Category Archives: Out & about or abroad

What was I doing while I wasn’t here?

I took a blog break between mid-December and mid-February and I had planned to return with this big, ol’ list of exciting things I did while I was not here. I mean, despite there being no proof on the internet, I was still living and breathing during that time. In fact, I did a lot of stuff! I wanted to tell everyone about it and planned to have it all up on February 19th! And then I never did. However, I have pictures I want to share so you’re getting the condensed version of what would have originally been an awesome post but is now really just filler with fun snapshots.

Yeah, you’re welcome.

To pick up where I’d left off last year:

1) I got my Christmas spirit back and just in time. Thanks to the magic of my old friend, Jack Frost, I was swept up in a winter wonderland the Friday before Christmas and as the day wore on, I became infused with festive tidings. It was awesome.

Seriously, I was going nuts running around town after work, taking pictures, squealing. It was just so beautiful!

2) Gabe & I met up with Susan&Elizabeth, our Best Couple Friends who aren’t a couple (they’re best friends and there are two of them so they are like a couple and we make them do couple things with us because they are our favorite couple friends you know what? Just go with it and let’s move on, ok?) to run amok in the cold! We went to see Denver Botanic Gardens’ Trail of Lights and it was phenomenal!  Then we all went out for drinks and fancy pizza, afterward. Man, we are good at being delightful.

So bright, so happy!

This was my favorite tree

Even the barn is participating!

3) I had holidays. It was all fun and games, per usual, until Noelle got our dad reminiscing about a terrible part of his life and he started getting emotional and Noelle LEFT THE ROOM, abandoning the rest of us to Dad’s tales of woe. Chris felt horrible that Dad had to relive all that, Gabe was alarmed because he had never heard any of it, and I’m pretty sure Chris’ wife was wondering why the hell she agreed to be part of this family. Come to think of it, I was wondering that, too. I owe Noelle a punch in the face for that one. Gah!

a) Gabe and I got each other presents this year because guess what? Gabe is employed now! It is an exciting time in our house!

These are my presents from Gabe. They probably seem odd to everyone else, but these are things I had marked in a catalog many months ago and he remembered! Now I have a cricket for my hearth and two apple bakers (plus the apple corer – SO much easier!) and I was really, super, weirdly excited about these gifts. PS – those apple bakers? They make phenomenal baked apples.

b) I also got presents from my GoodReads BFF in a land far away (New York City, folks!) You can see why we’re friends, right? Because she is AWESOME and gives great gifts. Obviously.

No, the bunnies are not playing LeapFrog, but yes, that explanation works well for the under-12 set. This is my official Easter Sweater now, so I’ll be wearing it again, soon!
Thank you, karen. This has brought and will continue to bring great joy to so many!

c) We had an adventure in which we tried the Dryck Julmust we found at IKEA. I’m still not sure what that was all about.

Behold! The festive Dryck Julmust

Gabe drinks more carbonated beverages than do I so he wasn’t quite as weirded out by this.

What the hell is in this??

d) I used the Christmas Ham to make our annual Ham and Beans for dinner on January 1st. It was an excellent batch this year, thank goodness. Not like that tragic swill I made a few years back.

Super close up shot of the beans, which had soaked for 24 hours by this time, onions, carrots, spices, etc. The ham is hidden under this pile of goodness.

4) And on January 2nd, as our Family Christmas Present To Ourselves, we got all the internets installed in our house. That means I now create and post these blog entries AT HOME! We were internet-free (mostly…sometimes we stole it from the neighbors) for two and a half years. It’s been amazing, fabulous, and convenient but also stressful to be back in the connected world as it brings its own kind of worry: I feel like I should check email before bed. I have monsters that sing and I have to gather their money and make sure they’re singing every day. Then there are all the sites we feel compelled to visit at all hours of the day and it gets a bit silly. This pressure to be tuned in everywhere kicked in immediately, the day we went live, and I did not like that. Yes, of course, it’s easy to think, “So just don’t check email, just don’t play games, just don’t…” but you know what? It’s easier to do than not to do. Because I’m re-addicted and stuck to a screen, I don’t read as much as I did before the internet. My house isn’t as clean (ok, that’s actually because Gabe is at work, now, and while I can still leave him threatening messages to mop the floor, I know it’s not going to get done because he won’t be there to read said messages) I’m not doing all the simple, pleasant things I did while we were living the off-grid lifestyle and that makes me feel shallow and a bit hollow. Not enough to stop staring at a monitor for hours on end, mind you, just enough to write about it in a blog post.

