1. Discovery Park – Hike #2

    July 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Travel, Wedding by Kristina Horner

    We were supposed to go on our second hike sooner than this, but we had to skip our next planned outing because Jenn’s ankle hadn’t properly healed yet and then we had a couple of busy weekends. But then our friend Ariana was in town, and she’s all about that hiking life as well, so this past Saturday was the perfect time to (literally) hit the dusty trail.

    The Hike: Discovery Park
    Description: Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park, located next to the peninsular Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle. It overlooks Puget Sound, with views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains. The park is built on the historic grounds of Fort Lawton, which was originally a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Within the park is two miles of protected tidal beaches, a lighthouse, open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves and more. While it’s advertised as a 3.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail, all the branching paths and trails can leave a person wandering for hours.
    Length: Advertised as 3.9 miles, but that’s just for the loop trail.
    Elevation Gain: 570 feet
    How long it took us: We switched roads/trails at least six times, so we probably spent at least 3.5 to 4 hours walking around. No concept of how far we actually walked.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    So originally we had planned on checking out a different hike, and wanted to make more of a day trip out of it. Ariana had mentioned Lake 22 (which is on my list for sure) – but when the time came, Discovery Park made more sense.

    I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. As a new hiker I am very eager to try out exciting hikes, ones a bit further away from home, with exceptional views promised to me for the effort. Discovery Park is right here in Seattle, and while I’ve never actually been there for hiking, I couldn’t imagine a trail so close to where I live being anything to write home about. I live by a lake with a well-known walking trail – I imagined it was going to be of that caliber. I left my cool hiking backpack at home. I prepared myself for a nice little walk.

    Let me take a moment to admit I was wrong.

    Discover Park is probably one of the most incredible things about my city, and I’ve lived here almost thirty years without knowing.

    How have I gone about my day to day life, folding laundry and running errands and eating sandwiches and trimming my fingernails with a view like this just twenty minutes away? Literally, how does that happen to a person? How is this not some sort of mandatory Seattle resident onboarding information, like “welcome to the city – there’s a Starbucks on every corner and also this view will take your breath away, make sure you check it out as soon as possible.”

    The thing about Discovery Park is that there are a million little trails and paths. If I went back right this second, I don’t think I could retrace my steps. There are little paper maps offered at the trailhead of the north parking lot, and we tried to follow along with where we were going, but mostly our strategy was to go a new direction every time the path diverged. We walked on classic trails, dirt roads, paved paths, old wooden stairs, and spent a significant amount of time following the beach trail around the tip of the peninsula. We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    I saw a lot of different amazing things on this hike, but for some reason I only took pictures of this incredible view. I think this is the point at which I realized how wrong I’d been about Discovery Park. That even though you’ve lived in a place nearly your entire life, you can never really know all there is to know about a place. It will find ways to keep surprising you.

    The main reason we stuck to our neighborhood in terms of hiking on Saturday was actually that we planned to come back on Sunday, and wanted to kill two birds with one stone and use this day’s hike for a bit of location scouting. Ariana had offered to take some engagement photos for Joe and I, and thought this park would be the perfect backdrop for our very Pacific Northwest relationship.

    Here’s the thing I realized about engagement shoots that had never occurred to me before. On Saturday, we hiked in workout clothes, ponytails and hiking boots. We sweat a lot and got dirty. On Sunday, we dressed for pictures. I wore a skirt and a cute sweater. Joe wore his nice new jeans. I wore little velvet black flats.

    But we walked on the same dirty trails. I stepped in the same mud.

    I’ve seen hundreds of engagement and wedding photos taken in the woods, in front of a waterfall, on the edge of a mountain. I’ve seen people in high heels, wedding dresses, suits, and with immaculate hair and makeup.

    And it has never once occurred to me how those people got out there.

    The obvious answer is that they probably brought a change of clothes. But that doesn’t explain the perfectly curled hair, the beautiful makeup, the fact that hiking with a garment bag isn’t much easier than trying not to get black velvet shoes dirty on a path made of literal dirt.

    It wasn’t actually a very pleasant experience if I’m being honest, between the rocks in my shoes and the constant worry that I’d accumulated some kind of nature in my hair. I now have a renewed appreciation for my hiking gear for all future hikes. I also have so much respect for the people who look flawless in their very extreme wedding and engagement photos. Unless they were somehow helicopter dropped into their location, those people are intense. Those people worked way harder for that picture than I ever stopped to consider before. And while taking pictures with Ariana was a delight on the interpersonal level, and I’m sure they’re going to turn out lovely, I so wished I’d brought a pair of sneakers. Or a mirror to check how I looked.

    On the other hand though, Joe and I aren’t the kind of people who’d think to bring a mirror on a hike, so maybe it’s a more accurate representation this way. Just like how I told Ariana I’d probably mostly keep the photos others would deem mess ups, the ones where we’re laughing or making silly faces, I probably wouldn’t like our pictures quite as much if Joe’s shirt wasn’t a bit wrinkled, or if you couldn’t see any dirt on my shoes.

    That’s just us.

