Tuesday, November 27, 2012

deMars: Life at Home

In case you didn't get enough of my rambles, the stories continue at demars: Life at Home

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Living Deliberately à la Walden Pond- a goodbye post

I have been trying to decide how best to end this blog. It's difficult to not be overly-sentimental about our time on the east coast. We made some amazing friendships, traveled and saw so many cool places, and we grew into a family of four. Personally, the four years changed me in a tremendous way. Without going into all the details of my own personal identity crisis, I will relate it to our visit to Walden Pond. We made a quick trip to Walden Pond last fall on our way home from Maine. I grew up somewhat enamored with the Transcendentalist Movement and most of the American literature I enjoy came from transcendentalist New England writers. Sure, there is plenty of controversy to their movement but I still find wisdom in some of the philosophy, specifically having a connection to nature and living deliberately.

I had to laugh when we got to Walden Pond because it is a huge tourist attraction today. It's certainly not the rugged wilderness that Thoreau wrote about. However, if you imagine it back in his time, before highways and cellphones, I am sure it was all "life in the woods." Who knows, from what I gather Thoreau was sort of a classic, for lack of a better word, bull-shitter. Regardless, the time he spent at Walden Pond and the memoir that resulted can be interpreted a number of ways. I think of it often whenever we are out hiking. When you are sitting alone in nature, life does have a way of appearing simpler. As we were walking the trails around Walden Pond, I wondered what Thoreau  might think now of the land that once inspired his guide to simple living. Today, Walden Pond is known as the birthplace of the conservation movement and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Yes, it's used for tourism and even has a gift shop, but the land is protected and his words will always remain an influence. I bet he'd be okay with it.

Relating this back to our time on the east coast is really quite simple. Moving away from the life I was comfortable with allowed me a chance to step back and figure some things out. I had time to develop interests and hobbies and began to feel interesting. Prior to our move, I devoted a lot of my time and self to worrying about a career. I didn't prioritize my marriage and spent so much of my time with friends talking about work. When I stopped working, I really struggled with being judged for staying at home with kids. Whenever we meet people, the first question asked is "what do you do?" What I have come to realize is that nobody really cares what we do for work. In fact, once you answer the question, the person asking the question is secretly hoping that you stop talking about your work. That said, I think it's great when people love their jobs. Someday when my kids are older, I hope to find the answer to "what do I want to be when I grow up." However, I think there is truth in living deliberately and in the moment. My definition of this might be different than Thoreau's, but here is how I see it: we should enjoy our lives and prioritize our marriages, families, and friendships above everything. Work should be a means for enjoying life, but not our whole identity. We should take time to get outside and play. We should plan day trips and appreciate where we live. All of these things make for a truly happy life. Our time on the east coast taught me that and I will be forever thankful.

Thanks to all of you who followed our blog while we were away. If it wasn't for you, I may not have dragged myself out of bed to go hike in 12 degree weather just so we'd have something to tell you about on the following Monday. It's been a fun adventure and I'm excited to see what's next for our crew as we settle back into the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thursday: Montana to Idaho and soon to be home!

When we started planning our trip across the country, we thought we'd stop to see Glacier National Park. After traveling with a sick dog for a day, we decided it was time to head straight to Washington and put an end to all the driving. We really enjoyed the scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains and logged another 8 hours in the car. We arrived in Coeur D'Alene around 6:30pm and had a nice dinner at a floating restaurant on the lake. We are getting ready to hop back into the car and head to Adam's parents' home in Cashmere, WA. So this concludes our cross country journey. I have some final thoughts about our time on the east coast, which I will write about next week. At that point, "deMars: Life on the East Coast" will come to an end. Hope you enjoyed the ride!

