1. Cherry Creek Falls – Hike #1

    June 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Seattle by Kristina Horner

    For the last year or so, I’ve had this inkling that I wanted to start hiking. Which is funny, because when I was young I hated when my parents would make me go hiking (“why would we just want to walk around in the woods when there are books to read?”), and I also distinctly remember in college making fun of the fact that the very first thing you’ll see on anyone’s dating profile here in the Pacific Northwest is that they “enjoy hiking”, like there is nothing more stereotypically Seattle than a loud and proud love of hiking.

    But… I mean. I work at Microsoft and graduated from the UW and started hiking and even recently bought my first The North Face jacket, so honestly… maybe I just need to admit that I’m pretty stereotypically Seattle. Maybe I should just embrace it.

    Anyhow, my friend Jenn and I decided to start hiking. We’ve both been trying to be more active lately, including signing up for (and actually going to!) a gym, and signing up for a 5k (The Bubble Run!) at the end of the summer. And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    And yesterday we did our first Pacific Northwest hike, complete with sweet new hiking backpacks.

    25 foot cherry creek falls hike seattle

    The Hike: Cherry Creek Falls Trail
    Description: A hike along old logging roads to a 25 foot tall waterfall on Cherry Creek just outside of Duvall, WA.
    Length: 5 miles (out and back)
    Elevation Gain: 718 feet
    How long it took us: About 4 hours round trip, with about a 30 minute stop for lunch and pictures at the falls, and Jenn struggling with a hurt ankle on the walk back.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    This was a fantastic first hike! The trail itself was moderate to easy, with a few tricky mud puddles to cross here and there. There’s also a point about 2/3 of the way in where you have to cross a literal creek, which added to the challenge and excitement. I’m not sure if it’s because we went early in the season, but there’s also about a half-mile stretch in the middle where the trail is really thin and a bit overgrown, so you spend a bit of time pushing through bushes and shielding your face, which was just a little bit annoying but overall not too bad.

    When you get to the end of the trail, there’s this beautiful viewpoint that overlooks the falls from above, but the real magic happens when you hike down the last steep stretch to find yourself at the base of the little body of water that forms at the bottom of the falls. We were disappointed it wasn’t warmer, because what a place that would be to take your shoes off and splash around in the water. We made due just eating the sandwiches, carrot sticks and chocolate chip cookies we’d brought along which enjoying the view.

    The people we encountered on this hike were friendly and had cute dogs, and even offered Jenn a beer after we passed each other multiple times during her ankle-hurting saga. We respectfully declined, because as savvy new-hikers, we’d already brought our own tiny wine bottles. Because we’re classy.

    The only strange thing that happened on the hike was near the most treacherous mud puddle – Jenn and I were cautiously making our way over when we heard a phone alarm go off. Jenn wasn’t too concerned right away, because she assumed it was mine, but I don’t use a phone alarm. I use the silent vibrate alarm feature on my Fitbit. I assumed it was HER phone, but it quickly became clear it wasn’t coming from her direction. In a few seconds time, I was certain either someone had dropped their phone on the trail, or there was someone waiting just off the path, ready to kill us.

    Once we’d cleared the mud, we walked a few more paces, and a man was just standing at the top of the next hill, by himself. It was his phone. He was holding it in his hands. And he obviously had been able to hear us saying “where is that alarm coming from? Whose phone is that? This is creepy!” from just around the bend but chose to say nothing!

    He was friendly as we passed, and we all laughed about it, but I was still pretty creeped out. I might have to write a scene in a book sometime where characters find out they’re not alone in the woods by hearing someone else’s phone go off loud and clear. Probably at night. Probably when their flashlights have gone out.

    For the record, I packed extra batteries for my flashlight, so this fictional horror scenario would not happen to me. Always be prepared.

    We’ve got our next hike planned for next weekend, and I’m so excited to make this a regular thing! Stay tuned for more blog post updates/reviews of the hikes I go on.

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  2. May 2017 Life Update – Wedding Planning and Traveling

    May 21, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    Life has really been a sprint lately. I wrote a blog post recently called Adjusting, about how I’m trying to chill out and not run myself ragged, and I thought it might be a good time to check in on that. Really, I’m still exhausted and super busy, but I do think I’ve made incremental changes that are worth noting and celebrating.

    I’m going to run through a few bigger life categories both to catch up on what I’ve been doing, and to measure if I’ve made any sort of positive progress.

    GENERAL: My biggest hurdle in terms of lowering my stress levels and breaking free from the cycle of “always being busy” definitely falls in this personal fulfillment category. This is where I suffer from guilt for not making videos, for not having an Instagram with a strictly defined visual theme, for having cosplay photos on my computer that I’ve never posted anywhere, for never being up to date on all the good new TV shows, for ever watching TV at all, for not having made enough progress on my book… the list can go on forever, if I let it. My goal this year is to not let it. These things are

    These things are bonus. These things are the cherry on top. And I’m slowly learning how to be okay with that.

    Lately, I’m not sure if people have noticed, but I’ve significantly slowed down making YouTube videos. So far I’ve made 6 videos in 5 months, and honestly, I feel great about it. I have a few more that I’ve filmed but still need editing, and I have some ideas for others, but YouTube has become a hobby again in a bigger way than I’ve ever let it before, and it feels really good. Goodbye, shackles!

    I’m trying to keep this blog at least updated a couple times a month, with one of these larger life updates each month. I’ve embarrassingly behind in #wordbound, but that’s becoming a priority again as we phase into summer. My Instagram is still probably my favorite social account, and I try to keep it updated – including doing Instagram stories, which is new for me! That’s been kind of fun. I’m starting to get it.

    I don’t have any cosplay plans until PAX (end of summer), so that’s a relief. That leaves me to happily work on my book for the next couple of months in any free time I carve out. And to just… hang out with Joe. Play games with my friends. Be a guest on a super fun Sailor Moon inspired tabletop stream. Go to the gym. The things I so often had to pass up or feel guilty about doing, before.

