A week of food and family

So, I’m still in NJ. Our flight tonight back home was cancelled because it’s Newark (flights are always delayed or cancelled here). I don’t so much mind since it’s nice to spend extra time with the family, but I do feel a bit bad about our kitty sitting at home waiting for us. I left her with more than enough food (there’s always some left when we get back) and she’s pretty independent, so I’m sure she’s fine, but it makes me sad to think of her by herself. Chris also has to get to work tomorrow, so that’s an issue as well, but we’re on the first flight out tomorrow morning, so he’ll just be a bit late and a bit tired. His boss is understanding, so I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

Anyway, it’s been a good visit. I haven’t seen my family since the Disney trip, so it was good to see them again. Thanksgiving was a good time. I got to see my cousin for the first time in a year. I’m used to seeing her much more often, so a year was a long time not seeing her. Oddly, the first thing she said to me after walking in was “Are you pregnant?” because apparently she’s been dreaming of me being pregnant, and I later found out my uncle had a dream about that as well. I’m not, and I know it wasn’t a “Boy you look rotund” sort of comment (despite my pudge), but it’s very weird to hear that people are dreaming that – as if the dreams will make it happen.  Eek. We definitely want kids, but not right now. Dinner was delicious as usual – my parents are very good cooks. We had turkey, ham, stuffing, yams (mmm, my favorite!), mashed potatoes, a cranberry concoction my dad put together, lima beans and oodles of appetizers (including the cheeseball, mmm!). My plate was quite full. We also had several pies for dessert.

We also took a trip into NYC to have dinner at Benjamin’s Steak House last night, which was really really good. My filet minion was the biggest steak I’ve ever seen and the sides were fantastic. Riding around in the city with my dad driving was nerve-wracking as always. I could never drive there myself. I can tailgate and cut people off in suburban areas (and often do. I have issues with road rage…but seriously, get out of the left lane if you’re doing 25 in a 45 zone and do not pull out in front of me unless you plan to go at least my speed. I drive a somewhat modified Celica – that should be an indication that I don’t drive slow!), but all those other cars in NYC would make me soo nervous. I do like to see the city near Christmas time. I love the decorations and everything, but I could never live there. All those people…ugh.

I also managed to take a tumble today on a skateboard in our basement. I’ve never been a skateboarder. I just happened to have this skateboard from my senior research experiment in college (it involved moving a stuffed fox around on a skateboard to compare the behavioral reaction of a goose to a simulated predator vs its reaction to another goose invading it’s territory during the mating season – I got lots of weird looks around campus with that fox/skateboard combo). Anyway, I was just rolling back and forth in a small area of the basement, not doing terribly bad, when I leaned back too far, and toppled onto my butt. This all happened just as Chris was coming downstairs, so all he saw was me on the floor as he came around the corner of the stairs. I didn’t hurt anything, so it was just pretty funny.

I’ve been very cold here. The temperature isn’t too much colder from where we live, but for some reason, at night, I just turn into an ice cube. I get into bed and immediately stick my hands and feet onto Chris’s warm body to sap all his heat. He’s not a fan of that. But he’s a good husband, so he lets me steal his heat. 🙂

Anyway, we’ve had a good time visiting NJ and we’re headed back home tomorrow morning, bright and early at 6:45 am. I probably will end up with my typical “early morning flight” stomachache, but I’ll just have to suck it up. I hate flying. Next trip: Hall family Christmas in TX! 🙂

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Wow. We had an AMAZING time at the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. This was our second year going to see them. Last year, we sat up in the nosebleed seats and thought it was amazing, but this year we managed to get 5th row center through the pre-sale for their fan club members and…just wow. We were so close to the stage. Honestly, I felt like they were playing just to me, which is an awesome thing to feel in such a big venue. They really did an amazing job. The music was great again and the performance had so much energy. There was no meet and greet for the 3 pm show since there was another show only an hour after ours ended, which was kind of a bummer after meeting them last year, but we were so close during the show it really doesn’t matter (I did kind of want more guitar picks for my collection though – I got 3 last year! They threw some at the end of the show this year and apparently one almost hit me, but the cow next to me got it. Ahem…did I say cow? I mean lovely older woman).

