Archive for the ‘traveling’ Category


I’m leavin on a jet plane

August 15, 2011

Well the time for departure has finally come, I am actually heading out on my big adventure called moving to Seattle. My flight leaves at 6:45am tomorrow morning so the last few days (and weeks) have been filled with packing, shipping boxes, goodbyes, final one night trips with the girls, ice cream and more goodbyes. Up until this past Sunday I had been doing a pretty good job of keeping my emotions under wraps, but finally in church (in front of everyone! (which actually considering how much I hate to cry in public, is a good indication of how much these people and this community have become my home)) and a few times since then I have found tears catching up with me.

But there is excitement too, seeing Alex again, getting to spend time with David, making jam with Katie, finally UNPACKING!!!!!!!!!! It is just hard right now to face goodbye after goodbye, all while reminding myself that life is both changing a lot and not changing at all. I will still have all these relationships with me, but it will just be longer till I get to see them all in person.


Paddle-a-thon wrap-up

August 12, 2011

So folks, Steph and I did it!  On Saturday we paddled a total of 31 miles in two different countries and in that 31 miles is included 3 miles worth of portaging (which means that for those three miles the canoe was balanced on one of our shoulders while the other carried our shared day pack and assorted gear of paddles, lifejackets, etc).  As several other repeat paddle-a-thoners have said, it is amazing how quickly one’s body and mind forget pain and since it only took until around Tuesday for the soreness to leave my shoulders, the crazy thought is already entering my head of “Man, that would be fun to do again!”  But we will leave that for another time, but for now here is a breakdown of the day.

5:15am Moose Lake

There were 6 groups of paddlers and 1 kayaker heading out on the water on Saturday and 4 groups headed out at 4am, while my canoe and our buddy canoe waited to the luxurious hour of 5am (the different between waking at 3:30am and 4:30am can’t be underestimated).  Despite all my anxieties (ask Steph, sometimes around big events like this I can get just a little nutso) about the “60% chance of thunderstorms” forecast, we had a great day for paddling.  It started off clear and allowed me to get to see that beautiful sunrise over the water that I had been looking forward, but then clouded over and kept us nice and cool during the long paddle home that late afternoon.

6 miles and 2 hours later

Our route took us north out of Moose Lake, for about 6 miles, until we reached our first portage of the day over into the Quetico.  Only 20 rods long (1 rod equals 16 feet) this also marked our last chance to use a real toilet for the day (the Quetico is even more primitive than the Boundary Waters and doesn’t even have latrines).  From there it was another 3 mile paddle up into Sunday Bay where we had our first of our three serious portages of the day, 134 rods.  Then another 3 miles of paddling where we faced down the big one 190 rods (approximately 1/2 a mile) and I was proud that I managed to carry the canoe both ways for this one.  However I will say that type of thing leaves you shaky, slightly floating and incapable of raising ones’ hands above ones’ head.  After that it was a quick paddle around a corner of a lake and then another 140 rod portage to get us into our final destination Agnes Lake and the lovely waterfall where we rested for lunch.

Lunch break at the falls on Agnes Lake

Of course this also meant that after our 30 minutes of rest we hoped (or more accurately slowly lowered ourselves) into our canoes to retrace our route from the morning.  I think Steph would agree that our combined low point came around 5 miles from the boat access point (or around mile 26).  At this point, you know there is absolutely no other option than to just keep paddling, but your body is pretty pissed at you for getting it into this whole mess, your arms have kind of forgotten how to paddle a J-stroke or a C-stroke, there are highly annoying black flies catching a ride in your canoe for the express purpose of driving you slowly mad by repeatedly biting your legs (it is hard to swat and paddle simultaneously), the clouds overhead are blocking any chance of seeing the sky head towards sunset and your navigator (in this case me) keeps misreading the map thinking we are only 15 minutes or so away.  This is when you fall back on the only thing that will save you and someone keep you paddling for those last miles, the thing that is always there for you during late night road trips, or mopey Saturday afternoons, by which I mean of course the complete Sound of Music soundtrack.  Steph and I had discovered earlier in the day that singing quite helps the time go by and also helps us paddle together, so we had already sung through our entire repertoire of hymns, folk songs, etc, but hadn’t yet remembered musicals.  So after we completed Sound of Music (we even attempted the puppet yodeling song, although we could only remember the first 2 lines) we ventured into Lion King and several others, before finally around 6:45pm, we reached the end!

