Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost enough time

Here we are, with Christmas just around the corner, quite literally! Even though it is the same time, every year, I always seem to be caught off guard. I'd still like to run out and get one more thing, but am not sure that I will have time...

As far as work goes, people are still coming in, begging for their gifts to be done on time, and me squeezing them in to make as many people happy as possible. I love that look of appreciation on their faces. I hate that they've left their gift buying to the last minute, (a chuckle arises at the realization that I too, am one of them). As I sit here, I hear an advertisement on the radio for my jewelry store, and the urgency of the season returns. Upon my arrival at work this morning, I know that it will be a day full of energy, favors, and rushing around. I love this time of year, when the workday goes by in the blink of an eye. This year it seems that the rush has started a bit late. With the pressure on and time dwindling, I find that I don't feel overwhelmed. I do what I can, and if I can't, I except that. This is my stress less week, and whatever I am doing, it seems to be working.

Justin went home on Tuesday, essentially giving me more time. Time to wrap the gifts that I have already gotten, and time to myself, which is always nice, although not very often taken when the opportunity arises. When I go to work tomorrow, I will leave directly to go to Helena where I will spend my first Christmas with his family, meeting his sister for the first time, and playing plenty of Euker. My time in Helena will be short lived, as I will arrive by 5pm on Christmas eve, and I must leave very early on the 26th to make it back to work in Missoula.

I am very thankful that I will be with Justin and his family this holiday season, while my own family is hunkering down in Iowa to wait out a winter storm. It's ironic that while I live in Montana, 20 hours from home, I am not spending my Christmas alone, and my sister, who lives less than two hours from home will be forced to spend it without family, due to the weather. So, Michelle, I will be thinking of you quite often on Friday, and I'll see you then, albeit via web cam.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter blues

Yep, I believe that I do have them, those dreadful Winter blues. I suppose taking my Italian vacation at the onset of the darker season here in Montana didn't help. I was happy to be back as I had missed Justin and Oliver, (and my flat iron), but I do believe that this was the first vacation that I had ever taken that I didn't miss work. I wasn't anxious to get back to my routine, albeit a pretty relaxed one at that, as I had grown comfortable in the unknown.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I'm a pretty upbeat person on any given day, but lately I seem to have a hitch in my giddy up. Some would say that I am in a rut, and I do believe that is correct. The only problem with this is that I have never gotten into this kind of a funk, and I'm not quite sure what has brought it on (besides the obvious lack of sunshine) so I'm equally unsure of how to get out of it. A major difference in my routine is that my running has suffered since my return. I am still running a bit slower, and in the last couple of weeks I have missed several runs, mostly due to it being so terribly cold here, and I can't run on a treadmill very well. This frustrates me to no end! I push myself while I am running and it just doesn't seem to help. I have even started going to the gym several times a week to see if it is a strengthening problem, but that will take some time to develop. On the upside here is that I have started taking a spinning class. I absolutely love it! It's an intense, constant workout for 60 minutes, and I find that my mind focuses 100% on it, just like when I am running. I feel great when I am done with the class, and am in a great state of mind as well.

Next on the potential list of causes is work. It has been unbearably slow with repairs and custom work, so much of my time there I am doing busy work. This is also frustrating, as I have a million other things that I could be doing aside from work. However...I could also be 'playing' while still working. What I should be doing is designing and working on my wax carving skills. Should. I just can't, or won't get motivated to do it. The real problem with this is that I desperately want to. I am the only one that knows my true potential, and it is there, locked deep within me somewhere. I was motivated the other night while Justin and I were out to dinner with another couple and they asked to see my jewelry. Justin knew everything about each piece, and had the same enthusiasm about them that I had had when I was making them. How do I get that back? I know how, or at least I think I do...I must look at work the way I did when it was first new to me, not as work, but as play.

Maybe a change in they way I look at my world will help all of this.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Real life

I can't believe it's been a month since my last 'real life' post. I've been so busy editing photos and writing about my trip that I haven't had time reflect on what's been going on lately.

The most noteworthy thing is, I have accepted an offer on my house back in Iowa. My ex and I decided to change realtors in October, and signed with a new company 3 1/2 years to the date after we put an offer on it, and exactly 18 months to the date that we put it on the market. That was October 26; we had our first and only offer on November 10, while I was in Italy. There are a lot of emotions associated with this, first being relief, then sadness, and then anger. Relief because I will no longer be paying what equates to two rent payments per month. With this relief also comes a sense of freedom. I am no longer tied to something that caused me so much excitement, only to end in sadness and frustration. I now feel that I will be able to travel more (now that the bug has bitten me), save more for my future, and pursue other interests. The sadness is because I really, really loved my house. As soon as we saw it in the Spring of 2006, I could already see a family there, my family. Things don't always work out the way you plan, and in many ways, that is also a relief. Anger is a horrible emotion, but one that is also tied to this house, so in that way, I am also glad to be done with it. Having tried to tell myself that I am not angry with my ex for what he did, I still am.
I am angry with myself, for not seeing what was really going on, for not making better choices. I guess it is better to acknowledge something than to deny it.

