Monthly Archives: July 2015


27 Jul

Half-Conned Heroes

Posted by on July 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Last July, I blabbered on about how Jason and I would most likely not be attending San Diego Comic-Con again for many reasons. Yet, here I am posting about this year’s trip to that most wretched hive of stink and nerdery. However, my predictions about not attending were practically as correct as they were incorrect because we only half conned it. Here’s how we ended up part-time conventioneers.

It seemed the will of Odin that we attend Comic-Con this year. The portals of all nine realms really were aligned perfectly. We again acquired those elusive four-day passes and, even more astonishing, we won convenient yet normal-priced accommodations. Yes, we procured one of the few rooms Comic-Con forces hotels to offer attendees at regular price. Attaining one of these rooms requires winning a lottery known as Hotel Apocalypse. They are nearly impossible to get but provide the illusion of con affordability.

Our hotel room was the perfect vantage point from which to witness the stormtrooping on 5th Avenue.

Our hotel room was the perfect vantage point from which to witness the stormtrooping on 5th Avenue.

Our lodgings were directly across the street from the convention center and we got upgraded to a terraced loft, one of the biggest quarters offered by our hotel, because nothing else was available when we arrived. Just to put things in perspective, our whole trip, including airfare, set us back about the same amount that one night usually costs us at Comic-Con.

Jason watched Flash Gordon incessantly as a kid so he was thrilled to meet these saviors of the universe.

Jason watched Flash Gordon incessantly as a kid so he was thrilled to meet these saviors of the universe.

The only downside to these magical accommodations was that after two nights they turned back into a pumpkin. We were cool only spending two nights in San Diego though because too much Comic-Con is a lot like a dose of Mirakuru. Even if it doesn’t make you bleed from your eyeballs, it will decrease your self-control and multiply your aggression. That’s how you end up with 13 different Doctor Who t-shirts and getting in a fight over a Pinkie Pie exclusive.

Duff Goldman and I had a nice chat about food science after his panel.

Duff Goldman and I had a nice chat about food science after his panel.

Although the process of getting tickets and a hotel was not laidback, we definitely enjoyed this con in a laidback fashion. Meaning, we didn’t get our spandex in a twist about getting into panels or events. But, with minimal waiting, we still made it into some awesome sessions like Rotten Tomatoes Critics vs. Fans, Pride Prejudice and Zombies, Patient Zero, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Warner Bros. TV and DC Entertainment: Superhero Saturday Night, and Food Network’s Chef Duff Goldman. We heard from darlings like Matt Smith, Stephen Amell, John Barrowman and Grant Gustin, along with non-darlings like Quentin Tarantino. We also watched the premier of the new Supergirl series. Incidentally, Supergirl seems like a good gig for families. Since we didn’t waste time waiting in line, we could spend more time spending money in the exhibit hall.

The exhibit Hall is full of spatial surprises.

The exhibit hall is full of spatial surprises.

Speaking of the exhibit hall, my favorite thing about Comic-Con this year was interacting with artists, celebrities, swordsmiths and enthusiastic vendors. We chatted extensively with these folks on the exhibit hall floor and after panels. Trust me, the life of someone that forges blades or designs steampunk monster posters for a living is a fascinating one.

Despite my reluctance to again take on the Hungarian Horntail of nerdy conventions, Jason and I had a good time at San Diego Comic-Con this year. I’d say we won’t be attending next year but maybe that’s about as believable as a Nazgul claiming he won’t be doing the bidding of the One Ring anymore.

20 Jul

The Call of McCall

Posted by on July 20, 2015 at 11:32 am

Idaho isn’t frequently considered a touristy place. Sure, their potatoes are pretty good but I’m not convinced those tubers bring in the crowds. However, Jason and I recently traveled to a slice of Idaho that was perfect for venturesome vacationers such as us.

At Shoshone Falls, the Snake River drops 212 feet. That's more than 50 feet further than Niagara.

At Shoshone Falls, the Snake River drops 212 feet. That’s more than 50 feet further than Niagara.

McCall is a small town situated in the middle of Payette National Forest and on the shores of Payette Lake. It’s a couple hours north of Boise. Hiking, river rafting, mountain biking, boating and horseback riding are all offered near its borders. We became aware of McCall’s existence about six months ago and promptly planned to retreat there.

