Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rachel wanted me to put up some pictures of our new apartment. So here you go! This is where you spent your first few months Norah! (We can't wait for you to get here...)

Our Front Door

Kitchen... the Window is behing me.

To the Right...

Kitchen Table, to the right of previous picture.

Plants. I'll kill them eventually I'm sure. This is to the right of the table.

I'm now standing in the kitchen doorway. (Where I was standing taking pictures of the Kitchen, only now, I've turned 180 degrees to take pictures of the living room.)

Living room. The door is to the right of the silver picture frame. (Thanks Cris!)

Now I'm standing in the doorway you saw in the previous picture, photographing the living room.

To the right of the previous picture. This is the doorway I was standing in to take the other pictures.

Turn 180 degrees, and you're in the bedroom/nursery. This is where we'll sleep.

This is the dresser/part of the crib/pack and play.

Here is the pack and play/crib. We'll hopefully be putting the crib up here.

To the right of the Crib is a doorway. Through that doorway is the dresser/dyson.

To the right of the dyson, the Bathroom.

Don't worry Rach, I closed the curtain. ;)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Overdue: Bryson City and Training

Sorry... It's been a long, long time.

We are knee deep in training right now, so it's been a while since I've been able to post. I find that I'm super busy this first part of the year every year, but it's good to start out on the right foot. I should be working on my bulliten board right now, and I will very soon. So this post will be sort of short.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Babs, Carrie, Rachel and I went to Bryson City North Carolina. Carrie's Aunt and Uncle have a cabin in the mountains and the four of us went and had the best vacation I've had in years. Here's how it went down:

We met up in Ohio and left our Saturn in a pharmacy parking lot for the week. We thew some of our things into the back of Bab's and Carrie's Element, and Babs started driving. (For those of you who don't know Babs, he has to drive or he'll go nuts.)

About ten hours later, we were there. We got to the cabin at about 2:00 in the morning, and were absoultely shocked at what a nice place it was. I brought along three wrought iron pots for cooking on the fire because I didn't think there would be a "real" kitchen. Well, much to my chagrin, not only was there a kitchen, there was high speed wireless internet. (Which we couldn't get to work all week, fortunately.) I'll just narrate through the pictures.

The place was very, very comfortable, and we really enjoyed just hanging out in the cabin.

Here's a shot of Rachel in the HUGE King Sized bed we slept in. Yes, they even had clean sheets waiting for us...

Here's a shot of the living room and the front door. Our bedroom is on the other side of that stairway.

And here's a shot of the dining area. (The front door is behind me to the right.)

The front porch and an idea of what it looked like to sit on the porch. When you went out there it was basically just a loud, loud locust fight. It was nearly dead quiet in the day, and beautifully loud at night.

Here we are on a hike... this was on the way to a waterfall in a Cherokee reservation nearby. More pictures from that beautiful hike follow below:

Here you can see the tall grass that rose up straight from the creek bed.

The water was cool, and clean, and a mist rose off of the stream as it crawled down the slippery backs of those polished creek stones.

Moss grew all along the creek bed in a cuishoney carpet of emerald fronds and an occasional bright flower.

Here you can see the water looks black because it is so transparent you look right onto the polished stones below.

The creek rushed by so beautifully it took me a long time hike the mile and a half to the waterfall because I kept stopping to take pictures.

Here's a shot of one of those flowers we passed. These were some very strange looking flowers with just two tiny petals sticking out from the stem like fragile purple silk blades.

There were about a dozen of these little streams that bubbled up, to the right and left of the path and spilled into the creek. One of these streams dripped down from under the exposed root structure of an old mossy tree. It looked as if the tree itself was the source of the stream.

Here's another one of the flowers we saw periodically near the stream. There were a handful of these red flowers that looked like a mess of yawning red beaks.

Here you can see the delicate carpet of rich green moss hanging its hair down into the misting mountain stream. It really didn't get any more beautiful than this. I could take this walk again and again. Or rather, just go and sit in that moss watching the water bubble by for a few hours. It was a very beautiful place to me.

Here's a little guy we saw taking his time climbing a tree.

Here's a shot of Carrie walking around by the water. Look at all the lichen and moss growing on the backs of the logs and trees, everything was just! so green.

And here's the waterfalls we came to. They weren't as big as the Mingo Falls that we had just been to, but the walk more than made up for it. Oh, and on the way back, some hiker behind us caught Rachel peeing in the woods. I was lookout, and when I saw him turning the corner I yelled Stop! Get up! Naturally, she thought I was joking, but when she saw him she jumped up and we ran ahead. Fortunately he was about sixty yards away when he came around the corner, but I'm pretty sure he knew what was going on because Rachel didn't have time to put the toilet paper in the bag she brought... That was the highlight of Day 2.

