Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ED Came Back!!

I'm a nerd. I'm completely wrapped up in the current season of 'The Bachelorette,' and while I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that, it's my only trashy TV guilty pleasure...what else is one to do on a Monday evening after a long, hard day at work? :)

For you fellow nerds, maybe you'll understand my excitement over Ed returning on last night's episode. He is, in my opinion, BY FAR the best match for Jillian, and he came back! He left a few episodes back to attend to some urgent business matters (aka: his boss threatened to fire him if he didn't return to his job,) and it was obvious that both he and Jillian were heartbroken over it, so to see him reappear and ask for a second chance had me giddy. They just seem to have a chemistry that she doesn't have with the others, and in my opinion, she should pick him in the end. We shall see what happens.

And don't even get me started on WES, THE WEASEL! The only person happy he's still around is Reid, who thinks the drama being caused by him is hilarious, therefore, making it OK for him to watch 'The Bachelorette' with me...I of course, know he secretly enjoys it just as much as I do! :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ghidu (1919 - 2009)

My last living grandparent passed away last week. Born Nicolai Stremciuc in Romania, he was known as Ghidu to my siblings and I; Ghidu means 'grandfather' in Ukrainian, a language he spoke fluently his entire life.

He lived to be 90 years old, outliving most of his generation's counterparts. Both he and his wife, my dear grandmother Babca, lived with my immediate family our entire lives, and to say he was an integral part of our lives would be an understatement. In our earlier years, he definitely played the role of strict disciplinarian in our home and had a large impact on most major decisions made. Because my family moved to Phoenix 4 years ago, my interactions with him during this time were much more limited; however, it was very interesting (and pleasing) to see the extent to which he "mellowed out" in his later years. Much of the harshness that had been present for many years had almost completely disappeared, and the softer side of Ghidu was displayed. Truth be told, I much preferred this Ghidu; however, he was whom he was, and he never apologized for it.

Here are a few of my favorite Ghidu memories:
  • The great care with which he always tended to our gardens. Growing up, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, etc. were plentiful, even from our modest garden in Chicago, thanks to his efforts.

  • Eating figs and red grapes from the fig tree and vine he tended in our Chicago backyard.
  • He never learned English, nor had a desire to, but still found a way to communicate with the neighbors (thru his grandchildren, of course!)

  • His desire to share vegetables from our garden with our neighbors, while making sure we communicated "God Bless You" on his behalf. For him, that was the most important thing, and over the years, he learned to say "God Bless You," perhaps the only English phrase he ever learned.

  • He loved birds. He fed birds. Leftover food in our household was never thrown away; instead, all vegetable peelings (potato, carrot, cucumber) were finely chopped up and scattered out in the backyard for the birds to feast on. This was his job, day in, day out, even until the very end.

  • The weird combinations of food he often consumed. Mashed potatoes, milk and mayonnaise. Cool Whip on bread. If it was left over and couldn't be fed to the birds, he would find a way to combine it and eat it.

  • He loved sugar water. Take a glass of water. Stir MANY spoonfuls of sugar into it. Drink.

  • The certainty with which he knew where he was going to spend eternity; he couldn't wait to be with his Maker.

These and many more Ghidu memories will remain with me forever. May he rest in peace. He will be missed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Function vs. Fashion

Days until Yosemite = 2

I've pretty much been completely out of my element preparing for this trip. You see, while I thoroughly enjoy the occasional summer hike in the Gorge, the Yosemite trip that we have planned is a far cry from anything I've ever done before. We are "wilderness backpacking"...and I'm not even sure that's what it's officially called! The four of us will have everything we need for 4 days in the Yosemite National Park wilderness strapped to our backs, and yes, that includes our lodging quarters and any food we'll need to consume. That means our lodging will take place out in the wild along with the bears and other creatures of the forest. And did I mention that the majority of the time we'll be at elevations north of 8000 ft. above sea level, which means there's a decent chance we'll encounter snow on the ground? Oh, and here's the real kicker, I checked the 10-day weather forecast today and EVERY day we're scheduled to be out there has a chance of thunderstorms...

And lest anyone think I'm complaining about the impending trek, the opposite is true; I am so excited I can barely stand it! Regardless of, or maybe because of the elements, this trip will be quite the adventure; I'm convinced of it! :)

But what has really contributed to my feeling out of my element is my complete ignorance regarding what to pack. Reid, the only one of the four of us to ever have done anything quite so rugged, is VERY particular about what is and is not acceptable backing gear, which includes his very strong opinions on the shoes and clothing which I need to bring. So, while for any other trip I could successfully manage to pack my own suitcase, usually over packed, this time I'm relying on Reid...who still jokes (somewhat) that he almost didn't marry me b/c I thought Chacos were the ugliest shoes I'd ever seen and I was probably never going to own and wear a pair, regardless of how functional they are. Just for kicks, here's one of the many versions of the Chaco; I challenge anyone to sell me on this shoe!

But I digress...

Kind of.

The issue of functional shoes inevitably came up as preparations for this trip got underway b/c while my old trail-running shoes may have sufficed for my day hikes in the Portland area, according to Reid, they are terribly lacking and would not do for Yosemite.

Thus began many hours spent in REI and The Mountain Shop trying on countless pairs of hiking boots in search of the boot that would make my feet feel glorious even after many hours of hiking on incline, terrain of all kind and with weight on my back. Well, I kicked and screamed, but here are the beauties I ended up with. I know, they're a bit much to take in all at once. I don't know what's worse, the lime green, the fact that they're high tops or the sheer clunkiness factor...how are these supposed to be MORE comfortable? So for about 2 weeks, they sat in their box while I dreaded the "breaking them in" phase which should have started the day I brought them home...I just COULD NOT make myself strap them on and take walks around the neighborhood. I may not be high maintenance, but even I have my pride.

Well, I'm not sure how it happened, but I liken it to a miracle. This past weekend, Reid informed me that if I wanted, we could go back to REI and see what low-top options were available for women's hiking boots. Umm, yes, I wanted! So, back to REI we went, and after much more time (wasted) spent, I traded in the lime beauties for these puppies. Still not much to brag about, but in my opinion, a VAST improvement over the alternative. Reid seems skeptical that I won't be in pain as a result of my decision to switch boots, but I don't care; I just feel like I won a huge battle!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Catching Up - PART 2 (Late Spring Beauty)

So, I'm probably becoming known as the crazy lady that walks her super cute dog through the neighborhood and takes pictures of people's landscape, sometimes crouching in front of a neighbor's flower patch for many minutes on end, trying to capture the perfect angle. But that's OK with me because the weather and colorful signs of life everywhere are inspiring, and they're just calling out to have their pictures taken!

Here are some of my favs from a walk taken a few weeks ago: