DANI Naturals: a hard case to crack

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog,Tags: , , , ,
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For secret santa last year, my pledge bros and I did a long distance exchange. Most of us are distributed around the world now, so it was a fun way to reconnect and send each other gifts. I got a lovely bottle of DANI’s lemongrass lavender reed diffuser. When my most recent reed diffuser ran out, I eagerly opened up the box for this one. Little did I know how challenging opening it would be! Since Panda and I don’t drink, we don’t have one of those wine bottle openers that might have helped with the whole process. Instead, this is what happened…

First we tried using pliers and other tools to grip the stopper and wiggle it out. It was the soft rubbery kind though, so it would just bend out of shape and wouldn’t budge. Eventually it started to break apart so I knew we needed to try other methods.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with paperclip trying to move stopper

So then I got a paperclip and started shoving it down the side of stopper. It was so tight I couldn’t get any sort of hook shape going.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with paperclip inserted at two points to leverage popping out stopper

I tried putting in the other end to leverage them against each other.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with nail trying to release stopper

After bending the paperclip until it was near the breaking point, we decided to get a nail and screw it in the top.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with nail to slowly move stopper

After MUCH wiggling, we saw progress! The dirty part is where we’d tried pliers and such. The bit of clean below that is how much slowly came out.

dani naturals reed diffuser bottle with stopper finally pulled out

I had to keep screwing the screw back down since it would start ripping out, but eventually we got that satisfying ‘pop’ of freedom!

tools used attempting to open dani naturals reed diffuser bottle

Can you believe it took all these tools and a good half hour or more to get this silly thing open? They really need to redesign the stopper.

At least now I get to enjoy the lemony smell of my reed diffuser!

Traveling as a tourist

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, photo blog
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 You see lots of cool things you like. Luckily I already have the large panda!

You see lots of cool things you like. Luckily I already have the large panda!

You get to relax and enjoy.

You get to relax and enjoy.

You have time to observe your surroundings.

You have time to observe your surroundings.

You love local touches, like this cute moose!

You love local touches, like this cute moose!

You go shopping and seek free stuff!

You go shopping and seek free stuff!

You take lots of photos. And selfies, of course.

You take lots of photos. And selfies, of course.

 You learn some new skills! Check out my towel monkey!!

You learn some new skills! Check out my towel monkey!!

Scenic sights

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Been away for awhile on a cruise to Alaska! Check out some of the sights so far. There’s all sorts of awesomeness, with more pics to come. 🙂

carnival legend leaving seattle port with space needle in background

Cruise ship view of Seattle.

sunshine reflected on deep black ocean water

Glittering black waters.

glacial ice floating in tracy arm fjord with glacier in background

Ice chunks floating in the fjord!! And that’s a glacier back there.

forest area on trails of skagway with spider in foreground

A little bit of land exploration too. Tried to get the spider in the foreground.

Wedding celebration!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses
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A year ago today, Panda and I got married in a small civil ceremony at the LAX courthouse. Our parents and his brother were there for the quick and simple event. For the past year, we thought about putting together a “real” wedding but it just didn’t appeal to us. Ultimately, we had an open invitation to any relatives who could come and spend the day with us this year. My aunt and cousins, plus his uncle, aunt, and cousin were able to make the trip.

We totaled 13 people and spent the day taking pictures, driving, and eating. The restaurant we chose wasn’t my first choice (Nobu Malibu was) but it turned out to work pretty well. Japanese food might not have been to the taste of much of the party, but more general seafood certainly was. All I wanted was an oceanside view and we were right on the water, which is a lot better than I expected. I figured we’d have a giant table in the middle or back of the restaurant, away from windows, but we were right on the edge!

All in all it was a great time and just the simple sort of thing we wanted. 🙂splashing wave sandy feet

The DSLR plunge

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I finally made one of my long-time wishes a reality with the purchase of a Canon T6i bundle! I’m really excited about this and very pleased with the quality of images I’m seeing already. Funny enough, my dad had his eye on the very same one so we ended up both getting the bundle at Costco. For the longest time, I told myself I’d get a DSLR once I tried my hand at some manual settings on my regular camera. I did play around with the options, but not as much as I wanted. So I let many years go by before I decided to go ahead with it because I keep dreaming of the awesome photos I can take and I want to have something nice to vlog with.

At first I was going to look for a used or refurbished T3i, which seems to be what all those YouTubers use. But when I found that the price wasn’t nearly as cheap as I’d hoped, I figured I’d be better off getting a nicer one in a bundle. The idea of an extra lens and battery, along with some other accessories, really appealed to me. Turns out I like brand new things that are well put together for me. I’ll pay for the niceties and all just so I can experience that awesome fresh out of the box feeling. My dad’s the same way.

