It has been a LONG time since I’ve posted anything here or even looked at my lonely blog. Poor thing needs some TLC! Hopefully this is the beginning of me hopping back in and not just a fluke. Time will tell.
So how have you all been?! I don’t need to remind you that it’s been an absolutely bizarre year. The travel bug was reaching fever pitch in February, but the itch was due to be scratched in early April with the first work trip of the year.
Covid-19 had other ideas. Sort of. I did get to travel for work and even sooner than April, but it wasn’t the sort of travel I was expecting. My company is an essential business. Without all of the detail, I worked in two of our stores in two different States for a few weeks in the early days of the pandemic. It was a surprisingly great experience. Exhausting and scary, but great. Getting out of the cube farm to spend time working with our store associates and helping our customers was so rewarding.
After being home for a couple of weeks, I was getting extra itchy. Going into the office every day was a life saver. I know so many people think I’m crazy, but still interacting with my co-workers as normally as possible helped keep me from sliding down the dark hole of depression. That didn’t solely help though. Ordering groceries and essentials online, not getting together with our friends, and just lacking many day to day interactions, I had to do what I could to get out of the house, so I increased my hiking regiment. I still hit my local metro parks here and there, during the week when the daylight and weather held up, but started branching out to our Ohio State Parks. The third facet to my sanity, was seeing my immediate family regularly. My parents, brother, sister-in-law, and of course our pups. We celebrated birthdays, went hiking (shocking!), swimming at my parent’s house, and of course sharing meals.
Things seemed to be calming down enough by late May that we decided to go ahead and reschedule our annual Mother’s Day trip to Florida for early June. The timing worked out perfectly! Had we gone Mother’s Day weekend as planned, the Naples, FL beaches would have closed at midnight on the day we arrived. Talk about a massive bummer. All we do is sit on the beach and go out to dinner! The beach reopened and the city of Naples was slowly reopening by the time we went a month later. We practically had the beach and restaurants to ourselves. It was great!!! (We did stay in and cook a few times, too.) I was the only person going through TSA on my flight down and the flight back. Southwest was, and so far still is, leaving middle seats open. I feel horrible for the people who make their living off of tourism, but for me it was one of the least stressful, most comfortable travel experiences ever. I made sure to tip extra everywhere!
There were some other sanity savers sprinkled throughout the year thus far. We had a small, surprise backyard wedding in the family this year. Outside on a beautiful summer evening. I kept my gardening game up all summer. The amount of flowers and tomatoes that grew this year was nuts!
We went out to visit the “in-laws” in Pennsylvania whom we hadn’t seen since Thanksgiving. Way too long between visits. We mixed in a mini vacay with the family time by staying in very nearby Railroad, PA at a fantastic bed and breakfast. I highly recommend making a trip and staying at Jackson House Bed and Breakfast. The train tracks run right next to the BNB, but these days only run the occasional tourist train. Historical footnote: These same tracks were used by President Abraham Lincoln to get to Gettysburg to deliver the Gettysburg Address, and later his funeral train followed this same route.
Ohio State football is back (Go Bucks!). Despite the dry summer we’ve had a beautiful, if mildly less vibrant, autumn, and I’m almost actually looking forward to the first snowfall. Almost. The Second Summer this week also makes me wish it never drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit again. LOL
I am looking forward to what November and December bring to my bubble this year. A challenging year, but a year full of experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I’m looking forward to sharing my State Park experiences with you, so hopefully this post isn’t just a fluke and instead is a sign I’m getting my head back in the writing game. 🙂
Yesterday, on the anniversary of the Antiquities Act, lovers of our public lands used their voice via blog posts to express their feelings on President Trump’s Executive Order for Secretary of the Interior Zinke to review 27 of our National Monuments. These monuments protect one of a kind artifacts of human history, endangered species, and unique flora found nowhere else. Whether you’ve visited them or not, they have played a role in the shaping of our past and the country we are today. These lands are for EVERYONE, regardless of race, religion, sex, or economic standing.
I struggled to write my post and I still struggle to write now. I’m angry and I’m hurt. I’m stressed out that these monuments may be dramatically altered, if not worse, before I have had a chance to visit most of them. I’m terrified where this review could lead. Why stop with these 27? Does this open up ALL of our treasured public lands to scrutiny and peril?
