Saturday, November 23, 2013

- Rock Me Mama

Did you know the song "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show is co-written in by Bob Dylan? The chorus is something he wrote but never quite developed into a full song and it wouldn't have seen the light of day if the right person hadn't picked it up at the right time to turn it into an anthem of the 2010's.  I didn't know any of this until tonight when Kelsey and I talked about the song because we heard it played not once, but twice, in two different pubs in Killarney. I never thought in a million years that I would go to Ireland and hear the lyrics "and I'm thumbin' my way into North Caroline".  It was a little bit bittersweet to realize that even here, on the vacation of my dreams, it's so clear where home is.

Anyways, today has been a whirlwind and I'm guessing it's a testament to jet lag and Smithwicks that I'm even still awake enough to coherently tell you about it.  I keep forgetting to capture the sights on my cell phone but here are a few animal centric moments from today...

First there were the horses that we found in the fog during our morning jaunt through the Gap of Dunloe:
Then there were the sheep that we saw on every hillside but it was still surprising to find them so close at hand on Valentia Island. The Skelligs in the background weren't so bad either. 
(Skelligs are those tall rocks sticking out of the ocean. One time some monks looked at those rocks and said "hmmm that looks like as good as place as any to call home" and then they lived there until the 12th century. Trading seal meat with passing ship crews for grain and writing out historical records on vellum. Congratulations, you just learned something. Side note over.)

But mostly today the coastline stole the show. Ireland is beautiful in a way that I've never seen before. End of story. No "buts" or explanations needed. 
I can't wait to see more.

If you don't get the song reference then watch this link. And if it ever comes up it's probably best that you lie to me and just act like you knew what I was talking about all along. And for the love of Jebus, if you didn't know about this song until Hootie covered it, it's probably best if we never talk again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

- Bon Voyage

The past three days have been so stressful because as it turns out there's a lot to do to prepare to leave the country for 9 days. You know, ridiculously essential things like sewing sequins to a sweatshirt or dealing with your first world problems. I wasn't prepared for all of the hullabaloo (side note: that is one of the best words EVER) because sadly, I haven't done this as an adult. Okay I guess I was 18 (or nearly? I can't remember that far back) when I went to London and Paris with my highschool class but that just doesn't count. 

It is a little bit embarassing to have this kind of first happen so far into my adult life. And a little bit scary; because once this can of international travel worms is opened, it can't be closed. And I may never have money again. But I feel like its worth it to find out just how much better Guinness can be. 
The American control. Because you hav to set a baseline. And I lost those 5 lbs jut so I can gain them back in Guinness consumption.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

- Winter is Coming

This song is one of those that you hear and just instantly love.  It's this years Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Home.  Or a newer Magic by Rabbit.  It's totally a Send Me on My Way by Rusted Root.  It instantly feels like your favorite pair of leggings.
If you don't have a favorite pair of leggings then it's like I don't even know you anymore.

If you can listen to that song and not smile then I definitely don't know you anymore.

I spent so much of this past summer under "the big hot sun" that I actually got a tan for the first time in years despite all of the sunscreen I wear.  Summer took forever to get here but when it did show up, it put on a perfect performance.  With encores into October.  OCTOBER!  This song feels like summer did.  If it's played on just the right day, even after summer is over, it brings back a memory so vivid of spectacular weather that you fan feel it.  The day feels a little bit warmer.  Things look a little bit brighter.

But October also skipped right over Fall and moved to "Early Winter" all too quickly.  All of the sudden we had a good 2.5 weeks straight with highs only in the 30's.  The sun was no where to be found and I had a really hard time liking anything about my life with that sadness outside.  But every Friday, miraculously, the sun would come out.  (It was a literal "Here Comes the Sun" type of moment).  And the temperature's would rise to 50!  The perfect weather would last all weekend.  Each time, for those three days I would do as much as I could to soak up the rays.  It was like trying to bank time in the light so I could get through another gloomy week if necessary.

If ever I forget about how great it was to have the sun stick around for so long (by Minnesota standards), I remember on days like today.  Today was the first day of winter.  The first time there were winter weather advisories and lots of different kinds of precipitation falling from the sky.  It was the first day that Emma and I had to walk in "The Weather".  I tried to psyche myself up for our walk by picturing in my head this idyllic scene: Emma and I strolling along the sidewalk while big white flakes floated effortlessly to the ground all around us.  The wind was still and it was comfortably cold.  Instead it was a new version of hell.  Little ice chunks were pelted at our faces leaving our skin stinging in the blistering wind.  We haven't walked that fast in a long time and the only thing that kept me moving forward was this song and the memories it contains.

