sienamystic: (book and heart)
I have done very little that is productive over the winter break, which ends tomorrow. There has been a lot of napping on the sofa with various cats draped over me, a lot of food and chocolate, and some adventure cooking with my sister during the trip back to VA. (We made a pair of really delicious busche de Noels, by which I mean she mostly did the hard work and I helped beat eggs and piped merangue mushrooms for decoration.)

Another year without participating in Yuletide, though - I haven't written anything fannish for a very long time. Maybe this year I can get some of my writing mojo back, even though I never was all that productive.

A happy new year to all. I'm not expecting it to be a good one, honestly - I'm scared of our current political climate. But I will do my best to make it as good as possible for myself and my family and friends as I can.
sienamystic: (cactus pot)
Due to election-related trauma (my sister and I vs. my mom), my mom has canceled Christmas. Apparently our opinions are not related to the world at large but are instead a personal insult to her. There are a host of things underlying her issues, which my sister and I have discussed at length, but we can't fix them, and if her radical lack of empathy could be healed it would have been by now. The odds are at least 50-50 that she will relent in a few weeks, but who knows. I'm still upset enough to the point that I'm hiding from the news and just quietly trying to fix or help what I can fix or help in my little corner of things.

I am surprised I'm not more upset. I think I'm still too tired and numb to care.
sienamystic: (commedia)
It's scorching hot here (although at least it's not humid on top of it) and we have spend the day officially househunting. We've made stabs at it before but now we are more prepared (ok, prepared at all, because before we were daydreaming more than anything else).

None of the houses we saw will work, for various reasons. And our agent heard from a colleague of hers who has 15 clients searching for houses in the same ballpark price range. It's not a great time to be buying. On the other hand, we aren't in a rush, but it's annoying to think we may have to rush into a decision on a place simply because it's such a seller's market.

Two of the places were just too battered and broken for us - we can rehab to a certain extent but not to the extreme those would have needed. One was weirdly placed at the top of a hill - a ton of rickety stairs to walk up and the house itself was just oddly laid out. One was very cute, but sadly about the same size as our current tiny apartment but with even less storage space. And the final was a stunning beauty from 1915 with gorgeous woodwork but was sadly sagging in a few suspect locations.

Anyway, currently reading the sequel to The Rook. This one's called Stiletto, and I'm enjoying it just as much as I did the first. Also read Girl On The Train, which was pretty weaksauce.
sienamystic: (flowermachine)
Although two beers on top of some mega-tots doesn't exactly mean I'm drunk, just a little happy and less likely to be irritated by the "I just had my first beer and need to scream a lot" kids floating around for the Spring Game. And now I'm holed up in a quiet coffeehouse drinking a strawberry smoothie. The attempt to work on Italian homework isn't really successful, but I'm enjoying being out and about in the great weather.

Although people-watching isn't great when you're sitting near a new sculpture and have a college student on a bike ride by and call it "gay." I engaged him in some brief conversation and maybe he'll think twice about staying idiotic things in public, but I doubt it. (Sculpture in question is a granite piece that is shaped like a thin, rough-hewn throne. Why the kid went for that particular epithet I do not know, except perhaps he found it unpleasing. Or maybe the "do not climb" sign angered his sensibilities.")

Other than that things have been quiet - not much writing of any kind, busy at work, a trip to LA that went really well, an upcoming trip to the beach.
sienamystic: (book and heart)
I've been listening to a podcast called Overdue and have discovered a thing that I sort of already knew about myself - I get really protective about the books I love. So my first episode of the podcast was a book I hadn't read, and I enjoyed it and downloaded a bunch of other episodes, including those of books I had read and...that was a mistake. I couldn't get past the fact that some of the episodes were 90% joking about something in the book and 10% actual discussion, and also in one case I was doing the whole "no no no you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective" thing which just made me crabby. So I'm not sure yet if I'm going to just unsubscribe, or just be careful about not downloading eps which talk about books I have a strong attachment to. But no more expecting more serious discussion about childhood favorites, or anything like that.

