Saturday, November 14, 2015


I've decided to make some changes to the way I blog. Specifically, I'm splitting this existing blog into two blogs and then adding a third. Because one blog just isn't enough.

This blog (Geeker Joy) will remain my personal blog. I'll talk about the stuff I'm doing and goals I have. I might try some other things, along the lines of that 17% post from 2014. Who knows, really. Basically, this will remain the catch-all blog, where I can write about whatever enters my head. It will mostly be about my life. I'm toying with the idea of making this one private, but I'll let you know before I do that. And I'll make sure friends and family know how to get on the white list.

I'm splitting all of my book reviews off into a dedicated book review blog. It's called Bookish Thoughts and you can find it at I'm in the process of porting everything over to it now. It's taking me longer than I expected, because it turns out that Blogger enforces a 50 post/day limit. But I'm chugging along and should have that all set up within another week.

I'm hoping that the new book-only site will be somewhat more navigable. To that end I'm going back through and adding a bunch of tags to my old posts. You should be able to zero in on stuff by author, series, or genre, and I'll try to pull as much of that out as possible to make it easier. Doing that is creating some work for me now, but it should all run nice and smooth with minimal effort on my part once it's up and running. If you're one of the people who cares what I have to say about all the books I read, you can check out that site (which will remain public). If you don't, the personal blog will now be less cluttered for your enjoyment.

The third blog I'm setting up is a writing blog. It's called Paper and Ink Dreams and you can visit it at I'm hoping to post some short stories and writing challenges over there. Mostly I want to get in the habit of writing for some amount of time every day. I want to hone my story-telling abilities. I want to start producing a mountain of work in the hopes that I will get better at writing fiction. I want to see where this goes.

For the time being, I'm revisiting some old projects. In high school, I was given an assignment to write a short story for each letter of the alphabet, memoir style. Those are currently being posted as a sort of baseline for me to see where I can improve and where my strengths are. And for you all to have a good laugh at 16-year old. Some of these stories are pretty melodramatic. It's fun.

Once that's all up, I'm going to dive back into my companion project - the college alphabet. I started this years ago when I first started the blog. I posted five stories and wrote drafts for six more before it all fell by the wayside. I'm going to start polishing those up and writing new ones. They'll start going up after the high school alphabet finishes posting. Depending on how far along I am, they may or may not be in alphabetical order.

At some point I'll look into daily writing prompts or creative writing challenges or something and start posting based off those prompts. Maybe I'll come up with another project for myself. Maybe I'll start writing actual short stories (as opposed to what I've been writing, which I believe qualifies as "flash fiction" or "drabbles"). We'll see where this goes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

30 Days of Yoga

I'm now three days in to a 30-day yoga challenge that I sort of fell into accidentally.

Since I quit going to the gym and paying for a personal trainer, I've been intending to work out more at home. This worked great for a little while. I was riding my bike to work and going for long rides on the weekends. But then summer happened and my desire to go outside went away. I lifted weights in our basement a few times, but nothing ever really stuck. It's too easy to have a beer with dinner or spend the night watching TV or reading instead.

With the house to myself, I decided to start looking into exercise videos available online. The thing I liked most about my personal trainer was that I had someone telling me what to do. I'm not great at putting together workouts for myself. It's too easy to decide halfway through to skip that extra set or just blow off legs completely. But with a video, there's a fixed time and routine, and it's easier to have someone doing it along with you.

There used to be a ton on Netflix, but they seem to have all been removed as part of Netflix's changing business model. So I ended up on YouTube looking at yoga videos. I found a series called Yoga with Adriene that had a promising looking challenge. It's aimed at beginners, and she offers tons of modifications and encouragement. The routines are all different and range in length from 10 to 30 minutes.

This isn't about getting into super shape right away. It's about baby steps. Establishing a routine. I want to get in the habit of doing ~30 minutes of yoga every day, and this seems like a good way to do that.

