Shout out to September

Looking out my kitchen window, distracted by the picture perfect snow covered pine trees beckoning just outside, it dawns on me that for the next five months or so I will eagerly embody every winter cliché imaginable. Hot chocolate, wonderfully spiked with espresso vodka and bourbon, is at my side. Heavy wool socks are pulled up high, at least two other garments are fleece. Abandoned in the middle of the floor, my boots are slowly loosing their coating of snow. Surrounded by this winter bliss it seems a mighty fine time to throw together a few notes and photos from warmer days.

September was with us just a couple a months ago, now it seems so distant. The month kicked off with a work outing. Co-workers and partners cruised from brewery to brewery on the Cycle Pub. It looks like a trolley but is powered like a bike. Pedal! Pedal! Pedal! Someone needs to tell the Olympics about this.

Pedaling off the pints?

Next up it was time to get moving again but this time not far at all. We relocated from our apartment in Bend to a little A-frame house in Sunriver, a resort community south of town. Steve now has a five-minute bike commute to work. Mine is a bit longer but overall seems like a good trade. More space for us both and Steve gets tasked with dinner more often than not.

The highlight of September rolled in later in the month in the form of Momma Peg flying in from Kentucky.  My momma if she chooses can be a touch tenacious. Still, I worried about her flying from Lexington, KY to Redmond, OR with connections in Atlanta and Salt Lake. She hadn’t flown in many years and we all know that flying these days can test the mettle of even the most seasoned traveler. She pulled it off without a hitch.  Now I can remind her of this any time she gets turned around in the mall. If you can make it through ATL you can remember which door you came in at Macy’s.

Momma Peg’s adventures in central Oregon included bagging a butte, wading in a glacial fed lake, and hiking through lava fields. We also headed over to the coast for a few days. We took in many beautiful views, visited historic lighthouses and actually saw whales on our whale-watching trip.

Less than 24 hours into the Oregon experience we hike up Tumalo Mountain, 7775' !

And then cool off in Devil's Lake.

No lack of wading in cold water. Here the Pacific.

There she blows! Starboard bow! Its a gray whale!

Now on the surface I might seem like the most eccentric member of my family. There was that whole quit my job to travel around in a van thing. But no my mom wins the eccentricity award hands down. Nothing illustrates this more than the story of what turned out to be my mom’s most beloved souvenir of her trip to Oregon. One day the weather was on the stormy side, so we drove to different overlooks to just watch the ocean swirl and heave. At one of these spots there were a couple old buoys bouncing in and out with the waves. Tracing their path back and forth was a little hypnotic. With each inbound wave it looked as though they were going to wash in for good only to be tossed out to sea again seconds later. Mom did comment on how neat it would be to have a buoy to take home. Can’t say I wasn’t warned. Later that night she heads off for a walk on the beach well ahead of Steve and me. A bit later we track her down. What has fished out of the brush line between the road and the beach? Yes, she found herself a stinky, barnacle encrusted buoy for her very own. Somehow they flew home together. I feel sorry for the TSA agent that inspected that bag.


It is time to refill the hot chocolate but first a huge THANKS to my mom for making the trek out to Oregon. She is the first family or friend to visit us since we left Kentucky. Hint, hint to the rest of you!

Ya'll come see us now ya hear!


Still Going

Somewhere in Yosemite National Park late last November.


It has been over two months since our last update. Two months! Seems updating our blog has taken a backseat to adventure, family, plotting, scheming and skiing. It is winter afterall. Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more updates. Hopefully it won’t be another two months.

NC to CA

Any sanity or sense Steve and I had two years ago must certainly be long gone. If you need proof of this we thought driving from North Carolina to California would not be so bad. We’re pros at this, right? While the trip was really smooth, it was long and tedious and left us questioning are reasoning abilities about making the decision to go all the way from east coast to west for a short-term winery job.

To our credit we did try to plan things to do along the way to break up each day a bit. This is easier planned than executed as more often than not we just didn’t have the energy to take a big white van off the interstate to track down the local charm. That said there were a few highlights. We visited Stonehill Winery in Missouri. Way, way back, 1800’s back, Missouri had a fantastic wine industry. Today they have a surprising number of wineries producing lesser known grapes / wines that are well suited for the climate. We bought a bottle of sherry- our first. Next up was barbecue in Kansas City at Gates Bar B.Q. where much of the restaurant was shrouded in smoke from the pit. It was obvious that half the customers eat there weekly and the other half stagger in as if on a pilgrimage to a distant, holy land.