We both eagerly tore into our respective boxes and played around with setting up and using our cameras. I didn’t even get a chance to use it in daylight yet, but I’m very impressed with what came from the dim night lighting that looks soooo much better on this camera. I certainly wasn’t used to such good shots coming from low lighting like that. Call me a happy camper!

My first subject was Molly and I got an awesome string of shots of her walking!

My first subject was Molly and I got an awesome string of shots of her walking!

The items on the kitchen counter looked great in the photo, far better than with the naked eye.

The items on the kitchen counter looked great in the photo, far better than with the naked eye.

I’m very pleased with this camera and I can’t wait to try some outdoor nature shots.

One LONG day

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5:30 AM: Woke up and got ready for the day.

6 AM: Checked out and drove to MCI/KCI (Kansas City Airport), with a minor bit of disorientation along the way.

6:42 AM: Returned rental car and caught shuttle to terminal.

7 AM: Settled in at gate for 8:05 flight.

7:30 AM: Mechanical issues prevent us from boarding.

7:50 AM: The flight gets delayed by 4 hours and I get my food voucher.

8 AM: I get a drink and turkey jerky, then return to the gate to find everyone standing in a gaggle. The flight was cancelled. -___-

9 AM: I notice text messages letting me know I was rebooked for a 2 PM flight to Houston and then a 5 PM to Dulles. After sitting around then waiting in line, I am put on standby for an 11 AM to Houston.

10 AM: My coworkers arrive for their 10:30 flight and I chat with them before they board. Nobody on standby gets on the flight (one poor woman was supposed to catch another airline to go to Italy, with this being her only other chance).

11 AM: The Houston flight is also completely booked and boarded. I get back in line for assistance. This time I’m put on standby for a 1 PM.

1 PM: I get called up for my ticket, but I hesitate because I’d gotten a first class upgrade on the 2 PM flight. The gate attendant recommends I just get on this flight in case something happens with the next one (you never know).

3 PM: We land in Houston after a mediocre flight in which the attendant completely skipped me for drinks after chatting up the lady next to me (who didn’t want anything). Ugh. Wasn’t even worth it since I didn’t really want to drink anything.

3:30 PM: I request standby for a flight into DCA that arrives an hour earlier than my 5 PM flight to IAD. Just want to get going! Gate attendant was rather rude about it, but did it for me.

4 PM: After a stressful 20 minutes waiting for my to-go order, I bring it and board the plane. Discover my seat is waaay in the back and not economy plus despite there being plenty of space. I run back up to the gate to ask for a better seat. Even though the only seat taken in row 7 was 7A, he puts me 7B, a middle seat. I sit in the aisle and then move over to the other window seat just as the captain gets on to tell us that we’re delayed until about 6:30 due to weather in DC. We de-board.

4:30 PM: I go over to the gate for the flight to IAD that I was originally on. I’m sent to the customer service desk, where thankfully there’s a premier access line with just two people. I get a seat back on that one, which is also delayed to 6:30 due to storms. I wish I’d taken the 2 PM flight and kept my first class upgrade. Alas, there easily could have been further delays or cancellations so I won’t dwell on it.

4:40 PM: Panda’s on his way home (it’s 5:40 Eastern) and I update him on what happened all day.

5 PM: I finally get to eat the tacos I got. First meal of the day.

6 PM: Board the plane and hope for a last-minute upgrade to first class. I keep checking and *boom* it happens! I happily go up to seat 1B.

6:30 PM: We head off and I realize how desperately I need a window seat next time. Neither side had their windows open and I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I’m not claustrophobic, but I do get some motion sickness when I can’t see the steadiness of the landscape outside. I also had a massive headache from artificial lights. I kept reminding myself that it was ok, we were staying level, and it’d only be three hours. A few times I thought it was a cross-country trip of 5 hours. I just tried to focus on playing games to stay distracted and eating the food that came along. Still, when I pulled up the flight map and saw we were over New Orleans, I really wanted to see what was outside!!

7:30 PM: I try to eat all the dinner, but my teeth are sensitive and I’m still full from my earlier meal.

8 PM: It’s cookie time! There’s something magical about a cookie that is heated up so it’s nice and gooey. Yum. The window in the row behind me has their window open and I can see some gorgeous colors of the sunset, with the outlines of some really cool clouds. I wish I’d been able to watch the light changing that whole time.

9 PM: We start our descent and the guy next to me finally opens the window! I notice a flash – what? I keep looking outside and it’s lightning! How jealous I am of what I missed.

9:30 PM (10:30 local): We land and I make my way out of the airport in record time.

11 PM local: We get home, finally. It’s 11 hours after I should have arrived and if I had driven straight from the hotel, I would have gotten home around the same time. What a day.