I've had a contentious relationship with yoga in the past. I think it's mostly the group classes, where everyone seems leagues ahead of me. As soon as I fail a pose, I get embarrassed and half the time that leads to me leaving early. Then I don't go back. And it's just a stupid cycle. But in the privacy of my own home, that embarrassment is gone. I can wobble and fall and get right back up and try again without getting strange looks from anyone.

It would be nice to have a mirror to check my body, but the truth is that my ballet training is kicking in pretty nicely. I can tell pretty easily when my hips are square, when my legs are too far apart, when I'm not standing up straight, when my weight isn't properly distributed. I'm still unsure about some poses, but I think that has more to do with my lack of flexibility. I'd really like someone to help me figure out Downward Dog, especially since it's such a popular pose. I'm not at all convinced I'm doing it right.

Still, I'm doing better with these videos than I expected to. I don't quite have the core strength needed for standing on one leg for an extended period of time or the flexibility necessary to actually flow into and out of lunges. But I'll get there. In the meantime the exercise has been a nice mix of relaxing and strenuous. Which is to say that I'm always nicely relaxed while I'm doing it and pleasantly sore the next day.

At this point I'm thinking that when I finish the 30 days, I may just go back to the beginning and start over. Hopefully I'll do better on some of the earlier exercises. For now I'm just taking baby steps towards strength and flexibility. Not that I have high hopes. If ten years of ballet didn't give me the ability to touch my toes, I doubt yoga will. At least I know I'll get stronger.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Comfort Food

Kevin is away on a business trip that's going to last nearly six weeks. It sounds like a long time. It is a long time. But I'm honestly looking forward to having the house to myself for a while. I'm going to miss him, obviously, but it will also be nice to have my own space. I'm hoping to be able to establish some routines around exercise and writing that will be firmly in place by the time he returns. Not that I can't establish those routines when he's around, but it's harder.

It's hard to diet or cut out alcohol when you share meals. It's hard to treat the basement as a gym when he's using it to play video games. Not that there has been even the smallest bit of friction when I have asserted those desires. This is more about me, me being aware that the space is shared, me being unable to get past certain mind blocks and just do it. When it's just me, there's less pressure to perform (and it's all internal pressure, to be clear) so I can really prioritize some of these wants and desires.

Hopefully those routines will carry over once Kevin gets back. Like I said, he's going to have no problem with me taking over the basement for half an hour a day to work out, or eating smaller portions, or turning down the beer/wine. It's just a matter of asserting that. Which means it's a matter of me getting completely comfortable with it.

But I digress.

Knowing that Kevin would be leaving on an extended trip, we spent the last weekend getting in some quality time. I was a little surprised to realize how much of this centered on food. Not that I should have been. Food is so central to so many things, in ways you don't even entirely realize. So we ended up eating a bunch of delicious meals in anticipation of our separation.

Since Kevin will be missing Thanksgiving this year, we decided to do a smaller version with just the two of us. On Friday we roasted a mini-turkey (also known as a chicken) and ate it with some rice pilaf and glazed carrots and a very strange Western Kevin had been wanting to watch. On Saturday I made a casserole that I discovered last year that basically tastes like an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a single dish. It's one of my favorite meals, but it's way too much food for just one person, so I had to sneak it in before Kevin left. Sunday morning was bacon. We'd bought two pounds of bacon for Hallowiener that we forgot about, so Kevin cooked all of it and we've been eating it ever since. Then it was time for football, beer, and pizza.

It was something of a last hurrah for me, too, as I'm hoping to use this time to go on a diet. Sort of. I'm not really planning to change what I eat. I like food too much to ever successfully change my eating habits in the long term. No, my goal is to eat less. Portion control has been a struggle for me ever since I moved in with Kevin. He eats a lot, and it's hard not to match him. So that's a habit I'm hoping to establish while he's gone.

There are some other goals I've set for myself in the last two months of the year. Old-year resolutions, I guess? But more on those in the coming days. Expect some changes, though! And keep your fingers crossed that I'll be able to stick with all of them.

