Wednesday, December 14, 2011


So while in Florida, Jon and I got to swim with the manatees. We used Bird's Underwater Dive Center's services, and our Captain (Captain John) was just great. It is right off of Crystal River. As it turned out, we picked a wonderful time for our tour. We did an afternoon excursion and it ended up just being Jon and I out there as a tour group of two. Yes, we felt special and spoiled.

Can I just say it? It was AMAZING. Manatees are such gentle giants. And the young ones make the cutest little squeaky noises. Their closest land relatives are elephants and hyraxes. I can see the elephant resemblance much more so than the tiny hyrax connection. They have thick gray skin that can be smooth or super wrinkly and it looks very much like elephant skin, complete with the sparse hairs, but with algae growing on it.

I have yet to get my film photos from the day developed, so for now, I'll share the digital photos that Jon got.

After a video instructing us on the rules of interacting with the manatees and getting suited up, we took off in a very slow-moving vessel, waving goodbye to Jon's parents in the drizzling rain. It wasn't the best day for regular sightseeing, but it ended up being a lovely day for spotting manatees. Manatees can't handle being cooler than 68F for too long, so when the weather gets chilly, they all congregate around the warm springs, which makes them easier for us to spot. Hurray!

We started off at Three Sisters Springs and had our most luck there. Captain John led us out to the springs, and we saw a couple of manatees right off, but they were more interested in napping than saying hello. They will go up to the surface to take in a deep breath and then slowly sink down to the bottom for naps that last 20 minutes, at which time they wake, go up for air, and start over...

There's Captain's John's head sticking out of the water talking to someone looking out for the manatees.
One of the springs
After a while with some sleepy manatees, we started to head back to the boat when all of a sudden we were met with four manatees coming right for us. They passed peacefully and silently beneath us in a small channel. It was kind of mesmerizing watching these huge creatures glide by so fluidly. So we let them go by, waited a couple of minutes, and then followed them back into the springs.

Mama manatees with their "little ones"

Every manatee we saw had markings all over their backs. Sadly, even with all the protective rules set up, the manatees still end up with scars and injuries from boats. Captain John explained that most of the deaths in that area weren't brought on by getting sliced by a propeller. He says that in his experience, it is when a boat's bow collides with a manatee that the worst damage takes place. It takes a boat only going 14mph to kill a manatee if they hit one head-on. Pretty much every manatee will have a myriad of scars running across their backs and tails from propellers. Sad, but this is what makes them easy to identify by those studying them. Captain John says that the manatees in that part of Florida were actually doing really well with the boating and tourist regulations.

Manatee with propeller scars...

This next photo that Jon took, I just absolutely love. Seriously, how great is this--

Can you see me in the distance?

These manatees were more social. Especially the babies. They would make their little "eep" noises and approach us to check us out. They don't have the best eyesight, but they can sense you with the vibrations your motions make against their sparse body hairs. Jon and I each had the opportunity to touch the extra-wrinkly manatee baby. He/she came right up to Jon and I and we are allowed to reach one arm out at a time, so we each had a turn to pet a baby manatee!

And now, a couple more mommy-baby manatee shots...

Aren't they just so stinkin' cute together? And in case you're wondering, that's how the baby manatees breastfeed. Yep, their boobs are under their armpits.

NOT a manatee.
Seeing that we still had some time on the clock, Captain John took us to one other spot after this but the water was much deeper and much more murky. We got a good look at a bunch of different fish, but only caught sight of one other manatee. It nearly swam into us with how murky the water was. That kind of water freaked me out to swim in, I'll admit.

By the way, the wet suits were such a lifesaver. We would have frozen our little buns off if it weren't for them. The water in the springs area stays close to 70F, but with the rain and wind hitting our backs, we would have had a miserable experience if it were not for the warming wet suits. As soon as we got back in the boat, Captain Jon prepared some hot cocoa for us to sip on. I was grateful because the second I got out of the water and the wind hit, I started shaking. Yay for hot cocoa!

We didn't wait to get back to change, but chose to get into our dry-ish clothes while hiding in a little zipped-off corner of the boat. After purchasing our video and a hoodie for me, we went straight over to Charlie's Fish House. It is literally next door to Bird's, and Jon and I were both in need of some warm food. Jon and I shared a bowl of clam chowder and a bowl of lobster chowder. They were both amazing and full of seafood. And the food warmed us up indeed.

So yes, it was an awesome, amazing outing.

If you are interested in checking out the video that we got from Bird's of Jon and I snorkeling, you can view it HERE. That's Jon's website. Just scroll down on the left to where it says "Videos" and click on "Manatee Encounter (2011)."


I'm ever so grateful that they are good at stopping knives wielded by an over-enthusiastic maker of green smoothies.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


We're used to the dogs climbing into bed with us every night. They take turns snuggling in by our feet or curling up against our tummies. They make great feet warmers, by the way. Last night, though, I woke up with this creepy feeling that someone was watching me. I moved my arm and felt little Misu half under my pillow, his head resting on my arm and thought that was it (and thought that that was kind of cute, actually).

And then I blinked a couple of times as my eyes started to fully take in my surroundings. I looked over at Jon, only to see eyes staring back at me. Our cat Boo had climbed into bed with us (which hasn't happened since we got the dogs) and was just sitting on Jon's stomach staring down at me. Now if that isn't a creepy kitty, I don't know what is.