Luckily, many of the thoughts and feelings that are jumbled around in my head and heart have been expressed more eloquently than I am currently capable of by my fellow public land loving bloggers. Please enjoy their perspectives by visiting their sites at the links below. Special Thank You to Scott of Just Get Out More for organizing this effort. We implore you all to make your voice heard. Monuments For All.
Recently you signed an executive order threatening the existence of several of our beloved public lands. My heart instantly broke. There is no place I love to be more than in our Parks. I don’t remember what my first National Parks site visit was but since I grew up in Ohio it was somewhere east of the Mississippi. Family vacations were not only a time to get away from daily life for a week, but they also frequently were educational experiences around parks, monuments, and other historical sites.
I will never forget the trip we took to Gettysburg. My parents wanted to get on the road early. Early meant 4AM. I’m still not sure why so early! (I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination) My room and my brother’s room were almost directly across the hall from each other, so my Dad opened both of our doors, turned on the hall light and began reciting the Gettysburg address. I can’t recall if he made it all the way through, pretty sure I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. It certainly helped to cement the memory in my mind though! I do remember driving through the battlefield, imagining what it must have been like in those moments of North vs. South. There is speculation that the area is haunted by the many men who lost their lives. Whether or not that is true, I won’t debate here, but will say that there is a feeling that is inexplicably unsettling. In a time when the divide in our country seems to be growing again, I am glad we have places to remind us of the pain and hardships of civil war so that we hopefully can find amicable ways of coming back together.
We made several trips to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, including our most recent trip complete with a freak early season and unexpected snowstorm during peak fall leaf color! While most of the Park was closed for most of our visit, the unexpected lead to beautiful scenes and even more interesting hiking. We also went to Washington DC and since that first visit, I’ve returned countless times. The National Mall is one of my all-time favorite places to explore and reflect.
Cades Cove GSMNP
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Washington, DC Capitol building
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
I remember the wonder and awe of walking into Mammoth Cave for the first time; amazement at the ceremonial creations of the Hopewell Culture; and hometown pride while visiting the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. Each vastly different from the other, and yet each plays a vital role in the fabric of our culture. These units of the National Park Service combine with the rest to show us where we have been as a country, creating a compass of where we need to go. Whether naturally made, manmade, or simply symbolic, each of the 417 units are vital to our health and happiness as a Nation.
As an adult, I am slowly churning my way through more and more National Park sites across the country. My boyfriend and I took our first vacation together as a road trip from Vegas. We ventured out first to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, spent a night exploring the southern rim of Grand Canyon National Park, drove through Kaibab National Forest, gawked at the Vermillion Cliffs, and fell in love with Zion National Park. Since then we’ve ventured to many more Parks, Monuments, and Historical Sites. We have no intention of stopping now.
Grand Canyon National Park
Zion National Park
I would love to elaborate on each of the National Park sites I have visited thus far, but that would turn into a book. That book would have blank pages for all the places I’ve yet to see. Maybe one day I will write that book. I know I’m not alone in my passion for our public lands, and hope you take the time to read what others have written about their experiences.
The addition of new monuments in the last 20 years has been thrilling. Witnessing the living history of the United States of America. I fear an action against the Antiquities Act of this nature will open the door to further pillage other beloved monuments in the future. If you truly want to “Make America Great Again” I implore you to halt any reduction of these sites. These are places that can bring us together no matter our upbringing and social standing. There are so many wonderful, unique places in this country of ours that deserve to be preserved for generations to come.
To those of you looking to have your voice heard, please write and call your Representatives. You can also head here to submit your comments for public review: http://monumentsforall.org/.
We recently had the privilege to dine at Kihachi Japanese Restaurant right here in Columbus, Ohio. If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain, you may have seen the episode of No Reservations where he enjoyed the omakase dinner (which does require reservations AND at least two days notice!). We did not partake in the omakase on this visit, but plan to go again and give it a try.
I also was so enamored by everything we ordered that I forgot to take pictures of most things and when I did remember, we were already half way through. Oops! There were six of us dining and we ordered about three different items each then shared the majority.
Chef Mike Kimura pays attention to absolutely every detail. As if amazing food wasn’t enough, he is also incredibly friendly and good natured when mingling with his guests. While in the kitchen, which is open by the way so you can see all the action, he is intense and focused.
