I Live! Starting Character Monday

It’s been a crazy time. I kinda forgot about this, but at the suggestion of friends I’m joining in on Character Monday! It’s where you talk about a character from a story that you work on, and give information as to them both for your own benefit and for readers. It should be fun!

Let’s kick this off with a character from my novel, “Home”, named Seera. Oh how I love Seera.

Name: Seerasinosa of clan Zik’tal, Seera for short

Canon: Home

Role: Main Character

Age: Young Teen/Teenager

Appearance: Seera is a bit small for her age, and quite slim. Of course that means she’s still the size of a small horse, but that’s what you get when you’re a dragon. As a dragon she possesses a straight tail, with an overlay of tailfeathers, and a streamlined head and wings. Her wings are a dusky brown color, while her body is of a more tan shade. She tends to hide behind things at this stage in her life, due to circumstances.

Occupation: Does trying to survive mass genocide count? However, she will eventually be a fighter.

Background: Seera grew up with her clan and parents on the shoreline of a vast forested and mountain-spined continent that is the start of Home. This clan is well known to the two main characters though they didn’t know Seera had been born and was growing up. At the start of the story Seera is found captured after having witnessed the violent deaths of her whole clan and being force impregnated by the soldiers of the main antagonist. Her true story begins when they break free.

Personality: Seera was very much a funloving little dragonling, and excelled at swimming. Indeed, other dragons aren’t sure they’ve seen a better swimmer. She lives for it, when she can. She has a bubbly and a bit random of a personality when she lets it shine through the scars forced upon her. However those scars make her, at first, timid and uneasy around others for fear not of them, but of their loss. In time though she begins to demonstrate a strength borne out of the pain she has endured.

Inciting Idea: I wanted a character that would both look up to the main characters but eventually be able to stand on her own. I also wanted a character who had a deeply personal reason to hate the antagonist, which is why her backstory is, I admit, rather ugly in nature. While I know this can lead to Mary Sue-ism, Seera has and will continue to grow into her own two feet, making her story not just what happened to her, but what she does to move beyond it.

Conflict: With the antagonist set on a mass-genocide of anything not human, in his quest to steal the power of all demigods to make himself a god, Seera has to constantly battle him and his forces. However, within the groups struggling to counter and simply survive, word gets out that Seera and the other two main characters are in fact the ones who are believed to end him, and become embroiled in political/personal squabbles there. Additionally, Seera will have to decide what to do about her eggs and eventual young, when she does give birth, which strikes a huge internal struggle. These forces will play out over the coming chapters.

Why you should want to read her story: Seera is someone you would want to read about to see the overcoming of personal fears and learning to face them head on, even when odds seem insurmountable.

Any questions for Seera? She’d love to answer!

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Dream Homes and Futures

Been a while since my last update. So… I’ll talk about something that’s been weighing on my mind.

I have a habit. Some might call it a bad habit, of browsing homes. I love to read about them and look at them and such. Home improvement shows intrigue me no end. It doesn’t help that I found Zillow Real Estate Search’s app for my ipad and that’s been a constant toy when I want to look at something.

A few weeks ago I found this house and oh, boy. It’s making me dream.

Bit of backstory: For those that don’t know, I want a house in the country someday. It’s one of my few ‘big’ dreams. But I have serious concerns with getting a house and for the most part am adamantly ‘anti-house’ for myself right now. I’ll explain in a bit.

Now on to the house. It’s a log cabin (yay) modified A-frame (YAY) chalet (OMG) style home. 3 stories counting the open ground floor/basement, with 3 beds, 2.5 baths, and a pair of fireplaces and LOTS of deck space. It’s a few miles from my current residence outside a small community called “Houlton”. It’s in Wisconsin, but I’m sure I could adjust to living in traitor land! (Diehard Minnesotan/Viking, GO!) It’s a foreclosure and would need a bit of work, but nothing too drastic I think. Lot size is about 85,000 square feet and the home is 2800 square feet. The cost? While the land and home are valued at 251k, the whole kit and kaboodle is for sale for… 159k.