PS-- I did end up dying my hair darker again. I'll be posting photos of that and our trip to Florida soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dark hair

So a friend of mine who is a stylist offered to color my hair for free if I came in as model for a class. How could I pass that up? My hair has since lightened back up quite a bit, and now I'm wondering, should I get my hair re-done all darksy again? 

What it looked like when it was freshly colored: 
Hanging out in our backyard
Goofing off at Tiffany's wedding

Quilt, done and given away

I worked on this quilt off and on for what seemed like forever. But it is finally done. And the friend that I gave it to finally stopped moving around so I could hand it off to her and her baby.

I want to get faster at quilting so that I can make these things for more of my friends and still have some time and sanity left over to make a quilt or two for our house...

But enough about my sanity. Here are some photos:

For scale

Hiding the fact that I'm wearing sweats...

Crinkly goodness

Quilting patterns on backside

I can't get enough of how crinkly soft it was...

I learned so much while doing this quilt. It was the first I did with half-square triangles, the first with rounded corners, the first that I machine quilted, and the first time I tried my hand at free-motion quilting. Whew. A lot of firsts. Oh, and it was also the first quilt that I've given away. Like I said before, I hope to get better and faster at this quilt-making business so that I can start giving these away much more often, so I'd better get better at saying goodbye to these things...

The best thing about giving it away? Seeing the reactions. Little did I know that there was a long history of quilt-making in their family, on both sides. Both my friend and her husband were touched by the quilt, and they made me ridiculously happy when they noticed all of the random details in mine. There was talk of just using it as a wall quilt, but I say, put that sucker to use! That's what a baby blanket is for, right? For snuggling and crawling and drooling on. Am I right?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The bats and the bees

In my last post, I wrote about the cave symposium Jon and I attended recently and about the importance of bats, among other things.

Guess what? We need bees, too. For many of the same reasons that we need bats. They are pollinators and are a big part of our agricultural system, i.e.-- they are the main reason we get to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They are another one of those big parts of the food web and are an indicator of the health of an environment. Right now, they are showing that something is not right in a big way.

I watched Vanishing of the Bees tonight on Netflix and was blown away. It discusses Colony Collapse Disorder, who first brought it to everyone's attention in America, and what is being done about it.

While I have seen the coverage in main-stream media on the bees disappearing, the underlying causes of their disappearance has been largely considered a mystery-- but it shouldn't be. Europe has it figured out. What is interesting is that in the mid-1990's, France went through a similar thing. Only guess what? They connected the dots and their government works on the side of caution, and now their bee populations are bouncing back. So what did they find out that the American government is so slow to understand? Systemic pesticides were introduced and a short time later, entire colonies of bees were collapsing-- dying out in a matter of weeks.The beekeepers figured it out, protested, and now France and many European countries have banned most of these pesticides, which do not wash off in the rain or when watered-- they become integrated into every part of the plant, including the pollen and nectar. The very reason why its touted as being so great (it lasts forever in the plant, so you need to use less of it...) is the reason why it is so terrible and so dangerous (it lasts forever in the plants, and in the soil, and gets into the water supply, and into our food and probably builds up in the organisms that eat the treated plants--organisms like us.)

So why is it that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) considers systemic pesticides safe? Oh, because the reports of the pesticides' safety come from the chemical manufacturers themselves. Of course they are going to say that the stuff they are trying to sell is safe. They did experiments where they exposed bees to their pesticides and saw that they lived for a few days and considered it safe so the EPA gave the stuff a green flag. The EPA does not require these companies to do long-term studies that show what effect the pesticides may have a few months or a few generations down the road, and just allow the stuff to be turned loose, hoping for the best.

What France saw was this: bees went out pollinating in areas covered in systemic pesticides and they seemed okay for a few months, but then when winter came, they would turn to their pollen reserves, and then suddenly, poof, they'd disappear. The French caught on, they noted that bees pollinating organic sunflowers worked efficiently and in an orderly manner. Bees trying to pollinate sunflowers that were grown from seeds soaked in systemic pesticides acted erratically, struggled, and eventually fell off of the plant. Systemic pesticides are toxic and damage bees' ability to react, process, or navigate in the world. French researchers made the conclusion that there was a connection between the newly-introduced pesticides and their bee deaths, and disallowed the pesticides. Now things are returning to normal.

But in America, the EPA and the big money corporations that create these pesticides have decided to go ahead and release these chemicals on the public and the environment at large as some huge experiment. And now that these chemicals are out there, reacting with other pesticides, chemicals, and environmental and circumstantial factors, scientists are having a difficult time proving the direct correlation between systemic pesticides and the downfall of bees. There are other practices that have contributed to the weakening of the bees' immune systems, so now these pesticide companies can say that there is no way of knowing for sure that their chemicals have a direct link to bee deaths.

I don't understand why we don't follow Europe's example and at least get rid of this one big huge new "possible" culprit. What's the harm in it? It has been shown that the amount of crop loss has not been lessened with the introduction of these new pesticides, so clearly they aren't doing any good. And with the probability of all the harm they are causing, how can the EPA say that they pose an acceptable risk factor and allow these chemicals to continue to be used?

