Playing Catchup

I got sick of that WordPress theme, so i switched to the most generic default one available. That ought to motivate me to get off my butt (or on it, really) and design a new one. Ugh, maybe.

I really need to write more often. I feel like nothing much happens in my life and yet there’s so much that i find i ought to have written about when i take a long break.

I saw The Great Gatsby. And then i read it for the second time.
I took my mom to see the movie for Mother’s Day. I read the book in high school but i couldn’t really remember much of anything about it. I think we powered through it in just a few days and i vaguely recall being left scratching my head.

Great Gatsby poster

I really like Baz Luhrman’s movies and his style, and i thought The Great Gatsby was a perfect story for him to tell. Nobody could’ve done a better movie rendition of it, if you ask me. It was spectacular, romantic, tragic, well-cast for the most part (i could’ve done without Toby Maguire, but i just don’t like him much in general), and possibly the most enjoyable movie i’ve seen since The Hobbit (Part 1 of Eleventyhundred). It inspired me to re-read the book, and this time i loved it. Fitzgerald truly was an artist, and it’s such a pleasure to read a book that’s written with so much skill and passion. It’s not the most epic story ever told but it’s just told so well. Truly an American classic.

We went to Decorah for a weekend.
To celebrate our second anniversary and to procure a particularly excellent and rare beer, we drove 3.5 hours each way up to Decorah, Iowa, and spent two nights at a charming bed & breakfast there. Decorah, by the way, is a perfectly beautiful little place. My brother drove an even longer way for the aforementioned beer; he met us at Toppling Goliath on Saturday for the event, which was crowded but well organized and turned out really well for us because Nathan and i got our numbers early enough in the morning (7:20 a.m.!!) that we were able to garner a second bottle each. People were passing around rare beers to sample just for fun, and i had a good time visiting with my family and discovering lovely new beers. After lunch that day we walked out to what is probably Iowa’s only waterfall, and it was a very pretty sight to see. (Photos courtesy of Nathan.)

Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout by Toppling Goliath
Kentucky Brunch Brand Stout by Toppling Goliath

Did you know that Iowa has a waterfall?!
Did you know that Iowa has a waterfall?!

Nathan went to Seattle for a long weekend
And i was kind of lonely i missed the poop out of him. This was the longest we’d been apart since probably our second date, and being without him was totally alien and wrong to me. I went out Friday evening with a couple of girlfriends and then i was mostly at home working on a logo for a family member the rest of the weekend, but i went to my grandpa’s house for a couple hours of people time both evenings. I do not like living alone one bit, even with a dog. Does that mean i’m actually an extrovert? I prefer to be around people for at least 2/3 of every day (working alone at home wasn’t so bad).

I got stressed out about food and then remembered Michael Pollan.
All the low-fat / gluten-free / low-calorie / paleo / clean / vegan / sugarphobic / locavore / sustainable / organic / good calories, bad calories / moderation / best-body / health-obsessed food talk that pops up seemingly everywhere was starting to make me feel guilty every time i put something in my mouth, and so i bought In Defense of Food and have started reading that to try to get back to a place where food is not a tool or an enemy or a sin but above all things a pleasure. And even reading this is kind of wearying, because it says a lot of the same stuff that Nourishing Traditions and Why We Get Fat say about how the Western diet is terrible for people’s health (yeah, duh), but i think the difference will come in the latter half of the book where Pollan presents an eater’s manifesto. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. And as long as you can tell the difference between actual food and laboratory-created foodlike substances, that’s all he says you really need to do. No worrying. I’ve hardly ever worried about food in my life except for when i was a vegetarian, and i don’t plan to allow it to become a habit.

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Sounds of September

Nathan’s birthday happened recently, so we took a weekend trip to Iowa City and Chicago to celebrate. Some of Nathan’s friends and family joined us in Iowa City, and his sister even came along to Chicago with us. There was a lot of beer to be sampled in Chicago but i didn’t get to do more than taste each one since i’d had about four whole drinks in Iowa City the night before (stein o’ beer + cup o’ wine) and have a tendency now to experience long, painful hangovers. No more steins for me. 😦 It’s possible the late-night trip to Red Poppy worsened the ensuing situation. Either way, Iowa City was fun but i wound up paying for it.