If I applied for a mortgage that might seriously be in my range.

This scares me on some levels. I’m very concerned with getting a house for three reasons. The first and most obvious/practical is “Can I afford this, keep it up, and all that is required?” No surprise there, I think that’s a fear of every potential homeowner. The second is a bit more intangible. Buying a home is a serious commitment, and it makes me think of other commitments I might some day make. What about a future spouse? Adopting kids? What if I need to take care of relatives after something? But primarily the spouse thing. Buying a home intended just for yourself gives you a LOT different requirements than if you are getting a house for you and someone else. The kinds of rooms, floor plan, spacing, where to live… these are huge things to take into consideration. And this ties into the third… if I’m getting a house, I’m doing it -once-. I don’t intend to move ever again if I can help it, so I want to get the one I want, and get it the first time. So this makes the getting a house choice, tied with spousal considerations. Either they’d have to move in with me or it’d be a source of strain.

I don’t know if I’m even close to willing to make that concession, because if I were to get this house (which is, essentially, in the category of ‘dream homes’ for me) it’d mean I’m reducing the likelihood of finding a spouse who’d go with me. (And before you guys comment on “well they’ll like you for you”, homes are a HUGE part of life living with someone, and it would be an issue -eventually-. But I understand what you mean.)

It’s a bit stressful. I’m going to be seeing family this weekend and plan to discuss some of this with them and get their input, because they’re a hell of a lot wiser than I am on this sort of stuff and I rely a lot on their experience. But don’t tell them that, it’ll go right to their heads! Haha.

One thing that I know will come up is “Why not take in roommates?” And while that’s a good idea, I don’t think it’s for me. I’ve tried it in college and it never worked out well, and I am someone who values his privacy. So I’m not sure, heh.

I’m hoping those of you with homes yourselves, whom have been through this, might have some thoughts you’d be willing to share with me. I’m very open to listening, and anyone is welcome to drop me a line.

Odd, how seeing this has made me just sigh and so badly want something I never thought I would at this stage. It may sound silly, but I’d be lying if I said otherwise; a home like this for me is honestly more important a priority to me in my life right now than a spouse or girlfriend or anything of the sort is.

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Tweetdeck and the Infamous “Internal Server Error” Login Bug

Like many people out there I use Tweetdeck to access my Facebook and Twitter feeds for my accounts. And like those same people for several days I’ve been hit with a bug that, whenever I restart the browser and attempt to log in, I see a message that goes “Internal Server Error” and I can’t log in. This stretches across OSes, browsers, and between the browser clients and website version.

Fortunately this morning I discovered a fix, at least for the website version! All you have to do is go into your cookies and delete any tweetdeck related cookies. For example, I had “tweetdeck.com”, “www.tweetdeck.com”, and “web.tweetdeck.com”. Deleting all those managed to remove the error from the web version.

I’m sure this is the same problem with at least the Chrome browser app version but I am unable to get into those local storage files and find out. If someone does have that knowledge please let me know and I’ll add it to this!

Hopefully this helps others who, like me, were frustrated by the lack of a working Tweetdeck client.

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Capturing Life

It’s never been any secret I like taking pictures. When I at least remember to pull out the camera that is! On vacations I often get handed other family member’s cameras to take shots for them, and I enjoy it. Over a two week vacation for example I along with my mother and sister collectively took around 3500 pictures, about 2500 of which were ones I had taken spread across four cameras.

However, it’s been quite some time since I’ve owned a straight camera. My last three have all met the same fate; the fate of a broken screen. Fortunately none of them were terribly expensive but having a dedicated (and quality) camera is something I’ve missed. I’ve taken almost all pictures lately on my HTC Droid Incredible. And while it has an 8MP sensor, it’s not the best camera in the world at all. Merely mediocre. So I felt that, given my enjoyment of photography and my desire for something able to take quality pictures it was time to step up to a DSLR camera.