5) I took the first week of the New Year off again and got a lot done, mostly cleaning. That’s when I took all my pictures for the How To Oil Wood post from last week. Hooray.

I did other things, as well, but so much time has passed. I should have had this story up as soon as I got back to my blog but I didn’t and now it’s sort of a lame duck of a post. However, I wanted to share all my lovely pictures so I am doing just that and none of us will ever know what I was doing between January 2nd and February 5th. It shall hereforth remain a mystery. Or you can just make up some story in the comments below; that works, too.

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, Out & about or abroad

The bone box

The Peloponnese, Greece
2003

Somewhere in the Lower Mani, we stopped to stretch our legs. Thordis took us down a dusty, narrow road that ended at an old church, one that had originally been built in the 1000’s and boasted primitive Byzantine architecture.

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Aya Stratigos, if my diary is to be believed.

We couldn’t go inside so we strolled through the graveyard, instead. That is where I learned about old Greek burial rites. Traditionally, the corpse was interred for three to five years before being exhumed for examination. If the bones were clean, the soul had gone on to heaven and the remains were washed and housed in the family mausoleum.  If there were still bits and pieces of body left, things hadn’t gone well for that soul.

Not everyone could afford to build a small house for their dead so some bones went into community ossuaries and some into bone boxes, small above-ground graves. Or coffins. A mix of both, I guess.

As we explored the cemetery, I was surprised at the number of newer mausoleums and monuments. I don’t remember if the graveyard was still in use but it had been in the last century. A thousand years of bones eternally slumbering together. We have nothing like that here in the States.

As I crested a hill, I found my eyes level to one of these bone boxes, a rectangle of stone almost 3′ long and 2′ wide with pieces of slate making the cover. It was ancient, encrusted with lichen of varying colors.

No, not a skull. It’s just a coincidental rock.

Once on higher ground, I could see the stone roof shingles had fallen in, exposing two skeletons. Their gray bones huddled together, skulls at the head of the box, resting atop the pile of their bodies. One skull was nearly upside down but still staring straight at me, the other skull leaned its cheek against the first, watching its mate. They were open to the sky, to the sun and rain, to the light of day and the stars of night. To eyes like mine. I wanted to cover them back up, to return their privacy and their protection, but I didn’t know if it was right to touch their resting place. It’s not my country, I didn’t know the rules.

Thordis was right behind me; she also saw the pieces of slate as well as the trash that had fallen inside the small tomb. She reached in, removed a plastic cup, then started to rebuild, gingerly putting each rock piece back in place. I hurried over to help; we reassembled the roof, forming a whole out of broken parts, covering the residents once again, returning them to the dark, to privacy, to peace, keeping them from rain and sun, from prying eyes and curious hands. In that moment, I loved them. I felt like a caretaker tucking sleepers in at night, wishing them lovely dreams. Also in that moment, I saw that doing the right thing is far more important than following social norms, perceived or otherwise.

This post is dedicated to Tyler who reminded me to tell this story and is for Thordis who gave me the gift of this experience in the first place.

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Was “boring” code for “A sort of fun you will never know”?

You know how when you were a kid, you’d get ideas in your head and you’d try to turn them into reality? Sometimes you could accomplish the goal with your  Lite-Brite set, sometimes you’d have to go out and experiment, and once in awhile, you would have to get your parents involved. Usually through begging.

Some parents help their children make dreams tangible. Other’s give their tykes space and materials to make stuff happen. And then there were my parents. Yes, we were allowed to adopt any animal we brought home (Chris had a minnow named SilverStreak for about 3 years. He had a field mouse our cat caught, too) and we had full reign of the town, from the top of the airy mountain down to the rushy glen. To be fair, we weren’t really held back often; we were like little naturalists exploring our world and that was awesome.