    WEDDING: We’re still 11 months out from our wedding, so I am trying to take baby steps. Make incremental progress. I’m a planner to my very core, so I’d always rather over-prepare and then take a breath closer to the deadline than save things for the last minute, but the wedding industry is one of very mixed messages. I wish people would do studies on the pressures of being a bride, seriously. Maybe they do. It’s a very, very weird space.

    Almost every day I am hit with so many opposing points of view. “You have so much time, you don’t need to be thinking about this yet. It’s too early. Your weight is going to fluctuate, you shouldn’t be ordering things yet. This is your day, do whatever you want and whatever makes sense for you. We don’t even need to meet until fall. You have so much time. Literally stop working on your wedding it’s too early.” And in the same breath, I also get, “What is your wedding theme? What are your wedding colors? Why haven’t your out of town relatives gotten save the dates yet? Where are you going for your honeymoon? You know a dress can take 8-10 months to arrive, and then you need another 2-3 months for alterations. You should really have ordered it by now. This day isn’t just about you so here’s the list of seventy-six traditions you should consider doing arbitrarily because that’s what people expect. Where’s your hotel room block?”

    *falls down dead*

    I am a very organized person, and I’m trying to do this whole wedding planning thing at the rate that makes sense for me. It’s very difficult not to lose my mind sometimes, but I already plan events for work and I feel like I am doing an okay job. I’m just going to keep repeating that to myself.

    For inquiring minds, here is my actual progress: At 11 months out, Joe and I have selected our venue and the date. We’ve talked with a friend about designing our save the dates. We have some ideas about fun things we want to plan for during the wedding reception. We’ve mostly selected our wedding party but we haven’t asked them yet. I’ve picked out a dress, even though I had given myself another month or two to make that decision. And now that I have a decided on a dress, I am pretty sure I am set on our wedding colors.

    Now that those things are decided, I think I deserve a tiny break.

    Then we’ll start addressing envelopes.

     

    TRAVELING: Work has been so, so busy lately – so I am extremely happy to have a few trips lined in the coming months. Last weekend, Joe and I went to Vegas with his family, which was a total blast.

    The trip was for a combination of Joe’s mom’s birthday as well as mother’s day, and we did such a unique combination of activities for a Vegas trip. We started with the Beatles LOVE Cirque show, which I’d seen before but not since my 21st birthday. Sidenote – that was a long time ago.

    The next morning we got up very early and headed out to Red Rock Canyon for a morning hike. I was very skeptical of hiking in the desert, but the weather was beautiful and there was a slight breeze, so it was actually kind of a perfect scenario. The trail was pretty bouldery, too – which I think makes hiking a lot more fun.

    We also spent a good amount of time at the pool, in the casino, and eating delicious food. The gambling method of choice for both Joe and I is blackjack and craps, so we partook in just enough that we came home from the trip about even. There were of course jokes and delusions about winning the money for our wedding in Vegas, but unless you can throw a wedding for $-40, that’s a no go.

    One of our biggest regrets is that we didn’t at least try this Dungeons & Dragons themed slot machine. I’m always on the lookout for the funniest slot theme, and this was the trip’s winner.

    I started reading The Book Thief at the pool, and while it’s not the most lighthearted summer read, I’m glad I finally decided to give it a try. I am loving it so far. We also went to an ice bar, where they give you a parka and gloves, and essentially stick you in a very social freezer. Everything is made of ice, including your cup. I would show you pictures, but because it was Las Vegas, we weren’t allowed to take any.

    Only in Las Vegas would they construct a bar made entirely out of ICE in a DESERT and then not even let you take pictures. The whole situation was very, very poetic. Las Vegas is a ridiculous place.

    Upcoming trips include a camping trip for Memorial Day weekend, a jaunt to North Dakota to see relatives, and then a week-long trip to New York a bit later to meet some of Joe’s extended family. I also plan to do some hiking this summer, so I’ll hopefully do blog updates about that as well.

     

    Overall, I’m still a little busier than I’d like to be, but I’m continuing to find the balance. I’m getting there. I don’t think there’s any real “there” to actually ever get though, so it’s just a system of constantly checking in with myself. And right now, I’m okay. 🙂

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  3. April 2017 Life Update – Cosplay, Writing and Disneyland

    April 22, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    It’s been a bit of time without an update, so it seemed like a nice little Saturday morning to laze in bed a bit longer and write a blog post. I haven’t been as active online lately, but I’ve definitely been keeping busy! Especially since the weather has been getting nicer (and then worse, but then nice again – Seattle likes to play hard-to-get) I’ve been feeling more energized and motivated lately, which is always a nice shift. You can feel it in the air.

    Wedding: Luckily since my wedding is still over a year away, nothing feels very stressful or rushed yet. I’m hoping I can space things out enough to keep it that way. Joe and I finally decided on a venue (which is probably why I am so much less stressed about this now – that part was killer) and we’re working on getting save-the-dates made. We also asked my adorable cousin to be our flower girl, so I’m feeling good about our progress.

    Writing: I’m about 7,000 words into my Camp Nano project, which is also the new book I am throwing myself into after deciding to put down the last one. This is not nearly as much progress as I was hoping at this point, but I am still proud of myself for continuing to work on it, and I’m hoping to keep up a regular pace even after Camp NaNo is over. My goal is to have a first draft of this book done by NaNoWriMo proper this year, which feels reasonable to me. That gives me 6 months.

    I’ve still been updating #wordbound each week with new prompts, even though I’m a little behind in actually doing the prompts myself. I’m going to get myself back on track soon, and I’ve been so thankful for the folks continuing to write their stories each week for the prompts. You guys are great.

    Cosplay: While Emerald City Comic Con ended up being somewhat of a non-event for my friends I with regard to cosplay (just 2 rewears) we were planning to go all out for SakuraCon. This year was the 20th anniversary of the con, so many cosplayers chose to go retro anime with their cosplays. We jumped on board this train, finally bringing to fruition a long time goal of cosplaying as the colorful and eccentric Amazoness Quartet from Sailor Moon.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever worked harder on a costume than this one, and the days leading up to the con, it’s all we did after work. My living room was a disaster of ribbons, hair wefts, and fake roses.

