Sunday, November 29, 2009

Painting the town red! Or Erica's living room...

Well we finally tore ourselves away from the beloved Northeast, after seeing my (Bethany) dear friend Laryssa in Pleasantville, NY. I don’t have any pictures from our time together other than one we took when we first woke up because we realized we hadn’t taken any pictures. And over my dead body will that photo be making its way onto the world wide web. But it was grand to see her, and she even let us come to school with her! She is a fourth grade teacher in the Bronx, with some of the world’s coolest students. We thoroughly enjoyed the review on pluralization and subtraction. And she’s a great teacher!

So then we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. And boy did we. The South is such a different animal. And we will do our best these next few blogs to describe the southernness of the South.

I have some friends that live in Lynchburg, Virginia, so we pointed Taurus in that direction and made it there…despite lots of heavy fog and wildlife that was not afraid of the road. My friends are the recently (congratulations!) married Chris and Erica Fraser.

One awesome thing about the South is the weather. I have complete understanding and respect for snowbirds, now that I have experienced the South in all of its 70-degree glory. Such a welcome change from the not-as-warm Northeast. So we decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and went and played on the railroad tracks in downtown Lynchburg.

Chris decide to collect discarded railroad ties.

And in proper un-environmentally friendly fashion, we threw them into the James River.

Then we watched the train go by and looked at really old buildings that reeked of mildew.

In Virginia they like to live off the land. So Erica found some wild onions and brought them to her mother to cook. And while at the madre’s house, Erica made us Sweet Tea and Kettle Corn! It was truly wonderful. Then we pulled out the guitars and sang and tried to remember songs that we had mostly forgotten, but generally had a grand time.

So as I mentioned, Chris and Erica just got married (a month ago) and so a bunch of DTS people pitched in, and as their wedding present we painted their apartment! Erica picked out warm, deep, earthy colors (of course) and we went to town.

Amy working on the living room…

Erica is an incredible painter. Somehow she only rolled one coat and it still looked really good. TIP: Wal-mart brand paint is really watery-we discovered. And generally needs two coats. Unless Erica’s rolling.

Here’s the guest room:

Thus was our Virginian Experience.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Experiencing NYC with all five senses

One thing that I (Bethany) really loved about New York City was how there was so much going on, all the time, in so many different languages and colors and cultures. It was stimulating simply to walk down the street. Sometimes I would focus in on a particular "sense" and really soak that in...whether it be a smell or a sound or a feeling. Here are a few I picked up along the way...

sense of SIGHT:

Obviously Lady Liberty must be seen while in New York. This was my first time seeing her...and I will say she is looking rather green these days! We took the Staten Island Ferry (free!) and got to see her via boat. Highly recommended.

Other favorite sights: people watching, modern art at the MET, Central Park foliage, the view from the roof of the house we stayed at, the Manhattan skyline view from the Staten Island Ferry, Joy's face in Times Square, watching street/subway performers, notes from Anthea on the counter.

sense of SMELL:

  • Oh Chinatown. There was plenty to smell there, from roasting meat, to the fish market, to trash cans set out on the sidewalk to incense burning to knock-off perfume...C-town was certainly olfactorily diverse.
Other favorite smells: all of the amazing flowers for sale on the sidewalk, the crisp clean smell of fall air and leaves, Nuts 4 Nuts.

sense of SOUND:

Our hostess Anthea decided to surprise us with "girls night out" and got us all tickets to see a show! We were (of course) really excited. We went to see the Marvelous Wonderettes, a story about four girls and their high school prom. Needless to say they were very entertaining, and wonderful to listen to.

Other favorite sounds: different languages being spoken everywhere, going to see The Goose in concert, the NY accent, taxi horns beeping (ahem, blaring), leaves crunching under my feet, and Ken's contagious laugh!

sense of TASTE:

When in NYC it is essential to have pizza, but of course! So we trouped down to Grimaldi's Pizza (under the Brooklyn Bridge) which apparently is the best pizza there is. And I quote: "The don't just make pizza, they are pizza" (Ken Bruffee).
And I must say, it was truly delectable. Apparently the NY water is what makes it taste so fact it's such an essential ingredient that it is bottled and shipped out to restaurants around the country that serve NY pizza.
Grimaldi's also scored extra points in our book because they accommodated Amy's dairy allergy and used her soy cheese on her pizza.

