Summer 2010 Greatest Hits #1: The National Parks

The first National Parks (NP) first grabbed my attention during the summer of 2004 on my Great Move West.  In the midst of a 2500 mile journey, my brother and I pulled off I-90 for a scenic detour through Badlands NP at sunset.  We were blown away.  We’d never seen anything so natural and beautiful in our entire lives.  We just kept coming around corners saying, “Oh. My. Gosh.”  Two days later, we made a similarly adjectived drive up Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier NP.  We hiked over snowy fields in our flip flops in July and fell in love with the bright turquoise water of glacial lakes.

The National Parks are something to be celebrated…that American pioneers had the foresight to preserve our best places, when humans tend to be so good at exploiting lands for a profit.

This summer, we took several excursions that led us through Crater Lake, Yosemite, Arches, and Canyonlands.  Each park was unique, but each one held breathtaking viewpoints, and  a myriad of color and natural beauty.  The parks were a melting pot of nationalities, and during our time in Utah at Arches and Canyonlands, we ran into very few Americas, rather we met mainly Europeans in rented RV’s.  It made me wonder if the National Parks are something we might take for granted, when we are the very people they were set aside for!  And, even with some of the parks boasting as many as 15,000 visitors a day (Yosemite) I was amazed at how much is still preserved.

So one of Summer 2010’s Greatest Hits for me was being introduced to the beauty of the National Parks, I must agree with historian Wallace Stegner (who was tagged by Ken Burns for the National Parks documentary) in saying they are “the best idea we ever had.”  Here’s a few snapshots in testament to their beauty!

Crater Lake National Park (Oregon, June 2010, with mother-in-law and father-in-law)

Yosemite National Park (California, June 2010, with friends from Taylor University days)

Arches National Park (Utah, July 2010, with Mom and Dad)

Canyonlands National Park (Utah, July 2010, with Mom and Dad)

So, now, it’s your turn.  Where would you like to go?  I’m thinking, Hawaii or American Samoa.

Coming up Next, Summer 2010 Greatest Hit #2:  The Backyard Garden.

Back on the Wagon…of Blogging, if there even is a wagon for that.

So my new blog died ever-so-sadly as it was just beginning…and I have reasons for that certainly, most of which involve being home very little over the last 3 months, and some of which involve a pervasive fear with waxing on too long about inane narcissistic things…but this is a blog, and what is it, if it is not self-involved? (This question was meant to be rhetorical…but then I had to pause and reflect oh-so-philisophically about what on the internet is not self-involved, which led me to question what of the human existence is not self-involved, and suddenly I’m totally derailed by tangent and thus unable of accomplishing the very task I set out to do which was to write a very simple blog to get me back on the blogging wagon.  This leads me to now being totally embarrassed that my parenthetical comment is longer than my original comment was, but I’m unwilling to delete it, because this is a blog, and I can write poorly if I want. If it bothers you, I recommend Slate as a much smarter read.)

So anyways, I want to recap Summer 2010’s Greatest Hits, which tend towards the general more than the specific…and honestly, they’re each so spectacular that they’re probably worthy of a blog each in and of themselves…  So, what if I do that.  It also requires me to make a commitment.  So yeah, let’s go for it.  Yee-Haw!

Coming up next, #1 on the list: The National Parks.

Yosemite…it’s so hard not to call you “Yosa-mite.”

The first assignment I remember from my first semester of college was writing a narrative response to John Muir’s essay “A Wind-storm in the Forests.”   This last week, 4 friends, friend’s baby, husband and I travelled to a land that inspired John Muir: Yosemite National Park.  It’s the place Ansel Adams photographed, the place John Muir traipsed across while writing his essays, and the location for our weeklong summer vacation.

Yosemite  seemed to be part Eden and part Disney World…Eden, because I found myself uttering more than once, “I have never seen anything this beautiful in my entire life,” as I craned my neck towards the tops of  waterfalls and granite canyon walls.  Part Disney World, because I shared the experience with about 15,000 of my best friends, riding from trailhead to trailhead through Eden on the packed out hybrid Yosemite shuttle busses…part Eden because I could not stop saying, “This is so, so beautiful,” everytime I walked back to our campsite on the banks of the South Fork of the Merced River.  Part Disney World because we literally waited in line to take pictures under the giant sequoia tunnel tree in the Mariposa Grove.

It’s a funny thing to be camping in nature in the middle of nowhere with 15,000 other people, spending an hour or two each day waiting on construction flaggers to switch their signs from stop to slow, and stalking passersby in hopes of snagging their parking spot.

But Yosemite has to be that amazing, if at the end of it, we would say it was all worth it…the crowds, the construction, and hand-washing our dishes in a National Park sink three times a day…to be walking through Yosemite Valley with best friends, eating picnic lunches aside towering granite cliffs.