    And then, on Friday, I started getting a tickle in my throat. I tried to ignore it, but there it was.

    I woke up on Saturday feeling miserable. But I couldn’t let my quartet down, so I groggily put on my wig cap, glued on my fake eyelashes, and affixed the pieces of my tiny costume to my body. And guys – I looked fabulous. But I felt like death.

    cerecere cosplay, amazoness quartet cosplay, amazoness quartet costumes

    We managed to walk around the con for about two hours (which was about enough time to film a segment for a cosplay music video, go to the Sailor Moon meetup and do our personal photo shoot) before I had to give up and go home. I did not see even an inch of the show floor. And I didn’t end up going back on Sunday (when I planned to wear a new Lolita dress). I absolutely adore SakuraCon, so I was pretty disappointed, but I was so sick. Now we have to figure out somewhere else to wear these costumes because we definitely did not get enough use out of them.

    Work: My job has been keeping me pretty busy lately as well – and as usual I really can’t say much. This is one of the most difficult parts of this job, truly. I am so used to candidly sharing tidbits about my life, but for some reason, I always end up working on projects at Microsoft that are tented, unannounced, or confidential. I still work in HoloLens-land, which is exciting. I’m also shifting focus a bit toward Microsoft’s new mixed reality initiative, which you can read more about here.

    Whenever I can share cool stuff about what I am doing at work, I promise, I will. For now, just trust me – I’m surrounded by awesome technology every day and I feel so lucky. Also, you can follow this Instagram account my team launched if you’d like. It’s gonna be cool.

    Life: My personal initiative to go to the gym at least twice a week took a tiny bit of a backseat because I had to take a week off to finish my costume… and then I got sick, but I already started making up for it by walking around the lake I live by yesterday with Joe. And I’m going to pick it back up again next week when I can breathe normally again.

    Beyond that, I’ve been reading a lot – I read a whole book while I was sick, and Goodreads tells me I am something like 10 books ahead of my reading goal for the year. I specifically set myself a pretty low reading goal this year (only 30 books) because I didn’t want reading to become a stress in any way. And now I’m blowing past the goal, which feels nice!

    I also went to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago with my girlfriends! Jenn had never been, so we needed to right a wrong. We went for two days (one park each day) and I’m pretty impressed with how thorough we were. We hit just about every ride we wanted to, saw the Mainstreet Electrical Parade, the Frozen show and World of Color, hit up two Disney dining experiences and participated in the food and wine fest. It was a solid weekend.

    Standard obligatory Disney jailhouse photo-op.

    belle dress disneybound, live action belle disneybound

    This was the day we decided to disneybound every dress Belle wears in the new live action film. Of course, Gaston was the first person we ran into. Typical.

    anna disneybound, elsa disneybound, anna and elsa

    Eia and I fulfilled a lifelong need to disneybound Anna and Elsa (and seriously, this dress has been hanging in my closet for this sole purpose for YEARS). What better place to immortalize our perfect outfits than in front of the #bluewall?

    It’s funny – when I was in middle school, I went to California Adventure with my friend Stephanie. While we ran around losing our minds on rides, her mom and aunt spent most of the day sitting in the Mendocino Terrace Wine Tasting area, and we thought this was the stupidest way to spend your time at a theme park. Well… my life has come full circle, because we spent at least two hours there on Sunday, mostly because our feet hurt and also wine is delicious.

    We also ate at the Blue Bayou, which was a first for me as well!

    We mostly spent our time shopping, because shopping is great and also Disneyland does that thing where the gift shops are mostly the same but you really have to see them all to see everything. And we decided to be completionists.

    I got sick of wearing that blue Elsa dress about halfway through the day on Sunday so I switched into an entirely new outfit of things I had purchased that day. #noregrets

    Overall it was an amazing weekend of pin trading, spending all our money, eating delicious food and wishing we could do weekends like this more often. I had a great time with my lady friends and I can’t wait for our next getaway.

    Looking forward to summer and some other trips I have coming up with both my and Joe’s families, and I’ll keep updating this blog to keep you all posted on what I’m up to, since I’ve been a little quieter online lately!

    Leave a comment!
  4. March Update: Adjusting

    March 31, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    I’ve been going through a bit of an adjustment lately. I think that’s the best way to put it.

    It’s a few things, actually. I’ve always led a high-intensity life: thriving off of deadlines, challenging myself to fit more things in, trying to be the poster child for “you can do everything!” Then I started burning out. I started to realize I was doing everything but yet feeling like I had little to show for it. I started reading articles about the concept of wearing your “busy schedule” as a badge of honor, and it all sort of coalesced for me in a big ‘for what’?

    I’m learning that’s not actually the life I want. So I’ve been trying to take steps to change it.

    But it’s really not easy to unlearn a decade of bad habits.

    I stumbled upon this quote the other day from Alice in Wonderland, and it really struck me. The quote goes:

    “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

    That’s the world we live in. I finally saw the spinning exercise wheel for what it is, and I am slowly trying to get off. And to do that, I am trying to figure out where I actually want to run twice as fast, so I can slow down the rest of the time. Stop, even. Rest. Read a book. Watch a tv show for once.

    So here are some of my adjustments. It’s a work in progress.

    1. Job: I never wanted to be the kind of person to say this, but my job has somehow, without my noticing, become one of the most important things happening in my life. I started at Microsoft as a sort of personal experiment, because I love learning and I wanted to know what the 9-5 life was like. I wanted to experience a desk job. A corporate environment. Work on a large team of people.

    A lot of people I know right now are quitting their jobs or stepping back from this lifestyle to pursue personal endeavors, a different path – but I’m the opposite. I’ve never done this before. I’ve embraced it later in life. This is my wild step into the unknown.

    And so I spent the first year or so there with one foot in, one foot out.

    I enjoyed the job – I did! But I rarely ever needed to stay late, I wasn’t very emotionally invested in my projects, I read books on my lunch break by myself.

