Thursday, July 31, 2014

I can mash potato, I can do the twist

We stayed our first night in Gillette, WY. That rock, paper, scissors sculpture is probably the most exciting about that town. An hour farther north, however, was our first planned tourist stop - Devils Tower National Monument.

Fun Fact - Devils Tower, without an apostrophe, is the proper spelling because of a typo in a newspaper that stuck.

We started our day early, since the website told us there would be a guided ranger walk at 9 AM. Alas, the signs at the actual park indicated the walk was at 10 AM. So, we started the hike on our own at 8:30. It was a beautiful morning and the park was relatively empty (we could tell it was really picking up when we got back to visitors center), so we were alone on the trail most of the time. The formation itself is fascinating and incredible, but the views overlooking the surrounding valley are also gorgeous. It was a heck of a morning walk.

Native American prayer flag

Appropriately, the cost of my souvenirs (a keychain and a postcard) came to $6.66.

After a few hours in the car and crossing into a new state, lunch was sandwiches in a parking lot. A parking lot that we paid $10 to park in.We paid $10 to park so that after lunch, we could go see Mount Rushmore.

 I found this classic showcase of American patriotism beautiful and awesome. I am thoroughly impressed with the ability to sculpt a mountain and all that hard work it took to make that happen. I'm glad we got to see it.

We did try to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial, but it was a little pricier than we expected, so we just saw it from a distance.

As we headed back out of region, we saw signs for Dinosaur Park. Why not? We took a left off the main drag and drove on the appropriately named Skyline Drive looking out on the thriving metropolis of Rapid City until we found it.

It was better than we hoped. Dinosaur Park is a small collection of cement dinosaurs painted green. We compared it to our trip to Dinosaur Land in West Virginia, which had also been totally amusing. The best part about the Rapid City Dinosaur Park? Turns out it was a Work Project Administration project. The federal government decided that a way to give people jobs in the Depression was to build a park of cement dinosaurs. Yes, please.

For dinner that night, we stopped at Wall Drug, the trappiest of tourist traps on our trip. We had some time to kill, and it was a silly way to do just that. Dinner was tasty, Blake found some new shaving soap to try, and I road a giant jackalope.

As the sun set that evening, we drove through the Badlands, which were nothing short of amazing. We did take thirty minutes out of our way to see Roberts Prairie Dog Town, for reasons that should be obvious to those who know us. Sadly, we saw no bison, but the views were wonderful. We want to go back another time and do some hiking as well as driving. We had hoped for a ranger led stargazing event, but once again, I had been misinformed by the website, so we made sure to pull over and look at the stars on our own before getting to our motel that night.
It's me!

The motel in Kadoka, SD, was less than amazing. Many amenities were broken (including the tap and the pipes under the sink, they tried to put us in a smoking room, and we could hear our neighbors on the inside and a cow lowing outside. Neither one of us took off our socks except to shower the next morning, but it had been a long and full day, and we were still grateful for a place to rest and the lovely sight of an incredibly ugly deer made of rusty car parts on our way out of town.

Wednesday was a little less eventful. We were able to have a far too short visit with my high school friend Joy in Omaha and make the quickest of trips to see Winter Quarters, another Mormon Trail historic site. One of the coolest parts of our trip was that one or both of us had never done whatever activity we were doing, so it was all new to someone. I'd been to Winter Quarters before, and had ancestors who came through it (and one who died nearby), but Blake hadn't and I enjoyed sharing my family history with him. Neither one of us had seen the temple that is there now, which was small but beautiful.

That night, we were hosted in Des Moines, IA, by my dad's cousin and his family. They had a delicious, home-cooked meal for us and we enjoyed a relaxing evening, catching up and getting to know each other. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen this cousin, but it's great to have family to rely on!

Coming soon - more Church and family history and proof that we're a pair of lovable geeks!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just grab a friend and take a ride together upon the open road

Once I finished my Great and Final Purge of my old room, I had approximately seven boxes, one doll cradle, and one very large and heavy cedar chest. These things don't easily go on planes, which was the perfect excuse for Blake and I to take an epic road trip across the country. When we individually moved to DC, we both did it as quickly as we could. The quick way involves three days of driving stopping only for food, gas, and sleep and very little sightseeing. Since Brotherface accompanied me on my trip, he drove most of the time while I slept in the car. A lot. It was good quality time with my brother, but not the most interesting trip.

This time, Blake and I wanted to do it differently. Instead of three days, we took seven, giving us a lot more time to see and do more of the cool things there are in this beautiful country. We already love a good road trip and this is always going to be one of our favorites. We didn't even have time for a full week for our honeymoon (darn you, Christmas!), so this was divine.
Here we go!

Confession: The only time I drove was from the car rental office back to my parents' house. Blake drove the entire trip. I kept offering, but he really enjoys driving. And I like taking naps in cars. I also enjoy navigating, making sandwiches at 70 mph, and kicking my feet up on the dash.

It was during one of the aforementioned naps on our first day of driving that Blake woke me up and announced we were stopping. Driving a stretch of relatively unexciting Wyoming highway, Blake saw a sign for Martin's Cove, an important site in Mormon pioneer history. Sadly, hiking to the actual cove would have involved a 5 mile hike, which we didn't have time for, but we did tour the visitor's center. It's also where Devil's Gate is located, which any Oregon Trail player should recognize. And down the road about 15 minutes later? Independence Rock.

What a lot of Wyoming looks like

Devil's Gate

Reconstructed sites near Martin's Cove

Reconstructed sites near Martin's Cove

Independence Rock

Rock Paper Scissors in Gillette, WY

No idea what this is, but it's cool

Not a bad way to kick off our trip! More to come soon!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere

Officially, I moved out of my parents' home in September 2005. After 21 years, it was time to spread my wings and venture out into the wide world.

Okay, so I moved six miles down the road. Some friends I knew from the local theatre community had an opening in their townhouse, so I took it. I brought a lot of my personal belongings, but I'm sure I left a few boxes behind in my old room. I was home frequently (at least once a week for ER on Thursday nights) and at least had access to all my things.

Less than a year later, I moved across the country. I loaded up my 1999 VW Passat with as much as it would hold, had my mom mail my books, and moved into a tiny shoebox of a room in a townhouse in Virginia. I adopted the furniture left behind by the previous occupant and figured I'd get the rest of my stuff someday.

Eight years after that, I've expanded my belongings into that first townhome, a tiny efficiency of my own, and now a two bedroom walkup I share with my awesome husband. I've now been the proud owner of six hand-me-down couches in nine years. A milestone of my adult life will be buying my very own brand new couch that no one else has ever owned.

That day is not yet, but at least I finally have all of my stuff under one roof again. Since I finally have a little stability in my future, some space in my apartment (no more hallways turned into closets!), and a summer vacation, it was time to go back home and get the rest of my things. Blake's sister got married at the end of June, so we flew out to Utah, celebrated the nuptials, and while he went to Arizona to celebrate there, I spent a couple days going through all the boxes I'd stashed and closet shelves I'd never gone through and decided what was worth keeping after 9 years of not having it.

That was an adventure. Memory Lane is an emotional place to visit.

My trash/recycling and donation piles were much larger than my keep piles, thank goodness, but a lot of amusing things didn't make the cut.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Spray painted shoes from a 2004 production of Seussical

Glasses from Seussical and an umbrella hat

No comment

You were never this cool

Boot cast from my reconstructive surgeries

Maybe I should have kept these after all

My high school nickname was Bubbles, so Sisterpants made me a pillow out of a Halloween costume. Grandma took this for the great grandkids.

Yeah, I'm a little embarrassed by this too.

Inflatable chair!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How much is that doggy in the window?

This is Malcolm.

Malcolm is a 2 year old German Shepherd mix who was probably born in West Virginia and did who knows what and then transferred to a shelter in Virginia.

Until we took him home.

We actually met Mal two years to the day we met, on April 29, and one of the first things Blake and I ever bonded over was the TV series Firefly, so it's fitting we named him after Captain Malcolm Reynolds. (We also have a betta fish named Captain Jack after Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who/Torchwood. We may be sensing a theme.)

We've had him with us for a little over two months now and we've decided he's pretty awesome. He still has some behavioral issues to work on, but we'll figure it out and he's getting better all the time. We love that he's gotten both of us out for lots of walks and runs and other dog friendly outings. He's super great on the leash and we're working on his recall off of it. When we meet other dogs, he's almost always the most well-behaved.