Just five minutes in the heat and sand of Bruneau Dunes and this happened.

Just five minutes in the heat and sand of Bruneau Dunes and this happened.

The drive to McCall took us over seven hours. That’s a little too long for my restless tastes but we split up the journey a little by stopping at Shoshone Falls on the way up and Bruneau Dunes on the way back. While we spent less than an hour at each of these detours, they offered us a welcomed chance to unfold our limbs and discover new territory.

And another five minutes later...

And another five minutes later…

Although we were expecting McCall to be an outdoorsy town, we were surprised by its variety of outdoorsiness. We spent two full days exploring its options but we could have easily spent a few more.

This wasn't fruit punch, just one of the best sunsets our captain had seen in his four years of sailing Payette Lake.

This wasn’t fruit punch, just one of the best sunsets our captain had seen in his four years of sailing Payette Lake.

Our first day in McCall, we hiked every single trail in Ponderosa State Park, five and a half miles total. Ponderosa is located on a peninsula that juts out into Payette Lake. Like its name suggests, it’s covered in a lovely pine forest interposed by vibrant meadows and sandy beaches.

Ponderosa State Park is a gorgeous mix of forest, meadow and shore.

Ponderosa State Park is a gorgeous mix of forest, meadow and shore.

We finished up that day with a sunset lake cruise aboard the Idaho. Jason and I toughed it out on the ship’s upper deck as the sun and temperatures plunged in order to have a better view of the beauty around us. If only I’d thought to wear every single layer of clothing I’d packed in my suitcase. Brrr! The sunset was glorious though, one of the best I’ve ever seen. It turned the lake waters a shade of Kool-Aid. (Check out the pictures I took and be prepared not to believe their unedited status.)

I didn't use anything more than a steady hand and a slow shutter speed when creating this picture. I promise it was not Photoshopped.

I didn’t use anything more than a steady hand and a slow shutter speed when creating this picture. I promise it was not Photoshopped.

The next day, we rented a Four Winns sport boat and spent the afternoon touring the lake. The sunshine was so pleasant in the middle of this voyage that we stopped our vessel and read books on its bow for a while. All hail glorious UV! The weather quickly turned from terribly pleasant to just plain terrible though. A storm circled in suddenly and we found ourselves being assailed by choppy waves and a deluge of rain. Yet, we felt compelled to persist since we still had over an hour left on our rental and wanted to get our money’s worth of suffering.

Look Mom, no hands!

Look Mom, no hands!

McCall is a cute lakeside village in a pretty forest. Its outdoor distractions are plentiful and I predict we will return there again for some more striking scenery and striking weather.

13 Jul

A Night in Toilet Paradise

Posted by on July 13, 2015 at 10:57 am

Jason is not a father. That fact has never impeded me from using Father’s Day as an excuse to celebrate him. This time, however, my well-intentioned plans went far afield or more like down the hallway to the bathroom.

For Father’s Day this year, I decided to give Jason a night in paradise. Every aspect of this evening, including his gifts, was tropical themed but the highlight was a fancy homemade dinner crammed with coconut and pineapple.

Hours of marinating and slow cooking culminated in these tasty sandwiches.

Hours of marinating and slow cooking culminated in these tasty sandwiches.

I prepared grilled pineapple pork sandwiches from slow-cooked meat and blended up refreshing pina coladas but the best part of meal was, undeniably, the banana coconut luau cakes. These muffin-sized desserts were served over slices of fresh pineapple and topped with from-scratch coconut-caramel sauce and macadamia nut brittle, along with whipped cream of course. Aloha deliciousness!

Despite the yummy menu, our evening did not end up as gastrointestinally ideal as it started. In fact, it literally went down the toilet. You see, Jason had eaten lunch that day at a restaurant that shall not be named. (It rhymes with Sargent Loa.) After that meal, his stomach didn’t feel so good but he forgot about its malcontent until he again tested its temper with my large dinner.

About half an hour or so after eating his special Father’s Day supper, Jason’s tummy began to remind him that it still resented his lunch insult. He spent the rest of the evening feverish and groaning in bed, with some speedy bathroom trips mixed in for variety.

