December 30, 2013

the first step

Posting here has seemed so daunting lately.  Not sure why.  It's a happy space for me.  But when it gets neglected so dreadfully, as it has this entire year, I get overwhelmed with all the the stories that are left untold.

But the best way to start is with the first step, right? (And internet too, which is a big MUST when blogging)  So, I'll get to those stories when I can.  Maybe I'll even back-date them so they are in the correct order because goodness knows that would drive this OCD girl crazy to post 2013 activities in 2014.  But don't worry.  I'll be sure to let you know so you can find them. If you are even still stopping by this little spot on the internet.

Christmas wrap-up:  The best laid plans were dashed this year.  A nasty stomach virus and a broken heater in the Cottage won instead.  But I did get to spend time with family.  I did get to sit by the tree and watch these 3 crazy monsters dance their hearts out (no music needed).  I did get to go to my church's beautiful Christmas eve service (one of my favorites of the entire year) and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus!

This time of year is always a good time to reflect on the blessings and the lessons of the past year.  So many to ponder and be grateful for.  Thankful for a good year and ready to start brand new all over again!

November 17, 2013

2014 Goal/Challenge

I am big on lists.
Maybe it's oldest child syndrome or my OCD/organization craziness.
Whatever the reason, I love them.
They help me stay sane.

I like to have a master list filled with variety.  Life changing things that will take time and smaller things that are more goal oriented.  I love Elsie's posts on goals, not that I follow them exactly, but they are a good jumping off point. I've realized that I work best when I have final goal in mind.  Whether it's a reward at the end, or something that I want to see changed in my life.  A bad habit broken or a good one encouraged.

Last year I decided that I wanted to get in shape and be able to run the Color Run.
I started running.  I needed the kick in the pants of having something to train for.  It was amazing and doing the Color Run was a big, big highlight for me.  I loved every second of it.  And, goodness knows, I need a goal or I won't work out (see: present day laziness).

2012 also included a daily challenge of taking 1 photo each day with my iPhone and posting it to Instagram.  It was a big goal and one that I was incredibly intimidated by.  It challenged me in my photography and in my discipline to complete a task every single day.  The day I posted my 366th (leap year challenge) photo was a fun, fulfilling day.  I did it.  Now I can look back on an entire year in photos.  I learned a lot about discipline and even more about goals.

My challenge for 2013 was to read the Bible through in a year.  It's something that I hadn't done since college.  It was one of those goals that seemed entirely overwhelming, but in a good way.  I know that time in the Word never returns void.  When I chose this challenge for the year, I had the goal of being more consistent in my time in the Word.  It was something that I had been being lazy about.  And it was a habit that I needed to get back into.
Honestly, with less than 50 days left in my reading, I will admit that reading the Bible in a year is not my favorite way to read the Word.  For me, it is much too rushed.  It feels like the old college days when I crammed for finals.  I much prefer to take one book at a time and become immersed in it, reading it slowly and taking the time to let it soak into my heart.
That being said, I love that it has created good habits.  I am back to reading the Word every night before bed.  Most mornings, I read a Psalm before I even get out of bed.  There have been days (weeks too) that it has felt like a chore and so very hard.  But more often than not, there have been weeks and weeks of sweet conversation with the Lord.
I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed certain passages like building the Temple and some passages of I & II Kings.  Things that can seem very detail oriented and dry were suddenly alive and breathing to me.  God's Word is alive.  And it felt alive.
I used the ESV Study Bible Plan in the YouVersion app.  It was incredibly convenient and easy to use.  I did really miss my physical Bible though.  Instead of saving bookmarks in the app for favorite verses, I started taking screen shots after I had highlighted verses that spoke to me.  Now I have a photo album full of scripture that encourages my heart whenever I flip thought it.  Love that.

This coming year of 2014, I have a new challenge/goal for myself.  I have noticed that I don't write as much.  It's obvious if you have read my blog in the past, that I don't blog as often (actually hardly ever) as I used to.  I also don't journal very much any more either, which I don't like one bit.  My writing has all but disappeared and I am not okay with that.  It's something I want to change.
About a year ago, this journal popped up in several different places.  I kept noticing it in stores and on blogs and it was suggested to me on Amazon.  I thought about buying it, but never did.  It definitely stuck in my brain though and I knew I wanted to do something similar for my yearly challenge.  I don't think one line is the best thing for me, as I can tend to ramble on when I get going, but that's my starting point.  One sentence written down each day.  It can be more, but it can't be less.
I'm on the hunt to find a journal with no lines (my favorite way to journal).  Mostly likely, I'll use a few of my favorite journals.  I want to make it easy, but challenge myself to write more than just what I ate that day or what the weather was like.  I did a similar challenge for myself when I did my sabbatical for 3 months and really loved it.