But when we got those ideas, the big ones we couldn’t manifest on our own, the ones that involved asking for help, well, the answer was quite often “No.” And that “No” became very specific when we were pleading to go somewhere.

Backing up: I was reminded of this because  Shana Abe photoposted the giant  May Natural History Museum beetle on Facebook and I was reminded that I have wanted to go there since I was 12. We used to drive past it regularly on our way to our grandparents’ cafe and every time, Chris, Noelle, Bedot and I would wail for mom to stop, STOP! We wanted to visit the bug museum. The answer was always “No.”

We’d cry, “Why? Why can’t we go?”

“It’s boring.”

As it happened, that was also the reason we couldn’t go to Circus Circus in Las Vegas or the La Brea Tar Pits, among other places.

In retrospect, I get that my parents didn’t want to haul our little carcasses along on their grown-up-time Vegas trips but back then, we kept begging to go because our friends said Circus Circus was the coolest place ever. I’m sure Mom had no alternative but to tell us our friends were stupid and the place was, in actuality, boring.

But the Tar Pits?  I learned about them in 3rd grade and was fascinated. In my mind, there were lots of slimy, little pits of boiling black goo and every once in awhile, a mammoth skull would bubble up from the ooze to bob along on top until someone fished it out and cleaned it up. I told Mom I really wanted to go but she told me it was boring, it was just a hole in the ground with some black water, nothing but disappointment and a nasty smell. Of course, the truth was that it would have been an expensive trip, involving several days’ travel in the station wagon, multiple stops for food and bathrooms, plus motel costs, and headaches. So why didn’t Mom just tell us that the Tar Pits were alarmingly expensive? Why did she file them under the Boring category? Because she’s evil. Obviously.

And what was up with the Bug Museum? It was an hour away and it’s not like it cost much to get in. We definitely could have recycled aluminum cans for a summer to cover the entry fees. Hell, Bedot would have gotten in for free. It’s like Mom wanted us to be uneducated and untraveled. This is how white trash stays white trash, people. It’s self-perpetuating.

Once I became an adult with mobility and funds, I went to Las Vegas. I saw Circus Circus. I was thankful Mom verbotened that one because, dude, the place is creepy. I would have been terrified as a child had our parents dumped us off there while they went off and gambled for hours on end. Mom = 1

Last summer, we went to the La Brea Tar Pits while we were in California for Gabe’s birthday. Guess what? It is NOT BORING! She completely lied about that one. Children = 1

La Brea Tar Pits

This is going to be my Christmas card to my mom for the rest of her life. Every year. And inside it will say, “I hope your Christmas is BORING” which is pretty loving, if you think about it. You know, since boring apparently means “awesome”

And that means I need to head down the road to the bug museum. If it is not boring, Mom and I, we’re going to have words. Or, rather, we’re going to define words, one in particular: Boring.

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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, In someone else's backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, My Opinions on STUFF, Out & about or abroad, White trash childhood

Stalkers: A serious post

Warning: This is not a fun story. In fact, it could be considered scary and may trigger unpleasant feelings, memories, or emotions. If you feel stalking is a sensitive subject, please skip reading the rest of this and go do something light-hearted that will bring you joy, like watching kittens eat ice cream.
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Filed under Adventures, In my backyard, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF, Out & about or abroad

My fancy French perfume smells like bugs. Apparently.

Once upon a time in the mid-90’s, my longest running friend (she hasn’t been running a long time; I’ve known her since I was in 5th grade. Her name is April) and I lived in South Korea for a year as English teachers. We had many fantastic adventures there and I loved it but that’s not what I’m writing about today. It’s just that this story starts in Seoul and ends in a machine shop in the Rockies so here we go:

I wish I’d have written down what these stories were. Just because I’m me, I’m thinking the woman in the blue and yellow hanbok is doing something with kimchee and the the woman in gray with the brown tunic is a thunderstorm. But that’s probably 100% inaccurate.

