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Work: Just another Pet Portrait

Over the holidays I always end up doing custom watercolor pet portraits, and this year I was featured in House Beautiful so I got even more orders! I had to say no to people, that was saddening... But here's a quick look at the pets this season!

Holiday 2014 Pet Portraits

Happy Howl-idays!

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Travel: Tripp Trips

After years of not going home for the past three Christmases, this year I decided to go home, and not only bring myself and Mike, but also bring the dog along. I was soooo nervous, cause if any of you have met my dog, he can be a barker. But I bought the carrier months in advance and trained him to go lay in his "travel case" and also made him sleep in it at night a few times so he'd get used to the case, we also got him a soft fabric muzzle which when he wears it he kinda submits and doesn't get too whiny. Also my vet was able to prescribe him a light sedative so that he wouldn't get too anxious. Before going to the airport, we stuffed his carrier with a blanket and a used pillow case so he had our smell with him, and lots of stuff to lay on, and gave him his meds. Driving to the airport Tripp cried in hi little carrier and I was so nervous, I didn't want to be the person on a red eye flight with a barking dog... sound worse than having a crying baby. But as soon as we stepped foot in the airport I think the sedatives hit him. The front counter people inspected him, his carrier and his documents, which Tripp just laid there and didn't care. Then I had to carry him through a the old school metal detector and the TSA agents thought he was so cute.

The first flight he got a little whiny cause our flight was delayed but he soon got quiet once I carried him around. When we got onto the flight he quietly yelped a bit when people were boarding and the flight attendants were over the loud speaker but I had the carrier on my lap and petted him, when ready for takeoff I put the carrier under the seat in front of me, which the carrier fit perfectly, I was really afraid of that since this was a small plane going from SF to LA.

After that flight we had a short layover in LAX then were off again. Tripp didn't make a peep the entire time and was so good. I'm really impressed. I let him stick his head out of the carrier when we were getting off the final flight, and the woman beside us was surprised when he popped his head out! We had to hang out in the Indianapolis airport for a couple hours waiting to be picked up (for some reason flying to Indy was WAY cheaper than any Ohio flight) which we got Tripp out and walked him around the front and baggage claim. There were so many dogs I saw in all the airports, I saw more than 6, and these weren't all small dogs. I guess the holidays is the time for pet travel!

Here's some quick pics I took while traveling. I'd suggest that if you've been thinking about taking your dog, try it. But remember there's lots of prep work getting him used to the carrier and getting his medical paperwork. Every airline has their own rules, and there's only so many dogs allowed each flight, so you have to call the airline ahead of time. But Tripp is not a perfect dog, some might say he's annoying, but he was able to make a flight without any disturbance or too much anxiety (he was a bit shaky the first flight cause it was so loud), of coarse he had some medical help ;)




Happy Holidays,

Lauren
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Life: 30 before 30

I know the notion of making a list before your 30th birthday is very cliche, but that's kinda why I love it too. My 20's have had huge highs and huge lows which I'm ready to be done with. But I want my last year of my 20's to go out with a bang... I really can't believe I'm 29, it feels like yesterday I moved here and celebrated my 26th birthday with Mike, Adam, Jim and Marlee. How much has changed since then; falling for my best friend; finding a job not knowing anyone to now managing projects for the third largest weather website, and largest weather network; buying a car; having a savings account; getting my own flat... Things that are totally adulty. Weird. So here it is my list!

1. Go to Europe (or now maybe Cuba!): I've been to Asia and lived in South America, but have yet to go the one place that so many people go to, Europe. I'd love to plan a trip with friends or Mike since he lived there, but who knows, maybe I'll just go by myself. The main thing is I really want to go.

2. Get Invisalign: I know this is a weird one, I've known about needing this for awhile I have a deep bite, the sucky part of this is paying out of pocket for it... But it would be amazing to have my teeth even more perfect and not chipping each other. (though I think they're pretty perfect already)

3. Double my savings: I started really earnestly saving this past year and did pretty well in the beginning of the year. Now I need to step that game up again and try to double it, especially in my 401k. I want a nice nest egg for when I do decide to buy a house (unfortunately here may not ever happen).

4. Build another plant box: This spring my dad helped build two raised beds in my backyard for a veggie garden, we have found over the past two growing seasons we need more room! Right now our cabbage and lettuce are the size of my dog! It's great discovering that I do have a green thumb and amazing being able to walk into your backyard and gather ingredients for dinner. I also need to prune my peach tree to get a better yield this summer!


