Mt. Tamalpais (California recap part two)

Though the Giants game was obviously the highlight of my fall break, this expedition takes a deserved second place: a hike at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, up near Muir Woods and Mill Valley. It was beautiful.

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It was also brutal. The trail wound up and down in the hills, and I could still feel the ache in my legs three days later. Worth it, though, for the views alone.

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AAR and Thanksgiving

I spent the end of November on the East Coast, first attending the annual conference of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore and then spending some time with E. in her new environment in College Park, also in Maryland.

AAR was great, because it’s not that often that I get to spend time with people that work on religion and attend panels that are actually relevant to my dissertation. I attended some pretty good sessions, most in the realm of Mormon Studies, but managed to include one on the global impact of Pope Francis. An impassioned nun gave a speech on the need for feminism in the c/Church. She got a standing ovation and it was well deserved.

Obviously seeing E. again was great (no surprises there!). I hadn’t seen her since she left the Netherlands in July, so a visit was long overdue.

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E. and I suck at taking selfies. It took us four tries to get this moderately-okay picture on the metro.

We made sure to make time for:

–trips into DC that include coffee houses and book stores (and the buying of books, even though we’d sworn we were too broke to do so)

–a visit to her lab and wonderfully cluttered office (and can I just say, the U is arguably a prettier campus than Dortmund, but Maryland has that old world academic charm going on. I’m jealous)

–baking pumpkin pie and sweet potato cake for Thanksgiving, both Smitten Kitchen recipes (of course). The sweet potato cake needed a blowtorch to caramelize the frosting. E. and I thought we were out of luck, but luckily her friends are awesome and E. managed to borrow a blowtorch from one of their labs. (How come we never have cool gadgets in the humanities?)

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I very wisely elected to have E. actually blowtorch the cake, as it would have been an unfortuate end to Thanksgiving if I had burned the house down.

–having to walk on the shoulder of the road to get to the grocery store because why would you want to use a sidewalk? Don’t we know we’re supposed to be in a car?

–reuniting with Dino, who we temporarily lost but then luckily turned up again and now is seeing what Utah has to offer extinct and/pr stuffed dinosaurs. He’s very excited for the snow that is apparently coming our way.

–sadness when I had to leave, but tempered by the knowledge that I’ll be back in December. Our entire family is coming over to DC for Christmas (two whole weeks. That has to be the longest we’ve all been together since what, 2002?). Being away from my family actually has me looking forward to it. (I did, however, find a conference I “have” to attend the second week, just in case all the family togetherness kills me.)

–oh, and do you know how I know I’ve gotten used to Utah? I kept looking around College Park and DC and thinking, ‘where are all the Mormon churches?’

seriously, Utah is beautiful

Remember the biologist from my OKCupid post?  (Who shall henceforth be known as C., since that’s his name; part of it, anyway.) Well, we had a good second date, spent some time texting, and then I got invited to go camping last weekend. I decided the odds were pretty low he’d end up to be a serial killer, so I gladly accepted. (I may have worried my family a tiny bit by doing so. Sorry guys.)

I only realized a couple days before we went that when I say camping, I mean national parks. When he says camping, he thinks wilderness/back country. And I only realized that when I inquired about the possibilities of showers, and was told not only wouldn’t there be showers, there weren’t going to be toilets either. So I took a deep breath,  channeled my younger sister E. (arguably the most outdoorsy of all three of us) and didn’t let it deter me. I borrowed a bunch of camping stuff from Heidi, bought a U of U sweatshirt to keep me warm, and had a lot of fun.

On Saturday, we drove to the San Rafael Swell, looking around the area before we set up camp.

Little Grand Canyon - Wedge Overlook

Little Grand Canyon – Wedge Overlook (Photo credit: Wuppataler)

We couldn’t quite avoid RVs and ATVs, but we did our best to ignore them as we huddled around the campfire to keep warm despite the wind. The next morning, we headed out to Bell Canyon/Little Wild Horse Canyon (go click on the link, it’s beautiful). The trail required some climbing over rocks and wading through water, and everything went fine until about an hour in. C. got over the rocky obstacle just fine, but I managed to lose my balance and fall about ten feet, landing on my back in the muddy water. Luckily, the rocks were smooth rather than jagged and I kind of slid the last few feet and wasn’t really hurt, just shocked. We decided to turn around, which was probably a good call, since we had no idea how many more obstacles we’d have to climb over and I had such an adrenaline rush-cum-panicked reaction that having to climb down the rocks we’d previously climbed over had me breathing pretty rapidly for a while. Half of me was soaked and muddy, my legs and back and elbow were scraped up, but no broken bones and not even a twisted ankle or anything, so I guess I was pretty lucky. Even if I did feel both ridiculous and true to character at the same time, since it’s such a me thing to happen. But, as E. reminded me, I may have shown off my clumsy and panicked side, but also my determined and ballsy one, since I cried for maybe a minute or two out of pure shock and then pretty much picked myself up. Small victories, I guess.

