Break for the Sun

Three weeks ago I woke up to an email: RT to Tucson $127!

20 minutes later I was on the phone with my grandparents confirming they were in town. 20 minutes after that we had flights booked. 16 days later we were in sunny Arizona for some much needed sunshine and R&R!

After a record breaking wet winter (ugh!) in Washington, the desert was a welcome treat. We spent the week hiking and lounging, eating good food, more hiking, more pool time, and of course seeing family. We visited with great aunts and uncles, second cousins and grandparents. We ate fresh grapefruit and oranges for breakfast, made a tres leches cake from scratch, went to the symphony, Gaga treated me to a massage, and went out for Mexican food. Spent time in the sunshine. But the hiking. Did I mention we hiked? Some of the best hikes of my life!

Our first hike was a day trip to Chiricahua National Monument. We arrived to the park mostly being closed for construction, but we were still able to do the Heart of Rocks trail after a picnic with Grammy and Gaga. 7.4 miles was a good warm up for the rest of the trip! Scenery was stunning and the trail was almost empty.

Our second hike was in Sabino Canyon, only 10 minutes from Grammy and Gaga’s house. We got curbside dropoff (thanks grandparents!) and met up with some cousins to walk the road before peeling off for a longer trek. We walked and talked and then around noon (note: not the ideal time to start a hard hike in 90 degree heat!) we took off on a trail to do Blackett’s Ridge. This was a stunning hike, also very empty trail, and HARD! It was steep and uphill the whole way up. It felt longer than the 8ish miles it was, but totally worth it for the panoramic canyon views at the top.

After a day of rest we tackled our final (and favorite) hike: Seven Falls in Bear Canyon. Thanks to spring break the trail was pretty crowded (though not compared to I-90 trails in WA!) but we climbed up past the end of the trail to find some solitude. Highlight? Our own personal infinity pool at the top of one of the falls. Epic views and the cold water was a welcome relief from the heat. 11 out of 10 for this hike. We already want to do it again!

It was a wonderful trip. The perfect mix of relaxing and going. It had been 5 years since our last trip to Arizona and we are planning to make our next trip much, much sooner than that.

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What’s Up?

Things have been pretty quiet around the blog these days. The rest of life is just so full! The holidays are here are we are busy as ever! Major construction project on the house, vacation, garden wrap up, new hobbies, family time and of course those run of the mill things like work and cooking and sleeping.

So lets to a quick update, shall we?

In early November we spent 8 days in Kauai with my parents. It was a fun trip, lots of good beaches and waterfalls. Awesome shave ice. The snorkeling was sub par (we are so spoiled!) and surfing was not what we had hoped for, but it was a good trip. Nice to get away before the holidays! And bonus, we got bumped on the flight home and have $1000 in travel vouchers to use! Now to plan another trip…

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When we came back, the weather had turned. We huge windstorm downed tons of trees and ripped out hot tub cover apart. Any suggestions on a good inexpensive place to get a new one? Replacing it was not something we had planned on. Ah homeownership!

We had hastily planted cover crop over 90% of the garden before we left, and most of it was up when we returned. How much it will grow in the cold weather will remain to be seen. The chickens are hunkered down for the cold too. The weeks of 24+ a week have shriveled to maybe 1-2 eggs a day. Half the girls are molting, poor Dude roo had a cold, and the new girls are slowing from the lack of light. They got a fresh layer of bedding and lots of produce scraps this weekend. Next project: growing our own mealworms.IMG_9065[1]

The garden has taken a backseat to what is happening indoors. Remember those ideas of remodeling the main floor of our house? Taking out walls and moving doors and rooms around? It is happening, people. As it stands, phase 1a is nearly done, phase 1b is in progress, and phase 1c and 1d are coming soon!