Other favorite tastes: Amy's Pumpkin Curry soup that she made for family game night, bubble tea in Chinatown, rice pudding at Rice to Riches, vegan cupcakes, and other assorted vegan deliciousness at NY's only vegan fast food restaurant.

sense of TOUCH:

After eating pizza we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, because according to Ken: "you haven't lived until you've walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. There is no other bridge." So we walked across and felt the bridge under our feet and the wind in our hair and the sun on our faces.

Other favorite feelings: wind blowing through my hair during a wonderful bike ride through Prospect Park, the feeling in my stomach when the subway starts and stops, laughing during a hilarious game of telepictionary, tired feet after a long day of walking, walking and more walking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Big Apple does not disappoint!

I ain't gonna lie...this blog post kind of intimidates me. We spent just about 2 weeks in Brooklyn, NY and it was probably my (Bethany) favorite part of the trip. So where to begin in the descriptions of it's wondrousness?

Well turns out we were in NYC at just the right time. Because not only did we get there just in time for Halloween, but it also happened to be the weekend of the NYC marathon, the world series (Yankees vs. Phillies), and elections for a new mayor. Action PACKED.

And getting there in and of itself was action packed. We had the brilliant idea to drive in during rush hour...oh boy! I have never in all my days seen traffic like that. It was quite the initiation to the city.

This is my driving in rush hour traffic face.

However, it was completely worth the drive in. That day happened to be my birthday, so our lovely hosts, Ken & Anthea took us out to Mexican food to celebrate! Yummy...

So more on our hosts...
Amy has been getting Christmas cards from some obscure relatives (her Grandpa's cousin) in Brooklyn for as long as she can remember, each year wishing to meet these very fascinating looking people. So she called them up and they graciously agreed to let us stay with them. Let it be known that the world is a much better place because of the Bruffee family! We never really did figure out the exact relation - third cousins twice removed? Something like that. Either way, Ken and Anthea made us feel like family the moment we pulled up to their Brown Stone house. It was no easy thing to say goodbye to these two phenomenal people! We spent hours laughing, sharing stories, discussing issues of our world, and making some pretty unforgettable memories.

Another factor that made this section of our trip so the amazing Joy Goltry joined us for a week! (See Kansas City blog for more details on Joy). This is a picture of us picking her up in Grand Central Station. A very fitting place to meet people.

The day we picked her up also happened to be Halloween. Which meant the subway was packed full of costumed creatures. All I have to say is...New York does not skimp on the costumes. It was quite the all-out celebration!

We were invited to a Halloween party, but (believe it or not) didn't really have any costumes with us. Ken & Anthea have 3 grown sons, and subsequently have a box full of discarded costumes from Halloweens past. So we pawed our way through the Halloween Box and pulled together some real gems. Joy's was the most resourceful and the most last minute. A few minutes before we had to leave she decided she wanted to dress up as Trash. And proceeded to pin orange juice cartons and other refuse on her trash bag shirt.

Since we were going to a party hosted by the sons of our hosts...Amy decided to dress up like their dad (Ken). It was pretty epic. And the boys immediately recognized her-she was quite the hit! I think the glasses were very becoming on her. She made them a temporary addition to her wardrobe for the
next few days.

This is a picture of Amy next to her "costume inspiration." I love how pleased they both look.

While digging through "THE BOX" I found an old Bee costume which was worn by one or more of the boys...roughly around the age of 5. So I modified it to work on a non-5-yr-old body and added a little twist to it: I taped long pretentious spelling words all over me and was a Spelling Bee! The longest word I could find was: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis , but please don't ask me to tell you what it means. The kicker is that I met some guy at the party who actually knew that word and could pronounce it and spell it. Impressive.

The party was, to say the least, quite wonderful. Some incredibly creative costumes there. We hob-nobbed with native Brooklyners and not-so-native Brooklyners, and everyone tried to guess what everyone else was dressed up as. Quite the ice breaker..

The next day was the marathon. But we have kind of a bad habit of not getting up and going in the morning, so naturally we missed the Brooklyn portion of the run. But no matter, we utilized our handy-dandy subway passes (loved those things) and made our way down to Central Park to the finish line.

Once we got there it was a conglomeration of people and languages-it kind of felt like being in an airport. And as Amy describes them: people that look like baked potatoes. These are their post-run-keep-the-heat-in devices.

