Looking Forward to DragonCon!

This time last year, I was a mess. I was finishing up the second of two classes I took over the summer. I was struggling to make ends meet financially, and, because I took summer classes, my financial aid was distributed differently than previously and I owed the university money for fall. And, our friends were not going to be able to make it to DragonCon. While I was looking forward to DragonCon, it was with about the least amount of enthusiasm I’d ever had. I didn’t pack any costumes. I had no money to go get anyone’s autograph. I did end up putting together an Arthur Dent from what I had packed at one point, but that was as close as I got to cosplaying. I was burned out, and DragonCon did not help with that much.

This year, it’s completely different! I have done nothing over the summer. Well, that’s not completely true. I’ve been studying, working on my CPAC presentation, making a costume, finishing another, and picking away at dissertation things. But, I’ve been taking time to do nothing, to relax. So I’m nowhere near burned out. I also have no financial problems this year, thanks to some scholarship money and employment for the school year. Which means I can add at least David Tennant and Catherine Tate to my 500 Year Diary, as well as get Farscape autographs, among other things. But, the best thing right now? Our friends are able to make it!

A little context. These friends are why we first went to DragonCon in 2010 (yes, this is our 10th DragonCon!!). For those ten DragonCons, they have been at 8 of them. They have become a part of DragonCon for us. Even if the only time we see them is in the room, they are an important part of the experience for us. So it is going to be so awesome to have them there again!

Thanks to my relaxation and recuperation this summer (and our friends coming!), I have 4 costumes that I am really looking forward to wearing. I have my Wafuku Tenth Doctor for Friday (when I’m planning to camp out in line for David Tennant if necessary), Death as Didi for Monday, and my Star Trek Fangirl and Pirogoeth, my first D&D character, for Saturday and Sunday. Since I don’t know the schedule yet, I don’t know which day I’ll be wearing which costume. I’d like to be my Fangirl when I meet George Takei, but when I meet him depends on when I’m presenting at the conference. I need to be able to get out of whatever costume and into non-costume for my presentation.

In two weeks, I’ll be at DragonCon, enjoying my yearly 5-day geek vacation. I can’t wait!

Good Decisions, Feeling Good!

I have been working this summer to make more decisions that are good for me in any way I can. I’m working on better study and research habits. But today, I focused on myself.

I’ve been trying to be more conscious about my fluids intake today. I’m not consistently good about drinking enough for my body. It’s amazing what a difference a glass of water can make. So far I’m up to around 12oz of iced green tea that I cold brewed overnight, and I’m about halfway through my third 12 oz glass of water. For the day! I’ve been allowing myself to snack according to little ideas rather than get a glass of water and then see if I’m still hungry. Not a great habit for me. It’s really helping today. No snacks yet. I may have a small salad later, but maybe not.

Yesterday I decided to pull down a “cookbook” my cousins-in-law gave me years ago, How to Cook Without a Book. While it does contain recipes, they’re more variations on the theme of the chapter. The idea of the book is to gain skills and techniques so you can cook up meals without needing to reach for a recipe. Since I tend to cook without recipes, this works really well for me. Both last night and tonight, I used her pasta and veggie technique. So delicious and simple and light and refreshing.

But, before I get into details, I made a decision before that so I could make my delicious dinner. I needed to get a few groceries and realized that I’d be just heading around the corner to Kroger for everything. As I headed out the front door, I reached for my car key. And I paused. I wanted to take a walk or jog today. I feel like I’ve been too sedentary lately. I put my key back and decided to walk up and back. It was so worth it. It was nice to get up and move. It was relaxing. It was nice to get away from the TV for a bit. And it saved me gas and frustrations of driving when it’s not far at all. Unless I am getting something that needs to get home asap, I’m just going to walk up when I need it. There’s no point in driving. At least while the weather is nice.

Hopefully I’m getting started on some better habits for myself. Now to get back to the academic stuff!