5. Go to Yosemite: I live a few hours away but silly me haven't gone yet... It's one of the last major National Parks I haven't been to... After that I feel like I've hit all the MUST National Parks :)

6. Row 3x a week and get on the water: I've been going to a rowing gym for the past few months about 2 times a week, but I need to go more often. Of course this is only erging (I go to Ducks, which I helped redo their website! I love the guys there!) and I need to get on the water soon in a sculling boat, and luckily there are three places to row nearby me and even more places in San Francisco.

7. Paint 6 paintings: Other than watercolor paintings, I haven't done anything in oil in a year. That's unacceptable.

8. Submit to a gallery: I still have contacts at galleries around here and I need to get back into submitting to group shows.

9. Sew a complete outfit: I love sewing, but have never sewn anything specifically for my wardrobe. I'd like to sew an outfit; blouse, skirt/pants, and a jacket... maybe even make a hat and socks or something! I have all these vintage silks and cottons I need to use!

10. Reupholster my awesome chair: I got this amazing mid century bucket chair from my neighbors when they were moving out. It was going to be a reupholstery project for them but never got around to it. Now it's my reupholstery project... The best thing about this chair is how much Tripp loves it.


11. Go skiing again in the Sierras (not on the smallest bunny hill): A bunch of us went last year on the only weekend it got a good amount of snow. It was absolutely beautiful. We were staying in Squaw Valley which was the Olympic Village for the 1960 Olympics. I want to go back and snow shoe this time, last time I took a beginners skiing class and it was so fun, but so scary... I'm not used to going fast like that. Squaw Valley was so cool, it's has a huge tram that goes to the top of one of the peaks, and there's a hot tub bar at the top. Classy. Also I love Mike's dumb face in this picture.


12. Take an art class: I really miss art school, so I need to take a class... maybe a painting or bookbinding or screen printing class.

13. Learn to cure meats: Between Mike and I we've become quite the homesteaders, making booze and canning things from our garden. Since a new health diagnosis I can't eat anything with certain preservatives in it so I need to learn to preserve things myself. I'm proud of my ability to can almost anything in a waterbath method but now I want to try curing meats, maybe I'll start with bacon.

14. Go to Mt. Shasta: Mike and I passed by the volcano on the way back from Portland, but it was dark yet you could still see the snow capped mountain in the night. It was so massive!

15. Expand my illustration business: With being featured in House Beautiful magazine this past November, I'd like to harness that momentum and actually do something I've wanted to do for soooo long yet didn't have the self confidence for. Start building my illustration business... right now it's mainly just custom pet portraits... and I've now done hundreds of them over the past couple years, but what else can I do? I want to try to get 5 pet prints, and a holiday card in the store by next December.

16. Go back country camping: I did faux back country camping this year, it was only a 2-3ish mile hike to the group camp site for Cara's 30th b-day. But it was fun! I'd love to do a small group weekend in Mendocino or somewhere north, maybe start small and only have a few mile hike in. There are a few places to that you can only canoe to the campsites.... that could be sweet too.



17. Learn to do a handstand: With rowing I've become so much stronger and one thing I've never been able to do is a handstand. Now I feel like I have the upper body strength and balance to actually pull it off... I'd love to be able to do that :)

18. Run a half marathon: Now this may be a stretch, maybe I'll only do a couple 10k... But Mike and I both want to try to do a half marathon sometime, now which one... the SF one, San Luis Obispo, Avenue of the Giants, Big Sur... so many to choose from with such gorgeous views... I ran a 10k at the Ave of the Giants, and then immediately signed up for the half marathon next year!

19. Get another tattoo: It's been two years since my last tattoo. I have a few ideas and a few artists that I'm trying to get booked with... I've got the itch! I can't have only two tattoos!



20. Go to Alcatraz: I know I know... I've lived here for over three years and I haven't gone there yet. I'm lame.

21. Learn to really ride a motorcycle: I've scooted around on my dad's scooter and moved slowly on my dad's motorcycles, but I think properly learning to ride a motorcycle would be awesome, and Mike's wants to get his license too :)


22. Record a song: With all the instruments we have and all the reel to reel recording equipment I want to record something. Mike records music quite often so I want to try my hand, and if I don't write anything luckily Mike writes beautiful songs all the time... Here's a sampling of some of his music he's written and recorded.



