18 May 2011

Anniversary Trip to Santa Fe!

This past weekend, Brian and I celebrated our 1st anniversary! And to make it a little sweeter, my brother-in-law, Eric, proposed to his girlfriend (now fiancee!), Paige! Yes, her name is Paige. And her last name will be Page. Paige Page. :) I'm so excited wedding season is being continued for another year! They're thinking May 12, 2012...the time will fly! And give me something to look forward to as Brian is deployed :)

So in continuing the wedding bliss, Brian and I headed to Santa Fe to celebrate our anniversary! Thankfully, our battalion decided to give us a DONSA (aka, day off!) on Friday, so we were able to get an early start. Mom once visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and gave us a great guide book and "plan of attack" for the trip, which proved perfect! We decided to take a long route to Santa Fe and swing west to visit a winery, national monument, and drive through lots of Native American pueblos and reservations! We ended up being in the car for almost 8 hours (stops included), but it was so enjoyable! Once we were past Albuquerque (spelling?), we started off on our "wilderness trek". Ok, we weren't in the wilderness, but there weren't any modern conveniences, like gas stations. We totally took a "go with the flow" approach; we saw a sign for a winery, and just turned off and headed towards it! It actually turned out to be the same winery my mom went to-so fun! We walked in, got to talk to two older folks who ran the place, and they served up 6 tasting glasses for each of us. It was so much fun! And of course, we left with two bottles of wine...

Beautiful sights we saw on our drive through the pueblos!

Ponderosa Winery!

The little building where we had our wine-tasting!

From the winery, we continued to wind through the countryside, taking in the views and all the little towns along the way. Just about every 5-10 miles, there was a pull-off for a "National Forest ________ (camping, overlook, fishing, and more!" Never have I seen so many national park/forest related activities as we did on this drive! There were plenty of places we wanted to pull off, but it was starting to get late in the afternoon, so we journeyed on to our goal: Bandalier National Monument. We finally arrived, and we're pretty sure we got into the park for free because the Park Ranger was former military...bonus!! Otherwise it would've cost us $12 (granted, it's totally worth it!).

So we began to drive down into the canyon and arrived at the visitor's center. Thankfully, the "main attraction" was on a one mile loop, so even though we weren't exactly dressed for hiking, we could do the walk in what we had on! Bandalier National Monument is a piece of land that has been preserved to save the cliff dwellings that were found there. It was such a cool place! On our mile-loop (actually, it turned into a two mile-loop...we detoured for a good reason), we got to walk through an early civilization's houses and even climb into some of the caves they used to live in! We even got to climb up to one of the highest cave dwellings in the establishment; it was 140 feet vertically, and you had to climb up 4 different (long) ladders to get to the top. Going up was fine...down, a different story. The ground looks a lot farther away when you're coming down!

Bandalier National Monument!

 The holes in the cliff face are where the ceiling beams attached!

 Climbing up, up, & away!

 Spectacular view!

Whoops, forgot about this! We had several animal sightings...a real roadrunner, a herd of elk, deer, and we almost saw a momma bear and cubs, but I'm glad we didn't...

Here are the elk; they're laying in a sunken volcano crater that's 14 miles wide!

So after a 2 hour break at Bandalier, we finally made our way to Santa Fe, which was about 30 minutes away! We drove past some casinos, more pueblos, and the Santa Fe Opera house. It is gorgeous. It is also open air, which I have never seen before! We stopped for a quick dinner, and then headed to the hotel; we were worn out! But that didn't stop us from waking up early so we could maximize our time in Santa Fe! We headed downtown around 9 that morning; we wanted to stay downtown to eliminate driving/parking fees, but the hotels were just too expensive! Next time... :) Well, it was our luckiest of days because it was "free community parking" day at the parking garage! We were beyond excited because we were prepared to pay some steep parking fees.  An interesting thing we noticed about Santa Fe is that nothing is higher than 2 or 3 stories; even the store signs.  It took us forever to find our hotel because there was no sign in the sky! So after we parked, we realized almost nothing opened til 10; rookie mistake. But the hour was not wasted; we spent it at the cool farmer's market and a bookstore! At the farmer's market, we grabbed a delicious breakfast and surveyed all the goods; there was all sorts of delicious looking produce I wanted to buy! Brian was a little taken-aback by all the hippies around...people I refer to as "granola". Totally harmless, but unlike anything Brian had been in contact with-haha! He's used to high & tights and everyone wearing the same thing... :)
At the bookstore I got a cookbook about making authentic Mexican/Southwestern food; I cannot wait to try out the recipes!

Our next stop was (duh, duh, dunnnn) REI. (Recreational Equipment, Inc). AKA-an outdoor's person's paradise. They had all sorts of cool stuff! We were quite proud of ourselves because we showed some serious self-control; we only left with two things! Although, Brian did carry around about 10 other items during our almost two hours there, but put them back, saying he didn't really need them...he's so good :)

 Farmer's Market in the Railyard District!

