Friday, January 23, 2015

Our Living Room in 2014.

 photo Blog_0752.jpg
Here's a really dramatic before picture for you of what our living room looked like as we were moving in together. Wedding presents littered around the room, new napkins and towels that need to be folded and tucked in a closet that needed to be cleaned out and organized, and lots.of.taxidermy.

There was a point sometime last summer where Kip's parents were coming to town, and he decided to just put up all the taxidermy in one room so that it would be off the floors, and he could clean. Many of these friends have found a new perch around our home, and I think they are less overwhelming one at a time. The skulls and turkey fans had to go though. I think I'll save the formal introductions for when you get to see the animals in their new spots.

We've worked hard on the house. Kip has painted for days (that wood paneling is a beast), and I've cleaned, sorted, purged, unpacked and made food to fill the freezer for busy weeknights. He nicely told me that my cutting in skills were "sub par," and Abbey agreed that even though she taught me well, I'm a more proficient roller. I think I'm even better at cooking and baking. The living room and kitchen have a new color, so does my office, and Kip's moved on to the ceilings with a happy heart. Just kidding. No one likes painting ceilings.

The house is a slow work in progress which doesn't bother me when I'm busy with work, meetings, and holding other people's babies. On the other hand, over Christmas break when we were home together for 17 days, the slow progress of the house made me absolutely crazy and a pain to live with. So much still to do!

But most days I tell Kip, I love our house. The layout fits us well, and it feels like both of us live there with my stuff moved in and my framed art on the walls alongside the animals. We have started eating more dinners on our new table, and we watch TV and lots of college basketball on the new couch. It's a pretty good life, and January is definitely treating us well.

Monday, January 19, 2015

An iPhone Look at Our Honeymoon.

 photo Blog_0903.jpg
A few times we took photos on the iPhone instead of pulling out one of our big cameras. Here are a few of the gems I want to make sure get saved forever too! On Saturday night we had dinner reservations at Le Vallauris, the fanciest restaurant in Palm Springs. The girls surprised me at my bachelorette sleepover with a gift certificate for dinner there. It's a French restaurant in an old home and most of the diners sat on a large patio in the center of the house. Literally almost every waiter we spoke with was a French import, or they were good at faking a French accent. It was delicious and a really special splurge that my friends picked out. We would have never done it for ourselves, and so I savored each bite of the four course meal. And I had a good excuse to wear my rehearsal dinner dress again. It was dark when we left, so we could snag a selfie and a picture with the stars hanging on the palm trees downtown in Palm Springs.
 photo Blog_0904.jpg
Here's a picture in Shields with the date shake which was delicious, but almost too sweet for both of us! And we like our sweets (see also: our wedding with donuts, cookies and cake). And I loved this pair of palm trees that grew out of the courtyard in our hotel.
 photo Blog_0900.jpg
Our trip to In-N-Out Burger might have been Kip's favorite meal of the whole trip. He hasn't eaten a lot of fast food since I moved into the house, so maybe that added to the awesomeness for him. We waited about thirty minutes for our burgers and fries so they definitely tasted hot and fresh. It was so crowded!
 photo Blog_0902.jpg
Several mornings we walked or stopped for coffee at Koffi, a local coffee shop, on our way to our daily adventure. Two medium black coffees, no room for cream. The sun would come up on the mountains as we walked. I love the palm trees, though Kip thinks they are pretty pointless as a tree. No shade! Not very sturdy! When I was a little girl and went to California for the first time, I asked, "Mama, what are those funny trees?" Pretty accurate.
 photo Blog_0905.jpg
Our last morning we ate breakfast at the very hip Ace Hotel & Swim Club down the street. They took an old motel and a Denny's and made it cool. Seriously, all the bloggers go there. We had a fantastic breakfast by the pool, and I doubled down on Stumptown Coffee and a fresh grapefruit cocktail. It was another perfect day in Palm Springs.
 photo Blog_0901.jpg
But it was also the day we were heading home. It was the first time Kip could remember getting on and off the plane outside and walking across the tarmac. We connected to and from through Phoenix, with easy flights and no delays.
 photo Blog_0906.jpg
The only instagram of the whole trip was a collection of our Instax photos and the best photo strip ever from the Ace Hotel. Have you ever framed one of those? I think I would like to keep it somewhere safe forever. Those crazy kids look like they are in love.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Palm Spring Aerial Tramway.

