Wednesday, December 17, 2014

weathering a midwestern winter

growing up on the outskirts of a smallish sized midwestern town, my brother and i and our neighborhood friends often turned to the woods behind our houses for adventure. in the summers, we'd find tall, dead tree trunks or long branches and construct lodgepole pine style teepees and dream of being brave enough to spend the night in them. we'd climb the hunting blind up in a swaying old pine tree and watch the woods for hours. we'd hike out to the pasture of texas longhorn cattle and wonder what it would take to provoke them into a red-cape waving, spanish style bullfight. we even once had a babysitter who would take us out to the clearing in the middle of the woods, crawl around with us in the tall grass and instruct us on how to make a proper crop circle. she promised she'd call it in to the local authorities when we'd finished, but to my knowledge she never followed through.

in the winter, we'd spend inordinate amounts of time exploring. after our fairly regular ice storms, we'd strap on our ice skates and skate through the woods. (i may have never been downhill skiing, but i've been downhill ice skating!) we also invented (or thought we did anyway) an activity we called "monkey jumping." after a particularly sizable lake-effect snowstorm, we'd dress in several layers of bulky winter clothing (the more layers, the better cushioning they afforded), huff it out to the row of pine trees on the edge of the clearing and get to climbing. we'd climb up as far as we could to the thin, pliable branches or trunk near the top and cling to them as they bent downward. if everything went according to plan, the bent tree branches would deliver us into the lower branches of the nearest tree in the line. we'd then climb to the top and repeat. occasionally these pine trees would fail us, a branch would snap or bend too quickly and we'd end up dumped on the ground. not easily deterred, we'd scramble up the nearest tree and try again. the best among us could monkey jump along the entire line of trees without touching the ground.

as children we thought we were creative and resourceful, driven by long, cold winters and our fairly rural location to a unique genius. when recounting this memory to friends recently, i learned that as kids in the greater chicagoland area they too had monkey jumped their way through long winters. the only difference? they called it tree surfing. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

the official wanderlist


wanderlist: a list, by no means exhaustive, which inspires at times crippling wanderlust in list's creator.

this has been a post-in-progress for years now. some of these destinations are more feasible than others, of course, but a girl can dream.

// please leave your input in the comments section. i'm certainly open to suggestions.//

afghanistan

antarctica:
photograph glaciers, preferably from a kayak (zodiac also acceptable.)
see pancake ice for myself.
learn basic rescue techniques.

argentina:
see patagonia + tierra del fuego.

{vienna, austria at christmas. image here.}
austria:
explore a christmas market. drink gluhwein.
visit a wine garden.
photograph the hundertwasserhaus.
go back to saint wolfgang.

bhutan:
hike to the monastery. visit some mountaintop stupas. see what this happiness index (and human rights abuses towards non native bhutanese) business is all about.

belgium:
visit brussels and bruges. drink some trappist beers.

belize:
sit in a hammock on the beach, preferably on one of the cayes.
{tibet. not really part of china, but in china. image here.}
china:
visit tibet.
alpine slide off the great wall.

costa rica:
sit in a hammock on the beach.
ride a horse on the beach.
visit the cloud forest.
see a sloth.

croatia:
see dubrovnik and the dalmatian coast.

czech republic

denmark
{london, england. image here.}
england:
visit london. photograph the typical tourist sites.
meet benedict cumberbatch.
determine the meaning of stonehenge.

egypt:
cairo:: visit the pyramids, sail on the nile, shop in the khan al-khalili, see some whirling dervishes! smoke hookah in fishawy's.
siwa:: go sandboarding on the great sand sea. spend the night in the desert. learn one phrase in siwan.
bahariya:: visit and photograph the black desert, white desert.

ethiopia:
visit the rock churches of lalibela.
explore the omo valley.

faroe islands
{montmartre, paris, france. image here.}
france:
live here.
visit mt. saint-michel.
take hubs to see the eiffel tower.
spend a day reading along the seine.

germany:
oktoberfest.
get better photos of the berlin wall.
eat more currywurst!

greece:
santorini + the greek isles.
consume my weight in gyros.
see the cliffs of loggas beach, mykonos and zakynthos.

hungary

{westfjords, iceland. image here.}
iceland:
drive the ring road.
see the northern lights.
explore the national parks.
learn to pronounce one thing in icelandic.
buy an icelandic sweater.

india:
agra:: see the taj mahal, agra fort
rishikesh
darjeeling:: drink some tea in a tea estate! (did this in the nilgiris and it was wonderful!)
punjab:: learn to bhangra!
jammu + kashmir:: photograph the houseboats in shrinigar, trek (or not) in leh, ladakh.
tamil nadu:: take hubs to kodaikanal.
kerala:: backwater sunset boat ride. kathakali performance.
play holi.
visit the deserts and palaces of rajasthan.
experience the kumbh mehla, preferably without dying or being trampled.

