≡ Menu

Introducing, MonsteRawrMakes!

Ladies and gentlemen, I would officially like to introduce you to MonsteRawrMakes.

MonsteRawrMakes is my Etsy shop for handmade 3D-printed jewelry, and I’m proud to say that it’s finally launching today!

What makes MonsteRawrMakes different for the other seven bazillion people selling 3D printed jewelry (I know, I’ve checked) is my printing material: TPU.

See, more common is the use of PLA in 3D printing. PLA looks like your average industrial plastic, similar in feel to what a plastic spork is made out of. It’s stronger and easier to work with, as TPU has a tendency to be finicky. I’ve used PLA a lot in the past, particularly for housewares like planters or pencil cups.

Little Monster

TPU, on the other hand, is flexible and feels more like most phone cases. And for making jewelry, TPU has one advantage over PLA that renders all of it’s deficits moot: the colors!

TPU is semi-transparent, which gives an extra vibrancy to its colors; when the light shines through it, it almost glows. Combine that with the texture inherent to the many layers–each one less than a quarter of a millimeter thick–that it takes to create each piece, and my jewelry almost seem to shimmer in the light. It’s a look that just doesn’t exist in pieces made with PLA, and it’s what makes MonsteRawrMakes unique.

Oh, and did I mention that one of my colors glows under blacklight? (Or even, in the case of the backstage at work, under very blue light?) Yup. All of my pieces made in Electric Lemon totally glow. Which is pretty badass, if you ask me.

MonsteRawrMakes is for someone who’s not afraid of a little vibrancy in their life. It’s for the person who wants a pop of color without the bulk or heft that usually accompanies statement pieces. (Did I mention that TPU is also incredibly light? Each of my pieces weighs in at less than half an ounce!) It’s for the person who thinks that the idea of printing solid objects is pretty rad, and wants a subtle way to celebrate their nerdiness that’s perceptible only to a fellow nerd. It’s for someone who thinks that black has its place, and that place is next to something splashy.

Welcome to MonsteRawrMakes.


Author’s note: I want to take a moment to thank you, the readers of this here little blog of mine. You (some of you, anyway) have been with me for nine years (holy shit!) and almost 300 posts, and it’s been an absolute blast. I’ve met some amazing human beings through this little portal into my world, and it’s given me a wonderful (and necessary) outlet for my creative energy. So thank you for reading.

Now, to the part you give a shit about. To thank you for coming back and continuing to listen to this little monster “rawr” after all these years (no matter how many times I’ve seemingly abandoned you,) I’m offering 20% off all orders to readers of my blog! (Through Feb 9th.) Just use the coupon code MONSTERAWR at checkout. 

Because that’s how much I love you.



Since the day we brought our little Roomba home, we Van Sandts have lived in a semi-robotic household.

As the years have passed, additions to our fleet have edged us further from “semi” and closer to simply “robotic.” We’re now on our second Roomba, and keep it going with parts cannibalized from the first. We have a Google Home in damn-near every room, ensuring that there is a constant chatter throughout the house as we ask for and receive the weather, music requests, reminders, a good substitution for fish sauce. For shit’s sake, our thermostat knows when one of us gets home and turns the air to a more comfortable temperature. All these little devices playing their own small part in making our lives more efficient and comfortable.

We made a new addition to our electronic family that I’d like to introduce you to, and this one just might be my favorite.

(That’s not true. If my cats and my Roomba were both trapped in a house fire, I can’t promise I would save the cats. Those little bitches don’t do floors, and I really, really hate vacuuming.)

Okay, so maybe it’s not my absolute favorite (That’s like trying to choose a favorite child; you might have a favorite but you sure don’t say that out loud.) But it’s definitely the one I’m having the most fun with.

(That’s true.)

Guys, meet A8.


A8 (her full name is Anet A8, A8 for for short) is our 3D printer. We’ve actually had her for a while, over 6 months now, but it’s only in the past few or so that I’ve really gotten to know A8 well enough to have some fun and dip my toe into all of her possibilities.

There are two things that make A8 different than the rest of the 3D printers on the market: A8 doesn’t cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and A8 comes out of the box looking like this:

“Some assembly required” indeed.

