Erica and Cristen Visit Salt Lake – Part 1

I thought about titling this post “Reunited and It Feels So Good!” because it’s been 7 long years since Erica and Cristen and I were all three together. My friendship with them pre-dates this blog, so let me explain. They were my lifelines during the two long years we were in graduate school together at Purdue. I’ve seen them both separately since we graduated in 2007. Obviously Cristen and I went to Europe together almost two years ago, but she also visited me in New Orleans. Erica and British Kevin visited me in New Orleans, too, (although, that never got blogged about because they visited in between blogs) and I visited her back in our old stomping grounds in Lafayette. But the three of us have had to rely on Facebook chats while watching Project Runway and group text messaging. Until they so kindly came to visit me in Salt Lake last weekend. (I know it was just so they could both add another state to their lists, but I’m grateful they came anyway.)

I had to work during their first day of exploration, but on the next day, I was excited to show them around Temple Square and the crown jewel of Salt Lake – the temple.

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I took them to the South Visitor Center to see the model of the temple, but they were much more interested in finding their family lines on the computers set up with Family Search. It was exciting to find our great-grandparents and grandparents in census records and immigration forms.

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After touring the Beehive House, I showed them one of my favorite little gardens behind the Beehive House and Lion House and we found one of the first blossoming trees I’ve seen this spring.

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We took the elevator to the top of the tallest building in Salt Lake City and saw the view from 26 stories up.

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Having visitors gives me an excuse to go places I usually don’t, like on a tour of the Conference Center. Our tour guide was Buff, and she was pretty much amazing. She flies into SLC from Arizona every Friday to give tours of the Conference Center (she’s a flight attendant, so she can do stuff like that). She told us all sorts of interesting facts and showed us all the art.

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And then she took us to the rooftop garden. It would have been more lush in the summer or later in the season, but the views were still pretty great.

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Our time downtown was cut short because I had to pick up my car at the mechanics before 5:30, but we had just enough time for one more visit, the very posh Hotel Utah (aka the Joseph Smith Memorial Building). We got on the elevator to view the lobby from the mezzanine, but I was distracted by people and didn’t actually press the button for the mezzanine. When an employee saw us with our cameras, he assumed we were riding all the way to the tenth floor. I had no idea what was on the tenth floor (my experience with the building has been limited to the first two floors, really), so I was delighted to see a different, more on-level perspective of the temple.

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And when I was showing them the beautiful chapel where Matt and Izzy once attended church, I learned something new. It used to be the grand ballroom for the Hotel Utah (before it was renovated to be the Joseph Smith Memorial Building). It still has the grand ceiling.

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More of our adventures to come.

Psst…. Over here…

Hey there! Just a reminder that I started a travel blog a few months ago to share photos and stories from my adventures. In case you forgot (or didn’t know), here are some of the stories I’ve recently shared there.

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All about my recent visit to see Nancy Holt’s earth art piece, Sun Tunnels on the summer solstice.

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Some photos from Scenic Highway 12.

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Also a few pics from the incredible Kodachrome Basin State Park.

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A few tips on how to photograph stars from my trip to Montana.

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Visiting some national parks when you’re not very outdoorsy.

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And going even further back, a closer look at the National Cathedral in Washington DC.

Plus, some other posts reminiscing about New York City and various photo themes from the twitter FriFotos event. Not to mention lots of good info about visiting New Orleans.

I’m still figuring out how to balance both blogs (and find the time for both!), but I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of writing more specifically about travel. I hope you’ll add my travel blog to your new reader (I’m using feedly now that Google Reader is gone. What are you using?). Or you can subscribe to Travel Is My Yes by entering your email address in the box on the top right of the page. That way, you won’t miss out on any posts because an email will let you know when there’s a new one. And don’t worry, you won’t get spammed. Promise!

What a difference a day makes…

I’m still going through photos from a weekend trip to Bear Lake last weekend, but I feel like it’s been a while since I posted anything here, so I thought I’d share just a hint of what’s to come.

Here’s a view of the lake on a very cold Saturday.

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And here’s almost the same view on Sunday.

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Anyway, more to come soon. I promise.

Twinkly Christmas Lights

Merry Christmas! I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday. I actually celebrated Christmas last night with my family, so today has felt like a pretty typical day, except that I didn’t have to work. Hooray! Being single with no kids makes Christmas kind of anti-climactic. There’s nothing exciting to wake up to, but it is rather exciting to just be able to sleep in.

