Friday, December 2, 2011

Road Trip.

I've been rather shady in the last month because of a large amount of Christmas shopping, packing, and traveling (again). My latest travels included Mom flying out to San Diego to ride back to Louisiana with Gray, Fletch, and I. Naturally we went a little out of the way to see some extra sights, but we made the trip in 5 not totally full days.
Gray and Fletch on the road.
I picked Mom up from the airport around 5pm on our first day of travels. Naturally I was about 20 minutes late to the airport because I was trying to pack for 2 months away (including Christmas gifts) PLUS get the house clean enough for guests. Otherwise the trip went smoothly. We drove into Arizona before stopping for the night. We saw the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City then were off to the next thing on the list. 
The London Bridge. Lake Havasu, AZ. 
We drove along Route 66 for a while so Mom could see some of little towns along the way. Including lunch in Kingman, AZ right across the street from this HUGE steam engine. Gray thought it was one of the coolest things on the trip easily. 


We made it to the Grand Canyon around dark, so we had dinner and went back to the hotel. It was pretty cold, but luckily there wasn't a blizzard like our last trip to the Grand Canyon! This may be the first picture that Gray has ever deliberately looked at the camera and smiled. It only too 2.5 years... 


Fletch was super excited about getting out of the car for some sightseeing!
He wasn't as thrilled with Gray holding the leash...

We decided to head north toward Monument Valley after leaving the Grand Canyon. We saw some wild horses, lots of beautiful scenery, and a little place where John Wayne stated multiple times while filming movies in the area. We shared some green chili soup and some Indian fry bread for a quick snack at Goulding's (I LOVE southwest food!), then headed north toward Moab! 



We weren't originally going to go this far north because Mom had to be back home within a certain number of days. We made good time (and I think she secretly wanted to see more awesome National Parks) and decided to add a few miles to the trip and see Arches National Park. Arches is a great park, with lots of different landscapes to see. There are tons of walking trails for visitors to use, but with Gray we decided it was best to stay close to the car. Plus I left the Bob stroller at home (for space concerns) and many are too long/strenuous to expect a 2 year old to keep up or at the least enjoy it. Luckily the roads take you right past most of the formations, so little walking is required to hit the high points. Just outside of Arches, there are many different examples of petroglyphs and pictographs. I could have spent hours/days checking out these rock art locations, but alas we had to get back on the road after seeing a couple (and a dinosaur track). 
Flat Daddy made it to Arches NP! 
Rock Art! 
We left Moab in just enough time, because we made it to the Four Corners just as they were closing. We didn't have to pay to get in and were there with about 5 other people. They actually had to re-open the gate to let us out. We missed the Native Americans that are there with crafts, but we had already done lots of craft shopping while near the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. I had already gotten a really fun Christmas ornament, a little piece of pottery, and some bookmarks or I may have been bitter. :) 
Gray in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado at once! 
Our last stop on the trip was the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Apparently there is a lot more to this place than Cadillacs begin partial buried. This started as a representation of the evolution of the car line (like the birth and death of the tail fin). The cars are buried nose-first at an angle corresponding to the angle of the Great Pyramids of Giza. The cars have been moved and are currently on private land. The cars are preprinted white periodically, and the spray paint art is actually encouraged. I decided to Google Cadillac Ranch that day to tell mom more about it and Wikipedia had a wealth of knowledge (which is where i got that info above from). I'm a little sad we didn't have any spray paint to tag one of the cars. :) It was so windy and super cold, so I recommend a coat if you visit! My ears were burning by the time I made it back to the car, but Fletch loved running around the cars in the open field!
Cadillac Ranch! 
From Amarillo, we made it home in a few hours. It was a long trip, but we had fun seeing tons of new sights!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winter happenings.