It took us a while to get A8 dialed into a point where she was working with any grace or consistency; to say that she’s not a plug-and-play is an understatement. (Plugging-and-playing costs money, and a lot of it.) A8 is definitely meant for the DIYer, the adventurer, and the super nerdy. Luckily, the 3D printing world is very much about open-source and sharing information, so there are a ton of resources available for the new printer-parent. Many additional parts to sure up her structure and function were printed in order to make her as sound as we’d like, but now that she’s dialed in, there’s not much she can’t do.

Printing shit is a motherfucking blast. For one, A8 herself is fun to watch. It’s easy to watch the print-head zip around the build plate and imagine that it’s her little finger delicately drawing the design. And her noises–the movement of the belts, the whirring of the fans, and the chirping of the electronics–make it sound as if she’s enthusiastically carrying on a conversation with herself. My favorite is when we give her something involving circles to print, because then the harmonics of the vibrations are just so that it sounds like she’s singing us a song.

But beyond the adorable anthropomorphization of this little machine, there’s something inherently thrilling about watching A8 lay down line after hair-thin line until it creates a solid object. It’s absolutely mind-blowing to go from nothing more than a picture someone has posted oneline (I could peruse Thingiverse.com for hours and still be blown away by some of the amazing things people have created,) download their file, send it to the printer, and then–line by line–watching it come into being. I can’t really explain it other to say that once you’ve printed something, it feels like the world is at your fingertips. Anything you need, you just…make.

Breeze keep blowing your door shut? Print a doorstop! (Or four…)


Can’t find a Christmas gift for your bestie that excites you? Print her some jewelry…



…or (my personal favorite) a robot planter.



(Or, as the recipient of this particular Christmas gift named it, the “ro-pot.”)

But my favorite projects are the ones where I saw a piece someone designed and made it into something else completely different or (even more rewarding) created something entirely from a wisp of an idea in my head. I love these projects, because they feel like  they are unequivocally mine. My favorites so far?

My fascinators…


…one of my earliest projects, my leaf earrings…


…and (my personal favorite) my geometric cube jewelry.



I particularly love those pieces, because they allow me to not only continue to explore the technical aspect of 3D printing, but to then use those skills to fulfill my creative side. It’s a wonderful feeling to dream something up in your head and (through not an insignificant amount of work) get to hold it in your hand. Fucking magic.

When A8 was but a desire in Kyle’s heart, he tried to sell me on the idea by telling me that 3D printing was going to be our super fun hobby, and that he legitimately thought I would really enjoy it. I, (knowing full well that he mainly wanted it so that he could print parts for his racing drone,) was suspicious. But much to my begrudging surprise, he was absolutely right. I never would have imagined that I would count myself among the community of 3D printing enthusiasts, but here I am.

Well played Kyle, well played. Thank you for convincing me to bring A8 into our lives.


Author’s note: After receiving endless compliments on my 3D printed jewelry, I’ve decided to offer some of my work for sale online. On February 2nd (write that down,) I’ll officially be launching my Etsy shop: MonsteRawrMakes. If you’re interested in any of my pieces, contact me to buy direct (and before they’re available to the rest of the world!) or stay tuned for the opening of MonsteRawrMakes! I can’t wait to share my creations with all of you, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek of a few of my pieces:



Geometric Necklace & Earring Set in Atomic Cherry

Geometric Necklace & Earring Set in Electric Lemon (That’s right, motherfuckers, they glow under blacklight. How bad ass is that?)

Geometric Cube Earrings in (get ready,) Ultramarine, Electric Lemon, Tangerine Spark, and Atomic Cherry



You may not know it, but we are–right this moment–smack dab in the middle of the most glorious time of year. Well, if you happen to be in Saratoga Springs, New York, that is.

That time of year is track season, the 46 days between the end of July and Labor Day during which the Saratoga Race Course, our thoroughbred horse racing track, is open.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Tracks are skeezy. Only old people with gambling problems go to horse tracks. Or rich people once a year for the Kentucky Derby. For the love of god, why would a respectable young person with no noticeable addictions to support go to a horse racing track?” It’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? I know, horse tracks have a really bad rap, and rightfully so; a lot of them are still skeezy as shit.