After REI, we headed downtown to begin exploring. We realized at the end of the day that we had been walking for around 8 hours; it reminded me of being in Spain! We basically passed the day strolling through shops, looking for the perfect piece of pottery, trying the local cuisine (which basically means it must have chiles in/on it), and visiting some of the famous sights. We walked to the Loretto Chapel, which has a free-standing spiral staircase that is only supported by its own weight...but we didn't go in because we didn't want to pay! ha! We also saw the St. Francis Cathedral (beautiful, again, reminded me of being in Spain, touring castles/cathedrals), they had a big community festival going on downtown so we got to look at all the vendors that had come out and enjoy music and dancing! We had an idyllic afternoon; we found a hometown brewery that had a second floor balcony that overlooked the main plaza. We drank some local beer, ate kettle corn from the festival, and people-watched from our perch. Oh, and the weather was incredible. Seriously, it was idyllic. Afterwards we visited the history museum of Santa Fe, which was really neat! It chronicled the history of Santa Fe and what has happened over the centuries. Santa Fe is the oldest inhabited town in the United States, so it claims. It was also stomping grounds for Billy the Kid and a few other outlaws...it was a neat musuem and it was nice to be in cool air-conditioning for awhile!

We headed to an early dinner at Blue Corn Cafe, a restaurant a friend from El Paso had recommended. It was delicious! Brian had the state dish of New Mexico; carne adovada, which is shredded pork, seasoned with some pretty hot chiles! I had a stuffed sopapilla, which had chicken, pinto beans, and of course, chiles inside. It was steamy too; I had to drink my margarita quickly to keep that heat down! :) 

Sunday we decided we needed to get on the road, so we spent our actual anniversary driving, talking, and eating mac'n'cheese for dinner...so romantic :) But we celebrated big the day before, so we were ok with it! It was fun on Sunday to think "at this time last year, we were ______________". It was so strange (and fun!) to think about getting into my dress, spending time with my girls, seeing Brian for the first time, the ceremony, reception, and everything in-between. I once blogged extensively about our wedding, so I'll keep the reminiscing to myself at this point. Basically, it was an incredible day, surrounded by people I hold so dear to my heart! Which is why I want to do it all over again! :)

I am so thankful that within this first year of marriage, the Army has inadvertently allowed us the following:
1. Both of our birthdays together
2. Thanksgiving/Christmas together
3. Our 1st anniversary together

I do not expect them to continue this trend...ha! I doubt these three things will happen again, in the same year, for a long time. He might not be deployed, but he will be either in the field, at some kind of training, or who knows what else! But hey, it's a pretty good way to start, right?

Well, this has turned into quite the lengthy post! More pictures are on Facebook, but these are some of the "highlights" from the trip for people like my grandmothers, who don't have Facebook :) I love that my grandparents are so tech-savvy!

All in all, it has been one crazy and fun year of marriage; we've gone through so much but there is no one I'd rather "do life" with than Brian. He is such an incredible husband to me! (let's see if he reads this...haha!)
While living in El Paso has been a challenge, especially living away from most of my family & friends, it has allowed us to depend solely on one another, and do fun things like explore the Southwest!

15 May 2011

Trip to Hueco Tanks

Last weekend, Brian and I as well as 2 other couples headed out to Hueco Tanks, and state park about 45 minutes away from our house.  Hueco Tanks is known throughout the climbing world as a great place to go rock climbing; we even had some friends who were trying to get stationed at Ft. Bliss because they love to climb so much! Needless to say, we did not do "true" rock climbing...but our "hike" was pretty much scrambling over rocks, finding footholes, and reminding myself to not look down! I'm really not that afraid of heights, but for some reason when I'm hanging on by my hands/fingertips, I suddenly become desperate for my life. Hueco Tanks is an ancient Native American grounds, so there are awesome pictographs on some of the rocks! It is called Hueco Tanks because there are large "bowls" that were created naturally in the rock that stored water after a rain shower.  According to the weather report, we have not had rain here in over 100 days, so those tanks didn't have much to show during our trip out there :) Here are some pictures for your enjoyment...we had so much fun!

The view from on top of one of the rocks!

The girls: Dana, me, and Nancy!

This is Stuart, Dana's husband, JUMPING over a large crevice...He was like a mountain goat over all of these rocks! Me, not so much. I'm much more cautious. And slow...

 I love this picture!