There weren’t too many changes from last year in terms of songs played, but I certainly don’t mind! I come for the music I like and I liked what they played! There were a few changes made to the band – swaps between the 2 sub-bands. I didn’t know until about a week ago that the band split into 2 (TSO East and West) years ago, I believe in order to play more shows. Most of the changes I didn’t really feel had any impact on the show at all (female singers, new keyboard girl), but I thought the swap in violinists (stringmaster) was pretty good. We had a guy last year, Mark Wood, who I don’t seem to remember very well, but it was hard not to notice the girl this year, Anna Phoebe. She was really energetic and interacted with everyone. Our friends got the impression that she was a bit of an attention stealer, but I didn’t really mind. The only change I felt was negative was the bassist. We got Johnny Lee Middleton this year, who is the original bassist of the band, the one who recorded the albums, so musically he wasn’t bad (though I didn’t think any better either). It’s just that he completely blended into the background. I read that he sometimes looks a bit bored when he plays, and he does. He finally seemed to get into it a bit during the second half of the show, when they were playing less Christmas music. West can have Middleton back. Bring back Chris Altenhoff next year!! He was so much fun to watch – he had lots of energy and was a better performer for it – that’s kinda the point of a live show, right? But overall, the show was great!

And now some pictures:

Violin face-off between Anna Phoebe and Roddy Chong (at one point, they were throwing their bows back and forth!)

Violin face-off between Anna Phoebe and Roddy Chong (at one point, they were throwing their bows back and forth!)

Johnny Lee Middleton, Chris Caffery, Anna Phoebe, Alex Skolnick, Roddy Chong

Johnny Lee Middleton, Chris Caffery, Anna Phoebe, Alex Skolnick, Roddy Chong (and also the head seen in half my shots)

Some of the singers and Chris Caffery

Some of the singers and Chris Caffery

Steve Broderick dressed as a bum for Old City Bar during the story half of the show

Steve Broderick dressed as a bum for Old City Bar during the "story" half of the show

Johnny Lee Middleton - yawn...

Johnny Lee Middleton - yawn...

Chris Caffery, Anna Phoebe, Alex Skolnick

Chris Caffery, Anna Phoebe, Alex Skolnick

Guitarists on the little outcropping at the front of the stage - do you see how close we are??

Guitarists on the little outcropping at the front of the stage - do you see how close we are??

Go here for my flickr set of a bunch more shots if you’re interested!   (EDITED 7/25/09 – broken link should be fixed, please let me know if it isn’t working)

An intial review of Wrath of the Lich King

Ok, so just a warning here – this post may be a bit confusing for anyone who doesn’t play WoW (and a tad spoilerific for those who do play, but I’m only level 74, so it’s not anything you wouldn’t learn fairly quickly in playing), so I don’t really mind if you skip this one if you don’t play WoW. On the other hand, I invite you to read on if you want to see the crazy inner-workings of a WoW player!

New Content

I love having new content to play – the game was getting kind of stale with our guild running Karazhan (a 10-man raid dungeon, for those who don’t play) every week and there not being much else to do but grind reputation and badges for gear that I’m already replacing. I actually took a break from the game because I was kind of bored with it, but I’m really glad to be back because it’s a really fun game and we’ve met some really nice people through it.

We’ve only played 2 of the new zones so far, but they’ve been really fun. We started out in Howling Fjord (HF), which I much preferred – it’s very pretty, has a good variety of quest activities that flow well, introduces some interesting storylines, and has nice music. After reaching level 72, we went over to Borean Tundra (BT), which felt a bit more scattered and routine. Both had very interesting parts though – Coldarra and the Temple City of En’Kilah in BT and Gjalerbron in HF.

Howling Fjord - lots of green, trees, high cliffs.

Borean Tundra - not as much to look at here. There are also some very snowy areas.

Borean Tundra - not as much to look at here. There are also some very snowy areas.

