Monday, February 22, 2010

Boise Bound!

It feels like this is "the blog"

You know... the one that will sum everything up. The one that will formulate in one concise statement all that this trip was, is, and will be for us.

In fact, I kind of thought our last few hours on the road would be just that - epic.

Funny thing is, we did have some deeply honest conversations, we did listen to the best music we had on the ipod, we did take advantage of Sonic's happy hour, and we did cheer as we pulled into our familiar city. However, those last four hours really weren't any different than the entirety of the trip. I'm happy about that.

Yes. There were tears. Yes, we considered blowing off Boise and seeing what Portland was like in January. However, home has a very powerful pull.

As we carefully maneuvered into the garage of Glacierbay Way, we looked up to see a huge "WELCOME HOME" sign taped to the wall and were greeted (just as we had hoped) by Bethany's ecstatic parents. Oh was there ever hugging and jumping and laughing!

It's been said that "home is where the heart is" and "home is where you hang your hat". A little magnet on my mom's refrigerator reads "a house is made of brick and stone, but a home is made of love alone".

At this point, I have only fuzzy ideas to where or what home is. But climbing into a familiar bed in a familiar room with a very familiar friend felt very, well... familiar. And after 19 weeks of unfamiliar, that felt as much like home as anything ever may!

Stay tuned - special edition blogs to follow!









- Bethany's garage
- August 28th, 2009
















- Bethany's garage
- January 4th, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A lake truly worth its salt

I (Amy) have journeyed through Salt Lake City approximately 6 times. And never have I stopped at the lake. I've always wanted to, but either didn't have the time, didn't have the support of my fellow car mates, or didn't know where to turn.

However, 7th time was the charm - thanks to a willing car mate, all the time in the world (well at least 4 hours) and directions!






And so, after thoroughly enjoying all that Salt Lake City had to offer (In-and Out, IKEA, the incredible hospitality of Tommy and Krissi, and breakfast at the only place worth eating breakfast - Cracker Barrel), we were off to see what the lake was all about!

Apparently, this great lake is the most popular tourist attraction in Utah. We knew this, being certified tourists and all. Bethany is still getting great mileage with her yellow plastic visor.








So before we get to the actual lake, I have to share that this was our last official adventure of the trip. Yep. We were kind of heavy-hearted in this... really not wanting the thrills of new places and new people and new experiences to end, and yet knowing that the end was near. So the Great Salt Lake was our last ho-rah! Our final toast! And a glorious one it was.


















Since the lake itself is HUGE - it's the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere - and there was no way we could see all of it, we narrowed our exploration down to Antelope Island. Unbeknownst to me, the Salt Lake hosts 9 islands, but Antelope is the largest and the home of wildlife and crazy views of the Great Basin. We used the last of our spare change to pay for passage on the causeway from the mainland out to the island, a little unsure as to what we would find. It was an incredible drive - so quiet, so very sulfury, somewhat eerie, seriously beautiful!


















As Bethany mentioned in our last entry, the West is truly our home. Where the buffalo roam. This sign was extremely exciting to me - I was hoping we would see bison at some point on our trip... it just seems so American.
















And see bison we did! Coming around a corner of this desolate island, we found ourselves in the middle of a whole herd of bison! This loner was my favorite. How did bison end up on an island in the middle of the Salt Lake you may ask? Good question. I don't remember. Google it.

















Bethany has become uncannily good at sniffing out the cool places to drive to. This time she chose the quiet road that led us to an old ranch that was full of antique tractors, pump houses, and articles of mystery. Thanks to my dad, I did know what this old scythe was for, and gave Bethany a tutorial in prehistoric lawn care.


















Then she taught me how to dominate saw horses - err, saw steer in this case.




















And as we drove back over the causeway, a hawk paused long enough for us to catch a picture of him before he flew away into the misty sulfur clouds.
















It was an adventure well had!



Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Go West young (wo)man!

So I ain't gonna lie...driving on the 70 W through Kansas was not really something I was "looking forward to."
Until...we stopped to see ....


THE WORLD'S LARGEST PRAIRIE DOG!


Apparently it's 8,000 lbs of pure p-dog.