This morning after months of research and weeks of decision making, I have made that leap.

I am getting a Canon EOS Rebel T2i. While it’s not the newest T3i model, the newer features (a few minor enhancements, tiny changes here and there) just weren’t enough to justify it. The core features between the two are the same, including the sensors, which as I’ve read is one of the most important factors. As well it’ll run Magic Lantern, which has some nice features should I decide to get into HD video (which this camera will do)!

Of course a camera is only as good as its lenses. To go with it I’m getting a kit lens which is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens, and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto lens. Both are beginner lenses, but while being beginner lenses they do not sacrifice on quality in the process as some of the kit and other entry level lenses do. And they have image stabilization which will be nice for Mr. Not-The-Steadiest-Of-Hands here. Additionally to go with it I got a macro tube extension. For starters I think that should do okay; eventually I intend to get a fixed focal length 50mm lens and I’d like to find either lenses or quality adapters for fisheye, widescreen, and true macro shots. But those will come later; after I’ve had a chance to get used to the camera. And this is just for beginner stuff; I’ll wait on the higher end until I get serious about my photography. (Though some of those Luxury Canon lenses are mouth watering, that’s fore sure!)

Of course I got some extra essentials to go with it. Not-so-special things like a decent carrying case and a high speed SD card for it; along with the top rated book on Amazon for photography which is titled “Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition”. It looks like it could be a really nice book and I can’t wait to read it.

And for the photography itself I got a few more extras; including a decent little UV filter from Tiffen (it’s cheap but had good reviews), a wireless shutter for taking more kinds of shots without disturbing the camera, a pair of spare batteries that’ll be useful on long trips, and Dolica’s 62″ Proline tripod with ball joint head that can ‘flip around’ for macro photography. I don’t have a nice flash yet (I want to get the Canon Speedlite 430EX II) nor a few other minor things like lens hoods and different filters, but they’ll be coming in the months to come since most of them are very reasonably priced. I’ve also read several little guides to help understand just some of the things I can do.

And of course I got them all at noticable savings. I’m not my aunt (whose bargain hunting skills have earned her the nickname Bargain Betty) but I did save anywhere from 30-70% off most of my purchase, which means I am getting a fairly quality kit for a not too drastic price.

I was nervous yesterday setting up the purchase in my cart and organizing the payment but as of today, having made it, I feel much better. Any time a large volume of money is spent it makes me wary but virtually every cent of this came from a mixture of holiday bonuses/presents and prior saving on my trips earlier this year. I also tell myself this is a long term investment of many years, so it will be worth while. It’s mostly working too! Because while I may upgrade my lenses slowly, it’s going to be a long process. Ideally I’d drool over the Luxury f/1.4 lenses, but at anywhere from $700-$2000 a piece they’re not reasonable for me. So instead I’ve got a few found that are F1.8 or F1.4 that aren’t the Luxury lenses for much more reasonable prices between $400-600 a piece that in upcoming years I may upgrade to. And of course I know to take VERY good care of this camera. It’ll be worth it.

I look forward to taking more chances at photography with this; and think it should be a very worth while investment into my hobbies and my future. Starting next week, watch out, another amateur photographer will be born!

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Food Post: Bacon Pumpkin Risotto

On Sunday I had a pleasant visit from family. We went out to eat and then stopped in a local chef/cooking store. In there we had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful chef and former Food Network cook, John Michael Lerma. He had made in the demo kitchen some bacon pumpkin risotto, and kindly invited us to sample it.

It was delicious, and I got the recipe from him. I wasn’t in the mood to make it last night; so I opted for tonight.

Bacon Pumpkin Risotto with fresh baked pumpkin seeds

It turned out fairly well, given it was my first time making pumpkins, and risotto, and seeds. I did find a few things that I think I’ll do differently the next time I make it but I’ll detail that below.

