Monthly Archives: February 2014

Here’s what I’m thinking about Final Fantasy XIV so far

This post is about online video games. It’s probably a post that should be ignored unless you are someone who likes to read what other people think about online video games, especially the one called Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV)

I feel like I should post some credentials here before I start flinging my opinions around. I mean, I am happy to share my thoughts but maybe I should let my readers know my background and how I came to my opinions or something?

I am not a hardcore gamer. I don’t identify as a geek, though some would argue that point (Gabe) However, I do like games. Board games, card games (NOT card games like Magic: The Gathering because who came UP with that? Talk about a lot of work for little reward, at least in my case), running-around-in-the-yard games, video games. As long as there is an element of fun (per Mary Poppins), I’m in.

I’m an old lady (middle-aged female) and have been around the ol’ online gaming block a time or two. I started with a MUD back in my college days and have since dabbled in the end of Diablo II where you could get online with other players (that was weird),  Star Wars Galaxies, Elder Scrolls…Morrowind? Maybe it was Daggerfall. I don’t remember now because I didn’t even last a day. I got bored waaaay too fast, World of Warcraft, Club Penguin (I have nieces and nephews, ok?), Guild Wars, WarHammer, City of Heroes/Villains and others that I have forgotten by now.

The point is that I have some basis for comparison among online games but probably can’t give a review like some woman who actually schedules time for raid nights and has maxed out every character she’s ever rolled. I guess I’m saying this is more than an apprentice review but less than master-level.

  • Good: It’s pretty

I don’t think I’ve come across many games in the past several years that don’t have this aspect down pat. You kind of have to, now, to make an impact. It’s important to be visually appealing in all markets (that’s a broad generalization, by the way) and this one is no exception.

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See? There are even sunspots and sunrises. It is charming.

  • Good: Storyline 

It appears there is one long storyline, something like you’d find in a standalone console game. While this is mostly kind of true for other online games, this story is obvious and it builds up, offering glimpses into your progress via cut scenes. I don’t remember any of the other online games being so story-driven.  According to Gabe, there are pieces of the previous Final Fantasy games spread all throughout and it seems this storyline is loosely based on the demise of the online FF game that preceded this one. Cool!

  • OK: Character creation

So here’s something neat this game does: Your starting area is not determined by your race but by your class. All pugilists, regardless of being littles, cat people, elves, humans, or green dudes, start in the same place and run the same beginning quests. Ditto the lancers, the thaumaturges, the arcanists, the marauders, so on and so forth. I rather enjoy that.

The creation engine is decent. It’s better than WoW but not as good as Star Wars: Galaxies or even City of Heroes/Villains. When you get out into the world, not everyone looks exactly the same, which is refreshing, but there’s not so much variety that you see anything unique, either. I do like that you can choose your vocal stylings, again like a console game, but I wish there were more size and shape options for all the body parts. Most of the cat people and the littles look the same while the humans and green dudes seem to come in a wider variety of appearances.

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Here’s my elfy arcanist. She’s very pretty.

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This one’s my favorite. Not only do I like how she looks but I like how she fights. I enjoy playing her the most so far.

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Ruby Smidget, my highest level character at this time. She’s a lancer, has run the training dungeons, and is on the third page of her hunting log. This is mostly because I run her with Gabe’s little person.

  • Bad: The game mechanics are clunky

From trading items to crafting, there are so many unnecessary little steps. When you’re turning in a quest item, you can’t just click on the quest giver and have all transactions happen in the background. Oh, no. Your inventory opens up to the bag of quest items (which is quite nice, really – a whole bag for just quest items! Brilliant!) and you have to select the item you’re going to turn it. But just selecting it doesn’t work. You select it, then choose to turn it in. Another little window pops up and the item you’re turning in shows up there and then you have to press the little button underneath that says “Hand Over.” Seriously. You have to go through all of that to give a quest item to the quest giver. What a waste of time!