Also, I knew I was a bit of an anglophile, but do most people really not know about Richard III and the princes in the tower?
sienamystic: (commedia)
So recently I've started studying Italian again. Before I left on my recent trip, I used Duolingo and my old textbook (from mumble-years ago) and a great podcast called Coffee Break Italian. Since Italians are, in general, about a billion times more fluent in English than I am in Italian, I didn't actually get the chance to practice much. I told my sister that we were doing Italy on Twenty Words, but most of the words were the right one. Mostly.

So when I got back home I looked up the website I had marked about three years ago, which was of a local man who taught Italian. (The university axed its program years ago, meaning no free lessons for me as a university employee. Woe.)

I went ahead and scheduled my first lesson, and in between the scheduling and the actual attending, I discovered that the instructor, a Florentine who married an American and is now resident in Lincoln, is actually the uncle of my coworker, which was funny. He runs tours to Italy, does wine tastings, prepares meals for people who want authentic food, and also gives lessons. So I've been showing up once a week to ruthlessly slaughter grammar and pet the family's tiny excitable dog.

There is nothing as excruciating as the moment when a language instructor asks you a question and you go blank because you realize that while you know a word here and there, you didn't follow it entirely, and you have no idea how to respond...but I'm having fun anyway. It activates a different corner of my brain, and even if I never attain a level of conversational Italian, I enjoy slowly developing more facility with the language.
sienamystic: (Default)
Nuns making a gelato run

Nuns in Rome know where to get the good gelato. I'm sure we were paying twice as much because this was the fancy artisinal whatevers chain but oh my god, their flavors were incredible.

There are actually more than seven hills in Rome )

I'm already trying to figure out how to get back.
sienamystic: (Default)
Apologies for those of you who heeded my request for writing prompts - as soon as I posted that, life kind of got away from me. I'll write them as soon as I can. In fact, tomorrow looks like we'll be snowed in, so that might be a good opportunity to slow down and do a little writing. Meanwhile, my sister on the east coast is running around in a tank top in 70 degree weather.

Christmas was very low-key. We went to a brunch on Christmas Day with a friend, and while the ambiance, the location, and the company was great, most of the food was kind of mediocre, especially at holiday brunch prices. Anyway, we got to sit in rocking chairs in front of a toasty fire, got a few snaps in front of a gigantic tree and got to ogle some cute gingerbread houses.

Off to run a few more errands, including checking to see if my car's keyfob battery can simply be replaced. Boo.
sienamystic: (tempt me)
I feel like writing but can't figure out what I want to write...except I'm in the mood to do something schmoopy or smutty or, or...

So I dug out this old meme that I've already dug out once before. Pick a pairing (het, slash, femslash are all okay) and I'll write a short scene where they share a kiss (or, uh, more than that.) Crossovers welcome unless they break my brain in half (although at this point breaking my brain is almost the point because this is the same meme that resulted in Bunter/Eliot from Leverage kissing, and may have been the one that resulted in a Castle/Buffy crossover that has inexplicably become a very well-loved story, so what the hell.) I will do my best.

Fandoms: Buffy, Avengers movieverse, Dresden Files, Leverage, Firefly, Constantine movieverse, Sayers, Bourne, Castle, Jennifer Crusie, Vicki Bliss, Star Wars (yes new movie has gotten me thinking), MacGyver, Heyer, Lord of the Rings movieverse. Am happy to try fandoms that are not my own but am not responsible for making you cry because of terrible characterization based solely on things I've seen scrolling through Tumblr. No refunds.


Dec. 19th, 2015 11:44 pm
sienamystic: (commedia)
I have seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and loved it. I had a few nitpicks post-movie but while it was happening I was super into it and I'll be going back and at this moment I have nothing but squee in me for it.

Currently reading Mary Beard's SPQR. I'm not that far into it but so far it's really enjoyable.

