Predators discovered stalking the area…

Let’s not bury the lede here.

Saturday at 12:34:

2 hours and 26 minutes later:

So, yeah. Expect a lot of pictures of cats on the blog from now on I guess?

IN HER DEFENSE when Bevin’s friend asked her if she wanted to go to the animal shelter so the friend could look at some dogs, Bev was smart enough to check their website and saw that they didn’t have any adorable kitties who might tempt her. Turns out the website was a lie. And she’s had kitties on the mind since we considered adopting two strays found by the road last month, so the pump was kinda primed. So now I’ve been overrun by kittens. Send help.

According to the shelter they were brought in as strays together by the animal control officer, and are presumed to be litter-mates. Considering how bonded they are it seems pretty certain.

The shelter called them “Raven” and “Aslan”, but that’s not going to work for these two sisters, and since they don’t care anyway we’ll just change that. For the rest of Saturday, and most of Sunday, all-gray was referred to as “One”, and white-paws was “Two”. However we’ve settled on names!

Magrat
Esme

Named for the witches Esmerelda “Esme” Weatherwax, and Magrat Garlik (Her mother wanted “Margret” but couldn’t spell) from the Discworld books, these two little critters are extremely likely to practice a very Discworld form of magic known as “headology”, where they don’t so much cast magic as convince the rest of the world to bend to their will.

So far they’re living up to it.

If you’d like to be absolutely flooding by kitten pictures and videos, click “read more” and off we go!

Continue reading Predators discovered stalking the area…

The Skeleton Spider war

Our neighbor has a 10ft skeleton that they put out every Halloween. He got it all put out a while back, and then this promptly happened:

Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Well, really it had to get pulled down in a hurry due to high winds, but that’s not how the song goes. 🙂

So the spider had to be refurbished a bit and re-assembled. I was out helping him do that and he mentioned that Halloween was his wife’s favorite holiday. “Well, why don’t we go all out and do something really fun then?” I suggested. “Perhaps we could create the skeleton spider war between our houses…” Famous last words.

So off to do some shopping we went. Turns out that early October is too late to shop for Halloween supplies, there are only Christmas trees. But I found some skeletons and decided to finally get some LED lights on the house too.

So now our house is all set up for some spooky lighting. The idea was to have some sort of “spooky laboratory” or “spooky cauldron” effect. A cauldron in the front yard that was being used to create skeletons was the original idea, but cauldrons could not be found anywhere, so we had to rethink things.

“You know what this needs,” we said, “… Blacklight”. A little research later and we found some high quality blacklight outdoor flood lights. (It turns out there are two types of blacklights, the regular/cheap ones you get, which are 395nm and throw a lot of deep purple light, and the high quality ones which are 365nm and create very little visible light.) So some more shopping, and we have some blacklight floodlights and black-light reactive accessories, as well as black-light-reactive spraypaint and colored paint.

We’re officially the only houses in the neighborhood with a joint decorative display! And we got a bunch of comments from people saying “We never thought to put something between the houses!”. The spider nest on the left, with the baby UV spiders crawling across the front of their house and over to the big mama spider turned out particularly nice I thought.

However… We couldn’t stop ourselves. We needed more.

It turns out you CAN fit a 4′ by 8′ piece of foam board in the back of a subaru if you plan your cuts carefully.

Oh yeah, we’re making some tombstones!

Fortunately our neighbor has a jigsaw and a long enough blade to cut through 2″ foam easily. That gave us the shapes. Then we spackled the break lines in the foam to keep it from cracking, and it added some nice texture too.

After a bit of trying with knives we decided that wasn’t feasible for the amount of lettering we wanted to do. We tried coloring in the letters using a template our other neighbor cut out of cardboard using her cricut machine, but it was a bit challenging to follow with the router and wasn’t going to scale to doing more text. A bit more research and Bevin found the best technique, you print out your lettering on paper, and then use washable gluesticks to stick the paper to the foam, and then just router right through the paper. Worked like a charm.

For those who don’t know, “Dear Departed Brother Dave” is a tombstone from Disney’s Haunted Mansion. “Dave” was a Disney Imagineer who worked on the Haunted Mansion. All the tombstones are names of Imagineers, and are tribute to the people who helped build the attraction. I wanted to include at least one of the names from Haunted Mansion because I love that ride, but also to make it clear to anyone who knows that we’re doing a bit of a homage here.