Our gang of five

Finally, I just want to thank all of you who donated! While Steph and I didn’t quite reach our goal of raising $1,000 (we raised just under $900), we were so happy that we were able to raise as much as we did.  So thanks again to all of you who donated or at least thought positive thoughts for Steph and I on Saturday, it made such a difference!


long silence followed by important announcement

August 3, 2011

Seeing as that is a familiar pattern with me and my half-hearted blogging (just kidding on the half-hearted part, I love you all and am just lazy about updating 🙂 ), I will cut to the chase.  This Saturday I am doing something just a little bit rash and crazy on my part and paddling 30 miles in a canoe!  Back when I joined the board of Wilderness Wind in October of 2010, I thought that I might attempt such a thing.  But see, that was back closer to my previous trip to the Boundary Waters, in which I had done all sorts of affirming things like portage an 80lb canoe all week, learned how to paddle in the back of a canoe (i.e. steer), set up a cook stove and generally keep 6 high schoolers and one other “adult” from killing themselves (and if you really want to know, it was probably the later that gave me more trouble (just kidding Zeb! 🙂 ).

Anyways that leads me to this week, long past the point where I thought that I would use this as excuse to train and get all kinds of buff and much closer to the “what the heck did I sign up for” part.  But like much of life, this too shall pass.  However this is where you come in lovely blog readers, family and friends.  The reason I am doing this crazy thing is because I really really love this organization called Wilderness Wind.  I went on my first canoe trip through this Mennonite camp back as a little recently graduated 8th grader and I went with 3 other girls my age and our marvelously forgiving fathers.  The trip was only a week long trip including the long drive to and from Ely, Minnesota, but that was all it took to get me completely hooked.  Sure part of the appeal is obvious; water, trees, rock and big blue sky, but it goes much further beyond that.

How can you not fall in love?

Where else can you experience the thrill of crossing large bodies of lake with whitecaps to finally pull yourself up and out onto a wooden pier at the end of your trip.  Memories like that stay with you and help build up connections you have not only with your friends, who willingly shared a canoe with you, but to the grand sense of your own small part in the natural world.

End of the trip photo: 2001

Where else can you experience a thunderstorm with only a thin nylon surface between you and hail the size of a dime?
Me and the incredible quarter-size hail

Where else can you cook fabulous desserts with only filtered water, a packet of instant pistachio pudding and some crushed oreos?
Asha and I demonstrate proper dessert making

Where else is this the proper and preferred dish cleaning method?
How to truly clean one's own sierra cup

Where else is playing in a capsized canoe a legitimate afternoon activity?
More fun with a capsized canoe

Where else do you leave your watch behind, spend 20 minutes a day in silence and get to see a treat like this every night before bed?
Yet another Boundary Waters sunset

Wilderness Wind continues to work to provide wilderness experiences that connect with people spiritually, ecologically and in the deep way nature can change how a person views their life. It is a small organization and as I have learned during the past year on the board, every dollar makes a difference. This year marks our 25th anniversary and so we have one of our largest paddle-a-thon teams to date. Over 20 paddlers will be participating on Saturday and each of us has a goal to raise $500. My wonderful friend Steph and I are paddling together and also fundraising together, but we could definitely still use your help. So if you love the wilderness, enjoy reading the blog from time to time, or just appreciate my willingness to post embarrassing photos of myself
Mixing up the base camp orange juice
Please, pretty please, considering donating a couple bucks to this wonderful organization.