Relaxing, decompressing, self-care

This summer (all just over 1 month of it) I have been trying to get work done for my dissertation and upcoming preliminary exams. But I keep getting distracted by TV and costumes. Some of the TV stuff and all of the costume stuff has been stuff that I’ve been putting off to take care of things for school.

Up until today, I’ve been feeling guilty over this. Today, I realized that I shouldn’t. Yes, I go onto Facebook and see how much work my friends are putting in over the summer. But I need to have these outlets now. I need to take the time to truly relax for my own sanity. It’s not that I don’t watch TV during the school year, but there’s always something else I really should be doing for class.

Right now, I have a little bit of time to take for myself. So I’m not going to feel guilty over using supplies I already have to finish up some costumes I’ve been planning for years. I’m not going to feel guilty over watching TV. But, I do need to keep working on getting things read.

Seeing as this fall I start the less structured part of the Ph.D. process, I am going to start working on being able to balance taking time for myself and doing work for school. I’ve tried many times before to create a schedule for myself. All it does it make me feel guilty when I don’t follow it. I’m just going to set goals for myself for school and make sure I meet them before I go to bed. I’m really hoping it will give me the guidance I need with the flexibility to go “off schedule” when I feel the need. Like right now, writing this!

It’s all about finding what works for you. Everyone functions differently. Never be ashamed of that.

Back to Aldi!

Since around 3rd or 4th grade, my Mom did all the grocery shopping for the family (of four) at Aldi. It’s part of why I love reusable bags and self-checkout lanes. She would actually get most of the groceries put in the crate and bags as they got rung up so we barely had to pack anything before heading out. But that was back when they rang everything up by hand. They’re too fast for that now.

The Aldi logo

Anyway. I had been trying to incorporate Aldi in our grocery routine, but things just kept not happening. They don’t have everything that we need – for one reason or another – so we would end up at other stores, and slowly Aldi would fall out of rotation. Or we would head out to go grocery shopping after they closed for the day and we couldn’t go.

Now, I’m working Aldi back into my grocery habit. Which is taking a little bit of work. We have a pretty nice Kroger across the way, which is really convenient. Well, convenient for time, not for my wallet. Also, now that my hubby is at work later and I’m actually home every day, I get to eat whatever I want for dinner four days a week! I get to have broccoli or green beans or almost any other green vegetable that you can cook! I can have chicken as much as I want! I can eat what I want when I’m hungry for it!

But I still have the same grocery budget and the same space in fridge, freezer, and pantry for my food. Just this week, I’ve made two trips to Aldi to pick up a few things to help me get through the week and I’ve spent less than $15 total. I’ve bought a whole chicken, a dozen eggs – in a paper carton, not Styrofoam!!!! – a carton of organic milk, a pack of three zucchini, pasta sauce, and a box of rotini. If I had gone anywhere else, I would have definitely spent over $15 for all of that. Even better, some of that will be carried over into next week, reducing my cost!

If you’re married to specific brands, you’re not going to be able to get everything at Aldi. But, it is a great place to get your staples taken care of, and possibly some other things, reducing your overall grocery cost. Also, Aldi has been working to have more and more organic and healthy options at their lower costs, making it even easier to stay on budget!

Almost done

Tomorrow is when my final two assignments for the semester are due. Tomorrow by 2:30p, I will have finished my coursework for my PhD. Not only is the semester almost done, but I am almost done with this part of my studies. It’s both scary and exciting at the same time.

Once I finish this semester, until I find the time and money to take one last class to finish my certificate, everything is going to be about the dissertation. This summer means focusing on my prospectus and preparing for preliminary exams. Prelims take up the first half-ish of the semester, followed by the prospectus defense. The goal is to be ABD (all but degree) by spring semester next year.

Part of me can’t believe I’m finishing my fourth year of graduate school. One approach I am trying to take with all of this is drawing from a friend’s perspective on this whole thing called grad school: I get to do this. I get to write about Hamilton and why it has become this global phenomenon. With the exception of the prelims, I’m trying to remind myself that I get to write about stuff instead of I have to write about stuff. It does help.