One of the many pictographs we found! These are so old and still in great condition! Throughout the entire hike, we were on the hunt to find these paintings. We kept asking ourselves, "If I were an Indian, I'd paint my picture....there!" It was fun :)

More of the pictures from the trip are on Facebook, but these pretty well summarize our trip! In other news, TODAY is our one year anniversary! I can't believe it...it has been a whirlwind of a year! It's been fun to remininsce today, thinking things like "A year ago at this time, I was getting into my dress....seeing you for the first time...walking out of the church, married!" It's been fun :) My next post will be about our anniversary trip to Santa Fe this past weekend!  One plus of living in the desert: we get to travel to cool places!

10 May 2011

Paul's Visit & Pep Rallies!

Last weekend, our dear friend Paul, from MSU came to visit us! He lives/works his life away in Houston as an accountant, and he was "out this way" (I use this term loosely...) last weekend so he drove over to visit! It is always so great to have people come to town; brings a little bit of familiarity to us!  We did the weekend right and chilled in style...we stayed up way too late talking, went to see a movie, and gave ole Pauli the grand tour of El Paso/Juarez/Ft. Bliss. There is a point on the interstate where you see the fence and directly into Juarez. And the unimpressive Rio Grande...it's been dammed up further upstream, so our version of the Rio Grande is pretty wimpy.

Us & Paul at the wedding; aka, best groomsman ever! Actually, we had an amazing wedding party overall, but Paul went above and beyond to be sure we were hydrated* and well taken care of. (*Well, I wanted water...Brian wanted beer-haha!)
We're planning a big 4th of July trip out to his parents house in Phoenix, AZ! I'm pumped--not only do I get to see lots of friends, we're also (hopefully) going to the Grand Canyon!

We dropped Paul off at the airport Sunday evening and headed back into daily life as we know it. Brian had just gotten back from New Mexico that weekend from a weeklong training event (which he says went well!), so he was a little pooped! I subbed twice last week, and my oh my, did I have some experiences! In addition to my interesting conversations with middle schoolers (see previous post...), I also got the immense privilege of going to a pep rally. The kids had just finished taking their TAKS tests, which are basically Texas' version of state testing. To celebrate great attendance and being done, they threw the kids a pep rally where 2 guys came and rapped. Seriously. They apparently are a big name around town; they have some songs on the radio, but the principal explained that they couldn't sing them at the pep rally due to "inappropriate lyrics". You knew this was going to be good after that announcement. Well then, to every educator's horror, they asked all the kids to come down to the floor of the gym...this is a teacher's nightmare. I foresaw mass chaos. But to give the kiddos credit, they actually behaved really well and no one got too crazy! Thankfully it ended soon and the crowds cleared out to the buses.

Friday I subbed in the high school. They apparently had a lot  of teachers absent, so I found myself subbing for 4 different classes that day...it was crazy! And to make it even better....you guessed it: we had a pep rally. But this pep rally was more of what I recall from high school...they were recognizing all of the winter/spring sports teams. Which means it was pretty boring, but at least it was predictable. They had it outside in their stadium, which was nice, but it was quite warm! On the news last night I heard we have had 96 continuous days of sunshine here! Which also explains why we're under an "extreme wildfire warning".

In other exciting El Paso news, Obama was in town today! As well as a wild mountain lion roaming freely in downtown El Paso. No joke. It apparently ran through a playground full of kids too...Crazy, right? This makes me a little frightened considering we went hiking this weekend...and we live at the base of a mountain. Perhaps I should buy some mountain lion mace...

Well that is all for now; more to come on our hiking trip to Hueco Tanks which was AWESOME!

04 May 2011

It's been awhile...

Forewarning: this could be lengthy. I have been neglecting the dear old blog the past two weeks! It was not intentional neglect; life has been fun & busy, which has left me lots of fun stories to share with all you!

So, rewind to April 20. Also, can you believe it's May already? Our WEDDING ANNIVERSARY is only a week and half away...whhhhat? But that's a whole 'nother post.

April 20: I flew home! Flight was quick and easy, although it was super early...I was up at 3:15, which is an hour that Brian sees frequently while my head is still glued to the pillow, trying to block the light from the bathroom. Now that PT has switched to the morning, our alarms go off at 4:30 or earlier...I'm becoming a champ at falling back to sleep quickly! Mom picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to Casa Blanca for lunch! Casa is our favorite Mexican restaurant at home and it was just as delicious as I remembered! I actually went twice while I was home...I seriously love this place. And I order the same thing every time...it nevers fails me.

