Getting Ready

As you know, my work schedule is quite irregular. Some weeks I only have my students and get to have a “regular” schedule, but other weeks I have extra rehearsals and concerts which makes for a very busy week. A good skill to have is the ability to look ahead and figure out what needs to be done ahead, and also to figure out what can be done ahead to help out when work will be too busy to do anything. Since the past two weeks have been very light weeks, I’ve been working on a variety of projects to prepare for the fall. I’ve been updating my syllabi for the courses I teach, I’ve prepared new “interview” forms and questionnaires for new and returning students.

The key to being busy and getting stuff done is organization! I told Louie I feel like it doesn’t come easy to me, and he thought that was funny, because I am always working on being organized and trying new things, and I have loads of binders and notebooks, but the truth is that I still feel like so many other teachers are more organized and I can learn so much from them!

In any case, I’m also doing lots of practice, running (the heat, my god, the heat!) and relaxing. July has been a low income month, but it’s been easy and relaxing, at least. So often I’ll have busy times where I also don’t make much money, so I’d prefer this! I started a project on Instagram with the hashtag 100daysofpractice where I post a video of my practice each day. I didn’t come up with the idea, in fact, I think Hillary Hahn might have, and my friend Ingrid is doing it…in any case, I won’t have 100 days in a row because of vacation, but as I said on my first post, life isn’t perfect and if I don’t do the project because of that, then I’m already failing. Follow me there—I’m “hannahviolin.”

Other fun stuff: Some Blue Apron meals—we’ve been getting it about once a month since we started, so I believe this is our 3rd or 4th time.

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My food photography is not good, plus it’s dark by the time I eat…in any case, this was delicious: Crispy Catfish & Plum Sauce.

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And then Sweet Corn & Pepper Empanadas with Charred Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes. The radishes were amazing and I enjoyed making my own empanadas. It’s something we often share as an appetizer at Mission Taco, but it was nice to have homemade (and likely healthier) ones.  That recipe came with a side of lime yogurt for drizzling, but I wasn’t sure for which part of the meal, so we put it on everything. Sometimes you feel like Blue Apron makes you do a lot of sauces and garnishes and sometimes they are easy enough and delicious (in this case) and other times it’s a lot of effort for little. But overall, still liking the service, and we have one more meal to make from this shipment.

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The next few days are quite busy with some extra performances and rehearsals. I’m really looking forward to playing Carousel with Union Avenue Opera! And soon…vacation for real…we are going to the Smoky Mountains and Asheville. If you have any suggestions let me know! I have a lot of great ideas and a bunch of stuff already planned, but any more suggestions are welcome.

Back to practicing!

Seeing the Sights

My youngest sister Carrie visited over the past few days, with her boyfriend, Daniel, who I had not met before. We had a great time! We did end up having to bail on a short camping trip I’d planned, but I think it worked out for the best.

We visited the City Museum, the Art Museum, and the Cahokia Mounds. We went to eat at Seoul Taco, Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant (vegetarian platter is a winner!) and Bahn Mi So #1 (don’t pass up the mung bean spring rolls.) It was a short visit as they are on their way further west to visit the Badlands and Glacier National Park, but it was wonderful to see Carrie and meet Daniel. So now I’ve seen both my sisters this summer…just need to see my brother!

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Posing with some statue after crawling around the caves at the City Museum.

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At the St Louis Art Museum

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They still had a cake at Cahokia!

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Carrie looks like a movie star here.

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And then today Louie and I rode from Weldon Springs to Augusta Brewing Company, had lunch, and rode back. It was very nice! Louie said we looked like dorks in this photo, but I totally disagree.

How is your weekend going?

Vacation planning is one of my favorite things

I love planning vacations. Especially long, drawn out, and elaborate ones. I consider planning to be part of the fun of the vacation…collecting some guidebooks, reading Trip Advisor, doing other online research. I’ve gotten pretty good at planning trips over the years and I keep trying to learn from my mistakes. Currently I’m working hard on our itinerary for August, and the one thing that I always do is start to realize that I don’t have enough time EVER to visit anywhere. There is always more to do and see! There’s never enough time!

