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Month: April 2010

Etsy…my love affair

I found a new etsy store today.  LiliSwan.  This could be bad for the budget…For those of you who don’t know, etsy is a website of wonderful, handmade, vintage, quirky and beautiful things.  Real things made by real people.  I found the site when we were planning our wedding last year. I wanted some details with a personal touch.  I ended up choosing earrings for the bridesmaids there (modeled below by beautiful matron of honor, Laura), and two gifts for my mom:  beautiful, hand painted wine glasses and a personalized embroidered handkerchief with our wedding date. I also found our ring bearer bowl there, which we were able to have personalized with our names and wedding date.

Wow.  All were a huge hit.  I’ve found many gifts on etsy, and it’s a wonderful place to get lost.  I love finding new vendors like the one I found today. This shop has some amazing jewelry;  I would like one of each please. Stop on by, you’ll be glad you did!

Oh…links and such:  handkerchief , earrings , wineglasses , ring bowl If you check out nothing else, look at the ring bowl page, from a seller called Paloma’s Nest.  Gorgeous.


Canyonlands National Park

Part two of our Spring Break adventure had us heading west from Arches to Canyonlands National Park.  We spent two days in this park in two if it’s three distinctly different areas.  We visited the Needles district first, which is in the south eastern area of the park.  The Needles is an interesting area, and I’m somewhat at a loss to describe the landscape there.  It’s almost as though the consistency of the rock was changed to hot wax, and then dribbled out to form columns, blobs and mushroom-like formations.  We even camped under our own large mushroom of a rock that night, which somewhat cut down on the wind (yes, there was MORE wind).

After we arrived at the park and set up camp, we decided to go for a hike.  We decided on the Chesler Park Trail, which twists and turns through towering spires of striped red, orange and cream colored rock.  We climbed over large rock blobs, down through slot canyons, and between towers of rocks much much taller than our house.  The trail leads to an awe inspiring amphitheater of rock towers all lined up in a row.  It looks like a fossilized cityscape dropped off in the desert.  Fascinating.   (yes, I know I’m going a bit overboard with the superlatives.  Deal.)

The next day, we left the Needles area, and headed up north to the Island in the Sky area.  I thought the NPS had gone a bit overboard with the name, until I saw the place.  This section of the park is located on the top of a giant mesa, and from the edge, you look out over the different levels of sub-mesa, all the way down to the valley floor where the Green River meets the Colorado, thousands of feet below.  The views were a bit ridiculous. We also visited Mesa Arch, which while interesting, was very crowded.  The arch has a killer view down into the valley and of the snow-capped peaks beyond, and the drop off is immediate.  There were many families with small children who were being not so attentive.  We got out of there quickly because I kept getting more and more scared for other people’s children!

We decided to do a short backpack that night, since the campground was full, and we wanted a bit more solitute.  Since this national park is not heavily visited, there aren’t really backpacker campsites exactly, they have “backpacking zones”.  There was a one party limit in our zone, so we were it.  Sweet.  We hiked out onto a slender finger of mesa poking out into the void and really felt the immensity of all. that. space.  It was quite humbling really.  We had our dinner on an outcropping of rock near the brim while we watched the sun go down and make the desert landscape burn even more orange.  We also packed the kindle in, so that we could read to each other.  You may laugh, but we’ve often been known to bring books or games when we backpack.  Tom even carried the hardback version of the sixth Harry Potter on a three day trip on Lake Chelan a few summers ago.  Trust me, the kindle is an improvement.

Now, I am somewhat paranoid, especially when we’re backpacking out in the middle of nowhere; I’m conviced every rustle of a branch is a cougar coming to eat us, or that scorpions and rattlesnakes are going to take up residence in my boots and backpack.  This trip was no exception.  Luckily the night wasn’t too windy (!), so I made it through alright, and even slept pretty well.

The next morning, we did a few short walks around the park to see some of the different areas and vistas we hadn’t seen yet.  We did a two mile trip out to a different finger of mesa where we got a rare great shot of the two of us together!  The thing that surprised me most about trails in this park was the total lack of railings.  Now, I’m not a huge proponent of making things feel safer than they actually are and giving people a false sense of security, but we’re talking about drops of thousands of feet here!  While it was fascinating seeing that kind of exposure, it was a bit heady for me. I’m pretty sure my dad would have either passed out or refused to get out of the car.  The views were totally worth it though.