    Now, that’s changed in a lot of ways. I joined a new team over a year ago that started to feel more like a family, and I had a lot more responsibility given to me. Then I was hired as an actual Microsoft employee rather than a contractor, and was entrusted to help hire the folks that would go on to build a whole Community team for Windows. And then my role expanded to become a much more massive version of what I was previously doing, and guys – I really, really care. I don’t know when it happened, but I do. Work suddenly takes up way more of my creative energy than I ever let it before, but I’m doing such cool things that I realized I’m okay with that.

    And while before, I was very adamant about not letting my job keep me from the “creative things I like to do” – now, trying to do both all the time… it’s killing me. There’s too much. And maybe it’s okay if my creative energy gets sucked up by the legitimately really cool things I do at work.

    That realization, for me – was huge. My job is a massive part of my life now. That.. changes things.

    2. Focusing: Now obviously I can’t become an office drone without any outside hobbies. I’m a creator. I make things. That’s never going to stop.

    But it’s time to focus in on the really important stuff.

    When you are kind of writing a book and kind of making videos and kind of doing regular cosplays and kind of running a book club and mostly keeping up with a writing prompt program and maybe writing blog posts and sort of committing to a laundry list of social and digital obligations, are you really doing any of it?

    Kind of?

    Does it feel powerful? Inspiring? Are you doing your best work? No.

    I still don’t have a working solution for this particular problem, but I know the theoretical answer is focusing. If you want to write a book, that means making sacrifices. I used to view those sacrifices as like, dedicating Monday nights to writing and complaining a lot about never having any other time to write – but the sacrifices can’t all be social. They can’t be minor. If you want to do something big and lofty and hard, you have to make real sacrifices. You have to commit. Wanting to write a book might mean sacrificing making regular videos for awhile. Skipping a convention I like cosplaying at. Realizing I will never have an active Facebook fanpage because it’s too much work and I don’t actually really enjoy scheduling regular content for myself.

    But the problem is, I’ve convinced myself that I have to do all these things. That somehow my whole identity is wrapped up in making YouTube videos and if I don’t, I’ll somehow cease to be me.

    Well… that’s bullshit. Because if I’m not even doing any of it very well, what public image or brand am I really building for myself?

    If I had to strip everything away but one, my singular focus would be on writing. The fact that I know that, in my heart and in my mind and in my gut means I owe it to myself to do something about it. So whatever it takes, whatever I need to cut out – I’m going to effing do it.

    I am going to admit I haven’t been taking my personal vow to write a dang book as seriously as I should, and it’s going to happen.

    And that might mean I won’t be around quite as much. It might mean I won’t make as many videos, or respond to emails in a reasonable time frame.

    But I think that’s okay.

    3. New life-affirming extra-curriculars: This is a bit of a departure from the rest of this blog post, but it’s another series of big adjustments that I think is notable enough to include. In trying to build better habits for myself around my personal projects, I started to see… other bad habits. And one by one, I’ve been fixing them.

    I started going to a gym.

    I started seeing a counselor.

    Joe and I cook dinner together, like real food.

    I stopped scheduling out every minute of every day, and I now only put appointments on my to-do list. Everything else (editing videos, finishing that sponsored post, working on cosplay, anything related to my online presence, catching up on email) I can pick and choose (when I have free time) from a casual, separate list. And if it’s not directly related to writing, I’ve decided that it’s all optional.

    These things are making a incredible difference in my life, and even though some of it (gym, regular counseling sessions) actually take up more time.. I’m already finding that the emotional and mental clarity they add to my life more than makes up for that.

     

    So this is why you might not have seen me around as much lately. This is why my Instagram might go a week without a new post. Why my blog posts are sporadic. Why I’ve not been cosplaying as much, or posting as many videos, or even remembering to tweet sometimes.

    I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to do better to the projects I really care about, to my relationships and to myself.

    So far it’s going okay.

     

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  5. Welcome to 2017!

    December 22, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal by admin

    Societally, 2016 will be known as one of the very worst years of the modern age – but for me, I actually had a lot of really great highlights. It’s confusing, knowing the year was so terrible on a grand level, but still wanting to celebrate my own successes.

    I’m all about the camaraderie of hating things together, and I know we have our work cut out for us for the next four years… but right now, I just want to take a deep breath and admit 2016 kind of rocked in a lot of ways, too. I saw online someone saying “don’t wish your life away”. So even though there are still 2 days left in this facepalm of a year, I want to take these final two days to be proud for having survived it, rather than rushing it to be over.

    Kristina Horner 2016 Pink Hair

    In 2016, I:

    • Was hired as a Full-Time Employee at Microsoft in May, which is a career path I wasn’t expecting or even necessarily trying to take, but one that’s helped me grow in so many ways I’ve truly lost count.
    • Graduated from my UW certificate program in YA Fiction Writing! This has given me so much more confidence and direction as a writer.
    • Wrote my 11th NaNoWriMo novel in a castle in France, where I met incredible people and learned a great deal about myself along the way.
    • Got engaged to Joe! He proposed in front of Hogwarts castle, with a ring he made himself, and I’m reminded every day how lucky I am to have found such a sweet boy who cares so much for me.
    • Dyed my hair pink! After 28 years of feeling timid, I just decided to take the plunge. I’m a pink girl to the core, and now everyone knows it.
    • Played a reunion concert with my band The Parselmouths! This is something I truly never thought would happen again, but somehow the planets aligned and we did it. And it felt good.
    • Started cooking dinner more regularly thanks to Blue Apron! I’ve learned an insane amount about cooking since we began this endeavor, and the dedicated time with Joe doesn’t hurt, either. Plus it’s all pretty healthy food, which was a previous goal of mine.
    • Ran my first 5k! Microsoft put on a charity 5k, and a bunch of my teammates and I signed up! I only actually ran about half of it, but I was proud of myself nonetheless.
    • Created NINE new cosplays, including Future Twilight, Piranha Plant Girl, Lolita and Pajamas Princess Bubblegum, Taffyta Muttonfudge, Wendy from Lumberjanes, Gunner Peach, Renaissance Tinkerbell and Misty from Pokémon. This was maybe too many, in hindsight, but I had a great time doing it.
    • Read _ books. I’ll fill this number in at the proper end of the year. I’m currently at 41, but there are two days left in this year. Who knows what might happen.