While I was home I got to have a few "friend reunions"...and one of those happened right when my plane landed! One of my dear friends from high school, Gena, was flying back to Ft. Lewis, WA and we realized that our times in the airport were going to overlap! So we got in a good 30 minute conversation/reunion...it was wonderful! Repeat: I have the greatest friends. Her husband is deploying in a few months, so we're planning some "deployment survival trips" together for the upcoming year... :)

Wednesday Mom and I spent some good quality time together, running around town and her spoiling me with a quick shopping trip :) That night I prepped for Lindsay's bachelorette party! Thursday I drove down to B-ham to get ready for the par-tay! We stayed in downtown Birmingham and had an absolute blast! After everyone got there (which took awhile and some map-consulting...) we had dinner at this great trendy restaurant called Jackson's Bar & Bistro, and had this hilarious waiter named Ricky...After dinner and some drinks, we decided it was time to find a place to go dancing! Ricky overheard this, and decided to put in his two cents. Well, he suggested we go to Quest, because we wouldn't be bothered by other guys and this place was open 24 hours and people were always dancing. And bonus, there was a show at midnight! Yes, Quest is a gay bar/club. Ha! We started to realize this as he was talking...then he handed us a pen from Quest, and it was rainbow-colored; our musings were confirmed! We seriously contemplated going, but then we discovered STARZ on Google...a karaoke bar! So we set out to sing/dance/make fools of ourselves. It was an excellent decision. We signed Lindsay up to sing some great classics ("Genie in a Bottle"--we knew she'd have some good moves for this one, as well as some other, more suggestive songs...too bad they didn't get to them!) Emily, Lindsay and I sang a classic from "Mamma Mia", our anthem musical/movie. One Christmas break, us three as well as my aunts, mom, and grandmother all watched it together and the three of us acted out/sang every song. Don't you want to be a part of our family? haha!
A lot of the other girls sang and we found that we had some "groupies" in the crowd...including Wanda and her friends. They dedicated about 10 songs to Lindsay (most of which we'd never heard before and were extremely suggestive!), and then she called us up on stage to join her in "Don't Cha" (wish your girlfriend was hot like me). Can you say hilarious? Don't think I'll forget that experience! We finished up the night by staying up WAY too late, opening presents, and playing some fun games--a very successful bachelorette party!

Friday, Lindsay and I headed back up to Madison and went with mom and Clay to the Class 6 (liquor store on post) and bought all the wine for the wedding--whoo hoo! I got to have another "friend reunion" with Erin, another friend who's been around for quite some time! We chilled in style: trip to Target, then glass of wine at my kitchen table. Aren't we exciting? We had fun :) And I made a menu board for Clay and Lindsay's BBQ the next day...another reminder of why I'm not an elementary ed teacher. It took me waaaay too long to complete!

Saturday Clay and Lindsay had a BBQ "shower" in their honor with about half of Madison...it was so much fun to see all these families we grew up with! It was great getting to catch up with a lot of my friends' parents as well as people who've been like another set of parents to me all of these years. Sunday we got to spend the day unwrapping all the loot those two got! They got lots of good gifts :) It's always so fun to unwrap them...and then you start counting, and realize you have to write a ton of thank-you notes!

I was home until Monday...or so I thought. After arriving at the airport, we realized that we were about to get slammed with the (first) wave of bad weather, so I ended up being at home until Tuesday. Thankfully, I was able to fly out before the insane storms/tornadoes came through, otherwise I'd probably still be at home! Which would've been fun, except that I had meetings that I had to be back for in EP! When we flew into El Paso, we were in an insane windstorm. You have to understand that it's totally normal to have 30-40 mph winds out here. Well this day, the winds were up to 60 mph and we were having a "dust-out"...imagine intense fog where you can't see anything, and replace the fog with "dust". Needless to say, when the plane was landing, I thought I was on a roller coaster. Some poor soul had never been to El Paso before...I think he was fearful for his life.

When I got home, Brian was in New Mexico doing a week of training. They went to a place where they have native speakers of most of the languages in Afghanistan/Iraq and the town is set up like a traditional town of Afghanistan/Iraq, so they got to really experience what it would be like to be overseas. They ran some missions and pulled security; Brian said it was a pretty successful week!

Well, I've kept you long enough...but come back soon--Paul came to visit this weekend so I have even more stories! But I'll leave you with this jewel...

I subbed Monday in the middle school for a technology class. In the first period I had that day, these are some of the things told to me:

(by a boy, after about three boys had been fidgeting around and looking at me shyly): "Umm, ok, I'm just going to say it: You have a really pretty smile."

Second conversation:
(by a girl): "You know who you look like?"
Me: "Who?"
Girl (whose name was, ironically, Sally-my mom's name): "That girl from 'Legally Blonde.'"
Me: (thinking to myself...was there a brunette in that movie at all?) "Oh really? Which one....?"
Girl: "The main actress!"
Me: "Reese Witherspoon? But I don't have blonde hair...? I look like her?"
Girl: "Oh yeah...well, you look like her."
**I think it was because I was wearing a black skirt and cardigan.
This same girl told me that my "eyes were pretty, even though they don't have any color." Perhaps to Hispanics brown eyes are boring, since all of their eyes are usually brown...She also didn't do any of her work that day. Tsk tsk Sally.

Oh, middle schoolers. Gotta love them.