Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Year Ago

Today my mother reminded me that it was a year ago today that my grandfather (her father), who we called Pop, or Pop-Pop when we were little kids, fell down the stairs in his house, resulting in his death a few days later.  He was still living alone in his house, as he desired, but it was getting very tough to let him continue to do that. He was really good up until about 100 but after that his mind started deteriorating, pretty rapidly that last year of his life. Heck he was driving his car until 100, but then our family had to take it away from him. His father, my great-grandfather, also lived beyond 100. I remember celebrating his 100th birthday when I was a little girl. They were both very kind and loving men. My grandfather, as well as my grandmother, were very, very important people in my life.

This photo was from his 102nd birthday in 2009, a few months prior to his passing. I need to scan one of his younger photos and post it. He was a handsome young man. I miss him.

Chemical of the Day

Related to my last posting about the Utah company Bubble & Bee...they host an interesting website called "Chemical of the Day" - Dishing out the real scoop on cosmetic chemicals. From their site:

"There are tens of thousands of chemicals in our everyday personal care products, many of which pose serious health threats.  Xenoestrogens, respiratory toxins, neurotoxins.  We do our own independent research on every chemical that we post so you have the latest information available."

Pretty useful information. Check it out: Chemical of the Day

Bubble & Bee Organic

Found some of their products at Whole Foods in SLC. I really like the shower gels. I like to support local businesses like this. Bubble & Bee

For Halloween

Bat photos, captured by Paul, September in southern Utah.







Lava Living

My sister in law has opened up a great vintage flavored gift shop in Provo. Its called Lava Living. If you live in the area, check it out. http://universe.byu.edu/node/11698









Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween




Neighbors

I have some very cool neighbors here in my new Salt Lake City neighborhood. I feel so grateful that we found this house to rent, that we live in this neighborhood, and that we have these neighbors.


A lot of the places I lived in DC and Virginia, we never got to know neighbors very much. I think that is a very city thing. When I moved to Takoma Park, MD and became a home owner, I did have a great neighborhood with a lot of very cool neighbors. But for some reason I never really connected much with them. I did not have kids or a dog, which seemed to be the common thing that got the neighbors out and about and connected. We had a very active neighborhood with a yahoo group email list and lots of block parties and cook outs, etc. But I stayed pretty isolated from the neighborhood activities. I don't know how that happened. 


Well, no, I do have an answer. I think it was my lifestyle. I worked all the bloody time, so I was never around. And my ex husband wasn't one to take a lead on being engaged in the neighborhood. And then my marriage was falling apart and I was going through all of that. And then I was alone, again with no kids, no dog and no real roots in the community. I think I just never felt like it really was my neighborhood - a true fit. Which is why I was more than ready earlier this year to sell the house and move on.


When we arrived here in SLC, the neighbors around here were all very friendly. Stopping by to say hi and introduce themselves.  Very Utah. We had a cookout in June and invited some of the neighbors we had met. It was a great party. A lot of neighbors. A lot of fun. Then we got busy with wedding planning and family matters and suddenly BAM its almost November and we haven't really hung out with the neighbors again. You know how that goes. You get busy. Stuff happens. Time flies.


There are three couples we've connected with - an older couple (70s) across the street, a couple our age next door, and another slightly younger couple across the other street. The older couple organized a little party last night for the 8 of us - hors d'oeuvres, chocolate fondue, champagne toasts (for our recent wedding) and lots of wine and scotch. It was so much fun hanging out with them and getting to know them better. Lots of funny stories. In one of the couples the wife is an OBGYN and her husband is an Emergency Room nurse. They have, as you can imagine, some pretty weird and funny stories. 


I am looking forward to the next dinner party.

Frites

Oh man...we had the best frites in Bruges. Today I long for them...

video

But I, and you, can have them in Salt Lake City...check it out.

More Old Snuggly Kitties

Sometimes they love each other

I caught them holding hands

Friday, October 29, 2010

Old Snuggly Kitties

Cheaters

Yes. Cheaters. Squeeze Candy. Guilt Free! Eat candy and lose weight?
I just saw this in the grocery store. So nasty.


Utah Impressions Part 1

I have only been here in Utah since the end of May. Most of the time until now has been spent in my house working (I telecommute for an organization in the Washington, DC area), preparing for my wedding (which was in September) and family time (mine and Paul's), so I feel like I really haven't been out and about enough. However, here are some initial observations/impressions of Utah (I've been keeping a list):


Let go of the bad polygamy jokes. Please. When I was moving out here and now that I am here, I can't believe the amount of ribbing and bad jokes I have received about Utah from people who don't live here. Most of them center around polygamy, leading me to wonder how many people only think about polygamy when they think of Utah. It really is quite amazing. Of course things like TLC's new tv program Sister Wives don't help the situation. So now I feel Utah's pain. The polygamists are a tiny "out there" faction of the Mormon religion. Mormonism does not equal polygamy. The polygamists are to the Mormons as oh let's say the snake handlers are to the Pentecostal church. There is a whole lot of people and things out here who have nothing to do with polygamy. Get over it people.