The new dungeons have been pretty cool too! We’ve done Utgarde Keep (in HF) and The Nexus (in BT) so far. Interestingly, my opinions here are completely opposite of my opinions on the zones themselves. I thought Nexus was really pretty and quite varied in fight styles for each boss, which made it fun, whereas Utgarde Keep was pretty much tank and spank the whole way through and not quite as cool looking.

Utgarde Keep - this is actually probably the most interesting looking part of the dungeon (theres also an external area that has sweeping views). Mostly its a fairly standard keep.

Utgarde Keep - this is actually probably the most interesting looking part of the dungeon (there's also an external area that has sweeping views). Mostly it's a fairly standard keep.

The Nexus - full of pretty, icy blue colors.

The Nexus - full of pretty, icy blue colors.

Gear Upgrades

So, I was all epic-ed out before this expansion came out, so I haven’t really gotten too many gear upgrades yet for my main character. Which I’m torn on – part of me wants new shiny gear and part of me is incredibly depressed to give up epic quality gear for greens (for those who don’t play, epic gear is harder to get and may take lots of time to get what you want whereas greens you get from any quest you do – easy to get). I am a bit disappointed that most of the quest reward gear seems to all look the same so far – I like to look a bit unique. I guess I’ll just have to wait till I start getting epics again to look unique.

Anyway, I’ve replaced a few pieces of gear so far with quest rewards and I’ll soon be replacing my boots through a leatherworking recipe. I’m really glad to see that leatherworking is finally useful! I picked up leatherworking as a profession at level 10 or so and pretty much never used what I made and most of it didn’t sell on the auction house either, unless it was a rarer item. But finally, I’m making a killing on the auction house (I even made a customer for life who special ordered an entire set of gear from me and plans to contact me for future upgrades!) and I’m already getting recipes for items I can use myself! Woot! Most of the recipes that provide actual upgrades are at least rare items (a step down from epic, but a step up from green), so that’s not too bad – and they’re easy enough to make. I just need to get the materials to make them, which I get from skinning enemies that I kill anyway (and some that I didn’t kill myself – there seem to be lots of bodies laying around for me to skin. Where’d all the skinners go this expansion?).

New Class

They also introduced a new class of character to play, the Death Knight, which is really fun. I don’t typically like melee classes, but I’m having a lot of fun with my Death Knight. I think it may be because she has a pet and I like the variety of skills she has, whereas my tries at Warriors and Paladins felt more restricted and routine. It also is nice that Death Knights start off at level 55 (you need to have at least one other character who’s at least level 55 to make a Death Knight and you only get one per account), which lets you skip a good chunk of leveling and a good chunk of quests you’ve done 8 million times before if you have more than one alt.

Adarys, my Death Knight. Also, her death charger and her ghoul.

Adarys, my Death Knight. Also, her death charger and her ghoul. She is meant to be scary looking, but under that helmet, she's kinda cute.

It was also pretty fun being evil. Which is why I’m actually disappointed that the Death Knights leave Arthas, the Lich King (and big bad guy of the expansion) and join the Knights of the Ebon Blade at the end of the starting zone. I suppose that was something I should have easily predicted.  I mean, it makes sense logically, that we couldn’t stay evil, because it would make gameplay difficult since there are only 2 factions in the game (Alliance and Horde) and staying evil would put you in a third unable to communicate and group with pretty much anyone other than Death Knights, but I dunno. It was fun. I kinda wanted to stay with Arthas. And I somehow missed the whole shift in the story. One minute, we were fighting all the people at Light’s Hope Chapel with lots of scourge help and Arthas showed up and tried to kill Tirion Fordring, and then he failed for some reason I didn’t understand and disappeared and the next thing I know, Tirion was telling me I was part of his little group now! And then I was sent to Stormwind where NPC’s threw rotten fruit at me! While Chris was bowing in front of King Varian Wrynn, asking for acceptance, I wanted to slaughter the whole city! Chris had to explain to me what happened. Apparently Arthas knowingly sent us to our death for his own purposes, but I felt my Death Knight was serving her master with loyalty and it was like 1000 to 300 in our favor and I didn’t die, so I don’t see why I should be mad at Arthas.