Meanwhile, I’m doing a bit of teaching (lots of people are missing this week though) and practicing, and trying to get ready for a short trip this weekend and a visit from my youngest sister, Carrie. And getting my schedule in order for fall…I’m thankful I’m getting lots of inquiries about lessons and I’m trying to fit more students in. I haven’t made too many egregious errors, but it’s only a matter of time Winking smile I find myself constantly checking my schedule to make sure I haven’t made mistakes. It’s the usual “house of cards” that violin scheduling becomes, though each year I THINK it gets easier. There’s also the wild card of not knowing what will work for my Wash U students, but that’s out of my hands. I can’t worry, I can only plan time slots to give them and hope it works out for most. I’ve got my tentative schedule for Lindenwood already set up…I have to get used to the uncertainty of the part time college teaching, I guess!

I’ve been having a fun summer though, as you can tell. We had our annual “4th of July party” which was on Saturday. The park near my house does a really nice fireworks display so we had a BBQ before it.

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The advertisement at the park.

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Getting the yard all ready for guests.

I made chocolate éclair dessert for the party. It’s pudding/graham crackers/chocolate icing treat. It was delicious, and we had two days of leftovers for dessert, which was just the right amount.

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Oh, and today I had a nice lunch with a friend. We wanted to go somewhere else, but that first choice was closed (lunch Tuesdays is a real challenge sometimes!) so we went to another place Yelp listed nearby called Papagayos. It was good! I had a fried fish.

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I should tell you guys, summer is pretty great, if it weren’t for the lack of income. I finished tonight at 6 pm, can you believe it? Oh, and I got my violin back from being fixed up/cleaned (not cheap, but worth it, I guess?) and so I was inspired to practice today. It’s beautiful! (the instrument, not necessarily my practice.)

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And now I’m going to relax and read a bit before making dinner. Tomorrow I have a few more students, and then I have visitors for the rest of the week. Summer is getting towards the end, sadly…I start opera rehearsals next weekend for Union Avenue Opera, and then that keeps me busier until our vacation. After vacation (the official vacation, seeing the Smokies) then it’s back to school for everybody and it’ll be fall. But not yet! Still time to make the best of it, to do more hiking, biking, camping, relaxing, reading, and whatever else we want to do Smile

Happy Fourth of July

Today I am reminded of how our freedoms shouldn’t be taken for granted. Let’s all work together to make our country great for everyone!

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Our local park does their fireworks show this Saturday. We will have a BBQ before it. Growing up in South Carolina, we called it a cookout if you had hot dogs and hamburgers. If you had a BBQ you had actual barbecue. Incidentally, barbecue was one of my “spelling bee words”, you know, the word that lost you the spelling bee. I spelled it “barbeque”. The thing that burns me up, RIGHT NOW, is that my blog program doesn’t mark that as misspelled. But I lost the spelling bee.

In any case, it’s a big annual event for us. I don’t even really like fireworks…I think I’ve probably complained about this before, because I’ve been complaining on this blog for years, but they are loud. I’ve played many orchestra concerts in the past where we had to play while the fireworks started, really near us, or while we had to wait for them to finish before leaving, because they were too close to leave. I am like a cat and don’t like sudden, loud noises, so I don’t really like fireworks.

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I’ve been dog sitting for Banjo this week too, so I’ve got the two dogs. They don’t seem to mind the fireworks too much, though tonight will likely be louder (everybody in St Louis demonstrates their patriotism by blowing things up and making it sound like a war zone around us, and then when people complain online, they further demonstrate their patriotism by telling those people that their opinions don’t matter, that they are wrong, or that they should just suck it up, that it happens every year, and who cares if their pets are terrified—you can tell how I feel, right?).

The fact of the matter is, I haven’t found something Banjo is afraid of. I used to joke that the only thing Mackenzie is afraid of is the vacuum cleaner, and that is still mostly true, although I suppose the vet ranks pretty high up there, and then she’ll have a weird instance where she refuses to walk down a particular street, but that’s not really fear. But Banjo, he’s not afraid of the vacuum. He just stares at it blankly when I use it, which is really good for Mackenzie to see, that it isn’t something scary to Banjo. Banjo likes to sleep up against the front door, for (I presume) my protection. And the other night the fireworks from various places around us were pretty loud and Banjo kept pacing from door to door in the house. Mackenzie too. I don’t mind that they are here.

They are both old though, and sometimes I get sad thinking of it. I haven’t known Mackenzie for four years quite yet, but almost. I don’t find myself to be as physically affectionate with dogs as with cats, but she has grown on me and I don’t know what we would do without her.

