An Experiment: Chia Pet, The Sequel

I’m sure that all three of my faithful readers will be familiar with the exp-hair-iment I conducted two years ago with my Bob Ross Chia Pet. I’m also quite certain that all three (okay, maybe four) of my faithful readers will be familiar with my inability to sustain plant life for extended periods of time. People have different talents, and most domestic skills are not among mine. (Somehow, I learned how to knit, so if you need an emergency blanket or scarf, it’s my singular domestic super power.)

This month, I decided it was time to give the Richard Simmons Chia Pet a try. Like Bob Ross, he was a Christmas gift, and with all the winter weather, I thought I would like to see a little greenery around the house.

If you’ve never tried to grow a Chia Pet, I’ll sum it up in a couple of bullet points:

  • Getting the consistency of the seeds just right in the beginning is tricky. The correct seed-to-water ratio is something I still haven’t mastered, and a lot of the seeds slid down the poor guy’s neck before they had a chance to sprout.
  • Keeping the planter watered is another issue. The drip tray can and will overflow, and sometimes you just can’t do enough to keep the top sufficiently hydrated, resulting in typical male-pattern baldness.
  • They’re higher maintenance than one would think.
Sproutin’ to the oldies. Regrettably, this was the last day for his chest sprouts. They came off in the sink.

I feel like I invested a lot of time and energy into this little project only to have several of the seeds remain dormant. One of the tips says you can put a plastic bag over the planter to keep the humidity level high, but I kept knocking seeds off the top of his head while I tried to adjust the plastic bag. Besides, I need to keep as many of those plastic bags inside other plastic bags in my kitchen as I can, because I’m older now and that’s what you’re supposed to do with extra plastic bags.

Sure, it’s a novelty item, but I’d really like to be able to make it look close to the picture on the box someday. Sadly, I think that’s a lofty goal, but it would be fabulous if I could.

I’ll be rinsing this one off and trying again soon. Maybe I’ll even put Bob and Richard side by side next time just to compare their progress…or lack thereof. Wouldn’t that be fun? Who would like to see that?

A Cozy Evening: Sitting By the Fake Fireside

I, along with many of you, have been turning to the small comforts in an effort to try to enjoy this holiday season as it is. I particularly enjoy the idea of a cozy fireplace, and I’ve found that the easiest way to experience it is to pick one of the many videos from YouTube, cast it to the television, and stare at it whilst sipping a comfy cup of hot chocolate. Tending to the fire isn’t required, cleanup is a snap, and the videos don’t dry out the air in my living room.

This year, new holiday yule log videos have emerged featuring the ubiquitous 2020 Dumpster Fire, and while they are appropriate to watch, they also make me grateful that Smell-O-Vision hasn’t become a thing yet. However, many of them are accompanied by upbeat Christmas music, so if you need a laugh, I have a few I can recommend.

If I tried to shoot one of those videos, however, I can almost guarantee it would end up something like this:

My hair seems to be tingling.

As much as I love the real thing, the trajectory of 2020 has taught me that I’d be better off leaving the yule log to someone else if I value my health and safety. Murphy’s Law is, after all, the law of the land these days.

Also–and this is a pretty important point–I don’t have a fireplace, which only adds to the potential hazards.

On that note, I’m going to search for some more soothing fireside videos.

Happy Holidays.

Dumpster Fire GIF


A List: How To Keep Your Alphabet Soup From Spelling Bad Words

Alphabet soup can be a warm, soothing treat on a brisk, cold day. However, what happens if your soup suddenly turns on you with a linguistic assault? Here are some tips to make sure your alphabet soup watches its language.

