Vacation Recovery

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Isn’t it funny how vacation is sometimes more exhausting than the real life world you are escaping? All of last week, I was chuckling to myself as I collapsed on my hotel bed from sheer and utter exhaustion from a full day adventure.

It all began when I traveled to Oregon with a friend where we embarked on a series of adventures that took us through Portland, Willamette National Forest, the Pacific Coast, and the Columbia River Gorge.

I saw more of Oregon than I ever thought I would thanks to a combined sense of curiosity and fearless exploration. And we have to multiply this combination by two because when my friend and I travel together we are unstoppable! On one day, we drove almost 400 miles tracking down waterfalls, collapsed sea caves, and snow capped mountain peaks.

While the adventures we shared were incredible, both of us came out of it realizing we are no longer spring chickens. I would’t call us out of shape, but rather victims of the aging process. When I was younger, I could engage in active travel (hiking, walking long distances, etc) for extended periods of time. Now, four days of driving, wilderness hikes, and city walking sent me home with an injured foot tendon and multiple strained muscles. This from a person who trail hikes nearly every day at home!

Still, I can honestly say the pain is worth it. Oregon turned out to be an incredible place. I think part of the reason I pushed myself harder than I should was because I didn’t want to miss what was around the bend. Whether it be a hidden waterfall in Willamette National Forest, Spouting Horn (aka Thor’s Well) on the coast, or a funky corner in Portland, I was completely under Oregon’s spell.

Of course, now I’m limping around like a cripple.

And yeah, it’s still worth it.

Here’s one reason why …

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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, c.b.w. 2015

With a view like this, the pain doesn’t matter. I’ll heal. 

More pictures will be posted in the coming weeks as my muse was greatly inspired by Oregon’s beautiful scenery and the quirky awesomeness that is Portland. The taste of Voodoo Doughnuts still lingers on my tongue.

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c.b.w. 2015

An Adventure in Rural China

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There’s nothing quite like getting stuck in the mud . . . in rural China.  Just outside Changchun in northern China there are large stretches of cornfields and grazing livestock.  In some respects, it looks a lot like the Midwest in the United States, but there are definite reminders that this isn’t Kansas.

After spending a lot of time in large, crowded cities, I was delighted to head out to the countryside and explore a small village in the middle of nowhere.  The plan was to have a dinner with a local farming family and attend a traditional bonfire show put on by the locals.

The drive was long, but relatively easy until paved roads started to give way to dirt. The first challenge was a small herd of cows intent on taking over all lanes of traffic.  We had to stop and wait for the very slow moving cattle to clear the road.  While waiting for the cows to move, I took in my surroundings and was very surprised to see so much corn growing in vast fields.  And the further we went, the more cornfields I saw.  I never thought of China as a huge corn-growing mecca, but I was wrong!

As we traveled down the rutted road, simple homes made of mud brick and woven plant fibers dot the landscape.  Some served as a family home, while others were in disrepair.  It’s a hard life and not everyone can make ends meet.  The same is true most everywhere.

Cow blockage turned out to be far less of a worry when the dirt roads went from sand to mud. As we moved deeper into the heart of the rural community, the mud got increasingly deep and thick thanks to a recent rainstorm. The road got really bumpy and it felt more like an off-road adventure than leisurely drive in the country.  After one big bump, we came to a screeching halt.  The bus was stuck in a huge rut and we couldn’t go any further.  Everyone was told to get off and to start walking.  What a perfect day to wear sandals! Luckily, we aren’t too far off from our destination.  By some miracle, my practically bare foot did not land in mud pile.

Along the way, I got to meet some locals, who were incredibly nice and very curious about us.  One woman in particular was very excited to show us how she calls her chickens when its time to feed them.  When she grabbed a wooden spoon and beat a metal bowl the chickens came flying towards her from all directions.

The woman’s husband was a proud man who was intent on showing us his home and bragging about the success of his son who lived right next door.  It’s a big deal for a son to move away and establish his own homestead in this region.  Farming doesn’t exactly bring in the big money, so multi-generational homes are the norm, (three generations of one family often live under the same roof).  For his son to be successful enough to strike out on his own, is a huge source of pride for his parents.

While poverty is apparent throughout the village, there were indicators of progress peeking out from unexpected corners.  Technology is relatively low in this region as rural communities are not usually able afford modern conveniences, but there are always exceptions to the rule.  At one point, I spotted a brand new Volkswagen parked next to a well-built brick house.  The disparity of wealth and poverty is quite extreme everywhere in China, even in the boondocks.