It’s a good thing that Christmas isn’t really just about one day or it would be totally disappointing. I really love the build up to Christmas — all of the gift hunting and little activities. One of which is visiting the lights at Temple Square. Even though I go every year, it is always magical. I even went twice this year. Once on accident. I just happened to be downtown on the day after Thanksgiving when the lights came on. Since I already had my camera with me, I decided to walk through on my own. Even though I had to squeeze through lots of crowds, it was really nice to be alone and just enjoy the atmosphere. I walked past the Nativity and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was piped through the speakers singing The First Noel. I’ve never even liked that song (too repetitive), but my heart was just swelling with Christmas spirit.

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The following week, Matt and Izzy invited me to see the lights with them. We also stopped by Macy’s at City Creek to see the candy window displays. They used to create these candy window displays when I was little, but they stopped for several years. It was so fun to take Claire and Liam to see them again. The displays this year were huge ornaments all made from candy. They were incredible! I wish I had gotten better photos of them.

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When Claire saw this fountain, she immediately jumped on the ledge and gave me her “sexy pose.” First of all, when did Claire get old enough to call anything her sexy pose? It was so hilarious and kind of sad at the same time. I both love and hate how quickly she is growing up.

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We were going to get some hot chocolate at the Nauvoo Cafe, but the line was super long. We decided to stop somewhere after instead, but going inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building gave us a chance to see the beautiful Christmas tree they have.

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Liam loved it!

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I wish peace and joy for all of you. Happy holidays!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.

I really had no idea that I would be blogging about my trip last September for two months straight. And I still have a week’s worth of EuroAdventure 2012 to blog about, but I thought I would take a break and catch up on some of my normal life back in Salt Lake City before I get too far behind. I mean, these first photos are from way back in October. But I couldn’t not share them with you. I was so worried that I missed all of the fall color while I was in Europe, so I was incredibly happy to find that the canyons were still bright and bold.

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Of course, it wasn’t too long before they were covered in snow. We had a huge snowfall in early November.

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Liam spent the weekend during the huge snowfall, so we spent lots of time playing choo choos (I wish you could hear him say “choo choo.” It’s the most adorable.) And he loved Max (from the Grinch).

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Ever since I stumbled upon Em’s near the capitol a few years ago, I’ve been wanting to try it out. It just looks like such a charming little place. I finally went with my friend Emily to celebrate our November birthdays, and it was delicious.

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And finally, we just celebrated another birthday, Izzy’s! My mom made her famous, traditional ice cream roll. With lots of candles.

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Coming up are some photos from my recent trip to Denver and lots of sparkly Christmas lights. If I don’t post those now, I won’t get around to them until April.

Antelope Island

Since I missed the train to Ogden last week and ended up driving, I decided to finally visit Antelope Island. It’s been on my list ever since I moved back to Utah, although I couldn’t really tell you why. I didn’t know much about it. I think I became fascinated with it years ago when I saw a coworker’s stunning engagement photos. I know that probably sounds dumb, but I have wanted to visit it ever since. But since I rarely end up doing research about a place before I go, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Antelope Island is the largest of the ten islands found in the Great Salt Lake (as per Wikipedia). It was once used as a ranch by the early settlers, but it was sold to the State of Utah in 1981 and became a state park. Since it’s a state park, I had to pay a whopping $9 per vehicle to gain access to it (boo!). Then you drive along a 7-mile causeway to reach the island. Any sour feelings I had about the entrance fee faded into excitement as I entered the causeway. I was surrounded by the lake on both sides with waterfowl all along the edges. I pulled over to take some pictures. The scenery was lovely, but the smell as soon as I exited the car… well, it was pretty powerful and terrible. It’s ok, though, because seriously, look at this:

I also found lots of little bug friends every time I got out of the car.

When I reached the island, I could choose the marina on the right or the ranch on the left. I had no idea what either of them were like, but I chose the left. It didn’t take long until I came across a bison.

And then saw the whole herd.

I wish I could have gotten closer to them. Some crazy guys in a car just ahead of me were making their way toward them, but I didn’t want to end up in the middle of a bison stampede, so I kept my distance.

I continued along the road because I didn’t know what else to do. There are lots of trails for hiking or biking on the island, but I wasn’t really prepared for any of that since I spontaneously stopped by the island. But I did see a road that led up a mountain and decided to follow it. I found some people at top setting up easels and others with camping gear, but best of all, I found this view.

Eventually, I reached the Fielding Garr Ranch and the end of the road. I got out to stretch my legs and see what the ranch had to offer (I admit, I was hoping for a close-up of a bison). There was a really friendly man greeting everyone. He gave me a pamphlet and encouraged me to sign the guest register. That’s where I found a bottle of water for a suggested donation of $1. I was so happy to see the water, I gave $2. Then I started exploring the ranch, starting with the machine shop.