A new list.  A new challenge.  New goals and habits to create.  I'm excited to begin!

What about you?  Any goals/challenges for the new year to come?

November 01, 2013

California Road Trip: Big Trees

This trip was my introduction into the wonder of the Redwoods and Sequoias.  I have to first tell you that I have a deep love of trees.  I morn when they die/are destroyed.  I love their unique shapes and glorious shade.  I just love them.

Anyway, when I first saw the giant, GIANT things, I was in awe.  There is literally nothing like standing next to something that is tall as a skyscraper, yet is a living organism.  Its trunk is as wide as my car.  It appears to touch the clouds.  It is just inspiring.  I could have spent hours and hours wandering through the forest enjoying them.

We were lucky enough to find 2 separate Parks (Trail of 100 Giants [randomly unlocked National Forest Park area] and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park)  that were open (all the national ones were locked up: government shut down).  They weren't the big, famous parks, but still full of beautiful trees.

(Yes, that's me.  I had to climb a few stumps to even get up high enough to see out.)

California Road Trip Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

October 30, 2013

California Road Trip: Part 3

(Can you make out the A-frame house on the top of the mountain?)

On our way out to Bodie and leaving from Bodie, we meandered through some stunning parts of Nevada and California.  For some reason, I always imagined Nevada as a flat desert with no trees.  Well, that may be true in part of it, but in the South Lake Tahoe region, it is stunningly beautiful.

We decided to take the long way around to Bodie because, well, we had no set schedule and the road was calling our name.  This ended up being some of the most stunning, awe-inspiring land that I have ever seen in the lower 48 (Alaska still wins for best rugged wilderness).

We spent the night in Bishop, which is this town that just seems to appear out of nowhere in the valley of high peaks.  It was rather glorious to see street lights and civilization when you are hungry.  We found a delicious local burger place with a super yummy coconut/chocolate milkshake that was the perfect way to end the day.  And our motel used giant rosemary bushes as their landscaping decor.

When we left Bishop the next morning, I got excited because we were headed to the ocean.  And as much as I truly enjoyed every second of the mountains and was in awe of their beauty, I have salt water in my veins.  The ocean is my favorite.

We decided to make a pit stop at Mt. Whitney which is the highest peak in the lower 48 and a big spot for climbers and backpackers.  It was like driving straight up the side of the mountain to get to the highest parking lot (in the CLOSED National Park area).  We saw several people up there, ignoring the closed signs and hiking anyway.  It was so beautiful, that far away peak.
Then one last stop at the Trail of 100 Giants, which was my first introduction to the larger than life Sequoias.  Talk about feeling small...but more on that at another time.  The rest of the drive was spent on curvy roads through mountain ranches and finally through the flat farmlands where miles and miles of fruits and vegetables grow.  That was pretty amazing to see too.  Oh and passing about 30 (not exaggerating) closed National Park campsites, hiking trails, picnic areas and fishing spots.  It was like a slap in the face, each and every time.

Photos never do places like this justice, but here are a few just because I couldn't help snapping 100 every place we stopped.....

(I loved that we could stop anywhere and as often as we wanted to.  There were thousands of pull-offs along the way.  I love that we took quite a few photos together.  Even if I look 45 years old in this particular one.  Harsh light!)

(Miles and miles and more miles of beautiful nothing.)

(I had to stop and get a picture of the yellow Aspens against the evergreens.  And the cattle gates too.  We passed 100's of them) 

(Giant rosemary bushes all along the edges of the motel.  They smelled glorious)

(The Aspens were stunningly yellow.  I think we stopped in the middle of the road to get this shot.  Middle of nowhere)

(On the road straight up to Mt. Whitney.  That beautiful valley below.)

(There was an older couple who pulled their enormous motor home into this pull off to have lunch.  The view was ridiculous.  We just ate our PBandJ's sitting in the back seat of our rental.)