But not Saratoga. Saratoga is different. For one, Saratoga Race Course is the oldest continuously operating sports venue in the country. It’s older than Churchill Downs, it’s older than Wrigley–for fuck’s sake, the Civil War was only two years deep when it opened. But Saratoga is also is a destination for both the racing world and tourists alike that people from all over the country come to experience the track. It’s a place where families come to gather and relax and no one thinks twice about bringing their kids. It’s a wonderful medley of history and beauty and food and glamour and horses and fun.

And it’s easily my favorite place to be in the summer.


A day at the track can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some people, it means wearing fancy dresses with elaborate hats and linen suits, sitting in your own private owners box, and walking to the paddock (and hopefully winners circle) to be with your horse. It’s mingling with other horse owners, wealthy elite, and celebrities. (Or in the case of Bobby Flay, all three.)  For others, it means drinks in the clubhouse, with its upscale bars and restaurants and dress code. It’s about seeing and being seen.

Of course, those experiences aren’t for everyone. Me? I prefer to experience my track from the backyard.

The backyard is the grassy, treed area surrounding the grandstand. You can’t actually see the track from there, but they do walk the horses right through the backyard on their way to the paddock, and a two minute walk gets you right to the rail, the winners circle, or the paddock if you so fancy.

Plus tv monitors scattered about the grounds give you a nice up-close view of the race. (My favorite? The three in the playground area. Because even the young’uns like to see if their boxed exacta came in.)  You can bring any food or beverages you like, as long as they’re not in glass, which means that people like Kyle and I can bring a cooler-backpack full of beer and forego the $13 persecco-and-orange-juice or even the $8 beers. A popular spot for reunions of both the familial and scholastic variety, people bring flags and banners to nail to the trees or hang from the roof of their pop-up tents, and friends and families gather with amounts of food and booze that might feel more appropriate at say, Thanksgiving. And there’s hundreds and hundreds of picnic tables that are available for use, as long as you get there early enough to claim one.


Which is why a day at the track for us begins at 6am.

That’s right, you heard me. Six. A. M.


See, despite the hundreds and hundreds of picnic tables available, there with be thousands and thousands of people coming to the track. Average attendance on any given day is almost 30,000 people, and at least half of them also want a table. So “early enough to claim one” means you best be in line at 7am when the gates open. You can get away with showing up right at 7a on a Monday, maybe on a day that’s shaping up to be rainy, but on a Saturday or Sunday? Not a chance.

Which is why our day begins at 6am.

Wake up, throw on clothes and brush our teeth, and we can be at the track by 6:30a. Stand in line for half an hour or so, and when the gates open at 7a, we run for our table.

Back before last year, this literally meant running for your spot. See, at 6:50a they used to open the first set of gates, at which point the line would compact into more of a crowd. If you were good, you could start weaseling your way through that crowd until you were at the front, right behind the second gate. And let me tell you, Kyle and I were good. To the frequent dismay of the people at the head of the line who’d showed up hours ago to claim their spot, we could usually–by traveling light and being willing to invade peoples’ personal space–thread our way through the crowd until we were close to the front.

And when the gates would open? Baby, it was fucking pandemonium. The entire crowd would surge forward, compressing you into the person in front of you. Someone usually knocked over the garbage can right at the gate, trapping those immediately behind them and forcing everyone else to leap over it. And once we were through the gate we would full-on sprint to our chosen spot, claiming our table as quickly as we could by leaping on top of it because to hesitate for more than a moment was to come up empty-handed. It was wild and chaotic and frankly, kinda dangerous; at least once a year someone would be injured in the fray, and more than once we walked away with interestingly shaped bruises.