BEFORE (phase 1a and 1b)

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The house is divided up with plastic sheeting, dust is everywhere and thank goodness we are not hosting anything soon! Tearing into the walls of our house has been quite the learning experience! We are sharpening our skills (Matt is lead on demo and construction while I head up cleanup and supervision and supply runs) and really learning a lot about our house. For example: the main entry to our living room, in a main load bearing wall? No header. Someone did a chop job back in the day that we are now fixing right. Also, the house has random remnants of ventilation systems and lath+plaster. Totally random stuff that (thank goodness) and sawzall can handle! By next weekend we should be able to finish the new guest room and put up a Christmas tree!IMG_9126[1]

To keep sane during all this upheaval Matt and I are bonding over some new obsessions hobbies. Both require lots of time, looking at the ground, and meticulous cleaning and fun research. For him, mushroom hunting, for me, hunting sea glass. We realized that Vashon is a great place for both if you know where to look! I was inspired during our trip to Kauai when I saw a mobile/wall hanging that I wanted to buy, and instead decided to scavenge my own supplies and make it. Mild vacation interest has turned to full-fledged obsession! Saturday we took a mid-day demo break and hunted over a quart of glass! After being cleaned it is now sorted and on a tray in the very messy dining room. I cannot wait to find more and learn more about it! (PS – mushroom + sea glass road trips are in our future)

So yea, things are busy. And it is all good. Matt and I are great project partners. I am seriously amazed at how well we work together on things that could be very stressful. And we cannot wait to see this house transformation take place!IMG_9118[1]

Back from Baja

Ten days away was lovely. Sun, sand, sleeping in. Really good food. Seeing old friends, and making some new ones.

This was our third trip to southern Baja, staying at the same little place in Todos Santos. It is so relaxing, inexpensive, quiet and exactly what we crave in travel. Being back means we quickly settled into our routine (tortillas from the lady down the street, fish tacos, flan from Miguel’s, hanging out with the dogs and playing games) but added some new things too. We dug out the old hand press juicer and went through 44 lbs of oranges making juice in a week. We took a whole day to drive around the ENTIRE southern cape region and explored some beautiful new areas. A new restaurant was a dinner favorite and we had 4 great surf days on more advanced boards!

It was a lovely trip, and just what we needed as a last hurrah before coming home to garden and paint the house all summer.

A few photographic highlights:

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Tales from Belize: Snorkeling

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Snorkeling was a priority for this trip, which was really the driving reason we selected Belize as a travel destination. Many of our vacations revolve around surfing these days, but for now, we just wanted to see cool underwater stuff. The Barrier Reef of Belize did not disappoint. Crystal clear visibility, tons of fish, rays, sharks, and coral…and did I mention rays and sharks?! So awesome.

We started the trip on Tobacco Caye, and found a huge host of marine life to explore by taking a long snorkel around the outside of the reef. Not a “spot” exactly but beautiful none the less. We saw our first eagle rays and a HUGE (*what we call) Dinner table ray. The underwater scene was like miniature mountain ranges formed by underwater rivers. It was beautiful.

Once on Ambergis Caye we checked out a snorkel destination, Mexican Rocks, as a shore trip. You usually pay $40+ to take a boat tour out there, but we drove our golf cart north (that is a whole other story!) and then swam out to the reef. (note: What was waiting for us was epic: sharks and rays EVERYWHERE! Not to mention fish, coral and beautiful underwater topography. It was great.

We also took a boat trip out to Hol Chan (marine reserve), Shark/Ray Alley and Coral Gardens. All where super unique, beautiful and totally worth the trip. More sharks, rays and turtles! Some of the best snorkeling I have had in a long time, and so heartwarming to see such healthy reefs.

Matt did a lot of snorkeling off the beach and from boat piers while I sunned and relaxed. It was such a treat to see so many ocean critters, and healthy looking reefs. I admit I am a snorkel snob. I have been fortunate enough to dive and snorkel in some pretty pristine and amazing places, and so it takes a good site to really keep me interested. Belize was some of the best I have seen in a long time. The only thing that drove me out of the water was getting too cold. We are already excited to go back!

Weekend Getaway to Roslyn

Do you remember the 90s TV show, Northern Exposure? Well, I don’t, but now am inclined to go find some old episodes! This past weekend we spent two days exploring the mountain town of Roslyn. It is an old coal mining community, home to Washington state’s oldest saloon, AND was where Northern Exposure was filmed.

Matt had been talking about a weekend trip to Roslyn ever since he drove through en route to his bachelor party camping trip. Since there is always a weekend between our birthdays we decided to celebrate this year with a short adventure out to the town. Spattered with the remnants of fall color, a perfectly blue sky day, followed by a rainy foggy (ie: epic color for photographs!) day it was perfect. We stayed in an airbnb (our first) and had a great experience.

Day 1 was our exploration day. We first walked the town of Roslyn, scouting out places for dinner and breakfast, and taking photos of the old buildings.