ANYWAY. I should never blog before having too much coffee. You guys know I just spit this stuff out, stream of consciousness, right? This is why it’s terrible and my only followers are hate-followers.

(I hope that’s not true. You all like me well enough, correct?)

What are you doing for the fourth? I’m going to stop by a friend’s house in the afternoon before going to another friend’s house in the evening. I have beer and pasta salad to share.

Have a wonderful holiday! I hope most of you get to relax and enjoy time with friends and family!

Which Side of the Canyon is Grander?

I know this has gotten ridiculous, but I’m following through to the end. How did this trip take so many blog posts? Maybe because there were just so many different stops?! In any case this is the last post, and it’s a good one, I think!

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

The only Good forest is a Petrified forest

What the Heck is a Hoodoo?

And Yet Another Car Insurance Claim

We left off heading away from Zion National Park. Now onto the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had been to the South Rim in May, but when I started planning this trip I saw that we could swing by the North Rim.

Let me remind you, this trip was born out of the idea that since our National Parks pass from the year before, purchased in the beginning of August, didn’t actually expire until the end of August the following year…why not hit up as many parks as possible again? So that is where we were for this trip: every National Park was “free” to enter, since it had already been paid for the year before. Best $80 ever spent. (Though seniors get a lifetime pass for $10, that’s even better. I do hear that’s going up to $80 soon, but I hope still for life then?)

Anyway, for those who don’t know: the south rim is the side closer to Phoenix so it receives far more visitors per year. The north rim is about 5-6 hours drive (the canyon takes awhile to drive around!) and is only open a few months a year due to the weather, and is much less busy. Of course, the campground was still full and there were people, but not the tour buses and hoards you get on the south rim.

Our plan was to hike down into the canyon a bit, and then turn around. You can hike across to the south rim, you can hike to the Colorado River, but you can’t do any of those things in a day hike, even a day hike they recommend against. (Unless you are running and probably insane.)

It was a nice drive to the North Rim. (I’m being inconsistent with my capitalizing, but I guess “North Rim” should be capitalized.) It took around 3 hours and was uneventful.

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The North Rim is up over 8000 feet elevation, like at Bryce, so the temps would be pleasant and cooler.

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We passed by some areas that had obviously been affected by fire.

We got to the village at the North Rim and found the campground easily. We set up our tent and then walked around to see the canyon.

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As you can see it’s quite beautiful. We just wandered around the rim and looked at the lodge and read some of the placards around with the history. We talked with a ranger and planned to get up very early to start our hike the next morning on the North Kaibab Trail—she suggested getting up before sunrise and seeing it rise on the trail, so we decided why not.

I got up early and walked to the bathroom to get my contacts in and wash up. As I was walking back I felt like I couldn’t see with my headlamp as well as I’d like, and then I fell—I rolled my ankle off the edge of the road and fell down. I got up and I could feel my foot was wet but I grabbed my toiletries bag and stumbled back to the camp. Louie was starting to make coffee and I went up to him, crying and freaking out. We looked at my foot and I’d cut my big toe pretty badly and my ankle/foot was already really swollen. It was dark, before 6 am I believe, and we were in the middle of nowhere, and everybody around us was sleeping. He helped me get my foot cleaned up and some ice on my ankle and lying down again, and I told him that I thought he should go do the hike, that if I felt I needed something either he’d be back or I could get a ranger more easily in daylight if I needed. Originally we’d planned to pack up the tent before hiking, but we decided he’d just hike for a few hours and come back and we’d do it.

So that bummed me out. I learned later that evidently my headlamp could be ankled down better and maybe the battery was getting low, and that I should have had better shoes…but anyway, there was no way I could get my foot in boots.

Louie came back a few hours later and said the hike was really nice, though sunrise wasn’t that great from it actually. He’d probably gone much further than we would have together! Anyway, my foot was hurting and swollen, but I didn’t think I needed medical attention, so we just wrapped it up and taped it, (we had an ace bandage and first aid stuff with us, just so you know, though later I bought some more gauze for it) and we packed up and headed out.

We were now heading home. We’d decided to make a trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico to visit an old friend of Louie’s, but we had one more stop before that: Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam and Antelope Canyon.