Here are a few recent shots of Gray. Not enough for individual blog posts, but fun in a compilation. I can't believe how much he is growing! 
Maybe it was cold in the house...
Fletch is thrilled with this arrangement.  
Playing (and singing) the guitar.  
He looks like Thing 1 in an old wig. :)
Wearing cammies and wings (on the wrong side) like Daddy!
Rain in San Diego? Gray is always mesmerized by the rain since he rarely sees it! 
Fun day out with friends at Pump it Up (a huge room full of bouncy houses)!
Playing with some of the decorations on Mom's Christmas tree (Support Our Troops theme). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Glass Blowing

A group of chicks from the squadron got a Groupon for a glass blowing class several months back. We had so much fun the first time we went, a friend and I had to go back. Since Casey and I had already been once, they let us make a vase on this trip (which is an upgrade from the glass we made the first time). Josh didn't think we actually did anything and the instructor did most of the work, which is totally not the case. Naturally he is standing there and will take over if you are about to destroy the glass. In our case the top of the vase was something we haven't done, so he took over for the very end to flare out the ends. I'm glad he took over at that point though because I wouldn't have known what to do and it would have been destroyed for sure. I'd really love to go again, wonder if Josh would be willing to try it. 
There was a random guy in our 'class', so here is a shot of him making his glass. 
Casey's creation before it really started to take shape.  
This is the hottest part of the process! 

Casey opening up the vase. 
My finished product! 
These are cell photos, so they aren't the greatest but you get the idea. If you have the chance to do this, I highly recommend it! We had tons of fun! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Photobooth Fun

I got a new computer recently, which is great because of all the fun new things I can do on it besides my old one was SOOO slow! We were waiting on a Skype date with Josh one afternoon and Gray and I tried out Photobooth. It was great, mostly because Gray was hilarious while I was switching the effects. Some were much cuter than others, but they were all strange! 
Aliens! 
The least attractive... Frog face.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween

Halloween in San Diego is considerably different than it would be at home in Louisiana. For starters, there would be no awesome Hangar 4 Trick-or-Treating! More importantly, there isn't any family close enough for Gray to swing by their homes to trick-or-treat. :( 

Gray was Lightening McQueen this year. He didn't seem to notice that McQueen is a race car and he was dressed like a race car driver, so I didn't mention that detail. He loved this costume and luckily he was able to wear it and celebrate in several festivities before Halloween. 

The squadron did a couple of things for the kids. Gray always loves the hangar party, because you get to see Marines (Daddy was there last year) AND helicopters PLUS get candy!! We also attended an event at the movie theater on base and watched a short Shriek film and got a few more goodies! 

We also drove north about 20 minutes to a really awesome pumpkin patch. He was able to ride a pony, pick out a pumpkin, and go on a hay ride! Several of Gray's pals met us up there, so all the kids loved the trip. The farm has a small store with a bunch of toys, decoration, dried fruits, and candy, so I picked up some goodies for Josh while we were there. Apparently the chocolate covered gummy bears were sinful. I hope you had a Happy Halloween! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mississippi Sin Dip

If you are a member of the addictive site pintrest.com, you already know that the "pins" are so fantastic you could look for hours. That is, if you had hours to waste. I try no to spend more than 15-20 minutes searching unless I'm looking for something in particular. Like this dip. 

With a name like Mississippi Sin it has to be good, right? I saw the recipe a few weeks back and pinned it for a coffee with the HMH-462 wives. I'm always a little scared to try something new without a backup plan, but this recipe looked pretty amazing. Apparently it went over well because there wasn't much left after the coffee was over. This dip was super easy to make and pretty delish, so I wanted to pass it along to you! 

Don't you love my iPhone pics?

Mississippi Sin Dip
Ingredients:
16 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped ham
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
French bread loaf
*These directions include baking/serving the dip in a bread bowl. I didn't do that, but the recipe is the same. 

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients, except French bread. Stir until well blended. Cut a think slice from top of bread loaf; set slice aside. Using a gentle sawing motion, cut vertically to, but not through, bottom of the loaf, 1/2 inch from the edge, to cut out center of bread. Lift out center of loaf. Fill hollowed bread loaf with the dip. Wrap loaf with foil. Bake dip at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serve with reserved bread cubes, crackers, or potato chips.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Books

I've sort of dropped the ball on keeping up-to-date on the books I've been reading. I almost finished reading Decision Points, but put it down because I didn't want to travel with such a big hard back book (especially with the Nook color going with me) all the way across America and back. I think I'll pick it up tonight and finish the last 50 or so pages I need to finish it... 