23. Bike part of the Bay Trail: The bay trail is HUGE... But I'd like to bike some of the South Bay part and maybe up thru Sausalito.

24. Hike at least twice a month: I've gone on some great day hikes with the doggy, and I need to make it a more often occurrence.

25. Have another craft party: At my last house I hosted two craft parties, and I want to do another one at my house... now what will the craft be?

26. Learn Archery: My friends Adam and Brittany have bows, and I want to go to Golden Gate Park and practice archery!

27. Explore the Bay area food more: I'd like to try a new restaurant or bar maybe like twice a month (24).
1. Little Skillet, San Francisco
2. Iron Pan, Oakland
3. Perbacco, San Francisco
4. Kushido, Oakland
5. The Hog's Apocathery, Oakland
6. Clove and Hoof, Oakland
7. Crepevine, Oakland
8. Gather, Berkeley

28. Make Wine: I want to live in the I Love Lucy episode where she stomps the grapes :)



29. Go Kayaking: I've never really been kayaking, and there's tons of beautiful lakes around northern California to go to!

 30. BE HAPPY! I know that seems silly, but I have the tendency to allow all the little things at work or home bring me down. I need to figure out my new mantra for when things get messy to just let it roll off my shoulders. I have an amazing house, great friends, and a challenging and rewarding sciency job... What more could I ask for?




Huggles,
Lauren
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Work: Radar, Halloween, & a Launch Party

At work I learn a lot about weather and weather gadgets. One thing I've been spending the last few months on was a redesign of static mapping, mainly radar products. One main thing I did was research and user test what radar images meant to people more specifically what the colors meant to them. Our former radar palette had complaints of making storms looks more intense than they were with the gradual color change from dark green to yellow, people couldn't pick out the strong cells in the storm. So with research and lot's Meteorologist and user input, I created a new palette that also was more legible on a multitude of different base maps (like google, our own, apple, etc.) So far it's been received well and I couldn't be more proud of everyone that helped me get all the code together and implement it, it went through without a hitch! Learn more about the palette change here.






A couple weeks after we launched the radar color palette (and a new infrared satellite palette) we also launched a new static radar mapping experience that I helped design. We tied together our single site and regional radar products to create a better user experience. I also redesigned the base map to better suite our website stylization and improved the resolution and sharability. Learn more about that here, and try out our new radar maps.





So as you can see radar has been on my brain which is why for Halloween this year I decided to keep with the nerdy theme (cause well I am a nerd). Last year I was Dr. Ellie Satler from Jurassic Park, the year before Mike and I were the Apollo 11 mission, me being the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) and Mike being the Command Module. Yep nerdy. Soooo this year I was a RADAR STATION! Pretty obscure but I think I did quite a good job if I do say so myself. I dressed up in the parking garage then proceeded to ride the elevator with some odd glances. I then walked around the office handing out radar images, I even went into a developer meeting while my boss was yelling "Watch out Radar interruption!" Oh man we are all nerds, I love it! I even got a radar selfie while everyone else carved pumpkins. :)





Which now leads me to my last radar story of the past couple months. With launching our new radar products and palette I decided to have a party in the office to celebrate everone's hard work! I made radar palette cupcakes (the color corresponded with the weather condition cupcake topper), some lime sherbert punch (thought it looked like clouds!) and reusing my radar costume into a PINATA! I'm pretty proud of making a radar themed party, haha eat your heart out pinterest!




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Hope you enjoyed this lengthy post about Radar which has been my obsession for months now! I'm excited to move onto other user experience projects at work, but I guess I'll forever be the radar queen there!

Huggles,
Lauren
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Travel: Oregon & Portland

Over Thanksgiving weekend Mike, the dog and I took a mini road trip up to Portland, and to visit some of his old high school friends in Southern Oregon. We drove up the coast and first stopped and camped at Fort Bragg. The ride up was kinda the worse, We were training Tripp in his carrier case for our flight home this winter. Of course he got sick, so that was a fun drive... Then after really winding roads up the coast we finally got to Fort Bragg in the dark. It was interesting where we camped... not somewhere I'd want to go again, but an interesting none the less.