It is a fact that varying amounts of these pesticides (lots and lots of varieties of pesticides) are being found in the pollen in the bees' hives. If it is in the pollen, then it is in the honey, and people eat honey (as well as the plants that are systemically loaded with these pesticides, which you can't wash off). And people live longer than bees. So we have a lot more opportunity to let these chemical compounds build up in our bodies. Granted, the EPA and the pesticide companies say that people shouldn't be affected because most of the honey used for human consumption comes from hives far from pesticide-affected crops. And so far they think that it is safe to eat the pesticide-infused plants. So we should trust them, right? Because they always tell us the truth, right?

Anyway, Jon and I got to chatting during the movie, and we both concluded that there is likely also a connection between systemic pesticides and the bats suffering and dying from White Nose Syndrome (WNS). Why this wasn't brought up during the cave symposium was beyond us. Jon has learned a lot more about WNS than I have, and he has never heard of that connection being made in his circles. But if bats are pollinating plants in or near areas that have been affected by systemic pesticides, or if they are eating millions and millions of insects that have been eating up nectar and are covered in the pollen of affected plants, then it stands to reason that their immune systems have also been compromised. So is it any wonder that our bats are succumbing to a fungus that seems to coexist with the bats in Europe?

As it turns out, Jon and I are not the first to make the connection. In the movie, they show the headlines of news articles relating to amphibian, bat, and other epidemics, hinting that there is connection between what is happening in agriculture to what is happening to so many species in recent years. Then, when writing this blog post, I did a quick search and found this article published by Yale Environment 360. It says things in ways that I can't. For example, here is how Sonia Shah explains systemic pesticides:

Unlike older pesticides that evaporate or disperse shortly after application, neonicotinoids are systemic poisons. Applied to the soil or doused on seeds, neonicotinoid insecticides incorporate themselves into the plant’s tissues, turning the plant itself into a tiny poison factory emitting toxin from its roots, leaves, stems, pollen, and nectar. 
Who wants to eat poison factories? I like my fruits, grains, and veggies poison-free, thank you very much.

So what can we do? Well, as Michael Pollan has said so poetically, "Vote with your fork." Be a conscientious consumer. Choose food that is organic or grown locally through smaller farms that don't subscribe to pesticides or monocultures. Don't give your money to companies and industries that are poisoning the environment, plants, you, and your children. Try growing some of your own food. It can be really rewarding. Jon and I have been trying it out here in the desert and we're getting better each year. If we can do it in the poor soil and blinding heat of the desert, I think just about anyone can do it to some degree. More on that later.

Anyway, I'm finding that all of these things tie in together-- our food quality, our agricultural practices, our health (collectively as a society as well as individually), and the various environments that are being subjected to so many new chemicals and poor (politically-driven) farming habits. And the thing is, we don't have to stand idly by watching this happen. We can instigate change and demand a different way of doing things. I'm not saying we need to go back to an agrarian lifestyle, but we can choose to do less harm to the environment while also choosing healthier options for ourselves.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


A few weeks ago I was able to attend the National Cave and Karst Management Symposium with Jon in Midway, UT. My friend Cami put it together, and Jon helped with scheduling speakers. I was sick for a good part of it, but since the weather wasn't cooperating with my attempts to get out and do photography, I did end up hearing quite a few talks, my honey's included.

I was most interested in the talks that covered White Nose Syndrome. In case you haven't heard, bats have been dying off like mad all over the eastern United States, and the problem is spreading. The real kicker to me, however, is that the fungus that is overtaking the bats, Geomyces destructans, is the very same fungus that can be found in bats in Europe, but it isn't killing them. So what gives?

I listened to a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife give his take on things. The USGS is also involved, as are the National Parks and many other organizations. I heard about a lot of precautions and protocols being implemented to try to keep WNS at bay. Caves are closed all over the east, and cave closures and spreading westward ahead of the disease. While Mammoth Cave, a very public cave, has stayed open, it now has systems in place to inform visitors of WNS and to keep the public from possibly spreading it.

I also heard truly fascinating and enlightening talks from cavers' point of view. Tom Aley gave probably the most controversial and yet frank talk about WNS and how it relates to cavers and land owners. He spoke about how the agencies are all for closing down the caves to block access, hoping for that action to be a preventative measure, to slow the spread of the epidemic. However, it has been noted that having responsible visitation to caves is also a protection. Cavers who responsibly enter caves do not damage the fragile ecosystems or formations within the caves, and they they have the knowledge of cave systems to be able to detect and report differences in cave conditions or bat populations. Since knowledgeable and concerned cavers are voluntarily following the cave bans, many caves have become vulnerable to irresponsible parties entering and vandalizing the very systems that the bans are trying to protect.

It is also becoming increasingly difficult for scientists not directly involved in WNS to enter caves, but who knows what connections we might be missing out on because there are fewer skilled scientists able to add their information to the overall discussion of cave health and management?

Anyway, like I said, there have been all kinds of interesting ideas and thoughts thrown around about what to do about WNS, but the fact remains that no one still truly understands WHY this is happening... So how do you prevent or stop an epidemic that you don't understand? The answer is that you can't. For now people are trying to fight this in experimental ways or they expect to just let things run their course and then hope for the bat populations to bounce back.