I got re-inspired to do a marathon after looking at all of these "normal" people who just ran 26+ miles. Maybe someday I'll actually do it...although the thought of it kind of overwhelms me. At least it's a good excuse to eat loads of pasta :).

This is part one. Stay tuned for more....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cape Cod.

Oh the taffy. Oh the waves. Oh the chowder. Ahem – chowdah.

Although our time in the lovely Cape was a tad dreary with rain clouds and cold temperatures, we tried to make the most of it.

This was enhanced by the “75 cent tour” led by none other but Gerry! I (Amy) met this gem while waitressing in highschool – she was our chef’s mother who would come by every Wednesday for creamy tomato and basil soup. She was well known for her warm hugs and witty charm, so I was extremely excited to take her up on her invitation to visit. She promised us a good time in P-town (Provincetown), and boy did she provide. (:

We made a little stop on our way out to the Cape at Plymouth… saw the Mayflower. Saw the “rock”. Boy were we a bit disappointed with that. (Note the unimpressed look). However, we were tipped off to a great 24 hour muffin joint called The Blue Blinds Bakery where we warmed up in front of a crackling fire and greatly enjoyed our organic cranberry orange muffin.

After digging out pea coats and mittens, we headed to Provincetown for soup; Chowder for the dairy-eater and Portuguese Kale soup for the non. Gerry showed us all the cool shops, although most were closed for the season. We could tell that this is normally a hopping place in the summer - lots of cute cafes, candy shops, and boutiques. We filled up on discounted salt water taffy (our fillings soon found out why it was so discounted) and cranberry fudge. Gerry even took us into a piercing shop to help me look for a new nose ring - she's a kick.

We then piled in the car to find out how far we could drive... hoping we could make it to the pointiest point. We did make it pretty far and walked along the shore a bit. I even saw a seal. (!)

Cape Cod is actually my earliest memory of the sea - and it really hasn't changed. The dunes, the waving sea grass, the pulverized shells, sandwich-stealing seagulls, overcast skies, the taste of salty air, and wide open water... it's all still there. (:

One of our stops on the 75 cent tour was at Marconi Beach to see the first United States Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph Station. This was the spot that a fellow named Guglielmo Marchese Marconi wired the first telegraph across the Atlantic Ocean. The telegraph was sent by none other than President Roosevelt to King Edward VII in 1903. Unfortunately, the ocean is eating away at the base of this station, so if this is a topic of interest to you, better get there soon! Here is Bethany on her phone illustrating how far we have advanced in technology in 100 years.

Then we went home and drank cranberry juice.

I hope you noticed the cranberry theme by now... it is because I really wanted the opportunity to post this picture which is of a cranberry bog. I had never heard of such a thing. There are certain things that I eat and never put a single thought to their origin. Like chickpeas. And tapioca. And cranberries.

So, since the traditional meal of turkey and cranberry sauce is fast approaching, I thought I'd share some factoids I've learned about this fine fruit:

  • Cranberries are one of three of North America's native fruits
  • The Pilgrims first named these tarties "craneberry" because somehow they thought they resembled the cranes on the beach. Huh. They were peculiar folk. Good thing the Indians stepped in.
  • Sailors munched on cranberries at sea to prevent scurvy.
  • Massachusetts produces the majority of cranberries, claiming 14,000 acres of cranberry bogs.
  • Cranberries are magical (thanks Bethany)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If Bethany and Amy had a talk show...

A morning talk show (type show?) dedicated to all of our morning readers (particularly Dean Estes):

Amy: Ok Bets... let's bust this out.
Bethany: Ah huh
Amy: So in Boston, we hit a low.
Bethany: We were a little, shall we say, "historied out". We were a little tired and cranky. We were very cold.
Amy: So we went to a monastery.
Bethany: Where the speed limit signs were prefaced with "Please".
Amy: Ya. That's what we needed. Some manners.
Bethany: Ya. It was a friendly place.
Amy: I liked the stair case.
Bethany: Ya. I tripped down it twice. Completely sober.
Amy: Oo... sorry about that. Well at least we both got to play the piano for hours.
Bethany: And we met someone who knows Shelton Taguma from Zimbabwe... small world.
Amy: Seriously - that was crazy!
Bethany: We didn't take any pictures of our monastic moments. Use your imagination
Amy: Not sure what happened to me... it was so beautiful. Guess I wanted to selfishly preserve it in my mind.
Bethany: Ya, and it rained a lot.
Amy: Good thing we got extra pitas.
Bethany: This makes no sense. Heeehee
Amy: I know. Loving it. huhuuhuh.

