Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Time!

Today is Halloween, so naturally we had to do some pumpkin carving yesterday! Catherine had picked up two pumpkins and Marvel Comic Patterns for carving. Jason and I teamed up to get them carved - I poked in the design pattern and he carved them out. He definitely had the tougher job - mine was to make a sort of connect the dots pattern for him. :) I can't be trusted to carve intricate designs anyhow - they'd be a disaster if I had carved them! Anyhow, Jason chose the HULK pattern and I (naturally) chose WOLVERINE - not just because Hugh Jackman is such a cutie, but because it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine! (7-1, baby!) I wanted to carve an M into my Wolverine pumpkin, but they were very time consuming. Maybe next year! So here are some photos from pumpkin carving!

Today was supposed to be the day for Epcot and the Food and Wine Festival they host there every year. Unfortunately, it's pouring today and Jason's sick, so we're postponing until either Thursday, or right after we get off the cruise ship. It's all good - no one wants to walk around Epcot in the pouring rain!

Tomorrow is lunch with my mom's half sister, Annie. That's a story for another time, but just know that in addition to my mom's adoptive family in California, she also has her birth father's family in Florida. Annie and her family moved to Orlando last year, so we're going to get to see each other tomorrow. Should be fun!

How Indy spent the afternoon after killing another lizard. The dead lizard count stands at 3. Poor little lizards!

XMEN WOLVERINE! Ferocious, isn't he? GO BLUE!

Jason carving THE HULK!

Hulk and Wolverine get set outside to greet trick-or-treaters!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wyoming to Florida

We are in Florida, and the weather is perfect - warm and only slightly humid and different enough from Wyoming to remind me that we are on a FOUR MONTH VACATION. Granted, we'll do some work during those four months, but mostly, we're on vacation, and it is so good.

We got all settled in today after driving in at about 5pm yesterday. Instead of unpacking, we just decided to visit with Jason's family, and after a slow start this morning, are unpacked. The Hummer is getting new tires put on it (it was time, and we had budgeted for it), Jason changed the oil on it, and Indy's chasing Bugs and Frogs and Lizards and Cats around the screened in pool.

It's great. I'm still having trouble accepting that we really are ON VACATION, but I couldn't ask for a more different change in climate to help me accept that. Life is so good.

Back to our road trip:

Monday, we drove 900 miles from the Ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming to Lincoln, Nebraska. Home of the cornhuskers. At dinner that night, Jason was sitting next to a wall of Nebraska Cornhusker memorabilia, wearing his MICHIGAN long sleeve. Welcome to the Big Ten. I tried to get a photo of him, but he was REALLY tired after driving so far and wasn't in the mood. Not that I can blame him!

Indy the Road Warrior

Tuesday, we slept late and didn't get started until about 8am (late compared to our 5am start the day before). We drove ANOTHER 900 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska to Manchester, TN (about an hour Southeast of Nashville). Basically, Missouri was a lot like Nebraska, but with a lot more trees and more roadkill than I ever thought possible! We drove in Nebraska, across Missouri, down through Illinois, cut the corner of Kentucky (in the dark - couldn't see any of it!), and finally into Tennessee. With the exception of Illinois, all of the states we hit that day were new ones for me! We also managed to drive through St. Louis and past the Cardinals stadium the day before the World Series game, and I got to see the arch. Since we were stuck in traffic (hello, culture shock!), I was able to get a photo out the window for my dad. Cool. :) We also crossed over the Mississippi, but I was too busy looking at the arch to notice it. All good - we'll be driving back and forth across the country several times, and I'll be able to give the river my FULL attention next time!


St. Louis Arch and Cardinal Stadium

Wednesday, Jason was so excited that he woke up at 5:45 and was ready to roll. I was not thrilled to be woken up from a sound sleep, but totally understood his excitement and put my game face on. We drove through the Smoky Mountains at Sunrise headed towards Chattanooga - incredible. Interesting fact - the Smokies look so Smoky because the warm, humid air travels up from the Gulf of Mexico and as it cools over the mountains creates a fog. They are always foggy, and the effect looks like smoke - hence, their name! Anyhow, they were SPECTACULARLY beautiful and worth the early rise to see them. Then it was South through Georgia (also a first for me - I'd only ever flown through the Atlanta airport on layovers, so this was my first actual trip through the state), and then even more south into Florida. 600 miles and about nine hours later, we were in Orlando. It felt like it took forever, probably because the end was in sight.