    Last year I set some New Year’s resolutions for myself, so I thought it would be fun to revisit these and see if they worked out, how much I grew, and what to change for next year.

    • Make at least one more cosplay than the previous year! (Last year I made 5, so this year I definitely hit this goal and more. In fact, because of how busy I’ve made myself, I actually want to think about this next year. Cosplay is fun, but it really has the power to eat up my life, so I want to limit what I attempt to do so I can balance with my other goals.)
    • Finished editing my novel by the end of the year! (This did not happen, but I am okay with that. I decided instead of editing to do a total rewrite, and right now I am 2/3 done with that draft. I imagine I will have another solid draft of this done by spring of 2017, so that’s reasonable.)
    • Read at least 52 books – one per week! (I’m racing the clock on this one, but I did make the executive decision to bump this goal down to 50. I still might not hit it, but I will get close. I really enjoyed the books I read this year, so I am satisfied here.)
    • Invest in professional photo shoots for my cosplays! (I did this… twice, this year. I wasn’t overwhelmingly blown away by either set of photos, so I might just go back to casual photoshoots with my friends. I really want cosplay to just be a fun little hobby, so I think I am altogether backpedaling on my previous goals of taking it more seriously.)
    • Hit year #2 at Microsoft! (Check! My anniversary is Dec 19th, so I’m officially at 2 years!)
    • Find a method of exercising and eating healthy that works for me! (I got halfway there this year! Joe and I have been cooking dinner together regularly, I eat significantly less fast food than ever before, and I don’t crave as much junk food as I used to. This is a slow process, but I am proud of my progress. Exercise, on the other hand… well, that can be 2017’s problem.)

    Here are my new resolutions for 2017:

    • Actually finish your book to an extent where you feel okay sending it to beta readers and then, potentially, agents.
    • For the love of god, start writing a completely different book. (After you finish this one, Kristina. After.)
    • Plan an awesome wedding you’ll always look back on fondly, but also don’t let it make you crazy.
    • Cosplay, or not, but only because you want to.
    • Read at least 40 books. Be mindful of the books you choose to read. Consider #diversebooks and #ownvoices. (My reading goal number goes down every year because I am trying to be kinder to myself.)
    • Continue to de-clutter and minimize possessions/wardrobe. Invest in nicer things, but less of them.
    • Exercise. Please. Even just a little bit.

    In 2017, I want to help others and this planet as much as possible. I want to live a more sustainable life. I want to help raise others’ voices when I can. I want to focus less on possessions and more on experiences. I want to write more, love more, worry less. I welcome 2017 with open arms.

    What are your resolutions?

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  6. The Incident at Notre Dame de Peyragude

    October 29, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    Today we decided the weather was much too beautiful to stay inside all day, even if we’re being productive – so we climbed into our van and ambled out to a small nearby town called Penne d’Agenais. I’m continuously amazed at how movie-set-like these little medieval towns feel, which I realize is an incredibly American thing for me to say. However, these tiny cobbled streets with old crumbling houses set up on the hills are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The dichotomy between old and much, much older is stark, and I often have no idea what’s crumbling and abandoned and what’s actually a shop or someone’s home.

    This town was awesome, and we decided to just keep following the roads up. There was a small, steep stone staircase we passed, and it looked very residential. One of my castle-companions, a digital nomad named Nicole, told me that “we’re tourists… we can go wherever we want!”

    I’m glad I followed her, because the stairs took us to another steep road, which took us to the most amazing scenic lookout of the sprawling landscapes around us. There was also this gigantic crucifix at the highest point, which was both amazing and creepy.

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    At this point I truly adopted the mantra “explore everything”, so we kept on walking. I’m realizing more and more that you find the coolest stuff when you don’t actually know what you’re looking for. Further along the path, this time going down on the other side, we came upon a literal cave. Like a dark, scary, echo-y cave, set into the rock directly below the crucifix. Most of it was barren and empty, but around the side there was a prayer area, with this angel hanging around out front. She was like “Yo, I guard this cave. Come on in, you’re cool.”

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    Inside there was a bunch of candles, a small bed and a laminated story entirely in French. Even the best French speakers in our group could only make out that it was something about a small boy who was hungry and ran away, and Mary helped him find flour to make bread. Anyway, the point is, the caves of the wall were very porous, and hundreds of people had left little prayers in the crevices. We all took a moment to write something to leave inside the wall.

    As we headed out, I told myself to be thankful I’m not sleeping in a cave next time the castle feels cold at night.

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    Next we found this amazing cathedral. It is called, as my blog post suggests, “Notre Dame de Peyragude.” It was way higher up on the hill than anyone would ever decide to build a communal building in the United States, but it was beautiful and very obviously a popular, regularly visited church. Like, people have to seriously trek up a hill to get here. That’s some hard core religious dedication.

    The Catholic in me loves a good cathedral. The Catholic in me also had to google “jesus on a cross” to remember the word for “crucifix” earlier because I’ve only gone to church on Christmas and some Easters since about high school, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, this church was gorgeous, I feel like my dad and grandma would be proud whenever I visit one on a trip, and I know I enough about Catholic churches to not embarrass myself in one – even if I can’t speak the native language.

    Or so I thought.

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    Look at how pretty it is! There wasn’t mass in session so I was able to just wander around, look at the stained glass, make the sign of the cross with their holy water, etc. I also noted that even when you’re on the opposite side of the planet, all Catholic churches smell exactly the same. It was the first really familiar scent I’ve experienced since I arrived.

    There were prayer candles along the side of the church, so I decided to really make my elder relatives proud and get down with my Catholic self. Your prayers get to heaven faster, or something, when you send them with a prayer candle. I wanted to wish good health for both of my grandmas, so I put my 1 euro in the offering box, grabbed a little votive candle, and headed back to the shrine area where the others were already burning brightly.