While I was driving around America, I read Persuasion by Jane Austen. It was no different than any of the other Austen novels, in that it was fantastic. I'm now reading Emma by Jane Austen because I can't get enough. I may read Mansfield Park soon next for good measure. 

I also read The Carrie Diaries and Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell while we were on the road. I read them both really quickly because they are super easy reads and because I really didn't want to put them down. I'm a fan of Sex and the City, so I have heard about these books forever. I almost felt silly reading about a young girl in high school and then in the summer after she graduated, but at the same time I was in love with early Carrie, Miranda, and Samantha. I wouldn't call these literary books by any stretch of the imagination but they would be great beach reads.

Lastly, I also bought Always Something There to Remind Me by Beth Harbison while traveling. I almost finished it, but I put it down to travel back home, to Vegas, and to Oregon. Somehow in all the craziness I forgot all about it and started Emma. I'll either finish Emma and go back to this one or vice versa. It's a very light read like the Bushnell books, so I would recommend it for the beach. Basically a girl is totally in love with one guy during high school. Life happens and they split up. Years later she is with an incredible guy and when he asks her to marry him, she flashes back to high school. The story unfolds from there and follows what she does to reconcile her past love with her future happiness with the new guy. 

So there you have it. This is me jumping around from one book to the next (which I generally never do) and still reading even though I haven't mentioned it in a while. I'll be at 10 books once I finish the last chapters of Decision Points, Always Something There to Remind Me, and Emma so I think the 12 books in 12 months worked out. I'm sad it hasn't been more but I'm going to say it's because I'm so busy! Maybe next year I can set a higher goal...   

I think I'm going to read Jen Lancaster's If You Were Here and some other classic works after I finish up the three that are in limbo now. Are you reading anything fantastic that I should add to my list?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dirty Thirty?

I'll be the first to admit I was a little apprehensive about turning 30. First we celebrated New Year's 2011. As the months passed, the Class of '99 began to be composed of more 30-somethings than 20-somethings. I have always had one of the last birthdays in my class, but usually it wasn't something to be excited about. 

Until this year. 

As the last few months of my 20's kept getting closer, I thought it would be great to spend my 30th doing something memorable. 


The idea of going to Las Vegas became a real possibility when a few friends said they were in and excited about making the trip. As the time got closer I needed a head count, and a few friends had to back out for valid reasons. A child custody battle, surgery, taking care of businesses (as owners not employees), not able to get a babysitter (with a deployed husband), Marine Corps functions, etc. Seriously, six of my BFFs couldn't make it for one reason or another, and I was a little concerned that I would be spending the weekend alone instead of in Vegas with some of my favorite friends. In the end it worked out that only 3 of us were able to go because of the issues with 5-8 women deciding where to go, what to do, what to eat, and splitting hotel rooms up may have been more drama than it was worth. 

One friend flew into San Diego at the same time as Mom and I did, so we met in the airport. She and I headed out the next morning and picked up the third member of our party from the Vegas airport that evening. As I'm sure you have heard that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." so I'll give you the short version...  

We stayed at the Paris Las Vegas. 



We had a great view of the pool and the Bellagio. 

Not that you can really see the pool, but I promise we had a great view of that too. 
We went out. We danced. Our feet hurt. I took incriminating photos. We went to bed really late. We saw a Cirque Du Soleil show. We gambled. I lost $4.75 (out of $5). We watched the Bellagio fountain 'show.' 


We had an amazing dinner at Fiamma in the MGM Grand. We made toasts with complimentary champagne. We toured the Strip. We came back to San Diego. 



My 20s are officially over but my 30s started in an amazing way because two of my dear friends put their lives on hold for one weekend to celebrate it with me (since Josh wasn't able to). I had a great time in my 20's. I had a lot of fun in college. I made tons of new friends. I earned a BS in Elementary Education, met Josh, and earned my MA in Speech Language Pathology. Josh and I got married, moved to Florida, welcomed Gray into our lives, moved to North Carolina, moved to California, and jumped out of a plane. 

I won't ever look back with sadness, because I lived it up in my 20s. I learned a lot about myself and the world. I developed feelings and opinions about all sorts of things. I grew up in so many ways big and small, but mostly I came into 'me' more than I have ever been in the past. I hope every decade is filled with as much happiness, love, and laughter. I wish that everyone could have as many positive experiences and even less negative ones, because in the end turning 30 for me was just another number. 