Monday, November 9, 2015


For the second year in a row we were able to attend the day-long puzzle fest hosted at the local library. It's a really fun day with lots of different puzzles. And even though we didn't win anything, I did noticeably better than last year. Especially on the crosswords.

The day kicked off with the group challenge, which was slightly different than last year. We had to cut out one of the rounds due to time constraints, but the rounds we played were fun and different. It started with a categorization-type game where we were asked questions like "Of the US states, which begin with an uncapitalized English word of at least 5 letters?" (Colorado is in the set, Indiana is not). Then there was a difficult "coordination" activity where we had to select where on a picture something was located (say the appendix on a picture of the human body), but the people selecting the horizontal coordinate couldn't communicate with the people selecting the vertical coordinate. We did surprisingly well. The final round presented questions, but with only the first letter of each word filled in. As time ticked by more letters were filled in, and the sooner you got the correct answer, the more points you got. For example the first question started as "W--- w-- t-- l--- -N-- t--- t- w-- t-- S---- B---?" in the category sports. (the answer, which we got right away, was The Patriots).

After the group challenge we moved on to the crossword puzzle game, where you're given 20 minutes each to complete 3 crossword puzzles, and the three people who do it the most quickly and accurately compete on a final puzzle in the front of the room. I didn't even finish any of the puzzles, but I came very close on the first one. I did somewhat better on the Sudoku version of this later in the day. I finished every one of those puzzles in the time limit. Alas, everyone else there was much better, too, and the lady who ended up winning was consistently finishing the puzzles in two or three minutes.

It was a fun way to spend the day, even if I wasn't nearly as good at puzzles as most of the people there. It's fun to stretch your brain a bit. I just wish a bit more time could be devoted to the group competition, since that's my favorite part of the entire day.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Second Hallowiener

Jen and Steve couldn't make it to the official Hallowiener this year due to the wedding of Steve's best friend. So on Wednesday we gathered up our leftovers and went down to Zach and Sarah's for a second (and less beer-soaked) Hallowiener. Rather than just tossing everything on the grill, we actually took the time to prepare some of the meats and have a real dinner.

We marinated the remaining bear loin in a wine and lemon-juice mixture that we found online, then roasted it. The alpaca and venison loins were covered in grill rubs and grilled. Sarah found a recipe for the unagi that involved coating it with a delicious fish sauce. And we fried up the remaining rabbit and python sausages with some onions and bell peppers. The results were delicious across the board, and it was nice to have a slightly more adult variation on Hallowiener.

I'd really like to see this party evolve in the coming years as we start to have kids. The party we've been throwing for the past few years has a definite shelf-life. We just won't be able to sustain it for too much longer. But if we can start focusing in on 2 or 3 exotic meats and throw a fun dinner party, we'll be able to keep doing this for as long as we can find meats and recipes.

I'm glad we were able to have the second Hallowiener, both to try out a few recipes and to share around the leftovers. With Kevin leaving next week, it'll be nice to not get stuck with a fridge full of game that I have little interest in cooking. This way everyone got to enjoy the meat just a little more.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stories of the Red Goo Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

For this first time in six years, we were able to throw the annual Hallowiener party on Halloween. Whether it was because of that magical timing, or because we've now thrown this party six times and have a lot of experience, I'm pleased to say that the party was very nearly perfect this year. Nothing was broken. We had the perfect amount of beer. And I even had the foresight to take a vacation day on Monday to deal with the aftermath.

The party began, as always, with people arriving on Friday night. Ben and Autumn's bus came in shortly after ten, and Zach and Sarah were right behind them. Sarah got to work preparing the opossum, which needed to be brined before cooking. We hung out and drank beer until Scotty arrived in his unique way.

Scotty decided to come to Hallowiener at the last minute, so Kevin wanted to keep his attendance a surprise. His plane landed around the same time Ben and Autumn's bus pulled in, and he got a taxi from the airport. We were hanging out in the kitchen, with the front door open in anticipation of Alex, Natalie, Bryan, and Alyssa. Scotty decided to burst in and surprise everyone. Instead he ran smack into the glass door, which remained closed to keep Kina in. Sarah heard the impact and went to investigate, and the surprise came off quite well, if slightly painfully for Scotty.