    I didn’t see any sort of lighting device, which comes standard in a lot of churches. I don’t carry a lighter or anything of the sort so I had a moment of cluelessness. But then I had a stroke of brilliance – light the candle with another candle! Of course!

    I tipped my candle slightly over to the one beside it. It was going well for a second, and then the entire candle fell out of its holder, completely smothering the neighboring candle.

    I was mortified. I didn’t know what to do. I JUST PUT OUT SOMEONE ELSE’S CANDLE. AM I GOING TO HELL FOR THIS? I RUINED SOMEONE ELSE’S PRAYER. I did the only thing I could think of, I picked up the wrecked candle, managed to light it on yet another candle, and then very, very carefully lit mine far, far away from the one I’d nearly ruined.

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    Pictured here is my candle, feigning innocence, right beside its arch-nemesis.

    The candle to the left of the one I am pointing to is the one I almost killed, and the day-saving candle is the one on the top right. Mine is whistling guiltily and trying to blend in while suffering from imposter syndrome. I stayed a moment and said an extra prayer for the havoc I’d caused, then high-tailed it out of there.

    So, Grandma, I’m very sorry. I promise I will never terrorize another Catholic church again. I said that prayer for you, so God knows you’re involved in this disaster. I hope he forgives us.

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  7. #NaNoCastle Exploration pt. 1

    October 27, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

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    Today I went exploring outside the castle with another one of the guests, a girl name Yamile. The weather was beautiful, so we set off early in the day without any sort of plan or goal in mind. We just decided to wander and see what we found, and the grounds here are huge, so it’s really easy to wander aimlessly for ages.

    This little kitty decided to join us, and literally trotted alongside us for over an hour as we clambered over the hillside, ducked under trees and found all sorts of cool old stuff. A few times we were afraid we’d lost her, but she always found her way back to us. To be fair, she lives here, so she probably knows this area like the back of her… paw?

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    We’re going to be spending three weeks together, so we decided to give our cat friend a name. We named her Claire. Claire loves us, and always tries to eat our food or sneak into the castle when we aren’t looking. She’s not supposed to go into the castle. This is hugely distressing to Claire.

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    Here is Claire warning us, “don’t bother looking inside this seriously ominous and creepy little shack. There’s nothing exciting in there.” We didn’t listen to Claire, as we made it our mission to look inside everything, no matter how creepy.

    She was right though. We only found spider webs and some sort of pressure gauge or water heater or something. I actually have no idea what it was, aside from probably ‘covered in spiders’.

    This whole place is old and sort of decrepit and spooky. I really don’t know how many airbnb-ers they get here, especially since a lot of the amenities on the grounds appear worn out and dusty and like no one has used any of it in awhile. It’s totally got that old “abandoned” vibe, like you should film a horror movie here, or take artsy pictures for a viral Buzzfeed list [10 Haunted Places You Can Actually Rent!].

    I’m sort of glad Claire accompanied us on our exploration, because if a cute happy kitty can live here then so can I.

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    This is an old tennis court that I doubt anyone has used in awhile. There was a sign above the opening in the fencing that said “Le Tennis”.

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    This is a boarded up old log cabin we found about a 20 minute walk from the castle. If I’ve learned anything from scary movies, it’s that if something is boarded up – it should probably stay that way. However, I desparately want to know what’s inside. Next time, log cabin. Next time.

    There was also a big row of beehives, like legit ones used to collect honey. I wanted ot take a picture, but I was too afraid to get close. Maybe I’ll brave it on a future exploration.

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    Here’s an awesome side-view of the castle. I wish we could fly some sort of NaNoWriMo flag from those points on top. Why didn’t we think of this?! I was so unprepared for castle life.

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    When we got back, two of Claire’s kittens were waiting to welcome us at the front steps. We really need to name the kittens. “Mom, why were you gone so long?” they mewed at us. “Because,” Claire said, slightly exasperated but still lovingly, “I’m a single mother and I haven’t gone out with the girls in weeks, that’s why.”

    The kittens just chased a bug, already having forgotten they asked a question.

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    Now I am inside, working on this blog post by the fire, and the cat family is taking the “no cats in the house” rule quite poorly. “But please,” Claire is mewling, her soft paws tapping the wood of the door. “After everything we shared today?”

    I’m sorry, Claire. I don’t make the rules here.

     

    Stay tuned for more castle exploration, as well as NaNoWriMo updates as soon as we hit November. I’m having an amazing time on this castle adventure and I love sharing it with all of you! Follow my instagram for more pictures like the ones you see above. 

     

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  8. The Best Weekend Ever

    October 26, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal, Travel, Writing by Kristina Horner

    Three incredible things have happened to me over the last couple of days:

    1. I was reunited with my band The Parselmouths at LeakyCon.
    2. I got engaged to Joe Homes, my best friend and boyfriend of 4 1/2 years.
    3. I flew to France to live in a castle.

    If that makes it sound in any way that my life is unbelievable or the plot of a romcom… well… maybe that will help you understand how I’m feeling right about now.

    Last week, there were only a couple things on my mind. Among those were “make sure you’re packed for LeakyCon”, “make sure you’re packed for France”, “make sure you remember the words to your songs” and “make sure you’ve tied up everything you can before 3 weeks away from work.” I was so immersed in being ready that I didn’t really prepare myself for what everything would feel like. So now, as I sit in the sitting room of a castle by the fire we made with our hands, I will go into detail about the 3 days I will never forget.

    Parselmouths Reunion Show at LeakyCon: Let me just get this out of the way first – I never imagined I would ever perform with the Parselmouths ever again. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t really plan to go to a LeakyCon again either, unless it was in a city close to me. Times change, you know? Good things come to an end, and I was full up with enough amazing memories to last a lifetime.

    But when Brittany (sorry, Elle) and I got together for drinks back in the spring and had a great time, and I realized LeakyCon 2016 would be right in her backyard… the gears started turning. The people at LeakyCon were totally down for a reunion show, and then suddenly… it was happening.