Here's a shot of Mingo Falls. It was much more visited than the other falls, and I hope you can see why. You had to climb up a hundred and fifty-nine steps to get to the falls, but once you got there you were rewarded with a fifty foot long roaring creek skittering down rocks that looked like enormous elephant hides.

Here's a shot with a person in the corner to give you a feel for the height of the falls.

One more shot, I tried to use the Rhotodendron to frame in the waterfalls. I think I liked the effect.

There was a bridge people could stand on to view the falls. Under that bridge was this water logged gnarled log sagging under the weight of the waterfall crashing down. I took quite a few pictures of that log, by the time I was done, it almost had a personality.

This was the end of the falls. It was almost as if this was the spot where Mingo Falls surrendered to the gradual drop of the creek bed. From here on out, the water tripped over a few logs, and fell down a few large rocks, but nothing like the falls in the background.

The next day we went to a place with a different sort of beauty. It was a bit overcast that day, so I didn't get the best pictures, but I wanted to post a few of the pictures we got from the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. The mansion was built by George Vanderbilt when he was, guess it... 27 years old. I can't even begin to imagine building something like that at my age. I have trouble buying salmon, how did this guy manage to make the Biltmore Estate at 27? Anyway, it was a beautiful day at the Estate. We loved walking through the mansion and looking at all of the original furniture and decorations. The whole experience is a real historical treasure. If you are ever near the Vanderbilt mansion, you should go. It's worth the hefty ticket price. (Which also lands you a Wine Tasting...)

I liked this picture because it says something to me. Here is just a simple little plant, not even flowered yet, and it is so intricate, and so beautiful. Behind it is the most elegant home I've ever seen in my life, the most beautiful thing I've seen made by human hands, and yet, there is still something in this bare flower bud that triumphs over even that. I don't know, maybe I'm getting too deep, but after the beautiful walk in the woods, I was just struck by how hard we try to make beautiful things, when there are so many of them all around us.

Here's a shot of the front yard. Rumor has it the neighborhood lawnmower kid was loaded.

Here's a shot of the Wine Cellar. You weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house, but no one said I couldn't take any of the Wine Cellar...

Again, the Wine Cellar. You can imagine how beautiful the rest of the home was...

We toured the gardens as well. They were pretty, but again, I couldn't help but think about how that little no-name mountain stream was so much more beautiful than all of this arranged and controlled beauty around me. Still, some of the structures were just breathtaking, and the leaves on some of the plants were literally as big as a person. It was very neat to see.

A flower in the Hot House. I love the texture of the petals, they almost look like they're made of octopus skin.

It's hard to take a picture of these trained fruit trees. They were expertly manicured and trained to stand flat against a wall like someone hiding against a wall in a dark alley... uh... holding fruit.

Here's a shot of the four five of us in the gardens.

I have a lot more pictures, but you can check them out on your own at Flickr.

I mentioned the Highlight of Day 2, but not the other highlights so here you go.

Highlight of Day 1: Babs was driving us through down town Bryson City (very quaint mountain town) when he came to some rail road tracks. The lights did not blink, and the arms did not come down, but he saw a train moving very slowly down the tracks toward the car. It was only the engine, there were no other cars on the train, and it was moving very slowly, but Adam stopped like any good driver... just in time for the lights to go off and the arm to come down on the roof of his car. Then he floored it and drove out from under the arm and over to the other side of the tracks. I felt badly for him, and when we saw that there was no damage to the car, I laughed very loudly for a very long time.

Highlight of Day 3: I was making Hot Pepper Sauce by sauteeing some Hot Indian Chile Peppers. As I sauteed the peppers, apparently some hot pepper gas began filling the cabin. Before I knew it, Rachel, Carrie, Babs and I were on the front porch with watery eyes and dry coughs. I went in, threw some vinegar in the pan and it calmed down for a while.

Hightlight of Day 4: We went White Water Rafting class three river. For those of you who have been rafting before, it was a series of ones and twos with a three at the end. That three almost knocked Babs right out of the boat, making for the Highlight of Day 4.

Highlight of Day 5: We drove to Blue Hole in the Ocoee River in Tennessee. It was a place that Babs and I had been to a few years ago. The river is damed up, and they let the dam out once a week making some intense white water. When they bring the dams up again, the water recedes and what was white water a day ago, turns into a beautiful swimming hole with tunnels in the rocks that you can swim through and places for skin diving. While we were there, Carrie found one particular slab of rock that was quite long, and quite slippery. She found that by squatting down on your ankles, you could slide down on your feet for quite a distance before falling into the stream. Naturally we all tried it out for a while, and Carrie's pretty sure it will be an olympic sport soon.

Highlight of Day 6: I don't remember. Maybe it was watching Deliverance. Rachel's new favorite movie. "Where you goin' city boy?!"

Well, I was going to talk about training, but this post has been wayyyyyyy too long as it is. I'll update you on the changes here at WJU next time. (That's my cliff hanger for anyone who actually read all the way throught.)

Till then...