Baking Pumpkins

The first step was to get and bake some pumpkins. I picked up a pair of regular pie pumpkins at a special of 2 for $4. You really want pie pumpkins as the kind you get with carving are not nearly flavorful or meaty. They’re made to last well after being carved, not good in your pies or other dishes!

The trick is to slice them in half along the midline, into two pieces. Scoop out the seeds and guts, and set aside for later, then place them on a baking sheet (with tinfoil on it for good measure) and place in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for 45 minutes. It may take up to an hour however depending on the oven. Mine is a bit powerful so it was done at 45 minutes, and you’ll know it’s done when the pumpkin flesh just falls off the husk. If it doesn’t fall off the husk, it’s not ready, so stick it back in!

Once it’s baked pull it out and let it cool; then peel and cut up. I put mine into sandwich bags, which made about 2 cups each bag. 2 pumpkins for me made about 12 cups, so you’ll have plenty.

Pumpkin Seeds

The next easiest step is the pumpkin seeds. While the pumpkin is baking, you can separate the seeds from the stringy guts of the pumpkin. I put mine into a fine-metal strainer and ran it under cold water, using that to pull the seeds out. A few times back and forth and I got prettymuch all the guts out.

In a pan with size I put some aluminum foil but it’s not necessary; however some olive oil or veggie oil should be spread in a thin layer across the bottom. Layer the seeds in one flat layer, sprinkle liberally with ground sea salt/kosher salt, and then into the oven it goes! It should take about 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees once more, so if you left your oven on it’s easy to do the seeds after baking the pumpkins. If you time it right you can just pop out the pumpkins, pop in the seeds, and by the time you’re ready to dice the pumpkins you’ll have seeds ready!

Pull the seeds out, let them cool a bit, and then munch away.

Now, on to the main dish.

Close up of bacon pumpkin risotto.

Bacon Pumpkin Risotto

This is a bit more involved, so let’s start with the recipe list:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups diced cooked pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 liters (3 cans) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 4-6 strips bacon (depending how much bacon you want)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon pure ground cinnamon
  • olive oil
  • pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish and topping

The first step is to pull out a pan and cook up the bacon. Get it to a point where you’re comfortable with its doneness but it will still crumble — that’s important! Once the bacon is done tamp it dry with some paper towels and crumble it. Set aside for later.

While the bacon is cooking take the stock and empty it into a pot. Bring it up to just below a boil; before it boils turn it down to a simmer. We want to keep it nice and warm.

In the pan with the bacon drippings put the garlic and onion. Cook it for a few minutes, about 3-4 at most, until it starts browning. Stir very frequently, almost constantly. Into the pan add the olive oil, pumpkin, and rice. Sear for 1 minute on a medium-high heat, then add the wine if you are adding it. I did! Cook in the pan until the wine is all absorbed, stirring constantly. While you’re stirring add the cinnamon and pepper.

Now comes the fun part: The stock you’ve got nice and warm and simmering? Spoon in a ladle full. Stir and keep cooking it until all the stock is absorbed. Continue this over and over again until the stock is used up! (But if you get near the end and a taste test shows the rice is firm but not soggy it’s done. “Al dente” I believe is what it’s formally called, and that’s okay.)

During this process the pumpkin will simmer down some; mixing and blending with the rice. This is one thing I think I might do differently is put the pumpkin in a separate pan and sear it there while I cook up the rice. It was still delicious, but not -quite- the same as I had seen John Michael Lerma’s be in color and consistency. Well practice makes perfect!

At this point the risotto should be just about done. Remove it from the heat and serve onto plates, with crumbled bacon and finely minced parsley on top. This should make 2-4 servings, depending on the appetites of those dining.

Backed up view of bacon pumpkin risotto.

All in all it took me a little over two and a half hours to bake the pumpkins, seeds, and the risotto. It was scrumptious and I look forward to when I can try it again!