What better time of the year is there to have a feeling of closure, to be able to settle into the life that I am already living without the distraction of my baggage? A time for renewal, and forgiveness.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Saved the best for last; wine tour

Upon leaving Rome, we were planning on heading down to Naples. After considering how much time we would have there (a day is all) we decided to head to Sienna. We hopped on the Eurostar train again and made it to Florence around 3pm. Our intentions for our last full day in Italy was to go on a wine tour out of Sienna. While trying to decided how to get there from Florence, we got to thinking, why not just stay there again, as we would have to come back through Florence to make it to Pisa to catch our flight anyway.

Back to Archi Rossi we went, where we were set up in an eight bunk room. We signed up for a wine tour Shaun had recommended that would take us to San Gimignano, Siena, and Chianti. Before supper, we headed towards the river for sunset, that was very uneventful, as had all of them so far. Back at the hostel, we ran into Stephen, whom had been one of our roommates in Rome. We enjoyed his company again for this dinner, and our last dinner the next night.

Wine Tour
Into a full eight seat Mercedes van we went, heading through Florence's rush hour. Once on the interstate, our guide, and driver sped around other cars, swerved in and out of lanes and kept us on the edge of our seats. Our first stop was San Gimgnano and my breath was take
n away! This is the side of Italy that I had wanted to see. Cobbled streets led us around this towered village, with quaint shops and cafes all around. At 10am it was very quiet, with hardly anyone out and about, the air cool and crisp, and just a light haze on the horizon. We stopped as a group for treats, picture opportunities, and information. Our guide was intelligent, humorous, and lighthearted. He took us into little nooks and crannies that we would have otherwise missed, including the entrance courtyard to a museum that had frescoes on the walls and a well.

View of countryside around San Gimignano

Next up was a stop at a castle, I think. I don't even know the name of the town that was near it. This wasn't a planned stop, however, since we were running ahead of schedule, we stopped for a few moments to take a couple of pictures.

When we arrived in Siena, we met up with another tour group of about the same size for lunch, and then a guide took us all around the city. Siena was much busier than San Gimignano, but then again, it is quite a bit larger as well. We went into one church here, and it was pretty impressive, albeit a bit plain. As many churches as I had been in on this trip, I just couldn't get used to how large they were. All of the churches that I had been in back home were large as well, but they were filled with pews for the congregation to sit on, which made the space look smaller. From there we made our way into the city, making stops along the way to take photos of the great vistas that Siena had to offer.

We made our way to Piazza del Campo, the stage of the famous Palio race. This is where everyone was. At 2pm it was packed with tourists, locals, and us! In fact, we as we were leaving this area, I recognized someone, in Siena! fact, it was Louise, who was also staying at Archi Rossi back in Florence. We had had breakfast with her that morning and she had mentioned her plans of going to Siena that day as well. Such a small world, even in Italy!

Catedrale di Santa Maria

Back with our original group, we headed towards the Chianti region, making a pit stop to take photographs of vineyards and surrounding areas. By this time, we were still on back roads, and our driver was still driving fast and weaving in and out of traffic. I guess you could say he was fitting the Italian stereotype of a crazy driver. I have never experienced car sickness, but why not have my first bout of it in Italy? I felt nauseous and light headed, and couldn't wait to get to the vineyard and be still for a bit. Once we arrived at Fattoria Sant' Appiano, we were given a quick rundown of how they make their wine. We had the luxury of tasting five wonderful wines, ranging in price from 8 euros to 25 euros per bottle. I chose to bring home a bottle of Chianti Superiore Cottaccio 2005 that was 18 euros. I look forward to the special occasion that will qualify in opening it.

Our new friends from Hong Kong and Austrailia

Needless to say, I can't wait to go back to Italy again, although, the next time I go, I will try to visit the smaller villages and avoid the larger, more touristy cities.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lost and Frustrated in Rome

This day was kind of a late start for us. Shaun, Mindy and I headed out for the day after a quickie breakfast. The weather was warmish and clear. We stopped by a courtyard but to this day I'm still not sure what it was called. Several headless statues were there, and of course there was a fountain, as those seem to be everywhere in Rome.

From there we headed towards the terminal to look at bus passes around the city. Mindy and I ended up getting a one day pass that would drop us anywhere along a certain route...and pick us up anywhere along the route as well. Also included with the pass was a tour of the Vatican museum and St. Peter's Basilica on Monday.

The three of us got on the bus with plans to catch another bus to the Catacombs. This all worked out well and we were dropped off not far from where we needed to be. What we didn't know was that the Catacombs were closed from 12-2, and we were just getting there at 12:15. I was incredibly frustrated for the time we had to wast to get there, and wait there, but it would have been more wasteful to leave without seeing it. Mindy and Shaun were good sports though, and we ended up enjoying our time, taking pictures of the little village that was there, and the beautiful landscapes.