While planning this trip, once I got to the North Rim, there were so many more things to do! But we were already at the end of the time, and I also knew that longer than 3 weeks was ridiculous for us to be gone so I just picked one more thing. We didn’t go to the Four Corners, we didn’t go to Monument Valley, but Louie had mentioned wanting to see Antelope Canyon, so I made that work pretty well. And this would be our last stop that wasn’t just trying to get home (with visiting friends), so we wanted to make the most of it.

The drive from the North Rim to Page, Arizona was amazing. I had recollections of having ridden the same route as a kid, actually, but only faint. We drove by the Vermillion Cliffs and the views were just incredible.

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That picture definitely doesn’t do it justice.

If there was a theme to this trip, or even to the year, it was the Colorado River. So many of the thing we saw were there because of the Colorado River, plus we crossed it many times! Look at it on a map and you’ll see how our trip followed it quite a bit. It wasn’t part of my planning, but it was part of why these places are how they are, so in a way, it WAS part of my planning.

We stopped at the Navajo Bridge over Marble Canyon (which is where the Grand Canyon starts) and took some pictures. It was really hot and I couldn’t walk very well, but we did our best.

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We kept going and then we got to Page, Arizona. The history of Page is somewhat interesting, because the town exists purely to have built the Glen Canyon Dam, which is quite controversial, or that is, was at the time. The Dam created Lake Powell, which is just an unreal place. It’s a bright blue lake in the middle of all these reds.

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We were staying the night at Wahweap Campground, right next to the Lake. Our first assigned campsite already had somebody on it, so they moved us to another, actually nicer site (I guess there was a miscommunication with the other couple over how many nights they were staying.) The funny thing about this area was that we seemed to be the only Americans—it was like we were at the Mediterranean Sea or something! So many Europeans and then us. We set up our tent and walked over to the Lake—I couldn’t do very much because of my darn foot—I was worried about getting sand in it and worried about getting it wet, and there was all this water and people swimming and I was pretty annoyed and mad at myself, honestly. I’m trying to remember if Louie ended up going for a swim. I’d have to check with him!

Anyway, we showered after a bit (yay pay showers) and then did our usual, make dinner, relax, and even though it was quite hot, we built our last campfire for the trip.

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There wasn’t much privacy in this campground but the views were great!

The next morning we got up (packed up) and headed to Antelope Canyon. We had time before our reservation so we first stopped at Horseshoe Bend. My ankle was still fairly swollen and I wanted to conserve my walking so Louie went out to see it for himself.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon on Navajo land. I’d made a reservation for a tour, but I don’t know how necessary it was. Getting into the area was a big traffic jam with some road rage (not just on our end Winking smile) and getting on the tour was a little unorganized, BUT we ended up going earlier than we’d thought, and then we just waited in the hot sun for a long time. I’ll say the tour company we used wasn’t great, but once we were in the canyon we didn’t care anymore. It was amazing!

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You get the idea. It’s crazy—the light is so that every picture is unique. It’s just a narrow canyon that you walk through very slowly and everybody is just snapping pictures galore. The whole experience is a bit surreal and you feel like a ridiculous horrible American Tourist, (even though there are loads of European Tourists there too) and yet, it’s really unbelievably beautiful.

After that, we left. See ya, Page!

Okay, I’m going all in and finishing. We drove through some really beautiful land, we drove near Monument Valley, but didn’t have time to stop (I’d been as a kid but Louie hadn’t…another time!) and then we finally ended up on the interstate and made it to Albuquerque where went stayed at a Super 8. We walked to a nearby mexican restaurant and had food and margs, and slept very well in beds.

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The next day we got to Las Vegas, NM in the late morning to visit an old friend of Louie’s and his friend’s family. We hung out all day and stayed the night. Of great interest is that the show Longmire is filmed in Las Vegas, along with quite a few other movies/tv shows over the years! The town is cute with a really nice town square, and New Mexico has some really lovely landscapes.

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That’s us in front of the fake door for the Sheriff’s Department of Absaroka County.

We left Las Vegas the next day and drove to Tulsa, spent the night, and then drove home. I didn’t take any more pictures worth showing, so I guess that’s the end!

