Searching for Normalcy

"And finally, above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art…" – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Palouse Falls, WA May 11, 2012

Filed under: Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 4:20 pm

As part of a week-long visit to Washington last month, the boy, his mom and I took a day trip to Palouse Falls State Park, located in Washtucna, WA.

 

This place is so gorgeous. I can’t even really describe the beauty of the falls and the surrounding areas. First you find yourself driving through miles and miles of rolling hillsides, some so lush and green they bring to mind images of verdant Irish landscapes. Then, you finally come to the falls. Undetectable from the road, but after you park your car and walk a short distance, you come to this.

 

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Obligatory “babe, stand in front of the waterfall” picture.

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These cute, little guys are yellow-bellied marmots (aka “rockchuck”) and they’re a type of ground squirrel. They were pretty tame, but I suppose they are accustomed to people by now.

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And, apparently, they like Lay’s Barbecue Chips.

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Here’s the boy and his mom, and one last shot before we left.

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Seriously, this place is so beautiful and peaceful. I could have stayed there all day just enjoying the view.

 

Peace out, yo!

 

Weekend in the keys – Part 3 December 21, 2011

Filed under: Life,Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 1:01 am

When we left the Hemingway House, we walked right past the Key West Lighthouse, which was built in 1847. It was about 4:30PM and they close at 5PM. If we’d had more time, I would have loved to have toured the inside.

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We kept walking down the street to the buoy at the Southernmost Point. I’d been there once before, but there was such a crowd of people I couldn’t get close enough to take a picture. This time there was a short line of folks waiting to be photographed in front of it. We waited about 10 minutes for our turn.

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Cuba is that way. Oh, hey, I think I see my uncle! Hola, Tio!  We wanted to head over to Duval Street for a bit and didn’t want to wait around too long for the full-on sunset, but this was good enough to get the sense of it.

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We were walking down Duval when we caught a glimpse of a guy in a spangly tank top and short shorts singing karaoke in this bar – 801 Bourbon Bar – so, of course, we had to check it out. This place was great! Old queens, karaoke and beer? Hell, yeah!

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Can I just say I am completely jealous of the phenomenal butt and legs on this guy??

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After 801 Bourbon Bar, we headed to Sloppy Joe’s.

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We decided to order some appetizers at Sloppy Joe’s since we were getting pretty hungry by that point. We ordered arepas, conch chowder and hot, salted pretzels. That hit the spot perfectly. There was a great latin salsa band playing which lent a very festive, fun air to the place.

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After Sloppy Joe’s, we walked a little further down to the Hog’s Breath Saloon where we each had one of their signature beers.

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I had completely forgotten to take any pictures of the two of us together until this point.

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We finished up the night at Irish Kevin’s Bar. We were actually walking back to the car to leave when we heard this guy (John Solinski) singing and he totally brought us in off the street. Like the Pied Piper of adult drinking establishments or something! He was really great and very entertaining. I wish we’d had more time to hang out here, but we had a long way to drive home so we had to call it a night.

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And that’s about it for our weekend in the Keys. We had a lot of fun and it was nice to get away for a little bit.

 

Peace out, yo!

 

Weekend in the Keys – Part 2 December 20, 2011

Filed under: Life,Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 1:01 am

Key West residents are known for being eccentric.  If the Christmas décor of this house is any indication, I would say that’s a pretty accurate assessment. Just around the corner from this house was a little secondhand bookstore so, of course, I had to stop in. I practiced restraint and only got one book and a handful of vintage-y postcards.

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Our next stop was The Hemingway House Museum. The boy wanted to see it and, although I had been there before, I was happy to tour the home again.

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All of the furniture is original to the home during the time that Hemingway lived there.

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Hemingway’s 2nd wife, Pauline, replaced all the ceiling fans in the house with these chandeliers. The headboard of the master bed is actually a gate from a 17th century Spanish monastery.

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The kitty fountain (for the almost 50 polydactyl – six-toed – cats that live on the property) was built in 1933 and is made from an olive jar imported from Cuba and… a discarded urinal from the original Sloppy Joe’s Bar!

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Pauline had the pool built to surprise Hemingway. It cost $20,000. Surprise!

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Hemingway’s writing studio, preserved as it was originally, including his chair, table and 1920s Royal manual typewriter.

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Family photos and the master bath.

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Close-up of the floor tiles and the family’s personal book collection.

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Memorabilia from the family’s personal archives and the kitchen.

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Part 3 coming up soon…

 

weekend in the Keys – Part 1 December 19, 2011

Filed under: Life,Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 3:43 pm

The boy and I were supposed to go to the Florida Keys for his birthday weekend in November. Unfortunately, he had a bout of shingles in late October which resulted in me contracting the chicken pox in November, so we had to postpone our trip until this past weekend.

 

We spent the night at the Tavernier Hotel in Tavernier, FL. This place is super cute. Very quaint. And the owner was fantastic about letting me change the date of our stay at the last minute. She didn’t even charge a penalty or anything. IMG_8582

The first thing Fanless did was check the wireless internet connection. It ended up being 3x faster than what he has at home.

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The funky tile in our shower. One of my friends pointed out that it looks like Tetris. =)

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We drove to the Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet in Islamorada for dinner. I had been there about 10 years prior and remembered it being really good. For some reason, I found it to be very disappointing this time around. Oh well. After dinner we walked around back to check out the marina.

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We ended up stopping into Wahoo’s Bar & Grill next door to have a beer before heading back to the hotel. The place is really nice but it was dead. We were the only two people sitting at the inside bar, and there were maybe 8 or 10 people seated on the back deck.

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Key West Sunset Ale.

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The following morning we got back on the Overseas Highway and headed south to Key West.

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Even though I don’t swim, I still love the ocean (Cancer is a water sign, after all). I just love the beauty and calm of it. I know that is probably the thing I will miss most about Florida when we move to eastern Washington. Driving south on the Overseas Highway, you have the Atlantic Ocean on the left and the Gulf of Mexico on the right.

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We decided to stop for lunch at Porky’s Bayside. This place is super funky and eclectic, the food was good and the service was efficient and friendly.

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They even let you write on the walls! We left our mark.

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Enjoying the view while waiting for our lunch.

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I had the pulled smoked pork sandwich with sweet potato fries and coleslaw. Fanless had the same but with onion rings instead.

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The power of the internet: Fanless checked us in on Foursquare and one of the comments someone had left for Porky’s was “you have to try the Fried Key Lime Pie.” So we did. It was the bomb-diggity! And I don’t even like Key Lime Pie, so that says a lot about how good it was.

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Part 2 coming up soon…

 

Washington 2010 December 21, 2010

Filed under: Life,Personal,Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 4:16 pm

(WARNING: photo-heavy post. You can click on photos to see them slightly larger.)

 

We’re back from our annual trip to Washington to visit Fanless’ family. My inner clock has finally readjusted to being back on eastern time, and – surprisingly – I didn’t get sick this year. Yay! (However, Fanless did.) Anyway, it’s taken me a little bit to get my photos edited and have the brain capacity to finish this blog post (truth: I started this the day after we got back, but was too tired to finish it). I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do (to quote Fanless, “they’re the same mountains you take pictures of every year!”), but still wanted to share some of my favorites. This year’s trip was super-mellow. No actual sightseeing, just visiting with family and friends, so these are mostly family photos.

 

It wasn’t really that cold this year. When Brandon (Fanless’ BFF) picked us up in Seattle it was in the high 50s (meanwhile, Miami Beach was in the 40s). We made a couple of quick stops in Bellevue – Top Pot donuts (of course), Trader Joe’s, and Taco Time (they are the only fast food place I’ve seen with fish tacos on the menu!) – before heading out on the three-hour drive east to West Richland.

 

We didn’t get as much snow on the pass as we have in previous years, but there was some piled up in Snoqualmie summit. We made our traditional stop there for coffee and photos. We stayed with Kim and Brandon and the girls for a couple of days at the start of the trip. Lili couldn’t get enough of her Uncle Fanless. She LOOOVES him! Later on, we were watching TV and Lili would run up to Fanless, put her head on his lap, kiss him on the belly and run away. People… I died!! It was just cuteness overload. 

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We didn’t get much sleep the night before we flew out from MIA (at the ungodly hour of 6:30AM), so by the time 8:30PM rolled around, I was fast asleep on the couch. We went to bed a little after 9PM and slept about 10 hours.

 

The next day, Brandon had to work, so we made a trip into “town” with Kim (town being Richland proper which was all of 5 minutes away) to go to Fred Meyer’s (think Kohl’s or JcPenney’s), then Spudnuts! Yes, more donuts. Don’t judge! The Pacific Northwest has the best donuts ever, and we’ve wanted to go to this place since we saw it on the Travel Channel months earlier.

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We also went to Skipper’s to get fish and chips for lunch (it’s like a Long John Silver’s, but they only have them in five states in the NW). While waiting for our food, Kim had to use the restroom. She went to hand Lili over to me, but no way. Lili was not having any part of that. So Kim turned around to where Fanless was sitting and Lili literally dove out of Kim’s arms to him! I’m telling you, love at first sight for this one!

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The following evening, Kim and Brandon drove us to Fanless’ grandparents’ farm in Othello (about an hour north). We had invited them and the girls and Kim’s mom (who was also visiting) to stay for pizza with the family, but Mia was too sad that we were leaving and wouldn’t stop crying so they had to head home right away. Mia and I have a pretty special bond, so I’m not even going to lie; seeing her cry made me start crying. It was truly pathetic. LOL! After we ate, Fanless played a Christmas movie for the little ones on his laptop.

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Pretty soon it was time to head into town (approximately 15 minutes away) to get some sleep at Uncle Dave’s brand-spankin’ new house.

 

On Friday, we went back to the farm for lunch, then headed back into town for the annual “Picking Out the Farm Tree” tradition. It was drizzling a bit, which made it much chillier that afternoon than it had been the previous days. Here’s Fanless and his cousin, Tiffany, waiting for the tree to be loaded up. They look cold, huh?

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After we got back to the farm, we kind of hung out for a while, before Uncle Tim informed us that Fanless and I were in charge of supervising the kids while they decorated the tree.

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Here’s Fanless supervising (he was in charge of putting the wire hooks on the ornaments, aka “hookers and balls”) and Uncle Tim helping his littlest place ornaments on the top portion of the tree. When they were done, the littles started playing Angry Birds on Fanless’ phone. They were obsessed with that game.

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The next day was the traditional Family Christmas lunch. This year, we changed things up and instead of cooking at the farm, we ate at Michael J’s Restaurant just up the road in the town of Connell, WA (pop. 3,500. Approximately.)

 

(L to R:) Grandma and Grandpa; Lisa, Dylan and Scott (Fanless’ cousin); Fanless and his mommy (I know. I swear he’s not adopted).

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(L to R:) Gma and Gpa with all eight of their kids. And with their 10 grandkids and 1 great-grandson. And finally, with the ENTIRE group. You can see why it takes almost an hour to get a group shot where everyone is looking in the same direction, smiling, eyes open and no heads cut off/blocked. Phew! 

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The finished tree, packed with gifts. Singing Christmas carols (for real!) prior to the gift exchange.

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We got some snow in town that night, so I was able to get a couple of shots of it on Sunday morning.

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We drove out to the farm to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa because they were leaving to the warmer climates of Arizona (related to Grandpa’s current health situation but it’s not my place to talk about it here).

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We headed back to the house to pack up our luggage, before heading to Everett to spend a couple of days with Scott and Lisa. Before reaching the house, we stopped to have dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ where we shared the family plate for four. OMG. SO good.

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Scott had to work on Monday, but he invited us to take a tour of his office and have lunch with him. Check out his workplace:

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I know, right??! Dylan is for sure going to be the most popular kid in school. When he gets old enough to go to school. =)  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the building (they have really strict privacy policies, even within departments; employees are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before accepting a job with them, and even people sitting across from each other don’t necessarily know what the other one is working on), but I can tell you it’s a new facility, it’s built to be “green", and it’s really nice inside. And they have an awesome cafeteria. =)   We did get a chance to shop at the onsite store where I picked up a cool coffee mug to add to my collection, a Yoshi notebook, a couple of logo pens and a new Wii game for Fanless. He got himself some Wii points (or Nintendo points? I dunno; I’m a girl) at a discount.

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After lunch we headed back to the house and chilled out, did some laundry, and packed our stuff. That night we met Scott for dinner at our favorite spot in Everett, Chang’s Mongolian Grill. Man, I love that place. The next morning Lisa drove us to the airport for our flight home.

 

So that’s that. The end.

 

Peace out, and happy holidays!

 

Miami: See It Like A Tourist December 5, 2010

Filed under: Photography,Travel,Video — Lulu @ 5:46 pm

WARNING: Super photo heavy!

Yesterday Fanless and I had a chance to take the Original Miami and Everglades Eco Adventure tour with Miami Tour Company. Miami Tour Company is owned by Gus and Michelle Moore, of MiamiBeach411.com, with whom we are personally acquainted. We had heard great things about their tour company and they’ve received really great reviews from past guests. So we booked our tour several months ago and I was really looking forward to it. (As it turned out, our very friendly and knowledgeable guide, Jim Moore, was none other than Gus’ father, but we didn’t find that out until the very end of the tour).

Our tour began when we were picked up right on time (9:35AM) in front of the Avalon Hotel on Ocean Drive in South Beach. The weather has been really beautiful lately and perfect for enjoying this kind of activity.

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We were part of a small group – approximately 28 people – and we got to ride in a very comfortable air-conditioned bus, with large windows on both sides. The bus also had two video screens that would show live video of the road ahead as we were driving. After a quick stop at Joe’s Stone Crab to pick up a few other guests, we were on our way. First we drove down Washington Avenue in South Beach.

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We paused at the Holocaust Memorial for picture-taking…

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before making a stop at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

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I had absolutely no idea this even existed, but it’s really lovely.

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We then exited the beach, via the 395 Causeway, and headed to Coconut Grove, where we saw the former homes of Madonna and Sylvester Stallone, along with a few other locations of note.

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We stopped for lunch in the Grove (Fanless and I made a beeline for Sandbar Grill and their delicious seafood tacos), and then drove around the Grove where we saw some interesting homes, the Bahamian Cemetery, and the Kampong Garden.

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From the Grove we headed to Coral Gables, viewing gorgeous homes along the way, prior to making a quick stop outside the Biltmore Hotel for a photo op.

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We headed down Calle Ocho into Little Havana, where we got to stop at Domino Park for a few minutes. Los viejos were so wrapped up in their games, I don’t even think they noticed the odd group of tourists taking their pictures.

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From Little Havana we headed back to downtown Miami to drop off a few guests that were taking a sightseeing cruise from Bayside.

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The rest of us continued on to Gator Park in the Everglades, where we took an airboat ride (check that off my bucket list).

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We saw a great blue heron just chilling out at the dock.

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We also saw a few gators – including a newborn! – and turtles.

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Our airboat guide was really nice and very funny, but I don’t remember his name.

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Following the airboat ride, we were treated to a live animal show where we got to see a really cute skunk named Paris…

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a not-so-cute alligator named Norman…

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and several wild peacocks.

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As that concluded the tour for us, we headed back downtown to pick up the guests from Bayside and start dropping everyone off at their respective hotels.

I think the only negative for us was just the fact that it was a really long day. We didn’t get back to the beach until about 530PM, so we were kind of beat by then. But all in all, we had a really enjoyable day. The tour went at a very relaxed pace and it was nice to just sit back and let someone else do the driving for once. It was also really informative, even for a native Miamian such as myself. There were several times when I found myself saying “I never knew that” to Fanless after a particular piece of information had been shared by either Jim or by the audio recording of the tour. For example, did you know that parts of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video were filmed in the Bahamian Cemetery? Yeah, me neither. It was little tidbits of info like that which kept the tour interesting for me.

I would definitely recommend this tour for out-of-town visitors, and even to locals that are looking for something fun and different to do.

(Oh, and here’s a video Fanless shot of the crazy animal guy sticking his hand in Norman’s mouth! Nutter!!)

Alright, that’s all. Peace out, yo!

 

Desert and Farmland December 29, 2009

Filed under: Life,Personal,Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 6:31 pm

Just a few of my favorite photos from the drive from Othello to Seattle. (Mind you, these were taken from the back seat of a car going 65 mph, so Ansel Adams they are not. But I still love them.)

 

The Columbia River.

Basalt rock.

Expansive farmlands and mountain ranges.

This is my favorite. I love old barns; I can’t really explain why.

 

Peace out, yo!