If anyone has any questions about the recipe, preparation, or other thoughts please feel free to comment.

I think next week with the leftover pumpkin I might try to make a pumpkin chowder or bisque of some type. And with what remains after that point I’ll save for Thanksgiving and make a real pumpkin pie to take to the family dinner. That should be a treat!

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The Pony Pair Generator

Well, I managed to get myself bored one night and, to alleviate it, I whipped up a strange and silly little toy. Being a brony and a fan of shipping (especially unusual ships) I thought “Why not come up with something to play to both loves?”

And so was born the Pony Pair Generator. It allows users to configure whatever ponies and combinations they want in the ponies.xml file then have them be used in the generator. Additionally, the generator adds some fun little options for randomizing gender or all variables! Variables include age, species, and gender. And eventually maybe more if there’s some interest!

This is made to run with the .NET 4 Framework which generally needs to be installed from Microsoft. You can find it here!

The Pony Pair Generator is available here for the time being.

Thanks everypony!

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Mini Media Centers; Or: The Feather Mage Gets Bored.

I have had for a while now an older netbook that hasn’t had a purpose. It’s an original Dell Mini 9 gotten several years ago when they first came out. The specs are all right; nothing to laugh about given the time frame but hardly notable today. Containing an Atom N270 at 1.6Ghz, 1GB of RAM, a 16GB Intel SSD, and a small 1024×600 screen it worked as my primary laptop through many of my college years.

However there came a time around two years ago where my faithful little Kishtat (the name of the computer) decided working wasn’t going to be in his repertoire of tricks. More specifically, his battery went and died on me! Since the netbook was all of $400, and a new battery would be at least $100 from Dell not including shipping I let him gather dust. I had initially intended to turn him into a wall mounted LCD picture frame but never actually got around to that actual task, lacking a shadow box to tear the chassis apart and stuff into.

This changed earlier this week, on Monday in fact. I had been doing some cleaning in my desk and happened across him and my other antique laptop (a story for another time) and decided to think what I could do with him. Then it came to me! I love having movies in the background when I’m at home, working on my desk. I practically live at this giant hunk of metal and wood, and it’s in my living room as part of the main living space decor. This puts it smack dab in line to see my television and sound system. But I often have to turn the sound up for it just to hear louder than I like, and having a 47″ screen running to have something in the background is inefficient. So Kishtat could become a desktop based media center for running movies!

(A bit of background: My TV often streams netflix, music, or movies from my media shares thanks to a hacked Apple TV2 running XBMC. This is how it is capable of doing all that above.)

With that goal in mind I started planning. I knew I would use XBMC simply because it fit all the goals I wanted, and has functioned great for me on all my computers and my Apple TV2 for well over a year now. The question was could it run on the hardware I have, especially since I do have some HD 1080p and plenty 720p content?

Well it worked. I took two reinstalls of Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal, and a bit of hacking, but I was able to get a functioning command line system up. Networking took a LOT of fighting to get wireless up and running with Broadcom B43xx drivers, but eventually I was also able to get the little devil to work with those too. And finally I was able to get XBMC Live up and running on it, so that XBMC launches automatically with the start of the netbook. With that done Kishtat was rechristened “MiniXBMC”. Testing showed that SD content played just fine through the netbook media center, and HD content was able to stream just fine. However the CPU was maxed doing this, and I think there were two stutters, but whether that was from streaming wireless or from cpu utilization remains to be seen.

And one task remained. Getting a spot for MiniXBMC on my desk.

With a desk crowded by storage units, speakers, a full size LCD, a 15″ laptop, a 13″ laptop, a lamp, an ipad, an ipod touch, a phone, three remotes, a tablet, a portable Superdrive, and now a 10″ netbook. Plus books and whatever ELSE I have at the time. Needless to say, not a daunting task.

I could describe how I did it, but I’d rather show you.