The tombs were very maze like and disorienting, chilly and a bit musty smelling. No pictures were allowed here as well, but I don't think the lighting would have been that great anyway. By the time we flagged down a but to take us back to where we switched buses, it was too late to go into the Colosseum, and it was also raining quite heavily at times. Shaun headed to a film about Rome that he wanted to see, and Mindy and I got off of the bus a short time later, only to be turned around time and again.

We wandered in one direction for a while, and then, feeling like we were headed in the wrong direction, would turn around and head down a different street. Now is a great time to mention the streets of Rome. They are a bit wider than those in Florence, and have wider sidewalks for pedestrians, however, what always got us looking at the map was the fact that no streets in Rome last very long...after a few blocks, you end up in a little square and from there, the street we'd just been on ended, and several others branch off. I'm sure that was the main contributing factor of getting lost, as was the fact that it was pouring down rain in the dark. Once we found the Pantheon again, we had dinner at a nice little place with a view of the monument, again outside under a tent with heaters nearby.
We finally knew where we were, and after dinner were planning to head back to the hostel.

Planning...doesn't always work out the way you intend. Along the way, it started to rain again, and low and behold, there was an Irish bar. What was to be a quick stop for one beer turned into three pints for myself, and two for Mindy. We met a lot of real Romans there, an also and American who had been living in Rome for the past four years. From there, we did make it back to the hostel, where we opened another bottle of wine and hung out with our other two roommates.


Saturday night
We arrived in Rome on the Eurostar train in just over an hour and a half. Tickets were much more than the regional trains but saving time was invaluable, as we only had three days to be in Rome. Again, our hostel of choice was just a few blocks from the terminal so we made it there and were checked in by 3:30pm. This time, we were staying in a six bed m
ixed dorm. Also getting settled in was Shaun, whom had also just arrived from Florence on the same train. After a bit of chit chat, we realized that we had also been staying at the same hostel there as well. Around 4:15 the three of us headed out. The plan was to do a loop and see some of the sights lit up at night. On our agenda was the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, The Palatino, and of course The Colosseum. Other side streets brought us to interesting areas as well, and a walk along the river proved to be cold and smelly. We took a break to warm up and fill our bellies and then we were off again. By the time we made it back to the hostel at 11pm, our feet were sore, our bodies frozen, and and our minds tired. Not too tired to enjoy two more bottles of wine though!
Trevi Fountain


Piazza Navona

Fiume Tevere



Sunday, November 22, 2009

More about Florence


Although the night before had been a late night, Mindy and I were both up by 8am. I headed down for breakfast while she got ready for the day with our two roommates, neither of which spoke very much English. At 10am we went with a group from the hostel on a walking tour. Most of this tour were places we had already been to, however, it was nice to hear the history behind the buildings, and the people who had commissioned and designed them.
After walking through the narrow streets and stopping at the usual landmarks, we took a gelato/espresso break at one of the oldest cafes in Florence. As I had just had a gelato the day before, and had not yet had my morning coffee, I decided to have an espresso (one is all I need).

After the tour, we headed to Chiesa di Santa Croce. This church is the resting place for the most famous Florentines, however, that does not include Dante, who died while in exile. Instead of having a tomb inside the church, there is a rather large statue of him in the square outside. Unfortunately, the main altar was being worked on, so what we could see was through scaffolding. What we could see was pretty neat. There was a courtyard with sculptures that I had seen before (again, from my studies in college), and in the museum section of the church was a very extravagant altar behind a very large gate.Up next was the Galleria degli Uffizi. The galleries are on the top two floors so up more stairs we went. By this time, both Mindy and I were starting to think that the Italians really like their stairs, and they like them steep! Yet again, no photos were allowed, but it was a nice break from looking at everything through a lens. About an hour into the museum, we had started to notice how tired our legs were. I couldn't help but think that sitting down would be nice.

After dinner and at least one bottle of wine we took it easy and hung out in the lounge area of the hostel for the evening.


We started this day with a run around Fortezza da Basso, which was a couple of blocks away from the hostel. We ran around it three times, which took almost 26 minutes, and was probably three miles total. It felt great running at such a low elevation, however, the car exhaust was horrible! My legs had been feeling very tight and I remember feeling much better after this run.

We headed out on that days tour after checking out and stowing our bags in the holding area again. This leg of the tour was the 'off the beaten path tour' and took us to areas we hadn't been to yet. While taking a break on Ponte S. Trinita, our guide told us about the Ponte Vecchio, which is where all of the jewelry stores are. This also turned into a great picture opportunity, and as we knew some of the people on the tour, I felt comfortable handing over my camera so that I could be in some photos.

Up next was another break at a cafe just off the bridge. This time, I did have a gelato and it was almost as good as the first one that I had had on our first day in Florence. After our indulgence, we headed to Chiesa di Santa Spirito. We were able to go inside here, and it was wonderful. No repairs were going on so we were able to see everything. It was a bit cold inside, and all of us were anxious to get outside and into the sun. This was a perfect day, with blue skies that were great for taking photographs.