Which brings me to my next point. What’s going to happen with Arthas? Chris thinks he’s pure evil and too fused with Ner’Zhul, an extremely powerful evil spirit, and there may be some plot twists but we’ll eventually need to kill him. He thinks Arthas was always power-hungry and that he has completely lost his mind (and he did kill his father, which is one of the things I can’t explain in my own theory), so there’s no way we could do anything but destroy him. I, on the other hand, hope we’ll redeem him somehow and I want Arthas to want that in the story. I think there must be something in him that isn’t completely taken over by Ner’Zhul that will allow him to realize the error of his ways – I think the majority of the bad things he did, he did under Ner’Zhul’s control. Perhaps it’s just my weird fondness for bad guys (I want to save them and make them better!), but I just feel it would be anti-climactic and boring for us to just go to him and kill him. I mean, yes, we’re level 80 by the time we face him, so we’re supposed to be all strong and heroic, but he’s like an epic bad guy. It just doesn’t seem right that 10 people could just walk up and kill him after he’s been such a huge bad force in the world all this time. In this expansion, Blizzard made it so that even casual players who don’t have lots of time and huge guilds can experience ALL of the story, but unfortunately, I think an epic bad guy SHOULD require a huge collective effort – I’m talking a small army, like 75-100 people, not 10! 10 casual players walzing in and killing an epic bad guy just seems cheap. I’M IN a casual guild! And I’d rather listen to a real raiding guild’s experience than go in and have the pity-experience.

Arthas, before and after his corruption by NerZhul

Arthas, before and after his corruption by Ner'Zhul

Arthas in his armor and with Frostmourne, his sword.

Arthas in his armor and with Frostmourne, his sword.

Boy, this has gotten quite ranty, hasn’t it? I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t approve of the expansion. On the contrary, I love it. It’s been loads of fun so far. Chris and I are up to level 75, which seems faster than the last expansion, but maybe we’ve just been playing more. There’s already lots of level 80’s on our server, but I’m not really interested in rushing there myself – I want to enjoy all the new stuff.

So, overall, I really do like the expansion so far – the story is great so far (I’m much more involved than in the past), the zones look great, the music is nice, and really, I’m just having fun with all the quests and stuff. So, 2 thumbs up from me!

World of Warcrack

So, Wrath of the Lich King, the latest expansion for World of Warcraft was released last Thursday, the 13th. Chris and I went to a midnight release at our local Gamestop with our friend Jim. I think I was one of maybe 4 girls there, but the turnout was actually pretty good overall! We didn’t really talk to many other people while we were there – the store manager, Charlie, stopped to talk to us for a bit, but he’s a bit weird and doesn’t really play WoW, and we met a somewhat surly older WoW player, who was convinced they would close the store before he got his copy. There was also a guy ahead of us in line who had had his wisdom teeth taken out earlier in the day and kept passing out, which was kind of scary. Luckily he didn’t throw up, so I didn’t freak out or anything (have I mentioned I have issues with vomit? Like, more than normal people? I do.) Chris and I wore our customized WoW shirts from Swagdog. Yup, we’re nerds.

Chris and I in our WoW shirts

Chris and I in our WoW shirts

A closeup of my shirt

A closeup of my shirt - that's our guild name up top, a picture of our guild tabard (every character in the guild gets one to wear on top of their gear), my main character's name (Syleste), our server name (Shadow Council), and our battle group name (Reckoning). The 3 small circular pictures at the bottom are the Alliance picture (my faction), the Night Elf emblem (my character's race), and the Hunter emblem (my character's class).

Anyway, we each got our limited edition games (preordered a couple months ago), went home, installed and immediately played for a few hours. And proceeded to play for the next 4 days nearly non-stop (except for eating and sleeping a bit). Chris took 2 vacation days to play, so it was great to have him home for 4 days straight! I have to say I’m very pleased with the expansion so far.