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  2. June 2017 Life Update: North Dakota and Writing

    July 5, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Family, Travel by Kristina Horner

    I recently got back from a little family trip to North Dakota, the purpose of which was to visit relatives and introduce Joe to future in-laws.

    North Dakota is a really special place for me – it’s the state in which I was born, it’s where some of my relatives still live, it’s where my parents grew up, where my dad’s farm was, where our relatives settled when they came to the US… it’s also filled with food, language, traditions, and history that’s unique to my family, things that I fear will slowly fade away as people grow old, move away, or move on. As we grow more reliant on computers and chain restaurants and the internet and brands and phones, it’s natural that old traditions and habits slowly slip away, and it can be a very sad thing.

    One of my dreams is to write a book that captures and preserves some of this stuff. I don’t live in North Dakota. I’m not personally making the big life choices to help keep these small towns alive. I don’t cook North Dakota-German food as much as I could and I definitely am aware that each generation in my family knows significantly less of the low German language my family used to speak out on the prairie.

    So my way to contribute, my way to give back, is to collect stories. To collect anecdotes, and recipes, and ideas; to capture the lifestyle and write it into a book. Someday. Every time I visit I come back even more fired up about this plan, so I decided to finally tell someone, maybe as a way to hold myself accountable. It will happen. I owe it to myself.

    I’m obviously waist deep in a different book right now, but this one is always on the back burner. It’s in the back of my mind and I keep collecting notes and ideas and stories and recipes so that when I am ready to sit down and write it, I’ve already started doing the work. My future self will thank me.

    My future self will thank me.

    Side note: here’s the necklace I am wearing as I write this blog post about my birth state.

    Rather than spoil anyone on my unwritten future book, I’m just going to share a couple of pictures from my trip. It was a trip on the quieter side for my usually loud and rambunctious family – but we didn’t come during a holiday, so not as many people were around. I missed my other relatives, but it was nice to have quality time with my two grandmas, the two remaining grandparents I have. They both live in North Dakota, about an hour apart.

    This is my mom’s mom, the biggest firecracker of a lady you’ll ever meet. She’s taken to coloring lately to keep her mind and hands busy in her nursing home, so we made sure to stop in to color with her, among other things.

    My aunt had a little BBQ at her beautiful home, and was happy to share with us her collection of hammocks. This was probably the part of our trip that felt the most like a vacation.

    These are two of my cousins’ cute kids. They gave me a tour of the entire property and even taught me how to pick asparagus from the garden. I’m not sure we were supposed to, but they seemed to think it was fine, ha.

    My dad’s cousins have a ton of property on which they keep a huge amount of the world’s remaining Nokota horses. It’s a pretty amazing story, actually. These horses are completely wild, and were on the brink of extinction before our relatives moved them here. It’s always such a treasure to get to go out and see them in person.

    I always love taking pictures by cool old stuff when I’m in North Dakota – in fact my dad likes to tell people the drive out to his old town takes “twice as long if Kristina is with, because she always makes us stop to take pictures of all the old barns that have fallen down”.

    Joe and I had to take an obligatory vacation photo by this old buggy, which is the very same one my great aunt and uncle used to give tourists rides on in a town about two hours away. They’ve both since passed away, but I fondly remember many rides in this buggy as a child. I’m pretty sure my parents used to give them $20 to drive my brother and I around in circles until they were done at the bar, haha.

    Playing card games at Grandma and Grandpa’s house has always been a staple of trips to ND. It’s very sad Grandpa isn’t around to play with us anymore, but we still always play in his honor.

    Our little trips to North Dakota don’t always look like much, but they mean everything to me. I’m so happy I get to share them with Joe now, and I’m excited to accompany his family to New York in a couple weeks to share the same kind of experience with him.

     

     

     

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  3. 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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  4. 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.

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    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!

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  5. 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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  6. #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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  7. 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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  8. Where I’ll be at Emerald City Comic Con ’15!

    March 24, 2015 ♥ Posted in: Conventions, Cosplay, Geek Events, Travel by Kristina Horner

    Hey guys! Are any of you going to Emerald City Comic Con here in Seattle? I sure hope so, because it’s going to be AN EXCELLENT WEEKEND! I figured I would post this a bit early, in case you want to know what I’ll be up to and where to find me this weekend.

    First off – I will of course be cosplaying. I have been working my face off, which has been exceptionally challenging in tandem with my new full-time job. Needless to say, after many nearly sleepless nights, I am so, so, so excited to finally show these bad boys off.

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    Also, I’m going to be on a super-fun panel on Friday that you won’t want to miss!

    The Couple That Games Together
    Room: Hall J (WSCC 3B)
    Date: Friday, March 27th
    Time: 2:00PM – 2:50PM

    This will be my and Joe’s second time getting to be a part of this panel, and I can’t wait. We’ll be discussing the benefits and challenges of being a couple that games together – be that board games, card games, video games, etc! it’s such a fun and interesting topic to delve into, and people always have so many great questions! We had a great turnout last year and I’m hoping this year is even bigger!