Arches National Park

Last week was my Spring Break.  WHEE!!  Spring Break is such a magical time.  This year, Tom and I decided to head wherever was cheapest, and fun…est.  We also wanted to try to include some National Parks, as we are still on our quest to visit all of the NPs in the country.  We ended up deciding on Utah, and specifically visiting Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks.  We started off in Arches, which is just outside Moab, Utah.  We arrived late on Sunday night and camped at a DNR campground just outside the park, next to the Colorado River.  The forecast called for a cold, windy night, but it was windy beyond belief.  Like, I thought the tent might collapse kind of windy.  Sweet.

So after not too much sleep, we headed into the park the next morning. Many areas of middle to southern Utah are made up of these gorgeous red-rock mesas, gorges, and arches, and this park is no different.  Soaring walls of stark reddish orange towered over us as we snaked through the park to arrive at Balanced Rock. Basically, the “rock” is there because it is made up of a more durable (less susceptible to erosion) type of rock, while the rock underneath is much softer, making it erode more quickly, giving it the “balancing” look.  Eventually the base will wear away completely, and the “Balanced Rock” will collapse to the ground.  The light was a bit tricky early in the day, so our photos here aren’t super fabulous, but the feature was really interesting.

Next we traveled deeper into the park to an area called Devil’s Garden.  By this point, it was afternoon, and we still hadn’t seen any of the park’s namesakes!  I wanted to see some arches!  We found them here though. The first one we visited was Landscape Arch, a delicate, impressive span that looks almost impossibly long.  We were unable to venture under it, as I believe the park service is worried about parts breaking off and landing on tourists!

After that we ventured up the “primitive trail” to Partition Arch, which is visible in some of our photos of Landscape Arch.  Up here the wind started kicking up, as in gusting probably 30ish mph.  With sand.  Right.  Partition Arch was amazing, as it overlooked the entire valley; we could see for probably a hundred miles. Amazing.

Leaving this area of Devil’s Garden, the wind started blowing in earnest.  We kept having to stop and turn our backs to the gusts and hide our eyes.  The sand stung our skin and was burning our faces.  This was when I realized I am not really cut out for desert travel.  Clearly something I needed to learn the hard way.  We did stop by Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch on the way out, but spent very little time there due to sandblasting.

We decided to risk one other area of the park to visit Double Arch, which, as the name implies, is where to arches were formed from the same part of rock, but span in two different directions.  Yay erosion!  I have a feeling the wind had something to do with this as well.  After taking about a gazillion more photos, we retreated back to the car.  It took very little work to “convince”  Tom that we needed to spend the night in a hotel that night rather than camping in the 40+ mph winds again.  And there was a shower. Whee!  The Super 8 cost 55.00 with our AAA membership, which meant we got a room and a tub.  No closet or, strangely, trash can, but hey, I wasn’t complaining.  There was no wind.

The next morning, before we headed over to Canyonlands, we went back into the park to check out Delicate Arch.  This is THE arch.  Like, the one Utah deemed worthy of putting on it’s license plate.  In the morning light with some spectacular clouds, the scene was striking indeed.  It was quite cold, and guess what, windy!  The arch was exquisite though, and quite fun to photograph.   Arches was a wonderful way to start out our trip to this very unique part of the country.



Ok, so I might be a little excited that The Pioneer Woman is coming to Seattle this weekend!  I read the food portion of her blog pretty much daily and have cooked many of her delicious recipes, have have been looking for an excuse to actually purchase her cookbook.  Ohhhh  shiny, glossy pages with pictures of FOOD!  How can it get any better?  Needless to say, I will be trying to go to the book signing and maybe snag a photo of two and hopefully not come off too terribly creepy in the process.  Head on over to her site, I promise your tummy will be glad you did.