Chicago skyline

We tried out airbnb.com for the first time and stayed in a stranger’s apartment on the Near West Side. Pros: he’s a super nice guy with a sweet dog and a pretty swanky place in a great location. Awesome view from the balcony, too. Cons: walls are considerably thinner in an apartment than in a hotel, and we had trouble getting the shower hot enough. We’re pretty private people, so if we use airbnb.com again, we’ll look to rent an entire apartment rather than just a room.

Ladyhawke at Bottom Lounge; rubenwashere.comBy the second evening in Chicago i had fully recovered from Iowa City and was able to thoroughly enjoy dinner and a show. We ate at The Publican, and it was heavenly. We sampled several forms of pork: pork rinds, sliced ham, and pork belly. They were all fantastic, and the sides and desserts were delightful as well. I even had a beer, yay! Then we walked to Bottom Lounge to see Ladyhawke. The show started at 9 and i was dismayed to see three openers listed on the chalkboard. The first duo was alright, the second one had their show cut very short by a rogue beach ball knocking over (and breaking) the third member of their band—the Mac Book. And the third opener for some reason didn’t actually exist (maybe it was the DJ?) because we were relieved to see Ladyhawke take the stage next. It was a really, really fun show. Chicago hipsters clearly care more about music than the Des Moines breed does, because they were a lot less douchey and danced more. I had a really great time, and i managed to make it back to the apartment without my feet quite falling off, thanks to a helpful piggyback ride from Nathan.

Silversun Pickups Neck Of The Woods PosterTwo days later, back in Des Moines, i dragged Nathan to another rock show. This time it was Silversun Pickups. Their newest album isn’t as wonderful as their first, but i missed them last time they came to DSM for absolutely no good reason, so i wasn’t about to skip this show as well. Their first opener was a cute little indie band from Australia with a dumb name, Atlas Genius. The second opener was just god-awful. I haven’t seen a band that terrible in a long time… But it gave us an excuse to wander around Hoyt Sherman a bit, which is a beautiful old venue. And i discovered and bought a cool SSPU poster, so it wasn’t all bad. Then SSPU played and it was a pretty fun show. The bassist seemed overly excited about performing, and we were informed several songs in that she wasn’t their actual bassist but a substitute on tour with them for Nikki’s maternity leave.

I was pretty happy with the crowd at Hoyt Sherman. They were older and less hipstery than the 80/35 crowd, and i only saw phones in the air a couple of times. It’s a little harder to get into the music in a seated venue, but the front man mentioned that fact and praised us for dancing anyway. One woman in the front row even got full acknowledgement and a kiss on the hand for her no-holds-barred enjoyment of the show. Rachel, you are the heart of Des Moines.

Oregon Trip 2012

Nathan and i went to Oregon last week to celebrate our first anniversary/see my new baby nephew/celebrate my dad’s birthday with him. We venture out that way every couple of years, and it always kind of feels like my “home away from home.” There are all these subtle and not-so-subtle differences between here and there that i notice—the way the air smells and the water tastes, the kinds of cars you see on the road, the flora and fauna, the hilly roads—and it gives me the weird sense that i’m back in the early ’90s and this place is my home. (The dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland!)

We visited several breweries and taprooms over the course of the week and tasted something like 40 different beers. I took a lot of photos of beer to share with my brother, but i think i’ll leave those out of this post for the most part. Well okay, maybe just a couple…

Deschutes beers
I think i enjoyed my first beer the most—Deschutes’ Chainbreaker, on the right.

Cascade flight
A flight at Cascade. Very good beers, but very sour!

PDX Green Dragon
@ the Green Dragon taproom. Notice the hop tail

Voodoo Doughnut
We had to get some Voodoo doughnuts.