This one time in South Korea, my friends and I went to dinner-and-a-show at the Buddhist temple restaurant in the art district of Seoul. It’s a neat place to eat – it’s vegan and they serve little pieces of plants you’d never think to stick in your mouth had they not been presented as food. There’s a phenomenal show complete with drum solos and dances and you sit on the floor, knees tucked under a short table. So my friends and I were sitting at our little table and I smelled something gorgeous that wasn’t food. I asked my friends if they smelled it, too. We pinpointed the scent:  It was coming from the table next to us. I tapped the woman over there on the shoulder – she was white so I felt safe using English instead of Pantomime – and asked, “Excuse me, but what perfume are you wearing? It smells amazing.” She looked at her husband and he leaned in and said something. She nodded, then looked back at us and said, “Hahn zhelle” So…ok, not all white people in Seoul speak English, apparently. I know, weird, right? But, come on, who else but English people would be in Seoul? As it turns out, lots of different people. This particular couple was French. And you’d think that would have been easy for me; my grandmother is French. I took six years of the language between high school and college. April, also fluent in the language, having even been able to tell the police, once, that a goat had fallen out of a tree and onto her car…in French, was sitting right next to me and we could NOT figure out what this perfumed woman was saying. We kept prompting her until her husband got in on the action. They kept saying, “HAHN ZHELLE! HAAAHNN ZHHHEEELLLE. Eez dee airy mooglay. Eez heez HAHN ZHELLE!” and I was all, “I don’t even know what a ‘hairy mooglay’ is.” Finally the French man said, “Eye theenk een yohr lahngooahje, yoo say ‘AYnjelle’,” making the word sound hideous. The third friend, she hadn’t spoken French in about 20 years, yelled out, like it was a game show, “OH! ANGEL! Right? You’re saying angel?” The man nodded, relieved that we’d finally broken through our stupid American language barrier. His wife had long since turned away, fed up. She did shoot us a look and I think she rolled her eyes at us, but it was in a French way so I can’t be sure because I obviously do not understand that language. Regardless, I caught hints of her perfume wafting by throughout the evening and was determined to buy some for myself because, honestly? The scent truly was heavenly.

When I got my next paycheck, April and I went to hunt for Angel by Thierry Mugler. I’d never heard of the guy but we figured he was some couture dude so started at the upscale perfume stores. We drew pictures and pantomimed and some of the stores had heard of the scent but none of them had it. We were going to give up when we found this tiny perfume shop on our way home and decided to stop and ask  because it’s always good to be turned down one more time. And we were turned down, only not because they didn’t carry it. They did, but they only carried a couple of bottles because it was very expensive and they’d sold their last bottle just that week. However, she said, they would get more in and we should check back.
We checked for months. We always missed it except for the one time I stopped in on a whim and there it was, a small blue star bottle. It was beautiful. The only problem was that I didn’t have any money on me; I hadn’t planned to do any shopping that day and it was only coincidence I’d been in the area. By the time I returned several days later, it was gone. Angel was the most elusive perfume in Seoul.

Our time in South Korea came to an end. We were sad to leave and scared to return to America so we decided the best thing to do would be to acclimate to the White Man Ways by going to Australia first. I was excited to hit all the duty free shops in the airports along the way because they would have to have Angel. Only, they didn’t. I knew it existed, I’d seen it with my very own eyes. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. By the time we got to Australia, all the airport shops were closed. I don’t remember the order of events, but at some point, we wound up at the train station in Sydney and there was one little shop open down at the end of a dark hall. It was a perfume shop. I walked in and asked if they had Angel and the women turned around and took a box from the shelf then handed it over. It was light blue and the silver scrawl across the front said, “Thierry Mugler Angel” I FOUND IT! It was over $80 in American money and I had allotted myself only so much spending per day which I had to make  last for the full 17 days we’d be in the country. There was a chance we’d be back to the train station before we left but I’d learned a valuable lesson: if you turn your back on this stuff, you may never find it again.

