Monday, October 27, 2014

bachelorettes, donuts, and roller coasters

I think I've just now recovered from two weekends ago... so busy! Friday afternoon I left work a little early and drove two hours to get to my future sister-in-law's bachelorette party in time for dinner. After a tasty meal celebrating our beautiful bride-to-be Emily, we walked across the street to a dueling piano bar where we spent the rest of the night belting Journey songs until we were hoarse. It was nice to have a little girls night! I called the mom-taxi to pick me up around 1:30; it's just like Lyft except way cooler because your mom (and dad!) picks you up.

cozy birdhouse | emily's bachelorette party

On Saturday, we (mom, dad, brother, and sister) drove to a farm/orchard for some autumn activities: apple picking, corn maze, stuffing our faces with food. The corn maze was probably the best one I've done. It was spy-themed (sweet!) with word clues and crayon-rubbing stations scattered throughout the path. We were super proud to complete the entire maze worksheet.

cozy birdhouse | corn maze completion!

After the maze, we picked some apples and walked to the General Store and concession area where we discovered the heavenly confection known as "cider donuts": handmade donuts coated in sugar and cider spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). Delicious. DELICIOUS. Did I mention they were STILL WARM? I must warn you though, once you taste the cider donut, there is no going back. You will not be able to satisfy your craving for more until next fall. You will try to eat other donuts, but they will taste like compromise. You have been warned.

On Sunday, we took a family trip to Kings Island amusement park. Kevin earned the right to wear his Banshee t-shirt that he bought during last year's trip before the coaster was open. Seven inversions and a top speed of 68 mph... that's an accomplishment!

cozy birdhouse | banshee roller coaster at kings island

After such a crazy weekend, I was glad to have this past weekend at home. I was the bachelorette this time, with Dan at the Penn State vs. Ohio State game. It was a craft-filled weekend, so I should have some projects to show soon. Saturday was my knitting day. I gave up on my Monte Rosa sweater because it was taking FOR-EV-ER. Cables and I just don't get along well. The yarn is now re-purposed as a Guernsey Wrap in lap-blanket size. I'm hoping for a 4' x 5' blanket. I finished about half of it while binge-watching old episodes of "Lie To Me" on Amazon Prime.

Sunday I started working on my Halloween Costume. I'm a big fan of the homemade (at least partially) costume. I struggle to find something that's recognizable, easy-ish to make, and work-appropriate (e.g. not Sexy Ebola Containment Nurse, yes it exists). My favorite was the Dorothy dress I made about 5 years ago, which met all three of these requirements. This year I'm going as Madeline, the little French girl from the books. Hopefully recognizable, simple construction, not scandalous. Time to go work on my hat and collar!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

california, here we come

Just got back from our second trip to California in three months! Our friends Nate and Amanda invited us to their wedding at Yosemite National Park, which gave Dan and me the perfect excuse to explore Northern California for the first time. The Friday before the wedding, we flew into San Francisco, which is about a 4 hour drive from Yosemite. We spent the day doing touristy things: lunch in the Mission District, driving down the wiggly part of Lombard Street, and taking lots of photos of the sea lions at Pier 39.

cozy birdhouse | the golden gate bridge

As we were walking to the Pier, I said, "I really hope there's a sea lion to look at!" I wasn't aware that it's pretty much constantly covered in them. The ones that had just popped out of the water to rest on the docks were slick and shiny, but the ones who had been resting in the sun for a while looked so soft and fluffy. I wished I could be both close enough to pet one and far away enough to avoid the smell.

cozy birdhouse | san francisco pier 39 sea lions

On Saturday, we drove from San Francisco to Yosemite. We passed miles and miles of orchards that we later discovered were almond trees and saw evidence of the devastation caused by a huge wildfire. Some of the road was pretty treacherous with hairpin turns, a steep drop over the edge, and no guard rails!

We arrived in Yosemite mid-afternoon and got ready for the wedding rehearsal at Sentinel Beach. That's when the trip started to get a little crazy. On Friday, a disgruntled employee at an air traffic control facility in Chicago had started a fire, causing a lot of damage to the radar facility. O'Hare airport was shut down all day and not expected to be fully operational for over 2 weeks. (Side note: I can't type the phrase "fully operational" and not think of the Death Star.) Unfortunately, Amanda's parents and grandparents were supposed to fly from Chicago that day and were having issues getting re-booked. Saturday evening, Nate and Amanda decided to delay the wedding from Sunday to Monday to give her parents more time to get there.

I know this whole ordeal was super stressful for Nate and Amanda, but there were a couple upsides to a delayed wedding. Firstly, it POURED rain on Sunday. The wedding was scheduled to be outside at Glacier Point, and we heard it was actually sleeting there! Monday, on the other hand, was absolutely gorgeous. Secondly, having a free day on Sunday gave Dan and me some time to explore Yosemite! Our original itinerary didn't include any hiking, because we had planned on staying two nights in Sonoma after leaving Yosemite. Fortunately, we were able to shorten our stay in Sonoma to accommodate the extra day at the park. We used our free time Sunday to hike through Mariposa Grove and see the Giant Sequoias!

cozy birdhouse | mariposa grove at yosemite, california tunnel tree

We walked through the California tunnel tree, which is still alive and producing pine cones despite having a car-sized hole cut through the base. I did stray from the trail occasionally to take photos of the wildlife including these little squirrels called "chickarees." I also spotted a bright blue Steller's Jay.

cozy birdhouse | yosemite, douglas squirrel aka chickaree

cozy birdhouse | yosemite national park, steller's jay

Everything went smoothly for the wedding on Monday; I only saw one cloud the whole day, and it was the white, fluffy type. The view from Glacier Point was breathtaking. After a short ceremony attended by a small group of friends and family (and a much larger group of nature enthusiasts), we snapped some photos of Half Dome and then took the bus back to the Ahwahnee hotel for the reception. We had a tasty dinner and then played card games including Uno and Go Fish until the party ended.

cozy birdhouse | yosemite national park, wedding at glacier point

cozy birdhouse | yosemite national park, view of half dome from glacier point

We hopped in the car Tuesday morning for another four hour drive back to Sonoma. I'm lucky Dan is a good conversationalist! He quipped that it's a sure sign you get along well with your spouse when you put over 600 miles on your rental car in less than a week and never turn on the radio. We arrived in Sonoma just in time to catch the last tour at Benzinger Family Winery where we took a tour of the vineyards and cellars, ending with a wine tasting. Afterwards, we checked in at our fancy hotel on Sonoma Plaza and enjoyed an early dinner across the street at The Girl and The Fig.

cozy birdhouse | sonoma, benzinger family winery

On Wednesday morning we drove back to San Francisco to visit Alcatraz. We had discovered on our first day that the tours sell out days (sometimes weeks!) in advance, so we had purchased tickets for Wednesday afternoon. The audio tour of the cellhouse was very well done, with lots of first-person narrative from former inmates and guards.

cozy birdhouse | san francisco, alcatraz

After the tour, we drove to the Mission District to meet up with Dan's friend Kevin for an authentic Mexican dinner. Kevin saved us lots of money letting us stay on his futon for the night. We had to get up around 3 a.m. to catch our flight, so it would have killed me to pay for a hotel for only a few hours of sleep!

Congratulations, Nate and Amanda! We're so honored you invited us to the wedding. Thanks for giving us the opportunity for this amazing vacation!