It was an amazing trip! It was a hard trip, as I’ve expressed, and I wouldn’t do it the same way again nor would I recommend this itinerary, but we made it through and saw some fantastic stuff. The sites were great, the pace was just tough, and then ending up with two separate deductibles for the car repairs wasn’t the best…but the car is now fixed, and we’ve recovered. Part of why I planned a far less ambitious trip this year is because we were worn out. This August we are going to stay in three different campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains for three nights each, and three nights at an AirBNB in Asheville. Rather than seeing a little of everything, we hope to see a lot of a few things. And less unpacking and packing. We are already talking about seeing Glacier the next summer and I might have started thinking of an itinerary involving Theodore Roosevelt NP in North Dakota, a state I don’t believe I’ve gone to? In any case…my ankle and toe are now completely healed, and we are recovered from the trip…I think.

Final Tallies:

Nights Camping: 14

Miles Hiked (estimate): 80, more for Louie

National Parks visited: 7, plus 1 National Monument and 1 National Recreation Area and 3 State Parks

Miles Driven (approximate): 3800

Thanks for staying with me on this journey! I’d wanted to do a post about the budget, but you can estimate what you’d spend: gas, camping is usually $20, food, which can be cheap if you cook/pack lunches (plus you’d have to do that at home), firewood is $6 a bundle usually, and that’s optional in most places unless it’s really cold, showers/ice along the way, plus entrance fees, which we saved a ton on. Honestly I think the whole trip, NOT counting car repairs after, was probably about $2000-$2500 for the two of us.  That’s a 3 week vacation! The bigger expense is my lost wages, but I consider that to be a necessity—I can’t work/teach every week all year or I will lose my mind. For our Smokies Trip this August: so far expenses are camping $180 and our air BNB is $244. Other than that, it’ll be some meals in Asheville and the Biltmore House (next biggest expense at $55 per ticket), plus the cost of gas, firewood, ice. I don’t even know if it’s fair to count groceries, as if we are cooking meals we’d be doing that at home, so it’s a wash. I think we’ll get away with under $1000 for two people for a 12 day trip. Of course you have to already have all the camping gear, but at this point, we do. We’ve spent some money on that over the years, but we don’t have crazy expensive REI stuff, lots of Coleman, stuff from Amazon, and we just try to take good care of it. Having a reliable car helps too, of course, and a sense of adventure.

And somebody that you can spend that much time with in a car without killing them. We didn’t go without disagreements, and we definitely had some challenges, but I am glad to have a partner like Louie that is up for a crazy trip like I am!

And for today’s world rather than last summer

Tonight I had to walk two big dogs all at once. I wanted to get the walk out of the way before dark so there wouldn’t be any fireworks scaring anybody. (Grr.)

It occurred to me that there are two stages of life: planning and doing. Right now I’m in a planning, and that’s why I feel unproductive, because I’m not doing. Doing will happen lately, and there is no doing without the planning. (Well, there is, but the planning makes the doing better.) There’s your motivational speech!

I had a day off, and Louie is off on a short vacation with his family. I couldn’t go due to some work commitments, but today I had free, like I said. I made the most of it by cleaning out my dresser of clothing I don’t wear, returning lots of emails (it looks like we are playing another house concert!), writing a variety of blog posts (the others perhaps far more interesting than this one), reading, and doing tons of vacation research.

We are going to the Smokies and to Asheville for just under two weeks in August, and I have the accommodations (mostly camping, one airbnb) booked but wanted to start really planning the rest. It’s mostly going to be hiking, except while in Asheville we are visiting the Biltmore House and sightseeing in the town. So I added some hike ideas for each area (I have a google doc I have all the info on) and then did some reading. Some of it will be decided in the moment, but I wanted lots of ideas to start from.  Each vacation we take I try to learn from, and I want to make sure to plan to the end this time, and not stop before I’m finished.

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I’m also researching a few vacation ideas for next summer, ha! And I got sucked into rereading some previous blog posts…sometimes I get on a kick of reading old posts, especially about vacations. I’m struck by how neurotic I can be, and how obsessed with food and exercise I was for awhile. Granted, I was thinner then, but I am still trying to figure out a way to stay in shape and eat decently without making it my life’s work. I did sign up for a 10K in October, and have been trying to run regularly to get better at it. It’s nice to not be obsessed though. Balance, right?

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I was a little nervous about walking both these guys at once but they didn’t give me any problems!

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From a church I played at yesterday: I think I might have to join just for the photography session.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.