Now for the pictures we did take:

Pretty Boston.

What better way to learn about history than to interact with it? Thus: when in Boston, have a tea party!

We found "the bridge" (surviving Boston traffic to get there) where the original tea party happened. So we followed suit and defiantly dumped tea into the Boston Harbor.

This is my best shot at an angry "taxation without representation" face. Almost as good as my wine snob face, eh?

(I dumped my tea out of the bag. Mineaswell be environmentally friendly and defiant at the same time...)

And then came our 45 minute self-guided tour through the streets of Boston:

We had seen Independence Hall in Philly (where the Declaration of Independence was signed), we saw the D of I itself in DC, and now we've seen the balcony on which it was read in Boston (see picture at left).

This was a sweet little building/museumy thing with a train station underneath. And probably a collection of Benjamin Franklin's hair within, but we weren't willing to pay the $6 to find out.

But we did spot Ben Franklin just outside of Faneuil Hall, and he knew everything about everything. He spouted off a bunch of facts when we met him and then charged us 50 cents to take a picture with him. Everybody's out to make a buck these days...

So pretty much, Boston is very cool. However, we just didn't have the time or energy or historical appetite to find out much more. So as soon as our parking meter ran out, so did we.

Amy: Well done.
Bethany: The end.

tune in next time for "P to the L to the ymouth Rock"

PS: We saw my dear friend Soojin while in the Boston area (she was the monastery connection) but we (as explained earlier) failed to take any pictures while we there. But I did want to mention was wonderful seeing her and catching up!


In case you were wondering who in the world has the longest tongues...

This is the preface to our Boston session. Dear Tom and Isaiah (Maineiacs) came down to hang out in B-town for a day, and this is when we discovered their tongue talent. I don't think I have ever seen someone stick out their tongue that far before. This was followed by a game of pterodactyl while waiting for the subway (an excellent way to pass the time).

They are basically some of the coolest people I know...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Maine: The Way Life Should Be

Thus read the sign that greeted us as we crossed the border into Maine. The way life should be. I won't lie, with such a confident claim as that I was ready to put Maine to the test and see if it was really the way life should be. So we spent the next 5 days doing just that.

[A little background on me (Bethany) and Maine. When I first moved to Boise I lived with Isaiah and Andrew in the VCOM house (oh Ustick...) and they happen to be from Maine. And I had never met anyone from Maine before, so I became very intrigued with this Northeasternmost state. And ever since then (3 years ago) I have kept saying how I really wanted to come visit, and I especially wanted to come visit in the fall. And this was my golden (ha) opportunity!]

Reasons why Maine is The Way Life Should Be:

Reason #1: Maine is indeed beautiful.
Just as beautiful (and more) than I thought it would be. And I hear we didn't even go to the "amazing part" (Acadia Nat'l Park, Bar Harbor, etc.). Any state that would title themselves Vacationland (on their license plates) must be beautiful. Here are some scenery shots of us exploring V-land:

This one we literally just pulled over to the side of the highway and started walking around. It was absolutely gorgeous!

And this one is down by Sabego Lake. And I believe Ashton Kutcher has a place on this lake..

Reason #2: The people
Some of my most favorite people in the world live in Maine. This state actually has the most amount of old friends of any that we've visited yet. Isaiah, Tom, Andrew, Sam, Ethan and Brittany all call themselves Mainers (I call them Maineiacs...). It was lovely catching up with all of them and seeing their homeland.

It was particularly wonderful seeing Brittany, because she has been a faithful blog-reader, and she has been promising us a home made shrimp dinner ever since we told her we were coming. And she did not disappoint! It was delicious on so many levels. And she even let us bake an apple pie with our NY apples (see blog before last). Yummy...

Reason #3: Maine celebrates my birthday!
Amy (AKA Sneaky mcSneakerson) arranged for a little surprise party of sorts while we were there. So we showed up to pizza and a whole scad of friends are there. And I got to blow out candles... twice!

This was my pizza cake. Later came my cake cake.