I will carry this song with me through the next 5 months of winter (That's right Old Man, you can stay until March but then it's time to make room for Lady Spring) because as soon as that uke kicks in the happiness is palpable.  And that's the kind of thing I'll need to feel when there's a -15 windchill and my snot is freezing in my nose as I walk to my car after work.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

- Sometimes I Cry

In my last post I included the new-ish John Mayer song that is currently rocking my socks off.  And when I posted that video I realized that I have kind of developed a Summer Soundtrack.  It all started back in April, when Summer was still just a dream and a wish on a snowy day.

I'm one of the 84 people left in America who still pays 2 subscriptions to Netflix.  I maintain a carefully curated DVD queue of movies I want to see oh so badly but for some reason never actually make it to theater for.  At the end of April I got The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  And I cried my eyes out.  Because sometimes movies just break my heart and that movie did in so many tragic ways.  But then at the same time I was just blown away by the love the main character possessed.  For someone that should be so broken by the world, he still had the capacity to love as unconditionally as most of wish we could.

In April I wrote: Look, Imma break it down.  Lately, I've been crying a lot.  I don't really know what's up, but things are just reaching into my chest and gripping my heart so tightly that I can't help but be reduced to the fetal position with tears streaming down my face.

I think it was the change of the seasons taking so long that made me so emo.  But during that phase in my year, I was driving in my car when this song came on:
It was right after one of our April snow storms and everything around me was so depressingly beautiful.  It was that kind of snow where the flakes are big and wet and fluffy.  I was driving through a neighborhood when this song started and before I knew what was happening I was driving down the road crying my eyes out.  Because apparently my old heart has been locked away too long and I didn't realize it was breaking.
"But you'll never find the answers until you set your old heart free." - Preach.

And that's when the soundtrack started.  It was the first time that I was physically hit by a song when there was but a whisper of warmer seasons on the air.  A song that made me lose sight of everything else in the world but what was happening for that moment.  It was an emotional start to the summer, but it's an oh so good start.

Monday, September 30, 2013

- Lake Puppy

Did you know that Emma can swim?  Most people assume she can't because her legs are so short.  But I've heard that all dogs can swim - and Emma is no exception.
photo 4
I'm so behind in blogging that I need to go back like 4 months (where did summer go?!) to when my friend Danielle invited Emma and I up to her lake house in Wisconsin.  Everyone up here has lake houses.  It's like such a thing.  And no one is anyone unless they have a lake house, or at the very least, a friend with a lake house.

I'm a fan of any friend that likes Emma a fraction as much as I do.  And anytime that an invitation extended to me includes Emma is the icing on the cake.  Because that dog loves car rides.  And adventures.

Danielle's lake house is a perfect weekend.  There might not be cell phone coverage.  It's far north enough that fall weather is always a possibility.  Campfires are a certainty.  You can see the milky way on a clear night.  There are SO many stars.  There's a great townie bar with a mystery shot waiting for you on a saturday night.  If this place had a theme song it would be "Little Bit of Summer" by John Mayer:
Side note: if my summer had a theme song this would be it - are you kidding me with this lyric; "Because a little bit of summer is what the whole year's all about"  TRUE STORY.

Side side note: His new CD is totally my jam right now.  I once wrote a blog post on how much I begrudgingly love John Mayer.  I don't think I published it.  Anyways, I don't know how you cannot love a song like Comfortable Love or Gravity or Wheel.  Even if a douchbag is the one singing you the words.

Side side side note: I have had many solo late night dance parties to this song.  I just can't sit still when it's playing.

But the best part about the cabin is the nature.  I love going places where there is no way to escape the nature.  Emma does too.  At Danielle's lake house there is a long staircase down to a simple beach.  The kind where the sand gradually drops off into the depth of the water.
That beach was Emma's own personal heaven all weekend.  She spent more time in the water and swimming than she ever had before.  She really came into her own as a "Lake Puppy".  I thought she might be too scared to really enjoy the swimming part, but I underestimated how much Emma likes to fetch a stick.  Even if it is floating away from her on the water's surface.
Somebody's butt floats

I thought she would be too nervous to "walk the plank" out to the dock, but she never even thought twice.  She loved running out to the dock and spent most of her time looking into the clear water at what was floating below.
Keeping an eye on things
Rolling in the sand after swimming
Wet puppy.