iran:
see for myself the beautiful, snow dusted mountains hemming in the city of tehran.
determine from experience if every iranian is as beautiful as i suspect them to be.
visit the lotfollah mosque.
{giant's causeway, antrim, ireland. image here.}
ireland:
drink a guinness in dublin.
stay in a guest house with a thatched roof.
get in a traffic jam of sheep. photograph lots of sheep.
play on the giant's causeway.

israel:
stay in the old city in jerusalem and wander the streets. visit the wailing wall and the dome of the rock.
eat some falafel!
take a boat ride on the sea of galilee.
swim in the mediterranean.

italy:
eat lots and lots of pizza. drink all the wine.
ride a vespa.
stay in cinque terre.
walk the streets of verona, because i'm a romantic at heart.

{safi, morocco. image here.}
morocco:
explore the mountains. and the desert.
consume copious amounts of mint tea. and shakshouka.
shop in a souk. photograph some camels and all the doors.
get lost in the medina.

namibia
because all i've seen of the whole place looks like a dr seuss book set in the desert.

netherlands:
see the windmills at kinderdijk.
iceskate the canals in winter.
visit friesland and middleburg, just to see where my family is from.
celebrate king's day (formerly queen's day, celebrated on my birthday.)
visit a cheese market.

nepal:
see the himalayas.
travel to pokhara with just a camera and a backpack of necessities.
visit freak street in kathmandu.
travel to southeastern nepal and see the refugee camps to better understand my refugee friends and their context.
{norwegian fjords. image here, by my friend amanda who gave me the idea to camp these.}
norway:
camp the fjords.

pakistan:
experience the beauty of the swat valley.

palestine:
photograph the wall.
visit bethlehem and see the church of the nativity.
help with the olive harvest.

{cuzco, peru. image here.}
peru:
hike the inca trail.
see machu picchu.
photograph some lamas in their natural habitat.

portugal:
drink port.
explore the mountains of the azores.
seafood seafood seafood.

romania:
castles and old city squares. plus, you know. dracula and vampires.

russia:
saint basil saint basil saint basil.

scotland:
isle of islay: scotch. plus lagavulin, laphroaig and bowmore.
the isle of skye.
sheeps and thatched houses.
the lochs and the hills in the mist and the fog.

{alhambra door, andalusia, spain. image here.}

spain:
explore southern, moorish spain.
photograph alhambra.
eat tapas.

sweden
stockholm.
anywhere in the swedish countryside. basically all of scandinavia looks magical.

switzerland:
eat fondue.

syria:
damascus:: shop in the old souk.
visit the krak des chevaliers.

tahiti:
sit on the beach in bora bora.

thailand
{istanbul, turkey. image here.}
turkey:
fly in a hot air balloon over cappadoccia. stay in a cave hotel.
visit the grand bazaar in istanbul and purchase some pottery.
pamukkale.
haya sofia, sultanahmet and topkapi palace.

vietnam:
spend a week on the beach in ha long bay.

multiple-country trips:
the hippie trail.
cairo to capetown.

// as i said before, this isn't exhaustive. suggestions? let me have 'em.//

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

more on DC!

i shared yesterday that during my weekend trip to DC i didn't manage to get any photos of anyone but instead spent all my time photographing DC rowhouses. our friends the finns and jess's mom did a much better job capturing what matters, and these photos belong to them. i'll try to compensate for my skewed priorities with my words in this post!

one of the things no one really talks about after college is how hard it is to find and create meaningful community after graduation. when you live 8 months out of the year on a floor of 16 hilarious, creative, driven and smart people perpetually running on lots of caffeine and little sleep, community comes a little more easily than in the post -college reality of different jobs, interests, levels of disposable income and street addresses. it was a treat to spend a few days with the good people i know and love from our days in school, and not just because we all enjoy laughing at and swapping memories of our epic prank war.

in the spirit of thanksgiving week, i'm grateful for old friends who know my context, and for new ones who ask good questions and are each working to make the world a better place in their own way. for shared coffee and cupcakes and somersaults on the capitol lawn. for friends who are happier than perhaps they've ever been, and for those fighting the same fights, struggling for the same things. for spending time in the company of people who know and are a part of some of my best stories, and for being welcomed by new friends with open arms. for library of congress porch yoga, rooftop beers and eastern market pancakes. 