There is plenty on the menu for even the most cautious eater. From free range grilled or tempura chicken, to assorted tempura veggies and braised duck. You will of course also find the most amazing sashimi I have ever had. I opted for the assorted platter which that evening included melt in your mouth tuna, red snapper, paper thin squid, octopus, and two other fish that I now forget the names of. We also tried matsutake mushrooms under the advice of our friends who are from Japan. They are fragrant and almost woody in flavor, but in the yummy way, not the gnawing on a tree way! We probably all drank our weight in green tea too. ?
What is left of the mushrooms 🙂
As soon as I saw blowfish on the menu, I knew I had to give it a try. I was nervous given the potential outcome if not prepared correctly, but Chef Kimuras reputation convinced me to feel adventurous. When I have seen it on TV, it has always been prepared in razor thin slices and that is what I was anticipating. I also was told it would only be three pieces. It ended up being more like ten pieces and prepared almost steak-like. The texture reminded me a bit of steak, and I don’t recall that it had much of its own flavor. The ponzu sauce made the dish!
We had an unforgettable experience with wonderful company. Oh and the best green tea ice cream EVER. Sorry, I scarfed that down before thinking to take a picture or offering anyone a bite. ?
So, Mommy Zesty turned 60 this year! One thing that always sticks in my mind about my Mom is that she loves the Rose Parade. It is the one thing she makes sure she sits down to watch every year, and she isn’t big on TV. You have to understand that my Mom is one of the most selfless people I know. She rarely, if ever, asks for anything, and always puts everyone’s needs and wants before her own. Therefore, when she mentions there is something she would like to do, I do my best to listen.
As long as I can remember, my Mom talked about wanting to one day see the Rose Parade in person and help to decorate a float. About two years before her 60th, the nugget of an idea started to form in my head to make her wish come true. Lots and lots and lots of planning, budgeting, and reservations later, we were off to LA to celebrate my Moms 60th birthday a little early (her bday is in February). Day 1 was float decorating!
The timing was extra perfect since my family loves our National Parks and the parade theme was honoring the National Park Service Centennial. Find Your Adventure.
It turns out that it is relatively easy to get onto a float to decorate. There are a couple of groups who open up to volunteers. If you don’t already have an in with someone decorating a specific float, you can volunteer with one of these groups by signing up online. They do fill up fast and you have to keep checking their website to sign up. We went through Petal Pushers for our float volunteering, and I recommend you check them out if you are interested.
We had no idea what we were walking into! The warehouse is HUGE and housed about 10 or so of the floats for the parade. There are jobs available for everyone’s ability. If you are confined to a wheel chair or cant stand for extended periods, there are jobs for you! If you are a daredevil and like to climb scaffolding, there are jobs for you! And everyone in between. We were assigned to work on the Sikhs float. Not only was it a stunning float, but as an added bonus, the family sponsoring the float fed everyone delicious Indian food for lunch. It was sooo good!
Rose Palace garage
Work in Progress – India’s float
Selfie while working 🙂
So Many Flowers!
The level of detail that goes into each float is mind boggling. I had no idea and have an immense amount of newfound respect for anyone who has ever had any part in creating a Rose Parade float. My Mom and I were assigned to cut out random shapes from nori paper (seaweed, like what you use in a sushi roll) and glue them onto peacock wings. There were four peacocks on the float, and two wings per bird. Two birds were already finished, we just had to do the other two. It took us the almost entire 8 hour shift!
Towards the very end of our shift, they finally started putting flowers on the float. Somehow my Dad ended up the supervisors temporary assistant so he was able to ensure my Mom was able to apply a few of the actual flowers! My aunt and boyfriend were also with us doing an assortment of other equally detailed and painstaking tasks. ?
Ed gluing on individual beans
Dad & Aunt Di at work
The finished product!
You have to be a contortionist to get to some parts of the float! It was completely worth every muscle pinch and strain, lol, to see how happy my Mom was and to see the fruits of our labor progress throughout the day. I can’t put into words how amazing the experience was. I hope to do it again at least once more in my lifetime.
If you would like to learn more about a day in the life of a Rose Parade float decorating volunteer, send me a note! I am happy to elaborate and provide more detail.