Since we got there during off-season (who knew there was a season for fake prairie dog viewing??) we got to view for free, by poking our heads over the fence.

It was a redemptive moment after hours of boringness on the interstate.




Amy and I got very good at passing the time in the car, as you can imagine. This particular day we listened to The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (on tape!), performed by The Second Chapter of Acts. It's apparently an obscure musical selection, which I was lucky enough to unearth from my parents' cassette collection.
That and the super Wal-Mart (where I stocked up on the necessary snack: triscuits) were some additional highlights.

Enough about the I-70...

So we decided to spend a night in Colorado Springs because our newly made friend Collin (see the Columbus, MS post) graciously invited us to stop by and stay with him and his family. I had never been to the Springs, so we gladly obliged.
This is another one of those events where we totally failed to take pictures. It could have been because I was SICK and wasn't feeling too friendly towards cameras...
But I can describe it to you! It was absolutely beautiful. I totally understand what "the big deal" is about CO Springs. The mountains are breathtaking, covered in snow and ever so large. And the sky feels so big...we could definitely feel that we were back in the WEST. Which was a welcome feeling. I have absolutely loved seeing different parts of the country, especially seeing all of the different landscapes, but I am still partial to the West. There's something so wild and rugged and beautiful about it that makes me feel at home. Love it.
Another indicator that we were back in the West was that our skin started drying out immediately. I think I drank about 10 glasses of water that day, and was still thirsty.



One CO Springs event we did do was go and see Whit's End, which brought back many pleasant memories from my childhood, watching the Adventures in Odyssey videos.

It's like Christian Disneyland there. I highly recommend it to any Adventures in Odyssey fans.





Then we drove to Canon City and met up with a familiar face (Amy's friend Nate) for sushi. He was one of the last on the list of people from Amy's growing up years that I hadn't met, so it was quite nice to finally meet and make a new friend!

And then we went to dear Salida (Amy's hometown). It was so nice to step into a familiar home for the first time in a long time.
We had an amazing week there, consisting of resting and repacking and painting pottery. It was awesome to see Amy's parents again (we had met up with them in Maine) and be able to have a belated Christmas celebration, as well as spend New Year's with them.
Amy's mom is also amazing at doctoring people up-and she was instrumental in nursing me back to health! Thanks Mama Blakeslee!!

Then...it was time to head even farther West and farther North.

So some background you need to know about me (Bethany) is that I grew up in Southern California, and have never been especially fond of cold climates. I have had an aversion to winter because for me it always means cold toes, cold noses, and being trapped indoors. I was dreading the dropping temperatures as we had been heading Northwest, and the entire time we were in Florida I was brainstorming on how I could acquire early snowbird status and remain basking in the sun on the beach.

However, my time spent in Colorado really changed my perspective on this formerly hated season. It was absolutely beautiful. I think Colorado is at its best in the Winter months. Everything looks so dramatic and majestic. It was completely inspiring and quite a feast for my eyes. I just kept gasping as we turned every corner and saw another marvelous view of trees clad in white, sparkling so happily in the sun.



Winter and I are friends again.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Survivor Tree



The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.




May all who leave here know the impact of violence.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chihuly!!!!!



During this trip, I have had my "art antennas" up, searching for my favorite artist - Dale Chihuly - a renown glass blower. I had seen a traveling show of his in Colorado while in high school and have wanted to see more ever since. However, no art museum that we passed by had any of his pieces and even upon asking in a couple glass galleries we came up empty handed. By the time we had entered the South, I was pretty discouraged and figured he had evaporated.

















But surprise upon surprise! Oklahoma City of all places! I was thrilled to bits to hear from our friend Marge that the OK City Art Museum had dedicated a full floor to Chihuly's work. And even better - admission was FREE! Oh joys!



















Seeing Chihuly's work while on the final days of this trip could not have been a more rich experience for me. This road trip has been one of ridiculous adventure, of risk, of beauty, and of friendship. A journey that we have purposefully invited and shared with others. In a way, this specific artist captures that very essence.