i'm already thinking about when i can make a repeat trip. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

a surprise weekend visit to washington, DC

my best friend and college roommate lives in washington, DC where she works on behalf of religious minorities across the world. (sometimes i like to say that her job description is just kick ass and take names.) i'm impressed by her and what she does, though sometimes i get a little bummed that so much of her attention and time is spent flying across the world to obscure central asian nations where prime ministers make new jersey jokes at her. 

jess came out to visit me a few years ago when, being the good friend i am, i took us snowshoeing in -14 degree temperatures. i hadn't been to visit her in DC since we graduated from college back in 2006, until just a few weeks ago. i figured it was high time to make happen the visit we always talk about when we do get a chance to talk, and what a better time to do it than for her 30th birthday? i secretly emailed a few of her friends, found a rather reasonable airfare, google mapped and memorized the metro route from the airport to her house(google maps? MAGICAL.) and set out on my way. 

my trip went off without a hitch. i did get stuck between two armrest hogs on my flight, one a curmudgeonly old grandfather and one eritrean refugee who, an hour in, i befriended and talked with for most of the trip which made being stuck in the middle seat a little more bearable. everything ran on time, the walk to her place was simple and the look on her face when she answered the doorbell was pretty priceless:

k ::buzzes doorbell and waits::
j, answering door: what??
k, standing on the front step: ::smiles::
j: but... you're here? 
k: ::smiles and shrugs::

to make the weekend even more fun, jess's mom came to visit, her boyfriend flew in from out of state AND our friends the finns bravely drove all the way down from connecticut with their 4 adorable bubbies to surprise her for the party! 

we spent the weekend consuming delicious coffee, perusing the stalls of eastern market, chasing the finn babies around the capitol building and trying in the margins to catch up on all the years it has been since we'd last seen each other. while much too short, it was a lovely weekend and i can't wait to do it again- though i'll probably let her know in advance next time.

i didn't manage to get a photo of the two of us at all (friend fail!), but here are a few from our morning at the capitol.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

two more finished quilts!

a friend of mine from college recently got married and asked if i'd sew a sari quilt for her and her shiny new husband. she was hoping for something blue and white and, being dutch and so having an instinctive, innate love for all things delft, i couldn't say no.

this friend's parents live in bombay, and so she had her mother ship her some saris, which she in turn shipped to me, and over several months i put together this sari chevron string quilt. i do very much love how it looks, and given how long each block took me to sew, this will probably be one of a kind. (plus, i'm not sure i could convince my friends who came over to play quilt sweat shop to come over and sew another, as generous and kind as they were to help with this one!)

this second quilt i made because i needed a little immediate gratification after the queen sized, detailed sari quilt above. it's a little lap quilt made from kona grey (not pink, as it appears in the photos) and a collection of 12 different liberty of london fat quarters i won from this sweet little online shop called duckadilly, via a blog called film in the fridge.

i love the film in the fridge blog for inspiration, and several of my quilts have been inspired by hers. the last time i won something was in elementary school, when in a raffle i won a gift card to a local toy store. when i received an email that i'd won a generous giftcard to be spent on some of the most beautiful fabrics i'd ever seen, i was, needless to say, pretty pumped. (adult version of a toy or candy store, anyone?)
after receiving the fabrics in the mail, i poured over my options and in the end decided on something simple as each design speaks for itself. i also decided that the fabrics are too beautiful to keep only to myself, and so made two versions of this quilt. the one above i gave to my college roommate and am keeping its twin for myself.

i sort of cheesily think of them as those best friend heart necklaces where you keep half and give the other half to a friend, only much more beautiful and timeless. i decided to hand quilt my own, and i absolutely love it. i'm also excited after all these quilts to finally have made something to keep!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

travel: valladolid, mexico

the last of four posts on our trip to mexico.
// part one, two and three.
after visiting the ruins of coba, hubs and i spent an afternoon in the quaint little town of valladolid. as i wrote yesterday, getting there was a little more complicated than we planned, as we waited and waited for a bus in coba and, two hours past when it was supposed to come, gave up hope that it ever would. we ended up taking a cab, an option i wish we had chosen before the two hour wait!

both of us were pretty hungry and heat exhausted by the time we arrived in the city center, plus it was so very hot outside that we quickly surrendered our ambitions of finding a quaint, mom-and-pop restaurant for lunch and ate at the first taco place we could find. from there, we kind of just shuffled through the streets from church to church and then bought a liter of water and several ice creams (paletas) in a little air-conditioned convenience store to recover. 