  1. Start the conversation while the soup is still in the can. You can’t begin to stress early enough that bad language will not be tolerated in your kitchen or at the dining table. Remind the soup that there’s no place in your digestive tract for abrasive words.
  2. Shake the can before heating. If nothing else, you’ll feel better.
  3. Separate the talkative letters. Break up those cliques before they have a chance to act out. If they gang up and start yelling (example: AAAAAAAA), gently coax them to other areas of the bowl with a spoon. Re-heat to a low boil if they insist on remaining stuck to each other.
  4. If you notice a repeated pattern of certain diabolical words or phrases, step away from the soup, leave the house immediately, and consult a priest. Or the Ghostbusters. (They’re ready to believe you.)
  5. You know, vegetable soup tastes pretty good, and it’s good for you. Try that.

An Observation: Sunset Photos, Selfie Filters, and…That’s More Than One Observation

I’ve seen some absolutely incredible sunsets lately from my front door. As most people know, though, capturing a good photo of a sunset presents its own challenges. The most common complaint I hear after the shutter clicks is, “Well, it was a beautiful sunset, but it looked better in person!”

Sometimes, it can come down to adjusting a few settings in your camera. If you’re using a DSLR, you have a wider range of options than you would on your smartphone. One of my recent sunset photos is a good example of how this can work to your advantage. Mesmerized by the colors, I stepped outside and took a few shots with my Nikon. When I looked at the results, the colors looked nothing like what was staring back at me in plain sight. After I adjusted the white balance, I finally found the shot that matched my ocular reality.

Yes, it really was that breathtaking.

Lens filters are also helpful for a variety of reasons. I own very few lens filters. These filters help to enhance what is already there, and you have to make other adjustments to your shots based on the filters you are using. Also, unless I’m specifically trying to make a photo look like an oil or watercolor painting for a reason, I try not to make a ton of adjustments when processing the prints.

Is it possible to overdo it with the settings and filters and other gizmos?

ABSOLUTELY.

And I’ve found that the perfect example to illustrate my point is the infamous selfie filter.

I don’t even really know where to find some of these filters…I’m not exactly one of the cool kids. I don’t even have the Snapchats. I’ll admit, I used to ask school photographers on faculty picture day to check for a “ten years younger” button on their camera before taking the photo of me that would haunt the yearbook for eternity, but I didn’t realize that there were filters out there that could essentially take your face back to infancy.

(Side Note: Has anyone else noticed that some facial features all but disappear through these overly-filtered filters? I’m not just talking about wrinkles and blemishes. I’ve seen an awful lot of nostrils running around without noses. It’s weird.)

However, curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to do a selfie filter experiment. Someone can let me know later if I did it right.

Here’s the “before” with no filter:

This is what I really look like. Sorry.

And…the after, with some kind of filter (I think):

Umm…yeah.

Okay, something tells me I need to practice a little bit more on my use of filters. Or not. Perhaps I should put the selfies on the back burner and take a hike. Literally. There’s lots of nice stuff outside to photograph.

A Trip: Concrete and Sea Turtles

A few months ago (or maybe it was years…I’m still a little fuzzy on the whole time and space thing these days), I bought a few yards of material to begin sewing some masks. I quickly discovered that I had two problems to navigate–the last time I had used a sewing machine was when I was nine years old, and the machine I would use to make said masks had more than a few issues that, unbelievably, I wasn’t causing.

Since I am notoriously stubborn when it comes to learning new things, though, I went ahead and bought way too many yards of a print that I would feel comfortable wearing in public and insisted on learning how to make masks.

Sea turtles. Perfect for someone who lives in a landlocked state.

I cut fabric, I threaded the machine. I put the pedal to the metal and listened as the machine would lurch, then stop, then lurch again as I would forget to do something while I was untangling a mess, like putting my foot down.

I didn’t know how important “foot” would prove to be in this whole twisted tale of trying to do my part. However, when you use a sewing machine, you must lower the presser foot before you start feeding the fabric through, unless you just love trying to work your way down a knotted mess of thread to figure out how to undo what you just undid, or…yeah.

Additionally, you must have good control of the foot pedal as you work, unless your idea of a finished product involves threading needles through the delicate flesh in your hands. (No, the blood stains don’t give your mask “character.”)