    It was super stressful. Like, really, really stressful. Practicing from different states, getting new shirts made, re-learning all the songs, and doing this amidst also planning a 3 week trip abroad – I literally thought I had been crazy to agree to something like this. And for what. A 30-minute set?

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    But I cannot explain how it felt to be on stage again. I’d forgotten the chemistry we have when we perform. How well people know the lyrics to our songs. How much energy courses through you at a place like LeakyCon, onstage. It was incredible, and I was so filled with love and excitement, and it was a part of my life I really never thought I’d get back. I had accepted that some amazing things will only live in the past and was truly okay with that, but this felt… it just felt so real, and so right, and I’m so happy it went as well as it did.

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    Which leads me to…

    Joe Proposed at Wizarding World!: So here’s the thing. I was ALREADY on a high when I woke up on Saturday. Our concert had been amazing, and I was so excited to take Joe to the Harry Potter theme park, because he hadn’t been there yet. We spent the morning poking around in shops, had breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron, then rode the Forbidden Journey ride… and as soon as we got out of the ride, Joe started insisting we all needed to take a group picture. It was a little weird honestly, because Joe never cares about pictures. Like at all. I have to force him to take pictures with me all the time. But he wanted a picture, so there you go.

    After the group shot, he said “can someone take one of just the two of us, now?” Which again – weird – but I assumed Joe must be feeling the wizard love this weekend as well, so we smiled brightly with our wands to the sky. I actually hadn’t even looked at this picture yet to be honest; I had kind forgotten about it. It’s really quite nice!

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    Then after a moment, I saw him reaching into his pocket out of the corner of my eye. It all happened so fast, guys, but I knew IMMEDIATELY what he was doing and I started freaking out. We were at HOGWARTS. And so many of our friends were there watching, and no one had a clue. AND THEN HE GOT DOWN ON ONE KNEE.

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    I was crying and laughing and waiting for him to actually ask me a question to say “YES!” to (we were both nervous, clearly) but it was amazing and magical and my friends were very audibly excited. A lady who was working The Forbidden Journey came and gave us a front-of-line pass. People cheered. I was so shaky and excited and nervous our friends did the only thing they knew how to do – they walked us straight back to the Hogshead and bought us drinks. I can’t think of a better thing to right after getting engaged than drinking spiked butterbeer.

    The rest of the day was pure magic. Joe and I just kept smiling at each other, and he extended his trip so he could stay for the ball. We danced and celebrated and soaked up more of the positive LeakyCon vibes and overall, it was a really solid weekend. I’m just so happy. It was so wonderful.

    But wait! Kristina. Wasn’t there a third thing on your list? Something about living in a mutha-effing castle?

    Oh yes!

    I am now living in a castle: After LeakyCon, I flew home for less than 24 hours. I used this time to unpack, repack, vote, and snuggle with Joe. It was super, super weird to leave him after BECOMING ENGAGED TO EACH OTHER, but he is wonderful and wanted nothing more than for me to go have this adventure. I miss him, but that’s the awesome part about deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone: he’ll be waiting when I get home!

    So, Monday afternoon, I got on a 7 hour flight to Iceland, where I transferred to a 3.5 hour flight to Paris. Then I took a 1 hour bus to Montparnasse station where I got on a 4 hour train to Agen. There Derek, the guy who set this whole #NaNoCastle thing up, picked me up in our big eight-seater van, and we drove the 1 hour to Chateau de Cadrès, where I will be spending the next 3 weeks writing a book. Whew! I am exhausted and I slept for 12 hours after this immense journey, but I made it!

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    Honestly though – way to put living in a castle into perspective, Joe. I really thought this would be the most surreal thing that happened to me this week, but nope! Getting engaged still wins I think.

    A lot of people keep asking me how this whole castle thing came about. The short version is, a group of people wanted to do NaNoWriMo in a castle, so we made it happen. It’s really that simple. But the slightly elongated version of the story is that Derek had a dream to gather a bunch of writerly types and rent a castle for a month to work on stuff together in a really incredible setting. He actually hosted a contest almost a year ago for one of the spots (which I won), which is why I am here.

    Over the past year I’ve gotten to help with castle selection, brainstorm ways to use the time productively, and outlined what I hope will be my best novel yet. There are already two other people here with me in addition to Derek and his wife, and I’m already having a blast. In fact, I am writing this blog post by the fire in our sitting room wearing my new slippers, and it’s amazing. We have a few day trips planned, but we’re setting goals we have to accomplish before we can go on the trips. It’s a great system.

    The castle portion of my adventure is really just beginning. I’ll be taking many more pictures, and I’ll try to keep you all very updated on what’s going on out here in the French countryside. Spoilers: it’ll mostly be writing. But I’m sure I’ll have some stories by the time I leave.

    Stay in touch! Follow my adventures on Instagram and also here on this blog. I really don’t know when I’ll ever do anything like this ever again, so it will be well-documented.

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  9. What I’m Up To: Summer Update!

    July 16, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    Hello friends!

    I figured there’s enough exciting stuff going on to warrant a little life update, yeah? Here’s a neatly organized list of everything going on with me lately that is noteworthy:

    BOOKTUBEATHON

    It’s Booktubeathon time, starting on Monday the 18th! This means every second of my spare time will be spent on reading, which will be quite difficult this year with Pokèmon Go taking over my life and it being the equivalent of “finals week” at work. But I’m not going to let that stop me! Here are the books I am planning to read, and you should follow me on Twitter and Instagram if you want to keep up with my progress (and slow decent into madness, most likely)!