They don’t let us run for tables like that anymore; now they keep the line between barriers, forcing it to stay a line, and they yell at you if you run through the backyard. It’s safer, civilized, and from a liability standpoint, an overall better idea than the chaos…and Kyle and I miss the shit out of that chaos. We loved it because…well, let’s just say that during the summer, this town is more than happy to cater to the wealthy tourist. Money can buy you entry into an entire world that Kyle and I will never be able to touch. But money can’t buy you a table in the backyard. For once, the system didn’t reward the wealthy tourist, but the cunning, the bold, the quick, and–most inportantly–the local who knew how to play the game. And sure, running through the melee often left us with banged up shins and entirely too close in proximity to our fellow human. But when I leapt up on my table and surveyed the area, I felt like I’d earned my table. Now, we have to rely on our prior knowledge of where the good spots are and where security isn’t (and thus, able to get away with a few jogged strides) to give us the upper hand. We still do just fine and always manage to snag a table or two in our chosen area.


It’s just…you know…less fun.

Once we’ve chosen our tables in the backyard, we arrange them to best stay in the shade later in the day, claim them by clamping down a tablecloth, and then we go home.

That’s right. We go home.

A long-standing tradition at Saratoga is the honor system pertaining to personal property, but particularly picnic tables. If you’ve claimed your table at 7am in a visible way, no one will take it. I’ve seen people leave as little as a newspaper folded on their table and it will sit untouched for hours, but a tablecloth of some variety usually does a better job. So once we’ve clamped down our tablecloth, we’re free to leave and go home for a nice breakfast, a run, or a nap (usually a nap,) knowing that it will be waiting for us when we get back.

Our day at the track resumes a few hours later.

By then, we’ve completed the reinvigorating activities of our choosing, showered and cleaned up, and are heading back to the track to make it in time for the first race at 1pm. Armed with some variety of lunch (subs from Roma are by far the tastiest choice) and a cooler full of beers, we usually make it back to our waiting table in time to look over the past performances of each horse in the first race and decide on our first bet.

After that, the day settles itself into an easy  rhythm. There’s a race about every 30 minutes or so, providing two minutes of absolute bedlam, with plenty of run up in between to study the horses and decide on our bets. Kyle and I usually bet no more than $3 or $4 each race, and they’re usually based on a combination of the horse’s past performances, the jockey, and the trainer. Once in a while I’ll bet $1 on a horse with a funny name, which almost never win but are fun to cheer for. (Past favorites? Horses named Professor Chaos, Not Fake News, and Funky Monkey Mamma.) We never bet big which means that we almost never win big (I think our record is something like $65,) but that’s okay with us. We don’t bet to make money, we just bet to have fun. Our goal for each day is to make back what we spent plus $7 for a Shake Shack Sloppy Track milkshake.

But the betting and the races aren’t really why we go to the track. The races only take a minute or two; we go for the bits around all that, when it’s sunshine and blue skies and relaxing in the shade of the giant trees of the backyard. Sometimes it’s just Kyle and I, and we’ll talk and read the paper and enjoy a lazy day outdoors. But my favorite track days are the ones when we have friends and family with us, and the more the better. On those days, everyone brings snacks to share as we talk and joke and argue about horses and laugh. Sometimes we all go to the rail to watch the race as the horses fly by, but often we just sit around our table and have a blast. Those are my favorite track days, because it brings together all my favorite people for an easy day of relaxation; anyone who wants to show up does with whatever food and drink they want and there’s no pressure to do anything but enjoy each other’s company.

Some of my favorite days–the ones that I look back upon and smile–have been with our friends and family at the track.


Racing usually goes until 6p or so, at which point we pack up and head for home. Sometimes that’s the end of it; we all go to our respective homes, make our respective dinners, and watch our respective tvs before going to bed. Especially if it’s a Sunday or a Monday, a day of drinking in the sun is enough to wipe a person out. More than once, however, we’ve been having such a great time with all of our friends that we’ve all gone out to dinner afterwards. And a real track day–a throw-down, things-are-fucking-serious, hang-on-to-your-tits track day–doesn’t stop there. On a weekend we’ll go home, nap (again) and sober up, eat some dinner, and head back out for a night of bar hopping and partying. Saratoga’s nightlife is at its best and grandest during track season, and to not partake in the scene is to miss out. The energy downtown is absolutely unreal, and even though we’ve usually been up since 6a at that point, it’s hard not to let yourself get swept up in it.