Steve having a come to BBQ moment in Kansas City.

Our new climbing partner in Denver.

That was about the extent of our tourist stops on our westward trek. We did visit pals in Denver and met their adorable little boy.  With a little luck we made beers happen with our wildland firefighter buddy as we passed through Winnemucca, Nevada. He is good at being anywhere and everywhere in the American West. I’m not sure how he has such mastery over his geography. It is a mysterious combo of truck, helicopter and I suspect nose wrinkle.

Picture perfect Lake Tahoe.

Stellar Jays are a fixture on the Tahoe landscape.

Just before reaching our final destination we spent a cool (literally- there was snow at elevation) weekend in Tahoe. This was a favorite spot of mine from our 2009 travels. With my foot swelling (sting ray) and weekend crowds on the trails, we kept our hikes short and our vista lingering long. For such a touristy area somehow parts of the Tahoe area manage to be not only bearable but actually pleasant. With a mellow weekend behind us we rolled on into northern Sonoma County and a tiny but just right apartment on a big ‘ol hill overlooking the Russian River Valley. More to come!

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

On my summer vacation I was stungrayed! I realize this is not a word but how else do you explain being stung by a stingray? Thus stungrayed.

Somewhere in the mayhem that was August with visits to  family and friends in KY and gearing up for a temp move to California, Steve and I squeezed in a proper family vacation with our adorable niece and nephew and their parents.  Our little gathering took place on Bald Head Island, North Carolina. Bald Head is not a typical gypsy destination however it proved to be a great place for a vacation with toddlers. With sand & surf a hundred yards from our door, a golf cart to cruise around the car free island on, and nearby pools and ice cream shops for back up, it was an easy week for us kids both young and not so young.

Easy, except for the part about how I came to be stungrayed. First morning at the beach everything was going great: Luke & Sara building sand castles with Steve, the parents shooed off for some walk on the beach time, then there is me deciding the warm waters of the Atlantic are nice enough to overcome my vague unease with being in the ocean and off I go for a little splash around.

Next up a sudden jolt of searing pain in my foot followed by the thought, “that hurt but it wasn’t a shark,” followed by me looking around for a shark anyway cause ya know your supposed to punch them, split second later there was a high step sprint to shore. I pull up at the water’s edge to see a small bleeding cut on my foot. I motion my usually helpful husband over who glances at it and for the next half hour tells me, “you must have cut it on a shell, what else could it be? “  He feels bad about this now but of course he’ll never live it down.

After sitting on the beach and talking myself out of a panic attack, I head in for some ice. You put ice on everything right? It continued to HURT so we soon carted off to the island first aid station located in the firehouse. They knew instantly that I was stungrayed and filled up a plastic tub of hot water for me to soak my foot in – this is the standard treatment. They also checked for a barb – luckily there was no sign of anything still in my foot. Back to the house, I had the rare experience of riding in a golf cart with my foot in a tub of water. A couple hours of soaking and the pain vanished. A week later my MD pals in Denver talked me into a tetnus booster.  And now nearly three weeks later I have a swollen, red foot and my first week in CA included arguing with a doc about my need for antibiotics.  I won.

The rest of the week on Bald Head was perfect. Steve and I kayaked in the swamp- sounds strange but really pleasant. We took a sailing lesson that turned out to be way more hands on than we expected.  Learn to sail is on my list right below learn to avoid seasickness.

Best of all we had a wonderful time catching up with family and enjoying heaps of good food and wine.  Ten months or so had passed since we had seen our niece and nephew. They’re growing up quickly for sure but still they wear well the same adorable personalities we’ve known all along.  Sarah Clare ruled us all like the powerful princess she is.  Luke put forth a surprisingly thoughtful argument of why he should go in the van with Bro-Jill to California.

Someday, Luke, someday.

Upon hearing of my stungray status Eric forwarded me this stringray cartoon. Steve now quotes it to me.

My Time in Stars Hollow

If you don’t get the title, then skip this one unless you want a great opportunity to make endless fun of me. If you do get the title, then go ahead and give into that girlish giggle, pour yourself a stout cup of coffee, and think of a witty comment.

Steve and I have been a little vague about exactly how we are spending our Southern Hemisphere winter. This isn’t intentional. We have so much to share, that important details can get lost. Important details like I’m living out my own Gilmore Girl fantasies casting myself as a nice combo of Lorelai and Sookie. If you aren’t familiar with this epic masterpiece of television dramedy then see first sentence.

