Life lessons learned riding Septa

It was a long ride home last week.

I am at the very end of my current employment, and the train ride from our home into Center City is brutally long.  It’s long when the train is an express, usually clocking in around an hour and ten minutes.  But when it’s a local, it’s closer to an hour and forty minutes.  And that’s just the time I spend on the train.  Not waiting for it, not walking or driving to and from.  Just me, sitting in a pleather seat, watching South Eastern Pennsylvania slip by, day after day.

I began thinking, as I watched all the other passengers riding with me on the Paoli/Thorndale line, about all the lessons I’ve learned.  About myself, but also about life.  While commuting on Regional Rail for the past year and a half.

First, timeliness is everything.

Y’know that saying, early is on time, on time is late, and late is fired?  It applies to Septa.  And it should apply to all aspects of life.  I used to be habitually late.  I mean, you could set clocks knowing that I would be fifteen minutes late … at the very least.  But I learned really fast: that didn’t fly with Septa.

Think about it this way.  If your train is at 6.50am (which mine is) and you arrive at 6.50am, the train is gliding away from the station.  You’re late.  I mean, technically, you’re on time.  But you’re actually late.  If you get there after 6.50a you are just plain out of luck.  In order to be on the train, making your way laboriously into the city, you have to be early for your 6.50a train.  It’s not negotiable.

Now, Septa can be late.  And without fail, they are.

But YOU can’t be late.  And knowing that, living your life by that, helps give structure, and teaches you to appreciate timeliness.  In all aspects.

On that subject, when I made the adjustment from driving to commuting via train, I began to prioritize my life.  When you drive, time is loose.  Maybe you stop for a coffee en route.  Maybe you sleep in one morning.  Maybe you leave the office at 5pm.  Maybe you don’t.  You have a lot more freedom, but with that freedom (let’s say it together now) comes responsibility.

When I started to have a set time for work, I began to be more efficient with my tasks, prioritizing things that needed to be completed in the morning, things that could wait until the afternoon, and projects that could be spread across a few days.  I began to know exactly what needed to be done when, and how to do all of the things I needed to do within the time allotted.

I began getting home at a reasonable time every night.  Eating dinner with my husband.  Taking my dog for a walk.  Knowing that I did the best work I could during the hours of the day that had been ear-marked for work.  And that my evenings were my own.  (Sort of.  I work in the restaurant industry, so really, no time is truly your own.  It’s all the restaurant’s time).

All because Septa only goes to Thorndale once an hour — even during peak hours.  If I missed a train, I had to wait an entire hour, and get home even later.  That stopped being okay in the first two months.  It was exhausting, and I had no quality of life.  At all.

Something else about Septa.

Everyone is equal.  There isn’t a first class.  There are no special seats.  We all shuffle in, grab a seat, and hope that our seat mate showered that morning.  When the train is overly packed, the conductor speaks to the car like everyone is an adult with a brain.  He tells us that he’s not coming through to check our tickets.  To please show him when getting off the train.  He thanks everyone for their cooperation.

Everyone.

Not just me, the thirty-something white woman.  But the Indian and Hispanic people, the black men and women.  The Asians and the Arabs.  The women wearing hijabs.  The mother with three children.  The man with the seeing eye dog.

All of us.  As equals.

Every person riding Septa has a story.  Mine is pretty basic.  I live in the countryside of Chester County, but I work in Center City.  I commute during peak hours.  Sometimes later, when I stay to have dinner with my girlfriends.  Sometimes earlier, when I have to be at Penn for medication.  There are other people like me.  But there are other stories, as well.  Students riding in for classes at Drexel, Penn or Temple.  Men and women traveling to see a relative or loved one.  Someone commuting to the airport.  Someone who just got divorced.  Someone who just lost someone.  Someone suffering through IVF.  Someone with cancer.

Septa is the great equalizer.

We all show up on time.  Or we miss our train.  We all share seats.  We all smile when someone sits down, or gets up.  There are some exceptions (Septa isn’t utopia, people) but there are common courtesies that are observed on Septa.  Every night, the conductor wishes me a pleasant evening.  When people are lost, or confused, he helps them.  He maintains order in the microcosm of Septa.

I bet I’ve sat next to many a Trump supporter on the train.

I shudder thinking about it.  But I also think about how we are all just people on Septa.  Just people making our way through life.  I’ve had so many people help me on Septa.  When I was new, and completely terrified, people pointed me in the right direction.  When I jumped on a train, people let me know where it was going.  When I haven’t been able to lift a bag, someone has helped me.

And even when trains are delayed, or schedules are modified, or trains are pulled off the tracks or strikes affect travel…  People band together on Septa.  People watch out for each other.  It’s sort of heart-warming.

Anyway.  I am eternally grateful to Septa for making the past year and a half bearable.  I am grateful that instead of gripping my steering wheel in utter frustration, I could lean my head back and close my eyes.  I am grateful for learning timeliness.  And the greatness of people.

Thank you, Septa Regional Rail Paoli/Thorndale line.

 

 

 

a few days of magic

We checked the weather pretty consistently leading up to our trip to Iceland.  The forecast was gloomily unwavering ~ 53 degree high with 70% chance of rain every day we were there.  I wasn’t too concerned.  I don’t like hot weather and rain doesn’t especially bother me (it more so bothers my naturally curly hair, but ce la vie when in Iceland, yes?).

So it was a super surprise that our last few days were filled with sunshine.  The golden glow of the sun makes Iceland even more magical than it is in the grayness.

We arrived at six a.m. last Friday morning, and after getting our rental car (a cute little VW Polo with heated seats!) we made our way down route 41 from Keflavik to Reykjavik.  It felt oddly surreal.  To begin, our flight had been somewhat painful ~ neither of us had ever done a transatlantic discount flight, and let me tell you, Wow Airlines is discount. So we were tired.  There had been several delays for various, increasingly absurd reasons, and then no pillows, no water or snacks … and a fellow passenger who insisted on keeping her window open, allowing bright sunlight to stream into the cabin the whole flight.

The thing about Iceland is that it reveals itself slowly.  The mist and Scottish rain were in full force as we searched for our car in the parking lot.  The country felt vast, as though emptiness stretched out in every direction.  When we were finally ensconced in the car and we’d duly read the driving instructions (road signs for four-wheel drive only roads, how to navigate blind corners, flooded roadways, being mindful of the strong wind, etc) we set off, finding out that our GPS didn’t work, and doing it the old-fashioned way (y’know, with road signs and paper maps).  The country-side was fascinating~ volcanic rock covered in vibrant green moss interspersed with clusters of bright purple flowers.  Puffs of sulfuric smoke billowing from the ground ~ a different cloudy white than the mist.

We made it safely to Reykjavik, sprawling along the shores of the ocean.  It didn’t feel like a city, but a country town filled with quaint buildings and shops.  Our apartment was close to a main thoroughfare and after checking in at the office, we headed down for breakfast at a cafe recommended by a friend.  It was surprisingly good ~ avocado on rye toast topped with arugula and bright, sunny side up eggs.  After eating, I felt a little more like a human so we wandered into stores and explored the area, waiting to hear that the apartment was ready for our occupancy.  Reykjavik is amazing ~ clean and filled with well dressed people, flowers blooming in overflowing pots on every lamppost, cobblestone streets, musicians on the corners and street art lining the narrow roadways.  Our first day was filled with tiny discoveries of the country ~ clues as to the Icelandic culture and people.  We did an early dinner at a small restaurant called “Old Iceland” (it was the best meal we had our whole trip, and we had some great meals).  Cured salmon, plump sea scallops, and our first taste of Icelandic Fish Soup.  We ventured up to the church at Reykjavik’s center after dinner.  Following that, I was dead on my feet and looking forward (very much!) to sleep.

On Saturday, we did the Golden Circle.  Iceland has a road that traverses the whole island called the Ring Road, and the Golden Circle is a small piece of that route.  It includes Thingvellir National Park (the rift between tectonic plates), Geyser and Gulfoss. We spent the whole day on the Golden Circle.  Everything was more beautiful than the last thing, and when you finally walk across the windswept moor and see the Gulfoss waterfall at the pinnacle of the trip ~ it takes the breath right out of your lungs.  We walked right up to the side, rain coats zipped up and hoods on.  It felt like true, pure, unadulterated magic.

For John’s birthday on Sunday, we booked time at the Blue Lagoon and the LAVA restaurant there.  We arrived in the mist and rain of the morning ~ by far the coldest and rainiest day we were there.  After navigating the gauntlet of the changing rooms, I met John on the other side, and the lagoon spread out before us, fading into dark cliffs and mist.  We waded in, water warm as a perfect bath, and slowly floated out, stopping to get glasses of champagne at the lagoon bar.  It was amazing, how blue the water was in the dark grayness and rain of the day.  The juxtaposition of the water’s warmth and the rain’s slick coolness remains indescribably perfect.  The water was opaque, so you couldn’t see your hands even an inch beneath the surface, and no matter how much time passed and how many more people arrived and drifted in, it never felt crowded or loud.  It just felt blissfully peaceful.  People covering their faces and arms with silica masks, floating into caves and underneath the man-made waterfall.  We found perches in shallow water and just sat, talked and drank champagne.  The epitome of decadence.  Lunch was yummy, too.  We did fish soup again (it is exquisite) and I had lamb, since Iceland is very proud of its lamb.  It was tender and perfectly seasoned, served with buttery baby potatos and perfectly cooked vegetables.  The restaurant did a special dessert for John’s birthday which was both beautiful and delicious.

We’d left Monday open, because we didn’t want to overbook ourselves (MS has taught us that).  So when we finally pulled ourselves out of bed, we decided to drive south, toward waterfalls and black sand beaches.  On a small quest to see the Iceland we’d come to know from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”  The Iceland we saw was better.  Full of blinking sunlight and intermittent rain.  Craggy cliffs drifting into the clouds, waterfalls dotting the mountainside.  Volcanic rock softened by moss.  It was the perfect last day, which ended with a walk behind a waterfall and sandwiches from a food truck.  As we wound our way back into Reykjavik at nine p.m. the city had begun its celebration of the big Euro Cup win over England.  Fireworks set off in the midnight sun, car horns intermittently beeping.  The kindest and safest sports celebration I have ever witnessed in my life.

Tuesday morning was full of sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.  The blueness was vibrant.  We made our way back to Keflavik and enjoyed our last fish soup at the airport with Sauvignon Blanc and cured salmon over sliced hard-boiled eggs and arugula.  It was the perfect end to a perfect trip.

Iceland gets into your consciousness, filling it with optimism, with peace and gentleness.  I felt changed as we flew home across Greenland the wide Atlantic Ocean. I hope, as life reverts to the routine, I remember to hold the stillness, and peacefulness of Iceland in my heart and mind always.  And I very much hope that our next visit isn’t too far in the future.

here I am

I love days when I feel productive and as though I made good decisions.

Those days don’t happen all the time.  And when I have one, I am very inspired to continue the trend.  But inevitably, I get tired, or distracted and again make less good decisions.

Yesterday was a semi-good day — which I feel can be marked as progress. I didn’t have a green smoothie to start the day (I never — despite all intentions when I fall asleep) get up early enough to make one and also make my train.  So I rely on the kindness and thoughtfulness of my hubs.  Yesterday he also deserved to sleep in a little (what exactly is ‘sleeping in’ when it occurs before 6am…?  Ah, I know.  It’s called ‘Lucy didn’t wake up at 5.35a’).  But I got a green juice at Starbucks (which was actually nearly frozen through and hadn’t defrosted by the time I left the office at 4pm).  But I did buy it with the best of intentions.

I managed to drink a fair amount of water.  I have a system — more like a schedule — that I try to stick to, but it has proven challenging when my days are crazy … as more of them tend to be as the business begins to grow exponentially.  I try — valiently, i might add — to drink a full 32 ounces before noon, another before 2pm and then I can ride the train home without worrying about having to use the bathroom.  That leaves another 20 ounces to be consumed prior to bed and I try to get that done before 7pm so I’m not up every 2 hours throughout the night.  MS, folks.  She’s no joke.

I did a lot of work — I usually do a lot of work, but yesterday’s was quantifiable work & I like having evidence of productivity.  Then I got on the stationary bike when I got home and rode six miles — my longest workout yet.  (As a sidetone, it’s only my third ride on our stationary bike).  I only had two (albeit rather full) glasses of wine.  And we had salmon sashimi and dumplings for dinner.  Not so bad.

But … I had one of the worst night’s sleep ever.  I get really bad headaches behind my left eye and last night’s was a doozy.  Have you ever taken pain pills and visualized how they are going to alleviate the pain?  Well, I do it a lot, because these headaches wreck me.  In my fitful, painful, sweaty half-sleep, all I kept thinking about after downing the Excedrin, was how the pills were progressing through my system, to my blood, to the spot of unendurable pain in my brain.  Thankfully, when John got up to head out to the Outdoorsman show with his buds, the pain seemed to have significantly lessened.  But I am always so cautious after a headache.  Nothing is worth doing that could trigger it to come back.  It is just absolutely the most excruciating pain.  And it always seems to last forever — as though I can no longer remember what it is like to not be crippled by it.

Anyway.

Right now Lucy and I are in my office while Dora cleans.  The paper seems to have multiplied again and it’s so depressing.  Paper on this desk, paper on my desk at work  …. so much paper needing to be read, dealt with, filed.  Sometimes I wistfully think back to simpler times … but then I remember that this is what I dreamed of, this house and my career.  And I can’t be too frustrated.

John and I leave for Italy on Wednesday.  It still feels very surreal that we are going.  There were times when I thought I’d never travel again.  First because of money, then because of MS.  And now, a little over a year into Tysabri and six years slogging away at the restaurant … dreams are coming true left and right.  I’m spoiled and I’m so grateful.

Because right now, in this moment, despite the challenges, despite the unfairness of life — right now, I am happy.  And that is a great feeling.

 

 

dawn

On June 1st, exactly five years after our very first date, John and I said “I do.”  It was a pretty perfect day.  This is one of my favorite shots, taken by my very talented Aunt, of our intimate ceremony.  It also happened to be beautiful.  But the best part was sharing it with my best friend.  And he looked so handsome, too!

Then … time seemed to just zoom on by.  We jetted to Colorado for a relaxing five-day stay at an incredible resort (Kessler Canyon) followed by the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.  And then … well, I broke my foot.

It was a very long last day in Colorado.  And July … it’s felt pretty long, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denver was pretty neat ~ we were only there for a day, but we walked around the LoDo district (despite the heat wave from PA following us to CO and it being in the 90s every day!) and enjoyed dinner at a fantastic restaurant in an area called Larimer Square.  I wish we could recreate the atmosphere of that area in Philly ~ the streets were lined with outdoor dining, beautiful flower arrangements, wrought iron fencing and the entire block was strung with lights.  So gorgeous.  In addition, we have both decided that while our entire honeymoon was a culinary delight, dinner at Tag was our favorite.  Probably because our server was fantastic, the wine was delish and every plate that came out was beautiful and had amazing flavor.  It was a perfect start to the honeymoon.

 

We also had an amazing stay at The Oxford Hotel ~ incredibly beautiful rooms, rugs in the elevator letting you know the day of the week (so charming!) and a complimentary bottle of champagne with chocolate covered pretzels.  So wonderful!

 

 

 

Kessler Canyon was a four plus hour drive from Denver, and as we approached it, I think we were both curious as to what we would encounter when we arrived.  But it was a little piece of heaven tucked in a valley between mountain ranges and the hospitality was overwhelming, as was everything else.  Every morning began with coffee by an outdoor fireplace looking out over the ‘lake’ (John would like to say for the record that it was a pond, not a lake) and each day was full of fun things to do (shooting range, ATV rides up 2000 feet from the valley on switch back curves, hammocks, canoeing, hot tubs … basically whatever took your fancy!).  We met some really great people and had a really relaxing time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a ton of pictures on the drive from Denver to DeBeque.  Hard to pic a good one.  But the mountains were all stunning! A couple more from Kessler … although these are all from my phone (not the nifty new Nikon 3100 that we bought right before the trip … and still haven’t downloaded!).

The last day of our time at Kessler there ware so few guests, we all got to eat in the kitchen.  So much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last pic was actually the last pic we took at Kessler being goofy on the back porch ~ we did see a bear the first day, though!

Another two hours in the car to Aspen, and thankfully, the temperature dropped significantly (whew!).  We got to our digs in downtown Aspen, and after some confusion about our trade packets for the event, had all our goodies and were set for the fun to begin the next morning.  We took full advantage of the in-ground hot tub right outside our front door, and the gorgeous pool.  I wish I’d taken pictures …. maybe next year!

Since the Food & Wine Classic was ah.may.zing, I’m going to wait until tomorrow and really try to share as much as possible.

Until then … I have avoided this blog since I got home, not because I didn’t have things to share, but because I wasn’t in a very good frame of mind.  I felt as though I’d lost my way here … and I couldn’t find it because I couldn’t (and still can’t) get around very easily.  It has been exhausting and frustrating and a number of other descriptive words.  I am lucky to have a man willing to take care of me on every level ~ and those boundaries have certainly been tested since June 15th (the breaking of the foot day).  It has been easy to get discouraged, easy to feel listless and lost, easy to get mad, feel sad and basically pity myself.  Coming off the difficult and challenging diagnosis of MS this year, breaking my foot just felt like the last nail in the coffin.  Could it get any worse?  I felt as though I’d lost my will to stay positive.

But as I have (valiantly/) tried to remind myself recently … it’s always darkest before the dawn.  And time will keep on ticking, and eventually things will be easier, and I will be capable of doing more.  It’s hard to remember that when your dog is ringing the bell to go outside to potty and you can’t take her … or you want to take a shower but you don’t have the strength to get in and out by yourself … or a cup of coffee would taste wonderful, but you have no way to transport it to an area where you can actually sit down and drink it.  But having these difficulties has also made me more aware of the fact that we all – whether we mean to or not – take so many things for granted.  And while I know a time will come when I too will once again take the ability to sleep on my right side for granted (something I have not been able to do in weeks … ) I know that for a few moments, I will be grateful for the little things that have come back to me.

Until tomorrow.  xo.

 

’12

It’s easy to be discouraged.  Especially in this day and age, when I feel as though comparisons exist on every level for every aspect of life.  Especially today, when a tragedy like Sandy Hook hangs in the air, asking all of us to question … well, everything.

It is easy to be discouraged.  It is much, much harder to stay encouraged.

This year has been a tough year for me.  Tougher than most, and it definitely tested my character, and who I felt I was as a human.  Which is hilarious, because I was so convinced that 2012 would be my year.  God has a sense of humor, I suppose.

This December, however, has been a bright spot, and I am grateful for all that I have enjoyed.  At the beginning of the month, the man and I headed up to his hometown, and while he and his dad headed out to hunt (not my thing, but it’s part of his family tradition) his mom and I journeyed to “Dickens of a Christmas” in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.  Wellsboro is a cute little town still sporting gas street lamps, and dozens upon dozens of vendors lined the main street, everyone dressed in period costumes, and selling their wares.  It was a really good time (I even had funnel cake!) and I was two pairs of recycled sweater mittens richer when we left.

This Santa was fantastic.  Seriously.  My picture does his suit’s details no justice at all.

 

 

And a choir!

 

 

 

December is one of those months where every weekend feels booked up, and ours are no exception.  After another week of work (bleh), we headed down to DC for a birthday party ~ the man’s oldest friend from high school”s (well, birth if we’re getting specific) son turned three, and we made the trek to celebrate.  Then back to my parents house, to pick up Lucy, and spend some time with the fam.

On Sunday, after a delicious breakfast, we headed home to unwind and relax.  Unfortunately, (please read with sarcasm) the Steelers trouncing by the Chargers was not televised but we were able to watch the Giants domination of the Saints.  Since the weather had been iffy all day, we decided to take a drive and enjoy some Christmas lights (alright, the truth is, the man thought the lights would look cool in the fog).  We discovered a legitimate Candy Cane Lane right near our house, but the true highlight were the mansions on the man’s drive to work, which were decked to the nines.  And then, as Bing Crosby crooned “White Christmas” to us (my favorite Christmas voice, and movie) John very sweetly asked me to marry him.

I, of course, said yes.  

We were able to celebrate all week, as my birthday fell on Wednesday (which I spent in NYC and got to see my bro!), and we threw our Second Annual Holiday Party (successful!) the following Saturday.  It has been a very exciting, happy week, despite the horrific and incomprehensible tragedy of Sandy Hook.

I even made my very first roast chicken!  I used a Martha Stewart recipe (which I normally would eschew for various, valid reasons) and it was amazing.  In case you are feeling up for a hearty, cold weather meal, check this out:

What you need: 

1 whole chicken

4 lemons

S & P

Red bliss potatoes

rosemary

Cherry tomatoes

Thyme

EVOO

Crumbled feta (although  Martha used blue)

Baby spinach

Mustard

1 shallot

 

What to do: 

Okay, so here’s the deal.  About a year and a half ago, I caught this episode of Martha Stewart, and she was interviewing a woman from Glamor magazine.  They were discussing a new list of recipes being published “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know.”  I wrote down some sketchy instructions of what to do, and then never got around to making it for – as previously stated – a year and a half.  I’m going to share what I did, and I have to say, it turned out pretty well.

First, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

Then, I emptied out the chicken, rinsed it off, and patted it dry.  I stuffed the interior with two full lemons (which I rolled on the counter to soften up), and using the remaining lemon, covered the exterior with lemon juice and a generous coating of salt & pepper.

Next up, I dropped the oven temp to 350, and put the bird in upside down for 15 minutes. During that time, I lined two cookie sheets with tin foil, and cut up the baby red bliss potatoes and the cherry (or grape ~ I’m not particular) tomatoes and spread them (separately) on each sheet.

 

After the chicken had cooked for 15 minutes, I flipped it, and cooked it another 1 hour and 45 minutes (despite Martha saying it would be 1 hr 15 mins max … oh well!).

After I flipped the chicken, I returned my concentration to the rest of the meal.  I seasoned both potatoes and tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper but used rosemary on the potatoes and thyme on the tomatoes.  I popped the potatoes into the oven when I thought that I had about 45 minutes left on the chicken (I wanted to make sure the potatoes were cooked, and the edges crispy.

Then I prepared the salad ~ which was pretty easy.  I crumbled up some feta, and tossed it with the baby spinach (and mixed greens ~ the man likes variety).  The tomatoes I added last (after the potatoes finished cooking, I put them in the oven for about 10-15 mins).  And while I was figuring out timing on everything, I made a little mustard vinaigrette ~ whisking together 1 tbsp mustard, 1/3 cup olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon and a finely diced shallot.

When the thermometer finally popped in the chicken, the man and I pulled it out and allowed it to rest for ten (ish) minutes ~ probably longer.  It helps maintain the moisture.

And we served our potatoes with a small side of sour cream (because that’s how we like it!).

All in all, it was a pretty impressive meal (to me at least!) of roast chicken, roasted rosemary potatoes, and a roasted thyme tomato salad with a mustard vinaigrette. The funniest part of it all?  The recipe for the chicken was called “Engagement Chicken” and I made mine the Friday before the man proposed.   Pretty hilarious (and, upon hearing this, he told me to stop using voodoo on him!).

I redeemed myself with dessert ~ really simple, and I promise, it will be a hit.

Apple Crescents (or, Individual Apple Pie Bites)

What you need: 

1 pkg Crescent Rolls

1 apple, cut into thin slices and tossed in lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Clove

What to do: 

1. I made a mixture of the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves.

2. I spread 1 tbsp of the mixture in each of the opened crescent rolls, topped with an apple slice and rolled up.

3.  I cooked the rolls according to the package directions.  (PS.  Be prepared for clean up ~ cooked sugar is not anyone’s friend in that regard).

 

I guess you could top each with a little dollop of Cool Whip, or add some ice cream.  We enjoyed them plain, and they were delish.

And now, I must get to bed.  My eyelids are heavy, and it’s not even halfway through the week.  If I don’t get back to this space before 2013, the man, Lucy Lou and I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons, & lots of love and good wishes for the new year.  Oh, and of course, happy experimenting in the kitchen.  🙂

more adventures in wyoming

 

When we planned this trip, we had a couple ideas of what we wanted to see and/or do.  We didn’t even get half of it in, but we did do several things we really enjoyed.

A few highlights …

One of the most touristy places in town, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, had saddle bar stools.  I thought they were a riot.  And we each had ourselves a bottle of Moose Drool Brown Ale.  Yum.  

 

How adorable is this?  And on the other side? His little hiney hanging out that back.  The pictures aren’t very good though, because the lighting was difficult.  You will just have to imagine!

We checked out a local brewery (we tried to find a vineyard … but the only one that exists didn’t have a tasting room … bummer).  I had an amazing Sour Ale (my new obsession) and the man enjoyed a couple really tasty brews.  Well worth walking all over the quaint village of Jackson trying to find it!  We also witnessed a very beautiful moon on our way home.

 

 

 

 

We rode the Red Tram to the top of the ski slopes and, despite my paralyzing fear of heights, enjoyed the scenery, the chilly temps and the strong gusts of wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tram, and a view backward during the ride up. 

 

The valley below. 

 

 

 

 

The man out on the platform that I couldn’t walk out to ~ I even had to enter the Tram to go back down through the out-door.  (I was literally paralyzed by fear ~ the drop off was very steep, and the wind was very strong!)

 

 

 

The Teton Village is at 6100 ft, and the Tram takes 12 and a half minutes to travel two and half miles ‘up’ to 10, 450 ft.  As I mentioned, it was chilly ~ especially as it was about 72 degrees when we hopped on the Tram at the bottom!  Luckily, I was prepared with a scarf and a jacket!

 

 

My favorite pic of us from the vacation.  Too bad there is zero scenery in it!

 

 

 

 

We saw the sun rise over the Grand Tetons, saw animal herds, and enjoyed as much of the scenery as we could.  Every day since we’ve left, I’ve wished we were still there, breathing in the fresh, dry Wyoming air, and watching the sun creep over the peaks of the mountains, the colors of the slopes changing and morphing as the sun rises in the sky.

 

Entering the park on National Park Day!

At this point, we’d already seen a few elk lazily crossing the highway in the pitch dark.  Those guys are pretty big! 

 

 

 

Another elk herd in Grand Teton National Park.  

 

Even driving is beautiful.

 

 

I know all the pictures of the mountains are probably starting to look alike, but it was just so magical.  I wish that pictures could show what we saw ~ what it felt like to look up and feel so very small.  

 

 

Saturday early morning drive ~ all bundled so we could drive with the roof off and enjoy the scenery.

Driving.  

The sun rising. 

 

 

 

More mountains as the sun came up.  Aren’t the colors incredible? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drove around Jenny Lake, and Leigh Lake and up to Signal Mountain Lodge, along the shores of Jackson Lake.  We had an amazing breakfast at the Signal Mountain Lodge (Trout Eggs Benny ~ so good); we climbed down to the bank of Jenny Lake (still hazy with smoke from fires a few weeks before we arrived) and up to the Signal Mountain Summit where we could see the mountain range and the lakes and the valley.  Everything was more beautiful than the last ~ it was constant feasting for the eyes.

Jenny Lake. 

 

 

 

 

Jenny, Leigh and Jackson Lakes are glacier lakes, so they are over 200 feet deep in places. 

 

 

 

 

The path at Signal Mountain Summit.

 

 

 

 

Another attempt at a self-pic! Crooked mountains in the background!

 

 

On Saturday evening, after all our adventuring, and another dip in the pool and hot tubs and sauna (indulgence!) we headed out to dinner by way of the park, because this little lady was determined to see a moose.  Unfortunately, we missed major moose sightings all weekend (other people were more than happy to tell us all about their sightings, which just made me more sad that we missed seeing one!).  But we did hear several bull elks bugling as the sun went down.  It was very peaceful and the man was completely enraptured.

Mr. MOOSE! Where are you? 

 

(My artistic picture of our fruit-less search for a moose.) 

 

 

Our last sunset in Wyoming.

I’m so glad we took the time to go ~ it was a part of America I’d never experienced before, and the scale of things is so unlike anything I have encountered.  I can’t wait to go back.

 

oh purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain

This past weekend, the man and I had the great pleasure of taking a little trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It was much-needed, and absolutely breath-taking.

Sadly, pictures do not do justice to the utter gorgeous-ness of the terrain, but I am going to share some anyway, because it was such an incredible and beautiful experience.  I can’t wait to go back.

We stayed at the Snake River Lodge and Spa, which has just undergone an ownership change, so I’m not sure how much of what we saw and enjoyed at the resort will still be intact when they re-open for the ski season this winter.  Buuut, we really loved the room, with the cozy fireplace, comfy bed and steam room shower, and the pool was amazing.  I realized I hadn’t been in a pool in years, so I was very excited about it.

We arrived at mid-day on Thursday, and we went immediately to the John Moulton Barn on Mormon Row in the Grand Teton National Park.  I had been hankering to see it in person after seeing all the stunning pictures of it.

Not quite what I was expecting, but oh my goodness, the mountains!  We were on the ground for less than 20 minutes, and we’d already seen antelope, a herd of bison and the barn I’d been day-dreaming about since before we planned the trip.

Ahhh.  Bliss!

In fact, I was so in awe of the sheer beauty of the mountains, I started taking pictures at the airport.  There are no ramps to board planes at Jackson Hole, so you exit the plane and walk across the tarmac.  The entire walk, I was gushing.  So stupendous.

We upgraded our rental,  so we spent the weekend driving a four door Jeep Wrangler with the front of the roof off.  Amazing.  I felt totally indulgent the entire time.

On Friday, after a good old-fashioned country breakfast, we drove over the Teton Pass into Idaho.  I was white-knuckled the entire time (good lord that road was steep, winding and seemingly narrow!).

  A view from the top of the Teton Pass.

A scenic trail in Idaho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was amazing the temperature difference when we stopped at the peak of the mountains (I was also grateful to take a little break and get my feet on solid ground for a minute).

The road from a distance, heading back to Wyoming. 

 

 

 

 

The mountains in Idaho.

 

 

 

 

I was obsessed with the birch trees.

 

 

 

 

 

Bundled and picture happy. 

 

 

 

 

Sunny skies. 

 

 

 

 

The Jeep, semi-topless.  😉

 

 

 

 

Isn’t my man a cutie?

 

 

 

 

On Saturday we took full advantage of National Park Day (all parks are free!) and got up before the sun to try to catch the herds of animals moving.  We saw a lot of elk, including two monster bull elks ~ gi-normous racks.  I’m not sure how those animals hold their heads up.  It was amazing to watch and to see the majesty of the park as it came to life.   Those pics will be up tomorrow!  I will say that Mr. Moose eluded us.  I guess we’ll have to go back!

 

snap shots

Back in August, before I fell off the map, the man and I took part in one of the coolest things I’ve done in awhile.

Diner En Blanc

We dressed in white, brought all our white accoutrement with us (yes, including tables and chairs and dishes and silverware and … well, you get the point) and enjoyed dinner al fresco with new friends in one of the coolest spots in Philly (to me ~ but I’m a sucker for the Ben Franklin Parkway …. and Logan Square situates you smack dab between the Philadelphia Art Museum and City Hall … gorgeous).

The restaurant generously catered for us, and we were lucky enough to have awesome dining neighbors, who shared smoked Cornish hen and lobster salad.  We shared some French sparkling rose’, so it almost equalled out (we were the big winners … the Cornish hen was ridic).

Had I had my shiznit together, I would have talked a lot about it … but I didn’t, and life has been trucking by, faster than I’ve been prepared for it.

Here’s the thing.  In July, both my mother and I (to a lesser degree) had huge health diagnosis’.  And even though I would like to be half the woman my mother is – she who soldiers on with a smile, great attitude and tons of energy to spare – I, woefully, fall far short.  It’s been tough ~ not necessarily due to my own health, but getting my brain securely around the truth about my mother’s health. Difficult, heart-breaking, scary, unknown, overwhelming, surreal … those are some of the words I can muster up in the moment.

So, a person definitely loses time when focused so singularly on something so utterly important.

On top of all that, football season started.  And football season came with baggage this year.  First, the baggage of what it means to be a Penn Stater.  Second, the baggage of living with a man whose team won the Super Bowl last year.  I totally understand that some people may read this and think … wait a second.  She is prioritizing football right up there with health issues.

No.  And yes.  No, nothing in my life is even close to being a priority like my mother. I am not going to wax lyrical, but seriously – if you have had a moment in your life like this, then you can understand the level of importance and also intensity.  Aka, unmatched. Buuuuut ….. Yes, football is a priority in my and the man’s life.  That’s who we are, that’s what we do … it’s a part of why our relationship works so well.  Mutual interests and understanding.

Additionally, Miss Lucy and I listened to part of a very interesting program on NPR a few weeks ago, and it cranked up the cogs in my brain.  Essentially (and I really wish I’d written this stuff down at the time) the program was focusing on social media, and society’s new ‘obsession’ (for lack of the correct word) with appearances.