We set up beer pong and our remaining overnight guests trickled in. Zach and Sarah left early to get some actual sleep before Hallowiener, and I really should have followed their lead. Instead I stayed up until 2:30 with everyone else and naturally woke up shortly after 7.

When everyone else woke up (Zach and Sarah were actually back before this, being early risers like Kevin and me), we made biscuits and gravy and mimosas and played board games. At noon we switched to beer and started getting ready for the party. Some people went for a walk because the weather was perfect (sunny and 60 with bright autumn colors). Other people took naps because they are smarter than me. We fired up the grill at 3 and the rest of the local guests arrived shortly thereafter.

Alex kept a list of all the meats we grilled and ate over the course of the afternoon, which I will reproduce here with my own notes of flavor:
  • otter sausage
    • Surprisingly delicious, dark rich meat.
  • alpaca loin
    • Very small, very good. Kind of fatty
  • black bear rib
    • Super fatty and super delicious. Hard to get off the bones (this is where I gave up carving)
  • Python and rabbit sausage
    • just a little sour. Would be great with some jalepenos
  • Cajun beaver sausage
    • also good, but kind of forgettable (Alex actually forgot to include this one on his list)
  • water buffalo porter house
    • I had to send this back because it was too rare the first time. It came back perfectly medium-rare, very similar to a cow steak
  • black bear loin
    • Also very fatty and delicious. There was a lot of bear meat
  • yakwurst
    • Last year's favorite, a pleasant repeat for this year
  • arugula, edamame, and cauliflower salad with Sriracha, sesame oil, and soy sauce dressing
    • This is what Chev, resident vegetarian, ate
  • unagi eel
    • The only fish this year, and we had to fillet it ourselves. It was a success!
  • white tail deer
    • We usually get venison of some sort. I'm not sure if this is the same as what we've always had or not (it probably is). Regardless, it was very good, and not as gamey as I was expecting
  • sago worms
    • the best of the bugs, by popular consensus, a little earthy
  • grasshoppers
    • earthy, but also dry and dusty
  • silkworm pupae
    • basically this was like eating dust, from what I gathered
  • stuffed opossum
    • a great success. The brining helped, and this was absolutely delicious. Hard to get off the bones though.
  • bunny
    • It's not Hallowiener without a bunny. We've had one every year
 We didn't have as much meat this year as we've had in previous years. But I preferred having more of fewer animals. Everyone was able to get seconds, or even thirds, of their favorites. And we finished grilling well before the trick-or-treaters showed up.

As the locals trickled out, we switched over to drinking games with the traditional round of Dr. Killebrew, which I haven't won in years now. The keg beer is just too cold to chug. I'll need to set aside a cup to warm up a little bit next year. Or is that cheating?

At any rate, the second half of the party was a ton of fun. Alas, my lack of sleep caught up with me, and I was in bed by 9:30. I'm mad at myself for falling asleep so early and missing so much. On the bright side, I got a solid 8 (or 9, thanks to Daylight Saving's Time) hours of sleep and woke up perfectly rested at 5:30 in the morning.

No one else was going to be awake for hours, so I went downstairs to retrieve my tablet and book to occupy myself. I noticed the curtain blowing in and saw that the door to the backyard had been left wide open all night. Kevin and Craig were both sleeping on couches in the living room, so I figured no one had come in to steal anything. I closed the door and went back upstairs.

About five minutes later I vaulted back out of bed and searched the entire house for my cat, Onyx. He was in none of his known hiding places, so I went outside to call for them. My shouts woke up Zach and Sarah, and Zach came down to help. We moved Onyx's food to the door and, with nothing else to be done, went back to bed. I was worried, but Onyx would certainly come back when he got hungry or when the house emptied of strangers.