In case you have gotten this far and are wondering why I care so much about bats, and why I think that you should too-- well, here are a couple of things-- bats pollinate some plants, they produce great fertilizer (guano), and they eat billions of bugs. They are an integral part of the food web. If they go the way of the dinosaurs, who knows what the full extent of the repercussions might be for us, and for the environment. We need bats.

Night In

For those of you who don't know, Jon and I are both youth leaders in our ward (local church congregation). He was called as a secretary for the Young Men's organization, and I'm a first counselor in the Young Women's presidency. Last night the Young Men went off to play miniature golf and the Young Women (YW) were scheduled to work on their Personal Progress. Since our dear President has been away visiting family out east, it was up to me to find a place that was wi-fi so that they could work online. I figured our place was as good as any so I said that I'd host it. It was the most people we've ever had in our house all at once since Jon's family came to visit him when he first moved in (and before we were married). So its the most people that I've had over here, ever.

As the girls and leaders came trickling in, Luna would bark a little each time and then Misu would cower by me, so at first I wasn't sure that I'd have happy puppies or a very productive night. As it turns out, I have a hard time relaxing when my dogs are spazzing out. But then Heidi came at last. At first Luna wasn't so sure of her, either, but I repeated, "It's Heidi!" a couple of times to her and then when Heidi came and sat down next to me and Luna sniffed her, the other side of Luna came out. She started rolling around by Heidi's lap and then moved onto trying to jump all over her and lick her face. The Young Women, seeing Luna freaked out by all of these new people coming in, started laughing at her reaction to Heidi. Clearly Luna remembered the walks that we used to take with Heidi and her doggy. It was pretty awesome.

Then Misu tried to get in on the action and Heidi just laughed and said, "What? You don't even know me, you're just trying to lick me because that's what Luna's doing!" The spell was broken. Whatever reservations Luna had been holding onto left when Heidi came in, and then she started running around sniffing people and checking stuff out. Misu was still mostly a momma's boy, but he did venture out now and then, and he welcomed pets and scratches from the girls. And most important-- they were both quiet dogs from then on.

We didn't get a ton of work done on our Personal Progress, but I did get to teach two girls how to get on the site and showed them how to navigate around and how to keep track of their work. The remainder of the night was mostly about catching up, chatting, and giggling. Oh, and eating. Rebekah, Emilee, and Heidi each brought treats that I thought would surely last a good long while, but I was mistaken. There were only a few cookies left at the end of the night, but Jon and I took care of those.

I learned that even though my house is much, much smaller than Sandy's, I can still fit most of the Young Women in all at once. Thank goodness we now have a kitchen table! I also learned that I like a full house and hearing all that laughter was good for my soul. Plus it was great to catch up with my fellow YW leaders.

Next up: Inviting certain local friends over for a movie night. You know who you are.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A whirlwind of travel...

Just a little taste of what we've been up to in the last month:

  • My step-sister Tiffany's wedding in South Lake Tahoe, CA.
  • NCKMS in Midway, UT.
  • Our good friend Amanda's wedding in Fresno, CA. 
It really has seemed like we've been on the road more than we haven't in the last few weeks, although if you count out the days, that isn't really true. While it has been SO fun, I'm so glad to be home. It is so great to see friends and family and to experience new things, but to sleep in your own bed and to have your own schedule is pretty great, too. 

Not wanting to overwhelm myself in all the catching up, nor any of you reading this, I'll cover our trips one at a time, starting with Tiffany's wedding at Tahoe--

Her wedding had an Irish-English theme to honor their heritage, and there was also this different time eras theme that you can see reflected in the different bridesmaids dresses. 
You can kind of see what I mean in the following three photos (that I borrowed from Tiffany): 

Watching the ceremony.

Bride with her bridesmaids and flower girl at Lake Tahoe

Tiffany and Scot with the whole wedding party

Almost all of the dresses were home-made, many by Tiffany. I decided to sew my own dress, and went with an Edwardian style. I was excited to find a fabric that matched so well with all of the others. And it was a real challenge to work with a pattern based on such old patterns... I was happy to complete it. 

The wedding was at a pub by a gazebo and at the end of the ceremony all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen each let a butterfly go. While I kept worrying about my butterfly once it was handed to me and I could hear it scratching around in its container, I was really happy to see it fly off at Tiffany and Scot's first married kiss. 

I have to say that one of my favorite parts of the wedding was getting the chance to hang out with family. I got to meet new people as well-- Andi's girlfriend Lisa, Tiffany's mom Jennifer, and Jessica's friend Brendan. (Totally random, but I told my sister that I thought Brendan looks a little like Edward Cullen/Robert Pattinson. Jessica admitted that several other people have said the same thing about him. You decide. Edward and Brendan. --Keep in mind that I didn't get the most Edward-esque photo of him that I could have, but that's the best I've got. Another thing is that Brendan tree climbs and teaches others to do so for a living. Anyone familiar at all with the silly vampire stories will understand why I think that's so funny. In case you were wondering, Brendan is actually a really nice guy, and that's as far as the vampire similarities go.)