Speaking of, still have to do my final Italy picture post on Rome, so will try to do that soon. I'm also contemplating putting up a review blog on Tumblr because I've become obsessed with Nesti Dante soap but I'm a bit dubious about Tumblr because I don't know how to format things nicely there. My current usage of Tumblr is 99.5% reblogging other people's shit so I don't have a lot of the finer points down.

I got a hilarious painting of a pony at my office's white elephant. Have to figure out a way to hang it in the office where it can preside over my Funko Hannibal, my assorted collection of skulls and cephalopods, and the Office Squirrel. Sometimes it's nice being in the basement where the public doesn't see us, because we are free to go absolutely nuts in our office.
sienamystic: (cactus pot)
I don't think I binge-watched, exactly, but I just now finished up watching Jessica Jones over the weekend. My quick and dirty review - wrenching, compelling, not perfect by any means, but really, really good. Sometimes the tone got a little lost, and there were little eddys in the execution where you could see why the show was doing something but maybe it didn't work. On the whole, though, it was a pretty great piece of television. I don't know how it compares to Daredevil - I think that show had higher highs and a few low spots that slowed things down a lot, and the action scenes were better. But I feel more attached to this show and also attached to more of its characters.

Also, definitely ready for a Hellcat show. Also also, the adventures of Clare Temple, Night Nurse. Not sure I got attached to Luke Cage's story enough that I'll be wound up waiting for his show, but I'll probably watch it.

I have one more post to do on the Italy trip. Will try and get it out sometime soon. Work is really busy, with a lot of tricky shit in the works just as everybody (including me) wants to go into holiday mode. We're thinking about buying a house and I'm shit unprepared for it and really anxious about the whole process. On the other hand, the house is less than some people pay for fancy cars, so, hah. Anyway. It was nice to have the distraction of the show over the past few days.
sienamystic: (commedia)
We left Florence and hopped back on another Freccia to Rome. I had heard that Termini, Rome's main train station, had been turned into a mall, and it's true - there were now shops everywhere, including a branch of our now beloved Grom, which sold artisinal gelato. (The torrone flavor...omg. And the fiordilatte, which I kept returning to. We ate a lot of gelato, you guys.)

After some puttering around back home which never resulted in a decision, we finally opted for staying at The Beehive, a place that has been in business since 1999. They've always had positive reviews and I was interested in staying with them even though they were only a few blocks from the train station, which is noisy and can feature an interesting and sometimes intimidating parade of humanity. We walked one block out - still a little uncertain. Second block - huh, things were quieter now. We reached the Beehive and buzzed in and found ourselves in a cute little courtyard.

Roma )

At the risk of prolonging things, I think I'll stop here and wrap up the trip in another entry. More Rome and some Perugia.
sienamystic: (horse)
From Ravenna, we hopped back on the train and got to Florence at about 9 that evening, after a slightly delayed train. Our apartment was literally on the square of the Signoria, which still kind of boggles me. Thankfully the window was facing towards the back of the building and was four flights up, and even more thankfully there was a teeny European elevator built into the stairwell. We couldn't all fit in the elevator, mind you, but we could take turns. Every once in a while an intrepid soul would just decide to walk up.

My sister knew she wanted to shop for some specific things in Florence, namely leather gloves, but she had also done research on other goods which is how we found ourselves awash in gorgeous colors at Valmar, a shop that said they sold upholstery and other home decorating goods, but really seemed only to sell dizzying array of tassels and cushions. My sister and I promptly became awash in a sea of greed and had to talk ourselves out of not buying one of each despite our lack of giant windows curtained in luxurious brocade which needed only an insouciant little tassel to finish off the scheme.

tassels in Valmar

Leather gloves were acquired, as were a pair of Ponte Vecchio gold earrings. My contribution to the shopping festivities was bringing us to the pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, which was once upon a time run by monks but is now a fancy perfume, candle, and lotions establishment. I dithered a lot and finally ended up spending a whole heck of a lot on a room spray fragrance that I absolutely adore - it's technically a Christmas scent, but it's orange and cinnamon and a little clove maybe? And it's sort of lovely and a little bit medicinal but also like a cinnamon stick in a mulled wine and it's a Christmas fragrance that I've come across before but it hard to find in the US and I love it to pieces.