With the conclusion of this tour, we said goodbye to our friends and picked up or packs. We were headed to Rome!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Florence, day one

Our first stop in Florence was the information office right across the street from the train station. We were pointed in the direction of a hostel a couple blocks away from the terminal and must have had the "wow" expression on our faces, as a gentleman who passed by us came back and asked us if we needed help finding something. We told him that we were looking for Ostello Archi Rossi. As luck would have it, he and his wife were staying there and informed us that it was right around the corner. While we walked with him he told us a bit more about the hostel; free breakfast and dinner, free internet on their computers, two different, and also free tours from the hostel, and nice people to boot! We got our room reserved and put our packs in the "holding" area, as we couldn't check in until 2:30pm. They assured us that our bags were safe and off we went.

Our first destination was the Piazza Duomo. Before we made it there, we stopped off at a shop and had the most amazing homemade gelato. Ah, heaven. It was delicious! As we continued toward the Duomo, I was surprised that it was right there, with shops and restaurants right next to it. But how spectacular it was!
We headed into the cathedral and it was startlingly huge. It seemed to go on forever. The highlight, of course, was looking up into the dome. Amazing frescoes cover all of it, and I was speechless. Since the weather was favorable, we decided that a trip to the top of the Dome should be done right away. If I remember correctly, it was 463 steps to the top. Not hard at all, and it was also nice because there were windows as we made our way to the top. Also nice was that in the off season, not very many people were on their way up, or down, and it wasn't hot. I couldn't imagine climbing to the top with high season tourists and hot weather.
Once at the top, it was hard to take it all in. What a beautiful city! I wanted to go everywhere. While I am a bit timid of heights, this didn't bother me at all...had I been able to, I would have stayed up there until nightfall. To see the city lit up would have been incredible, but it was still very wonderful to see it in the daylight.After that adventure, we headed to the Ponte Vecchio, where all of the shops on the bridge are jewelry shops! I was in my element there, however, I didn't find a piece that I just had to have. My plan was to find an authentic Italian piece of jewelry, a search that went on for the duration of the trip without success. A wonderful idea has hatched and now I just need the time to complete it (probably after the new year).

Right off of the 'jewelry strip' as I will forever call it, was a wonderful cafe that was displaying some very delicious looking pizza. Basil, tomato, and fresh mozzarella on a wonderful crust was almost hard to share with Mindy. It hit the spot, but I was wondering how to ask for honey, and if I would get strange looks as to why this silly American would want honey with her pizza.
After our pizza lunch, we headed to Galleria dell 'Accademia, the home of the original David. A bit disappointed that I couldn't take any pictures, I just took him in. I remember wondering what the big deal was about him while studying art in college, and I was very pleased to see what the big deal was in person. The scope of knowledge that Michelangelo would have required to sculpt this perfect person, at such a young age (I believe that he was 29) baffles me. I suppose without the distractions that we have now, it was a relatively easy task to find the time for study.

After some aimless strolling through the confusing streets of Florence, we made it back to our hostel and saw our room for the first time. We were sharing it with two other women, who were not there when we arrived. After making our beds and unpacking a few things, we headed down to the cafeteria for supper. I had a veggie pizza, while Mindy enjoyed spaghetti. There were a lot of people there and it did take about 20 minutes to get our meals. That was alright by us, as we had a bottle of wine to capture our attention. After dinner, we headed out for a nighttime stroll, with the soul purpose being to get more wine. Back to the common area we went, where we were looking over Lonely Planet Italy (which I strongly suggest anyone to get for foreign travels) to see what we should do the next day. A few tables down, there was a group of five young adults that were playing what was obviously a drinking game, and playing very loudly. They were having a great time and soon asked us to join them. Mary and Jon were from Quebec City, Daniel was from Australia, Olivier was from Northern Italy, and Martin was from Argentina. We stayed at the hostel for a couple of hours, and then headed out to find something more exciting. Almost all of us ended up at Rex Cafe. This place was packed! Hardly any room to move, and the place was under 1000 square feet, with people still streaming in. Late '90's American music was playing, and these Italians loved it. Everyone was singing along to tunes that we considered old news, dancing and talking all at once. I couldn't believe it...there were people here that couldn't speak a lick of English, yet, they knew all of the words, to every song. For the couple of hours that we were there, I don't recall ever hearing a song that wasn't American.

Finally arriving back at the hostel just after 3am, we were ready for bed.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The flights weren't that bad...I had said that I was going to try and sleep on the long flight to avoid jet lag but that didn't so much happen. Turns out that the couple in front of us were in the mood for chit chat and drinking the free in flight wine. I happily joined them for most of the flight, while Mindy snoozed a bit and then rejoined us. This was my number one mistake. Our layover in Paris for about 4 hours was excruciating. I wanted to sleep, but felt horrible! I think that I got about an hour of sleep in a very uncomfortable green chair, and then about that much more on the flight to Pisa. Both of us feeling not well at all, and tired to boot, we still stayed active until about 8:30 pm when we'd both had enough.