The Smokies at sunrise, viewed through the bug carnage on the windshield.

Anyhow - we are here! Vacation has begun! I get to wake up to this view every morning for the next ten days, until we head to the Caribbean! Wish you were here with us? Indy thinks you should be - he just killed a lizard.

Pool, patio, screened in porch (no mosquitos!) and the lake!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall in Wyoming

Today is our last day in Wyoming. The Car is packed, the bunkhouse has been cleaned, and we're watching Tim Tebow play for the Broncos. It's really strange that after 7 months, we're leaving. Jason put it best after I picked him up at the Cody airport on Friday - the hour long drive to the ranch feels like coming home. And right now? I've never seen it more beautiful than it was on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. We'll be back, though, so we can't be sad, and the adventures ahead of us? They're pretty awesome.

Speaking of those adventures, here's a recap of our upcoming adventures: Orlando to see Jason's family and go to Disneyworld, Eastern Caribbean cruise, drive to California, pick up some work - subbing, caroling, and Jason will come back to the ranch for two weeks of work. After Christmas drive back to Florida, go on a Western Caribbean cruise and celebrate Christmas with Jason's family, fly to South Africa to work with Bridges of Hope for two weeks, fly back to the States, fly to Bahamas for five days to get our next level dive licenses. Drive back to California to pick up more work. And sometime in late March/early April, drive back to Wyoming for our second season at the Hawkeye.

PHEW! Did you get all that? We're going to try to see as many states as possible on our drives back and forth across the country. I've seen about 29 states total so far, and Jason has been to every state but two (which are not on our route this year: Oregon and Hawaii).

So be sure to check back for updates from the road and our super adventures! We are so blessed to have the freedom and finances to be able to explore, and plan to make the most of this opportunity!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Birthday blessings

I turned 29 on Sunday. The last year of my twenties. They've flown by! I'm not sad or scared of them coming to an end, though. Life has gotten better every year, so I'm excited to see what's next. The only problem that I have with time marching on is that the people I love are also getting older. That's all a part of it, though, and a reminder that we should cherish every moment we're given, because they don't come again.

I had some incredible moments to cherish this weekend. My parents flew to Cody to spend my birthday weekend at the Ranch. When I knew that I would be alone on my birthday while Jason was on the road, I asked my parents if they would come. They did. It was a WONDERFUL weekend. And to be honest, we didn't do much. I took Dad to the shooting shed on my birthday, and he hired a fishing guide on Monday. Mom and I spent hours and hours talking about everything under the sun. We put fires in the Lodge fireplace. We made delicious food. Mom and I hired a massage therapist to come up to the lodge and take care of our sore muscles.

It was awesome. A time to cherish. A memory to keep. Meaningful time with my amazing parents. I could not be more grateful for the last few days or for the way I celebrated my 29th birthday.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for making my weekend special. I love you!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Project Runway and Cream Puffs

I finished all my work at the ranch early today, so I camped out in the kitchen and finally buckled down to some baking I'd been wanting to do. What a great way to spend a chilly, windy afternoon - in a warm kitchen making Gluten Free Cream Puffs and watching a Project Runway marathon!

I love Project Runway. (Anya and Viktor made it to Fashion Week - huzzah!) I love Cream Puffs, but sadly have not eaten something that light and fluffy since I gave up Gluten for good.

Thank goodness for the Gluten Free Ratio Rally. Every month, gluten free bloggers take on their Ratio Rally project of the month. Last month, that project was "Pate a Choux" (no clue how to put in the accent markings on Blogger... sorry) - the dough used for cream puffs, eclairs and all those delicious pastries. I read through all the recipes on all the different blogs, and thought this one was the best.

I think it probably was. I made these today, at high altitude (we're above 6500 feet here!), without any adjustments and they came out perfect. Fluffy, light, and with the exact same airiness of the gluten-full version. I immediately ran a few up to Heidi (who is a super baker, and makes incredible gluten-full cream puffs - the guests just die over them), and she LOVED them, too.