I spent the evening enjoying a large dinner prepared by a local family.  All the food was grown in the fields of the surrounding farms and it was absolutely delicious.  It was here where I indulged in the delicacy of the “thousand year old” egg.  Essentially, an egg is buried in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months.  It looked disgusting on the plate as it had the unappetizing color of greenish gray, but the taste more than made up for the icky appearance.  I was the only one brave enough to try it and I ate the whole thing.  No one believed me when I said it tastes like a hard-boiled Easter egg with a lot of salt and a few extra spices.

After dinner we went outside and enjoyed a lesson in traditional folk dancing.  Once again, I confirmed I have no rhythm, but I enjoyed the experience of bonding with people despite a language barrier.  Music and dance really do bring people together in ways that can’t be explained.

It was dark by the time we started heading back to the bus.  Street lights are non-existent, so it was pitch black once we left the home of our host.  I had a small flashlight, but it barely cut through the darkness.  Mud was still everywhere and it threatened to swallow any misplaced foot.  My sandles eventually became caked in mud chunks, but thankfully my foot never sunk below ground level, (which is more than I can say for a few friends of mine).  Before boarding the bus, I remembered to look to up at the sky.  With no city lights, the Chinese sky lit up with millions of stars. I smiled at such a  fitting end to an adventure I’ll never forget.

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c.b. 2012

Project Art Journal: Page 10

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This week’s Project Art Journal page revels in how travel changes us from the inside out. Adventure is everywhere and daring us to take part. Sometimes that means trying something new at home or venturing to places far beyond your imagination. Blues, blacks and greens turn ordinary travel book pages into something truly beautiful, while Thoreau’s quote is a stirring reminder to keep an open mind and a willing heart.

May you find adventure near and far.

Supplies:

  • Blue and ivory card stock
  • Printed paper (with text and stripes)
  • Pages from an old travel book
  • Postage stamps
  • Copper brads
  • Craf-T Chalk
  • Imagine charm
  • Coin
  • Brown ink pad
  • Paper piercer
  • ¼” square punch
  • Double-stick tape
  • glue dots
  • glue stick
  • Marker

Layer 1: Foundation

  • Measure and cut a square out of blue card stock that is slightly smaller than the paper bag journal page.

Layer 2: Blue Text Background

  • Tear a page out of an old travel guide.  Make sure it has plenty of text!  Use an eye shadow applicator to rub blue chalk all over the page.  To give it some texture, rub harder in some places to darken the color.
  • Measure and cut the page to a size slightly smaller than Layer 1.  Attach to Layer 1 with double-stick tape.

Layer 3: Secondary Background

  • Cut out a small square of text printed paper.  This section is attached at a slight angle, so be sure to measure and cut it to fit the corner of Layer 2 from that angle. Attach to Layer 2 using double-stick tape.
  • Try to find a map in an old travel book.  Rip it out and add some color using chalk, (if needed).  I used multiple shades of green because it compliments the blue and my map came from an Ireland tour book.
  • Cut out a section of the map to fit the lower edges of Layer 2.  The width should reach the halfway point on the page and the height should be slightly taller than the midpoint. Essentially, the big idea here is to make it a different size from everything else on the page so far!
  • Attach to Layer 2 with double-stick tape and make sure it overlaps the text print square.

Layer 4: Quote Blocks

  • On a piece of ivory card stock, write out the quote in several sections.  Break it up in a way that looks nice and adds emphasis to the elements of the quote you like the best.
  • Rip the quotes free from the card stock.  Don’t worry about straight edges!  Just go with the tear!
  • Crumple each piece and then run a brown ink pad over the top.   Make sure the torn edges are juiced up with ink as well!
  • Arrange the quote blocks along the left-hand side of the page.  Attach each block with a small piece of double-stick tape.  Let the edges stay free and fluff them up a bit to give them some character.

Layer 5: Embellishments

  • Decide where a copper brad should go on each quote block.  Then, use a paper piercer to poke a hole in the chosen spot.  Insert and secure copper brads.
  • Find two postage stamps that are the right size to fill up the space on the right-hand side of the page.  One of my stamps has the added bonus of still being attached to part of its envelope.  I decided the torn edges made it look more interesting, so I left it as is.  Attach the stamps using double stick tape.
  • Real or fake coins always add a nice touch to any collage.  Attach one of your choice using a glue dot.  Make sure it overlaps one feature on the page.
  • Place a charm near the top of the page and use a paper piercer to poke a hole though the attachment loop.  Insert a small brad and secure the ends to hold the charm in place.
  • Use a small square punch to cut three squares out of printed paper.  Attached each square next to the charm using small pieces of double-stick tape or a glue stick. Play with the pattern a little bit to make them stand out!
  • Attach the finished page to the paper bag journal page using plenty of double-stick tape.
Enjoy your beautiful page!  Stay inspired!