In another ironic twist to the story, a few weeks after I had completed enough masks to keep several in my personal rotation (I had to block off significant chunks of time in the beginning to figure out what I was doing, obviously), I took a stroll down to the mailbox in my flip-flops after a rain shower. As I walked back into my garage, the rain plus my stellar sense of coordination plus the slick spot that every concrete floor has added up to a slip-and-slide ride resulting in my ending up on the ground with a lump on top of my foot. A very bruised lump.

The darkest part of the bruise eventually settled in to the shape of a sea turtle.

episode 18 laughing GIF

I suppose I could have used one of my unwearable early mask creations as a makeshift ice pack. Oh, well. My next home project might have something to do with the first aid kit. We’ll see.

A Short List: Things I HAVE Seen Lately

Author’s Note: Sorry it’s not more exciting. But, instead of lamenting all of the things I haven’t seen lately, I made a list of a few things I have.

  1. The stop sign at the end of my street.
  2. Snails.
  3. My sewing machine, otherwise known as That Thing I Have To Fix Every Five Minutes Because I’ve Only Recently Started Using It Again After It Spent Two Years in Storage.
  4. My resident kitchen gnome.
  5. My kitchen sink.
  6. My kitchen.
  7. (You can’t help but like the gnome.)
  8. (I’m a little jealous of the gnome, though.)
  9. (For starters, he has better hair than I do.)
  10. (And a really cool hat.)
  11. (He does have to stand up all the time, though.)
  12. (And smile, even if he might not always feel like smiling. He watches me “cook,” after all. Not a pretty sight.)
  13. (“Gnome” is an odd word once you’ve said it over and over several times.)
  14. (I got sidetracked. Where was I?)
  15. (Oh. Stuff I’ve seen.)
  16. A bag of potatoes next to my kitchen gnome.
Cute little fella.

A Not-So-(NEO)WISE Decision: Mosquito Swarm

Let me preface this entry with an announcement: I broke the internet yesterday. I didn’t mean to, but WordPress gave me the dreaded “white screen of death” while I was running updates, and I had to use my resourcefulness to navigate through tutorials and whatnot to figure out how to un-break the internet. Long story short, if you’re reading this, I guess I fixed it.

anchorman celebrating GIF

So…if you really are reading this, let’s talk NEOWISE. The photographer in me was desperate to get out and take some photos of this once-in-6,800-years comet that was just discovered back in March when the rest of the planet was justifiably concerned with things happening on the ground. It’s July now, and the comet came into view this month. I thought it was time for a field trip.

I decided to try to get my photos during the evening twilight. Earlier in the month, it was visible in the pre-dawn hours, but morning isn’t my finest hour. Evening was a better choice if I wanted to get a good shot. I knew it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to see it from my house due to the city lights, which prompted me to drive towards the farm fields away from town.

I’m from the Delta, but I still managed to underestimate the most formidable summertime force that descends upon the flatlands as the evening darkness falls–the mosquito swarm.

I pulled off the road and tried to adjust my camera settings for some (hopefully) good shots so that I could just hop out of the car, put the camera on the tripod, and use the remote shutter release to snap away once NEOWISE was in view, thus limiting my mosquito exposure.

Good plan, right?

Home Alone Idea GIF

WRONG. I was out of the car for two whole seconds before the swarm found me. My grand plan went out the window as the mosquitoes invaded my car, my ears, my arms, my legs…everything. I scrambled and danced as I secured the camera on the tripod.

Focus? I didn’t care about that anymore. I could see the comet, so I could at least claim having seen it. However, I really wanted a good photo. Yeah…wasn’t happening this time. I snapped four pictures before I drove away with the windows down in an attempt to rid my vehicle of the bloodthirsty little beasts. The only shot that came close to looking okay-ish was this one:

At least I saw it. It wasn’t that blurry in real life. (I think. I’m not sure. I was moving around too much.)