One weekend I left the cabin a little early on Sunday so that Emma and I could spend some time hiking in the St. Croix state park.  I'd heard it was really pretty where the Kettle and St. Croix rivers converge. So we took a 13 mile drive out a gravel road to get to the trail head.  The trail mostly follows the shore of the Kettle river and I mean I guess it was pretty scenic...
photo 1
It took about 3 hours for us to do the hike.  Emma got a little tired once so I carried her for a bit, but she dislikes being carried so much that she found her second wind pretty quickly.  While it was pretty...
And it was definitely pretty...
It totally sucked that I had to spend an hour pulling over 50 ticks off of Emma before we could get into the car to head home.  Then even though we got home late and she was super tired from swimming and hiking all weekend I forced her to take a bath and tolerate me combing through her fur to remove another 20 or so ticks.  SO MANY TICKS.
I thought it might be a fluke that Emma was so into the water.  But a few months later we went on a walk around a nearby lake, and since it was a hotter day than usual my black dog got a bit weary.  Right when we were a nearby beach with a gradual drop off, and sticks...
photo 2 photo 3
I don't have a picture of it, but my favorite part is when she just swims out to do a circle around someone.  She's not chasing a stick.  She's just swimming because she wants to...and she can.
And that's the story of how I ended up with a Lake Puppy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

- El Yunque

A long time ago I went on a trip.  To Puerto Rico.  I still haven't completely written about it, so I'm here today to write that wrong.

Are you going to mention how great that pun was, or should I?

Moving on - after our lovely few days soaking up the sun on the beach and snorkeling, we checked into a new hotel.  Different resort, same meh.  El Conquistador was showing it's age around the grounds but the room was pretty nice.  Not as nice or as clean as it should have been considering what we paid, but still nice.  On the flip side Gran Melia had beautiful grounds...
Ze pool.  It had a swim up bar, but we never swam in it.  Or up to it.
DSC_0466 DSC_0463
The front desk and lobby was an elaborate open air structure with lots of little pools and comfy couches everywhere.  Oh, and I met this dude, who could meow and sense that I was bird-friendly.
The hotel rooms were in smaller individual buildings.

Ironically, despite how beautiful it was outside - the interior of the rooms was disappointing.
It's everywhere around you but not inside your room.

We should know - we tried out three different ones before we just lowered our standards and accepted the last one.  Plus we were tired and sunburnt and ready to just lay in a bed and watch some Law and Order SVU.

Our last full day in Puerto Rico we kind of saved the best for last.  I know I said that snorkeling was my most favorite day ever, but the rainforest was second only by a smidge.  Much like I'd never been snorkeling, I'd also never been in a rainforest, so there was a lot to wonder at.
DSC_0480 DSC_0489
That's just the view from the hiking trail.  Of the hiking trail.  The lush greenery kind of blew my mind.
DSC_0481 DSC_0507
Beyond the palms on the side of the trail there was even more great scenery. We eventually hiked to the top of that tower.

There were two main goals in the rainforest: hike to the summit, and swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall.  On the drive up to the start of the trailhead you pass right by La Coca falls.
DSC_0471 DSC_0474
The hike up to the summit takes about 2 hours, and I would have hiked for much longer just to get to a view like this:
Look at the color of the ocean.  Just look at it!
The clouds may look threatening, but it actually never rained on us while we were in the rainforest.

On our way back down we stopped and took the hike out to La Mina falls, which is where you're allowed to swim in the pool.  The whole hike follows along the river and there are several little mini falls that provide a great soundtrack.
DSC_0597 DSC_0620
They don't really hold a candle to the main event though. 
As for the swim; the 60 degree water was a bit of a shock, but worth it for life experience.  And after about 5 hours of hiking around it was mostly insanely refreshing.
Want a great way to soothe your sunburn?  Swim in a waterfall.

The entrance to El Yunque is very close to Luquillo beach, where there's a row of about 40 food kiosks that offer pretty much the best assortment of fried local favorites you could make a dinner of, especially after hiking all day and having trail mix for lunch.  Also, it's not a terrible place to be during the sunset.
A picture of me about to take a picture.
A picture of me posing awkwardly for a picture.

That night we drank rum in a beach bungalow and lamented the beginning of the end of our trip.  The next morning was our last morning.  And we couldn't end our trip without one last look at a beach.  One last chance to soak up the 85 degree weather before heading back to a city that would have at least 5 more snowfalls before Spring took hold.    
Beware: Paradise.
A picture of me being probably the most sad I've ever been on a beach.  