Those first two nights we spent in Portland. Then we drove down to Eugene/Springfield for a night & then headed out to the coast. We stopped in Florence for Mo’s and saltwater taffy and then headed north to Newport, stopping for a hike at Cape Perpetua along the way.

Cool tree on the trail
Cool tree bent over the trail

Big ol' banana slug
Big ol’ banana slug!

The top of Cape Perpetua
From the top of Cape Perpetua

In Newport we stayed at the charming Sylvia Beach Hotel (thanks, Dad!), which was within walking distance of the Rogue Ales Public House on the eerily-vacant bayfront. The beer was flat and kind of mediocre, but i discovered that they also do some distilling and have a “hazelnut” rum that tastes delightfully like caramel corn.

After that side-trip we returned to Eugene, where we took a stroll through Hendrick’s park, ate some Track Town pizza (yum!) and did another hike up Spencer’s Butte.

Us atop the Butte
Nathan & me on top of Spencer’s Butte

View from the top of the Butte
(Part of) the view from the top. It’s a popular spot!

Dumb frog
This dude was chilling on my dad’s street, right in the middle of the road. He wouldn’t move when i tried to shoo him away.

On Dad’s birthday we went to the Saturday Market with my sister & the new baby Bodhi, found some good beers at the Bier Stein with my dad & stepmom and then attended a University of Oregon Ducks baseball game with them. THE DUCKS WON! 🙂

Me and Bodhi
Me and the new little guy!

Team, BSB 2012 vs. Cal State Fullerton, June 2 Credit Eric Evans
The Ducks making the Oregon “O” | Credit Eric Evans

beers
Birthday drink with Dad

It was a good trip, even if i sort of slept half of it away because i was so lethargic the whole time. Jet lag? Lack of exercise? I’m not sure. It’s always great to see family, and i was definitely due for some time away from the office. Here are some of my favorite moments from the trip:

  • That first beer of vacation. Ahhhh!
  • Giving my extra curry to a hungry dude on the street, even if he didn’t look all that desperate
  • Discovering goats nomming on a field across the street from the Cascade brewery
  • Nathan’s joy at finding Pliny the Elder on the tap list at Green Dragon
  • Seeing Bodhi smile at me for the first time
  • Watching the sea lions perform their cute tricks at the aquarium
  • Sneaking kisses in the park(s)
  • The start of the cool rain as we sat at the top of Spencer’s Butte all warm & sweaty
  • Later, sitting in Dad’s hot tub during the cool drizzle
  • Calling out “O!” with the crowd during the last few pitches of the baseball game
  • Cheers-ing my dad for his birthday

Until next time…

Road Trip: Chicago 2011

Last weekend Nathan and i took a little road trip to Chicago, much like the one we took two years ago. In fact, we stayed at the same B&B in Oak Park—but this time we stayed in the suite with the whirlpool tub and fireplace! It was worth the extra cost.

We arrived at the B&B Friday evening, showered up and headed into the Lincoln Park area for dinner and a show. We parked near the Riviera Theatre and walked to Spacca Napoli for some authentic Italian pizza. (I chose this over deep-dish for two reasons: 1. there didn’t seem to be any good deep-dish places near the theater and i only wanted to deal with parking once, and 2. Spacca Napoli is supposed to be one of the best places to eat in Chicago.) As it turned out, it would’ve been much more pleasant to park twice rather than walking the mile-or-so to the pizza place, because it was much colder than we had anticipated. Note to self: even if it broke freezing during the day, always WEAR YOUR FRIGGIN’ HAT AT NIGHT during February in the Midwest. Duh!

The frigid walk was worth it for the delectable pizza & excellently paired Italian wine, and a little reconfiguring of garments and seemingly less wind made the walk back to the theater a lot more pleasant. Oh—except that we were very unpleasantly surprised to find, once we got there, that the theater was dark and closed, and the show had been postponed until February 14th. MONDAY. As in, the day we got back to work. UGH! I had been extremely excited to see Robyn, but alas, once again—just like when we traveled to see Ume in Iowa City last fall—my hopes and dreams were shattered on the cold pavement because the band had had to cancel the show that night. I vowed in that moment never to travel outside of Des Moines to see an indie band again, but i have since received a prompt reimbursement for my tickets and realized that Robyn’s concert was not our main objective for the Chicago trip. Besides, all that cold wind and disappointment made the fireplace and the whirlpool tub back at the B&B feel pretty much like heaven.