(The temperature literally dropped about 25 degrees on the drive up to Mt Whitney.  There was snow up there and lots of people jumping the closed gates to hike in spite of the government shut-down.)

(The Bro drooling over Mt Whitney.  I think it was physically painful for him to drive away from it and not be able to climb it.  Thank you, government shut-down.)

(The tiny road we drove straight up.  What a view...)

California Road Trip:  Part I, Part II

October 29, 2013

California Road Trip: Post 2 Bodie

We were supposed to head to Yosemite after Lake Tahoe.  Wonderful, awe inspiring Yosemite.  We had intended to rent one of their tents and camp out.  Now that the government had shut down all the national parks, we had to change our plans. 

The night before we were supposed to head to Yosemite, my brother was hunting around on the internet trying to find things for us to do the next day.  "This ghost town looks cool" he said as I looked up to see what he was talking about.  "It's called Bodie" 

It just so happens that Bodie has been on my list of places to see before I die for years (these were some of the first photos I saw of Bodie, still squirreled away in my Flickr Faves) .  I had no idea it was so close to us.  I instantly put a YES vote in and off to Bodie we went the next day.

Bodie is a ghost town in the middle….of….no…..where.  Literally.  10 miles off the main road.  And then 3 more miles past that on dirt roads.  In a shallow valley at 8,000 ft.  It is stunning.  The town in kept a state of arrested decay.  In other words, they don't let it deteriorate any further than it already has.  It was known for being a place of wickedness, bad man and "the worst climate out of doors." Lots of killing, robberies and stage fights.  It's heyday was in the 1880's.  About 10,000 people lived there.  It was a gold mining town.

Do you now have about 35 stories complete with no-good town sheriffs running through your head like I do?  Kids running around with straw filled dolls and ribbon tied braids? Muddy streets and wooden heeled shoes clopping around?  Basically an episode of Young Riders.  I'm there right now.

About 5% of Bodie is still in existence and is now a CA state park.  You can wonder the streets, peek inside windows and doors, imagine the ghosts that wonder the lanes.  It is a photographer's dream. The deep, wood brown against the bright blue sky and white clouds…

Bodie was a big highlight on the trip for me.  My imagination was running a mile a minute.  If you ever end up near Yosemite, you must go.  It's worth the long drive out there.

California Road Trip Part 1

October 28, 2013

The new TV season

I love TV.
I love to talk about TV.
And while I have the next post in my CA road trip vacation ready to post (should be up tomorrow morning), I just have to pop in and talk about TV for a quick minute.

We are deep into the new TV season here in the US.  And I must say that, so far, it has been quite fantastic.

Here is what is standing out this year....

#1/The Top/The Best
The Good Wife is having its best season yet.  In fact, I would be so bold to say that it is the best show in TV right now.  Last night's episode, "Hitting the Fan", was one of the best hours on TV anywhere that I've seen in a long, long time.  Superb writing.  Lightning fast pace.  Outstanding performances (Alicia and Will's phone conversation with her daughter's field trip permission slip at the end deserves its own Emmy for the writing and acting).  Funny, heartbreaking, infuriating.

Are you watching The Good Wife?  If so, let's discuss.  If not, it's streaming on Amazon Prime for free.

I was instantly drawn to Reign merely because it's a period piece.  The costumes and castles are enough to draw me in.  Thankfully, the story has potential too (even if it isn't entirely historically accurate).  The characters are interesting and well acted. Oh and Anne Shirley is the Queen of France. What?!
There have only been 2 episodes so far, but I'm already looking forward to it each week.  And let's talk about the of the best on TV.  Many of the songs have been on constantly rotation on my iPhone.

I think the The Originals is my favorite new show this season.  I mean, it IS a spin off of The Vampire Diaries, which I so greatly enjoy.
I feel like The Originals is getting off on the right foot as a spin off.  Creating its own world.  Building its own mythology.  Giving the characters we already know new depth.  Developing its own look.  But still giving a nod back to its (much loved) parent.
For instance, I HATED Klaus on The Vampire Diaires.  His story was tired and so very worn around the edges.  But on The Originals, he has new life breathed into him.  I can't wait to see where he will go next and what he will do.  Tiny cracks in his walls are showing his humanity, portrayed so wonderfully by Joseph Morgan.  I'm intrigued and loving it.  It's Must Watch in our house.