40 minutes

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , ,
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Panda and I (try to) have a tradition. Every night before bed, as we’re winding down for the night, we have our “40 minutes.” It’s time for us to talk about our day and share our thoughts before sleeping. It started when he had first moved out east and we’d sit on Skype, both doing our own thing, occasionally talking. I think it started off as 20 minutes and it’s fluctuated back and forth a few times. The point is to have time to each other; we don’t need to accomplish anything from it and we don’t have anything specific we need to say. It’s sort of like when you sit down to write and sometimes you just write your stream of consciousness.

By talking, we end up covering important issues some nights. Sometimes it’s an experience we want to share, sometimes it’s our life philosophies. I think it’s a nice way to put time aside for each other and be able to exchange ideas. However, it almost never goes so smoothly. Just in trying to enforce our “tradition” we often end up debating when we should have started and whether sleep is more important. Panda’s always trying to sleep early, but unless he announces 40 minutes, any talking is just normal conversation and not our special time. I’m weird like that.

And so the night continues, we us spending as much time talking about whether we should do 40 minutes as we actually do “doing” 40 minutes. It’s silly, but it’s a part of how we close out the night. It’s hard to close out distractions and I’m starting to think maybe we should have topics or questions to discuss so there’s a little less ambiguity around it. But I like to go with the flow and see where our thoughts take us. It just feels better to me.

Do you have any strange traditions in your family?

The perks of Gogobot Pro

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Back in early 2013, I noticed a post from a friend who was sharing her Gogobot swag. I was immediately curious and got hooked to reviewing on the site. Not long after, I was thrilled to learn I’d made Pro! When you are an active member of their site, you can get selected to Gogobot Pro, which means you get awesome swag, a badge on your profile, and invitations to exclusive events (with themes like Spring Break, 500 Days, and Tron Party).

When you earn the status, you get to keep it through the rest of the calendar year. The following year, you’re re-evaluated and if you don’t make the cut, you can make up for it and get back in later in the year. So far I’ve made it each year since and I can’t believe I haven’t officially shared the sweet swag that they’ve sent me, so here’s a quick look back at the past three years!

gogobot pro 2013 canvas tote bag, beach towel, and flip flops

The first year it was beach themed. I love that tote bag and use it for all my travels.

gogobot pro 2014 sunglasses, pen, luggage tags, bottle opener, screen wipe sticker, and pin

I was renewed for 2014, but the gear was taking time so they sent these knick knacks while we were waiting.

gogobot pro 2014 duffel bag and water bottle

Finally, months later we got our stuff! I’ve used that water bottle as my main one for volunteering and trips. The duffel bag gets used for small getaways.

gogobot pro 2015 backpack and travel mug/tumbler

At first I didn’t make it this year, but I diligently posted again and was re-instated! I just recently got the backpack, which I now use for work. The mug is really cool and ceramic inside.

Time and time again I’m impressed by the unique products chosen and the quality of the items! For example, that tote is super sturdy and has a nice outer pocket to throw things in or the larger compartment that zips up for safe storage of your stuff. The water bottle is a self-sealing one so it’s easy to use with one hand when you need a quick grab and sip. The backpack has many compartments and I nearly missed the special zipper on the side for you to slide in your laptop! And the mug’s interior is ceramic, which is something I haven’t seen before. I just wish it held more liquid inside, but it’s still awesome.

Gogobot is such a cool brand that really knows about getting super fans who can become advocates and ambassadors! I hope to continue to be a power user for years to come, decked out with really nice gear to travel with. 🙂

Sleeping positions

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How do you like to sleep?

Since Panda sleeps much earlier and I sit in bed on my computer, I’ve noticed some strange sleeping habits and positions that he’ll get into. He loves to be tightly tucked in under the blanket, complete with a tight tuck under his chin. It shuts in the hot air so much that he’ll sweat at night and I recently observed a drop of sweat making its way down his face and neck (ick). I prefer more air flow and will sometimes lay on top of the thick blanket with a light blanket or have various body parts sticking out of the blanket (typically my feet or one leg). I also like to have one leg bent up and one straight out. Since I leave a low light on, Panda will sometimes find creative ways to block the light – usually he’ll crook his elbow over his eyes, but I’ve found him with my nightgown wrapped around his head like a turban before.