Track season is only about six weeks, which, if I’m being honest with myself, is probably for the better; by the time the season ends I usually feel like my liver is getting ready to slide out of my body, I’m drinking detox tea like it’s the last liquid on Earth, and the sight of a beer makes me go pale. The entire city of Saratoga Springs goes through a metaphorical hangover, during which the locals take the town back from the tourists (at least until the leafers come…) and everything is quieter. But at the same time, its relatively short duration is part of what makes track season so magical. Because it’s so short, there’s almost a frenzy to take in as much of it as possible, to soak in every moment we can before it’s gone. The house goes a little uncleaned, laundry lapses momentarily…shit, even taking the time to write this post was difficult, because it’s track season. There’s horses to be examined, races to bet upon, sunshine to soak in, beers to drink, and the company of wonderful people in which to bask.

You know where to find me.


A Taste of Chaos or Our Trip to NYC

It was a short trip. Down for one day, back up the next night. But it was enough to get a taste of that wild, chaotic, smelly, beautiful city before disappearing back up to our haven of peace and calm upstate that we call home.

(Author’s note: You’ll notice by our wardrobes of long sleeves and winter coats that this adventure did not happen recently. It was actually sometime in March, I think. I worked on this post for about a month, (picture-heavy posts take longer because I am bonkers slow at photo-editing and formatting,) and was planning to post it around the end of April when…well, when tumor happened. And suddenly there were much more important things for me to share with you, dear reader, than our little trip to the city. So I beg you forgive me the delay in posting, and also that you remember this little speech when I inevitably post other blogs acting as if events of a few months ago happened just now. Just…pretend the last two months didn’t happen.)

It started with a train ride…










…followed by an obligatory selfie with the ceiling at Grand Central Station. (Seriously, you have to. They won’t let you leave the station until you’ve taken a picture with the ceiling. They really prefer that you throw in a peace sigh, but they let me get away without.)

We stayed at the Orchard Street Hotel, which was that perfect Lower East Side combination of super artsy-modern, and bonkers tiny. Luckily, we didn’t intend to spend that much time in our room, so the lack of square footage didn’t bother us any.


It also featured a very “New York” view!

(Which, if you’re wondering what constitutes a “New York” view, the answer is the skyline romantically glowing in the distance with someone’s dirty rooftop in the foreground. Extra points if there’s random garbage–like plastic coat hangers or a broken lawn chair–on aforementioned rooftop.)








We spent the rest of the day just bopping around the Lower West Side, exploring some of the more interesting shops in SoHo and Greenwich Village.









And, of course, we had to go to Uniqlo, because I am physically incapable of being within twenty square miles of a Uniqlo without spending at least $50. (Seriously though, a jacket, three undershirts, three pairs of socks, and two sweaters for $60? That’s insane.)

We went back to our hotel for a quick nap, (because walking all over the Lower West Side is exhausting, yo,) before going back out for the night.










We had planned to go catch a show at a nearby venue, but then we found the bar across the street from our hotel. It had $3.50 beers during happy hour, and was just more…us.


After a couple rounds, we headed to St Mark’s Place to spend a little time in what is easily one of our favorite places on the island: Barcade.

Say the name out loud, at it’s exactly what it sounds like; it’s a bar that features a shitload of old school arcade video games. Their beer prices were definitely higher then the dive bar we’d been at previously, but I assure you, that dive bar did not have a Gradius console.


We’d found Barcade on a previous trip and immediately realized that we’d stumbled upon a gem. The beer selection is vast, the staff polite, and the arcade games nostalgic. Oh, and did I mention that most games still only cost a quarter? (A fact that we did not know the first time we went until after we’d already fed $20 into the change machine. We fucking made it rain.) It’s perfect because you can not only go there to drink, but to hangout and play games and discover that you don’t totally suck at Ms Pac-Man while you drink.

















Of course, there’s another reason why we adore Barcade so much. It just so happens to be right across the street from our favorite restaurant in the entirety of the New York City metropolitan area: Yakitori Taisho. Or maybe it’s Oh! Taisho. I don’t actually know which one we ate at, as they’re right next door to each other, have identical menus, and we’re pretty sure they’re owned by the same people. We usually go into whichever one looks like it has less of a wait. But either one we go into, the food is fucking. delicious. Seriously, Kyle has made excuses to accompany me on business-related trips down to the city just so that he can get yakitori from one of these places. To even suggest that we not go for yakitori while we’re down is an inexcusable offense.