Although I do find it funny that one of the local breweries (yes, you can find alcohol in Utah - easily) has a beer called Polygamy Porter. The company sells t-shirts that say "Polygamy Porter - I will share my man, but not my beer." That makes me laugh. I think about buying that for all my girlfriends...


Nice people. In general everyone I have interacted with out here is very, very nice. Living in the DC area for 20+ years, I had gotten used to terrible service. Rude, crass, uncaring, disgruntled...yeah, I am generalizing and it wasn't always that way. I have lots of great experiences, but I sure have a LOT of examples of those negative experiences. You who still live there - I know you know what I mean. Or maybe you just got used to it and you don't even notice anymore. Like I did. People here are friendly and polite. I  notice it everywhere. So what is this? Do nice people just gravitate to Salt Lake City? Am I just lucky to only encounter nice people? Is it a Mormon thing? I don't know. But the niceness is nice.


Many, many more observations to come...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Utah DMV Experience


I had to get a drivers license. Since moving to Utah I've needed to trade in my Maryland license for a Utah one, but just hadn't done it yet. But now I needed one urgently because when I was in Europe on my honeymoon I lost my wallet, with my drivers license. So I have been without a license since we've returned, carrying my passport around so I have a form of ID. Now I have to send my passport to Washington to get a visa, leaving me with no ID, unless I get a new license.

Last night we researched the process on line. I was horrified to learn that I would have to take a written test. A test? I haven't had to take a driver's test since I first got my license at 16! I was also fearful they would make me take a new driving test since I no longer have any driver's license. So, I pulled up the Utah Driver's Handbook - 60+ pages of fun! I read through the whole thing, while watching bad tv, wondering what the heck would be on the test.

Did you know that most traffic accidents in Utah happen between 2 and 6 pm? (This one was on the test and I knew it from studying) Did you know that you may not have a Utah license if you are unable to understand highway signs in the English language? (also on the test). Do you know what the colors and shapes of signs mean? Sigh...

So, we pull into a DMV office in Orem around 10:15 this morning. We walk in and there is only one person in line ahead of us at information. (yay!) A few minutes at information and my photo is done and they give me a number. As soon as I get the number,  my number is called. (yay!) Oh memories of sitting for a very, very long time in crowded, scary DMV offices in Virginia and Maryland with really nasty DMV employees...I recall one time in a particular Maryland DMV really worrying that someone could pull out a gun and have a throw down....

Anyway, a few minutes later everything is done, I pay $25 (is it that cheap back east?), and I am sent to a computer to take my test. No driving test (yay!). I am nervous I am going to fail the written drivers test. How embarrassing would it be to fail the written drivers test? However, it is OPEN BOOK! (yay!) How can you fail?? 25 questions and you have the book to find all the answers. And I swear, for like the first 7 questions I was convinced that the cursor was sitting on the correct answer. Each time I hit enter to the next question, the cursor would be there floating over the next correct answer. Finally I realized it was just a coincidence. Anyway, I knew a lot of it and I was able to find or confirm my answers in the book, except for one. The question was something like - if you are on military duty with a Utah license posted out of state, your license is valid up to 90 days after discharge from service - true or false? WTF?? Securing a Utah drivers license is dependent on knowing this? Seriously? I couldn't find it in the book, but I guessed. I can't even remember what I said, but it was the right answer. I am happy to say that I got 22 out of 25 correct and I passed. The questions I got wrong were dumb.

In spite of making fun of the questions they ask on the test, two giant thumbs up for the Utah DMV. What a beautiful, pain free, fast process compared to my life experience of DMVs in the DC area.

Reason # 78 why I love Utah.

Route 92 - Alpine Scenic Highway

My initial idea for creating a blog revolved around this move I made in May - leaving my life of more than 20 years in the DC area to move out west to Salt Lake City, Utah. I wanted to write about this new place...my observations of Utah...someone born and raised on the east coast and very much a DC person moving out into this strange new world - not a move to NYC or Chicago or LA or San Franciso...no, a move to Salt Lake City. Very different from what I am accustomed to.


The blog is very new, and it has morphed into something to capture more than just Utah. To really capture scenes and experiences from all places. I am happy with this, but I will be writing more about Utah in the coming months. 