Coffee in Seattle

May 28, 2011

Well I successfully arrived in Seattle late last night (or on my internal clock, very early this morning). Friday was quite a long day due to it being the last day for seniors at the high school, but other than a request for a last period dance party in the library (sorry, but no, seeing as 3/4 of the school still has work to do) and some firecrackers set off outside the library, it was actually a pretty calm day. Then of course I hurried home and did last minute packing and caught a ride to the downtown Evanston bus depot where I took the bus to the airport. There I had some mild anxiety because a) the bus took 80 minutes as opposed to the 60 that I was expecting b) I hadn’t realized that one still had to take a tram in from the drop off spot to the actual terminal c) I didn’t know which terminal to go to because United serves two separate ones. But thankfully I wasn’t checking bags, so after a brisk walk/run between terminals I got my boarding pass, got through security and got to my gate with 1/2 hour to spare. The flight went well and I had a window seat, which always makes me happy. I also noticed that we never actually moved beyond at least a faint sunset (at least not until we began the descent into Seattle) in the far west. Now, I don’t know exactly why this is, seeing as we landed around 11pm Seattle time, but perhaps we were so high up that we could see significantly further west? Either way it was beautiful and oddly comforting. Plus I was rewarded with a gorgeous view of the lights of downtown Seattle as we banked south towards the airport. Such a beautiful city!
Now of course I am sitting in a coffee shop (suitable Saturday morning activity anywhere, but especially here in the city of coffee) with David. Alex is off volunteering at his ESL class and I tagged along with David to his favorite local Top Pot, which features rather incredible “hand-forged” donuts. I have been to others of this local chain on previous trips.

Seriously this Top Pot doughnut was the size of my head, or at least my face.

From my Seattle trip last August: Although not pictured, David is off to the left and that is Becca sitting across from me waiting for the deliciousness!

But this time I got a raspberry bismark, which was both delicious and full of powdery explosions.  Well now I am probably going to go test my geographic knowledge on Sporcle (thanks to Alex and Becca, this is my new obsession) or some such other random internet-y thing.  Unfortunately I still haven’t heard back from THE JOB, but seeing as a three day weekend has now commenced, I am going to do my best to forget about until Tuesday morning at the earliest.


Weekend update

May 25, 2011

So as expected this weekend was quite fabulous.  Not only did all the traditional activities such as outlet mall shopping, cooking, laughing, talking, etc happen, but Sunday was a perfect sunny day in the 80s which allowed us to have the best pool/beach day we have had yet.  Because I am a firm believer in the concept a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some of the highlights (or here is the link for the full set.

Jess readies the bacon

Jess makes even raw meat sexy

Tiny white dots

Pretty flowers I found during a walk down to the lake


The following photos are all good demonstrations of how I have gorgeous friends.


Crystal is such a great story-teller.

Miriam enjoys a tall frosty glass

Miriam enjoys a tall frosty glass of a mystery liquid that may or may not be Steph's incredible mojitos

Doing our best Posh Spice poses

The line-up


Jess in her perfect cocktail dress


I swear this woman is a secret spy for possibly the Russians, or more likely the French

The cottage

Our home for the weekend


Miriam and Becca

Best Outtake ever

This one makes me laugh every time, I love everyone's expressions!

Happy girls!

Happiness in photo form

Oh and before I forget, the interview on Tuesday went well and I should hear by the end of the week if I am moving on to the next stage or not.  Keep your fingers (and toes) crossed!


What I packed for Spring Break

April 18, 2011

So last time I went on a longer trip to Seattle, I got really into packing and planning my outfits.  You can read all about that experience in my post here, or see the outfit pictures here.  When I went to Seattle in January, it was only for a weekend and I was rather preoccupied with other things to put a lot of time into packing.