The banana coconut luau cakes tasted as good as they looked.

The banana coconut luau cakes tasted as good as they looked.

I know the question lingering in all of your minds. Did my delightful dinner cause the gastric version of Pompeii? As a food scientist, I can assure you the answer is no. Firstly, I did not get sick. I am, undoubtedly, made of hardier stuff than Jason but I don’t think my stubborn make-up could have saved me from his digestive disaster. Secondly, the particular restaurant where Jason partook of lunch has given several of our friends slippery guts on more than one occasion. Thirdly, a handful of Jason’s coworkers that ate lunch with him that afternoon were also “indisposed” the next day. And lastly, I am the most sanitary cook you will ever encounter. No one gets food poisoning on my watch.

And that is how my appetizing meal deteriorated into diarrhea. I guess life is just a crap shoot…or, in this case, perhaps a crap chute. Happy Father’s Day Jason! I hope next time you find paradise it’s outside your lavatory.

7 Jul

Blanched

Posted by on July 7, 2015 at 5:28 pm

There’s no time like the present to try something new even if it melts you, just ask the Wicked Witch.

Lake Blanche, at an elevation of 8,929 feet, is one of Utah’s most popular hiking destinations, one we’d never been to until we decided last month to trek to its praised shores on a warm Sunday. Although Blanche’s trail climbs 2,680 feet up Big Cottonwood Canyon over 3.2 miles, those stats didn’t intimidate us. But I guess we should have paid less attention to the ascent details and more to the weather. We presumed that the route to Blanche would be sheltered in heat-deflecting trees and ventilated by mountain breezes. We were way off. (I’ve got to be wrong at least once in my life just to have the experience.)

The terrain around Lake Blanche bursts with surprising clusters of crimson.

The terrain around Lake Blanche bursts with surprising clusters of crimson.

As it turns out, the majority of Blanche’s path is directly in the sun’s blazing gaze for most of the day. Hence, our temperatures escalated as we scaled until prolific sweat swaddled us like soggy blankets. Seriously, I don’t remember being that sweaty ever before. It was kind of really miserable. I had to make Jason sit down at one point because he was shaky from the severe roasting he was receiving.

Sundial Peak looms above Lake Blanche with all the authority of its 10,320 feet.

Sundial Peak looms above Lake Blanche with all the authority of its 10,320 feet.

We trooped on though and hit Lake Blanche in a little less than two hours. Our misfortunes were quickly forgotten along its charming (and cool I might add) waterline.

My tiny toes don't appreciate being confined to hiking boots so I pad my feet to give those digits the illusion of space.

My tiny toes don’t appreciate being confined to hiking boots so I pad my feet to give those digits the illusion of space.

An ice age ago, Blanche filled in a basin left by a crushing glacier. It wears a vibrant collar of red rock on one side like a stunning necklace and empties, via a dramatic waterfall, into two smaller pools, Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. We spent an hour and a half exploring all of these idyllic waters. Naturally, it was delightful.

Dromedary Peak is another dominating feature of Blanche's surroundings.

Dromedary Peak is another dominating feature of Blanche’s surroundings.

I’m happy to report that our trip down the mountain was much pleasanter than our reverse journey. The sun had retreated behind the hills by that point so succumbing to heatstroke was no longer mandatory. (Yeah, you better run sun!)

Lake Blanche is remarkably reflective, almost dazzling.

Lake Blanche is remarkably reflective, almost dazzling.

In total, we wandered 7.62 miles over 5.5 hours. Since we only accumulated three of those miles in the most wretched of fashions, this affair couldn’t be considered torturous as a whole. I’m glad we did it even though we nearly drowned in puddles of our own perspiration. However, if you’d asked me my opinion on the matter in the middle of our damp rising, I might have mumbled a different answer, assuming I had the energy to give any response at all.

Alpine flowers bloom in Big Cottonwood Canyon around June.

Alpine flowers bloom in Big Cottonwood Canyon around June.

The moral of this sticky tale? If you find yourself longing for the enticing shores of Lake Blanche in the middle of summer, make sure that longing strikes you early in the morning.