Reason #4: Blakeslee Reunion
So if any of you were wondering where Amy gets her adventurous road-tripping streak, look no further. We bumped into her parents while we were in Maine, because they had driven out there from Colorado. Amy's Dad was doing his pottery-sermon in Lewiston and so we got to spend a lovely day and a half with them in a cottage by the sea.

I like to call this picture: Blakeslees on the rocks.

Reason #5: Lobstah (translation: lobster)
As you well know Maine is famous for lobster. Apparently lobster used to be a "throw-away" food that no one wanted to eat, and nowadays it is a delicacy. This was my first time really picking and pulling the little critters apart. It's quite an involved process...meaning lobster juice squirting everywhere. Thank God for those lobster bibs...

Amy's dad is also known as "The Lobstah Man." He cooked them for us, and even let us name them! Lucille, George, Fredrich and Adel Vice.

Reason #6: The Ocean (duh)
As much as I love lakes, there is something about the ocean that gets me really excited. It represents strength, power, adventure and life to me. (I always say that Boise only has 2 flaws: there is no Trader Joe's and there is no ocean.) This was also my first encounter with the Atlantic (besides being 35,000 feet above it).

Amy and I have officially made it from sea to shining sea. It wasn't quite as warm as this picture makes it look, but we just HAD to stick our toes in..

Reason #7: Lenny the life-size chocolate moose
The moment you've all been waiting for. Up til this point you've probably been skeptical, just like me, wondering if Maine really is the way life should be. So let me tell you about Lenny. He is the world's ONLY life-size chocolate moose. Boasting 1,700 pounds of real chocolate. He's been standing in this candy shop for over 10 years, and he still looks great!

This was quite a quirky little candy shop. They also sold chocolate covered potato chips (which were delicious) and tons of lobster paraphernalia.

Me & Lenny bonded.

So .... I must say I do love audience participation. Any thoughts? Have I convinced you? Is Maine really the way life should be...??


Monday, November 2, 2009


So as you can imagine, as Amy and I have been traveling we frequently get asked the question: "so which was your favorite place you've been so far?" And believe it or not, the majority of the time we say: Vermont!

We decided to swing by Montpelier, per my Uncle Scott's recommendation (he said it was a "cute capitol") and I am so glad we did.

Cute capitol:

Pretty leaves. Vermont in the fall is lovely inDEED.

We stayed with the lovely Jessica and her cuter than cute daughter Halle just outside of Montpelier. The next morning we ventured in to the city and happened upon the local farmer's market. In my opinion, Farmer's Markets are the best way to experience a city/town. You really get a feel for what people are like, see families, see local produce, etc. We browsed through pumpkins and squash, authentic vermont maple syrup, pizza topped with oranges, goat cheese and mushrooms, and listened to some fiddlers.

Some maple syrup facts I learned from the maple syrup man:
  • Trees are tapped in February, when the sap begins to run
  • It generally takes between 40-100 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup
I LOVE maple syrup. There's nothing quite like it. I put it on my oatmeal the other was incredible! I am totally ruined-sorry Mrs. Butterworth.

Then we mosied around through the capitol building, vintage clothing shops, libraries, and candy stores, and eventually found ourselves at a vegan buffet. We were both feeling a little starved for nutrition up until that moment and so we loaded up our plates with tofu, beets, and maple mustard tempeh (my personal fave). Stunning meal that was!

Montpelier was a charming town overall. A lot of hippies, farmers, families, and outdoorsy folk. Vermont in general has a very small-town feel, with only 1 interstate, running North-South, and around 600,000 people as a total population, ranking it 49th in lowest state population (beat only by Wyoming). Part of the reason so few people live there is that there has been such a push to "keep Vermont green" that most industries can't survive there-due to stringent regulations on factories, etc.

MOST industries....that is, excluding the marvelous Ben & Jerry's! They actually began in Burlington, VT hand-making their own ice cream. They were the ones that invented chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (hallelujah!) and many other very unique-sometimes bizarre-flavors. We toured their factory, sampled ice cream, and payed homage at the flavor graveyard. Some flavors were obviously doomed to fail, for instance, Sugar Plum. It was plum ice cream with cinnamon in it. Sounds gross to me...

And last but not least, one of our favorite parts of Vermont was their quirky sense of humor-evidenced by their t-shirts. Here are our two favorite shirts: