Month: July 2013

Birthday vacation part two: hiking and staycation

Time for the second part of my vacation post series! On the third day home my mom and I decided to hike a local canyon. It’s about two miles wide and the track to the bottom is a wide gravel path, so nothing too bad…except that it’s in full sun. Remember, I’m the confirmed vampire. I like hiking, but that sun leaves me feeling 110 years old within seconds. It did, however, make for some gorgeous pictures. I’m not sure how many miles you walk altogether to get to the bottom, but we were probably out hiking for almost an hour. Yay for SPF 50!

Believe it or not, those little “bushes” along the river at the bottom are large trees. It’s pretty far down to the bottom! These photos don’t even come close to capturing the scale of the canyon in person. It was really neat.

These clay pot things are actually bird nests, attached to the underside of the cliffs! I guess that’s a pretty nifty way to escape predators and the heat. I don’t know what type of bird builds these.

Once again you can’t tell from the scale of the picture, but those are trees across the river. The scale of these canyons is jaw-dropping. Can you imagine being one of the Oregon Trail pioneers and winding your way through the desert, when you come to one of these canyons? There’s water at the bottom, sure, but how do you get down there? And out again?

We were both kind of worn out from our flurry of activity but we still wanted to check out some small towns nearby that have interesting shops and such, so the next day we got back in the car for another excursion. Somehow, on the one day we decided to go, all of the good shops were closed, and the others were overpriced–but it was fun to wander around and look at things, anyway. The best part was hunting fruitlessly in one town for a little boutique that my mom wanted to check out, only to realize later it was in a different town…and it was closed! I guess we weren’t supposed to spend any more money. It was fun to have all of the mother-daughter time, in any case.

After that we agreed that we were both too worn out to do any more sightseeing, so we chilled at the house for a couple of days and just ate and watched TV and hung out. Finally, after a long week, it was time to pack up and come home.

For much of the drive north again, you couldn’t go around a bend in the road without hitting a construction worker or a member of the U.S. Geological Survey. It was storming again and I felt bad for them, huddled with their surveying equipment under their umbrellas. The funny thing about these guys is that they all look like what you would expect Lewis and Clark to look like if you met them today: awesome beards and mustaches, glasses, and bright yellow rain slickers. My husband says there’s a good chance I saw his old geology professor out there somewhere, because apparently that’s what the guy does for fun in his spare time. This is also the man who led his pupils in identifying types of rocks by sniffing them. You may draw your own conclusions about him.

This picture was taken a few years ago on another trip. You have to admit the country is beautiful, but this isn’t where I’d choose to stand on the side of the road to survey.

More vehicular shenanigans ensued. There was the guy pulling a horse trailer who tried to pass a semi-truck (didn’t work very well) and the minivan of out-of-staters who wanted to drive 45 MPH even on the straight, flat stretches. Whatever magic lies in a road trip disappears on the return trip; at that point, you just want to get home as soon as possible.

Nonetheless, I was already committed to make a detour and visit my grandpa, which meant heading deep into a river canyon. It was storming by the time I made it onto that road so there was no cell service, even in town. It’s usual for there to be no cell service in the canyon, but typically you can get a bar or two at the gas station. Behind me the storm was picking up, and ahead of me was a small patch of clear sky above The Grade.

The Grade is notoriously bad for driving. The mountain is only about 1/2 mile high but the road winds back and forth through a series of sharp switchbacks from the river to the top, so you probably drive about 15 miles by the end of it. On one side you have the mountain; on the other, no shoulder, no guard rail, not even a young sapling standing between you and heaven.

This is a picture from a previous trip, when my husband was driving and I could safely take pictures. This is near the top, on one of the few turns that has two lanes for passing the logging trucks; that’s the second lane and the non-existent shoulder you see there, and then the air. The clouds you see down there are concealing the nearly 2,000 foot drop straight down into the river canyon. Did I mention there’s no shoulder?

This is how Google Maps highlights this stretch of road to go from the canyon up that “half mile” hill. It’s no wonder it takes forty minutes and fifteen miles to go half a mile up that hill. You have to mentally fold up that line so it’s all placed on top of itself; it’s like driving upwards through a Slinky.