Chihuly is an artist who believes that nothing can be too colorful. His exhibits involve so much - the lighting is purposeful, the arrangement and placement of the pieces create diversity and congruency in such a balanced way. Sometimes I felt like I was a hundred miles under the sea, walking the ocean floor, surrounded by glass vegetation and striped bulbous creatures. In the next room we were suspended in the gardens of outer-space... I'm not sure if I've seen color like this before. Truly, the creative potential of the human mind and hands that Chihuly demonstrates inspires me to know no bounds. Gravity doesn't seem to be an issue for him. Color doesn't have restrictions - "I never met a color I didn't like". Form doesn't have to make sense. He just releases.











I was really impressed in watching a documentary of Chihuly working in Italy with other renown glass artisans to co-create several breathtaking pieces, each bearing the unique marks of all the artists that contributed. What impressed me was that this was Chihuly's idea - to unite and share with other artists... what a bold move! He wasn't threatened by their ability or the fear of being overshadowed, but instead found meshing with other artists to be exhilarating. Because of an car accident that cost Chihuly his eye, he now always works with a team of people every time he makes a piece, operating as more of a conductor than a soloist. I think this is beautiful. He seems to be so open-handed with his work, so curious and so very free. Every time I have had the pleasure of walking through a Chihuly exhibit, I leave feeling empowered by the reality of someone living outside the confines of fear, obligation, apathy, and pride. In these pieces of daring size and blazing colors I find liberation!



So if you ever have the chance to see Chihuly's work - DO! You will be enriched!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christmas in review!

I've observed the phenomena of "Christmas Newsletters" for as long as I can remember and have always had a certain degree of fascination with them. See, it's a hobby of mine to anthropomorphize anything and everything. That said, it's ever so satisfying to me to personify these letters of news. You know what I mean... the classic "Type A" - the letter that arrives postmarked November 30th and relays the family happenings, alphabetizing each child and including the recent shot records of their matching pet poodles. These letters are a joy to me. Then we have the "We smile like we know each other in passing, yet have never had a meaningful moment" newsletters - these are the letters that are so vague, I feel like I know less about the family now than I did before I opened the envelope. Or there's always the letter that comes with a personal note, handwritten and full of gush and well wishes, hand signed by everyone in the family... and yet I've never met them. I love those... makes me feel like I know a celebrity or something.

But my personal favorite are the newsletters that arrive in January. The kind that begin with an apology for their tardiness and end with promises to do better next year; the kind that switch back and forth between third and first person and use the words "crazy", "non-stop" and "Last month Jackson discovered a new use for mayonnaise", or "The cat is finally looking like a sort of feline again." This letter is a personality of mismatched socks, late nights of laughter, mud wars, musical instruments made out of cheese graters and vacuum hoses, and adventures at unholy hours. I hold these letters and find sweet relief knowing that life can somehow just fly by and we can either resort to backpedaling and guilt-filled regrets that disappear into the wind, or we can embrace where we are at and choose to keep sharing ourselves. Regardless of what the calendar says.


That said, here it is. Our very tardy, very untraditional, and very wonderful Christmas of 2009.










First of all, Bethany became sick.

No, let me rephrase that: Bethany defined sick.















Our Christmas surprise: "The Oklahoma Blizzard of 2009"
- this was a rather exciting moment for me. After roasting in the sun for the majority of December, I (Amy) was beginning to fear that my Colorado ways may have worn off. However, Christmas Eve morning found me peeking out the window in my footsie pajamas, squealing like a 6 year old at the sight of fresh snow! It was in that moment that Christmas became a reality for me.

A reality that lasted for several days in fact since Oklahoma apparently does not own snow plows. Funny.













Christmas is all about tradition for me. This year being the first year I've ever been away from home, I let go of a lot of my dearly loved traditions. (which was actually a very freeing experience for me) However, I never have and never will budge on this one: sardines on Christmas Eve. This has been a personal tradition of mine since I was 5 years old. Thankful I am to Mike for hooking us up with such a fine selection of canned fish - especially being snowed in as we were!














Margarita, our PHENOMENAL hostess and dear dear friend, was daring enough to give my traditional meal a try, and in fact handled it with much grace. In fact, there was even mention of incorporating it into her Christmas traditions!!