Pisa...finally in Italy and it's raining, windy, and cold! A bit overwhelmed as we stepped out of the airport, we weren't really sure where we needed to go. So back in we went to speak with the bus ticket people. They hooked us up with a ticket to Piazza D. Manin, which is right next to Piazza dei Miracoli, where the Leaning Tower is. While it is kind of cool, it is not the most impressive thing in that area. To me, the Duomo and Baptistery far outshine it.
Inside the Cathedral, there are many wonderful works of art. As we walked up the center aisle, I couldn't help but exclaim "Wow, I drew that in college!" I had no idea that the lectern I had done a charcoal drawing of was in this church.

Also quite impressive was the main altar. Gold leaf on the paintings was going to be something that we saw a lot of in the coming days, all in churches...
After having found a hotel (the only hostel in Pisa was closed), and seen the main sights, we decided that we should both try to eat something. Off to a quaint little cafe, we had a small pizza and I had an Italian beer. The wind had died down so we decided to sit down out front and chill out a bit.
After dinner, it was to bed for us by 9, although, I had a hard time falling asleep. Go figure, I'm exhausted and can't sleep! The next morning we would be heading to Florence by train. We had had eight hours in Pisa, and that was enough.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A return to reality

I have just returned home from my travels to Italy. Leading up to my trip, the excitement was almost too much for me to handle. Now, the overwhelming task of writing it all down, and going through about 1200 photos is upon me. I am so glad that I kept a journal while I was gone, but am sure that I will forget some of the little things.

For now, I am getting resettled in reality. The reality that I must start running again, and that work awaits on Monday. More on Italy very soon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting settled...again.

On Sunday, Justin and I moved into our new place with the help of our amazing friends. What I thought would take five hours or more on Sunday, only took three. The actual moving, that is. We are almost done getting settled, and have only a little bit more decorating to do, which will have to be finished by Friday evening, as we are having a housewarming party.

So far, everything is great! Very close to campus for him, and on a direct route for me to get to work. The River Trail is a block away and I have enjoyed my runs more not having to deal with traffic at all. Next Spring when the Farmer's Markets return, it will be very easy to get to, as will the First Friday festivities every month.

Oliver seems to be adjusting well, except that he has been waking me up for at least an hour at 5am. I've got my squirt bottle out now and he'll get an impromptu shower if he tries it again.

I've been told by a friend that helped me move in June, and this time, that we have to stay in this place for at least six months. No problem there, as we both love this apartment, and neither of us wants to pack and move again anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I'm ready!

Okay, I'll admit it...I'm ready, excited, and a bit anxious. For what? Well, a couple of things.

The Move...
This Sunday, Justin and I will be moving into our place, which we are both looking forward to. I'm ready for this because it is something that I have wanted to do since May but it just wasn't the right time then. I'm excited because while I feel very welcome, and comfortable at Blake and Justin's place, it isn't mine. I look forward to all of the possibilities...more meditation, more designing, more encouragement. I'm also anxious, not about moving in with Justin, rather, the actual act of moving...again. Twice in three weeks, and for the third time in just under five months. The nice thing is that none of my stuff (why do I need most of it? I haven't missed it these last 2+ weeks) has to go up or down any stairs. While we are both getting friends to help us out, I feel bad because I have so much. Must downsize again...

Two weeks from today I will be about five hours from landing in Pisa with Mindy. I am ready for a vacation, and one with Mindy is always a blast. I find that I am looking forward to it more than anything I've ever done...ever. I'm excited for obvious reasons. My first time out of the country (okay, I did cross the border into Mexico, but Europe is different), knowing that I will have the time of my life, and that nothing can stop me now. I am finally going to see much of the art that I studied in college, drink up the Italian wine that I am falling for, eat authentic Italian cuisine, and meet new and interesting people. However, I am anxious as well. What if our flights come in late and we get stuck in Paris. Okay, so that's not such a bad thing. I do worry that we will get mugged, lost, frustrated, etc. All of this is to be expected prior to my first trip abroad. I do wish that I had been able to stick with my language lessons, however, I do feel that we will be fine in that regard. All that out on the table, I still can't wait! By the time Mindy picks me up at the airport, it will have been 6 1/2 months since I've seen her, and that is certainly too long. What better place to spend time with her than in Italy?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Glacier and Hot Springs are two of my favorite things

This weekend brought yet another trip to Glacier National Park, this time with Justin. I've gotten so used to this park, that I was starting to think that I had seen it all...from the road. Well, I was happily proven wrong. Instead of seeing the same old park that I have seen every time that I have gone, we drove up the West side of the park, on the dirt road that is the Inside North Fork Road. It was a bit slow going, with our destination to first be the Polebridge Mercantile, and then up the road about 6 more miles to Bowman Lake, where this photograph was taken.

The plan was to wake up early and take sunrise photos, however, the park was covered in a very heavy fog, allowing me to sleep a bit longer. I was quite alright with this, as I hadn't slept very well at all. With two pairs of pants, a pair of socks (why didn't I bring my smart wool?), three shirts AND a fleece pullover, and a pair of gloves on, I was mostly okay...except for my darn feet. They were freezing! Around midnight, I decided that my hands were warm enough, so I put my gloves on my feet. After a bit this did help and I finally fell asleep, only to wake up to major hip and leg pain
. I shook it off though, and got out of the tent and enjoyed the coffee Justin had already made. We enjoyed our breakfast and then packed up camp, having decided that we would head to Hot Springs that evening instead of camping another night.