Cali coast
Glass Beach

After a night of Tripp puking again on Mike while he was sleeping we woke up bright and early and got the heck out of that campground. First stop was the glass beach which actually used to be where the city dumped their trash in the early century, and now it's a beach full of sea glass. Really pretty but kinda a weird tourist attraction, hey see where our trash used to be! Make a necklace out of it! hehe.

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Avenue of the Giants

Soon we were off up the coast on the 1 and soon driving on the Avenue of Giants, which I drove when I first moved out here, but it was still so beautiful! We even stopped by Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox... unfortunately he wasn't talking this time, But it was good to get another picture with him. We then headed up to Grant's Pass, OR for one of the best Thanksgiving feasts I've had in so long, we spent it with some of Mike's old highschool friends that now live up there, and the food they prepared was amazing. I'm a little ashamed that we didn't have anything other than wine to contribute.

Friendsgiving
Williams valley

We stayed over for the night and in the morning Vikki and Adam took us on a drive up some mountains so we could see all of Williams Valley. Of course it was raining but living in the drought and working at a weather station I can't ever complain about it, I now welcome the rain I hardly see. After our goodbyes we started up to Portland, grabbed lunch in Eugene then got to our AirBNB in the early evening. The Airbnb was soooo adorable, it was a little basement studio decorated perfectly, I kinda wish I could steal everything... or at least steal all their ideas :)

AirBNB

After settling in we headed out for the evening and went into downtown Portland. After walking around for awhile in the freezing cold (I swear my body can't take it anymore) we ended up having dinner at Picnic House, I think I was "mmmming" every bite, it was SO good, and their cocktails were equally delicious. I had the pork chop and bread pudding..... mmmmmmmm.... Unfortunately we stuffed ourselves so we couldn't try dessert.

Picnic House, Portland, OR

The next morning we packed our stuff up and headed to SE Hawthorn to meetup with blogger buddy Meg at Blue Star Donuts. It was so awesome to meet Meg in real life, we've now known each other through the internet for awhile and it was so naturally hanging out. We stopped in a few stores, and spent the most time in the book store, nerding out over comics and she gave me some new suggestions, namely Rocket Girl, which looks awesome, I can't wait to read it all... I'm actually half way through already. We hugged and said our goodbyes just in time on the way back to the car it started sleeting. Man I really don't know how to handle winter.

Meg
My favorite "I didn't realize I took a photo" photo
Blog Buddies

From Portland we crossed over into Washington for a bit, got some coffee then headed back down to Oakland... Yep we drove the entire 9+ hours that day, of course it was raining like crazy but that's alright, and it was a good test for Tripp in his carrier for that long, he only yelped a couple times.

Hail Tripp

Anyway it was a fun little quick trip, and I'm so excited to go back to Portland, I hope to go back over the summer and go hiking in the mountains!


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Travel: Turks & Caicos

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Oh Turks and Caicos, a country I never really had heard of, but ended up being the most amazing place. Granted I have never been to the Caribbean nor anywhere really tropical (Florida doesn't count). So I'm sure there are other fantastic places, but these little islands were exactly what I wanted. A few days on the touristy island of Provo, and then spending a quiet few days in a cabin on the hardly inhabited North Caicos island. Also this was months ago during the summer, the dark days have made me want to relive this experience and blog about it... Also I'm lazy, haven't you noticed this yet?

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Mike has been to a few different places in the Caribbean, all filled with tourism and annoyances. So he suggested after Philadelphia we go to Turks & Caicos, he had never been and it's not owned by the US... you need a passport. It was between that and Iceland... next time Iceland. We left Philadelphia and flew down to Provo the main island in a airplane full of screaming babies... It made me a little skeptical. Luckily though we went in the beginning of Hurricane season, where the tourism dies down but the big storms haven't quite started. While driving around Provo reminded me of Brasil to a degree with the stucco and tiled buildings.

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The first night we stayed in a lovely hotel in Grace Bay and walked around the touristy area, getting acquainted with the area surrounding the hotel. We also went grocery shopping since we were told that there were no grocery stores on the other islands.But first we went straight down to the beach across the street and jumped in. The water was so incredibly blue and warm, but also surprisingly salty, I was told that the Caribbean is saltier cause it's shallow... I have not verified this though.