So here we can see the desk; clean for once. I removed the biggest storage unit because I hardly ever get anything out of it and moved it inside a desk drawer since it fits. The lap is usually on but it’s just too bright for my camera phone. (Sorry if the pictures are a bit blurry!)

The Desk, Hidden Media Center

Only one problem: Where IS that media center? I thought the whole purpose was to put it on the desk!

However a few of you clever eyed folks might have spotted something under the tablet. Something under the tablet? What could it be?

Close Up of Tablet
The Media Center Exposed

If you guessed the netbook, you’d be correct. (Let’s face it, I suck at this game, you ALL guessed it I’m sure.) It fits perfectly under the tablet which makes the mouse sit level with my Ideapad’s keys, which is very nice. With the tablet off there’s still easy reach to use the mouse or tablet, and MiniXBMC becomes exposed. Flipping up the screen does block the LCD, but the LCD actually can raise up which does wonders. So when it’s all set up and hooked up, it looks something like this!

The Full Media Center Desk
Media Center Closeup
The Desk Overview

The best part about this is that the media center netbook is also an airplay source for my iOS devices and computers, allowing me to pump my music/streamed videos to it as well. Additionally my phone, computers, and iOS devices can control the media centers (both TV and netbook, plus the ones that are installed onto all my laptop devices) as well from anywhere within the same network. So being able to use my ipod touch as a remote really makes it really special. Below you can see me picking out a movie on it. (I went with Kung Fu Panda.)

Ipod Touch Remote

And one final shot of the book that was on my desk, since I know a few of you will be interested. It’s a very interesting book, I’m enjoying it. It’s called “The War For Children’s Minds.”

The War For Children's Minds

And now that I’ve satisfied my geek needs for the night, I think I’m going to go catch up on my nightly dose of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Yeah, I’m a brony, and proud of it! But I hope you all enjoyed my geeking out and proving I have way too much desire to play with tech things.

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The Joys of Productivity

I haven’t forgotten about here! Oh good heavens no.

It’s been quite the delay, but the long and short of it is it’s been extremely busy for me. First was preparing for my vacation, then the vacation, and for the last few weeks now it has been a massive project at work, along with the prep work to move the company to its new location.

I’m working on sorting pictures as well, to upload them. Additionally in my free time I’m helping the MNFurs group, checking up on stuff to help the Geek Partnership Society, debating what kind of apps to make for iPad/iPod Touch, and taking part in Camp NaNo, which is basically a mini NaNoWriMo in July. In fact once I finish this that is what I am going to work on! I should be at 15,000 words or so by the end of tonight, to be caught up. I doubt I’ll hit that, but I should hit 12.5 or 13k which puts me in range of catching up tomorrow.

I’ll probably start posting them once I’ve got proof readers!

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Mother’s Day

We all have a mother in our lives, and today is their day. And mothers are wonderful, because they are part of what makes life such a joy to live.

A mother is many things. A mother is caring, a mother is kind. A mother protects, but also helps her children to stand on their own two feet to someday, hopefully, be just as powerful a parent as she was. A mother doesn’t have to have genetic children to be a mother either. Being a mother is more than just those you’ve given birth to.

My own mother has been a continuing inspiration in my life. She works her whole life to make the lives of others better. She’s a nurse. She has dedicated her professional life to not just caring for her own children and her family, but those that find themselves in need of protection and care. It’s not just at work either. At home she has been a part of helping take in kids that we have known whom haven’t had the best home lives, and watched over them. She made sure they could help connect with their real parents, and in the end I believe they became better people as a result. And for me, she has always been there. She’s cheered every success, consoled at every downfall, and never ever once let me forget that there is nothing beyond my reach, nor how special I am. There have been rough times, like in any relationship, but I would not be who I am without her loving support my whole life.