Jon and I also had some time to go on hikes with the dogs and they loved sniffing around the lake and walking around on all of the pet-friendly trails. They did surprisingly well in the car for that long ride. We let them out every two hours or so to do their business and to have some water and kibble, and they seemed totally content. Misu would just plop down and fall asleep while Luna would prop her head up so she could look around and see what we were up to, but they didn't whimper or whine while we were driving. If we stopped the car and one of us would leave for a second, it was a different story-- Luna does NOT like it when Jon or I leave, she likes us to all be together. But once you put a leash on her and let her out at a stop, she does great. Oh, and the couple of times we stopped for a drive-thru snack, she'd bark and bark at the cashier. Annoying but funny. 

Also, because uploading a bunch of photos over and over again does not appeal to me, you can check out all of the photos that Jon and I took of the wedding over HERE

Friday, September 2, 2011

What I learned about scorpions

I'd run out to the garage in my bare feet to grab something out of my car, but was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a scorpion. I was totally freaked out. This was the closest that I'd seen one to my home before and it was much too close for comfort. I went to tell Jon to do something about it, only he'd jumped into the shower. So it was up to me. With my heart pounding, I went back out to the garage with a flashlight and a jar and caught it. I made Jon go out and put cardboard under the jar's lid and flip it over after he'd dried off.

I wanted to kill it. I'll admit it. I worked at a pet store years ago where I had to feed future pet scorpions, but this thing, I just wanted to smash it. Actually, I wanted Jon to smash it. I really, really don't like the idea of scorpions that close to us and our pets. Jon, on the other hand, the saint that he is, volunteered to drive the thing out into the wilderness to release it somewhere far, far away. Jon is a better person than I am. Although he has killed scores of black widows in our backyard--shiver. So fine, we let it live out its existence, but it will be miles from my house.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Things I was grateful for...

It started Monday evening and lasted until Wednesday morning. Having a migraine for that long is not fun. However, I did find some things to take hold of and be happy about during that-- 

1. My cat Boo makes a good scare crow. Awful, terrible, tiny birds have been eating all of our peaches. Before they're even ripe. So I can't get out and pick them for us. . . so I go out and chase the birds away every time I see them. It is a thankless (and pretty much pointless) endeavor. Seeing as I couldn't stand the sunlight on Tuesday, I'd conceded to the birds, when Boo stepped in. She'd woken up from a nap and I fed her some canned food. She got done eating and just then noticed the birds in my tree. She then promptly went out the cat/dog door and crept across the lawn. She sat under the tree and did her own version of little bird chirps. She really does that. My impression is that she gets so totally entranced by the birds that she doesn't realize what she's doing, and these little chirpy half-meows come out of her as her pupils dilate and she focuses in on the birds. It's cute because this of course ruins her chances of catching a bird. But the birds don't know that, so they all flew away from the peach tree. But Boo just sat there, transfixed, waiting for them to return, meow-chirping away. Which of course, only kept them away longer. Yay for Boo!

2. Our little dog Misu finally went through the doggy door all on his own on Tuesday. I'd been working with him, giving him little treats whenever he'd go through the door as I'd hold it open first half-way and then down to a crack. But he just hated actually pushing against the door to get in. He'd whine and cry and then just give up and sit there by the door until I'd give in and help out. But then on Tuesday he just got the nerve up and did it. He's still clumsy and it takes him a few tries, but he's no longer scared of the door, and he doesn't whine. He just pushes until he gets in or out. And that makes me happy. 

3. I'd been refilling our humming bird feeder wondering how many humming birds we were really helping out, thinking that perhaps the mixture was just evaporating in the heat. But then early in the morning, when waiting for Misu to do his thing outside, I watched as three different humming birds visited our feeder. I didn't get a shot of them feeding, but after going in to grab my camera, they still visited a neighboring tree and sat really nicely for me. 

They're cute little things, right?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Deliciousness - three recipes

I've been baking and cooking and trying new recipes lately and wanted to share a few of them. I'm always looking for new dinner ideas, so if you want to comment on any quick or easy ones that you've been using lately, I'd love that. . .

1. I made some yummy BLT's a little while back that went like this: 
  • Tomato slices placed in the toaster oven and slow roasted for about two hours on 120F with a little olive oil drizzled on top and a sprinkle of sea salt. This brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes. 
  • Favorite bread, toasted.
  • Organic bacon (turkey bacon can be substituted if you're into that kind of thing) that I cooked and crisped in our toaster oven at 400F for 10-12 minutes.
  • Grapeseed Veganaise (or Mayo) with fresh basil chopped up and stirred in. 
  • Fresh lettuce, baby spinach, or spring mix. 
Put all those things together and that's one tasty BLT (or BST if you're using spinach) sandwich. And I feel less guilty using the Veganaise. Plus I only eat this delightful sandwich once in a while which makes it totally OK.