I'm also enjoying:
Parks and Rec (Hilarious. Adorable. My favorite comedy on TV. Has it really been on 6 seasons?!  Still fresh and funny and heartwarming. This one gets better with age.)
Revenge (Having a much revived 3rd season after the disaster that was season 2.)
Parenthood (Crosby is stealing every scene this season.  Emmys, are you paying attention?)
Modern Family (A comedy in its 5th season is usually struggling.  Not so here.  Laugh-out loud hilarious every week)

Also good, but not great:
The Walking Dead (its fine, but looking tired and recycled.)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (just can't bring myself to watch the episodes that are piling up on the DVR.  Needs a jolt of life in its veins).  It had so much going for it.  Joss, good story tellers, fun premise.  But alas, I'm just bored.  I know I should give it time, but it's not looking good so far.  I think its trying too hard.

Grey's Anatomy (really, Grey's?  Without Christina next year, I think this may be the end for me...again.)

Done with:
New Girl (I haven't laughed in weeks.  Good-bye)

October 22, 2013

California Road Trip: Part 1 South Lake Tahoe

I went on a road trip all over California this month.  It was, no doubt, one of the highlights of my year.  I saw some of the most beautiful sights I have ever, ever seen.  I think, somehow, California is in my blood.  We get each other.  Our personalities connect.  I could move there in a second.  

I have dreamed of visiting the coast of CA for years.  Big Sur captured me from the very moment I saw a photo of it.  And I must say, that the rest of the state turned in a beautiful flip book of the magical places.  

I went on this fantastic adventure with my little brother.  We both flew into San Francisco, rented a car and spent the week driving over 1,200 miles up, down and all over the place together.  It's the first time I've seen him since last October.  Any time we get to spend together is always a treasure now that we live 1,000's of miles apart.    

Our first spot on the "list of fun" was Lake Tahoe.  After spending a few hours with a friend of his in San Francisco, we headed out of the city late and ended up in the mountains the next day.  (after staying at a super sketchy motel that first night.  Sket-chy.)

Unfortunately, our trip took place during the time that the government of the United States decided to shutdown.  That meant that every single National Park, Forest, camp ground, bathroom and hiking trail was CLOSED.  Disappointing.  Very much so.

But we did our best to find state parks and places where we could sneak onto pathways and hiking trails, us and 100's of other tourists.  Many of them from other countries.  How embarrassing, right?  "Sorry you flew thousands of miles to come see our beautiful country and now you can't actually see these things because we can't get our act together and act like adults."  Sheesh.

Anyway, we loved South Lake Tahoe.  It was charming and stunning all at the same time.  We ended up at Emerald Bay and did a short hike there.  I got to see my first redwood.  A baby one. 

Vickingsholm was at the very bottom of the hike to the lake.  It was like we had stumbled upon a hidden castle.  So beautiful.  It was locked up for the winter season, but still fun to wander around.  

We stayed at the most beautiful hotel in South Lake Tahoe.  I had actually found it on Pinterest when I was hunting around for cool spots for our trip.  It was called Basecamp Hotel.  The details and decorations were exactly perfect.  Cosy and thoughtful.  Several outside gas fireplaces (you can buy s'mores to roast).  Blues and greens and wood and metal.  I couldn't have picked anything more perfect.  And I could have stayed here for a week, happily.  My brother was mocking my love and excitement over all the details.  I was gushing. 

As we were leaving the hotel for dinner, it was just about sunset.  We decided to drive down a road behind Basecamp and happened to find the most beautiful sunset and the most perfect place in South Lake Tahoe to see it.  Right over the lake.  The colors were unbelievable.  It just about beat some the of the best I've seen at camp (which I think has the best sunsets on the planet).  

A couple things I didn't get a photo of…

*This stretch of road that was like a ridgepole of building.  Cliffs on both sides (no guard rails!) with views of the mountains and the lake.  I can still close my eyes and see it.  
*The trees and cliffs and homes that looked like they were dropped from the sky.  How did those people get TO their houses?
*Mountains rolling with patches of gold.  The Aspen trees were in full golden yellow fall colors.  
*The yummy pizza we had in South Lake Tahoe.
*The cold, fresh mountain air.
*Gate after gate after gate locked and barricaded off.
*Searching for a restroom that wasn't locked while my brother grew more and more frustrated that I wouldn't just go on the side of the road.  I'm a girl, okay.  I want a toilet.  Even a pit toilet is fine.

To be continued....