Saturday we took the El into the city and found our way to the Chicago Auto Show. There were a lot of shiny cars. Some of them were pretty. This one was my favorite:

Audi
The Audi somethingorother

And this was Nathan’s favorite:

Mercedes
The gull-wing Mercedes Spyder thing

As you can tell, that part was for Nathan. 🙂 Then we went to the Field Museum of Natural History, where we saw a lot of amazing remains, including Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex, plenty of stuffed animals including a couple of enormous elephants, and a the bones of Lucy, our oldest-known common ancestor (as humans).

Sue
These are the real fossils (minus the skull, which is upstairs)!

Elephants
I could hardly believe that these were real, they were so huge.

Lucy
Lucy, on the other hand, was surprisingly tiny.

As i was looking at a display that placed a human skeleton and an ape skeleton side-by-side to point out their similarities and differences, i overheard a man and his fifteen-or-so-year-old son reassuring themselves that there’s “no way” that people really evolved. Period. And i just couldn’t believe that a person could stand there and look at the actual fossils and the skeletons and read the very easy-to-understand-and-attractively-displayed explanations of how exactly evolution works and how it’s so strongly evidenced and how it’s still happening and how the scientific community really has no doubt about it, and still staunchly refuse to accept it. How do you take your child to a museum—a place of learning—and tell him that it’s all lies and not to believe any of it? But at least they were there, in the museum. A lot of people would simply stay away from the things they disbelieve. I almost said something to them but i didn’t trust myself not to get angry about it and push them even further away from understanding.

We only got through about 1/3 of the museum before we had to head back to Oak Park to get ready for dinner. We had chosen an Italian restaurant within walking distance of our B&B (and yes i wore a hat this time) called Cuccina Paradisio. The food was very enjoyable and somewhat imaginative, and we polished off a bottle of wine with it to make the walk worthwhile. The next day we stopped by IKEA on our way home again and picked up several lamps and things, and then i read to Nathan from Breaking Dawn on the not-so-terribly-long drive back home. It was a nice, relatively relaxing little trip, and now we’re ready to pack up the remainder of our things and move into our new house in less than two weeks! I’ll have plenty to say about that once the move is done, i’m sure.

California 2010

Earlier this month Nathan and i journeyed to California to visit my family. It turned out to be quite the Adamo reunion, although we didn’t get everybody in the same house at the same time for various reasons. First of all, my grandparents and my two great aunts live in Corona. My cousin-once-removed, Jo, also lives in southern California. She has a friend who sold her All-Star game tickets to my dad, who was down there for a few days with his buddy Andy. My brother, currently something of a nomad, stopped by for the last couple days of our trip as well. And finally, four of my distant relatives from Belgium began a month-long road trip around the Western U.S. in California, on the same night that we arrived there.

It was great to see everyone, but unfortunately all of the portraits that were taken are on other people’s cameras, so i can’t share them here.

Here are some photos that i took:

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Grandpa’s Oranges

We stayed at my grandparents’ house, which is awesome because they make some really tasty European dishes and they insist on feeding their guests as much as possible. Every morning Grandpa makes fresh-squeezed orange juice from the tree in his own back yard. He explained to me that they have two different orange trees; one that produces fruit in the warmer months and one that prefers the cooler months, and this way he gets oranges all year long. If you’ve never squeezed an orange to make your own juice, you really must try it.

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Weird flower-looking cactus things

We walked around the neighborhood and i photographed a bunch of the plants in people’s yards because they were just so weird. I told this to Jo and she didn’t understand what kind of world i was used to. I told her “leafy trees,” but i probably should have just said “corn.”