From there we ventured up towards Salmon la Sac and along the shores of Lake Cle Elum. We found a great place to pull off the road and shuffle down the slope to investigate the lake bed. It was beyond stunning. Bright gold leaves dotted fall along the shores, back dropped by mountains of dark green fir trees. The sun was out and the sky perfect clear blue. We wandered the shores then sat for awhile. When we looked up, we noticed an array of clouds rolling in (fast!) from the West. The predicted Sunday weather system was coming. It made for some spectacular photos.

After a trip to Cle Elum for decongestants and a rental movie (Chef. I recommend it.) we found our way to dinner at The Brick. This cool old saloon is literally a cornerstone for Roslyn and has quite the following across the state. We snagged a table and saw the last 10 minutes of the WSU football game (Go Cougs!) and chowed down on nachos and a philly cheese steak. At 5:30 it was pitch black and I was totally wiped out with a headache and sleepiness (yay for being sick on vacation right?). We drove back to our cozy room and hunkered down for the evening. Shower, movie, chocolate peanut butter pie. Sleep.

A downpour of raindrops woke us up around 3 am, and we used it as an excuse to make it a long slow morning. We lazed in bed, watched the Disney Robin Hood on Netflix and finally made our way to breakfast around 11. The Roslyn Café did not disappoint. I had biscuits and gravy and Matt tried a house specialty: a waffle filled with bacon! We lingered over coffee and watched the rain.

We took the raniy afternoon to drive the rest of the road to Salmon la Sac. Stopping at numerous viewpoints, campgrounds and Cooper Lake to just take in the scenery. We only saw a dozen other cars. Along the shores of Lake Cle Elum were some of the most spectacular views of fall color I have witnessed in the PNW. Not golds and oranges and reds of typical fall leaves, but bands of lichen and moss and other groundcover that swirled intricate patterns of red and brown and bright green as far as we could see. Outlined with golden trees and dark green firs it was breathtaking. My camera got a workout trying to capture it without getting soaked!

What a trip. Relaxing, beautiful, and exactly what we needed.

The Island Life

It has been a gorgeous spring. Seriously…80 degree days already! My tomatoes are already BLOOMING! A good sign for actually harvesting some this year.

Our pace of life is shifting right now. Longer, sun filled evenings make us both more and less productive. We have projects to make progress on but laying in the back yard feels pretty good too! Fewer evening classes for me and less homework also makes the time feel different. Only 16 days till graduation!

Thursday brought a spectacular sunrise.

Our living room trim is painted so all that is left is the walls…and replacing all the switches and outlets. It is still beyond me who puts almond colored outlets in with white plates. White on white will help so much!

The garden is growing. Well, it is growing something. It is hard to tell if they are all just weeds or actually spouting seeds. Something keeps eating my baby peas.

Lets see, what else is new? We are actively planning life post-grad school. Summer currently has 9 weekends UNPLANNED and we are determined to keep them that way. Painting the house, building a chicken coop and gardening should be plenty to keep us occupied.

Travel is getting organized too! We have a surf trip to Oregon scheduled for September, and then we are off to Belize in January with my parents! 12 days of ruins, beaches and snorkeling! And bonus: we found tickets for less than $350 each round-trip! Score! The next plan: Todos Santos May 2015 with all the parents!

But for now, a long Memorial Day weekend at home. A new bakery is opening and we plan to finish the living room and put it back together. Life feels really good on the island. 

One Month

Today is May 8. On June 8 I walk across the stage in cap and gown to receive my MBA diploma. One month. The end of two years of work.

I cannot wait!

To be fair, this quarter has been very manageable. I took one fewer class so the work load is MUCH lighter, and my final project is in final reviews (aka: mostly down time and waiting). This afternoon I will be on campus for my second to last intensive weekend.

We are excited about being on the other side of graduation. We have two large summer trips in the hopper, and a laundry list of other hikes, adventures and projects to tackle. First up: a San Juan islands kayak trip. Currently slated for the end of July. August will bring a weekend of camping and hiking in the North Cascades, and then September rounds out the summer with a camping surf trip to Oregon. It’s going to be a good summer!

Mixed in with all that is our plethora of house projects, seeing family, and oh yea, working.

We are already getting a taste of school freedom. This week I had no classes, and each night we would take a walk to the beach. We have two beaches within walking distance from our house. Matt likes to say we have a sunrise beach (east facing) and a sunset beach (west facing). We love being no more than 20 minutes from the water by foot!