Picture reads:
Today, my professor said something that entirely reframed my thinking about grad school: "how lucky are we to have two whole hours just to discuss ideas, when everyone else is working?"
Grad school is hard- so hard- but I'm so fortunate to be able to do this.

That is the thing I am going to miss the most about this process. Getting to sit around a table or in a classroom with other graduate students and our professor and talk for 3 hours. It has helped me understand the readings we have so much. And, I have made wonderful friends in the process.

Despite having to constantly find a new job for the school year, a job for the summer, and budgeting my student loan money so I can do my research and present it at conferences, I would not have changed things for the world. It is definitely worth it.

Hooked on a new tea

So, as you all know, I love my Adagio teas. But, while I was in NYC, I was introduced to Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger tea. I was hooked at the first cup. There was something about the combination of ingredients in this herbal tea that created such an intriguing taste. It’s bold, deep, rich, and I can’t get enough!

When I got back home, I started checking the shelves for it so I could make it at home. Despite being a signature tea of the brand, no one around me carried it. I was so frustrated. So when I was in Columbus on Friday, I decided to search on their site to see where it was sold there. Thankfully Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, and Raisin Rack all carry it. After I was done with my grocery shopping, I made a beeline for the nearest Whole Foods and got two boxes – it was on sale – allowing me to keep one box at home and take one to work.

Best decision ever! I haven’t wanted to have any of the raspberry tea I had been habitually drinking before the trip. It’s getting me to drink more fluids that have no sugar in them. And I’m pretty sure the ingredients are agreeing with my body because I’m feeling so good! I’m on my second cup at work today. It’s so easy to make and drink. I think I found another habit I can keep going and not give up on!

Loving my B.O.G.s!

Like I said earlier, I am working on changing habits of mine for the better. One thing I realized was how out of whack my eating habits were for my body. I’ve been more conscious about my portions, and I’ve been feeling so much better! I’ve been eating less but not feeling hungry. And if I am, I listen to it and try to figure out the best way to satisfy that hunger. I’m also not beating myself up over any time I overeat. It doesn’t help anything. Like, last week I picked up a box of chocolate-filled Pączki. I had never seen chocolate Pączki before! I had two of them that day. I really shouldn’t have, but I did. So what!

One other thing that I knew I needed to change was to get more greens in my diet again. At first, I just picked up a package of salad from the store. It worked, but, as usual, I was having to pick out the good pieces and throw out the ones that were going bad each time I wanted a salad. I am getting so tired of it. So I decided to make a change.

On Friday, I was down in Columbus to pick up my comics and I decided to do some grocery shopping. I took advantage of the wonderful variety of fresh greens available to me to build a salad mixture that doesn’t get stuffed into a plastic container. I bought green leaf lettuce, kale, and a container of baby arugula. I also picked up some avocados and fresh limes and lemons. Up until now, I had relied on the little plastic limes and lemons to squeeze that juice on my salads. But I decided to try fresh lemon and I was in love. It’s so much sweeter and is just so delicious. I’m not going back to those plastic limes and lemons anymore!

Once I got home, I got out my salad spinner, and put in about half the pack of arugula and saved the rest for next week. I chopped up the lettuce and added most of it in. Then I chopped up about half of the kale and finalized my mix. It is delicious! So much better than anything I could have bought. That is the basis of my B.O.G.s.

B.O.G. is my acronym for Bowl Of Greens. I’ll take two handfuls of my mix, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon over it, and drizzle some EVOO on top. That’s it. I used to think I needed more, especially cheese, on top, but I don’t!

Sometimes I do mix it up to make a meal out of it. I’ll take one handful of the mix, drizzle on a little EVOO, add a chopped up avocado – yes, an entire avocado – squeeze half a lime on top, and add a little pink salt. It’s delicious! That gives me a great balance and enough food to keep me full until dinner. And, it travels really well! I made one today, the first day back for the semester, and I am good. I haven’t had any cravings for a snack, but I know I’ll be ready for some dinner before class tonight. And, it’s bringing a whole new set of nutrients into my regular diet. I’ve only been enjoying my B.O.G.s for about a week, but I’m already feeling so much better. I think this is a habit I can keep going! I definitely won’t give up!