We washed it all down with soy nog and some chocolate truffles. My opinion is that Christmas eve is not a success unless you go to bed feeling ever so queazy. (:














Christmas Morning Pancakes!
(In shapes of snowmen, baby Jesus, candy canes, O Holy Night, and wreathes)

deeeelicious


















Our dear little tree... boy has construction paper come in handy on this trip!

















Margarita's first snow adventure! I was completely honored to introduce this adorable Californian to the wonders of SNOW. Marge is absolutely top notch in the snow... such a great student!

We covered all the basics: snowballs, snow angels, eating snow, walking in snow, skating in the parking lot, icicles, driving in snow...















... and of course snow men! Or in this case Snow Creature. We were all quite proud of our little fellow. And crushed when we found him without a head the next morning.













Oh simplicity ... like our rainbow candle... enriched by the conversations that went on around it.





















My favorite memory of Christmas: Marge reading us the Christmas story and then describing Mary like I've never heard before. Absolutely beautiful.
















Traditional and not-so-traditional Christmas carols filled the apartment complex that night! If I could remember our remixed version of "12 Days of Christmas", I would share... however, much like the original version, I can't recall one single line. Something about snow, sardines, and locked wireless internet. (:














Game night with Ben

- when in doubt and an Italian is coming to dinner, brusectta is always a winner!











For those of you who have never heard of the game "Stop Thief", allow me to introduce you to one thrilling game. Think "Dream Date" with cops and robbers. And a walkie-talkie! Seriously - it's a new favorite! Especially since becoming a detective has been a life long hope of mine. Oh dreams really can come true!







And thus concludes our snowy, non-traditional, joy-filled Christmas of 2009!

"For unto you a Savior..."

Friday, January 22, 2010

....ississippi

The rest of our time in Mississippi was spent down in the capital, Jackson. Which (random fact) is one of four US capital cities named after a president. I'll give you extra credit if you can tell me what the other three are (without using google!)



Here's where Jackson is in case you were wondering:







We went down there to see another DTS friend of mine, Joseph. Who happens to be one of my favorite people, and can make me laugh like few others can. We got there and immediately got the tour of his little apartment with his little dishwasher, little oven, little kitchen, little Christmas tree, etc. It was very cute.


Then he took us to this bomb Southern restaurant (which I can't remember the name of) and we feasted on sandwiches and got caught up on the last several years of our lives. Then we got the grand tour of downtown Jackson, which is currently in the process of revitalization. So I'm guessing if we come back in a few years, it will be a much more lively place. Then we saw an enormous reservoir, and then went back to Joseph's to make chocolate pie and Christmas truffles! He is quite a master in the kitchen.









TRUFFLES....








Joseph also had a huge batch of Christmas party mix made, which was also incredibly tasty. We certainly did not go hungry while we stayed with him. And all of these Christmas foods helped get us in the mood for Christmas, which was fast approaching!






Additional to this getting in the Christmas spiritness with food, we watched Mixed Nuts. Which, if you haven't seen, I highly recommend. It has a bunch of great actors in it such as Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn (two of my favorites). It's quite the hilarious and outrageous Christmas tale.






The next morning Joseph made us really yummy monkey bread and we chatted and laughed some more and then we were on our way, heading West again.













So West we went, and had the privilege of seeing Louisiana in the rain. Woo hoo! There was one thing that redeemed Louisiana for me though: the town of Bethany! I was very excited...kind of felt like coming home. We stopped to take a picture (of course), but my guess is that that is about all there was to do in Bethany, LA.




From there we drove through a corner of Texas, and let me tell you, we messed with Texas. Ooooh yah.

That or we met up at Panera with a friend who had just moved back to Dallas. Amy and I were both surprised that Dallas was such a large city...I guess in my mind everything in Texas is oil fields and ranches. Au contraire, it was very big and I wish we had had some time to see it. But Oklahoma City was calling. So we headed North...





Thursday, January 21, 2010

I've always thought Alabama and Mississippi looked like they go together..