    Other than that, I’ll mostly be hanging out in the various “cosplay” areas of the convention (including the main entrance room by the windows) and trying not to spend all my money in the expo hall/vendor area. I am so pumped for ECCC, and glad it’s always my exciting start to convention season. Imagining walking around with my army of Disney Princesses on Saturday is making me giddy with anticipation.

    If you’re planning on going to Emerald City Comic Con, let me know what you’re most looking forward to seeing! And of course – I hope to see you there.

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  9. Renaissance Faire Instagram Flashback

    August 14, 2014 ♥ Posted in: Cosplay, Fashion/Beauty, Geek Events, Journal, Travel by Kristina Horner

    I love Renaissance Faires. I really love them.

    Usually I manage to make it to about one a year but in 2014 I’ve had the good fortune of attending THREE. I got to check out LA’s Pleasure Festival back in April, then I finally finally finally got to attend Faerieworlds down in Oregon in July, and I wrapped up my Renaissance circuit with the Midsummer Fantasy Faire right here in Washington this past weekend.

    I figured I would put together a compilation of photos from the events to share the experiences with you, dear readers. Photos go a lot further when it comes to these events.

    Row 1: The SoCal Pleasure Faire with Ariana, Tyler, Sammy and Joe! This one was so big we didn’t even realize we’d missed a whole section of booths and shops until the faire was almost over! We spent the day shopping, eating, and enjoying the fact that it wasn’t 100 degrees out, like most Faires we usually attend.

    That second picture has detail shots of all my new medieval swag (the best part of attending a Ren Faire is adding to your outfits each year; I’m totally guilty of overspending all the time). The third picture was just a funny vendor that made me laugh.

    Row 2: Faerieworlds is my new favorite event of all time. It’s sort of a Renaissance Faire meets music festival, and it’s right outside of Eugene, Oregon. I attended with some of my best friends: Eia, Joe, Justin, Ariana, Jenn and Liz. You set up camp, you shop, you dance, you listen to live music and you seriously unplug from everything else. We started the weekend in elaborate mythical creature costumes and ended up wearing next to nothing as it got hotter and dustier.

    That second picture is a bunch of us hanging out in a yurt that Ariana was totally in love with… they just left it open all the time, so it became our go to chill space when it was too hot during the day or too cold at night.

    The stage with constant folk music playing was a serious highlight, as was the fact that most booths and food vendors stayed open at all hours of the weekend. However, my favorite part was that there were workshops and activities for everyone – I spent a good amount of time with hula hoopers, learning new tricks (as you can see in the third picture) – while the others were at sword fighting workshops. It was truly amazing.

    Rows 3: This was our first day at the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire with Eia, Ariana, Joe and Meagan. It included immediately getting my hair braided (because it was way too goddamn hot) and putting Eia in jail. It was her birthday, so it seemed like the thing to do. These guys publicly “arrested” her and dragged her over to be contained until she tap danced for them and sang Happy Birthday to herself.

    We’re great friends.

    This is the Faire I’ve been going to since high school, so it’s always fun to run into familiar faces and delight in how much the event grows each year.

    Row 4: The second day of the faire was absurd when it comes to impulse buys for just about everyone involved in the trip. Also Liz joined us. I bought mermaid ears (can you believe it!? mermaid ears that look totally amazing!) and a crystal flute. I’m not even joking you. If someone told me as a child that I would spend my hard earned adult money on mermaid ears and a crystal flute… well… I probably wouldn’t have been surprised. I was a weird kid.

    So that was my Renaissance Faire experience for the year, and I’m terribly saddened that it’s over for now. There are always yuletide feasts to look forward to, but I’ll miss the dusty paths of the faire, the turkey legs, the bards, the bodice ice. Until next year, huzzah!

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  10. Disneybound: Bo Peep and Woody!

    July 2, 2014 ♥ Posted in: Cosplay, Fashion/Beauty, Geek Events, Outfit of the Day, Travel by Kristina Horner
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    Disneybounding as Bo Peep, complete with a tiny sheep necklace and one of the only items that exists in the world that’s white with pink polka dots. I’m not even kidding.

    This past Sunday I was at Disneyland with a whole group of my friends, and we decided it was time to take Disneybounding to the next level. We put a good amount of pre-planning into this trip to the park, but picking a single movie, assigning roles, and managing quite the impressive group Disneybound.

    We chose Toy Story. It was a good choice, since it spans three movies and includes more toys than I can even count. We didn’t even begin to cover every character with our group, but we did a pretty good job!

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    I also managed to convince Joe to choose Woody, which was almost more fun to help put together than my own outfit. His little cow-print bow tie (which I found here!) is just too cute. We’ve done a “couples” Disneybound once before (Ariel and Prince Eric, as blogged about here) but this newest one is by far my favorite.

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    Overall it was an amazing day, everyone looked great, AND we hosted a big meet up over my Small World that an amazing amount of people showed up to! If you stopped by and said hello, thank you! I was so impressed by everyone’s outfits and I’m just so pumped on costumes right now that it really was the best way I could think of to end VidCon. What a great trip.

     

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    Have you ever Disneybounded? Who did you pick, or if you haven’t done it – who would you LIKE to Disneybound as? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!

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