Around 6:30 it started raining, and it wasn't too long before an irate and soaking Onyx ran upstairs yowling. I dashed down to close the door, and Onyx disappeared to a hiding place to dry off. All told, he probably wasn't outside for more than three hours. So he got a little adventure and made it home safely.

Eventually other people woke up and we poured mimosas and scrounged for breakfast while playing games. I wanted to make sure we killed the keg before everyone left, but it turned out that we very nearly had the night before. There was just enough beer for one side of a 6-cup game of pong. I'm very proud of us for finally buying the right amount of beer for this party.

While we were playing games, I also commented on the lack of mystery puddles. It seems that filling our house with Mudders inevitably ends with a puddle somewhere that I don't want to investigate too closely. But that didn't happen this year! Of course, Chev and Alyssa immediately mentioned the red goo in the downstairs bathroom. I'm still not sure what the deal was here, or even how bad it was. The mess had been mostly cleaned up by the time I went downstairs later in the day.

Ben and Autumn were the last ones to leave, and Jen and Steve were able to stop by briefly and see them, even though they'd had to miss the bulk of the party. We ended the day with Chinese food and one last game of beer pong (there were extra cans in the fridge, just in case). Then we abandoned the mess for the night and went downstairs to watch TV.

I was glad I didn't have to work on Monday. I slept in and then alternated clean-up with television. It was nice to have the extra day to decompress, recover from my hangover, and clean up the house at a slightly slower pace. I also watched half a season of Jane the Virgin, which might be a perfect show. I'm glad the party was such a success this year, and I'm especially glad that we aren't hosting Thanksgiving later this month. I get to relax now, instead of gearing up for the next big party.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Visit From the Butcher

Kevin wrote a poem for Hallowiener this year, and it was so wonderful I had to post it here.

Twas the night before Hallowiener and all through the kitchen,
Not a creature was stirring, they were dead as fried chicken.
The fridge was well packed with sausage and hare,
And kegs were out icing in tubs by the stair

The mudders were passed out all over the floor,
With visions of venison and wild boar
And Caitlin and I were tucked in and warm,
Enjoying the calm ahead of the storm

When out on the patio arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I stumbled and fell
To make sure all was right with my old Weber grill.

The moon through the branches of now leafless trees
Gave light to the red cups, blown around in the breeze.
When, what to my half drunk eyes should appear
But a kangaroo, yak, and a couple reindeer.

Herding them all, so tasty and thick,
Was a butcher, I thought might be playing a trick
But behind him came others, with all types of meat
And i suddenly realized this must be a treat.

"Now Camel! now, Llama! now, Pheasant and Beaver!
Iguana! Alpaca! Prepare for my cleaver!
And as you prepare for the cut of this knife
Remember how tasty your flesh and your life!"

As a lamb at a slaughterhouse walks calmly by
Not knowing that soon it will be sent to the sky
So too did these creatures step calmly up
Volunteering themselves to be what we would sup.

I made my way down, down to the main level
Anticipation flowing for the next day's revel.
I opened the door, to offer the butcher,
Any help he might need, or beer from a pitcher.

He was dressed in brown leather, from ankle to hood,
And his clothes were all stained with intestine and blood,
A stack of thick steaks he had piled nearby
He looked just like death, with a twinkle in his eye.

His brow, it was furrowed!  his dimples how stoic!
The work he was doing was truly heroic!
His droll little mouth in a state of repose,
And the beard of his chin dripped red as a rose.

The hilt of his tool he held tight in his hand,
And the block on the table was fancy and grand.
He had strong broad shoulders, and muscular arms,
Undoubtedly ladies did swoon at his charms

He was skilled at his craft, a seasoned old killer
I hoped to one day know as much as a griller.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but finished his work,
And filled all the coolers, with game meats and pork.
And laying his cleaver back down on the block,
Double checked that in fact we had plenty of stock.

He then sprang to the woods, but gave one final bow
To honor the creatures he'd butchered just now.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he ran out of sight,
"Happy Hallowiener to all, and to all a good-night!"

This also inspired our wonderful friends to write some poems of their own