 photo Blog_0884.jpg
We bought tickets for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway on our last full day on the honeymoon. They aren't cheap at almost $24 each, but they were totally worth it. The tram is packed for the ten minute ride up. 
 photo Blog_0878.jpg
The elevation change on the tram is dramatic. In about ten minutes, we climbed about 5000 feet. At the top there was snow and a whole lot of sunshine. Our last day was one of the prettiest days for sure. We walked down a really big hill to hike the Desert View Trail that winds through a very pretty forest with only four species of trees. We saw people sledding and trying to enjoy the little snow that was high above the desert. It was fun to visit with this family with two little girls who were seeing snow for the first time!
 photo Blog_0879.jpg
Again, our packing proved to provide challenges for hiking around. The silk shirt I'm wearing underneath my coat needed a trip to the cleaners, and Kip was warm pretty quickly while we were walking around. It was crazy to hike while there was lots of snow on the ground and be so warm as the temperatures neared 50 degrees.
 photo Blog_0880.jpg
The nature trail leads to five scenic overlooks that provide outstanding views of the desert. We thought the first one was amazing, and they just got better each time.
 photo Blog_0882.jpg
This view on the left is the road we traveled up into Joshua Tree the day before. There are so many windmills everywhere!
 photo Blog_0881.jpg
Right before we took this photo, we caught up with another couple who was hiking the trail. They were resting on some rocks overlooking the valley, and Kip climbed up to see from a higher vantage point while I paused at the bottom. As I was looking out over the valley I heard the husband begin to read to his wife, and Kip climbed back down to find me crying as I listened. He was reading Psalm 103, and it was quite possibly the most perfect passage for that view and that day. Here are some of the most perfect parts of Psalm 103.

Verse 1: Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Verse 8: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
Verse 11-12: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 
 photo Blog_0883.jpg
When we hiked back up to the lodge at the top, the bar was opening up for the day and we enjoyed a beer at the top of the mountain before we rode the tram back down the steep cliffs. It was fascinating to learn a little bit about how the tram was built into the mountainside. They had to use helicopters to help install some of the big towers that carry the tram up.
 photo Blog_0885.jpg
The rest of the day was warm, almost hot really. We drove a ways so Kip could try In-N-Out Burger for the first time, and we spent the rest of the warm day at the pool. Eventually we found dinner at a restaurant uptown in Palm Springs and enjoyed another round of patio dining.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Joshua Tree National Park.

 photo Blog_0875.jpg
You will probably remember that I purchased Kip a print of National Parks for our wedding. We planned to go to our first National Park together on our honeymoon, and we both loved our day in Joshua Tree National Park.
 photo Blog_0870.jpg
Kip told me when we were planning the trip that I should know the Joshua tree is not like a big tree. I had a pretty good idea that we were headed to desert and not Redwoods thanks to the constant stream of Joshua Tree features on wedding blogs. Apparently everyone wants to drive to the desert to take photos or get married. For me, no thanks.
 photo Blog_0863.jpg
We planned our visit around a tour of the Keys Ranch. About 100 years ago, a crazy rancher got the idea of setting up a homestead in the middle of the desert. He managed to convince someone to marry him, and we spent a couple hours learning about how they made a life among the boulders and Joshua trees.
 photo Blog_0864.jpg
I found the tour on the website and thought it would involve more hiking and exploring. It really was a lot of listening and very little walking according to the Fitbit. Our guide was an extremely knowledgeable park ranger who kept the stories engaging as we walked. I may be the history teacher in our relationship, but this is really right up Kip's alley. He said he could have listened for another hour easily.
 photo Blog_0866.jpg
Mr. Keys who ran the ranch was extremely resourceful and went to great lengths to keep everything humming along on the ranch. We learned about mining, farm, irrigation, and a gunfight in the wild west. I loved this collection of broken dishes from all over the ranch. Any of the dishes made with lead turned purple with sun exposure!
 photo Blog_0865.jpg
The park ranger described this as their mansion. I think Mrs. Keys might have gotten tricked, but they seemed to have a pretty happy life in the middle of nowhere. I mean, it really is the middle of NOWHERE.
 photo Blog_0867.jpg
The Joshua trees scream Dr. Seuss to me. To be really tall, they must be really old. I thought this view of the valley with thousands of trees was fantastic. It was kind of hazy, but you can see how the Joshua trees stretch all the way to the next mountain group. Joshua Tree gets less than four inches of rain each year, and the park rangers are concerned there are very few baby Joshua trees growing with limited rainfall in the last couple years.
 photo Blog_0862.jpg
After our tour, Kip and I went to the Hidden Valley picnic area for the nature trail. It's a one mile loop with great views of Joshua Trees, huge boulders and little mountains. We read all the nature trail signs along the way.
 photo Blog_0868.jpg
We met lots of families along the way, and it was easy to see why. Huge boulders along the way invite people of all ages to climb up on top. Kip and I couldn't resist either. It was all very safe unlike the adventurous folks free climbing. They made me really nervous.
 photo Blog_0869.jpg
There's no food available for sale within the park, but we planned ahead and brought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter, plus some fruit, chips and lots of water. True story: we tried to bring the peanut butter home in our carry-on and had to throw it away. It was chunky, practically just a jar of nuts. That's a fun fact you should take with you the next time you travel to Palm Springs: TSA will keep your peanut butter.
 photo Blog_0871.jpg
Joshua Tree is a huge park, and we spent most of the afternoon meandering through the park. The roads are well done, and we really enjoyed watching the views change as we went through the park. The northern part of the park was far more crowded with visitors. As we drove, the Mohave dessert melts into the Colorado dessert. The Joshua trees are gone, replaced with desolate valleys.
 photo Blog_0872.jpg
We stopped to see the Cholla cactus garden. Kip told me that these are also called teddy bear cactus because they look fluffy and cuddly, but they also can attach on to anything quickly. I was actually fairly terrified of getting too close to these monsters. They have an ombre color and also made me think of Dr. Seuss!
 photo Blog_0873.jpg
Our plan was to leave the park on the south side instead of the entrance we came into the park. The further we drove, the fewer people we saw. We walked the Cottonwood Springs nature trail and learned a little bit about the Native Americans who lived there and made a life from the desert.
 photo Blog_0874.jpg
I was thankful to climb back in our car and be out of the wind, dumping the gravel out of my shoes. We listened to our book, I ate some more of that gummy candy from Idllywild, and drove out of the desert. It's beautiful in a way that makes you thankful for all the types of terrain but also grateful for green grass in the front yard.
 photo Blog_0876.jpg
It was definitely warm but still winter so the sun starts to disappear into the haze in the early afternoon. Our wandering through the park took us a long way from Palm Springs but gave us an excuse to stop for a date shake on the way home.
 photo Blog_0877.jpg
First national park, check! We loved exploring and observing all the changes that happen within the park, and I would really recommend Joshua Tree. It's really unique and gorgeous. My friend Jennie recommended following the U.S. Department of the Interior on instagram recently, and Kip and I are constantly seeing other places we would like to visit!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The San Jacinto Mountains and the San Bernardino National Forest.