If you are gluten free and have a craving for pastry like I do, make these. Tomorrow. They are SUPER EASY and FUN to make!

Click here to go to the original post, and to see the recipe!

Just so you know, the only changes I made to the original recipe were to substitute Sorghum Flour for Millet Flour and White Rice Flour for Brown Rice Flour since I needed to use what I had on hand. Then, based on a recommendation from Heidi, I made half of a batch of vanilla pudding and folded in half of the whipped cream to make the filling. It has just the right amount of heft and lightness (I'm pretty sure that's not a word, but that's where I'm at.) And it's downright delicious. I think I ate half of the batch in one sitting!

I'm serious. Go make these. NOW! And if you can eat them WITH gluten, then what the heck are you waiting for? They're easy to make, and fun, and WAAAAAY better for you than those frozen ones you bought at the store since they're not full of preservatives. And they taste better, too!

Happy snacking!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Call of the Wild

With the colder weather, all of the animals are coming down into the Valley from waaaay up in the mountains. That means that we've been experiencing a little bit of the Call of the Wild around here.

This morning at 6:30, I was awakened by a coyote pack's excited yipping. They had killed something in the closest horse pasture, right by the cabins. All of the dogs and horses are accounted for, and we're not sure exactly what they killed yet. I'm not sure if you've ever heard something like that up close and personal, but it's loud and creepy!

Then, yesterday, JW and Chad made the ride up the Deer Creek (aka Widow Maker) trail to pack up and carry out the hunting camp. At the top, they encountered fresh snow that reached up to the horses bellies, and Chad's horse Geronimo went to it's knees in the snow at the edge of the cliff. Everybody's okay. However, on the way back, they found themselves following some fresh blood spatter. Then they started to see sporadic canine paw prints about 4 times the size of Indy's. (If you're squeamish, you may just want to stop here.) They came around a bend in the trail and found a pack of wolves tearing apart an Elk that was still alive. The wolves scattered, they road through to a safe distance, and then JW came back to kill the Elk. When he got back the wolves were back on the Elk and it was finally dead. That's National Geographic stuff, right there.

So you see what I mean? The Call of the Wild!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stormy Weather

That's a great old song - "Stormy weather, since you and I ain't together. Keeps raining all the time." That's certainly what I've felt since being alone on the ranch, and the weather has been cooperating. The clouds were spectacular as I drove back to the ranch from the Grocery store yesterday. Isn't it gorgeous?

Road Trip Part 2

Okay! I'm cozily ensconced back at the Ranch and back to work. Today is the first snow of the season, and it's been flurrying all morning. It's beautiful! Right now I have a pot of Potato and Leek soup bubbling away on the stove for lunch (I grew all the potatoes AND the leeks in the soup, by the way!), and after lunch it's back to work!

While I'm waiting for my soup, I thought I'd get to work recapping the second half of our road trip!

Sunday, Oct 2
Our First Anniversary! We woke up late in our hotel room in Toledo, Ohio (a VERY nice, really clean Super 8) and started the 350 mile drive to Niagara Falls. This would be both of our first trip to the Falls, and we were really looking forward to it. We booked a room at the Super 8 there in advance and were ready to roll. You should know that every time I have ever entered the state of New York (or left the state of New York) something crazy has happened to me. I've been attacked by a foot fetishist, beat up by a deaf man on the subway, screamed at by cabbies, the list goes on and on... So, upon entering the state of New York, a native decided that we were taking to long at the toll plaza, started honking at us like a maniac, then chased us down on the road, flipped us off and then cut us off. Welcome to New York! (I should mention that we were only at the toll plaza for less than a minute). Awesome. We proceeded into the state, and were WAAAAY less than impressed with Buffalo. I'm sorry if you're a fan of that city, but it is FILTHY. From there, it was a short drive to Niagara. We know the history of Niagara Falls, how it was totally developed and ruined in the late 1800's, everything but the falls themselves. It is not our generation's fault that the falls were built around and that there is no "wild nature" left there. It IS our generations fault that the City of Niagara, butting up to the falls is a TOTAL HELLHOLE. There seems to be a mentality of "People will always come here to see the falls, why should we put money and energy into keeping it up?" If we had brought our passports, we would have stayed on the Canadian side which is much cleaner, I guess. Anyhow, we decided to make the most of it, and went to the Seneca Niagara Casino for a nice dinner. The casino is nice - only a few years old, and the restaurant had good food. It's an Italian place, and you can sub regular pasta for rice pasta - delish! We got there early and both decided to put a few bucks into the cheapo slot machines (I wanted to play craps, but the minimums were $10 and $15 - too much for me!), and both of us doubled our money within the first minute. We're not big gamblers, so we just cashed out and walked away $30 up on the Casino. We had a great dinner - Champagne, apps, main course, dessert. Mmm. It saved our time in Niagara, definitely. :)