Now, I have never really loved packing and heading into this most recent trip, I had a really busy week, so I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to hem and haw on Thursday night while packing my suitcase.  So I decided to make myself a packing list, which ended up evolving into this:

I think part of the appeal of this kind of organization is that this kind of capsule organization rarely happens in the broader strokes of my life.  If you looked at the current state of my desk right now you would be surprised indeed that I sometimes make packing spreadsheets.  Although part of that is also due to the never-ending work of job applications and needing to have about 5 different file folders nearby at all times.  But anyways while I never actually got around to photographing any of the complete outfits I wore on the trip, here is what the packing process looked like:

The Packing Process

Here are all the parts of the spreadsheet (at least the clothing related ones) laid out on my bed. I tried to stick with a someone related color scheme, but mainly just packed things that I thought looked nice together.


This is what my suitcase looks like when I pack a tin full of cookies in addition to rainboots and clothes.

Unfortunately I never got around to taking photos of my outfits, but overall I found putting in the work of creating a spreadsheet of packing as opposed to my more typical random assortment was quite helpful when spending a week in different location.


Good things

April 13, 2011

1. Spring Break was so lovely – I could probably write more, but right now I will just say it was a solidly good time as evidenced by these pictures.

Joanna and Tim

Visits with good friends!


Being goofy on sunny afternoons

Cinnamon Rolls

Baking super sugary butter filled rolls of yum

Very prim and proper

Catching up with old friends in new apartments

Seagulls drafting the ferry

Ferry rides at sunset

Alex waits for me to set up the shot

And last but not least spending time with this handsome fellow!

2. I have a cat again – Well, not a particularly new cat, but I am once again living with Lina (formerly known as biscuit/kitty/thumps/cleo/etc) who couldn’t move right away with Jess into her new digs.  So far it is kind of fun to have a cat to snuggle with again, however as I learned last night it is less fun with said snuggle beast decides to noisily investigate one’s closet at midnight.

Cat on a dirty wooden floor

This also means a chance to re-introduce the "pissed kitty" category on this blog.

3. I am talking to Alex tonight – Yay for Skype (or more specifically Google Video Chat)

4. My job interview went well – I know I am going up against at least 20 candidates and have absolutely no idea how the interviewer felt about me (at least in comparison to others), so I am keeping my expectations very very low.  But on the good side, I should know one way or another by next week.

5. Downton Abbey is my new favorite thing – My favorite character is a tie between the dowager countess (Maggie Smith, of course) and the valet with a limp. If you have Netflix or Amazon Prime, you should be able to view this BBC mini-series online. If not rent it, you won’t be disappointed.


Basic plot line is the dual story of an rich aristocracy family and the servants who care for them living in Britain during the early 1900s. The season opens with the sinking of the Titanic and closes with the start of World War I, unfortunately season 2 isn't showing for at least another year.

6. Spring, or at least the sun seems to be here – There is something down right giddifying (and yes I just made that word up) about fresh green shoots.  I always forget how much I love spring, right up until it turns every thing green and all of a sudden my mood improves by at least 50 aesthetic points.

new growth

7. Anticipating baking chocolate raspberry birthday cake – Conveniently my housemates have birthdays every once in while, which I tend to see as excuse to whip up butter, flour and sugar into cake form.  So fun!

She does such neat work!

I won't be baking a cake this size (and I won't have Becca to help 😦 ) but I am going to use this same amazing instant fudge frosting.


Quick update from Seattle

April 7, 2011

So this week has been a truly wonderful one, full of good times with friends, long walks, coffee, cherry blossoms, spending lots of time with Alex, laughter and did I mention the cherry blossoms?

Teaser Trailer

I just wanted to pop on here to say a quick hello and that I will be heading back to the fair Midwest (which has hopefully become more Spring-like in my absence because this green that Seattle has going is pretty awesome) tomorrow and I will have a pretty full weekend and week ahead of me.  And one of the biggest reasons for this is that I have my first job interview (of which will hopefully be many) on Monday!  It is for a school in a suburb north of Seattle Evanston, grades 6-8, smallish in size and not too bad of a commute.  So if you have a second wish me luck, cause I am sure I am going to need lots of it.