After some wonderful photos in the misty morning, and after having spotted a fox, a black wolf (with lunch in mouth) and a few bucks, were were eagerly heading to soak in the wonderful mineral baths. We enjoyed a veggie pizza and a few beers while listening to a live band, and then headed out to the tubs.

I got the sun to do the STAR affect! Finally, this is something that has always alluded me. Not sure that I really did anything different or if it was the clouds, angle, etc. Anyway, this is Lake McDonald, from the Northeast shore.

Leaves! They were everywhere, and with the fog on Saturday morning they looked spectacular, with beads of dew and the strange light.

I do have to say that this is my favorite picture from this trip. The fog added a whole new mystery to everything, and then I added a bit more. I had just taken a class on Wednesday to better acquaint myself to my D90. Perfect timing on that! All that I really did to this photo was I changed the White Balance to Kelvin settings and I believe that it was right around 5,000. This shot was taken on the Inside North Fork Road.

A weekend at Glacier and Hot Springs with Justin are three of my favorite things!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dinner with friends

Just a couple of weeks ago, Justin was commenting on how he would like to make dinner with friends more often, and I agreed. There is something about making a meal with people you care about, and all enjoying it, and one another at the same time, together. Perhaps this is my sense of family here in Montana, or perhaps it is just me wanting to be around more people, doing something I love, cooking.

Dinner with friends seems to be happening on a more regular basis for me. Last Saturday, dinner included spaghetti squash soup, a wonderful quiche with artichokes and bok choy, and sauteed kale with marinated tofu. Six of us all gathered together to enjoy dinner and then bowling.

Tonight, Blake, Nora, Justin and I all made yet another squash dinner, with a Mexican mole sauce, rice and tortillas. Dinner is over, and I am here, at my computer, while the other three are discussing theology, politics, and philosophy.

I'm wanting to stay on the sidelines tonight, not knowing anything about what they are talking about, and being perfectly alright with that. I don't feel left out, and I don't want to join in. I find it more interesting to listen, like a fly on the wall, to what they are all very passionate about.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stressed? Not me!

A lot of people might think that deciding to move out on a Wednesday, and actually doing it by the following Monday would stress me out. Those same people might also think that I would be stressed out, or at least unsettled by living in an apartment with just the bare essentials for three weeks. None of the above is true...this time.

When I moved to Montana fifteen and a half months ago, I started packing over a month ahead of time. The same goes for this past summer, when I changed apartments. I felt that it was necessary to do this. Now, I know that I can pack and move, and clean my place of residence in just two very long days.

By the end of the actual moving day, Monday, I was exhausted, annoyed, and just ready to be done. With the help of my wonderful boyfriend and my boss, I was out of my apartment and into my temporary place. The last minute cleaning and removing of my stuff was getting to me, and Justin could see that I just needed to be done with it. He stopped his preparation for the class he was teaching the next day to help me, yet again. This saved me at least an hour, and I am greatly appreciative.

I sit here now, having just done laundry for the first time in three weeks, and feel even more like I am crowding Blake and Justin. They both assure me that I am not, and that I must consider this home for now. So...I do. :)

While I could be stressed out at the prospect of moving twice in three weeks, and with the final move being 8 days before my departure for Italy, I am not. Perhaps a bit anxious and excited for both of my impending adventures, I am just taking one day at a time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Finally, pictures of my apartment...

I have lived in my apartment for exactly 4 months. I finally have it decorated, and almost always know where everything is. It is kind of a deluxe studio, with a layout in a T shape, with the kitchen being the upright of the T and the bedroom/living space the horizontal of the T. Here are a few pictures...
This is the kitchen. My favorite part of the kitchen is the brick chimney that is exposed. I have also really enjoyed the long counters for food preparation. The light coming in from the sliding has also been very nice.

This is the view from the West end of the apartment, looking towards the bedroom. What I love about this room is the hardwood floors and how well all of my stuff fit.

This is the view from the East, looking towards my favorite place, the windows. I have sat many mornings with my coffee and newspaper, enjoying the morning sounds. I've also spent many evenings trying to study Italian, or read a book, but instead, falling asleep in my comfy rocking recliner.

I'm not really sure why I haven't posted these sooner, except that I finally made the time to take the pictures on Wednesday. The reason I made the time to take the pictures is because I am moving again. Yep, I took the pictures just so I could post my apartment for rent on Craigslist. I have gotten many inquiries and already have an applicant waiting to be approved. I should hear tomorrow, which is also the day that I am moving out. I will be staying with Justin and Blake until the end of October, when Justin and I will be moving out of their apartment, and into our apartment.

The possibilities are endless with this move, and I look forward to this new journey.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All about Oliver

Oliver is a source of amusement, frustration, and of course, love. I have had him in my life since July 2006, when I rescued him from certain death on a farm back in Iowa. He was just five or six weeks old and in desperate need of TLC. The grass in this photo would have dwarfed him, that's how small he was. He quickly blossomed into the 12.75 pound maniac that he is today.