There has been a house on the ranch since 1848, but the current house was built in the 40s and changed over time until the last family lived in it in the 1970s.

I kind of love the layers of pattern in this room, with the worn rag rug, the patchwork quilt, and the linoleum, not to mention the red bed and the red lamp.

The furnishings were so stark, and I couldn’t help imagine cold winter nights and hot summer days spent at the ranch house. The owners varied from different families to ranch hands, depending on the time.

I headed back toward the causeway afterward. The drive back was just as beautiful.

But instead of heading home, I decided to check out the other side of the island. I passed by a few beaches (with lots of people swimming or boating). I finally reached the highest part of the island, Buffalo Point. It has a great deck and a concession stand (that was closed at the time).

And the view… well, see for yourself.

After many miles of driving, depleting my water, and getting a sunburn, I decided it was finally time to go home. But I still couldn’t help but snap a few photos with my camera hanging out the window of the car as I drove along.

I enjoyed my visit to Antelope Island, and I would return again if it didn’t cost so much money. $9 wouldn’t be much for a car full of people who plan on doing a lot of recreation, but for little old me who just wants to drive around and take some pictures, I think a few bucks would have sufficed. Then again, the beautiful scenery was worth it.

Mormon Mardi Gras

Just in time for Pioneer Day on the 24th, I thought I’d share some photos from the Pioneer Day Parade float preview that I went to last Monday. Obviously I knew that there is a parade on the 24th, but I can’t remember ever watching it on TV, and I know that I haven’t gotten up early to stake out a spot for it. In fact, before living in New Orleans, parades didn’t really capture my interest. But then I went to my first Mardi Gras parade and fell in love. Suddenly, it didn’t seem crazy at all for people to camp out for a good spot on the parade route or circle a neighborhood for parking for half an hour. I don’t really like crowds or hassles so I often don’t put forth the effort to attend big events and just kind of assume it won’t be worth it. But Mardi Gras is totally worth it, and if you ever get the chance to go, you should go.

My mom and brother visited us in New Orleans once in October, and we felt bad that they wouldn’t get to experience Mardi Gras (I promise, this is part of the post), so we took them to Mardi Gras World where you can see all of the floats created for Mardi Gras. It was awesome, although obviously not as good as actually being to a parade in person.

Going to see the float preview for the Pioneer Day Parade felt a lot like going to Mardi Gras World. I had no idea what to expect from the floats. I knew that most of them were made by volunteers, so to be honest, I didn’t expect much. Imagine my surprise when they turned out to be amazing. Although, it was a little strange because almost every float was religious in nature. They all talked about faith, sacrifice, temples, missionary work, zion, etc. And the art work for many of them seemed to come straight from the illustrations of The Friend, a church-produced magazine for younger kids. It filled me with nostalgia.

But they were church-related floats with tons and tons of glitter and sparkle!

Like I mentioned, most of the floats were created by volunteers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized into wards (congregations) and stakes (similar to a dioceses) made up of several wards. Most of the floats were created by different stakes. Here’s the one that my stake put together.

Huge desserts! Is there anything more whimsical than huge desserts? The preview event allowed you to vote for the best float. During church the day before, we were encouraged to go vote for the stake float. I wanted to vote for ours, of course, but I wouldn’t vote for it if it wasn’t any good. Luckily, I could vote for it with a clear conscience. Although I was torn because the stake I grew up in also had a float in the parade that was pretty great.

Of course, there were a few other churches that had some floats in the parade. I could tell the one with the big Jesus wasn’t a Mormon one right away. Not that we don’t believe in Jesus. We just don’t usually make big ones for a float.

And there were some secular floats, too. Like two of them.

And one church-made float that looked more secular.

The train actually went in and out of the tunnel.

Here’s the thing about floats, the sparklier the better. There was an impressive float with a zeppelin and a handcart and a pioneer quilt, but well…

it still just looks kind of dreary. It could use some glitter.

They also had lots of activities at the preview, such as foam swords to fight, sheep to pet, beanbags to toss, candy to eat, and a marching band to hear. I thought it was so cool that I told Izzy and Kylie they should take their kids the next day.

But I probably won’t be camping out tomorrow night for a good spot to see the Pioneer Day Parade because it is missing one very important element. Beads! What’s the point of a parade if you can’t shout at the top of your lungs, “Throw me something, mister!” over and over again? What’s the point if you don’t go home with bags of colorful beads and useless throws? What’s the point if you can’t hope for a decorated shoe or a coconut? Or even catch a cabbage? No, I’m afraid that New Orleans created my love for parades, but my desire to attend them died when I left that beautiful city. The float preview is good enough for me.