So my (Bethany) parents have these friends in Birmingham, AL that they have been telling me about for a few years now, and this telling is always accompanied by a "you MUST go see them if you're in Alabama!!" They lauded their hospitality and friendship, so Amy and I headed up to Birmingham (after fueling up on eggs and waffles at good old Waffle House) to hang out with the Andrews Family. Unfortunately we only had enough time to spend one night there (due to the encroaching holiday: Christmas) but it was a grand time. They were everything I had hoped they would be: incredibly hospitable and incredibly interesting to talk with. Lydia is one of those moms that I look at and go...WOW. She has four small children, and they are so cute and well behaved. This is a picture of us and two of the girls after we all put together a puzzle (it just so happened it was of the US. How appa pro). They also took us out to a legit Southern Barbecue restaurant, which is where I [finally] hit my sweet tea limit. One too many glasses...
(Sorry Hallvard, I swear I tried to find you a postcard in Alabama, but they were very hard to come by)






Then we headed over to the booming metropolis of Columbus, Mississippi, which was about 2 hours due west of Birmingham. One of my good friends, Jon (from DTS), is stationed there while he is in Airforce pilot training. I previously had very little understanding/exposure to the military (with the exception of seeing the Naval base a few days prior), so this was definitely an educational time for me.


Jon had a very important flight to take on Monday, so he set us up with some girls to take us around the base. They were pilots as well, which makes them awesome. They showed us the base housing, the planes, and then took us in to see another new awesome friend we had met the night before, Kristi. Kristi does classroom training for such things as ejection seats, motion sickness, cabin pressure, and a bunch of other really cool stuff.



This is a picture of Amy trying out the ejection seat simulator.


















my turn! There were so many crazy seat belt straps and buckles that are supposed to go around your waist and legs.














Then they took us to what I fondly refer to as the "puke chair." This chair exists for the purpose of curing people of their motion sickness. [As some of you may know, I have been a sufferer of motion sickness for as long as I can remember, so this portion of the tour was not my favorite. Although Kristi did give me some helpful tips on how to overcome it.]



Amy was the braver one; she did a few of these chair activities. This particular one is where they put these goggles on her so she can't see, then headphones so she can't hear. Kristi spins her around in the chair, and then Amy (with her thumbs like that) was supposed to point to the left or right, based on which direction she felt like she was heading. So Kristi spun her in the same direction for a while, and as time went on, Amy started to point her fingers the opposite direction of how she was really heading. This all illustrates the fact that if you're in a plane and you've lost control, are falling, etc., you can't rely on your instincts to tell you which way you're going: you MUST rely on your instruments.



After our wonderful tour, we headed back to Jon's to begin making our specialty: curry. He lives in an apartment with his roommate, Collin (also in pilot training) and I have to take a moment to brag about their kitchen. In fact, I wish I'd taken a picture of their fridge and pantry. At the risk of sounding unfair by exposing the stereotypes I hold...I will say that typically when I go into the kitchen of a bachelor, I don't expect much. Usually there are some condiments such as mustard & mayonnaise, and of course a good supply of beer. However, as Amy and I began to cook (and of course snoop through all of their cabinets) we discovered items such as whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, organic frozen lasagna, broccoli, unsweetened applesauce, etc. We were, to say the least, very impressed. Collin and Jon have restored my faith in bachelor health.



And then we started cooking. During our meal-making, Amy typically makes the curry and I make the dessert, which in this case was apple crisp (I have an affinity towards apple desserts). Collin came home from flying and joined us in the kitchen...proceeding to add an extra can of curry paste to the dish. It was incredibly delicious, and incredibly spicy (to the rest of us wimps. Collin didn't even bat an eye). But pairing it with cottage cheese (or in Amy's case, applesauce) made my mouth a little more willing to work with me. Overall, it was a fantastic meal, with fantastic conversation.



Also while in Columbus we went to Jon & Collin's Bible study and we learned how to shine shoes! As I said, Jon had a big flight while we were there, so Amy and I shined his boots for him. I could literally see my reflection in them by the time I was finished.



It was really great seeing Jon and meeting Collin. I have a lot of respect for what they're doing in the Airforce-it's a lot of hard work and they are rising to the challenge!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SARDINES

Sardines are going to surface later in the blog...and I will let Amy explain their significance to you. But in the meantime I will explain to you how we stumbled upon quite the stash of them.