Crafting isn’t much better. It’s cute that you get a little mobile crafting station to work at. If you’re learning to cook, you get a tiny little campstove-type thing. If you’re making jewelry, you get a little bench. But when you learn to craft, usually after level 12, I believe, you have to replace whatever weapon you’ve got equipped with the crafting implement, be it a saw, a frying pan, a fishing pole (not technically crafting but just go with it) and then all your clothing falls off and you’re left standing in underwear and sandals. You have to re-dress yourself in low-level gear or complete the first crafting quest in order to obtain a hempen robe to wear while you learn your trade. This happens because while you might be a level 16 pugilist, when you learn to craft, you start over at ground zero. You’re level 1 at that craft and cannot, therefore, wearing clothing of a level higher than 1. So that level 14 tunic you love? It falls off. Same goes for your boots and gloves, belt, wristcuffs, earrings, pretty much everything but the ring you got at the beginning of the game.

Then you actually start crafting. You have to buy all the pieces you need if you don’t already have them in your inventory, and let’s face it, you probably don’t. You equip your crafting implement, go to the crafting journal, choose the craft you’re going to work on and a window pops up. You choose the item you are going to craft from the window and hit the “Synthesize” button and THEN you have to hit the action button on your action bar so you can make ONE THING. Once that one thing is made, you synthesize it again and action button it again and you do this until you run out of the materials you need to craft the item.

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Ruby learns woodworking. This is what crafting looks like.

Granted, I’ve only been playing this for a few weeks and I’m running 3 characters simultaneously, leveling them by fives (get everyone to level 5 then 10 then 15, etc), and am learning slowly, as a result. I have no doubt I’ll find the faster way to get this all done once I’ve played awhile longer, made friends, learned cheats, but for now? This is a ridiculous way to craft, especially after WoW or Star Wars Galaxies (the only other games in which I took a crafting interest)

  • Bad: This party ain’t no party

This game is not party-friendly. Gabe and I, we tend to run together in games. Sometimes we even hang out with friends, though not right now because I don’t think any of our friends are here. We’re good at the in-game party lifestyle and let me tell you, this particular game seems to hate people hanging out together. We started noticing problems when we’d get double-pull while grouped, meaning we’d be out gathering Little Ladybugs, as requested, and every time one of us shot one, two monsters would come running. It always pulls two because, I am assuming, there are two of us? That gets irritating when all we need are a couple of moles so he goes after one and I go after a different one and suddenly, we’re swarmed in attacking creatures. Then there are the instances and cut scenes. Even if you’re in the exact same spot on the exact same quest line, there are things you cannot do together. You cannot have a cut scene together. You cannot do certain instances (little, personal mini-fights) together. You have to leave the party to continue in your quest and then you regroup when the solo moment is over. So there we are, sitting side-by-side, watching the same action on each other’s computers because we can’t play it together in-game. Why? WHY? It’s quite unfriendly and it makes me sad.

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Gabe and me. A funny thing? Gabe’s the human girl and he based her on me. She’s got two different colored eyes and her name is Librerica which is my Twitter handle. She’s an arcanist and will grow up to be a scholar. Sweet, right? I think so.

  • Frustrating: Dungeons

I’ve only run the training dungeons, so far, the three beginning ones that teach you how to use the duty finder and play nicely with others. For me, these have been an exercise in frustration and here’s why: This set of dungeons is part of the quest line. While I’m sure you can bypass it and not come to harm, it is part of the main storyline so probably you want to see what it’s all about, especially on your first character. So, in essence, you have to run these practice dungeons. When you get to the first one, you find out that you can’t run the dungeon until you have a party of four – 1 tank, 1 healer, and 2 damage-per-second players (in layman’s terms: a thug, a doctor, and two knife-wielding stabbers). Looking around, you notice a lot of NPCs loitering about, tanks, healers and DPSers. It makes sense that there would be a way to hire these people to help you run this dungeon, right? That’s what I thought. Only that’s not how it’s done. These characters who are hanging around, talking about going through the dungeon, they’re not available for hire. They don’t even interact with you. No. You have to go to the duty finder, select the dungeon you want to go through, and then wait until others who have done the same thing round out your team. You could wait for half an hour or more for a healer to show up and be assigned to your party. Then you and these strangers are all dumped into the dungeon together and you just hope for the best. Thankfully, I’ve run all the dungeons with Gabe, so far, and the other two members of each party have been capable and not-mean. But this isn’t fun for me! I don’t like being forced to play with people I don’t know if I don’t want to but unless you have already made your own group, that’s really your only choice. I am not a fan.