We had to add our name, in the style of the Haunted Mansion

While Bevin worked on carving tombstones I had one other project. Two LED strips powered by batteries that could be deployed outside for a nice spooky eyes effect. Little bit of soldering, and a couple of repurposed meal-prep containers and we’ve got some lights ready to attach to the fences behind the spiderwebs!

So let’s see what it looks like the night before! All Hallows Eve Eve!

And the LED effects on the front of the house look pretty good too!
The spooky eyes turned out great!
The view starting from the neighbor’s side. Spooky Spiders!

Here’s a bunch of pictures of the night before. There are a mix of regular shots and “Night Sight” shots, which is my phone trying take long exposure pictures in the dark. That’s why some look spooky dark and some don’t, but the Night Sight pictures show off some of the detail a bit more.

A tiny bit more decorating to spook it up on halloween day:

And now all that is left is to get dressed up and start spooking the kiddos! Bevin is going to answer the door as a vampire, and I’m… I dunno, a spooky vampire familiar? A crazy inventor? I plan on asking the kids if they’ve come to join the skeleton spider war, and if they want to become skeletons.

And now we’re ready. We just need candy. Good thing we planned far enough ahead to actually get some before the stores ran out!

Here’s a walk-up video of the actual Halloween night. It’s not great as the camera can’t figure out how to focus in the dark, but it gives a decent idea.

And here’s a walk-by video of both houses on Halloween night. In it you can see a couple of final finishing touches that were added, including the glow-in-the-dark lasso added to the skeleton and bull-head coming out of the ground. You can’t quite hear the spooky haunted house sound effects playing from the upstairs window. (It was this)

We did have some trouble at both houses with parents not thinking we were home because “the porch light isn’t on”. This led to me being out on the street walking around correcting people when they tried to walk by and telling them to knock on the doors. Me wandering around in the dark wearing all black led to some fun times too though, including this clip captured from one of the security cameras in night-vision mode:

Apparently they didn’t see me in the driveway and so got quite spooked when I “came out of nowhere”. Fortunately my pockets were full of candy so they got both their trick and their treat. Basically the highlight of my night. 😀

All in all, an exceedingly successful and fun Halloween!

Now on to figuring out what sort of black-light related Christmas decorations we can use…

Hey Pesto!

Sometime in the middle of all the Halloween prep stuff we managed to harvest our Basil farm.

This was the most we’ve ever gotten out of the basil plants in one go! Two of them were getting a bit stringy, so we pruned them completely and are going to re-pot a few of the trimmings.

Two full containers of delicious creamy home-grown Pesto!

And speaking of Halloween, we’ll have the pictures posted tonight. I just need to get some of them off of Bevin’s phone after she’s off work.

Here’s a tiny preview though, as the moon climbs high ‘or the dead oak tree…

Grim Grinning Ghosts, about to socaliiiiiiiiiiize….

In case you’re unfamiliar, or if you just want some nice nostalgia:

The Consolation Potato

Bevin was having trouble letting go of vacation, so we tried out a new BBQ place near work.

She chose the food and picked it up on the way home. Here’s the side I got:

Yes, that’s a sweet potato with toasted marshmallow.

I didn’t even know this was a THING. It may not be cruise level decadence, but I’ll take it, and I’ll probably go back!

Also the BBQ was tasty, but it’s Texas so that’s kind of a given.

Today I went to Costco and bought vegetables. Time to get back to eating normally. (I did get sweet potatoes though, so hmmm…)

Cruising Musing

I’ve gathered up some remaining pictures from the cruise, taken by both Bevin and Brian.

Apparently they both took the same picture from different angles while we were departing. We were standing on the highest available outdoor deck of the ship, available only to suite guests. Has a great view, but a bit windy.

Also very similar pictures looking back at Miami from the top of the stairs up to the suite bar deck.

We didn’t really take a lot of pictures while we were out and about in St. Maarten or St. Thomas. We were having fun poking around and we weren’t really thinking about blogging at the time. Sorry about that. Bevin did manage to capture this shot though, which is actually pretty emblematic of the general state of things.

Bevin took a couple of panorama shots! Click to enlarge for the full experience.

St. Thomas out the window of the suite lounge
St. Thomas from the starboard bridge wing. Downtown is way off to the right, over the island and across a bay.
St. Maarten from the starboard bridge wing.
Another St. Maarten 360 from the starboard bridge wing.
Sea day, sitting in the suite lounge.
At port in Miami, soon as we got on the ship.