A few more photos )

One of my biggest disappointments is that we missed by about a week the reopening of the museum holding the works of the Duomo, which has a heartbreaking Michelangelo Pieta and also Donatello's Mary Magdalene, a sculpture guaranteed to make me cry like an idiot. The Bargello is some consolation, and I did get to see my friend Niccolo da Uzzzano, who has been put in a new spot since I saw him last but who retains his dignified but friendly mien.

Bust of Niccolò da Uzzano, 1430s
sienamystic: (commedia)
Guys, guys, my sister's photos came out really great! Well, I'm responsible for some of them (uh, many blurry ones, as far as I can tell. Sheesh. I'm apparently Cap'n Shaky Hands. Anyway, here are six photos of Ravenna mosaics.

Read more... )
sienamystic: (Venice)
Well, she said, I'm back.

I've been back a little over a week. The trip was pretty great, went differently than I expected (but don't they always?), and seemed to pass so quickly that I'm vaguely startled that I have proof that I actually was there, and I'm already wondering how and when I can get back.

I keep thinking that lots of stuff has changed, but I don't know if that's true or not. English certainly is more present there. 15 years ago, I think even in the big cities you encountered people with little to no English, and here it was just everywhere. My scant handful of Italian helped on a few occasions, but most of the people we encountered spoke English that was lightyears ahead of my Italian.

There seemed to be more street vendors - or maybe my frustration at having to decline the purchase of a selfie stick every five minutes just made it feel that way. There were moments that I was just worn out by them. There also were just as many people there - if not more - as in the height of July, which surprised me. I suppose everyone's figured out that if you can visit when the weather is a little cooler, you should do it. Venice was particularly overstuffed, even past the "well of course Venice is crowded standards (partly by, I think, some Italian tourists there for a breast cancer awareness group parade) and because of how things worked out we didn't get to push past the main streets and off into the more appealing less populated zones. I think my sister was a bit shocked by the graffiti we found everywhere (and perhaps it just looks more startling in elegant Venice) but you also get the impression that Venice is really struggling to keep up against the tide of tourists and their trash. I know there are concerns with turning Venice into some sort of artificial Disneyland by limiting the amount of tourists permitted per day, but let's just say that I have different feelings now than I had previously.

So. Lots of photos below. )

I think I'll post this and then do Florence, Perugia and Rome in another entry.

The Jet Age

Oct. 4th, 2015 08:24 pm
sienamystic: (commedia)
I think I'm allowed to check a bag for free on my trip. It's difficult to tell, though - or maybe I just automatically distrust what the airline is telling me (one free bag!) because I'm certain there's a line of small print somewhere that explicitly sets out conditions that will make me pay eleventy gajillion dollars when I check in. On the other hand, they did send me a chirpy email telling me that I have only a few more sleeps until rest and relaxation! How nice of them to think of me and remind me that I should charge up my phone and remember to bring my earbuds.

I'm still quite excited about the trip but as things get closer I've also had a bunch of things to solve that have taken up a big chunk of mental real estate and have made me really, really wrung out. I'm packed, at least, although I'm convinced that I've packed useless things that aren't really outfits and will leave behind something vitally important. At least it all fits in a shoulder-carry bag. I thought about taking a larger wheely suitcase but figure trying to heave it over bridges in Venice and cobblestones everywhere else probably doesn't make sense.

I also had that lowering thought that probably comes to most people excited about a little travel: the imp in your head that says, "why bother, you're just coming back to the same old grind, it's not like anything will be different. You'll just have spent a bunch of money to generate a big circle, net zero." I am doing my best to ignore that voice, because while technically speaking, it's accurate, it's also the farthest thing from the truth. If nothing else, this trip will give me some quality time with my sister and also some quality time alone with my own thoughts. I really need that at the moment.

Maybe being so tired now will mean I'll actually sleep well on the airplane. That would be a first.