It’s dicey enough in good dry weather but there was no way I was going to be caught up there in a storm, nor did I want to be in the river canyon during the worst of it, with the potential for falling rock, trees, and flash flooding, so I figured I’d best get myself up the road to the farm as quick as possible. I could see the lightning in the canyon below me while I twisted and turned up the road. When I relayed this story to my husband, he commented that I almost beat the record time for a trip up the hill. I say I missed my true calling as a driver in the Monte Carlo, because I was owning those turns.

Fun fact: Grandpa actually helped build many of these types of roads way back when, carving them out of the mountains and paving them. As hair-raising as it is to drive on them, I can’t imagine driving the machines that built them!

Anyway, I made it up the hill just in time, because I no sooner pulled into the farm than the sky turned black and it started hailing. Apparently this weather (and the rock slides I mentioned earlier) have been plaguing them all spring. It only lasted a couple of hours and I was able to leave before dinner time, but going back down The Grade in pea soup fog made me kind of glad I live in a decently sized town with lovely straight flat roads. I wouldn’t want to drive those mountain roads in the winter time!

Here’s another older picture of the river canyon down below.

From there I had four hours of fairly boring roads to drive to get home, and then…it was over. The highway comes around a bend and through the trees and suddenly–POW!–you’re back in town. It was a weird feeling to be back in town and home in my apartment after being gone for a week. But it sure was fun.

On the advice of one of my friends, I took a few extra days off when I got home so I could relax around the house and do some fun stuff in town, too. One especially hot evening the husband and I finally decided to head down to a local river to dip our toes and relax. On the way home we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some ice cream, and while we were in the health food section anyway I thought I’d have a poke around to see what other interesting things were available. And that’s when I saw…whatever these are.

Well, to be accurate–these are ginger candies. “Chewy ginger candy” the package declares, “made with fresh ginger!” They’re made for a company called “The Ginger People”. And yes, the little cartoon piece of ginger on the front of the package appears to be eating his own knuckles. The longer you look at it, the more horrifying and hilarious it becomes.

To understand why we found this so hilarious, you have to know that we have a redheaded friend whom I we torment endlessly with “ginger” jokes. This picture is not of Red, but it’s scarily close. I think he has a twin somewhere he hasn’t met yet.

So we basically just died right there in the Free From section of the supermarket, laughing until our sides hurt at this strange, strange product. And then we bought one and mailed it to Red.

Don’t forget to come back for part three and see my birthday makeup haul!

Random Thursday: My Summer Plans

Well, my biggest summer “plan” already happened–my big birthday weekend with my mom, complete with plenty of shopping and other fun stuff. So hopefully I’ll have a post put together this weekend with plenty of pictures and stories for you guys about that.

As far as the rest of the summer goes, I’m afraid it isn’t terribly exciting. I want to do some hiking; we live in a gorgeous area and it’d be a shame not to get out and enjoy it. It’d be nice to spend the day at one of the state parks and stay after sunset to see the stars come out at night; you can’t see them in town because of all the light pollution.

I also hope to spend some time just lounging on a blanket in the grass in the shade, sipping something cool and reading. That’s the best way to spend a lazy summer day!

I need to do some more painting. I really had fun making the cherry blossom print that’s hanging above my bed and now I need to do some other pieces for the rest of the house.

Hopefully I will find a bit more time to work on my German. We kind of fizzled on that right away because spring was so busy, but I hope we can get back on track with that this month.

I also have some serious summer movie watching to do. I still haven’t seen Man of Steel, World War Z or The Great Gatsby. We did finally go to see Star Trek Into Darkness last night and it was awesome.

I really want to get in the habit of working out. I know I keep saying this over and over, but now that I’ve finally got my diet on track (specifically the sugar cravings) I feel like I’m ready to tackle regular workouts. And I finally put all of my torn-out magazine articles with different circuits in a handy three-ring binder, so now I have some mini workouts to try if I don’t have time for a full exercise DVD. 
So tell me–what are your summer plans? (P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of Holley Maher’s new EP ‘Euphorics’–it ends Monday!)

