Friday, July 27, 2012

Birthday Card

I've been making more cards than usual and some have turned out pretty good.  This one was for a guy.  Something about making cards for guys is always super difficult.  I guess I need some manly stamps.  You'll notice I managed this card without a central stamp...something difficult to do.  

Other crafts I have going on....  A baby hat and, always, Project Life.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Yarn Store

Recently, I was puzzled when a Groupon arrived in my inbox for MadTosh Crafts.  Obviously, being a knitter, I know all the yarn stores (well, the one) in town, as well as those that have closed (two).  

Turns out, MadTosh was opened in April by the lady who does Madelinetosh yarn - one of my favorite sock yarns!  The store comprises tons of Madelinetosh in various weights, which is great.  Our other store, JenningsStreet Yarns, usually has only a few skeins of Madelinetosh.  The store also has some higher end brands which makes me so happy, particularly Blue Sky Alpacas, Debbie Bliss, and Manos del Uruguay.  I haven't had these brands close by since I lived in Michigan.  So, this is very exciting!

The store itself is beautiful.  The yarn is organized by weight, which is fantastic.  They have some wonderful patterns that are organized in a way that is not overwhelming and jumbled.  And they have fabric!  If I quilted, I would be super excited....but I don't quilt.  

So, basically, I'm ecstatic to have another yarn store in town!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Heretic Queen

I just finished reading Michelle Moran's sequel to Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen.  Here is what I wrote about it on Goodreads:

This was an enjoyable sequel to Moran's "Nefertiti." I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Ramasses and Nefertari develop as well as the repercussions of Akhenaten that Nefer must overcome. Moran writes intelligent, enjoyable historical fiction - something that is hard to do when writing about Egypt.

Moran does good work but there's always something about her writing that leaves me unfulfilled.  Her descriptions are good but too infrequent, I think.  The reader wants to learn about ancient Egypt, most likely, and Moran stubbornly refuses to give us descriptions that would make that time come alive.  Instead, she plows ahead in to the narrative.  I'd like for Moran to Steven Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series.  Ancient Rome comes alive under Saylor's meticulous hand.  

The Heretic Queen made me yearn to re-read Reflections in the Nile by J. Suzanne Frank.  This one of my favorite novels of all time.  This may be the motivation I've needed to pick it up again!

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 4th

Our July 4th consisted of me cooking our favorite BBQ Pulled Pork and hanging out with friends.  It was odd having a Wednesday off, but I could get used to having a break, mid-week. 

Our menu:
BBQ Pulled Pork
Black Bean and Edamame Salad
Corniest Corn Muffins
Oven-Fried Okra
Pina Coladas 

We were so stuffed.  What a great day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beating the Evil Machine

My family wants to do an Alaska cruise.  My parents, especially, have heard such great things that they're dying to do this cruise!

On the surface, Alaska cruises appear no different from Caribbean cruises, as far as price.  When you go to purchase your cabin, though, you see an extra $150 in taxes and fees added on.  So, it's essential to get the lowest price possible.

It's already an expensive cruise and airfare makes it even worse.  On American (which uses Alaska Air to supplement their routes), the airfare for our cruise costs $675.  That's what I paid to fly into France and out of Italy in 2004 - just for some perspective.

Mr. Higgins, my mom, and I had enough American Advantage miles for free round-trip tickets.  If you've booked award travel lately, you probably know how hard it is to book.  More people than ever have more miles than ever.  And airlines are allowing fewer award seats on flights.  This combination means that, if you want free airfare on anything other than a mundane flight, you have to book it the day it becomes available - 331 days before your flight.  

I monitored the award availability for months to see what flights popped up and how quickly they got snatched away.  Once the Alaska cruise season began in May, award flights steadily disappeared.  It seemed everyone on an Alaskan cruise was trying to get free airfare!

And so, last night, we stayed up until midnight to book our flights for the cruise.  Considering I get up at 5:30am every morning, this was pretty late and way past my bedtime.  Midnight came around and we were able to select the date flights came up.  For an hour we hit the refresh button over and over on multiple computers and....nothing.  

At 1am, I was dead.  My brain was saying, "no more!"  We decided to go to bed and set an alarm to go off every hour, on the hour.  At 1:55am, we got up to check.  There was one award flight that popped up....and it was our second choice (since non-stop flights are rarely, if ever, available).  We booked it as fast as humanly possible.  And we each got award seats on the same flight, something which had caused me much stress over the past month. (I'd read that it's rare for an airline to have two free seats on a flight.  Arg!)

However, we still had my mom's flight to book.  The earlier flight my parents wanted were not coming up.  I held a seat on the flight we had booked (now we had potentially three award seats on that flight!) and we went to bed.  

Too soon the alarm went off at 5:30am.  I checked the flights.....and the earlier flight my parents wanted was now available!  Yay!  I went to book it and it said we couldn't book duplicate flights.  WTF?  I hurriedly tried to cancel my hold on the other flight....and got an error message.  Nothing worked.  After a call to AA, the hold was canceled and I was able to book the earlier flight for my mom.  Yay!  

After years of paying way too much for the uncertainty that is now air travel, it's great to beat the system that doesn't want you to get anything for free.   

We'll see how it goes next week when we have to book the return flights.  Ha!