If you are as old as you feel, I'm still 23 anyway. Cheers to the next 30! 


Oregon

Mom came out to California to keep Gray for a weekend while I went to Vegas for my birthday. After I got back, we hit the road together to see the state of California via Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, San Francisco, and the Pacific Coast Highway. We also went a little further north to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. We started our drive north through the middle of the state up to Sequoia National Park. On the way there we passed tons of orchards with strawberries, olives, limes, lemons, oranges, and pomegranates. It was pretty neat to see all of the things that are grown in California within a fairly small area. We also enjoyed stopping to figure out what everything was along the way. 

Pomegranates! 
Enjoying his new computer on the road. 
I loved Sequoia National Park. It reminded me of Muri Woods (which we would visit again later in this trip) in that it was so peaceful and serene. I would really love to go camping in this national park... These old growth forests are so amazing to walk around in for several reasons. One big one is that these trees only grow in certain places and they are HUGE. Literally the biggest trees in the world. The sheer size and age of these trees make you realize how truly small you are in the world. I can't help but see God's hand in places like this. 

Gray is in the footprint of the General Sherman tree.
This picture doesn't really do it justice, as the General Sherman is the largest tree in the world with a 25 foot diameter.  
Sequoia NP is connected to Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park, so we visited all three. Yosemite has some amazing views and would also be a great place to camp or use some of the walking trails to get better views of the waterfalls, etc. We drove through basically the entire park, with plenty of stops for photos. 


Our next stop was Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. We got there just before the sun set, so we had some pretty amazing views as we drove around the lake. The lake itself if pretty big (much bigger than I thought it was) and the drive around the rim is breathtaking. I have always wanted to see Crater Lake, so this was a pretty great national park as far as I was concerned. It was so much colder up there, there was still snow on the ground from the last snowfall over 6 months before our visit. This national park gets some crazy amounts of snow every year (averaging around 500 inches each year), so I would not recommend going in the winter months! Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States (9th deepest in the world) at 1,943 feet deep. 

The view from the rim drive. 
Next stop? Napa Valley! We stopped at a winery and shared a fruit and cheese tray with a flight of sparkling wine. With Gray, many places are limited in tours or samples so we drove through for more scenery than wine tasting. 



We stopped at Muri Woods National Park before going into San Francisco. The park was a little cooler than when Josh and I visited in the summer but still as amazing. I really love all of this clover in the park! Since I already told you about many of the things we did in San Francisco a few months back, I won't do that again since I'm bound to repeat myself. 


We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to the Palace of Fine Arts. I've decided that it may be my favorite spot in San Francisco. 


While in San Francisco on this trip, we drove down Lombard Street, rode a few street cars, had ice cream from Ghirardelli Square, visited Alcatraz, and saw lots of other sights and sounds of the city. 

Lombard Street. 
We actually got to ride the street cars!  
Gray loved the 'trains'! 
Ghirardelli Square. 
Alcatraz! 
Mom in a cell during the tour. 
This part of Alcatraz can be seen in The Rock.
I only know that because I recently saw the movie on TV. :)

We left San Francisco and headed south toward Carmel. We decided to drive the 17-Mile Drive and see Pebble Beach. I'm not sure that I was all that impressed, especially with a $10 fee just to drive around the loop. 
Pebble Beach. 
We stopped in Big Sur at Nepenthe and had an amazing lunch with an amazing view. If you ever drive up the PCH, I recommend stopping in for a meal and the fantastic shop below. I'm sorry that Josh and I missed this place on our trip! 

We also stopped at Seal Beach near Hurst Castle. Gray needed to get out and stretch his legs, so this was a great place. It just so happened that he loved the seals anyway so that made it the perfect spot! We watched the seals for a few minutes and got back in the car. 


Our final stop for this trip was in Solvang, California. Josh and I also stopped here and Mom really wanted to see it. It's such a quaint little town and I love stopping there! We stopped in and got Gray some more Dutch chocolates and did some shopping. 

Stolling around Solvang with his duck. 
Overall, I would say this was a great trip! I loved the national parks and Mom saw a lot of things she has been wanting to see!