Today I was able to head down to Orem and Provo with Paul for some family things. It takes about 45 minutes driving on a major highway south from SLC. It is kind of a boring highway drive, with development and billboards and traffic, although you do have some beautiful views of the mountains that surround you. SLC and these towns south sit in a valley between two mountain chains. To the east you have the Wasatch and Uinta mountains, part of the Rocky Mountains, running north south. To the west of SLC you have the Oquirrh Mountains also running north south.

Today we took a different route coming home; one I have wanted to do and one that will probably be snowed in very soon for the winter. We took Route 92, also known as the Alpine Scenic Highway, becoming the American Fork Canyon Road. Look it up on Google maps and it says - closed winters. From today's drive, I can see why. I was concerned about the state of the road given the snow earlier this week, but we were pretty confident that the roads would be clear as its been sunny and warmer for a few days. The roads were clear for the most part, with a few places that made me a little nervous. Thankfully Paul is an excellent driver. 

You drive past the Sundance Resort then up into Uinta National Forest. It is not a very big road. It is very remote. After we passed the Sundance area, we passed only one car the entire route. There is nothing up there but trails and camping areas that are probably populated during the summer, but are deserted now. The drive takes you through the largest grove of Aspens I've ever seen. It was so beautiful. I can only dream of what it must have looked like a few weeks ago when the colors had changed bright yellow and the leaves were still there. Unfortunately we got back from our honeymoon just a little too late to catch the Autumn colors at that altitude. Next year. Paul said that Aspens have a particular smell. We rolled down the windows...and he was right! There was this distinct wonderful smell. It was sunny and peaceful and beautiful. I only had my iPhone, but I tried to capture a few photos.

Aspen Grove

Driving behind the mountains

In Orem, heading towards the mountains - first snow with Fall colors

Snow on the roads



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Quick Rant

Just a quick little rant before I go to bed. I was reading some online news earlier today and discovered the latest antics of Charlie Sheen. Have you heard about this? Man, I cannot stand him. He is such a freak. Do you know that this man earns almost $2 MILLION per episode of that show Two and a Half Men?! I refuse to watch that program. I cannot support him. How can people employ him and allow him to just continue along? This is so, so wrong.

My backyard this morning

View out my window just now this morning
Do you think maybe its time to put away the summer lounge chairs? 

Snow October 27? New one for me. Snow always comes much later in DC and Pennsylvania where I grew up. I do recall my first year in grad school at Cornell in Ithaca, NY where it snowed 10 inches on Halloween. I was in shock. This snow is pretty, and it will melt later today, and its supposed to be a lot warmer this weekend. Salt Lake City's wacky ever changing weather patterns...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pets

Sometimes...when I am cleaning out the litterbox, or cleaning up puke from the carpet, I think...is having pets really worth it? But then I get over it. Because I love these fuzzy creatures and their antics. 

Life Work Balance

Moon rising - Escalante, Utah
Earlier I looked at the clock, and it was 7 pm. And I was sitting down with Paul to eat dinner. That I had just cooked - tomato tortilla soup. And I thought...this is so nice. In my previous life in DC many, many nights at 7 pm I was just leaving the office. I spent so much time commuting to and from the office - around 1.5-2 hours a day. And then I typically worked far more than 8 hour days. I love to cook, but in DC I often got home too late and too tired to think about cooking dinner. Now I work from home, so no time spent getting dressed up to go to the office, no time commuting. It is beautiful. And now that I am only working  half-time, I have to keep track of my hours. When I was a full time employee I just never seemed able to cut it off at 40 hours. Now, only being paid half of what I earned before, I am very conscious to not work more than what I am getting paid. It is tough to do in my line of work, but it is possible if you really work at it. Right now I have increased my hours due to a new project starting up, but even that is ok because I am just here at home and I can do all of my work, do things around the house, goof off on Facebook, and still have time to try a new recipe for dinner. With my husband. I get to spend time with him. Which is so important. And was so tough to do in my past life.

I feel very grateful that I have been able to make this move and these changes in my life.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mountains and Sky

I am new to Salt Lake City (only here since June). I am continuously amazed by the beauty of the sky and the mountains here. It is very different from the east coast where I lived. The sky is so huge here. The view so expansive. The weather changing all the time, creating amazing clouds and light. Last night a storm raged through here. All night long. Thunder and lightening and crazy rain. We woke up this morning to see the first dusting of snow on the mountains. Driving to the grocery store this afternoon, the clouds were crazy. I worry I am going to drive off the road one day gaping in amazement at these mountains and this sky.

Shot on the drive home from the grocery store

Shot on the drive home from the grocery store

First Thing I Saw When I Exited the Paris Airport

It just didn't seem right...