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Ruby in a dungeon with strangers…not Lucy in the sky with diamonds.
It was uncomfortable but we got through it and no one died so…yay.

  • Best thing EVER: All the little pets

More than likely, this is what will keep my interest: collecting the pets. WoW just implemented something similar and it is just as delightful though maybe in a different fashion. Here in FFXIV, you can collect little dudes to follow you around. They don’t do anything but look cute, as far as I can tell, but that’s good enough for me! These pets can be collected by anyone and they can be won, purchased, or come as a result of a quest or an event, and who knows what else because I don’t have anyone higher than level 22, so far, so don’t know how else to gather pets. Right now, I have a tiny golem (sandstone, from the look of him), kittens, wolf pups, little flying ships, a mammet (robot), and a hatchling chocobo. Every one of my little people has pets, all available to be summoned in order to traipse along with me throughout the lands. This appeals to my love of collecting weird things as well as my love of having cuteness following me everywhere.

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Ruby is barely bigger than her coeurl kitten (no, I don’t know what a coeurl is. I mean, I do, I’ve seen them in the game, but they mean nothing to me because they’re just…cats with long whiskers that are in this game)

  • And the rest

The music doesn’t do anything for me. I see the soundtrack is available and I have no desire to buy it. It’s not like the Diablo II soundtrack (I wish I owned that) or the WoW soundtrack (I do own it); the music isn’t evocative nor even memorable, at least not for me. I will probably turn it off altogether.

The cities…oh good grief, they’re all crazy and winding around and you can’t just get from one place to another but, instead, have to pass through gates. Not gates…I don’t know what they are. There are blue dots that separate one part of the city from another and when you go past these dots, you get a black screen while the new part of the city loads, and then you’re back in. Why did they do that? It’s neither fun nor efficient.

The other players are nice enough, so far. There aren’t too many gold farming shouts yet, though they do exist. Gabe and I both get bombarded to join guilds (which are not called guilds here) regularly but no one pressures us.

So, to sum it up: I keep reminding myself that the game is still new, probably an elementary-schooler right now. I am new to this new game, as well. We’re all working out bugs. I don’t know whether or not I will stick with it, yet. My free trial period ends in a little over a week and I’ll probably renew in April (I won’t have time to play in March) but I don’t think this is my new WoW. I’m still looking for that place.

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Filed under Adventures, My Opinions on STUFF

A profound compliment

Compliments are funny things. Some people want them, seek them, love and need them while others shun them and are flustered by them. I ride that line. I like praise and even seek it but only when I feel I deserve it, otherwise it freaks me out. I’ve found that when someone says something nice to me, I have one of two reactions, neither of which are “Thank you.”  If I agree with the sentiment, I tell a story. For instance, if someone says, “That’s a darling outfit,” I say, “I know, right? I got the skirt at the thrift store and the shoes were on sale and the top was a hand me down and my great grandmother made the sweater during the blizzard of ’43.” It’s like I need to explain why the praise is true even if my explanation has nothing to do with the original compliment. If I don’t agree with the sentiment, I argue. I’ll act all demure with a, “Oh, that’s so nice, but I had nothing to do with it,” or “It just happened this way,” or something equally vague and somewhat insulting to the praise-giver. I know I’m just supposed to smile, accept the compliment and move on. According to childhood lessons in etiquette, I should return a compliment but that’s even worse than accepting one. A forced compliment is hollow, isn’t it?

There was one compliment, though, an off-hand remark that had nothing to do with anything I did but that left me speechless, nonetheless. It was, and remains, the best compliment I have ever received in my life.