pro tip: don't visit during siesta, or don't be shy to knock on doors- we only saw the outsides of all of the churches we visited. we were, however, successfully able to locate a map after learning that 'map' is 'la mapa' in spanish, so i give us points for that one.
to see:
iglesia san servicio: right in the center of town, this church is beautiful and dominates the town square.
iglesia santa lucia: on a quiet square, covered in papel picado flags.
convent de san bernadino de siena: we did not walk to the convent of san bernadino, though i wish we did! 
iglesia de la candelaria: catholicism meets mayan legend at this little church 10 minutes' walk from the city center. la virgen de la candelaria is the patron saint of valladolid and well known all over the yucatan. 

plus, the buildings around the town center are colorful and built colonial style, entirely unlike tulum pueblo. they and the church of san servicio are why we decided to visit!

the owner of our hotel in tulum said that there is a craft market in the parking lot of the prison selling the best hammocks for the best prices around. he also told us that in mexico, prisoners have to earn their food and so by purchasing a hammock you are quite literally allowing someone to eat. we looked for the market but halfheartedly, as we don't own trees from which to hang a hammock.

lastly, there are several limestone sinkholes called cenotes (say-note-ays) in the area that are worth visiting (cenote zaci comes highly recommended by a friend), though as our trip was only a few hours long we did not venture to see them. we were also told that people really only go to cenotes to dive and not really to swim. FALSE. it's our fault, though, for asking someone who was self-admittedly a little drunk. 

if we did this trip over again, i'd plan to spend a night in valladolid either before or after a trip to the ruins instead of trying to see everything in several hours in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

travel: coba ruins, mexico

part three on our trip to mexico!
{images all mine}
while in mexico, we debated back and forth for quite some time as to whether or not we should travel out to chichen itza.
chichen itza pros: it's one of those must see before you die places, it's the biggest, best preserved and most well-known mayan ruin, it's a UNESCO world heritage site. also, for those not afraid of heights (read: husband), the pyramid is open for climbing. 

chichen itza cons: it was several hours away from where we were staying, meaning the bus would get us there at the hottest and busiest time of day and would require us to spend more money than we'd want to on the fare. we also heard the hawkers were relentless and the entrance fee was a little steep.

we chatted with the owner of our hotel and he suggested we go to coba or ek balam instead. the bus to either was much shorter and less expensive than chichen and would allow us an afternoon to visit the little city of valladolid. he mentioned that as coba was relatively recently excavated and even then, only in part, exploring there made one feel a little like indiana jones gallivanting through the jungle. sold. 

getting there: navigating the mexican public bus system was relatively easy. we were able to book second class tickets to coba at the tulum bus station on the day of our trip. we took the first bus out, arriving half an hour after the park opened. it's also possible to hire a cab, but with how easy and affordable the bus was we saw no need to do so.

the bus dropped us off at what seemed like the only intersection in town, right on the edge of the lake. we wandered a bit before finding the entrance which really shouldn't have been as difficult as we made it. when in doubt, ask questions!

getting away was a little more challenging. the town of coba is very small and the buses aren't frequent. we were supposed to be able to catch a bus around noon from the "bus stop" (the plastic chairs outside el bocadillo restaurant) which would take us the remaining 30- 45 minutes into valladolid town center. however, the bus never showed up. we waited almost two hours before agreeing to hire the first taxi that gave us a fair price, getting us into the city at the hottest time of day. but more on valladolid tomorrow!

to see: i'm pretty confident that coba is only on the map because of the ruins, so aside from a few tourist-oriented restaurants, there isn't much else there. there are several lakes which the ruins are situated between, but i read somewhere that there are crocodiles (alligators?) residing there and to ask local children where the best, safest swimming hole is. no thank you.

so, the park! we did a little reading up on the ruins before visiting- both in our guidebook and via random googling- and i'm glad we did. there wasn't much to read signage- wise once there, and i'm a pretty big fan of knowing a little something about where i'm going and what i'm seeing while traveling. you can hire a pedi-cab/ cycle rickshaw at multiple points in the park, or you can rent bikes and pedal from place to place. as with the ruins at tulum, the walk from the entrance to the different ruins isn't bad. most of the individual ruins require you to park your rented bike a little ways away and walk up anyway, so we saved our pesos for some paletas/ ice creams at the end. 

visiting so early in the morning was the best! for the first several hours we were there, we had the place virtually to ourselves, only sharing with two other couples and several hippies performing some sort of prayer at the base of the pyramid. on our way out we were a little overwhelmed by the waves of visitors walking in. 

in all, we really enjoyed our visit to coba. if we had been able to stay a night in valladolid or another town closer to chichen and not had to spend 6 hours on a bus in one day, we may have done it. as we booked our hotel for the entire week before arriving in mexico, we didn't regret skipping out on chichen itza in favor of these ruins which were a little more off the beaten path.
tomorrow, valladolid!
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