Don’t give up

I have always had trouble forming habits that help me out. I have created study schedules and rarely follow them. I buy healthy foods and end up eating highly processed flour and sugar. But I don’t give up. I do look at what didn’t work the last time and try something different – so it’s not insanity. But I don’t give up.

Last week I was in NYC for BroadwayCon. I was presenting my autoethnography about being a Hamilton fan. The con was Friday-Sunday. I stayed until Tuesday so I could do some exploration around NYC. That’s not the point of this post, though.

While I was there, I stayed with family. Family who welcomed me into their home, but didn’t fuss over me. They continued to live their lives around me and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was wonderful! They also have habits that I have been striving toward having for a while now.

For example: I did not see a single paper towel in their entire place. It was all cloth. It made me realize that it is really easy to live without paper towels. I’ve always been worried about staining towels and washcloths. I’ve been worried that using them will ruin them. I don’t know why. But spending almost a week without a roll of paper towels hanging around helped me to realize that it’s okay to use cloth towels, to let the washcloths get stained. That’s why they’re there! So, on my way home Thursday night, I decided to stop at Big Lots! and get some more. We have kitchen towels, but not many, and some of them aren’t great at actually getting things dry. I made sure the towels I picked up are 100% cotton so they’ll actually absorb things. I even picked up more washcloths to make sure we’d have plenty. I don’t think I’ve reached for a paper towel since then. Considering I was using them to dry my hands at every turn, this is a good thing. I’m not giving up.

Another habit I picked up while I was there was eating better. The way I am built, I know that I am never going to be considered “skinny.” And I’m fine with that. I just want to be happy with the person I see in the mirror. My hubby loves me no matter what I look like, which is wonderful. But I want to loose weight. I want to be slimmer and healthier in my own opinion. I know I have a family history of diabetes linked to weight. I want to avoid that. While I was in NYC, I was definitely walking more than usual, but I was also eating in ways that made me feel better. It’s not that I had banned myself from eating certain things. I had banana bread multiple times from Starbucks, along with various teas. I had Snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies at their place. It was more about portions than contents. I was eating enough to satisfy my hunger, not eating until I couldn’t eat anymore. Or eating so there wouldn’t be leftovers.

I noticed it during the trip, but it’s come into sharper relief when I got home. So many things are not meant for only two people to eat. And I’m not the greatest about eating leftovers. Also, when the two people prefer different portion sizes, it leads to leftovers. I’m still working on how to deal with that. But when it comes to my lunches, when I’m the only one eating, I’m working on it. I’m not giving up.

One of the most important things I learned while I was gone is that I have not been drinking enough, especially water. I’ve been drinking Gold Peak raspberry tea cut 1:1 with their unsweetened tea for a bit now. Usually, I have been drinking it to get that bit of sweet and keep me from drinking Pepsi. But, while I was gone, I didn’t have it with me. And I didn’t miss it. I was drinking water or Red Zinger or tea from Starbucks. It made me realize that I don’t need it. I don’t need that source of sugar – and it is sugar, not HFCS. It helped me remember to make use of the many, many teas I have at home for those times when I don’t want just a glass of water. I even took a travel mug in to the office so I would drink more tea there. I’m not giving up.

It looks like I’ve found my mantra for this year: “Don’t give up.” I’m not. Even the smallest changes build up to the big ones. Be patient. Something will work, even if it’s not the whole thing.

What I learned from DragonCon: 2018 edition

This is so late! I didn’t realize I hadn’t published it!

Another year, another CPAC, another DragonCon.