In more local news, I went apple picking with Bemo and the members of my book club, and loved it more than I anticipated. The trees were bursting with fruit and it all tasted so good and I made a big apple crisp that was fantastic. There's something satisfying, maybe on a primitive level, about just walking around with a crisp tart apple you've just picked, enjoying the sunshine and watching the monarchs flutter around.

In more fannish news, it's the season for secret santas and holiday fic exchanges. I can't decide if I want to sign up for them - I haven't written anything in a really long time and don't know if I have any story bopping around in my head at the moment. I really should decide before I go because I think signup deadlines are looming.
sienamystic: (Be More Awesome)
Things have been a little rocky on the ol' Mystic gyno front, but the problem (dose of Metformin no longer balancing the wonkyness of insulin, result: my body kinda sorta thinks it's on birth control pills and maybe does a little bit of what it thinks is breakthrough bleeding, solution: bump up the Metformin a bit) seems to have done the trick and the circus is about to leave town. However the related mood swings and anxiety that go hand in hand with it all has been in full effect today, leaving me utterly convinced that very specific Bad Things were in the wind and it was only a matter of time before all my sins would be broadcast to the general public. It's basically that Jenny Holzer statement: Forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble," except maybe more like FORCES ARE ALIGNING NOW AND THEY ARE SPECIFICALLY COMING FOR YOU NOW.

So, you know, good times.

There are things to keep me busy the next week or so until I leave, so hopefully the crazies will leave too. I am part of my institution's Instagram team and have had to sit in on meeting where we all talk about optimizing our visitors and growing our audience and I know it's important but at the same time whatever remnants of cynical Gen-X slacker that remain lodged in my breast act to keep me doing the occasional internalized eyeroll. Because uh muh guh guys. Or something. Facebook quietly chugs along, and I haven't been able to get anyone to let me start a Tumblr and endlessly reblog SoYouWorkAtAMuseum. Although hilariously all of us are resisting taking on Twitter like it's a snake poised to bite us and so the marketing manager, who is a lady in her late fifties or so, has been stuck with it although she keeps trying to hand it off.

It'll be hard to concentrate what with the trip looming. I am itchy. Currently looking at a suitcase and wondering if I want to do a soft bag or this larger roller one and what carryon looks like on international trips, anyway. Except to get from my small city to the next biggest city will require me being on a tiny jet and no way no how will this thing fit on that overhead, so maybe I just need to keep my ambitions small. Or check the bag, which I'd rather not do.

My friend with the Edith-beagle has to work a particularly long day tomorrow so I get some beagle time. We might walk down to campus to see the festivities for Homecoming, which Edith will believe are all designed to bring people within petting range. Edith fervently believes that all people want is to pet a cute little rolypoly beagle and frequently, she's right.

I'm typing this in the basement because Ratchet has been particularly whiny and so I let him frolic with the dustbunnies while I dug around in our storage closet and found the aforementioned suitcase. He's trying to coax me into letting him out onto the back patio again, but I know I can't trust him and also there are still fleas lurking. Time to pick up the cat in one arm and the suitcase in another and hoof it back up the stairs, I think.
sienamystic: (flowermachine)
A friend of mine decided to head three hours out to a state park to have a hike with her trusty beagle companion, and asked if I'd come. (She's kind of my tour guide since I have an ass-stuck-to-sofa problem if not poked at.) The drive was a bit much to do in one day but it was absolutely beautiful out, and the area of Nebraska we were in was right by the Missouri River on the bluffs. Lots of forest, which is unusual for Nebraska but apparently the bluffs and river combine to make a bit of a microclimate that eastern deciduous trees don't mind. So we walked around in the trees, then went down to the river and bumbled happily along looking at Monarch butterflies. There were also an indignant family of about 15 wild turkeys, and Edith the beagle was very happy.

You know, I have problems when people ask me what I've been up to, because by and large my life is pretty repetitive. I really need to figure out how to do more stuff on a more regular basis.