    POKÈMON GO

    This game is everything. I’m one of those people who actually kept playing Pokèmon between the first game and now, and it’s been incredible to see the world caring again about something I’ve stayed consistently a fan of for almost 2 decades. And while I’ve loved Pokèmon Red, Fire Red, Black, X, Omega Ruby, etc – getting to play it in a totally new way, in just about the closest way it could emulate real life, makes me wish I could go back and tell 11 year old Kristina with her first Gameboy Color “don’t worry that the other girls at school are already starting to date boys… POKEMON WILL START MATTER TO YOU THIS MANY YEARS LATER. AND THEN YOU’LL GET TO EVOLVE YOUR EVVEE INTO A FLAREON IN REAL LIFE, AND IT WILL BE JUST AS MAJESTIC AS YOUR TINY HEART IMAGINES IT COULD BE.”

    Here’s my Trainer (I’m level 12 now, this picture is a few days old):

    POKEMON KRISTINA

    I’m not really sure what my Pokèmon Go life goals are, but right now I am working on making all 3 Evvee evolutions my main fighters, walking twice as many steps as I normally do in any given day, and trying to keep a lock on the gyms around my house.

    And also maybe make the outfit my trainer wears in real life… hey, speaking of:

    COSPLAY

    My friends and I are gearing up for PAX where I will be making anywhere from 1 to 3 cosplays depending on how much time I have. I also got a beaaauuutiful new dress form, so I’m hoping this inspires many more progress photos than I’ve remembered to take in days past.

    I’ll have more to say on this in the future, but for now, here’s a picture of Eia and Jenn and I picking up fabric a few days ago for the group cosplay we’re definitely doing at PAX:

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    WORK

    Work keeps me busy! I don’t think I mentioned this here before, but around May, Microsoft actually hired me as a full time employee (previously I was a contractor) which meant a lot of great new added benefits to working there! It also meant lots more responsibility, which has been fun and challenging and exciting – but also, you know, exhausting. It’s always weird figuring out where the balance is on what I can and should say about work, for a number of reasons.

    By nature of working on HoloLens, I’m not actually allowed to talk about some of the stuff I work on, so there’s that. Also, it’s so vastly different from what I normally project as my online ‘persona’ that it feels so.. I don’t know, it just feels like another life. I think coming home to my books and my cosplay and my writing keeps me sane through this new life of the 9 to 5 that I’ve taken on, so I really love keeping it mostly separate. But of course I’ll share some awesome things when I can, and when it’s relevant!

     

    That’s about it for me, for now! I’m wrapping this blog post up because Joe and I made quiches for breakfast and he just took them out of the oven… the smell is wafting into my room and I can’t stay away any longer. I hope you are all doing fabulously, and hopefully, if I have time, I will do a BookTubeAThon recap at the end of the week.

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  10. Welcome to 2016!

    January 1, 2016 ♥ Posted in: Journal by Kristina Horner

    It’s been awhile since I updated this blog, and the very first day of 2016 felt like a good time to fix that. It’s a new year. A whole new year. I have no idea where the time is going but for once, that thought isn’t freaking me out. I’m actually… pretty excited.

    Kristina Horner as a cat on new year's eve.

    This was me on New Year’s Eve, minutes before midnight, pondering if life would be better or worse in 2016 as a cat.

    2015 was a pretty amazing year for me. It had its ups and downs of course, but I feel like I accomplished so many things, made huge life decisions that have set me on a path I am proud of, and will bring me to an even more amazing 2016.

    Last year I:

    • Hit 1 year working at Microsoft, in which time I not only moved to the main campus permanently, I got hired onto a new team where my very specific skills are being utilized in a way I’m really excited about.
    • Started the UW certificate program for YA Novel Writing, which encompasses night classes I love every minute of and really has inspired me to work on editing my novel.
    • Made the concrete decision to edit my 2014 novel to a point where I feel confident submitting it to agents in hopes of publishing.
    • Completed my 10th NaNoWriMo in a row, a goal I’ve been working on for the entire decade comprising my adult life.
    • Celebrated 3.5 years with Joe, the most incredible human being I know and a big reason I am so happy and self-confident these days.
    • Chopped all my hair off and dyed it green! I feel more like myself than I have in a long time, and I can’t see myself growing it out for awhile.
    • Bought a brand new car! This was my first big adult purchase, my first loan beyond student loans, and I’m totally in love with Chip, my root beer colored Mini Cooper.
    • Went to BEA entirely be myself (but as a result got to spend nearly a whole week with the wonderful SuperSpaceChick) and had the most amazing time being submersed in the book industry.
    • Completed FIVE cosplays over the course of the year, including Rapunzel, Blake from RWBY, Wendy from Gravity Falls, Joy from Inside Out and KiKi from the Little Twin Stars.
    • Didn’t have my vocal nodes impact my life in any way that kept me from doing things nearly the entire year. I’m keeping it under control, finally!
    • Read 78 books, something that means more to me than I can even fully explain – but other book lovers get it. Books really filled my soul this year. I’m so happy.

    My twenties haven’t always been easy. I know that even at the hardest of times I’m still an extremely fortunate person: with amazing friends, a loving family, a house to live in right in a beautiful part of Seattle, a job, good health – these are things I try not to take for granted even a single day of my life. But my view of my own self worth, my personal happiness, my ability to work on the things that matter to me, the removal of toxic people from my life — these are the things that really came into focus for me in 2015. This has been my brightest year yet, and I can’t wait for things to just keep getting better.

    In 2016 I plan to:

    • Make at least one more cosplay than the previous year!
    • Finished editing my novel by the end of the year!
    • Read at least 52 books (one per week!)
    • Invest in professional photo shoots for my cosplays
    • Hit year #2 at Microsoft!
    • Find a method of exercising and eating healthy that works for me!

    2015 was all about working on my mind and spirit. This year I want to be about my body, as well. I’m hoping to make exercise and healthy food a part of my life in a way I’ve never managed to do before. I hope to take more time to relax, to learn more about health in general, and to look and feel great in my cosplays.

    As always, it means so much to me that there are people out there who appreciate what I do, whether that’s watching my videos, commenting on my cosplay photos, reading my blog or just chatting with me on Twitter. I feel so lucky that people care about what I’m doing. I love that I continue to have YouTube as an outlet to keep people updated on my life, and here’s to 2016 involving many, many more projects and memories.

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