We're all still getting to know each other, but it's going well and Blake and I are happy to have him. We hope he's happy to be here.

Things Mal Loves

His people




Being outside in any weather

Kongs filled with anything (peanut butter, yogurt, cheese, etc.)


Walks (with either of us)

Runs (with Blake)


Things Mal Doesn't Love



Having things he shouldn't be eating forced from his mouth

Dogs ahead of us going the same direction as us, since we may not ever catch up and they'll never get to be best friends forever


Paper Shredder


And he has something to say about the golf carts our apartment complex's maintenance crew ride around in, but he can't tell what he's saying yet.

Welcome to the family, Malcolm!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I've got no strings to hold me down

It's not like I planned to see a lot of puppets at two separate museums in two different cities on two consecutive Saturdays, but sometimes that's how life shakes out.

Last Saturday, I was wrapping up at the annual Music Library Association conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I was rooming with my former boss and longtime friend, Myrna, who is the mother of Nancy Heiss (and company), the same friends I knew in high school and visited in Egypt a few years ago. They live in Durham, NC, now while Andrew works on a PhD and decided it would be worth the drive to come pick up Myrna in Atlanta to visit them in North Carolina for a few days. I was fortunate to have a few hours to tag along and hang out with the whole crew while we hit a few touristy spots. Their account of our adventures can be found here.

I took puppetry in college, and am a huge fan of puppetry anyway, so I was thrilled that there was a puppet museum in Atlanta that the Heisses wanted to check out. We saw Kermit, Miss Piggy, Emmett Otter, some other Muppets, beautiful marionettes, gorgeous puppets from other countries, and even a Skeksis! Dark Crystal may be one creepy movie, but to see an actual Skeksis was pretty rad.

We finished off our day with a romp in the Centennial Olympic Park and dinner at Waffle House (hashbrowns covered in sausage gravy for less than five dollars? yes please!) before I was off to the airport.

This weekend, Blake started his spring break. He'll have to do some work over the week, but he decided to take off this whole weekend from homework and I decided to take him on a date. After we helped clean our church building, we headed into DC (the deal is that I drive in DC proper, he drives everywhere else) and did something I didn't even know was possible.

We found a parking spot right in front of the museum we were going to.

We checked all the nearby signs multiple times, thinking our luck was too good to be true, but nothing seemed amiss other than our good fortune, so we paid and were set for a few hours. Granted, the museum didn't open for another 45 minutes, but still! Parking! Right where we wanted it!

Because of the wait time, we reversed our plan and went to our second site first - the old Post Office Tower. It offers a panoramic view of the entire city for free, a sort of well kept DC secret. Neither one of us had done it before, so I'm glad we made it! It's not quite as good a view as the top of the Capitol dome, which we got to visit last summer, but it was still pretty great.

Our excellent timing and good fortune continued when we walked back to the American History Museum as they were opening the doors. We didn't even have to wait at the doors like the fifteen poor schmucks ahead of us, because they all got in by the time we got across the sidewalk.

The purpose of our visit was to see the temporary Puppetry in America exhibit, since we're both huge fans of the Muppets. We were not disappointed - Bert & Ernie, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Swedish Chef, Boober, and Red. They also had the California Raisins, the Howdy Doody puppets, the original Snap, Crackle, and Pop, and a few puppets from The Corpse Bride. We loved it!

It was a much smaller exhibit than we anticipated, basically just a window display in the main entrance hall, so we also stopped by the Star Bangled Banner (yes, THE actual one) and an exhibit on the American presidency (including several dresses of the First Ladies). Living nearby a free museum, it's quite nice to pick and choose an exhibit or two for an hour rather than try to pack the whole thing into one day.

For lunch, we took the metro over to Capitol Hill (totally got on the platform just before a train arrived, an excellent feat on a weekend with track work) and split a pizza at We, The Pizza, then wandered around Eastern Market and bought some vegetables. The rest of our day involved grocery shopping, a nap, a little house cleaning, more good food, reading, and a movie at home.

Weekends in DC with my best friend do not disappoint!