Found on a Random Alley Wall in Basel, Switzerland - Oct 2009



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bruges

Bruges
Bruges was our favorite stop on our honeymoon. Very romantic. Quaint. Quiet. Walkable. Cobblestone streets. Canals. Horse drawn carriages. Old churches. Beautiful chocolate shops. Lovely little restaurants with good food and great Belgian beer. We loved it. Will go again. 

Hotel De Tuilerieen
I never knew Bruges was such a tourist hotspot. A lot of visitors from Europe, the United States, Asia and many hotels to house them.  Most of the hotels are small and many of them are very cute. Because we went to Bruges on a whim, we had not done any research on hotels. Luckily a friend had given us a recommendation, we called from the Paris airport and they had a room. The Hotel Terduinen was nice and I would recommend it, but there are other better options. This hotel faces one of the canals. The owner/manager is very nice. The breakfast was the best we found out of all hotels on the trip that offered breakfast - best croissants on the entire trip. We had a canal facing room, which was nice, but the rooms were just ok. And it was pricier than some other places we checked out later. The location was a further out of the main area than we wanted - about a 15 minute walk.

In our walks around the town we checked out other hotels and found one we really loved - the Hotel Tuilerieen. This hotel made us wish we could stay in Bruges longer. This is where we would stay again. It is right in the heart of the town. We had a gorgeous canal facing room. The building was a 15th century noble residence. It is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Cute hotel bar. Very fancy restaurant. Skip the expensive breakfast with the chocolate fountain (see earlier post), because that really wasn't worth it. Except for that - gorgeous hotel.

View from hotel room

Bored to Death

If you do not watch this show, you should. It is fantastic. Hilarious. Jason Schwartzman. Zach Galifianakis. Ted Danson. Need I say more? Now showing Season 2. HBO.








Favorite Weird Art at the Pompidou, Paris

I am Sorry

We are watching programs we have recorded. Sixty Minutes. A story about Israel "Controversy in Jerusalem: The City of David." I am squirming on the couch. I can hardly contain myself. I have to shut up because I know I am annoying Paul with my commentary and rage. Which is why I am writing. I am sorry, but the whole history and reality of that region is insane. It makes me crazy. I can't stand it. I can't watch shows about it, I can't read about it because it is all so nuts, preposterous, tragic, violent, unsolvable, unresolvable. And there is nothing I can do to make it less insane. So I choose to not follow what is happening there. Because it just enrages me. Which isn't good for me or anyone. So I am not watching this show anymore. And I am done venting now. I realize I might piss some people off with this. Sorry. This is my Byway. I had to vent. Here is a pretty scene to help wash away the insanity...


Paris Sky

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Willy Wonka

I am sick. For the fourth day. I feel weak and horrible. So, after too many hours in bed, I have moved to the couch for a different environment. Turning on the tv I find one of my favorite movies of all time - symbol of childhood - Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Not the remake with Johnny Depp. I love Johnny Depp, but seriously, I don't know why he would try to tamper with a masterpiece. No remake can replace the original. 


This film is such a piece of my generation's pop culture. I remember talking about it with friends in high school and in college and after college. I have never met anyone from my generation who did not like this movie. How many times did I watch this movie growing up? I probably saw it a few times every year of my life. It was always played around Thanksgiving and Christmas and then you could find it randomly sometimes. Its one of those films that I can watch over and over again - and there aren't many of those for me (Auntie Mame, Dirty Dancing, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, So I Married an Axe Murderer are a few that come to mind right now). I admit, watching it now at 43 it doesn't capture me like it did in my youth, but I still love it. I still got a little teary eyed when Charlie found the ticket and I am sure I will get teary eyed again at the end. I always do.


Watching this movie I am reminded how much I loved Gene Wilder. He made this movie. He was brilliant. Not just in this, but many other films. It might seem strange, but I had such a crush on him as a young girl. Alongside the likes of Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb, Scott Baio, Erik Estrada, etc. I thought Gene Wilder was dreamy. I think it was his humor and his kindness at the end of Willy Wonka, plus I saw him play romantic comedy roles in other films. I also loved that he was married to Gilda Radner and it was sad when he lost her to breast cancer. I really thought he was a sexy man. I also thought Alan Alda was sexy. I think I was a sensitive child.


I just learned that Willy Wonka was filmed in Munich. The exterior of the Wonka factory was the Munich gasworks. The city in the final aerial shot from the glass elevator is Munich. The film interiors were shot on the Bavaria Film Studios in Grunwald. And as soon as the film was completed, the cast of Cabaret (Liza Minelli - 1972) moved into the studio and sets. I also learned that author Roald Dahl was so unahppy with the film adaptation of his book that he refused to watch it. His loss.