And then we went to the airport and got on a plane and ended up back here.  Home?  I don't think I've ever fully accepted the reality that I went on a trip that was too awesome to comprehend, and then it ended.  Although, every great trip I've ever been on feels like a dream when I remember it.  So I'm keeping the dream alive by planning for the next big thing: Ireland/Scotland - late Fall 2013.  I'm going to only take a backpack.  Ride the train like Harry Potter.  See the Wicklow Mountains.  Cliffs of Moher.  Go to an Ireland vs. New Zealand rugby game in Dublin.  Drink Guinness.  Look for Nessie.  Hike in Skye.  Hang in Edinburgh.  Use my passport!  And when it has come and gone, I will remember it fondly as the time of my life.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

- Everything & Nothing

Admit it, you've missed me.  I've missed me.  I've had all these ideas for posts flying around in my head for months now and yet, no inspiration to make them a reality.  And the ironic part is that I've probably had the most going on since I last wrote - but when I sit down to tell you about it it feels like nothing really at all.

My family visited in May.  That was a HUGE deal.  I spent most of the month trying to find the balance between preparing to host them, and trying not to get too excited because I couldn't allow myself to actually believe they were coming until they were here.  And now that the visit has come and gone, I can hardly believe that it happened.  And it's already over.

My brother was here for almost two weeks and my parents spent a long weekend over Memorial day.  My mom flew.  On a plane.  To visit me.  For the first time ever.  We missed Trevor, because someone had to say home and take care of the homestead.  We ate some great food.  We fought about cheese.  The crazy thing is - I've never actually hosted any of my family members on an over night stay before.  And I know that they love me and think I'm great and that I don't have to do anything special to win them over...but they came 2000 miles to see the place I call home.  And that is special.  And I wanted everything to be perfect.

It was.

And since then...nothing.  Because when something so monumental happens, everything afterwards feels so small.

Small like these baby plants I bought at the farmer's market the weekend before my family arrived.
Then we planted them while my family was in town.  Because not taking advantage of their green thumbs while they were around would be insane.
Pretty much every time Mams and I are together we go fabric shopping.  It's our thing.  So, while she was in town we really needed to address those sun faded cushions in my balcony chairs.  Mission accomplished:
As an added bonus, Joann fabric had biodegradable planters on sale for 70% off, so that's what all the potted plants are in.

Here are some plant close ups for your viewing pleasure:
Little baby tomato plant.  Petunias.
Dahling Dahlias.

Here's the best I could do at a wide shot because at the time I forgot that my iPhone takes panoramic shots because sometimes I just forget obvious things like that:
Those pictures were taken a month ago and it turns out that I have a bit of a green thumb of my own.
Look at that same tomato plant now!
Why yes, I did pick fabric that would match the flowers I planted.

Here's a close up for you to appreciate the size of my petunias - which may lead you to think that they needed to be planted in a larger pot.  They are one of my favorite things ever because - hello!  Look at that color.
Herbs are in the planters behind the petunias.  Mams and I found these tables on her maiden voyage to Ikea - for $20 bucks each they were a lot cheaper than other comparable options and provide some great height.

Here are the planters I have hanging on the rails.  They are mirror images of each other, so there's an orange gerber daisy, sweetpotato vine (as a reigning sweetpotato queen it's no surprise that's one of the best growing plants I have), a filler plant called "Snow Queen" which is appropriate based on where we live, and a hot pink geranium. In the planter on the right the only difference is the sweetpotato vine is a midnight purple variety.  And smaller, it's hiding behind the snow queen.
Here's my Mommy and baby Nasturtium.  The baby was seriously like 3 stems and 6 leaves when I planted it.  It's like a preteen now with it's own flowers!
And finally - these are the first signs of my grape tomatoes and anaheim peppers.
IMG_1057 DSC_0240
This was one of the top goals I had on my 30 for 30 list.  Remember that thing?  I've been quietly working away on checking some things off the list, but this balcony oasis is one of the best things so far.  This is where Emma and I pretty much start every day.  I drink tea while she lounges.
I water the plants and she lounges.  At dusk I turn on the Christmas lights and enjoy the ambiance.  On July 4th I sat out there and could see the firework shows from 3 nearby neighborhoods.  I pick cilantro for tacos.  Mint leaves for my water.  Arugula for salads.  Chives, sage, rosemary, basil...and soon I'll be using tomatoes and peppers a lot more since every plant is loaded with flowers.  Now that I have started the growing of the things, I can't believe it took me so long to do this.