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The next day we woke up bright and early and went to the beach to rent a small catamaran and sail it around Grace Bay. Those little cats are so fast and it was fun but only for about 30 minutes because we couldn't really go anywhere. Just back and forth in the bay. If we had it on the north and middle islands (I will get to this) having it would be super fun sailing around the islands. So we floated around afterwards in the water until we got our bags from the hotel and taxied to Turtle Cove area to pick up our keys to the Airbnb and car that we rented (from Scooter Bob's, they were so awesome there). We met the cabin owners son who was awesome, he had grown up on the islands though was originally from Canada, so of course he was super nice.

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We had a couple hours before our ferry left so we went to a bar called The Tiki Hut to watch the Argentina vs. Nigeria world cup game (yes that's how long it's taken me to write this) while drinking some Turks Head Beer. It was so amazing, the bar/restaurant was open and airy and had a great view of the marina. After a couple hours we were off to the ferry on the north side of the island.

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Riding the ferry was quite and adventure. It wasn't like the ferries I'm used to in the US, it was just a big boat with 4 250hp engines on the back. We got on board with mainly only locals, and then zipped around mangrove forests and reefs while thunderstorms rumbled in the ocean. It would be a lie if I sad I wasn't nervous... The entire time we were going so fast and turning so sharply, I kept thinking "ok we're not too far from shore I can swim that, who will I help, should i try to get my suitcase", but soon enough we were at North Caicos Island safe and sound, those guys totally knew what they were doing, I should've never doubted.

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We picked up the rental car from the dock and then drove (on the "wrong" side of the road) to our amazing cabin, of course after getting lost many times. We realized that what we were told was true, there really was no grocery stores on the island. The was a small liquor store in a complex being rebuilt after it was destroyed in a hurricane, and a little grocery store with chips and snack down the road. I'm happy we had packed sandwich making stuff or we would have been starving. We spent the rest of the day just driving around the island and over to Middle Caicos Island getting a feel for the place. And the evening playing anagrams and settlers of catan dice game.

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The next couple of days were spent driving around, down bumpy dirt roads and snorkling. I had never snorkled before and it was so fun! The best was at Bambarra beach out to a little island, on the outside of it it had amazing coral and fish to look at, I wish I had gotten clear shots with the gopro camera, but I had the wrong lens on it :( The worse takeaway from that snorkling trip was a burned butt... I didn't think about how snorkling totally makes your butt out there for sunburns. After we went to a little cafe called Daniels, where Daniel fed us cracked conch and Turk's Head beer, while tell us all about his life. He was pretty awesome, I wish we had gone back the next day and hung out some more.

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See that pinkish line in the water? That's thousands of flamingos... yeah.
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There was also an area called Flamingo point, without binoculars you couldn't really see anything just a pinkish blob in the pond... which with aide you can see that it was hundreds or thousands of flamingos. I've never really seen them outside zoos, it was incredible seeing so many together.

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Three Mary Cays was another point on North Caicos we went to go snorkling. There wasn't as much fish as the last place but there was an amazing little boat wreck right under the water. We could see lot's of boats off in the distance near good scuba-diving spots... Soon I will have to try that! I was also smart this time and wore a t-shirt and shorts while snorkling... no burned back and butt this time!It was a great way to spend our last day.

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Another amazing thing about the islands was the vegetation, it was so dense and short, no towering trees, just close together bushy trees making it so you couldn't go more than a few feet into the woods. The entire island was like this, flat with little dense forests, there was an area near Middle Caicos bridge that had a few native pine trees which looked a little like Dr. Seuss trees.

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After three days at the cabin we packed up and took the ferry back to Provo, had an amazing conch dinner and swam the next morning before being herded in the airport onto the tarmac to our plane from the most crazy airport I've ever been in.

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The place was amazing, I wish we had kayaks cause there were so many islands I wanted to explore. I want to go back so badly. I suggest if you go, go in the late season, the place was almost deserted and you got to interact with local people more. I'm not very into tourist families so this worked out perfectly. The one thing that was amazing is that everyone knew each other, it's a very small country of islands and many families have been there since the British went there. And everyone was sooo friendly, I thought it was funny that all the stores and markets usually had a tag line like "Where the friendly people shop" or "Owned by friendly people" but we found out by getting to know people that that is their actual motto, The Friendly People. It couldn't have been more true. Most countries I've been to people are very friendly, but Turks and Caicos had by far the nicest, friendliest people around.

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Have you guys ever gone to the Caribbean? Where at?