Back during our early high school days, my BFF, T, began to conserve her syllables both, I think, as a matter of communication efficiency and also maybe a little due to verbal laziness. During the school day, we had a lot to say, so much so that every moment in the hallway was spent chattering over each other at our lockers and when we were apart in separate classrooms, we wrote notes to one another. When we finished our homework in the evenings, we’d call each other. This was back in the days when the house had a main phone because cell phones were a thing of science fiction; we’d tie up the line for hours. I still don’t know why our parents let us do that but I suppose it was a good way to keep telemarketers from disturbing the peace. So knowing there was a lot to be said in a short amount of time (because, really, we probably only had 4-5 actual hours per school day to express our thoughts), T started shorthanding her speech and, as a result, my name lost two syllables and simply became “Er” (as in Eyre, Jane Eyre) This easy-to-say new name stuck and I am still “Er” to T and a few others, including my Longest Running Friend, April. April’s been calling me Er since T coined it so by the time she and I got to Korea, it was my default name. I don’t think she could have added the “ica” if forced.

South Korea was my first legitimate trip out of the country. It was scary and culture shocky for the first month or two but we eventually found our places in the environment and functioned appropriately as young twenty-somethings abroad. So one night midway through our year there, we were out with our co-workers/friends and were the only non-Koreans in the group. I was walking out of the bar with Michelle (real name: Sae Kyung), April and Julie (I don’t remember her real name) right behind us. I heard Julie ask April, “Why do you call her ‘Er’? Is it because as your friend, she is so important to you, like the air you breathe?” I think we laughed, April and I; Julie’s logic seemed hilarious. April explained the shortening of words for the ease of communication. Obviously, the name had nothing to do with anything I’d done, nothing to do with me at all, really. It was just a question based on linguistics and the desire to understand our tradition of nicknames but it hit me hard and has stuck with me all these years, the thought that I could be as important as the air someone breathes, I could be that necessary in a life and that my necessity was apparent to another individual. What a wonderful thought, this gift of belief in the worthiness of one single regular human being and her potential impact upon another. I’d like to say I try to live each day with this beautiful sentiment in mind, that I try to be as important as air, but I don’t. I don’t believe that’s how life works, that any one person is truly irreplaceable. We can’t be; there’s no guarantee any of us will be here tomorrow unlike the air which will most likely be here for all of our tomorrows and probably our great-great grandchildren’s tomorrow if we don’t jack things up too badly. No, of course, our air won’t last forever, either, but we know we’re transient and the air, in comparison, is probably more permanent. Also, I never had a child, probably the only instance in which that statement of importantce is true or as close to true as possible. So, no. I am not as important as the air we breathe. I just have friends who don’t speak my full name. And yet, that is the best compliment, the most meaningful sentiment, I’ve ever received.

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Filed under Adventures, In someone else's backyard, My Dearly Beloveds

I was an angelic child – or – Grudge Number One

I attended a Behavioral EQ workshop yesterday where I was once more reminded that I have the emotional intelligence of a hermit crab. At least I’m consistent, I suppose, as these test scores never waver, not in ten years.

You know how workshops go. You build up through the information and then put it all together to get to the pivotal learning moment, which I did. Yay. However, the thing that has stuck with me was one of the beginning questions: “Can you think of an instance in which you became upset and reacted violently?” (not necessarily physical violence, just more along the lines of the Fight part of “Fight or Flight” response). Here’s something neat about me: I tend to get overwrought, upset, hateful, retributional…retributioney? Retributive!…and then I get over it, move on, and typically forget it ever happened. I have three grudges and maybe five regrets for my entire life, thus far. Most everything else that has upset me greatly is now forgotten, though probably never forgiven, knowing me.

Because of this ability to let go of all the things that piss me off, I wasn’t able to think of any recent instances in which I had been so upset that I reacted horribly, fighting instead being receptive to the elements of my situation and reacting accordingly. I thought back, thought back further, continued to think back until I finally settled on probably one of the two most crucial stress situations in my life. The topic? My First Grudge.

Dial back to 1979. It’s January. I’m probably in third grade. Chris is not in school yet; he gets to stay home with our mom all day, doing the things that non-school-attending children do. The holidays are over but I am still basking in the glow of my amazing loot haul. It had been a Christmas like I had never experienced. I got all the things I’d asked for from Santa plus a whole truckload of other great gifts. However, there were two presents that stood miles above the rest in my love and esteem: My beautiful, new, 13-inch Wonder Woman doll and my incredible Barbie Perfume Maker. I adored these toys more than I had ever adored anything else in all my life. They turned me into Gollum.