2. Easy peasy yummy delicious fish tacos: 
I got the idea for these from my friend and neighbor Sandy. She made hers with mayo and cod, but I opted for salmon because I can't get enough of it and always have some on hand. I think halibut would also be tasty, and I would give just about anything for some ono (a.k.a. wahoo, I'm not kidding.) but I haven't seen any since Hawaii... 
  • Corn tortillas. (I used sprouted corn tortillas by Food for Life because they're super delicious and that's what Jon bought when he went shopping. So good!)
  • Salmon (wild)-- pan roast with a little bit of olive oil and then flake it a bit. 
  • Fresh chopped up lettuce.
  • Veganaise (see above recipe) with fresh oregano and fresh basil added in. 
  • Mango Salsa-- 
  • 1 whole mango, cubed. 
  •  1/8th red onion, finely chopped. (Can be substituted or omitted if you're an onion hater.)
  •  hefty pinch of cilantro, chopped up like crazy. 
What I did was lay down a little flavored veganaise in the center (fold) of the tortilla, then the lettuce, then the salmon (to keep the lettuce in place), with the mango salsa all over the top. You can not have too much mango salsa on this, I'm telling you now. Since you're using small tortillas, it is totally normal to eat 4 or 5 such tacos in one sitting. I'm pretty sure.
Also, I was thinking that for my non-fish-loving friends, you could sub out the fish for shredded chicken in lime juice... or whatever.

3. Anniversary cake:
So I made this a couple of weeks after our actual anniversary. What can I say, after our trip to California, I was swamped for a while playing catch-up. Initially it was going to be a chocolate sponge cake that I know how to make quite well. It is sort if a go-to for me. But while Jon loves chocolate, I know he's also a huge fan of good old fashioned vanilla. And since I wanted to make this cake as a thank-you to the most awesome man in my life, I went with vanilla.
I found a delicious recipe HERE. It is a super vanilla-y cake with a vanilla and rosewater frosting. I made it to the recipe on that link minus the fresh vanilla beans because while I had everything else at my disposal at home, I do not often have vanilla beans. OK, I never have vanilla beans in my home. But some day I might.

Here is how the cake turned out:

Just look at that fluffy frosting!

And of course, I had to smother it with berries. In the recipe I was following, there were berries in the cake as well as on top, but I thought it would last better if we just dumped fresh berries on top or all over whenever we felt like a bite, or a slice. 

Don't mind the ugly plates, just check out that lovely cake.

I'm not going to lie, I'm so proud of how this cake turned out. It was my first time cooking part of the frosting, and I just love how it turned out. It was so fluffy and light and easy to spread. And it as pretty as it is yummy. Vanilla with just a hint of rosewater. It got me thinking of trying it with a hint of mint (using fresh mint leaves of course). Jon's words were, "This tastes like no other cake I've ever tried before. You can really tell you put time into it. It is really, really good." That was the best compliment I could think of receiving. Jon is a man who likes his vanilla, and I was so happy that I made something he approved of wholeheartedly. Yay! And honestly, it didn't take THAT much time. But don't tell him. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

On blogs and dogs

First things first-- we are now public. So go ahead and add the blog to your Google Reader or whatever. After trying to keep up with a couple of friends' private blogs I realized that it can be a pain to remember to check those blogs. Not that those people aren't worth visiting or commenting on, but yea, private blogs can be harder to reach and read. And it seems like you agree with me. I decided that whether this blog is private or public actually didn't matter that much to me, so why not make things easier? Done and done. 

Second matter of excitement and happiness-- our cute new puppy. We named him Misu, which means "little bear" in Polish. We adopted him from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. They had so many cute sweet dogs and puppies to choose from. I went a month before the adoption to see what was available and after playing with Misu and his litter, I realized that he was the one for us. Back then he was called Hendrix, but he didn't look like a Hendrix to me. Turns out that Misu is a perfect name for him. He often sounds like a tiny little bear with his grunts and growls as he plays with Luna. 

He is half Miniature Poodle and half Maltese and is a sweetie. (A sweetie that still poops on the carpet from time to time, but still...) 

He and our other dog Luna get along really well. They play tug-of-war, wrestle, and chase one another around the house. Luna has really taken to her little brother and I love it. What's more is that they really seem to play off of one another really well. Misu is really chill and not easily riled up-- both Jon and I hope that trait rubs off on Luna. Having Misu join the family has been just great. Luna still loves following me around but she also gives me a little more space now that Misu is here. Which means I can get a lot more done around the house. And if it sounds like I'm talking about Luna as if she is a child, that's because in some ways she is one. And now with Misu she's a happier more self-sufficient one. However, unlike children, I'm finding that two is easier than one. 

So yea, we've got some good things going on around here. Good and cute. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Anniversary trip, part 2.

Could you do me a quick favor? Seriously like one second of your time is all I need. Will you share your opinion? (Quiz on the right side of this page--) Thanks bunches!!!

Part One is right HERE.

. . .
The day after Sequoia National Park was a L-O-N-G driving day. Poor Jon had to drive us through Malibu during some crazy mid-day traffic. We moved about sixteen miles in an hour! Ridiculous, people! Finally, we just HAD to have a pee break. But you know what? Eateries around there aren't required to have bathrooms. So we had to hit up five different places before some guy at the gelato shop took pity on Jon and let him use the employee bathroom. Yes, Jon went first because I felt so bad for him. And then I decided that the best plan of action would be to first decide on some food and then have me find a bathroom. Certainly the deli that we chose would have a public bathroom, right? Nope. So I told Jon what to order for me and then I went on a bathroom-seeking journey. I had to walk two blocks to a public bathroom. It was like this-- one tiny girl's bathroom along a line of shops across the street and around a corner from our deli. And that was the closest public bathroom. Not even the Starbucks had one. Hello-- people in there are drinking coffee and coffee makes you need to pee lots. At least that's what I've heard. What the heck? How do the people of Malibu put up with such nonsense? Anyway, I finally made it to the bathroom and there were three ladies in line in front of me. The two at the end let me cut. Apparently I looked like I was ready to burst. I made sure I left the bathroom in a much better state than the older lady who went in front of me did. Yikes!