What I mean by this is that instead of people working on who they are as people, inherently, on the inside …. we, as a society, are more concerned with how we appear to be.  Just stop and think about it for a minute.

Every picture, every status update, every blog post.  We present to the viewing virtual world the person we want to be ~ the person we want people to think we are.

Listening to the program made me stop dead and really examine what I do, and why I do it.  I had an internal battle.  “Well, of course I only share the good stuff … that’s what I’m supposed to do … focus on the positive, enjoy the good parts of my life, etc etc etc …” These were some of my thoughts.  Then I really began to mull it over… who did I want to be? What kind of impression does my writing leave of me … as a person?

Could I keep blogging?  Or was it all a charade?

Seriously.  I’m a huge overthinker.  But …. something about this line of thought really struck a chord with me.  Awhile ago, I got completely bent out of shape reading a generic criticism on twitter ~ but the criticism said pretty much what NPR said, just in a much snarkier way.

Hey, look at how great my life is ~ hey, look at the awesome things I cook ~ hey, look at my adorable dog/cat/hamster/child ~ hey, look at the cool places I go to with my super cool boyfriend/fiance/husband/soul mate ~ hey, check out my awesome perfect amazing everything  … blah blah blah.  Trust me, no one wants to see a status/tweet/instagram/blog post about the fact that I stepped in dog do-do this evening when I took Lucy out for a potty break.   It’s not cool or perfect or quirky or fun that my puppy has a sensitive digestive system and the man and I deal with her stinky ‘perfume’ and soft poos on a daily basis.  It’s slightly depressing and comes across as ‘please give me some sympathy’ if I posted pictures of my three-day IV line this summer when I had to inject myself with meds every afternoon.  But those are truths ~ those of part of my life.  And I would rather be vulnerable on here, but honest … instead of insincere and a projection of what I think I should be.

I want to always be working on who I am on the inside, who I am inherently (and trust me, there is a lot that could use some polishing … or to begin, some heavy sanding, because it could be a two (or more??) step process…).  I have a wicked temper, and I know that I don’t hide my emotions very well (I actually consciously think about this at work when I know my face looks like I-can-not-believe-you-are-saying-this-to-me and my whole body tenses … I am not proud of those moments). I also don’t want to blog because I need to ‘say’ something  … because I want to ‘project’ something about who I should/want to be or … crazy thought, am.  I want to blog the truth of my existence.

When I started this, I was learning to cook.  I’ve gotten okay in the intermittant months from them to now.  I truly enjoy being in the kitchen and preparing something for a group of people.  I think some of it boils down to what made me love the stage (quick recap, I have a degree in theatre).  I love the satisfaction of making something and receiving kudos because people enjoy it.  That’s not the most flattering thing about me ~ but it’s honest.  And I decided ~ when I opened up this blog and recommitted to it ~ that if I did nothing else, I was going to be myself.  You guys have seen that lovely quote “Better to be a first-rate version of yourself than a second-rate version of someone else.”  I think that includes a second-rate version of who you think you should be.

I am who I am who I am.  And I want to try my darnedest to stay true to that.

On a lighter note…

The man and I are super in love with green juice.  Jump on that band-wagon.  It’s the bomb-diggity.

We are taking our very first vacay together next week and I am so excited I can barely concentrate.  We are hopping on a plane to Jackson Hole, WY and there are so many things we want to do, I don’t know how we are going to fit it in, or what will make the cut.

What I’m sure of? A romantic dinner with the man at the Snake River Grill (the chef was a James Beard Award nominee, the menu and wine list are ridic, and I’m super duper psyched …. my wallet is not, but just this once, I am going to ignore her protestations!).  I don’t know that I am going to be very productive until then, but I will try!  Lucy and I have a half marathon we’re training for (okay, okay, I’m the only one running ~ but Lucy keeps me company!) and work is a crazy busy machine as we approach year end.

Ah.  Life.  She’s a corker.

if I had a million dollars

This will be short, but sweet.  The man and I have been indulging in ‘what if’s’ recently, and I thought I’d share a few with you. Mostly, we think about ‘what if’ I had a million dollars ….

Here are our top thoughts.

1.  The man wants a bike.  Like, a real, grrrr, man bike.  And he has a buddy to go riding with, so we look at a lot of bikes, “just for fun.”

2. I would like to travel to the next few places, in no particular order …

Burgundy, France

Banff, Canada

Malaysia

Edinburgh, Scotland (yes, I know I’ve been there, but I really want to go with John!)

I know this list probably seems a little skimpy (if you know me at all) but it’s what’s on my mind right.now.this.minute. In fact, I really really really really really really really want to go to France.

The cheese.

The bread.

The gorgeous-ness.

The, the, well, the French-ness.

HGTV.  It’s a dangerous thing.  I’m off to check flights to la belle Francais.