gift that enriches my D&D experience, and that’s the only purpose for it…well…I was pretty much speechless for joyousness.

There we go. Here’s to new beginnings and new projects and new ways to find happiness and make this new life here in New Orleans something that I’ll look upon fondly at New Year’s 2013. I’ll stop whining now, I promise.

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I’m Thankful for Pie

What am I thankful for this year? The real list is too long, so we’ll cut it down to photo-essay-size.

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I am thankful for friends who used to be far away, but are now close by.

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I am thankful for close friends who are now far away, and the technology that lets me pretend that they still are as near as ever.

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I am thankful for this handsome man who manages to take fabulous pictures of us, against all odds.

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I am thankful for this handsome little man who can’t manage to not be photogenic.

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I am thankful for pie crust.

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And pie filling.

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And the pie that comes out of the oven. (Joy the Baker‘s Easy No-Roll Pie Crust and the Pecan and Walnut Pie from the November 2010 issue of Real Simple magazine, by the by.)

And at the end of the long, long list that has been edited to remove such fancies as Haribo Coke Bottle gummies and my new salad spinner, I am thankful for you guys who come and read what I have to write about baking, crafting, and general nerd-dom. You guys are great and seriously make my day everyday.

Now get out there and eat some pie.

Nerd Cred

One of my coworkers told me that I had ‘nerd cred’ the other day, and although it was mostly in regard to my voracious consumption of podcasts (Nerdist, Stuff You Should Know, Radiolab, Freakonomics, Savage Love…I’m addicted, it’s true), I couldn’t help but interpret it as a sort of badge of honor.

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When I like something, I tend to like it to extremes. When I want to bake something, I often find a recipe that’s complex and finicky and make the hell out of it, usually over and over again. I taught myself how to knit, and have barely stopped doing it over the past 11 years, usually taking on large and complicated projects that test my sanity several times over. During grade school summers, my brother and I used to dedicate ourselves to beating certain Nintendo and Sega games in record time, bruising our thumbs in the process and taking lots of pictures of the final screens in hopes of one day sending them in to Nintendo Power magazine.

I’ve got an impressive repertoire of musical theatre scores memorized, and I can recite Little Shop of Horrors, Aladdin, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? backward and forward from pretty much any point in the script. I own the full Karate Kid boxed set on DVD, as well as all of Home Movies, the BBC version of The Office, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Arrested Development, and a respectable portion of the Degrassi universe. I have knitted myself, and several others who have asked nicely, Karate Kid headbands.

A large portion of any spare time that I might happen to run across is devoted to catching up with Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, and Cracked, and have been hopelessly devoted to the mastery of Penny Arcade, PvP, Real Life, and xkcd ever since I realized back in the early days that the internet was more than the chat rooms on AOL.

As you can see, my nerd love crosses many boundaries and yet still knows no bounds, and I am not ashamed.  In fact, typing it all out seems like it’s just a list of awesome stuff that everyone should like.

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Possibly the nerdiest part of my nerd love lies in role-playing games. Despite the plethora of ridiculous titles I just dropped in the previous paragraph, I bet some of you just had a moment at their mere mention. Even the nerdiest of the nerdy think that playing D&D is just plain too much.

These people are wrong.

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How can the sight of this complicated-looking paperwork not make someone blithely happy? Crazy people…

I started playing D&D with one of my best friends, TJ, when I visited him in Boulder after Hurricane Katrina. I’d be staying there while a session would be in progress, and I could either sit it out and drink wine, or jump in and play, and still be able to drink some wine. Guess which one I picked.

Before the hurricane, I had merely dallied about in the role-playing universe with very little commitment to anything in particular. I had played my fair share of Final Fantasy, helped friends paint Warhammer armies, and played a few rounds of Heroquest. However, writing my character’s intensely complicated backstory with TJ on that very first night (fueled by more wine, of course) opened my brain up to a new, ridiculously geeky universe of which I have yet to take my fill.

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I played with the same core group of people in Boulder the entire 5 1/2 years that I lived there, and to leave it behind was more difficult than I thought it would be. I have D&D to thank for my entire relationship with the love of my life (no, he doesn’t play, unfortunately, but was the friend of a friend who did, and we’d have never met otherwise, being from opposite sides of the country and all).

Last year, TJ wrote an amazing one-man show about how awesome the entire experience is, and I teared up the first time that I read it because he stated it much better than I ever could. It’s not just about pretending to be a hero for a few hours. It’s about having a great time with your friends and being intensely interested in the same insane things and not having anyone judge you about it for a few hours. And also killing dragons. What more could a theatre nerd want?

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Since moving, we have made it a point to still get together once a month to slay our monsters through the beauty of technology. I used to always contribute dessert to our get-togethers, and this week was no exception. Delicious little lemon sugar cookies, specially designed to assist with devastating monsters, from everybody likes sandwiches (she’s going to think I’m stalking her with how often I link to her recipes!) went through the mail and found their way to the battle map.

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See! There they are! Along with my super nerdy loot and hit points Excel spreadsheet.

While my loved ones and fellow adventurers enjoyed their cookies, I settled in with my spell list…

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…and some wine (are we noticing a pattern here?)

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…and tore up some Skinwalkers! And various other sundry baddies.

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And it was awesome. There’s a little lost in the translation, but what always makes these evenings so great — the friends, the jokes, the joy of the experience — is all still there. I can’t wait until next month.