And actually speaking of that, the Italy trip is looming. It's a little under a month away. I'm so excited! I do keep waffling about what I need to see and what I should pass - it's a really short trip and I can't possibly stuff it all in. For example, I really want to go see Donatello's Mary Magdalene but I don't know if squeezing in a trip to that particular museum - or the Bargello - should top just hanging out in Florence since we're only there a couple of days. (We're doing the Uffizi and the Vatican). Which churches in Rome to prioritize? Sooo many possibilities. Do we try and fit in Ostia Antica? I really want to drag everyone to a hill town, but which one? My sister's priorities are 1. Spectacular countryside views and 2. Not too much damn time on a train, and I haven't come up with what I think is the best solution. I'd love it to be Perugia and maybe should just settle on that.

Listen, I just have a lot of feelings, is all.
sienamystic: (flowermachine)
Planning for the Italy trip has been fun - there have been a lot of changes since I was last there so things like pre-purchasing some of our museum tickets and train tickets ahead of time has been a new deal. Wonder of wonders, the website for buying train tickets is very easy to navigate. The whole "nicer faster trains which require reserved seats" is not something I needed to do. Of course, the first time I had to buy a train ticket in Italy I ended up buying three of them (unsure that I was buying the right one) and ended up on a super-slow milk run train that was a great introduction to the Umbrian countryside but which was not so good for meeting my contact for the study abroad program in a timely fashion. He ended up picking me up a train station or two ahead of my destination and thus I got my first intro to the Italian driver.

It's also letting me stretch my expenses over multiple months, which is pretty great. By the time we get there the only costs I'll have to incur are food and some incidentals, which can still add up, but at least they're slightly more controllable.

I'm so wound up about this trip that I'm going to have to do some work to avoid mentally crashing after it, I think.

The husband has gotten into Zentangles recently - or rather, he prefers the mandala shapes over the freeform ones that you're supposed to lay down yourself. This has led us both into the world of the adult coloring book, which was something that I always vaguely knew was soothing but had never really thought about until it became a bit of a trendy thing. Relatives in Manila, my sister, a billion people on Pinterest - and after my Amazon order arrives, me too.

In ladyparts TMI news (avert if squeamish, although I won't get graphic), I've just made my first foray into the world of the Diva Cup. So far so good, although there were some interesting shenanigans the first time I tried to fold it up correctly and put it in. As in, boinging across the bathroom and bouncing comically. This is the second day I'm using it and so far so good, although the whole business of eventually being able to do it in a public restroom has me a little dubious.
sienamystic: (surly bonds)
There are few things that tell you you're in the future as posting an online journal entry from an airplane. Usually the wifi isn't free and I don't bother paying for it, but I had an idea for the draft I'm pecking away at and decided to spend the $2.50 just to get it down before I forgot about it. So I'm at a window seat, looking out a the great wing of the airplane and the clouds lit with the setting sun and looking just like they do in a Constable painting.

We're returning from southern Florida, where I with great delight danced at my dear friend's wedding. She's marrying a very sweet guy, and it was heartbreakingly wonderful watching her beam from ear to ear throughout the ceremony and reception. The bride and I and my friend Persia, also in attendance, met somewhere around 1990 in high school and have been friends ever since, so spending two days in the company of Persia plus getting time with the bride when we could (lots of family and other friends who all need attention!) and all in all had a marvelous time. My husband is also great friends with both of them and he has had a great time as well, especially since we had a little time on the beach. Not, alas, in the actual water - in the rush to pack we forgot that swimsuits would be nice, and anyway it was raining intermittently the whole time - but we got to hang out and sniff the salt air and listen to the waves for a little bit.

The ceremony was very brief (a family member who is also a justice of the peace married them) and Persia and I cried shamelessly, and then there was dinner and dancing and it was all wonderful.

Oh, and the husband has also fallen in love with the area we were in (He's always been a beach guy) and is now agitating to move there. There is a wonderful museum in the area that we visited the morning of the wedding but alas there would have to be some convenient vacancies open because I think their staff is not much bigger than ours is and so they probably don't need extra registrars hanging around.


sienamystic: (Default)

January 2017

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