...And we're crawling toward the coast.

We drove out to the coast on day 2, and we of course experienced a lot of traffic despite having departed in the late morning. When we got there it was cloudy and breezy and cool, and thus i was cranky. When is it EVER not beautiful in California?! We got some In-N-Out burger and then decided to lay on the beach anyway until we could check into our hotel. Gradually it got sunnier, and when we retreated to the hotel we discovered that we had gotten burned something fierce. Tip for living: if you’re a pasty Iowan, don’t just sprawl out on the beach in the middle of the day for two hours and expect not to get roasted, no matter how cloudy you think it is.

The view from our hotel room

This was the view from our hotel balcony. Did i say hotel? I meant resort. That was a surprise that came with several unexpected and incontestable fees. But what’s worse is that we were too sore to even take advantage of the amenities. We made it to Karl Strauss in Costa Mesa and the beer numbed our pain slightly, but we still turned in early and headed back inland right away the following morning.

Side note: it’s been two weeks now since we got burned and i’m still a little bit peely and itchy. I don’t even want to express what a humiliating, guilt-inducing and uncomfortable situation that was. But! We still had a really nice time in California. We wrapped up our trip by exploring the Huntington Library in Pasadena, which was huge and fascinating and could have occupied us for an extra day, easily.

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Nathan getting a shot of Pinky. The original.

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The bonsai trees were one of the most lovely & interesting things. How do they do that?

2009 Wrap-Up: Life

A lot of people are enthusiastically shouting “good riddance!” to 2009 today, and that’s totally understandable. Our economy went to crap, everyone is up in arms over health care reform and some would-be martyr just tried to blow up another goddamn airplane. I, however, will be a little bit sorry to see it go. Two-thousand-nine was probably one of the best years of my life.

In early ’09 there was snow. And more snow. And then Nathan and i went to Chicago for Valentine’s day and stayed in a delightful little B&B for a couple of nights. I don’t know what it is about Chicago, but it’s just really fun to go there and stare up at the giant buildings and wander around lost and then stop by IKEA on the way home. Feeling romantic, we also stopped into a few stores in the Windy City’s Diamond District and ogled some sparklies while we were there. It was an indicator of things to come.

In March we moved into our lovely downtown loft. It was really awesome at first until we discovered more recently that 1200 square feet is a LOT to keep clean all the time and that being able to hear everything your neighbors yell at each other isn’t really all that fun. It’s been a nice setting for a few parties, but we don’t do that kind of thing terribly often, and even when we do it’s only a handful of people. We’re hoping to rent a house this spring, and hopefully not being able to hear our neighbors will be worth the effort required to keep the lawn mowed and the driveway shoveled.

In the spring Nathan and i started running together. It was a slow start for me again, but i eventually got back up to the three-mile marker again before deciding to take an extended break. It’s still extending, in fact. I got to a point where i could think about nothing but breathing and the pain i was in and that i needed to STOP every time i ran, and for the entire time that i was running. If i run again this year, i’m cranking my music UP and i’m not going to bother trying to breathe correctly. But, more likely, i’m going to get back into dancing instead. And Nathan will be joining me! We start in January, and hopefully it will help me to fit back into the jeans that have recently become too tight to wear. 😦

In the summer a cute bird couple laid their eggs in our sad little garden box, and we watched their babies quickly grow up & fly away. We took a trip to Oregon on what was probably the hottest week there, ever, and enjoyed visiting Portland and my family despite the shroud of fog out on the coast.

Shortly after we returned my job petered out, and so i signed up for a couple of programming classes at DMACC and started the job hunt, bidding working from home a tearful goodbye. Javascript proved to be very intriguing, and programming logic came pretty easily to me. I only applied for about three jobs in all. One was located right across the street from where we live and dragged out their hiring process so long that by the time they finally rejected me, i had started my new job at Spindustry through Robert Half Technology. I learned recently that I ended up getting A’s in both of my DMACC classes (for whatever good that will do me) and that i get to keep my job at Spindustry! Beginning January 18th, i will no longer be a contractor through RHT, i will be a full-time Spindustry employee, and i couldn’t be happier.