Recently, I really want to know what he is thinking. Most days, and nights, he is quite normal. However, this past week he has been a nightmare. Constantly under foot, following me everywhere, in general being a pest. This includes when I am trying to sleep. He starts at about 2am, sniffing my ear, wanting under the covers, then wanting out, only to come back and start licking my ears. He is driving me crazy! I try to tell myself that this is my fault, because I have been so busy lately and he is just in need of some attention from me. So, I stay home for a couple of hours and just focus on him. I don't read, I don't draw, nothing but play with him. This has done nothing to make him calm down. I have checked him over to make sure he has no injuries or pests and he seems to be fine. A couple of months ago, I found an article about cats and their owners, or I should probably say, about cats and their slaves. Read it here.

Hopefully he just has extra energy due to this wonderful weather that we have been experiencing and will calm down soon. Until then and after, I will continue to give him as much attention as I can, and of course, my love and affection.

Oliver, late August 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Has anyone else noticed how late the sun comes over the mountains in the morning? This morning, it was 8:08 before I was blinded by her. I don't know about you, but if I was always waking up later and later, I would loose my job. Well, maybe not :) What I've also noticed is that she calls it a day earlier and earlier as well. I know that this is a normal thing and happens every year. I just seem to be having a more difficult time dealing with it this year than I did last year. I suspect that it is because I actually enjoyed a full Missoula summer, rather than just half of it spent here last year.

There are plenty of things to look forward to now that it is Autumn. For me, it is the crisp, clean morning air on my runs, the changing scenery as the leaves turn colors and then blanket the green grass so that I can run through them with childlike abandon. However, part of me is still sad. It is very dark here in Northern Montana during the Winter months, and after having so much sun, and fun, I worry that I may get into a rut. I am consciously aware that thinking this way is not good, and must bring my awareness to the delights of the changes going on outside.

It doesn't matter what season it is here in Missoula, the sunsets are always fabulous. Wednesday night Justin and I headed to a bridge that is conveniently located just a couple of blocks from our apartments. There has been a fire burning near Stevensville since the middle of July that has only recently brought smoke up our way...this proves to add to the atmosphere and makes the sunsets a bit different than I am used to.

Just to orient everyone, those birds were flying South.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Training has begun...again

It has officially begun again...except this time, instead of training for a half marathon, I am training for a marathon. I took a week off after my half marathon and am now wishing I hadn't. I was so excited and well rested for my run on Monday that I probably pushed myself too much. I ran 4 miles in 32 minutes, 36.81 seconds which figures out to be an 8 minute, 9 second pace. (By the way, that is the fastest I've ever run 4 miles). Right away I knew that my legs were tired, and just not used to running for several days, and my lungs were burning almost the entire time. I didn't realize I was running that quickly until I got home and checked my time. I will have to be careful so that I don't get burnt out or hurt myself.

I have once again selected Hal Higdon for my training coach. Well, I've at least selected his guide for marathon training. I look forward to doing the longer runs with my boyfriend Justin, and a new friend from his marathon, Helen. I will be jumping back into training in the middle of the second week and changing the schedule up a bit. I will be pushing everything back a day, so as to have my long run on Sundays, as it is always one of my days off. I'm also going to do some light weight training as well as some Yoga, but keep it to a minimum so I don't bulk up or injure myself.

As I woke up this morning in the almost still dark at 7am, I realized that I am going to have to start running in the evenings, or just learn to love running in the dark. Either way, by mid November, both morning and evening runs will be by the light of my headlamp. Oh well, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

I look forward to having a schedule is a great motivator and it seems to be what really pushes me to go out and hit the trails.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I'm going to Italy!

It's official, Mindy and I booked our flight to Italy! We will be there in early November for eight days. Which gives us seven weeks to research where we definitely want to go, and what we are willing to pass on. That also gives me seven weeks to finish my Italian lessons, of which I am on lesson three...out of fifteen. (Let's forget that I've been working on this since April).

We will be backpacking, staying in hostels, and riding the rails to get around the country. Starting out in Pisa, the plan is to go to Florence, back down to Siena, then to Rome, and perhaps to Naples and hitting any little towns along the way that interest us. Then it will be back up to Pisa for our departure. If anyone has ever been in those areas and has any suggestions, I would be very interested to hear what you have to say.

I have purchased my backpack, and think that it will work out very well. I went with and REI Ridgeline 65 and have found it to be very comfortable and convenient. It has a great hiding spot for my passport, once I am in the country (I will carry it with me if I leave my bag in the hostels), and also has various other compartments for my more frequently needed items.

I have several friends that have traveled abroad and I look forward to any advice that they have to give. Justin has already been quite helpful with how best to deal with jet lag, as it has the potential to be a problem when I first arrive in Italy. He will also be of great help while I am gone, as Oliver can not be left alone for twelve days, and there is no other person I would rather have looking after my bubba than him.