I don't have any pictures of the shop in the train station because I was using a film camera and it seemed like a waste of a shot to to take a picture of a dark little perfume store in the basement under the trains. So, instead, I'm just going to share some pictures from my trip to Australia to prove that I was there and also to make you jealous of my jet-setting ways. (Please be jealous now)

I don’t have any pictures of the shop in the train station because I was using a film camera and it seemed like a waste of a shot to to take a picture of a dark little perfume store in the basement under the trains. So, instead, I’m just going to share some pictures from my trip to Australia to prove that I was there and also to make you jealous of my jet-setting ways. (Please be jealous now)

This little wallaby totally let me abuse it and it didn't even bite or kick me! I pet it and kissed it and loved it and held it and took it home and called it "George" only not really because it got bored with me and hopped away. But it was a super cute hop and I was really excited about the whole thing.

This little wallaby totally let me abuse it and it didn’t even bite or kick me! I pet it and kissed it and loved it and held it and took it home and called it “George” only not really because it got bored with me and hopped away. But it was a super cute hop and I was really excited about the whole thing.

This is the big, ol famous bridge out in Sydney Harbor which is what leads me to believe it's called Sydney Harbor Bridge, but I could be very wrong on this point. I'm going to hope that my new friend in Australia who found me via Goodreads will come back and correct me if I'm wrong because I'm waaay too lazy to Google it.

This is the big, ol famous bridge out in Sydney Harbor which is what leads me to believe it’s called Sydney Harbor Bridge, but I could be very wrong on this point. I’m going to hope that one of my friends in Australia will correct my mistake because I’m waaay too lazy to Google it.

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Here is my bottle of Angel. And I also kept the little card and information packet that came in the little envelope. I had the box until a few years ago. So I’m a pack-rat…but I’m a fancy, elegant pack-rat. Obviously.

I bought it. I was elated. I kept it safe the entire trip and brought it home with me and it became my Fancy French Perfume because, up until that point, my fanciest scent was Calvin Klein’s Eternity. I still have my Angel. Parfumiers say that perfume can last for up to 5 years if you keep it in a cool, dark place. I’ve had perfume go bad on me before but Angel is not one of those. Now it’s less sweet, there’s less of a light powder scent; it’s muskier and woodsier but it still smells divine. I started wearing it again recently because it’s a wonderful scent for the end of winter; it’s rich and deep and smells good seeping out from under a heavy sweater like the earth smells good seeping up from the thawing ground.

I still had some clinging to me when I went to work at Chris’ machine shop on Friday. I walked in, sat down and got started. He came over to tell me something, stood for a moment, then said, “You smell like bugs.”

I asked, “Bugs? What do bugs smell like?”

He said, “Buggy.”

I asked, “Is it a sour smell?”

He said, “No. And don’t worry, you don’t smell like crickets. They smell horrible.”

I said, “Well, I know what grasshoppers smell like. Do I smell like that?”

He said, “No, you smell like pine seed bugs.”

I said, “What the hell are pine seed bugs?”

He said, “You’d recognize them if you saw them. They look like Maxwell bugs, only brown.”

I had to google Pine Seed Bug. Yup. They’re box elder bugs that are brown. I asked, “What do they smell like?”

He said, “Not good. They smell like you smell. I think it’s your perfume.”

I said, “How do you know I’m wearing perfume?”

He said, “Because you smell like bugs.”

So maybe I was wrong about my 15-year-old perfume not being rotten. Apparently, it smells like bugs.

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Here are some extra bonus pictures of Australia. These pictures are currently in my photo album and I just took pictures of the pictures, thus the glare, because Gabe is too lazy to scan all my pictures for me. He’s so mean.
Anyhow, this was taken in the rocky-formationy area that is NOT Uluru but is somewhere else in Kata Tjuta National Park.

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Also taken through photo album plastic. Nice, right? This is also in the Ayer’s Rock general area. It’s a shame I never became a travel photographer…based solely on how much I like this one picture.

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Filed under Adventures, For my short story collection, In my backyard, My Dearly Beloveds, My journey to writerhood, Out & about or abroad