This fall we got engaged, and i’m learning what it’s like to have a heart that is both peaceful and elated at the same time. I bought a 2004 Honda CR-V, and it is getting us safely through the mass amounts of snow that are falling upon Iowa this winter. I’m looking forward to starting to plan our wedding in the coming year (well, i’ve kinda started) and meeting the challenge of becoming even healthier. I have everything to be thankful for and everything to look forward to, and i’m sure 2010 is going to be a great adventure.

The Oregon Trip

We’ve been home for a week now, so i suppose it’s about time i blog about our vacation. Nathan and i flew out to Oregon together on the 28th of July to visit various friends and family members of mine and to look at Portland a little more closely.

We awoke at 4am in Des Moines to catch our 6am flight and arrived in Portland by 10:40am local time. It took about two hours to figure out how to get to the rental car place and get our wheels, but it was worth the $200 or so to sacrifice just picking it up at the airport. It was about 106 degrees by then and we were tired, so we headed to the Kennedy School b&b to have a drink and relax before checking in at 3pm.

Kennedy School is actually an old elementary school that has been turned into a b&b and hangout, complete with a heated sitting pool, a restaurant, three bars, conference rooms, and a movie theater with couches for seats. We had so much been looking forward to the heated outdoor sitting pool that we decided to take a dip despite the heat. The pool was a little cooler than the air at 102 degrees, but, being water and such, it felt warmer. This made getting out and sitting on the edge of the pool feel absolutely wonderful, and thanks to the heat we pretty much had the whole thing to ourselves.

We had some famous McMenamin’s burgers and beer and watched Year One in the theater (it was pretty bad, but i did laugh). We were too tired to check out the bars and instead had dessert and went to bed after the movie, having been up for something like 22 hours with only brief naps.

The next day we headed for the coast. Cannon Beach was so foggy that we couldn’t tell from the road where Haystack Rock was. We walked on the beach watching gulls and people on fun cycles drift in and out of our field of vision, and were just about to turn around and give up when i started to see the faint outline of one of the smaller rocks. We kept walking and sure enough, Haystack Rock came into vision.

Haystack Rock in the Fog

Tide Pool

There were a lot of tourists checking out the tide pools, having come to the coast to escape the heat inland.

We continued South along the coast and Nathan started to feel sick, so i took over driving. Gradually we fought our way through the traffic to Yachats, and reached the beach house where my sis Amy, her son Harper and her bf John were waiting for us. The next day we had a full house when my old friend Bonnie, my Dad, my bro Dustin and his friend Ryan all joined us. We had a lovely dinner and then made s’mores over a bonfire on the beach.

The next day Dad took us by some scenic spots that were unfortunately mostly socked in with fog. We saw some sea lions though, and Honeyman park was beautiful as ever. We had lunch in Florence (not at Mo’s) and bought some candy and ice cream for old time’s sake. Then it was on to Eugene.

Sea Lions
Sea Lions, from a safe distance.

In Eugene we went to the Saturday Market and went up on Spencer’s Butte and down to the park below. We got some sushi with Bonnie and her new hubby Brian, and took a stroll around their new neighborhood. The next day, Dad and Mary took us along the McKenzie river into the Cascades and showed us a really lovely resort with English gardens and some popular swimming and rafting spots. We also went to Sahalie Falls, and Nathan and i climbed up to the top of the falls and then hiked down to the next waterfall downriver. The water was ridiculously blue and enticing.

Pink Lily

English Garden #2

At the top of Sahalie

Sahalie Falls

Waterfall

For our last two nights, we returned to Portland and went to some recommended eateries and shopping districts, including Jam on Hawthorne, Powell’s books, NE 23rd, Montage and Genie’s Cafe. We didn’t explore the night life much, but i got a pretty heavy dose of that back in October with Dustin anyway. 🙂

All in all it was a nice getaway, and i had a great time visiting and exploring with Nathan.