My brother-in-law's brother is in the Navy, and is stationed in Pensacola, FL. (I swear this will be the last blog about Florida!) So we swung by his base to say hello and catch up. It was great to see him again: he gave us a tour of the base (unfortunately we couldn't find any bumper stickers that say "my brother-in-law's brother is in the Navy" to add to the Taurusaurus), and then took us out to Waffle House! Yumm-o. We chatted about things such as his ability to read the same book multiple times, the beaches of Pensacola, and of course we discussed our mutual admiration for our amazing neice and nephew.



***Random note: So as I may have mentioned, Amy and I wrote a rap song about Florida while in Vero Beach, and of course we referenced bingo. Anyway, while we were at the Waffle House with Mike, this girl that was working there comes up to us and asks if we are from the Naval base (me and amy in the Navy? HA!) and then asked if we ever got bored, and if so she had just heard of this great bingo night, gone, and won 30 bucks. The funny thing was, she was our age. Anyway, I just thought that was really funny and random.



So Mike just happened to be about to leave to go back to Indiana to hang out for Christmas, and apparently it was policy that he clean all of the food out of his room. So he needed a willing soul to take multiple cans of sardines off his hands. Amy was more than willing. Thus the acquistion of the little fishies. To be continued..

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back in the South

You may or may not know that the Panhandle of Florida is very much so considered part of the South (I didn't realize this til we got there). I have even heard it termed the "redneck riviera."

So following our non-panhandle-Floridian adventures, arriving in Pensacola we felt like we were right back in the deep South. We stayed with some lovely locals, who said "if we live in the Bible belt, then Pensacola is the buckle."
They introduced us to some more Southern things, such as Uncle Remus, shrimp gumbo, grits and of course: boiled peanuts.

For those of you who have not had boiled peanuts, they are basically exactly what they sound like. Peanuts boiled in salt water, so you eat them when they're all warm, soft and salty. I found them to be quite delicious. Very much so a comfort food.

So I thought this would be an appropriate moment to reflect on all of the Southern food we have consumed on this trip:

Virginia was our introductory experience: kettle corn and sweet tea. It kind of scares me how much I like sweet tea. I was not really expecting to (everyone says it's like chewing on your tea because there's so much sugar in it) but I found it to be lovely.


Next came North Carolina where we ate sweet potatoes every day for five days. We found them for 19 cents a pound at Piggly Wiggly, so we stocked up. We ate them baked (just as you would bake a potato), as fries (chopped up and roasted in the oven), as a pie, as chips, and then we did it all over again.

(Factoid: among root vegetables sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating. That's because the sweet potato digests slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar so you feel satisfied longer. They also boast dietary fiber, natural sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Good and good for you!)

Also in North Carolina we observed (but weren't brave enough to try) cinnamon pickles and chocolate vinegar pie. And, of course, coon-rabbit-squirrel stew.




And then there's the never ending debate (I speculate it could be the catalyst for a second civil war) about whether to pronounce pecans as "peeh-cans" or "peh-cahns." I'll leave that up to your judgment.

These lovelies can be turned into pie, pralines, and I'm sure many other things that I'm just not aware of.







And then there's SAUCE.

Oh boy is there sauce. Variety up the wazoo. Apparently in the South Barbecue is a noun, not a verb.








Then we were told we had to stop by Bojangle's, which is a Southern fast food chain. So we stopped in Columbia, South Carolina for a little treat of biscuits, sweet tea, sweet potato pie, and a whole lot of grease. This is how Amy felt after her ham biscuit:

















Remember how I said I like sweet tea? Well I somehow consumed three of those cups of the stuff this evening. Needless to say I didn't sleep that night.

A little sugar jacked..













You can almost see me on the other side of this grease-laden wrapper:



Other foods we tried and (for the most part) enjoyed (but forgot to take pictures of) were: collard greens, catfish, chocolate pie, fried green tomatoes, and corn fritters.

One of the few things I still need to try is coke & peanuts (you actually put the peanuts in your coke and eat them that way). Apparently it's a Mississippi thing?