Are you with me, so far? Good, because here is what happened next:

You know, in my memory, she is much more beautiful. I’d kept the leotard for a long time but it didn’t fit any other doll so I don’t think it survived to my adulthood. However, the pink halter dress is still somewhere in my family. Perhaps Not-Little B has it?
Image swiped from My Toy Collection blog

Look at it! Just LOOK at it! Doesn’t it make you want to grab a powder stick, fill the little reservoir with water, and create heavenly scents? Oh, the longing I feel when I gaze upon this picture.
Image swiped from Sprinkles and Puffballs: Girl’s Toys Of the 80’s

During the holiday break, I had spent hours and hours creating beautiful perfumes, unique scents you would find nowhere else in the world except for maybe the bedroom of another child who also owned this magical maker of aromatic elixirs. I was ever so precise in my eau de toilette masterpieces, bottling them lovingly, arranging everything so that the glory of my art could be understood no matter who viewed it. In retrospect, maybe I made the wondrous little manufacturing station too alluring.

So there I was, freshly home from my first day back to school. I’d brought Wonder Woman with me, of course, and was taking her to my room so I could help her change into after-school play clothes, as we did back then. I walked with my doll in hand, probably talking to her, down the short hallway and could smell the Barbie perfumes I had made rushing to me, greeting me, beckoning me to come mix a new scent, to rearrange the bottles, to sniff the pastel-colored powder sticks. Filled with joy and anticipation, I flung open my bedroom door and found a  nightmare before me. His name: Chris.

My little brother was in my room, a place he was neither allowed nor welcome. I don’t know if he had been drawn to the perfection that was the Barbie Perfume Maker or if he hated me so much, he wanted to crush my dreams while I watched, but he was on my bed, frolicking like an imp, a small, plastic bottle in each hand with several more dancing at his feet. He was sprinkling the last of my hard-won, carefully-planned, beloved perfumes on my bed. He’d already relieved the rest of the bottles of their magic, dousing my throw rug, my stuffed animals, anything he had been able to find.

Rage.

So much pure red rage.

He was laughing. He was jumping up and down, from bed to dresser to desk, knocking things over and destroying my entire life. I screamed. No animal on the planet has ever before bellowed such a yawp, no amount of pain, suffering, or agony in any other being alive could have produced a cacophony as feral as mine was in that moment. I had Wonder Woman by the legs. I charged Chris. In my need to stop his carnage, I brought the doll up, up, up and then DOWN right on top of his hideous little head. My screams of outrage were immediately matched by his of pain and shock and probably fear. Blood geysered from his skull as if he were a whale just up for air. I looked at the red lifeforce gushing forth like my own anger and felt justified in my action until I realized his knobby little noggin had split my beautiful, my treasured, my precious Wonder Woman doll in twain. The upper half of her body dangled lifelessly and would have fallen to the floor had it not been held by her patriotic leotard while her legs remained firmly gripped in my angry fist. My shrieks, monstrous before, ratcheted up another several octaves, gaining volume and momentum as each second passed.

I probably could have forgiven the destruction of my life’s work, especially since the perfumes could have been recreated. Maybe I could have also come to terms with the demise of Wonder Woman; already the back of my mind was tracking down the nearest duct tape. It was not to be, however, because my horrible, terrible, cruel parents made two disastrous decisions that night and my first-ever grudge blossomed. When it comes time for those “people,” and I use the term loosely because it will soon become obvious there is no humanity in the souls of either my mother or father,  to move into nursing homes, they will wish I was beating them with a 13-inch piece of hard plastic.