Super tired after the Awful Super 8, but here we are at Niagara - me with a big zit on my forehead. At least the falls are still gorgeous!

Monday, Oct 3
We couldn't wait to get out of that crazy Super 8, so we were on the road early, headed for Syracuse. We got in early, grabbed some popcorn and saw the film MONEYBALL at the mall. We both loved it, by the way. After the movie, we were off to the Apple Store to buy the new computer, totally souped up, that the boss needed us to get. We were in the Apple Store for two hours, having every upgrade imaginable done to this computer, and spent a lot of time talking with the guy who was helping us. Turns out, he was working in the animation industry in LA for quite a while, until the project that was supposed to get his foot in the door with Universal fell apart thanks to the Writer's Strike. A lot of businesses failed during that strike, many people lost their jobs, and you can argue that Los Angeles STILL hasn't recovered. Anyhow, this guy with a Master's degree in his field is now working at an Apple Store in Syracuse, NY. Sign of the times? He was a really nice guy, though, and managed to send us in the direction of an AWESOME little restaurant near the University call Alto Cinco. For those of you who are Spanish Impaired, Alto Cinco translates literally to "High Five". Cute. The food was outstanding. They cater to these diets: Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free and still manage to have great Chicken dishes on the menu for a dedicated carnivore like my husband. I got a burrito (my first actual burrito since I gave up gluten - I stick to tacos and bowls) - shrimp, fajita veg, rice and a to-die-for chipotle crema. Mmm. And if I had noticed before I ordered a glass of wine I would have ordered one - they serve a gluten free beer as well. I haven't had a beer in more than two years! After the stellar hotel stay in Niagara, we just decided to go for a nice room at the Ramada instead. Plus it had a hot tub so we could soak our travel weary bodies. Syracuse was a great town - and the people were great and helpful as well. Definitely my favorite city in New York. :)

Tuesday, Oct 4
We slept really late, because we COULD. There's not much to tell about this day but the fact that we spent as much quality time as we could, since I'd be flying the next day and we'll be apart for at least two weeks. We drove to Albany, did some shopping, spent some time at the laundromat so Jason could get his laundry cleaned up, and had some dinner.

We had a great time, and I am so grateful that we were able to spend that week together, and celebrate our anniversary together rather than apart! I returned to the ranch after a long day of flights (Thank you to the United Ticket Agent at Albany for cutting my flights from 4 to 3!), and am missing Jason so, so much. Indy's still half moping - looking for his dad. The days are long without him here. But my parents will be here a week from tomorrow, soon after than Jason will be back, and then we're off to Florida and then the Caribbean!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roadtrip Recap Part 1!

Tonight we're in Albany, NY. Tomorrow morning, Jason will drop me at the airport, to fly back to Wyoming. He will continue on this road trip, and return to the Ranch around October 24 or 25th.

We've had a blast. So much fun, in fact, that i haven't made the time to blog about it as we went. So here's the recap of the first three days of our road trip!

Thursday, Sept 29
We drove almost 800 miles today, across most of the state of Wyoming and all of the state of South Dakota. There are tons of farms in South Dakota, and very few buildings. What do they have an abundance of? Grains - Corn and Wheat. Hundreds of miles of them.

Sunrise over Wyoming.