There are some commonalities we share though – for one, we both like to sleep with our arms laying next to our heads, elbows bent. Perhaps we like airing out our armpits? We also like to take up a lot of space. For me, this generally means spreading out and draping my leg over him if necessary (he hates that). For him, it’s usually some strange contortion he managed to get into while twisting in his sleep. I’ve had to provide photo evidence of his transgressions to prove how he overran the bed and left me no space!

cat sleeping on bed with body twisted in strange positionI also like to keep things fresh by changing where we sleep in the bed. At first we’d swap sides every now and then. A few times we oriented our heads and feet the opposite way. Most recently we are sleeping sideways, parallel to the wall that the bed is against. Each time we change, Panda complains and hates the idea, but I’ve found that if I keep pushing, he tries it out and ends up enjoying it. Then that new spot is the default and the next change is another little battle (it’s like he forgot he didn’t want his “spot” the last time we changed either).

Even the cats have their funny sleeping preferences, like Smokey’s “happy nap” where she lays on her back in the middle of the floor, belly up and all paws facing the ceiling. As soon as she notices someone trying to take a picture of that, she quickly rolls over and runs off. When she’s in boxes, she loves to prop her chin and one paw over the edge. Meanwhile Missy is a huge fan of crawling in under the covers to snuggle up next to you. Or, if she’s on top of the blanket she’ll often end up belly up, chest to the side, and head twisted back. That’s when you know she’s really sleeping well. 🙂

So do you also have your own sleeping quirks?

Glass fusing art project

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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For Panda’s birthday, he found a deal for a glass fusing class. At first we were looking at stained glass classes, but once I heard about glass fusing, I knew that’s what we wanted to do. I also figured that we could make plate or bowl-like ones that the cats could then use for their food. Our normal bowls were a bit too deep for their liking whereas they’d lick food right off a plate onto the floor, so neither ware worked well.

Firehouse Pottery and Arts is in Mt. Airy, MD (near Damascus) and it’s a cute shop that does pottery painting, clay pottery sculpting, and canvas painting classes in addition to their glass fusing ones. When we arrived, there was a bit of confusion and it turns out that they’d booked us for one month later. We were an hour too early for their jewelry glass fusion class and about 2 hours too late for their trivet glass fusion class that day, but since we were already there (and far from home), they cleared a table and showed us the ropes to make the geometric trivets that we thought we’d signed up for.

Take a look at the experience and what we made!

firehouse pottery and arts studio in mt airy

There are a couple of areas to work in. So many colors everywhere!

glass scoring station at firehouse pottery and arts

For larger pieces, you can score your glass at the station to get a long straight line.

glass fusing samples of tack, contour, and full fuses

We were shown sample pieces to decide the fusing we wanted – tack (bumpy), contour (moderately fused), or full (smooth).

glass piece with tack fusion - the most bumpy option with minimal fusing

The tack fuse piece was quite bumpy!

glass piece with full fusion and slump

We gravitated towards the full fuse (with slump, which gives it a shape so it isn’t flat).

glass cutting tools and work space

We got some tools, a piece of 6×6 clear glass for our base, and some instructions. Always use the nipper “eyes up!”

pieces of colored glass sorted into plastic tubs

There were a lot of glass pieces to pick out!

designing trivet with three layers of colored glass

I started layering to see what color combos I liked.

standing up to score the glass with hand glass cutter

Scoring the glass can be hard work so standing up for greater leverage helped.

piece of purple colored glass with dfferent shades of layers

Most pieces were the same color all the way through, but the purple (incidentally my fav color) was unique.

cracking glass from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

After scoring, breaking the glass piece was as easy as squeezing on the running plier. Watch how easy it is to break the glass along the scored line in this video.

layers of colored glass cut and layered into design

After finally getting all the pieces I wanted and making sure the bottom colors fit with almost no gap, I was ready to start gluing.

gluing colored glass to clear glass base

We had white glue and hair spray to adhere the glass together. I tried both!

other students' glass fusion trivets ready to go in the kiln

As we were wrapping up, I checked out some other people’s work.

completed glass trivets ready to go in kiln

Our completed pieces, ready to go in the kiln! It takes a long time to first fuse, then slump glass and they had a queue of pottery going in too.

completed fused glass projects with gift bag and cat in background

Weeks later (actually exactly 2 months) I finally got them! They’d had to get a new (bigger) mold for our pieces, which were larger than normal.

fused glass piece of house, tree, sun, driveway, and yard

Panda’s creative landscape (aka Smokey’s plate).

colorful fused glass piece of geometric design

My modern art piece dubbed “straight edge” (aka Missy’s plate).

geometric glass plate layered over house glass plate

Don’t they look cool? I look forward to doing this again sometime.

house glass plate layered over geometric glass plate

Panda decided they were too nice for the cats to use, so there goes that plan.

They weren’t perfectly smooth the way I thought, which is probably because our pieces were thicker than they expected. I wonder if we could have them re-fused and slumped to make them oh so smooth… alas, the place is too far and these are fine, especially given that they won’t be used as plates! I think we’ll end up treating them partly as art and partly as trays. In fact, mine currently holds a bit of money and a receipt.

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