Wednesday's Road-tripping: North Dakota to Montana

I have missed a couple of nights of posting after some long travel days. On Wednesday morning, we woke up to find that Max is not feeling well. Sparing you details, his crate was vile. After getting everything cleaned up, we got on the road. We drove not 30 minutes before he got sick again. We had to stop at a gas station to hose everything out again. We were heading to the Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson. I decided to let Adam take the kids inside so I could stay out with Max and hope that some fresh air would do him some good. We're not sure what's going on with him. We have been traveling through a lot of different parks so he might have drank some bad water. He's also a very anxious dog so it could also be a combination of stress, traveling, and some bacteria. Eventually we made it to my uncle's house in Billings, MT. He has a fenced in backyard so that was a nice place to keep Max. We spent about 7 hours in the car on Wednesday. Here are the photos:
Gavin posed outside the Dakota Dinosaur Museum. According to Adam, two words for you on this one: Tourist Trap.
 The important thing is that the kids enjoyed it and really, that's all that mattered. After being so good in the car, they need some fun.
Unfortunately, Olivia wanted nothing to do with photo-ops with the dinos. What can you do?
After slamming on North Dakota's boring landscape in our previous post, (and getting in a little trouble for it, I might add) I must say that we were very impressed while driving through Painted Canyon in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The kids were less impressed with Painted Canyon than we were. They spent the time outside of the car wrestling and goofing off. Again, happy is the goal and that was achieved.
We wrapped up the day at my Uncle Dave's house in Billings. It was so nice to see him and Denise. We walked over to a park near his house so the kids could play. Pioneer Park is actually a park that I lived by when I was a little girl. It looks different now, of course. But it was fun that the kids were able to play at the same park I played at when I was their age. Back at the house, Gavin and Olivia loved playing with Uncle Dave. It was a great evening of visiting on their back patio. We hope to get back to Montana next fall to go play in the national parks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Boring Day in the Car: Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota

Tonight's post comes from Jamestown, ND at yet another Comfort Inn. We spent the majority of the day driving. We planned to drive all the way to Dickinson, ND but realized we needed a night to relax so we settled on Jamestown with a 7:30pm arrival. We had dinner and then spent the evening swimming at the pool. If you haven't tried La Cantera in Jamestown, ND, you're missing out and we suggest you make the trip. We don't have too much to show you photo-wise. It was a pretty mediocre day of road tripping.
We drove for several hours before finally coming across a cool park in Crosby, MN. It was a great find because it was right off the highway and was basically a playground mecca.

"Look, a doggy!"
 Gavin took this picture of Adam by a tank. Nice composition.
 Gavin with a big serpent (insert puns here).
 Meanwhile, the car ride was filled with amusement. Here, we were entertained by Olivia eating an apple. She was cracking us up with her little nibbles.
 Gavin amused us with random observations. Here he said something like, "This is a boring day. Right, mom? But it's still fun because we went to a park."
 Olivia, 137 bites and counting.
 Then she decided to color all over herself and her baby.  "Look, I colored on baby."
 The iPad was absolutely the best invention of the past decade.
Oh, look- some hay. Seriously, I would never survive living in Minnesota or North Dakota. Like this blog post, it was a serious yawn-fest today. If you're from North Dakota or Minnesota, I'm sorry. Not because I may have offended you, but because you're from there.
Anyhow, we're 1700 miles in and going strong. Dino museums and metal sculptures await us tomorrow. Jealous much?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Day at UP Michigan

Today's post is being written at the Comfort Inn in Ironwood, Michigan. We spent all of yesterday exploring waterfalls and beaches. We had dinner in Marquette, MI and then decided to drive until midnight to make up a couple hours while the kids slept. I was far too tired last night to write. When I researched the upper peninsula of Michigan, the most used description was pristine. It absolutely is pristine. The highways are immaculately maintained, pretty much no garbage or litter to be seen. It's very remote up here. Last night when we were driving, we had about 20 different deer sightings along the highway.  To their credit, most stayed on their side of the asphalt divide. I was relieved when we finally stopped driving because I was sure we'd be hitting a deer at 70 miles an hour. Here is a photo summary of our day.
We started off at Tahquamenon Falls. Gavin had a tough time pronouncing Tahquamenon, but Liv got it on the first try.
 The falls look more like root beer than water. The rust color, according to a placard, is due to organic debris. This degrades to tanic acid, giving the water its characteristic color, as well as filling the pools with foam. Anyone for a root beer float?
 The only moose we've seen to date.
 Lake Superior is just on the other side of this dune. In the late 1800s, loggers used horses and a special log-canting wagon to pull logs up the hill where Gavin is seen sprinting in the above picture. On the other side, the dune drops off sharply for a few hundred feet to the shore. By sharply, I mean take-a-step-and-you're-plummeting-to-your-death. The old wooden log flume is remembered only in pictures and stories, but the sand channel persists. We regret that we were unable to take the short trip down and the long slog back up. However, carrying Liv up 300 feet of calf deep 70 degree dune did not sound fun.
 Liv was woken from a car-seat nap (known in the industry as the best nap on the market) to take this sand dune walking, Lake Superior viewing side trip. She was not amused.
 Superior. Dunes. deMars. Awesome.
 Bird Nerds unite.
 Nice view.
 Throwing rocks.
 Throwing other rocks.
 Painted rocks.
I love UP