Collectors Edition

Collector's Edition

Northrend map mousepad, the expansion, behind the scenes DVD, hardcover art book, soundtrack, limited edition cards, 2 packs of cards for the card game, official rulebook.

Contents of the collector's edition: Clockwise from top: Northrend map mousepad, the expansion, behind the scenes DVD, official rulebook, 2 packs of cards for the card game, 3 limited edtion cards, hardcover art book, soundtrack (middle).

Frosty, the frost wyrm. Hes an in-game non-combat pet included in the Collectors edition.

Frosty, the frost wyrm. He's an in-game non-combat pet included in the Collector's edition.

My initial thoughts on the game, in more specific terms, is coming tomorrow. For now, don’t feel bad for thinking I’m a nerd. I know it. 🙂 In case you don’t understand the post title, I suppose you haven’t played the game – it’s highly addictive. And fun! You should try it! Come join us!! *cackles maniacally*

Go vote!

Well, I voted today. I don’t intend to say who I voted for here, but I wanted to post to say that everyone should get out and vote today. Today was actually my first time voting in an actual booth. Both of my previous eligible voting years (2000 and 2004), I voted absentee because I was out of state in school. So, it was kind of fun to get to do it the real way this year and I actually felt that my vote was worth more, since I’m not really sure how much the absentee votes count. I think I heard that they don’t look at them unless your state is a close race, which I don’t think NJ was. Anyway, the turnout seemed pretty good. We had about an hour wait at 7 AM and I heard one man say that it wasn’t as busy last time, so it’s good to hear that lots of people here are voting. Go vote!

When will it end?

So today marks the halfway point of getting my cavities filled. My bottom teeth are all set (assuming all goes well with today’s teeth – I really really don’t want a repeat of last time and I really really don’t want to have to pay for another root canal, but the dentist said today that I shouldn’t worry about that this time, that these were all shallow and on the sides of teeth) and I’ll be moving on to the top next month. Though even when I’m done will all the drilling, I still have the expensive stuff left – 3 crowns and having my wisdom teeth pulled. *sigh* All this dental work really wears me out and stresses me out. I just want it to be done.

Nothing special to report today, really – it seemed to go pretty well. I’m a little sore, but that’s to be expected. I did have the worst novocaine injection ever though. Honestly, it felt like the dentist was dragging the needle over the bone under the gums near my teeth. It hurt. The dental assistant was nice though – she held my hand till it was over. That’s gonna be sore, though, when the novocaine wears off.

Anyway, just wanted to check in with my dental report. I know it’s not terribly exciting, but oh well.

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone had fun tonight! Our Halloween was pretty good – we just stayed in, played video games, and handed out candy to kids. We went through about 5 bags of candy – still have a big one left, which will last until next Halloween, I’m sure. We saw a very adorable little boy in a giraffe costume, who Chris decided to let pick as much candy as he wanted. We also saw a few kids who didn’t even bother dressing up. That annoys me a bit. I mean, we’re giving out free candy, can’t they at least put in a little effort?

We also carved a pumpkin last night and baked some seeds. They both came out quite well, I think! We made the seeds last year too, but only with salt, so we decided to make a batch of garlic seeds and a batch of Jalepeño seeds in addition to the plain salted seeds. I think the Jalepeño ones came out the best. For the pumpkin, we decided on a design we saw online of a Jack ‘o lantern eating a little jack ‘o lantern and here’s what we made:

We used an LED light thingy to make the inside glow red

We used an LED light thingy to make the inside glow red

His name is Georg (pronounced gay-org, which is fun to say). We had to improvise a little with the baby pumpkin because it was too big to fit without chopping off the top, but that allowed for guts popping out, so I think it works. We did get a few compliments on it during the night, so that makes me happy! (Oddly enough, we also got a “Your house smells nice” and a “nice shirt” to Chris, who was wearing his RockBand 2 shirt) Also notice the second baby pumpkin, who was stolen by some punk kid at some point during the night. You shall be missed baby pumpkin #2.