Anyway, after that things calmed down and were much better. We ended up with delicious sandwiches that we ate sitting in cool wood lawn chairs on a grass-covered mini-lawn. Suddenly California was sunny and lovely all over again. And our sandwiches were so big that we could only eat half of our lunch, saving us the expense of buying a real dinner. We had linner all ready and waiting for us.

After getting more gas for the 4-Runner, we made our way to our destination-- lovely, gorgeous, wonderful El Matedor beach. It did not disappoint. We pulled up into a parking spot IN the parking lot! Our luck had turned. And then I saw these guys with Polaroid Land Cameras. Jon asked if I'd go talk to them and I said, "Of course!"

Now, I'm not usually the type that just goes off and talks to new people like that, but they were driving a refurbished bright orange car with glittery-sparkly upholstery. And they had Polaroids. So I went over to chat while Jon paid our parking fare. They told me that they were impressed that a non-local knew of El Matedor, and I told them that I liked their car and their camera, and we got to talking about Polaroids, and I was so jealous. The one guy had a stockpile of old vintage Polaroid film-- 669 and 600 stuff. . . And then I took a picture of them sitting in their tangerine car overlooking the Pacific and handed it back, and a minute later, they peeled it and said, "Man, this girl really knows her stuff." Yay. In the first place, they liked my photo lots. And in the second place, they thought of me as considerably younger than them, which I doubt I was.

And then we walked down to the beach.

How gorgeous is this place?

On the way downstairs to the beach, I got stopped three times so people could ask me questions about my Polaroid cameras. I had my SX70 and my 350 land camera out, and Jon asked if I was feeling like a rock star by the time we got to the bottom. He said, "You're getting way more attention than all the people with their fancy digital cameras running around here." And it was true. There were seven or so other people running about with fancy-pants digital cameras, several of them doing shoots of "models." None of them were asked about their cameras. Jon was watching. And I still got asked about my cameras a few more times while walking along the water's edge. I'm not going to lie, it was kind of fun telling them that yes, these were functional older Polaroids and yes, there is still film to be had for them.

I make faces when I take photos. That's my secret. 
I wish I'd taken photos of the "models" out there-- There was one girl with purple hair who kept swinging her head from side to side as her "move." I'm guessing. There was another girl in a skimpy outfit that was so giggly, but as soon as the camera turned on her, she'd make these deep, thoughtful faces and would really get into it. Also, she was maybe 18 and had dyed her hair gray. I'm not kidding you. I saw it in several lighting conditions. Each time, gray. Oh, and Jon saw her get trounced by a big sneaky wave while she was trying for a seductive pose laying on the sand.

So happy to have some beach time together.

There isn't much more to say about the beach other than it was lovely and relaxing and so scenic. We'd never been to this beach before and even though it was crazy to get to, it was so worth it. Even Jon (who did the driving while I did the directing) had to agree. Amazing place.

We LOVED this beach.

Jon, jumping. :)
We spent the night at a really nice place for not very much at all. We woke up and had a lovely continental breakfast, and then we took a long walk along a river trail and fed some ducks. Then we drove over to pick up a dresser that we'd bought on e-bay. As Jon put it, "It looks better in real life than it even did on-line." An it's true. We are so happy with it. It is a mid-century solid wood 8-drawer dresser. I'll put up photos of it soon. We are delighted with our purchase. And the young woman we bought it from was so helpful. She provided the additional human-power that we needed to keep the dresser balanced on its back while Jon put the drawers in it. She marveled that our 4-Runner could fit it, but fit it it did. And there was plenty of room to spare for our clothes and cameras and snacks to fit in around it when we were done.

An amazing whirlwind of a trip. It was a great quick little anniversary trip out to California. A change of scenery and pace. And as always, it was so fun to go adventuring with Jon. It was great to have hours and hours of uninterrupted quality time with my honey. Time to talk in the car, time walking, hiking, and photographing-- I couldn't have imagined a better anniversary. Jon says it could have been better if we'd gone back to Hawaii. . . haha.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Jon and I celebrate one year of wedded bliss today. It's weird how on the one hand it feels like the past year has flown by, but on the other hand it's hard to imagine life any other way (and it's only been one year!). It has been an amazing, full, and happy year with my darling sweetheart. I look forward to many, many more. 

We had an adventure this past weekend as part of our celebrations. We went to California. It all started when we began looking for grown-up furniture. Right now our bedroom is a mash-up of both of our past lives. We decided it was high time to actually go for a look rather than look overly eclectic without a purpose. I have always loved mid-century pieces and once we got looking, we quickly found a really great solid wood dresser for a super awesome price. The only problem? It was in California. Wait, did I say that was a problem? Okay, it was more like an opportunity. The wonderful Carrie that we bought our dresser from was happy to hold onto it until we could come get it, and so our planning began. And our thoughts quickly went like this-- well, our anniversary is coming up, and we don't have kids yet so we can take a trip, and we love beaches and nature and we have this dresser in California. . . so it was decided that we would make a whole road-trip out of it.