There’s just something about a giant plate covered in grilled meat on a stick that makes me wiggle with happiness. Kyle’s favorite skewer was the pork belly. I’m personally partial to the gizzards, but we both agree that (as long as you get to them before they re-congeal) the crispy chicken skin is the absolute shit.

Breakfast the next morning was to-go from a Greek deli who’s name I’ve already forgotten, but it was right around the corner from our hotel and had a smoked salmon that was super tasty. On a garlic bagel and teeming with capers…nothing better.








(If Kyle looks at all bewildered, it’s because despite the fact that I told him that I was specifically searching for a place that would have good smoked salmon, his sleep-addled brain didn’t retain that information. So he was very, very confused as to why my choice for breakfast featured a display case filled with sides of smoked fish and endless choices of caviar.)


Every time we go down to the city, our goal is to explore a new neighborhood. This trip’s target of discovery?


Our first stop was a tiny little place I’d read about called Aji Ichiban. It’s a small shop, no more than a few hundred square feet, and it’s teeming with Asian and Western sweets and snacks. Like most sweet shops, it has a huge selection of bulk items, but unlike most sweet shops (that I’ve been to, anyway,) they strongly encourage sampling.

Which was a very foreign concept for my Western brain. Seriously, what other snack/candy shop is okay with you tasting their bulk items before you buy them? Usually that’s how you get kicked out of a Healthy Living and told not to return. (Or something. That I would know nothing about.) I was so suspicious that this behavior was really okay that it took me a solid ten minutes of perusing before I worked up the courage to take a sample from one of the tiny bowls sitting on the top of each bin, but low and behold, no one blinked when I reached out for a tiny fragment of candied ginger.

Once we realized that tasting was kosher, Kyle and I wandered the tiny shop, tasting and trying flavors both foreign and familiar. We ended up leaving that magical little corner of snack heaven with some pocky, plum candied ginger, spicy dried squid bits, tiny rice-encrusted dried crabs, and (of course) penguin gummies. (Because I adore gummies and I adore penguins. So of course.)

We also made sure that our trip to Chinatown included a trip to a tea shop for some bubble tea. Unfortunately for us, we quickly realized that the bubble tea we’d been drinking at home (while delicious) was a cup full of liquefied crap compared to the sweet lusciousness that was that particular Chinatown bubble tea. And just like that, another scrap of my heart was left in Chinatown.




By lunch, we’d explored Chinatown to our satisfaction, and punctuated it with lunch of bánh mì sandwiches. After that, we found ourselves just…wandering the island of Manhattan. Without a plan, we walked to wherever our whims took us. We ended up in some surprising places, not knowing where we heading until we realized that we were there.

Battery Park…











…the Financial District…


…the Oculus (the transportation hub of the World Trade Center)…











…and finally, Central Park.












Eventually, we made it back to our hotel with a few hours before our late train home. We probably should have taken that last opportunity to seek out some new and exotic cuisine unavailable to us in Saratoga Springs, but after an entire day of traversing the city on foot, we were completely and absolutely exhausted. Instead, we took refuge in the geographically close and emotionally comfortable walls of the bar across the street from our hotel. It didn’t exactly take us outside of our culinary comfort-zones, but the food was good, the beer was cheap, and we didn’t have to go on an epic journey to discover and then travel to it. And that’s exactly what we needed in that moment.

A few hours later, we were back on the train home, physically drained but emotionally satiated.






Kyle and I have never had a strong desire to live in the city. Even the simplest of tasks, like grocery shopping or going to the gym, just seem harder there. Besides, our connection to the mountains is just too strong; we need to at least be able to see the whisper of the mountains where we live and know that we could be there without too much effort.

But every once in a while, we love to dip ourselves into that fracas of humanity and life and feel the energy swirl around us. Even if we wouldn’t trade our oasis of nature and tranquility upstate for all the NYC excitement in the world, it’s nice just to get a taste of chaos.