The following night, owing to the fact that it was higher in the sky than I expected it to be, I thought I’d try to step outside my front door and see if I could see it. The mosquitoes in my neighborhood are not nearly as bad as they are near the rice fields. I couldn’t see it, but I thought that I might catch it by taking a few long-exposure shots with the camera. I was marginally more successful in that outing, even catching a passing airplane (or satellite, or possibly UFO) in one photo.

Let the conspiracy theories begin.

The mosquito bites I earned outside of my front door were limited, although I still have plenty of them to scratch from my field trip. Not the smartest move, but I suppose the bites will serve as a reminder not to try that again when NEOWISE returns sometime around the year 8820.

An Observation: Outdoors Should Stay Outdoors

If you’re anything like me (my apologies and best of luck if you are), you’ve probably noticed an uptick in two activities recently: eating and cleaning. You’re probably learning a lot more about the ingredients and products you use as well. I started looking at the box on my dryer sheets one day and began to wonder if I should be using this particular scent.

Fresh, huh? You been outside lately? There’s lots of stuff out there that isn’t quite fresh, especially on trash day.

Things that typically stay outdoors aren’t always the most pleasant things, are they? Who has ever had an outside dog? They don’t always smell April fresh. In fact, they like to seek out the opposite of fresh, roll in it for a leisurely afternoon, and trot home to give your family a hug.

I live in an area where the outdoors seems to really want to come indoors right now. As the weather has grown warmer, it’s usually been flies.

flying adult swim GIF
Umm…they don’t look…yeah.

Another outdoor bug made its way into my home recently, though, that I hadn’t been expecting.

It was a Saturday night (I think). I was in the process of changing from my daytime pajamas into my nighttime pajamas. I had only stepped away from the living room for about fifteen minutes or so. When I returned to resume wearing the contoured dent into my sofa, I saw something on the rug. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and I wondered if I’d dropped some food from my fourth snacking session of the evening.

As I looked closer, though, I realized that I didn’t have anything in the pantry of that shape, consistency, size, or that moved by itself.

Wait. It’s MOVING?!?

Shocked face GIF

I took off towards the pantry to get a fly swatter. At first glance, it looked like a night crawler. As my vision came into slightly better focus (and after I poked at it), it curled up into a tight coil.

A millipede.

bbc madagascar GIF by Head Like an Orange
Not in my house. No, sir.

A couple of scoops, some shrieking, and a flick out the front door later, I set it free to roam the neighborhood.

Those darn millennials. Thinking they can come into my house uninvited. The least it could’ve done was knock on the door or ring the doorbell. It has enough feet to do both.

Some things are just meant to stay outdoors, though. And if that’s part of what represents “outdoor fresh,” I think I’ll switch to new dryer sheets.

An Observation: Soft Kitty, Smart Kitty

I’ve had some time on my hands lately; therefore, I have overthought.

Oh, who am I kidding? I would have overthought of this eventually, regardless of whether or not social gatherings were taking place…largely due to the fact that I didn’t take part in tons of social activities in the first place. Throw in a few germs of ANY KIND during your run-of-the-mill cold and flu season and I was going to avoid the plague like, well, the PLAGUE, finding my own socially-distant activities to pass the time.

Streaming The Office GIF

So, in the course of my regularly-scheduled overthinking, I came upon something that has been mildly annoying to me for years–but fun for lots of other people, apparently–and decided to analyze it until it wasn’t fun anymore. (That’s how it works. I don’t make the rules. Sorry.)

I have always liked cats. I was around cats in my home until an unfortunate allergy that surfaced in college left me in tears (and hives) every time I found myself within a mile of a cat.

Animated GIF
Kind of like this, only with a lot more sneezing.

While I can’t help but think that some of them are out to get me (knowing that their dander and my weakness for their cute little faces are my kryptonite), I know they aren’t devoid of intelligence. They’re very smart creatures, in fact, even if they choose not to listen to people most of the time.

Which…brings me to my current overthought:

Hooman.