I took this video at the ice show, you can see the projection mapping moving. It was actually pretty cool how they used the effects on the floor as part of the show, and the skaters were able to do some impressive tricks on such a small rink!

I also took a video of the ship rotating while we were docking at Coco Cay. Look at the island in the background to get an idea of how quickly we were spinning. Truly impressive how fast and how smooth such an enormous ship can maneuver.

A slightly longer view of our rotation, showcasing the speed.

Looking out the window on a sea day.
Another out-the-window on a sea day shot. Iced tea had been had.
Bevin taking random photos on sea days again…

Some have been curious about where our room is. Follow the red arrows. (Click to enlarge)

Bevin, exploring Central Park.
Central Park from the other end, and at night!
The poor creature that Bevin absolutely destroyed moments later.

We actually didn’t take pictures of most of the places we ate. One place I sort of wish we’d done so at was the Wonderland restaurant. Themed after Alice in Wonderland, it’s designed to be an experience of imagination, and there were some pretty creative dishes, however we were having more fun just enjoying it, so unfortunately we don’t have any pictures for you. If you’re curious, the web is full of pictures. They weren’t ours, but they’ll be close. (I found this one as a top result)

I will say that the deviled eggs served on a birds nest, under a glass cover filled with smoke was probably my favorite.

Bevin taking pictures as we’re preparing to leave.
Bevin taking last pictures as we prepare to leave.

Despite the TSA’s best efforts we managed to get home with our luggage.

Wristband is off, guess vacation is over…

Judgement Day

So of all the things about cruising we expected to blog about, urinals was NOT one of them.

However…

The hamster judges you.

The hamster judges you.

So, it turns out this is a bit of a theme. This lead to one of the strangest scavenger hunts ever…

That dog has the look of someone about to cause trouble.
That’s just hurtful.
One fears getting pecked.

Turns out it’s not just animals either…

It was nice to find one wasn’t overtly hurtful..

The only one that seemed positive… Until you read the background.

We actually actively avoided this one… Especially since everyone who used in failed to see the black blob as a dog on first look…

It’s.. Just awkward?

At the airport we found an entirely different sort of animals/bathrooms relationship.

The poor dog looks… Troubled.

So there’s your tour of the urinals of Symphony of the Sea. Betcha didn’t see that coming.

Let’s end this on a happier note. Towel animals!

When they started appearing in the garden area we were quite pleased.
This one took us a little puzzling about before we figured it out.
They slowly began taking over the stairs.
The full menagerie.

Still hanging out in the airport awaiting our flights, which are tragically late in the day due to cancelations several months ago as airlines re-planned their routes…

Bevin and Julian and already plotting their next cruise…

The End of (cruise) Days

We finally got let off the ship! We think they held us onboard until there was no lightning risk.

Walking across ship on our way to disembark onto a private island!
Julian got us a cabana!
View from the cabana.
Bevin found the hammock right away!

It was nice because the passing storm had created cloud cover so we got a couple hours of not getting totally blasted by the sun.

She graduated to a floaty.

There are fish in the lagoon, of several varieties. Also baby crabs. And we saw a jellyfish, as well as a rather large stingray!

Once she found out you could peer at the fishes she took to the deep water.

We actually ended up floating out past the lifeguard on the far side of the floating cabanas. No pictures exist, because water, but there are some artificial reefs they’ve made out of concrete blocks. Bunches of fish!

Lounging in the shade. The sun is mighty and terrifying.
It’s a long walk to the boat, but it doesn’t LOOK like it because the boat is so big!
We didn’t do the water park. Two of the slides are vertical drop, you stand in the tube and the floor drops out. I wanted to try… 😂
The water from the pier. There are fishes!

It was really fun to see actual tropical fish in actual tropical water.

The color of the water is just amazing. Phone doesn’t do it justice.
Beautiful clear calm ocean. Thanks Bahamas!
Mesmerized by the dual ripple wakes we leave.
Bevin appears slightly toasted. Floating with the fishes for so long!

We went back to the steakhouse on board because it was so good the first time. All the food we had was amazing, and the staff are fantastic.

A more sensible slab of meat tonight.
According to the statistics we have sailed more than 1/10th of the distance around the equator.
Waiting in the room for our call to disembark.
Cruise ports aren’t always in the nicest neighborhoods.
Miami Skyline is impressive though.
Bev is ready to travel.

And now we’re at the airport. Due to flight changes and such all of us had our flights moved back from our original times, so now we have about 6 hours at the airport. Wheee?