I also look forward to running in Italy with my original running partner again. Mindy and I just spoke on the phone and agreed that it would be very neat if we could find a 5k or 10k to run while we are over there.

For now my research begins, and my Italian studies continue. Ciao!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Yep folks, that's how long it took me to run my half marathon on Sunday. 1 hour, 58 minutes, and 22.8 seconds. Needless to say, I was thrilled that I finished well within my goal of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Justin and I were on the bus heading to the start at 8:15am and ended up having to wait there, outside in the shade of a mountain in the cold air for just over an hour with about 80 other folks.
This was actually all right with me...yes, it was cold, but it gave us time to get to know a few fellow runners. A camaraderie was quickly being established and strangers were wishing luck to their new friends.

At the sound of the horn, we were off. I had positioned myself in the middle of the 146 runners, thinking that was about right. Turns out I should have pl
aced myself about a quarter of the way back from the front, as I had to weave around many of the people in front of me. I was soon passing the 1 mile marker at 7 minutes, 39 seconds! I was astonished that I was running that fast, and not winded at all, so I kept it up for the next 2.5 miles. Then I was on pavement and the gradual downhill was mostly over. I noticed around mile 5 that I was having more difficulty breathing, but not too bad. Miles 6 through 9 were pretty smooth sailing, with the next couple a bit more difficult. The last mile and a half was the worst, but I knew that I could do it. I walked more than I did during my training, due to shortness of breath, which I think was adrenaline induced.

This photo was taken within 10 minutes of me completing the race. I'm still in recovery mode, as all I wanted to do was drink water and get my shoes off! I'm happy to say that I suffered only a minor blister on my big toe. However, on our way to the hot springs to soak, I got a terrible stomach ache that eventually went away, but throughout it's duration, I was certain I was going to die. On Monday and Tuesday, my upper legs hurt more than they ever have. Icy Hot was a necessity and did ease some of my pain. Today, I have a little bit of soreness, but am able to run up and down the stairs at work without "ouch, ouch..." every step of the way.

After enough water, it was time to celebrate with a beer! I had finished 7th in my age group (30-39), I was the 22nd woman to complete the half marathon, and I finished 46th out of 146 runners. Not bad for my first race!

Of course, now the only thing to train for is a Full Marathon. My plan is to run P.F. Chang's Rock 'N Roll Arizona with Mindy in January 2010.

Bring it on!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Prep time

The weekend of my half marathon has finally arrived. I have been officially training since July 13 and have had only a few minor setbacks. I feel as though I am truly ready to run 13.1 miles up in Whitefish, Montana; the Two Bear Half Marathon.

My most recent setback is a sore knee. I took it easy all week, only running 10 miles on Sunday, and five on Wednesday. Friday morning I woke up to run three miles and opted not to since my right knew was suddenly sore. Today, it feels quite a bit better and I hope that tomorrow it will be completely normal.

I have set quite a lofty goal for myself. When I started training two months ago, I wanted to finish in 2.5 hours. Now, I will be upset if it takes me longer than 2 hours, 10 minutes. I know that my body can handle it.

The most I have ever run at one time is 10 miles, so tomorrow will be the most I have ever run in one day. I know that I can do it, and I look forward to crossing the finish line.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Yesterday I headed to Arlee with Justin, Matt, and Brad to the Peace Festival. Great music, vendors, and speakers were all there for a unified reason: peace.

It seems that so many in this world are not at peace. Some things we can not control, but in many areas of our lives, we can make a difference. Doing a good deed can leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling, a feeling of giving back to the community, humankind, etc. Do what you can and you will benefit and so will the people around you.

For the most part, I can say that I am at peace...I have finally re-established a good communication with my mom, something that has been lacking since early April. I think I just got tired of being mad at her for her lack of initiative. The phone may not work both ways, but I know that it works from my end, so why punish both of us?

In other areas of my life, I have also found a calmness that had been lacking before. I have a new understanding of what many of my different relationships need, and mostly, of what I need. I can only try to tell you what this feels like. For me, it is being able to be comfortable where ever I am, being able to be still and take a deep breath and know that everything is going to be all right.

And now, for my favorite pictures from the peace festival. Just looking at the statues put me at ease.

Yum Chen Mo


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Tempest

The week's theme of free entertainment continued last night and will again tonight. Montana's Shakespeare in the Park is in Missoula! Wednesday night's production was The Tempest. Not being a Shakespeare expert, it was at first hard to follow. Getting into the rhythm of the language I was soon captivated. The actors I felt were very into their characters and seemed to be having a lot of fun, as was the audience. While I did follow the play quite well, I will not say much more about it, just in case my interpretation is totally off. All I will say is that I went to it thinking it was more of a drama. During later conversation with Justin, we both concluded that it was more of a romantic comedy.

Nora, Blake, Amy, Justin (not pictured), and myself enjoyed Le Petit bread, smoked gouda, and mild cheddar cheese, along with a bottle of wine during the production.

For tonight's show, Two Gentlemen from Verona will be performed. I will be joining up with Amy and Nora again, which is always a fun time.