So we are innkeepers, sorta. Now this isn’t the Dragonfly Inn. The place we’re minding is Kokopu Estate and it includes includes two rental cottages or in NZ speak holiday homes. One is a 100 year old cottage with full shabby-chic charm. The other is a romantic apartment attached to the main house. Even though it is the off season we regularly have guests at both accommodations. Along with looking after guests, we’re answering calls and emails about the place and confirming reservations for NZ’s upcoming summer season. For GG fans just imagine Emily and Richard’s house with a couple rental cottages and you are close to our setup, maybe a little less posh and and a bit more farm.

Did I mention that Luke, I mean Steve, makes me coffee whenever I ask? Nothing like all day coffee drinks to make you feel like a Gilmore Girl.

So you can’t reenact the Gilmore Girls without an adorable toy town. Surrounded by green hills and set at the water’s edge, Akaroa might be even cuter and quirkier than the fictional Stars Hollow. The local color includes notoriously grumpy laundry ladies, ever changing rules at the library, and the occasional boat being towed down main street.

The strangeness continues as this part of New Zealand was originally settled by the French. This left a proud and highly marketable heritage. Many signs are in French and all the streets are marked “Rue”. One day we saw a man wondering about in a Napoleonic era French army uniform carrying a large French flag over his shoulder. This town’s Taylor perhaps.

We don’t have Lane’s band to groove to, instead there are some local guys who get together and play the ukulele.

Good food, always essential to the Gilmore Gang, is covered with several fine restaurants and a cooking school. Imagine a tiny town with a cooking school and no chain restaurants. It is winter and most nights I’m happy to stay in with Luke err Steve. Even Sookie, Stars Hollow’s gourmet chef would approve of my boeuf bourguignon.

So, for now, that’s us. Before you decide I’ve completely lost my mind,  Steve thinks he’s Higgins from Magnum P.I.

Update 7/20/10 Learned that uniformed French soldier is the official town crier. This place gets more Gilmore everyday.


It has happened. I never really thought it would happen to us. Steve and I have never been just boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife or climbing partners. We are all these things but above it all we are or were best friends. We enjoyed each others company in every way. Neither of us had a posse of gal pals or bunch of old buddies with whom we really had more fun or a better connection. Those days are only memories now. A new entity is in our lives and it has changed everything, EVERYTHING. Fergus.

Fergus will listen to Steve ramble on about this or that, all day long without ever a bored look or disinterested stare. Fergus enjoys being chased around in circles, comes when called and is always ready to go outside.

Fergus, Steve is your best friend now. Take care of him. Keep him out of trouble.

A Legacy

As the story has it, at least in my mind, I as an infant rebelled so strongly against the intended babysitter that my Papaw Herby was recruited to look after me. Soon after my Granny Tressie retired from school teaching to see that looking after me was done properly. Tressie and Herby were my dad’s parents and lived less than a half mile from us on the family farm.

I was a lucky toddler. I followed Papaw as he moved cows from one pasture to another. I snooped on the bee hives from a safe distance. My ponies lived in the barn behind their house.

Their garden was a masterpiece. If they grew it, I ate it. More praise has never been heaped on a child for eating greens and turnips.

Sure I was their pampered only granddaughter but they could be tough. As a first grader, I knew better than to show Granny a worksheet that didn’t have a smiley face on it. I showed her all the good ones. The others I stashed in my mom’s car. Then you know it, we drove her to the fall festival at school. The “talking to” I got when confronted with those minus 2’s and 3’s….she waited until bath time when I was spending the night. Naked, lectured and getting scrubbed to with in an inch of my life. That was Granny.

Papaw died seventeen years ago but Granny she passed away just this week. Being the oldest of eleven surely made her the tough gal that she was. Besides keeping me honest, her life included a long teaching career, much of it in a one room school house. During WWII she worked in a Michigan factory. And of course there was her passion for gardening. As a child I didn’t think we lived on a real farm because we didn’t earn our living from it. As a grocery shopping adult I know we had quite the farm. More than once I’ve heard, “They fed half the county.” A big garden with plenty to share brought them both great satisfaction.

In a changing world they lived life on their own terms….leaving a cherished legacy for a stubborn granddaughter.

Tressie with her students at Baker School. She is back row with all the hair.