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For previous Project Art Journal pages please visit my sidebar and tag cloud.

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c.b. 2012

15 Years Brings 15 Changes

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I was listening to my iPod the other day and it shuffled to a song I hadn’t heard in a while.  When “Real World” by Matchbox 20 started playing, it made me smile and reminisce about a time in my life that now feels so far away.  I was 18-years-old and had just begun to taste the real world as an adult.

I pulled out the actual CD and marveled at the relic.  Matchobx 20’s debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You was one of my favorite albums and served as my soundtrack during my first year of college.  It’s hard to believe that was fifteen years ago, but here I sit as a 33-year-old woman with an old CD in her hands.  I even checked the copyright date to make sure my math was right. Yup, 1996.

I couldn’t help but load the CD in my car for old time’s sake.  This is the band that turned me into one of those people that sing in the car.  I suppose I can credit Matchbox 20 for giving me the license to say “I don’t care if anyone’s watching.”  I still sing in the car and I still don’t care who sees me doing it. To my surprise, I remember all the words to every song.  Driving down the freeway, I belted out “Long Day” and “Push” as if I was some rock star behind the wheel.  Fifteen years later, its still good music.

My little jaunt down memory lane got me thinking about how much in my life has changed since I was eighteen.  I don’t long to be that young again, nor am I saddened by the passing of time. Rather, I’m in awe of how life brings so many changes in such a short period of time.  Between then and now, I’ve gone from being an adult just starting out to an individual who has found her groove in life.

15 Years Brings 15 Changes:

1. Age
Then: 18 and very naïve.
Now: 33 and hopefully a little wiser

2. Living Situation
Then: Living at home and sharing a room with my sister
Now: Homeowner with a writing room all to myself

3. Mode of Transportation
Then: 1991 Chevy Cavalier.  It was my first car and it broke down all the time!  About a year later, I totaled it by rear-ending an SUV.  The SUV was fine, but my car crinkled like a tin can.
Now: 2006 Mini Cooper.  It’s the cutest thing ever.

4. Occupation
Then: Full-time student and part-time salesgirl at The Body Shop.  I sold lotion and gave make-overs.
Now: Full-time teacher and aspiring writer.  These days I barely wear make-up and I’m allergic to almost all scented lotions.

5. Relationship Status
Then: Single and getting over a break-up.  I was three years away from meeting my husband.
Now: Married to wonderful guy and I can’t imagine life without him.

6. Style
Then: Jeans and Birkenstock wannabes
Now: Jeans and Converse sneakers.  I haven’t changed much in this department!

7. Travel
Then: U.S. and Mexico
Now: I have memories of so many beautiful places: French Polynesia, Great Britain (4 times), Ireland, France, Italy, Czech Republic, and China. To think I’ve only just begun!

8. Technology
Then: I had a CD Walkman and a large PC desktop computer.  The monitor alone took up half my desk!  I was hardwired into thinking Macs were not cool and Windows 95 was the best thing out there.
Now: I can’t live without my iPod and I carry a thin, lightweight laptop everywhere.  I’m a full Mac convert and can’t imagine what I ever saw in a PC.

9. Appointment TV
Then: Reruns of Star Trek: TNG, Wings, Newsradio, and Golden Girls.  Reality TV was not part of the vernacular and talk shows were all the rage.
Now: Fringe, Big Bang Theory, The Office, Project Runway, and reruns Star Trek: TNG if I can find it.

10. Communication
Then: I relied on a pager and snail mail, with a bit of e-mail.
Now: I’m fully connected with a smartphone, e-mail, and social networks.

11. Current Events
Then: 9/11 was just the 11th day in September
Now: 9/11 was the day that changed everything

12. Reading Pattern
Then: Mostly textbooks for all my classes. College gives you very little time to read for fun.
Now: Literary and mainstream fiction, along with a smattering of young adult.

13. Writing
Then: Research papers and random bits of poetry
Now: Fiction, (including novels and short stories), blog posts, and poetry

14. Hangout Spot
Then: Barnes & Noble on the East side of town.
Now: Barnes & Noble on the North side of town.  I can’t help myself. I love B&N and the coffee they serve.

15. Direction In Life
Then: Still questioning my identity and course . . .
Now: I know who I am and where I want go!

I can’t imagine what the next fifteen years will bring, but I’m excited all the same.  Life continues to be an adventure I can’t wait to experience.

Where were you 15 years ago?

c.b. 2011