Somewhere along the way, someone else on the planet who thought cats were as cute as I do began to create memes about them. For some reason that I can’t quite determine, the word “hooman” began to emerge as part of the central tenet of cat vocabulary/language theory. It’s a theory that contends that if cats could speak, they would speak in terms…like that.

And it bugs me.

I’ve finally figured out why.

Sure, I’ll explain!

  1. One would assume that if a cat picked up the English language, they would do so by listening primarily to their owners, right? Okay, then. How many times a day–in normal conversation–do you refer to another person as a “human”? You’re more likely to call them by name, or perhaps refer to “people” or “a person.” You might even say “you” relatively frequently. But I can’t think of the last time I called the person sitting next to me “human” as a way of getting their attention. Therefore, they would be far more likely to pick up on the other terms before anything would have the opportunity to morph itself into “hooman” form.
  2. I know we’re living in a meme land where we assume cats can speak, but cats, in general, would probably say “meow” anyway. Why? Well, it appears to be easy for them, and it’s part of what makes a cat a cat. Plus, they’re stubborn. They’ll revert to what they know. “Meow” is familiar, and it’s succeeded in keeping cats fed and warm for many years now.
  3. As for the other grammatical errors that generally appear as part of these memes, sure, not every person speaks in grammatically-accurate language all the time. However, I’m doubtful that cats listen exclusively to conversations that mangle subject-verb agreements. Remember, they’re putting this language together based on what they hear, and conversations not directed towards the cat will likely be taking place in their presence. And, finally…
  4. Well, I didn’t quite think this far ahead. So…yeah. Overthought complete-ish.

I don’t know about you, but based on my observations of cats, they would probably place themselves more in a “cat”egory of perceived intellectual superiority above all other creatures, including their “hoomans.”

That is, until they fall off a ledge or something during a cat nap.

A Minor Obsession: Word Games and Other Puzzles

I have made plenty of jokes over the years about my math skills. However, I’m happy to sit down and work a Sudoku puzzle, despite the fact that I know I’ll be looking at lots and lots of numbers that I have to arrange into a logical sequence which only looks logical if you know how to work a Sudoku puzzle. (Meaning…the numbers all balance out in a way, but you don’t have to add them up; therefore, they are usually out of sequence and look a lot like trying to win a spelling bee by dividing your last name by the number 9.)

I suppose the part of my brain that makes turning complicated musical rhythms into actual music has helped shape my desire to figure things out in new and creative ways, even during the times that the puzzles start to look number-y and math-y based. Take, for example, the Rubik’s Cube–the bane of any 80’s kid’s existence.

This one’s all solved and stuff. Kudos to them.

I spent hours and hours trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube until I realized that the little colored squares were actually stickers. Sure, they never quite stuck back to the toy itself quite the same way once you peeled them off and moved them around, but I had found my creative loophole–or, in this case, loop-cube.

Okay, so the Rubik’s Cube wasn’t my forte, but Sudoku is something I can manage well. My absolute favorite games, though, are word games (for obvious reasons). I don’t get cross with crosswords (haha…see what I did th…never mind), and I enjoy a good word search.

I believe that participating in word games results in the exponential maturation of your vocabulary at a relatively formidable progression so as to create a exceedingly superior external representation of intelligence. Because, as you all know, sounding knowledgeable, well-informed, perceptive, astute, and brilliant helps you to attain a reputation as a illustrious and authoritative expert on a subject matter.

(Yeah, you learn big words. Or something like that.)

Playing those games also helps you develop your best puns and “dad jokes.” Even if expanding the ol’ vocabulary isn’t your goal with word games, everyone should have a few good puns in their back pockets.

jokes lol GIF by Michelle Porucznik
Umm…I said a few GOOD puns.

Whatever your motivations, I think that exercising your brain–be it through puzzles, games, advanced calculus–is always a good idea. What are your favorite brain games to play? Be sure to chime in and let me know. I’ll just be in a corner somewhere trying to figure out the best glue for the stickers on my Rubik’s Cube.