There is also my stepmother. She also worked as a nurse, and had two daughters of her own. I didn’t meet her until I was grown but she has grown to be just as important in my life. She listens to my struggles and loves to hear about all the work I do. Nothing makes her happier than when the kids come around, and we sit down to share a meal together, laughing, joking, and spending time with one another. She loves my dad, and while that doesn’t always include a spouse’s children in later-in-life marriages she accepted my sister and I with open arms and an open heart. Through her I have had the chance to meet two wonderful people in the forms of my stepsisters, Kristina and Kendra. They’ve become great friends to me as well, and she has showed me more love and compassion than I had thought possible. And today is also for her.

Today is also for my two stepsisters, each of whom are either a mother or a soon to be mother. They’ve taken it upon themselves to take up that mantle, to carry the responsibility. My stepsister Kendra has risen to be the best mother I could imagine for my niece, Lexi, and shown her true mettle and strengths in taking care of her daughter. And my other stepsister Kristina is working to be a mother soon; and from her personality, her love and affection she will also be a fantastic mother. Today is for them, too, the new and prospective mothers.

Mothers are in many ages too. I have had the privileges of having not two but four absolutely wonderful grandmothers, and while two are no longer here, each of them shaped my life. They provided love, the teases, and the much needed candy and hugs that only grandmas can give. I love each of them in their own special way and today is for them. Unfortunately I’m not able to make it to the memorial service for my one grandma today, but she is in my thoughts and prayers nonetheless, as is my other deceased grandma. And my love goes out today to both my remaining grandmas, who deserve the love just as much as everyone else.

At this time too there are many friends of mine with children. Who are young mothers, new mothers, growing their lives in so many ways. Each of them is a sign of courage and inspiration.

Never forget all the mothers in your lives. From the little things to the great things, they are what helps make the world go ’round.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Taking a Hike

Over the weekend I decided to do some local exploring, especially since the weather has been so nice! So after a bit of debating I got myself dressed up in my hiking gear (including my new survival knife) and went out.

The first stop was a rest point right around the St. Croix Boomsite. It was pretty neat — I’d never been there and it has some really nice history. The waters were up and I was able to take some fun pictures. I talked with an old gal about how the flooding seemed to be this year, and a couple who were playing with their dog down by the water. After investigating the area thoroughly, I got back in my car and continued driving.

After about fifteen minutes of drive, (With windows down and music up, just how I like it) I made it to William O’Brien State Park for the first time. It’s a really nice state park, campground, and nature area! I drove around the “Savannah” part of the campground which is atop the bluffs with some really neat woods and grasslands around it. They also had a giant solar array for power, which I thought was simply fantastic. Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures of there as my phone was dying, and I came there last, but it was a nice area.

The most time was spent around the lower part of the campground, known as the Riverway campground. I got down and walked around, out along Lake Alice which is a lake just barely disconnected from the river there, along the fishing piers, and examined how flooded it was. It was pretty impressive, made moreso as I went along the trails. Both trailheads were flooded (one rather severely, in one of the pictures you can see just the top of a park bench, I’ll leave it to you to find which ones have that shot!) but most of the trails were above water. However the islands in the river were submerged! It was impressive.

The waters were flowing fast, but the wildlife was out in force regardless. I saw a racoon, woodpeckers, chickadees, robins, starlings, herons, a bald eagle (not the one I mistook for a heron either at first), chipmunks, and squirrels everywhere. They were enjoying the warmth too. The sounds were fantastic.

There were a lot of people out too, including many like me who forded the floodwaters to hike the trail. I got to talk with some neat people, and even helped a family with three little girls find a way around the deep floodwaters. I was wearing my thermal marine socks and my heavy duty hiking boots, plus I had a walking stick, so I volunteered to find a way through the mud so they could take a path without getting dirty. It was really fun!

So yackity yack, I’ve talked enough! Where are the pictures?

The pictures are right here, and you can find the four videos I took (thank gods for HD video phones) on my Youtube page.

I hope you enjoy! 🙂

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