 photo Blog_0853.jpg
One of the things we didn't do correctly on our honeymoon was pack well! We ended up walking, hiking and exploring every day we were there and each packed exactly one KSU t-shirt. Thankfully it wasn't that strenuous of hiking and we were able to make-do.

Our first big adventure was on the Saturday of our trip with a drive up into the San Jacinto mountains. I thought the switchbacks might make me puke, so I was thankful for all the scenic overlooks that we could find. This first shot shows the view back into the dessert valley with little snippets of green. So many golf courses!
 photo Blog_0860.jpg
Our hotel had a fabulous book about hikes, and I found a leisurely hike about an hour and a half from our hotel on the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail in the San Bernardino National Forest. We bought a parking pass and got a trail update (light snow, not too slick), and we found the trail entrance up in the mountains above Palm Springs.
 photo Blog_0854.jpg
We were prepared with water and some snacks, but we didn't really need anything as we walked out and back on the easy trail. For almost two hours, Kip and I walked through forests and clearings with fabulous views. The trail was very close to the much more challenging Pacific Crest Trail, made famous by Cheryl Strayed's book Wild. We can all agree that I wasn't cut out for the Pacific Crest Trail, and Ernie Maxwell's trail was much more my speed.
 photo Blog_0855.jpg
You've probably learned by now that Kip is an arborist and loves all the things about all the trees. We stopped and looked at lots of species as we walked, and I took lots of detailed shots for him. I knew that probably the photos would mostly be used in discussion with his father, the retired forestry professor. Once the student, Kip was thrilled to quiz his dad and teacher about the trees we saw on our honeymoon.
 photo Blog_0856.jpg
For every lesson Kip tried to teach me about pine trees, I tried to teach him some valuable camera skills. He's actually getting an eye for the manual adjustments needed and his focus and framing skills have improved dramatically. I would not say the same for my tree identification skills...I really do listen. I just don't get to use my skills everyday so they get rusty.
 photo Blog_0857.jpg
It was about 50 degrees up in the mountains which proved warm enough for walking. The sky was overcast and the clouds sat heavy on the mountains far away from us.
 photo Blog_0858.jpg
We met a few people along the way, couples and families with kids, but I used a really big boulder to take the picture of the two of us on a timer. We also worked hard on perfecting the timer camera picture this trip, mostly using large boulders as our tripods. While we didn't pack the right clothes for exploring, we did throw in Kip's work boots and used my backpack every day. It was easy to have the backpack since we normally carried my camera with an extra lens, the instax camera Rachel gave us for our wedding, and water bottles. Including my camera phone, we often switched between three different cameras. Totally normal.
 photo Blog_0859.jpg
There were some beautiful views and lovely shaded paths. Kip would have walked further, but we had fancy dinner reservations later that night in Palm Springs that demanded a schedule for the day. Kip wanted to be sure we ate lunch at a reasonable time so we would also be hungry for dinner!
 photo Blog_0861.jpg
We ate lunch at the Lumber Mill Bar & Grill in Idyllwild. The half pound burgers and cold pale ale hit the spot, and afterwards we walked around Idyllwild for a while. It was a quaint little mountain town just like the ones I love to explore in Colorado. We found the BEST candy store with all my favorite varieties in one tiny spot. I had an impossible time deciding and happily snacked on the candy we purchased for the rest of the trip. I'm a sucker for all the gummy sour candy, and Kip will happily leave me to it. Our trip back to Palm Springs was uneventful and with thankfully fewer switchbacks. We listened to Food: A Love Story as the scenery changed back from mountains to desert.