UPDATE: Whooops, um perhaps that was a Freudian slip, but my interview is actually for a school in the Chicago area.


Some photos before Spring Break

March 31, 2011

So as you can see if you look back at my post from last weekend, I have had a pretty productive week so far.  While there are still a few items left, I am hoping that tonight and tomorrow will finish them all off, because I can’t wait to head out to rainy, 50 degree Seattle (fortunately the main attractions of that lovely city is not the weather :), or I feel I would end up being sadly disappointed).  But before I head out, I wanted to share a few photos that haven’t been brought to your attention.  First off all, a week ago last Tuesday, I made one of my favorite meals in a long time: Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Baked Dijon Tillapia and Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Sea Salt.
Sweet Potatoes getting a bath

Slicing off the ends of the Asparagus

Honey Dijon Tilapia with Pecan crustAnd to top it off, we all enjoyed some nice crisp Hard Cider.

Finished Tuesday night dinnerThen this past Sunday, I had a wonderful time driving down to Lafayette with my cousin Emily to visit Jonathan and see the musical Spamalot.  The whole day was a lot of fun, but in the end I think my favorite part was spending 6 hours catching up with Emily.  Back at the beginning of 2011, Emily and I decided to make this year, “The Year of Actually Seeing Each Other, Because We Live in the Same City, Dangit!” and so far we are off to a really good start with our fourth time hanging out and it isn’t even April yet.

"See, I am very smart and know lots of physics, that is why I am blindly punching numbers on this calculator!"
There goes the enormous concrete statue
Emily also took a turn
Pretty points against blue sky
The Three Amigos


Meet Alex

March 16, 2011

So remember back when I went to Seattle at the end of January and didn’t take many pictures, but had a really wonderful time.  Well a big part of that was – Alex, my boyfriend. Seeing as I tend to not write very much about romantic relationships on this blog and my own tendency to still find the phrase, my boyfriend, a very odd/lovely one to use, I held off on writing anything here for a while.  But this past weekend, Alex visited Chicago for the first time and seeing as we have been dating for just over a month and a half, I figured it would be time to introduce you all.

Question from the invisible audience: So, who the heck is Alex and how did you meet?

The meeting story (from my perspective, you will have to track down Alex yourself to get his) is as follows. Abby visits good friends from college in Seattle, she very briefly meets their new housemate and thinks he is pretty cool.*  Those same good friends encourage Abby’s interest by telling her all about how awesome Alex is (speaks French, very smart, funny, responsible, moral, geeky, helps with household chores, good cook, etc).  Abby returns home from visit but can’t seem to forget about Alex, but Abby does nothing.  Eventually Abby tires of previous plan and writes Alex a letter (who during those past 6 months had moved to Minneapolis to do service for a year).  He writes back and sends Abby really yummy baked goods.  Abby writes another letter and so forth for around 6 months.  Abby and Alex discover email.  Abby goes a bit crazy with not knowing for sure what their pen pal relationship truly is.  Almost exactly a year after the first letter, Abby tells Alex that she thinks he is pretty awesome and that if they weren’t living quite so far apart, she would ask him out on a date.  Alex replies (on Christmas morning – best present ever!) and says that he also thinks Abby is pretty awesome and that he too would like to go on a date with Abby.  Abby and Alex start to chat online and skype regularly.  Abby visits Seattle and they spend 4 really wonderful days together.  Alex and Abby decide to be girlfriend and boyfriend.

So, long distance dating between Chicago and Seattle, how is that going?

Well, yes long distance is hard, but thanks to modern technology we write emails, chat online, skype and more importantly thanks to the wonders of Spring Break, we get to see each other in just over 2 weeks!

Okay, Okay, enough of that, we want to see what he looks like!

If you want more pictures, click on over to the flickr sidebar for the full set.

Alex and me, hanging out in an old L car at the Chicago History Museum.

*I have no idea why I felt the need to write this in the third person, but it just seemed to make sense that way