Every year is different. Every year I make a different experience for myself. It’s not simply a case of different programming each year or different guests. Part of the joy of DragonCon is there is so much happening at any given moment during the con (yes, all 5 days) that you can craft your own unique con experience. Here’s what I learned this year…

Pack a few costumes. I love making costumes. I love dressing up as characters from shows I love and wandering around cons in them. This year I decided not to pack any. I just wore my geeky t-shirts. One night I went out to meet up with my hubby to get some food. I was already in my Deadpool lounge pants instead of shorts. So I decided to throw on sandals, my TARDIS bathrobe, and grabbed a towel from the hotel bathroom. I was quickly recognized as Arthur and even struck up a conversation. It felt good. It reminded me that wearing costumes can indeed be fun. And just because no one says anything about it doesn’t mean they didn’t notice it and think about it. I did that constantly. So I’m going to make sure to pack some costumes as well as enough street clothes to have both options next year. Just because I pack the options, doesn’t mean I have to wear all of them.

Staying in the room is just fine. This has been a rough two weeks. Last week was the start of the semester as well as DragonCon and CPAC. I had planned to get up early on Sunday and get in line for the Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie panel to start my day. I decided sleep was better and took my time getting ready to head over for the Anne of Green Gables panel. After spending an hour wiping tears from my eyes (tears that are returning at the memory) being in the same room as my Anne, I decided to head back to the room. I ended up just hanging out in the room for most of the day. It felt good. I needed some self-care time. Just because you are at the con doesn’t mean you have to be out at it all the time. If you need to, take time for yourself. The point is to enjoy yourself.

Save money before you go. Through as series of annoyances that ate what little money I had left, I was broke for DragonCon. I mean that if I didn’t have a wonderful, caring husband, I wouldn’t have been able to go. I’m going to start setting aside a specific amount of money each month so when DragonCon 2019 rolls around I’ll have enough to at least eat if not have some spending money too.

Knitting Geek: Mark’s Scarf

December 24th, 9pm Eastern Standard Time. From here on in I shoot without a script. See if anything comes of it, instead of my old shit.

I have been a fan of Rent since I was introduced to it in 1997, my freshman year of high school. I have been trying to make a Mark scarf for a few years now. Last year I started to try to make one for BroadwayCon, but when I ended up not going, I ditched it. Well, I finally got it done, in time for BroadwayCon! And here’s the pattern:

Mark’s Scarf

Supplies:
Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport: Midnight Heather (MH) – 3 skeins, White (W) – 2 skeins
US5 straight needles

Pattern:
CO 50 MH
Knit in stockinette stitch for 28 rows.
Switch to W and continue for 28 rows.
Continue until you reach a total of 17 stripes.
Knit half a stripe of W (14 rows).
BO W.

Notes: Obviously, adjust for size. You don’t want the scarf to hang too low or hit too high up. Feel free to omit the white half stripe. The pictures don’t always show a white half stripe, so go with what version you want. Also, I used a slip stitch at the end of the rows for a more even edge.

Block out your scarf by soaking it in a sink of warm water and a small amount of mild soap for 5 minutes. Rinse it in cold water gently until the water runs clear. Be as gentle as possible while it is in the sink. Lay it out on a towel (layering as necessary) and roll it up to gently squeeze the excess water out without stretching the scarf. Unroll the towel and transfer the scarf to another towel, laid out the way you want it to look, and place it on a flat surface to dry. I use my ironing board because it allows air to move on both sides.

A dark blue and white striped scarf laid out across pillows and a couch to show length.

Add the fringe once your scarf is completely dry. Cut 4 18-inch lengths of MH yarn and place the tassel between the second and third stitches of the second row. Skip two stitches and do the same. Continue until you reach the end. Note: If this feels too crowded, you can space it out more. But the fringe on the scarves tends to be thick.
Do the same thing on the other end.

Dark blue and white striped scarf with long dark blue fringe wound so it is in fourths laying on a blue background.

You’re done! Go have fun and make money to pay your rent!!

The same scarf as above, but with the long fringe in the foreground, hanging off the edge of the couch, kind of blending in with the blue of the couch.