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Big Trip Home: Albany to UP Michigan

We are on our way back to the Pacific Northwest! Our day began before 4am and it is now 10:30pm as I sit and type this at The Quality Inn in St. Ignace, Michigan. We pushed extremely hard and drove for over 14 hours. The best I can offer at this point is a picture summary of today's events.
By the time we had the car packed up, it was 5am. The kids were thrilled to be up so early! Also, notice that our car was a mess from the very beginning. We also failed to remember proper luggage for our road trip and all of our stuff was off on the moving truck before we realized. So, we have several trash bags filled with miscellaneous items and clothing. It's super classy to drag trash bags into hotels, right?
Our route took us up through Ontario, Canada and we decided to take a small detour to view Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. We saw the American Falls on our way out to Albany. The view is definitely better from the Canadian side, but it was far more crowded this time around. It was almost impossible to get a decent shot and really none of mine do the falls justice.
After viewing the falls, we stayed in Canada for a few hours of extremely boring driving. I'm serious- you could show me a photo of rural Ontario or a picture of rural Ohio and I wouldn't know the difference. We then crossed back into the U.S. through the border of Michigan. We drove along Lake Huron for quite some time, working our way northwest to the Upper Peninsula. We drove across the Mackinac Bridge, which happens to be the world's third largest suspension bridge. (Fun fact!) We arrived at St. Ignace around 8pm.
Gavin was psyched to be out of the car and able to run free for a while. St. Ignace seems to be a very small town but it has a gorgeous lighthouse and walkway that overlooks Lake Huron. I told Adam I was shocked at how much the lake looks like an ocean because it's so large. He made some wise-ass remark about them being called "great lakes" for a reason. Whatever!
Running and having fun after a very long day. These kids were unbelievably good in the car. Tomorrow we are going to spend most of our day playing along the upper peninsula of Michigan. We have plans to visit several parks and beaches. We have only planned to spend about 3 hours driving tomorrow but if we find ourselves up for driving more in the afternoon, we may try to make it a ways into Minnesota. If not, we'll stay in Marquette. 
This was tonight's sunset in St. Ignace. I am seconds from going to sleep and I am sure this post is filled with typos. I don't have the energy to edit tonight so I will just apologize for said typos. It was a long day but we feel great about getting so far. We'll see what tomorrow brings and where we end up! Good night!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Goodbye visit to NYC

Last Saturday, my friend Ryan and I made a last minute day-trip down to NYC. Ryan works with Adam and is also completing her residency training in Anesthesia. In September, she and her husband and their little boy will be relocating to St. Louis to satisfy her commitment to the US Air Force. We both have a lot going on with transitions but we decided we needed to get away for a proper girls' trip to the city. Now before I tell you about our day, let me prepare you: I didn't take pictures! I completely forgot.

Anyhow, Ryan is really busy right now because she not only has to finish up her residency training, but she has to extend a couple of months because she took time off for maternity leave after her son was born. She will not have any time off to study for her board exams which are at the end of July. (Adam has the entire month of July off to prepare.) So she is working full-time, studying, raising a little boy, and trying to fill out tons of paperwork for the military. The least I could do was plan an amazing day in New York to take her mind off of all the seriousness in her life.

Because we'd both been to the city multiple times, we didn't have much we had to do or see. She had not spent any time in Soho or Greenwich Village so we decided to just stick to those areas. I made us a brunch reservation at Sarabeth's in Tribeca. Sarabeth's has quite a few locations in the city and Tribeca is the newest and largest. The first major decisions of the day: pancakes or eggs? Mimosa or Bloody Mary? Can you tell how difficult this day would end up being? (The eggs and bloody marys won.)