My parents ran into the room to find the source of the commotion. I know they could smell the mixing aromas of strawberries, lilacs, little boy’s blood, tears, plastic, and hate and do you know what they did? DO YOU KNOW? They took Wonder Woman from my trembling hand but not with the intention of fixing her sad, broken body. They took her and they threw her away followed closely by the entire Barbie Perfume Maker and all its apparatus (except, as I found much later, for one empty bottle, sans lid, and the white trellis that had fallen behind my desk during Chris’ scamperings) My dad took Chris to the kitchen to apply pressure to his goddamned stupid, hard, toy-breaking head and then to feed him ice cream and I…I! The victim of this heinous double crime! I was lectured, probably spanked (who remembers by that point. What could they have done to me to punish me further?) and told to stay in my room for the rest of the night while the two things I loved most in the world were taken from me, put out in the garbage can, and placed on the curb for morning pickup. I had no dinner. No family TV time. No bath. I couldn’t even brush my teeth. I am surprised, in retrospect, that I did not die of dehydration in the night, since I had nothing to drink and I am fairly certain I cried every ounce of moisture from my body. And it’s not like I could subsist on perfume water as it had all been tossed away.

I will never, ever forgive my parents for coddling my evil little brother and punishing me for his misdeeds and while I appreciate the strides his wife has made in recent years to correct his long-ago dastardly acts, Chris is on my shit-list for all of time, as well.

And that is the story of My First Grudge, the first time my amygdala urged me to fight with fury instead of flee with fear.

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood

Welcome to February

Well, hi there!

So this isn’t one of the posts I’ve got simmering in the hopper, it’s a freshly-written bit that I didn’t know I was going to write until just now.

It’s February! I hate this month! I always have. It’s dreary, cold, and the holiday I most resent pops up on the 14th; it’s just a bad month for me.

This year, February started out snowy for much of the nation.

This is a mostly-common sight right now except for maybe the blue sky. But it’s all snow, all the time, all over the nation right now. Yay.

I started the month with the flu. Not a stomach bug, but the flu that kills old people and children and is mentioned alongside the term “epidemic” in history books. Yeah, that flu. Because February can always get worse.

But you know what? It hasn’t been that bad. The snow kept me inside and we had a fire going so I could huddle near it when I had chills. We have a dog visiting for the month, perhaps one who will come stay with us for good come spring. It’s nice to have a dog in the house again; I still miss Daisy something fierce but this new guy is funny and keeps me active…even though active is the very last thing I need right now.

Gabe’s been taking fantastic care of me. The first night I was sick, he went out to get me food and whiskey (he got me Fireball for the extra burn)(if you’re wondering why I needed whiskey, it’s because I don’t like Nyquil so I made hot toddies – whiskey, fresh-squeezed lemon, honey all mixed together in hot water – to help with the cough and sore throat and the luxury of sleep) In a flash of brilliance, he also got me a video game. He came home and told me it was like I had a penis. I was all, “What? Where’d I get a penis?” He answered, “This is typically the kind of stuff you get a guy, not your sick wife.”

Good husband. Gooood husband!

The video game – Final Fantasy XIV – turned out to be more help than all the whiskey and cold/flu pills combined (don’t combine those, actually) See, my aches and pains and issues with breathing made it so I couldn’t lie in my bed for hours on end, asleep, like I normally do when I’m ill. I was uncomfortable in bed, on the couch, out in the snow with the dog, I was uncomfortable anywhere but in a chair that made me sit upright. I was still uncomfortable there but at least my ribs didn’t hurt when I breathed. But this video game, it made all the difference because it was a huge distraction. During my waking hours, I could sit there and steer a little person around, doing things, seeing things, hearing things, not noticing that my ears were so full of pressure that I got a stabbing pain when I swallowed.

Gabe already had the game and he rolled up a new character so we could play together; it’s like we went back to our origins. Anyhow, there’s a cat-like race and we made a couple of those, naming them Toki and Evie. Yes. We made our cats so we could play them in an online video game. This is how we roll.

This is what Evie and Toki would like like if they were cat + people. No, really, they totally would.

But thank goodness we do because I’m not sure how I’d have survived the past week without Gabe’s care-taking abilities, but, more importantly, his forethought.

I went to the doctor yesterday. My flu was on its way out but had decided to leave me with a sinus infection and upper respiratory infection. I’m on antibiotics and am taking decongestants and expectorants and things are getting better. I’m even going to go back to work (unless I get snowed in) which is good news.

So it’s February, my least-loved month. It started out with snow and the flu but you know what? It’s been a better February than most so … welcome to the second month of 2014!

Coming up later: stories about nose hair, what I’ve been doing since I’ve last posted, and more! Stay tuned!

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds