Day 4: A Long Hike to the Top

Balanced Rock — A difficult, steep, climbing trail with stone steps on the south face of the East Bluff. Spectacular views of Devil’s Lake with the Balanced Rock formation off to the south of the trail. We met a couple from Illinois who were hiking without their five children.  I marveled at how fit the mom was after all those kids.  When we said we were librarians, they asked us about our favorite books.  (.3 mile, approximate hiking time 1 hour)

Hiking Shane



Devil's Lake

East Bluff – A medium effort trail that is asphalt with stone steps as it winds back and forth between the edge of the bluff and the adjacent woods. We walked the portion between Devil’s Doorway and CCC, enjoying the hell out of the flat and also our snack bars.

East Bluff

Devil’s Doorway — This is an easy, level asphalt trail along the edge of the top of the East Bluff to views of Devil’s Lake with drop-offs along the way. There is a notable side trail with stone steps to the Devil’s Doorway rock formation.  We talked to three people from my hometown, one of which was having difficulty with the descent due to spatial perception issues from previous brain surgery.  They watched and cheered while Shane squeezed through the rock into the doorway itself. (.5 mile, approximate hiking time .25 hour)

Devil's Doorway

Step 2

Step 3

CCC – A difficult, steep, climbing trail with stone steps on the south face of the East Bluff with many scenic views. We walked through a narrow passage between two large smooth walls of stone, as did an Asian family whose small son was wearing a Michigan hat. (.6 mile, approximate hiking time 1 hour)

Field of Rocks

Grottos — A wide, easy going, compacted travel path along the base of the south end of the East Bluff connecting Balanced Rock Trail, Potholes Trail, and the CCC Trails. (.7 mile, approximate hiking time 1.25 hours). We walked the portion between CCC and the south shore, holding hands and eager for ice cream.

So green

Total moving time: 53 minutes

Total elapsed time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Average moving pace: 25:51 minutes per mile

Elevation gain: 522 feet

Elevation loss: 507 feet

Maximum elevation: 1,473 feet

Minimum elevation: 965 feet

All trail descriptions from Our data was carefully tracked by my Garmin Forerunner – thanks again, Shane!


1009 Grand Rapids

We missed out on ArtPrize last year – a big city-wide art competition in Grand Rapids – and I was pretty sure that we’d miss it again this year, what with Shane’s trip to Vienna and mine to Atlanta and the exhaustion between trips and being sick. After last night, though, we really needed to do something to make us feel more positive about the state of things – so we hopped in the car and headed out to Grand Rapids for the day.

The day got off to a bad start, though, when I popped a big ol’ filling out of one of my front teeth while getting out what I thought was a bit of crusty bread. No, it was a filling pebble, leaving a tooth hole that didn’t hurt, but that did mean my eating options were somewhat limited. Undeterred by this traumatic incident, we made our first stop Founders Brewery, where despite lousy service and the tooth hole, we enjoyed a couple of sandwiches and beers.

We set off in search of art, and while we found a lot of “art” along the way, we also found a number of pieces that we really liked. They seemed to fall into three categories:

  1. Horses made of unusual materials
  2. Fantastic creatures
  3. Installations that involved both static and dynamic elements connected by string

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were spending perhaps the last perfect weekend of the fall on art, rather than on cider mills or raking the leaves. We didn’t end up seeing as much as I think we would’ve liked, in part because we wandered a bit far afield in search of a couple of cute shops I’d spotted online. I’m glad we did, too, because otherwise we wouldn’t have stumbled upon Rowster New American Coffee.


Who would’ve thought that we would’ve found a coffee operation to rival those we visited in San Francisco – in the middle of a neighborhood in the middle of Grand Rapids! But there we were, and there were the gorgeous lever espresso machines, and there were the really perfect espressos in front of us. Rowster has only been open about two months, but the state of the shop – clean, simple, efficient – and the quality of the product have us sold completely. We had an espresso and a cappuccino – and several cups of sparkling water – while talking to the barista/owner (?), who then made macchiatos for us so that we could try a new espresso blend. When he had extra coffee left from a cup of pour-over, he offered that to us as well. $6 for three great drinks and a fair amount of coffee nerdery each equals a really nice way to pass an afternoon.

By this point in the day, though, we were both getting really tired and I wasn’t feeling so great, so after a bit more meandering, we headed back in the direction of the car. The last stop for the day was dinner at Restaurant Bloom – we were a little too hungry to just hit the road, realizing that it would only result in a stop for fast food. Bloom is the sort of place where you find yourself really struggling with the menu – not because there’s nothing you want to eat but because you want to eat absolutely everything. We split an order of fingerling “fries” – half of which will be tomorrow’s breakfast – and had a fancy sandwich each. My croque madame was impossibly rich, and I almost immediately regretted eating the whole thing. I’d love to go back for a meal at Bloom when a huge city-wide event is NOT taking place, as I expect the service would be a whole lot better.

All told, though – a nice day out of town, nice to see a smallish city investing in the arts, and a nice range of eats to share with my sweetheart.

0829 Family-Style

I am so very disappointed that my photos from tonight’s dinner didn’t turn out.  Janet, among others, has been on me for months to improve my use of our DSLR, and tonight’s photos illustrate her point – I have a great deal to learn and, perhaps more importantly, remember.

Since I have no usable photos, I’ll have to ask you to close your eyes and imagine the scene.  Nine friends around a mid-century teak table with not one but two leaves added.  Serving dishes crowding every inch of the table not covered in mismatched linens, silverware, dinner plates, or half-empty Tom Collinses.  A pizza-like flatbread with slow roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, green onion, and shaved Parmiagiano-Reggiano.  A second flatbread with sauteed leeks, gorgonzola, and more shaved Parmiagiano.  Two grain salads: quinoa with green beans, and wheat berries with corn and green onion in a delicate dressing.  Pesto potato salad with green beans and toasted pine nuts.  Potato-quinoa croquettes with romesco dipping sauce.  A frittata with a bunch of veg.  Eggplant caviar with toasted pita (and secret roasted tomatoes added for extra oomph).

Chairs pushed back from the table.  Bottles of Sah’tea and Shane’s stout passed around for sampling.   Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a discussion of Mad Men.  Speculation about whether the inhalation of quick-setting concrete might result in sore lungs.  Stories about stuffed animals and grade school lunches.  A lot of laughter, and perhaps an Elton John song.

Let’s do this again, and soon.

0430 First Cookout of the Season

Cat on a leash, originally uploaded by sukisuki.

Over the winter, we bought a grill off a guy on Craigslist – Shane really needed was the propane tank, but for $25, we got a nice gas grill with all the rocks and racks, plus the nearly full tank that alone would’ve cost nearly $25. I mention this because it was unexpectedly gorgeous today, and at the last minute, we invited a couple of friends over to grill out and break in the firepit (which didn’t end up happening).

While Shane and Aaron wrestled the grill into shape, Suz let Basil drag her around on his leash (hence the photo courtesy of Suz). The little dude LOVES being outside, so this was pretty much the best thing ever for him. He ate grass, rolled around in the dust, and generally claimed the yard as his own. Too bad he isn’t better behaved on said leash or we’d let him out more often.

This being the first cookout of the year, it’s fair to say that our technique needs a bit of work. It took two dudes with at least five combined college degrees to light the grill, and once lit, parts of our pork chops were a little overcooked, while parts of the veggie dogs were cool when served. I put water on to boil for asparagus, then went outside and got distracted – the asparagus ended up a little overcooked as well, but I did my best to disguise it with a vinaigrette. Everything was great – but not the pinnacle of grilling cuisine – pretty much what you’d expect at the beginning of the season.

As if the spring evening couldn’t get more picturesquely Midwestern, after dinner we walked to Dairy Queen in the gathering dark and ate our cones on sidewalk benches. A totally happy evening if I do say so myself.

House revamp!

We noticed a weird smell in the house mid-last week, shortly before leaving town for the holidays. Since we were busy with that whole leaving town business, we didn’t take much time to investigate – meaning that when we got home late Sunday night, we were immediately confronted with the mysterious smell and OMG MUST FIND THE SOURCE NOW.

You know what is generally not a good idea? A full on game of “what’s that smell?” after 4 hours of driving in shitty, snowy weather. Regardless, we soldiered on, and in the process decided that the smell might be in the raggedy pink carpet sample that a previous tenant had used as a living room rug.

With the rug removed, we were free to investigate other smell sources* and, in doing so, we COMPLETELY rearranged our living room/dining room area. This included completely unloading bookcases and a hutch, multiple trips to the basement for fresh mop buckets (I swear the previous tenant never cleaned), and a lot of cursing as we wondered why we thought this was a good idea.

After all of that, though, we’re totally, TOTALLY delighted with the end results – a space that feels both more open and cozy, room for the turntable, and shelves and storage in places that make sense.

Rotated 90 degrees
Living room
View from the living area towards the hallway
Dining room (pt 1), featuring the amazing prints Shane had custom-framed for me for Christmas
View towards the kitchen
Dining room (pt 2), and dig the beautiful mid-century hutch from Shane’s momma!

*Oh and the smell? Totally the trash can, which took a good scrubbing but is now devoid of mysterious odors.

June in brief!

June was, in short, insanely busy.  First, Tina and I ran in the Race for the Cure and raised money for a good cause.  And then we ate waffles.

Team Helpful Paws
Then the next day Mel and Ray arrived from Seattle and hung out until we went to Bonnaroo.

Photos of Mel, Ray, and Fred stolen from Kevin’s wonderful Flickr.  Kevin, Jill, and Fred joined us for a fun brunch and a lot of catching up.  The next day Shane went to Michigan, returning the day after that so that we could go to Bonnaroo:


We saw some science bears play video games.

Science Bears

and connected with a bunch of Shane’s college friends!

U of C crew

After getting home and trying to beat summer colds, I flew to Illinois for my sister’s bridal shower:


I also got to be home for Father’s Day, which was especially excellent since I thought it was the previous weekend!  We made brunch for Pop since everyone was home.


No sooner did I return, then the next wave of visitors arrived. Dan stayed with us for a few days while wooing Basil:
Basil loves Dan

We went to the first Fort Reno of the season with a bunch of friendos:
First Fort Reno of the year

Linda and Jeremiah came to visit for a week from Colorado, which was very excellent. We went to a baseball game and yelled at the Red Sox:
Linda & Jeremiah

The last day our friends were here, we got the news that we’ve already posted about, which is pretty awesome!  Also Richard and Piotr were in town and we had dinner with them, but I forgot to take pictures. And then we took two days of vacation for a staycation, during which we wore funny glasses and went to Baltimore.  More on that later!

That's a look.


Well hey there, kind readers!  It’s been way too long!  In my defense, I was trying to do NaBloPoMo, but then I failed at that, so I guess I really have no defense.  That’s neither here nor there.

Since we last checked in, we made our first actual trip to Baltimore – Shane for the SPARC meeting, and me (along with Sipes) to meet Shane to see Iron & Wine at the worst venue in the history of venues (other than the always-stellar Murat Egyptian Room.  I’m eager to go back – to Baltimore, not the Ram’s Head LIVE! – when the weather’s nicer so that we can actually explore a bit.  I’m also craving more Icelandic yogurt from Carma’s Cafe.

Then! Sonya and Jason came down from Boston for Thanksgiving weekend!  They braved a terrible, terrible drive for a couple of days of hanging out, crafting, and excellent food.  Shane made an incredible pork shoulder for our non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and then Tina joined us for the first Helpful Paws Collective Crafting Bee, and we prototyped a few things for our Etsy shop.  Amidst all of this, we spent quality time with Harper, Sappho, Michigan, and Iko.

And Then! we drove down to Harrisonburg for Thanksgiving dinner number two with the MacDonalds, Andy, Claire, and Dan.  Sarah made maybe the best turkey either of us have ever had, as well as a slew of delicious side dishes.  Claire tried some meat (her first in years!), and we spent an exceptional amount of time watching YouTube videos, especially:

This week we’ve mostly been catching up – on sleep, on homework (did I mention that I’ve scheduled my defense?), on the mysterious contents of our crisper (which I fixed!), and on the season.  We had our first serious bout of snow flurries last night amidst our fun Caturday with Sipes – brunch at Commissary DC, shopping at the Craft Mutiny Holiday Booty Market, Katamari, drinks at Fireflies, and then a serious amount of Planet Earth and music videos (remember those?) with Sipes and Adam.  We also managed – OK, it was totally me – to double-book ourselves and so had to miss out on fun with David & Mary Clare.  😦

And now it’s the end of the weekend, and we’re both wiped, but we did manage to put up our tree and wrap our presents and listen to Christmas music.



We saw the NATS WIN last night against the Reds!  After a pretty lousy first couple of innings, Belliard set the stadium on fire with a DINGER for his sole appearance in the game.  It was all good from there – the Nats came back from trailing by 4 to win 10-6.  It seems like the mid-season roster changes are paying off!  This was our fifth Nats game of the season – and hopefully not the last.