After brunch, we spent the day walking and shopping. The hours just flew by and before we knew it, we each had a new pair of jeans and were ready for cocktails. My friend, Emily, had raved about the Ginger Margaritas at Spice Market, so I suggested we head over and try them out. Spice Market is awesome- great ambiance and the margaritas are definitely worth ordering! Emily and her husband, Curtis, have created their own version of this cocktail and I cannot wait to compare. I will definitely be returning to Spice Market when I return to NYC.

For dinner, I had done a little research and stumbled upon reviews for I Sodi in the west village. I Sodi is a tiny Italian restaurant with about 10 tables or so. The owner used to be an executive for Calvin Klein and was born and raised in Florence, Italy. She decided to leave the fashion world and open a restaurant to pay homage to her Florence roots. The menu is small and seasonal. The food is some of the best I have ever had in my entire life. We each got a pasta dish and we shared an artichoke salad to start. The artichoke salad has me baffled nearly a week later. Sometimes simple food is the most perplexing. It comes down to technique and quality ingredients. In this case, the salad consists of a fresh artichoke that is thinly sliced. It's then tossed with olive oil and salt & pepper. It's finished with a few shavings of fresh Parmesan. The olive oil they use comes directly from olives gathered from the trees on the owner's property in Florence. It is rich and nutty tasting. The texture of the oil lingers and is almost buttery. When combined with the crunch of the artichoke, it made for one of the very best, if not the best salad I've ever had. This seems so simple in concept yet I am at a loss as to how to recreate it. The pasta dish I ordered was the same way: Tagliatelle tossed with Caramelized Onions & Pecorino. Again, just a few ingredients but they were executed in a way that made for one of my favorite pasta dishes I have tasted. Keep in mind- I just returned from Italy a few months ago! Of course, the wine and dessert were equally wonderful, as was the service. The entire dinner experience just made me happy. I'd recommend I Sodi to anyone visiting New York.

We wrapped up our day at Entwine, a wine bar in the village that an old friend of mine owns. I met Yulia back when we worked together at the Queen Anne branch of WaMu. Oddly enough, another person we worked with back then happened to be in the city and we all decided to meet up at Entwine. Both Yulia and Rick came to our wedding and I don't think I'd seen either of them since as they both moved on with their lives shortly after. We had a great time catching up and then Ryan and I made our way back to Penn Station to take the train up to Albany. I am happy we were able to get down to NYC for a proper goodbye. The day was fabulous.

Weekend in Virginia

A couple of weekends ago, I made one last visit to Alexandria, VA to visit our friends Melissa and Earl Ardales. I have really enjoyed being able to visit them each year that we've lived back east. Last year we did a lot of sightseeing in the Washington DC area, so this trip I asked them to show me some of Virginia. Visiting Thomas Jefferson's Monticello had been on my east coast bucket list so they took me to Charlottesville to check it out. The drive through rural Virginia was lovely. Along the way, we stopped at Barboursville Vineyards for a wine tasting. I was pretty skeptical because I have not been impressed with east coast wine but Barboursville proved to be a great little winery. We then stopped for lunch in downtown Charlottesville. We found a great rooftop restaurant and enjoyed a perfect 75 degree afternoon. After lunch, we headed to Monticello. I love seeing the homes of past presidents. Thomas Jefferson was an interesting person. It's amazing to me that he could draft the Declaration of Independence and then run his household with slaves. The grounds at Monticello are beautiful. The house is not what I expected, yet the decor all makes sense now that I think about it. The entryway has a bunch of animal skins and other things sent to Jefferson by Lewis & Clark as they explored the land that Jefferson purchased to expand the country west. Unfortunately, you can't take photos in the main floors of the house. I was able to take some pictures of the cellar level where the kitchen was located and of the grounds. After our visit at TJ's house, we headed back to Alexandria and finished the day with dinner in Old Town. Once again, Melissa and Earl were great hosts and I had another wonderful visit. Here are some photos from the weekend.
Barboursville Vineyards

Skybar, Charlottesville
Gardens at Monticello
Beer Cellar- those bottles are so cute!

"Welcome to my home!"