We were fascinated by all the wind turbines.

Friday we drove out to Visalia, California where we met up with the lovely Amanda Morgan and her fiancee Addison. This was our first time meeting Addison, and we were so happy to see how happy these two are together. We had fun eating dinner at Panera and dessert at a local frozen yogurt shop.

That was it for our first day--- driving, visiting, eating, and then sleeping.

Day two was much more eventful. In the first place, we had a nice easy-going morning with a pretty nice complimentary breakfast, and then we met up with Amanda again for lunch. We had amazing sandwiches at this cute local joint, and then we took a few pictures. We were all full after half of a sandwich that we saved the rest for later. The sandwiches were HUGE! And oh so very tasty.

From there, we took Amanda's advice and stopped at Reimer's. I can happily recommend this place to anyone remotely near by. This place had some of the best ice cream that I've ever tried. They even had a cookies and cream in a chocolate base. That's what Jon got. I tried their almond toffee in vanilla. So delicious!

Look at the cute Swiss-inspired detailing!
Happy and full of tasty ice cream.
And then we got to Sequoia National Park. First we hit up the Giant Forest. We walked around a meadow and experienced huge sequoias, read some informational plaques, and saw two brown bears! Jon got within fifteen feet of one. They were just chillin' in the grass, rooting around for food. They didn't even seem to notice the people all around. One lady we talked to had one walk right in front her to go munch on berries in the glade.

Cute baby bear.

Huge trees!

Root base of a fallen giant. I'm in there for scale.
Giant sequoia hugging a boulder. 
Can you spot Jon in the photo above? Another scale photo. This probably would just look like a normal tree and a rock otherwise. (Click on the photo to see it larger.)

In contrast to the huge trees all around, I found these darling tiny pink and yellow flowers growing here and there along the trail. Does anyone know what they are?

Second bear siting.
I can see why the teddy bear has become a symbol of all things cuddly and sweet. The huge bear cubs did indeed look sweet and cuddly, and in a perfect world, we could go snuggle them. But alas, we had to keep our distance. So sad.

My cute Jon.
From there we decided to check out the General Sherman tree. While it is the biggest thing alive (by mass), we were more impressed by other trees and by our walk along part of the Congress Trail. There we not only saw other massive trees, but also gigantic burnt out tree trunks. They were haunting, sad, and beautiful all at once.

My one regret is that we didn't make it to a Visitor's Center early enough for me to get my National Parks Passport stamped. But Jon reminded me that we'll be in that part of California for Amanda's wedding in a couple of months, so we'll attend to that then. :) But while we were there, we had an quick impromptu picnic consisting of some of our snack food and the rest of our sandwiches from earlier. Thank goodness for high elevation and cooler temperatures. Our food still tasted great hours later.

Then we made our way to look over the valleys and so that Jon could take some more of his amazing 360 degree panoramic photos. It was a quick little hike up stairs to the top of Moro Rock and we got a few fun photos up there as the sun was setting and twilight was coming on. We were the last to come off the mountain. It was nice and quiet up there once all the other tourists left.

Here's Jon setting up for one of his photos.
I think we made quite a few people nervous setting up for our photos. We really don't take risks, I promise. We just don't always stay on the trail or within the bounds of the handrails. We really do make sure to only stick to places we feel comfortable on, though. So that makes it O.K. Right?

The second place that Jon set up to take panoramic photos. 
Jon's view of me from his vantage point.
In the next photo, if you click on it, you can see layers of mountains and valleys, the road that we drove up, and the moon in the sky.
I love the pastel colors!
Even though Jon forgot to smile because he was busy concentrating on the taking the picture,
this is a happy memory for me, so I'm including it!
Sunset on Moro Rock
The path illuminated by moonlight.
(Best seen large.)
And then it was time to head back to our car. Jon was helped me along the last part of the trail where it was totally dark. When we got to the bottom I saw something huge in front of us. "Uh, Jon?" was all I managed to say. Jon looked up and nearly jumped out of his skin. When our eyes fully adjusted, we saw that there was a buck licking something up off of a rock, and he was soon joined by a doe. This was RIGHT by us and next to our car. We just watched them for a moment and kept quietly talking to one another, and the deer would look up every once in a while, but they weren't scared of us. So of course, we had to take a few pictures.

Jon, our car, and a big deer.
And then, even though it was dark, because we were so close to it, we had to go see the Log Tunnel. It is a big tree that has fallen over with an arch carved through it making an 8' high tunnel you could drive through. I took a few photos of Jon driving through it.

Right after taking that second photo, I heard some rustling in the bushes next to me. Jon and I have been watching the X-files, and I've just plain seen too many scary/creepy movies in my life. I knew better than to stop and look at what was making that noise. I just firmly grabbed my camera and ran for the car. Jon heard the rustling from inside the running car, so I can't imagine it was a small woodland creature. More than likely it was another friendly deer, but I didn't want to take any chances. It was a pretty funny way to end our day at Sequoia National Park.

From there we drove back into town and shared a late dinner before getting back to our hotel room and crashing. And that is that for our second day of our anniversary adventures in California. More to come really soon!