Ten on Tuesday: 7/2/13


1. We’re having a heat wave here so thank goodness for AC. Opening the door is like opening an oven. No likey.

2. I really really want E.S. Posthumous to write a film score. Please, please, please someone make that happen?

3. I did get another one of my wishes granted when M83 scored Oblivion. And it was quite perfect.
4. Speaking of movies: anyone else curious to see Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing? I can’t really put the two together in my head.
5. I am just so not feeling this return to normal life after vacation. I want another week or two off just to be lazy. Waaaah. I know, poor me.
6. How early do you think wedding invitations should be sent out? We just got one for a wedding taking place in a mere month. Am I the only one who is not no way under any circumstances able to swing time off work and all of the other necessities (travel budget, gift, etc.) in one short month? I always though you sent invites several months to one year in advance.
7. I finally tackled the giant stack of magazines collecting dust in the corner and clipped out all the stuff I wanted to paste into a notebook for my own growing style file; the rest went into the recycling bin. And I realized something: I gain very little from these magazines. Oh, they’re fun to flip through, but I didn’t wind up with very many articles I wanted to save. I guess that’s a sign it’s time to cancel the subscriptions!
8. According to Snopes this is false, but it seems like there’d be some way to build one. Just sayin’.
 Security Win. I'm speechless.
9. I have realized I spend waaaaaay too much time on Pinterest when I should be blogging.
10.Look, I made it to #10! That means I can embed a music video for the week and call it quits. This getting back into blogging thing is harder than it sounds.

[CLOSED] Album review + GIVEAWAY: Holley Maher ‘Euphorics’ EP

(Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the album in order to review. The giveaway prizes will be e-mailed directly to the winners by the PR company. I was not compensated in any way for this review and all opinions are my own.)

If you’re searching for a new summer soundtrack, I have a suggestion: Holley Maher’s new EP, Euphorics. The Nashville singer-songwriter’s latest project just dropped June 18th and it’s an infectious blend of acoustic rhythms and piano pop that provides the perfect backdrop to summer road trips and backyard barbecues.

The hubby and I are both fans of acoustic-driven pop artists like Jack Johnson and I’m always looking for new artists to add to the mix. Holley’s music definitely fits the bill, with catchy tracks like “Golden” quickly getting stuck in your head.

There’s more to Holley than just a pretty voice. She’s a multi-talented artist who dabbles in everything from painting to writing to dance, and owns the freelance graphic design boutique H. Maher Creative, where she whips up art for indie bands, small businesses, and brides-to-be looking for something unique for their big day.

That’s a pretty long list of creative endeavors for one person, but Holley seems to feel anything but stretched thin, calling her latest EP “joyful” and “fun to make”. That joy shines through in the music, and it’s easy to see why Holley’s music has been featured in ads for brands like Birchbox and ModCloth; her upbeat style immediately pulls you in and makes you want more.

For her latest project, Holley teamed up with veteran Nashville producer Chris Grainger (who’s worked with some of the biggest alt-pop acts to hit the radio, such as Wilco and Sixpence None the Richer) and electropop artist/songwriter Kyle Andrews, who helped inject a touch of electronic pep into Holley’s acoustic vibe. Explains Holley, “With Euphorics, I really wanted to explore something new and take a step outside my comfort zone.” The result is a mix of pianos, drums, and string arrangements backing Holley’s delicate vocals that would be right at home next to Ingrid Michaelson or Sara Bareilles.

Okay, now on to the giveaway! Bullhorn Publicity is generously offering two lucky readers a copy of Holley’s new EP Euphorics. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter, and remember: you can earn bonus entries every day by Tweeting about the giveaway! The giveaway is open through July 8th and the winners will be contacted on July 9th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Like what you hear? Check out Holley’s official website and blog, and check out her music on iTunes.

(Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the album in order to review. The giveaway prizes will be e-mailed directly to the winners by the PR company. I was not compensated in any way for this review and all opinions are my own.)