The moral of the story?  You should go to Yosemite.  It’s beautiful, and you will love it…

Hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls.  We got drenched.  (Check out the tiny people on the right-hand side.)  Clay and I hiked up to the top!

A great shot of Half-Dome from Glacier Point.

A shot of Upper Yosemite Falls from the Swinging Bridge.

A giant sequoia in the Mariposa Grove.

Our campsite in Wawona Campground, near the South Entrance of the park on the South Fork of the Merced River.

Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View.  El Capitan is on the left and Bridal Veil Falls on the right.

At the Tunnel Tree in the Mariposa Grove.

On iPhoto, Sprouting Peppers, The Avett Brothers, and Our Longing for Intimacy

I had the best intentions tonight…the best intentions to read and write about my ever-growing garden.  I planned to wax poetic about the most recent miniature rose plant I’ve fallen for*.  I wanted to introduce you to my beautiful tomato trellis.

As it turns out, another evening awaited…one that involves the disappointment and frustration of having to rebuild my entire iPhoto library of 8000 photos, a task that will take many more nights than just tonight’s efforts.

The good news is, my garden is growing, as evidenced here…a mini habanero or jalepeno or anaheim pepper.  A.Maze.Ing.

And to decompress from my hard drive snafu, I did the only thing I could: step aside to pull out my yoga mat, turn on The Avett Brothers, cross my legs and breathe in and out.  Everytime I listen to I and Love and You, a new line pops out at me.  This week, it was the central line in the title track, “Three words that became hard to say: I and Love and You.”

Except in my mind, before the words echoed across the room, I’d already translated them to, “The three words I find hard to say.”

My mistranslation reminds me of an incredible quote from Frederick Buechner: “What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.”

I could say much more on these two thoughts alone, but I will take the path of wisdom and instead go to bed.  We humans long for intimacy and fear it simultaneously.  What are we to do?   I do not know, but I will plant peppers.

Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.
Are you aware the shape I’m in?
My hands they shake; my head it spins.
Ah, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.

* My seduction by mini-rosebush was first documented in an email to high school friend sometime in the school year 2000/2001.  I remember something so insignificant from so long ago because I remember the exact windowsill the first mini-rosebush died upon, and it was in Room 326 of Gerig Hall.

Brown Thumb? We’ll See.

It has happened now 2 years in a row: I’ve been seduced by the luscious plant life engulfing the entrance to the grocery store, and I have succumbed to buying a plant. or 2.  or 10.

I know I should stay away, but seriously, I just can’t say know.  I want to be a gardener…but I’ve just never spoke the language of plants.  And, I forget about them, and they eventually turn brown and die. Continue reading

Easter Carnage

This Easter we are thankful for friends who invite us over for dinner and an Easter egg hunt.  Husband collected 4 eggs, thanks in part to the tax imposed by MamaBear, requiring the four babies to hand over one egg each to “Pastor Tay.”  I spent some quality time with the Nikon D60.  This is what was left behind.

Patty, Buddy, Pike Place: Maundy Thursday in Seattle

Last night, Husband and I went to see the ever-wonderful Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller at the Moore.  On Maundy Thursday, Patty’s haunting covers of gospel standards (from her most recent album Downtown Church) were quenching parts me I didn’t even know had dried up.  She wasn’t necessarily trying to facilitate worship, but for me, that’s what it was…a quality of music that transcends anything I can normally experience during worship, and no one was up there trying to manage how I should be feeling…I was just able to experience it.

Beforehand, we grabbed dinner at a hole-in-the-wall in the International District, played cribbage at Starbucks, and took some pics at the market at dusk.  I’ve been messing with the manual features on our Nikon D60 lately, because it seems sinful to own such a great camera and keep using it as a point and shoot.  No pics of the concert, but a few snapshots of the streets of Seattle on a quiet Thursday night.

Ingredients for Intentional Relationships

Lately, I’ve been making little lists to help me remember what’s most important.  It came out of a conversation with a friend, where she was challenged to make a list of her treasures…to help her to reprioritize her life around the things that matter most.  I was like, “Wow, what a smart idea.”

It’s kind of ridiculous that life works in a way that we have to make lists to remind us of what’s important, but I respond well to lists.  Based on my observation of families in my work with teenagers, parents end up with lots of regrets about the time they didn’t spend with their kids when they were little.  I’ve also observed retired people voicing regret that they spent so much time worrying about work and forgot to take more vacations.  I’m not a big fan of regret.  I don’t want to look back on my life 20 years from now to realize that I have every episode of Friends memorized or read every link on my Facebook NewsFeed, but I missed the change to invest in something that matters.

Right now, I’m trying not to see the days’ tasks as, “Buy Groceries, File Taxes, Vacuum, Pay Rent, Collapse in front of TV from exhaustion” but instead see, “Spend time in prayer, help Husband feel loved today, Tell someone I love them and I believe in them.”  Already on today, Good Friday, I’ve completed two of three of the things on my list, and life feels rich.