Anyway, C. suggested we check out Goblin Valley State Park, as it was close. We wandered around the goblin hoodoos for a while, watched kids play hide and seek, and climbed on and over a couple of them to get some amazing views.

Goblin Valley State Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday, before heading home, we hiked up to the hot springs near Spanish Fork and spent a couple hours soaking in the water there (translate: hopping in and out because it was too hot to be totally submerged but too cold to stay out in bathing suits too long). The hike was short (2 miles up, 2 miles back) and beautiful; the area was immersed in the most gorgeous fall colors you can imagine and the weather was just right.

So yeah, Utah is beautiful. You all should come visit me here.

Thanksgiving

Last year, we spent Thanksgiving waiting on a turkey that just wouldn’t cook in my dad’s tiny oven. This year, we broke with tradition and ate lasagna. Partly because of that oven, partly because my dad is moving on Saturday and an actual turkey feast was too much to handle, but mostly because my sister E. just had her wisdom teeth removed and couldn’t really chew anything. Lasagna seemed the way to go.

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Glad to have been of service, Mr. Turkey.
Original here.

E. and I made dinner while my dad watched football over the Internet. We spent most of that time dreaming up plans for our Christmas break in California (said plans mostly revolve around the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook, which seems about right) and driving dad crazy with our giggling. Good times.

This morning, E. needed the get the 6:56 train back to Groningen. You can tell I love my family not so much by the five-hour train ride I endured to get here, but by the fact I voluntarily woke up at 6:15 to see E. off and have a cup of coffee and a croissant with my dad before he went to work. Tonight, we’re going to Ikea to pick up some stuff for his new house, and tomorrow, I’m helping him move. After that, I’ll be glad to be back in Germany, recovering from all this familial devotion. That, too seems about right.

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Every fall-turning-into-winter, the cold hits me like a ton of bricks. I’m not kidding, this happens every year. I’ll be in my element when spring comes, shedding layers and waiting for the day that I can first venture outside with a skirt and bare legs. I take off my coat way before the rest of the population does, enjoying the sun on my skin, and I don’t put it back on till fall hits. And even then the fact that it’s getting colder doesn’t really register. I’ll be walking around, enjoying the fall sun and crisp air, and before you know it I’m shivering in my light summer jacket because it’s gotten cold and NO ONE HAS TOLD ME.

I blame this on my Californian childhood years, although I don’t know if that’s fair because I’ve been living in the Netherlands for almost 15 years by now. You’d think that I would have learned to be wary of November. But nope, I’m not. The only reason I had gloves the other day was because they were still in the pockets of my winter coat from last year. (That should also tell you how much of a homemaker I am. Please don’t judge me.)

Putting on a pair of leggings because it’s too cold for bare legs is bad enough, but the moment that those leggings turn into tights and boots? That chills my soul to the bone. That’s also the moment that I send my dad an email asking him why we live here, again. He always answers that he’s not sure either, but we do. He also tells me to grab my passport and meet him at the airport, that it’s time we booked a flight to California. And I have to say, it does sound very tempting…

Perhaps someday I’ll be all put together and actually be prepared for the seasons as they hit. But I’m pretty sure that day is a long day away, if this summer was any indication. It rained and rained and rained this summer – it rained so much I didn’t mind spending the whole summer at the office, it wasn’t much to look at anyway. Yet every day I’d forget to take a jacket and get drenched on the way home.
Yup, that’s me. At least I’m used to being cold by now.

i wish someone would make a print out of that

Do you know what I find remarkable about images like these?

[Print found in an etsy shop via pinterest]

They’re so in contrast to what depending on your bike for transportation so often is. Yes, you have the sunny, perfect days, in which robins alight on your bike and sing you to your destination. (Well, the last part never happens to me, but maybe I’m in too many accidents for birds to want to take that chance and keep me company.) But you also have many awful days, like  we had a lot of this summer and will probably have this fall, days in which you start to feel like you should start building an ark in the back yard.

Biking in that kind of weather means screwing your eyes up against the rain, feeling your jeans soak through to your underwear, if you’re unlucky, and your shoes fill with water. It’s cold, and miserable, and distances you routinely cover in twenty minutes seem to take forever.

But, and that’s my point, it’s also exhilarating. It’s part of the Dutch national consciousness, fighting the elements on your bike and getting somewhere out of breath and cold and so happy to finally be there. It’s what makes you a biker – that you bike on not just the nice days, but also on the crappy ones. That you own weather gear to get you there semi-dry (if you choose to use it is another post altogether) and brave the wind and cold on your trusty bike.

At that point, you have earned the right to ride through the sunny days and have a robin alight. At least, if I had any say in it…

…it’s probably good that I don’t.