Friday, Sept 30
We drove another 750 miles, this time crossing Iowa, Illinois, cutting the corner of Indiana, and driving halfway across Michigan, where we stayed in Kalamazoo for the night. Iowa is a lot like South Dakota, except there is no variation in grains. Iowa is all CORN. Everywhere you look? Corn. And maybe a barn or silo. I'd been told this before, by an Iowa resident, but didn't believe it could be THAT bad. No - it really is just corn. And the occasional town. It is beautiful, though, in a mid-America farming kind of way. We stopped for lunch in Des Moines for a Chick-Fil-A fix. This Chick-Fil-A happened to be inside a mall, and after six months in Wyoming, on a ranch an hour outside of a small town, I experienced some serious culture shock just walking into a mall. So many people, so much noise, so much going on! I will say this, though, noisy mall and all, Iowa is CLEAN. Iowans take pride in their state and keep everything clean and beautiful. Thank you, Iowans! If my Iowa culture shock wasn't enough, we found ourselves driving at rush hour in the rain in Chicago. I've been away from traffic for six months, and while it's always been a part of my California lifestyle, I forgot just how terrible it can be! We continued chasing the rain storm around Lake Michigan, through Indiana and into Michigan, finally stopping for the night at the only place within 100 miles of Ann Arbor that hadn't had it's price jacked way up because of the football game. It was a Knight's Inn and not only was it filthy, it was scary. Drug dealers in the parking lot, sheets you're not sure have been washed scary. Fortunately, I had Jason to make me feel secure. And we threw the deadbolts.

This is what Iowa looks like. All the way across the state.

Saturday, Oct 1
We couldn't wait to get out of that crazy, dirty hotel, and I was anxious to get to Ann Arbor and see my Alma Mater. Michigan is one of the largest Universities in the US, and is just beautiful. I couldn't wait to show Jason my college town! As we got closer to Ann Arbor, the stories just starting pouring out of me. Stories that I haven't thought of in years, about people that I haven't spoken to in years. It was wild, and I have some folks I know I need to get in touch with soon. There are definite changes on campus, the largest being that the building where I had all of my acting classes is no longer standing, now there is a new dorm in it's place, and a new Theatre Building on North Campus. It was weird not being able to go to my second "home", I felt a little displaced - weird I know. Two blocks from where I had all my classes is the co-op where I lived during my entire tenure at Michigan. Linder house has had some much needed work done on it, like having the old, drafty windows replaced and a new paint job. It's an interesting choice of paint color, though, since it's now bright Turquoise! (It used to be beige with green trim!)

Linder House, 2011

After breakfast, roaming campus, and a stop in a bar, we walked back to the Big House (Michigan Stadium - the LARGEST football stadium in the US) for the Minnesota @ Michigan Game. Did I mention that Michigan has a special kind of cold, one that gets right into your bones, and it greeted us on Saturday? I was bundled up, head to toe, with 4 layers on top! Anyhow, the game was a blowout - so much so that I was actually sad for Minnesota - but we had a great time! My Wolverines are now 5-0 and ranked #12 in the nation heading into their first road game. I'm not sure they deserve a #12 ranking while they're rebuilding, but there are very few unbeaten teams left in Division 1 football, so we just keep moving up with each win! Here are some photos from our Game Day at the Big House!

Well, that's it for tonight. I'll post about the rest of our trip in the next few days, maybe Thursday or Friday at the latest. Now? I'm going to enjoy some time with my husband!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

1 Year

Jason and I have been married for one year today. I cannot even believe how quickly time has flown! And yet, in some ways it feels like more than a year. We've come so far from our wedding - with Jason and I leaving our jobs to move to Wyoming. We have been so blessed by this opportunity to rely more heavily on each other, to really work on our marriage and relationship. Certainly, our newfound financial freedom (thank you, Dave Ramsey!) has contributed by eliminating the financial stress that weighs so heavily on so many couples. But really, being so far from both of our families, in a place so far removed from anything "familiar" has caused us to be dependent on each other, so much more than we were in Los Angeles.

I am more in love with my husband than I was when I married him, and our relationship has become infinitely deeper. We are on a lifetime adventure and partnership, and we plan to keep the idea of "adventure" as a permanent part of our relationship.

Here's to the next year, with many more adventures, a continued deepening of our relationship, and a life where I fall deeper in love with my husband with every day.

I love you, Jason. Thank you for being my partner, my love and my friend. Happy Anniversary!