One of the top things on my list of treasures is my Sunday Night Girls’ ReaLife Group.  It’s a simple, small thing you can do too really: find another adult, invite some people to share life with you.  Here’s a snapshot of the ingredients to sharing life with them…to creating deep relationships from scratch…

1) Invite someone to meet with you.  Intentional relationships don’t happen from mass appeals or waiting for the other person to say they want to spend time with you.  Life-changing relationships happen because you are vulnerable enough to ask a person you care about to spend time with you.  So pick up the phone and pick a date/time and get started.   Call them.  Do it!

2) Share dessert.

This one is courtesy of our TeenBakingProdigy, a peanut butter pie from Paula Deen.  TeenBakingProdigy approaches me many a Sunday morning after worship to say, “Tonight, we will have _______.”  Several hours later, she shows up with her baked creation, much to our delight.  Last week, when TeenBakingProdigy was late to group, we called her to see where she was, because we were craving the peanut butter pie she’d promised.  She responded, “I’m almost there.  I’m walking to church really slowly…in the rain.  I can only go so fast because the pie hasn’t set yet.”  You cannot buy this kind of commitment to good dessert, but it is certainly a blessing…so was the pie.

3) Drink a hot beverage.

Because nothing breaks the ice for good conversation like a steamy cup of warm beverage.

4) Do something silly together.

In this particular case, TeenBakingProdigy read aloud to us about Arizona’s, “The Thing.”  Nothing insights laughter and bonding like THE THING.  Definitely seek to laugh as much as possible.

5) Read God’s word together and try to learn something new.  Be honest in the process.
Even if all you learn is something small, and even if it doesn’t make sense.

This morning, one of my gals and I went to breakfast together.  We followed the basic steps: something sweet to eat, some warm beverages, and simple conversations about life and God.

Intentionality sure feels good on the other side…Jesus himself chose a few people to share life with, and they changed the world…it’s Good Friday…I strongly recommend pursuing some intentional relationship time today.

Prepping for Potluck

In the wee hours of a Saturday morning (okay, but 8am feels wee on a Saturday morning, yes?)  I’m waiting on an oh-so-colorful pot of red kidney, navy, black and garbanzo beans to finish cooking so they can be thrown in already-simmering pot of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic summer squash from a friend’s summer garden, bulgur, and oodles of spices.

It’s potluck lunch today at choir rehearsal, and what’s a potluck without a dish to look forward to?  I love being able to share whole foods with my neighbors, and so this morning, I impose upon the world a giant pot of chili, made almost entirely from scratch*, full of good things including dried beans, bulgur and garden squash.

I’m secretly hoping the chili turns out gross-looking, so we can bring most of it home and spend the rest of the week eating it…but well, I wouldn’t be much of a potlucker, would I?

*I used store bought canned tomatoes. Not my preference, but better than hot house tomatoes from Mexico.

From Scratch: Hummus

Hummus is where it’s at.  Over the last few years, I’ve definitely noticed hummus’ growing popularity on yuppie grocery stores specialty shelves.  But guess what?  You can save the $6.99 for 6 oz and make something better and waaaaaay cheaper at home!  Super, super easy if you have at least a small food processor.  Full of protein, flavor, and great as a main dish or side dish for a vegetarian main course.

Here’s how I do it, thanks to my first roommate and her amazing tutorials:


*Chick Peas (about 1 c. dried or 1 can per batch.  Start with Step 3 if you’re using canned.  Dried save you sodium, $$ and have better texture/flavor.)
*1 lemon or lemon juice
*1 heaping T. Sesame Tahini (orange can found near the peanut butter)
*1-2 Fresh Garlic Cloves
*Salt to taste
*Other things you want in your hummus.  I like plain or roasted red pepper & basil.  Husband likes jalepeno.  Yuppies seem to like roasted garlic.

  1. Soak several cups of dried chick peas in water (Overnight for morning hummus or before work for dinner hummus.)
  2. Swap out the soaking water and replace water till it’s 1 inches higher than the beans in pan.  Cook dried chick peas 1-2 hours until they’re soft.  Drain them.
  3. Fill a small food processor about 80% full with drained, cooked chick peas. Add either lemon juice or 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon, along with tahini, garlic, and a 1/2 t. salt.  Blend together.
  4. Throw in extra veggies such as jalepenos, roasted red peppers, or herbs like basil or cilantro if you want.
  5. Gradually add small amounts of water to smooth out texture and continue to blend.
  6. Check flavor, and add additional tahini, salt or garlic to taste.  Finish off with extra water if needed to make texture completely smooth.

Serve with pita bread, as a spread for sandwiches (my fave is hummus, turkey, pepperocini, lettuce, and a little italian or caesar dressing), or with tortilla chips.  Makes a great main dish for lunch or appetizer.