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Trip to Orcas Island

Two weekends ago, Tom and I went with Brendan, Ellie and Sierra up to Orcas Island, which is located in the San Juan Islands, northwest of Seattle.  You have to take the ferry to get there, and while the jury is still out as to whether my stomach likes the ferry or not, I do always enjoy looking at the mountains and the beautiful Puget Sound on the trip to the islands.  Spring camping has become somewhat of a tradition with this group.  Coincidentally, the first camping trip of spring is also usually associated with something important in the lives of the four of us.  For example, last year’s spring camping trip was when Brendan and Ellie told us they were pregnant with Sierra.  This year, it was Sierra’s first ever camping trip, something to be celebrated indeed.

After we arrived and set up camp, we decided to hike up Mount Constitution, which is the high point of the island, and I believe the high point of all of the San Juans.  The hike starts out very flat, and arcs around a lovely lake.  We cruised this part, stopping only to take pictures.  Once you leave the lake, however, the trail gets serious.  Quickly.  It climbs over a thousand feet in about a mile and a half, and quickly had us slowing down and breathing hard.  Tom is training for a mountaineering class, so he was carrying about 30 lbs of all of our water and stuff, and was working the hardest.

About three quarters of the way up the mountain, Sierra needed to eat, so Ellie took a break to nurse.  Since Tom’s training, he wanted to keep his pace and momentum, so we told him to go on ahead.  Remember how I mentioned that he had all the stuff?  Right. So about ten minutes after he leaves, Sierra decided that then would be a good time to have a total diaper blowout.  Not good.  So we sent Brendan scurrying off after Tom, and Ellie did her best to carry Sierra in a way that wouldn’t make her messier than she already was.  So now Ellie and I are alone with the baby, with no rain gear, diapers, blankets or anything and the wind starts to pick up.  And it’s about to rain.  This is not a good situation to be in, and we should have known better.  Luckily, before our situation could turn from bad to worse, we heard Tom and Brendan coming down the trail.  After a quick on-the-trail change of the diaper, we were off again.

We finally made it to the top, where there is a castle-esque look out tower that was built by the CCC .  From the top of the mountain, the view overlooks the sound, Mount Baker to the east, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the mountains of Canada to the north, and Anacortas and the Cascades to the south.  Beautiful.

Back at camp, the evening was uneventful, and quiet, even though the stove broke and Tom and Brendan had to improvise by cooking over a fire.  Sierra slept well, snug as a bug, though I think Ellie was a bit cold.  All in all, a successful weekend adventure in a beautiful place.

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My Favorite Things…OR…How to Make Your Own Silver Lining

Recently, I have felt like my life has been full of bad news.  I’ve been doing a lot of moping, and whining and crying, and really, it’s not done me a whole lot of good.  So I’m trying something different. If life isn’t going to give me a silver lining for all the recent not so fab news, I’m going to make my own.  So instead of making a list of all the things that have not gone the way I would have planned them, here is a list of some of the wonderful things I am thankful for in my life.

We’ll start with bacon.  ‘Cause really, bacon is pretty damn wonderful.  And since you shouldn’t just eat bacon, we’ll add all the other fun, messy and tasty cooking I’ve been trying my hand at recently.  It’s been really satisifying to make things that people actually want to eat AND that they think are tasty!

I also think that mountains are pretty amazing.  I love where we live and all the wonderful things we do here out in nature.  We are so lucky to get to enjoy scenes like this all the time.  This particular beauty is Mt. Baker in the North Cascades, and the trail is the Ptarmagin Ridge trail, which has become an annual favorite.

We love to travel. We are so lucky that we have both the means and the time to adventure to interesting places so frequently.  Last year we traveled to Hawaii, Ireland, Scotland and England.  This year we’re slated to explore three national parks in Utah, (Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef), and hopefully to travel down under to New Zealand around the holidays.

We have an amazing family.  Between our 6 sets of parents two siblings and several cousins, we have more love than we know what to do with.  And while we are saddened by the recent loss of my Uncle Wayne, his memory lives on, and we rejoice in those who are still with us to share our lives.

We have the best friends anyone could ask for.  It’s not even possible to show pictures of them all here, or this post would be several pages long.  Our friends have stood by us through thick and thin, though all the wonderful times and all the terrible times.  We love you.

And finally, I’m thankful for you, Tom, my dear husband.  The one who’s always there, always ready to pull me back from the brink, to make me laugh and make me dance.  Love you babe.

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