Saturday, February 28, 2009


We had our childbirth class today and I'm feeling a little conflicted. On one hand, I wish I didn't have to wait 2 1/2 more months for the baby to be here. I'd like to meet her now! I'd like to move into the next stage of my life. I feel like I'm totally in limbo. This is partially caused by the fact that I really have no idea (but many worries) about the future of my job and career. And then the prospect of 2 more months of back pain, sleeping difficulties, anemia, tiredness, and worries about the baby's health without being able to do anything or really knowing what's going on with the baby is discouraging. But mostly it's just that we have waited so long to have this baby - I'm ready for it to happen now! (and as Jim will tell you, I don't have patience for anything).

This doesn't mean that I'm wishing for a pre-term labor. I'm absolutely not wishing for that. I heard about this woman who had her baby at 24 weeks. I'm at 29 weeks now, so wow. I can't even imagine that. The baby survived but has about a million medical problems. So none of that. I want a healthy baby.

On the other side of the coin is this childbirth class today. Let me tell you, hearing about childbirth is awfully scary. A tiny bit of me would like to send the baby back where she came from. :) We saw the requisite video and heard about all the different scenarios. Yikes. I suppose that you just deal with it when it happens, like you do with all of life's other hurdles, but I'm scared. Like, what if my body doesn't recover from the labor? What if the baby gets stuck? Etc. Etc.

So there it is. Probably rather normal conflicts. I guess I'll have to treat myself to some (vegetarian) sushi to deal. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Well, it is Sunday night after a pretty good weekend. I'm sorry to see the week start again, as it means more uncertainty on the job front.

Jim worked a lot on the cradle this weekend. It really is coming out well. The headboard, footboard, and bottom are all cut to size, and the sides are almost done. Now he's figuring out how to do a "box joint" to attach the four sides together. He also has to cut out the rockers and figure out how to attach them. And there are a bunch of other things to do too. But when he puts it all together, it is really starting to look like a cradle, instead of just a bunch of pieces of random wood.

I cooked a lot this weekend. I made "wild mushroom and seitan mushroom stroganoff" this morning. In the winter, I always have a taste for stroganoff, and I can no longer eat my mom's delicious recipe for beef stroganoff now that I'm a vegetarian. This recipe is quite good - I found it in a cookbook that we got for Christmas. But oddly, after I finished cooking it up (and it's more complicated than most things that I cook, which is not saying much), the smell of it was making me nauseous. And we found out that the friends that we were having over for dinner that night don't like mushrooms!

So on to dinner #2 - veggie chili, courtesy of a cookbook by Rachael Ray (also a Christmas present from the year before). This sat much better with my stomach and came out quite well. Then our friends brought over this delicious corn bread. You can't get better than that. So we had chili and cornbread for dinner, with raspberry/blueberry pie for dessert (made by Jim). A perfect winter meal.

And winter is still here. It rained all day, but now it has switched to snow. Ugh. Well, at least we're at the end of it. As my dad would always say, "we're heading in the right direction now."

Other things that we did this weekend included shopping for tools for Jim's cradle project, and shopping for a new mattress. It's hard to believe that our current mattress is almost 11 years old. Someday I'll have to write down the story of purchasing that mattress - quite funny. Anyway, it is now bowed in the middle. And I've been having a horrible time sleeping lately (probably not the mattress' fault, but still...). So we looked at some mattresses today. We need to look around some more first.

That's about it for the weekend! Time for another crazy week.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Home again, home again

We made it back home this afternoon. It sucked having to get up at 4am. In fact, as we were checking out, this couple (?) was just coming back from a night on the town. It was pretty funny. There we were in our jeans, coats and suitcases, half asleep, and there they were, dressed up and still raring to go.

But the good part about getting up so early was that it'll help us switch over to East Coast time, and more importantly, we were at home in Quincy by 4:30pm. That sure beats coming in the door at 11pm and having to go straight to bed. It is really nice to be home. Plus, tomorrow is President's Day so I have a day off (although it is looking like I will have many "days off" in the coming months due to the impending lay-off).

The Las Vegas airport was a disaster. I've never seen such a mess. First, Jim commented that the Las Vegas and Los Angeles airports must use the same rental car lot, because it was out in the middle of nowhere - not anywhere near the Las Vegas airport. We finally got to the actual airport at about 4:50am and already the line for Delta was about a mile long. Then there was a similarly long line at security, and finally a big crowd waiting for the shuttle-subway thing that actually took us to the "D" terminal. All in all, even though we got to the airport over 90 minutes before our flight, it was already boarding by the time we got to the gate. But we made it, and our connection in Cincinnati was much easier. We even had time for lunch.

Tomorrow is "errands" day. But I'm happy about that. It's so good to be home.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Las Vegas

Today we explored the Las Vegas strip. We walked through the following casinos: New York, New York, Montecarlo, Bellagio, Paris, Bally, Venetian, and Treasure Island. All of them were basically the same, the exception of the Bellagio which both Jim and I just loved.

When you walk into the Bellagio, you see the amazing mosaic floors. Then there's the front hall with this art-glass display on the ceiling:

What do you think, Laurie? Chihuly or a knock off? There were other glass displays in the same theme throughout the casino.

The Bellagio also has a small botanical garden with orchids, topiaries, and Asian-themed decorations, but my favorite was its garden, which was in a courtyard in the middle of the massive building. The garden had several pools with mosaic designs on the bottoms. There were also orange trees and other trees and plants. Wow.

It was a dream. (And by the way, the temperature was only in the 50's. Some kids were in the pool anyway. It was so beautiful that I would've gone in too if I was staying there!) The rest of the casinos were basically just big halls with millions of slot machines with some decorations on the theme, whatever the theme is.

We were walking from about 9:30 in the morning, with a short break for lunch, so by 2pm, I was exhausted. We came back to the hotel, where we took naps. We're going to go out to dinner pretty soon. Our flight leaves at 6:30 tomorrow morning - ugh.

As a side note, I learned today that one of the passengers on board the plane that crashed in Buffalo was an expert witness that I was just in contact with this week for an asylum case that I've been preparing for a hearing. The expert's name was Alison Des Forges and she was perhaps the most qualified expert witness on asylum country conditions that I have ever worked with. We exchanged e-mails on Monday. It just makes me sick that she was on this flight. Actually, the whole incident makes me sick. I'm not so thrilled to be getting on a plane tomorrow.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Las Vegas again

We left Beatty pretty early this morning. The walls at the hotel were paper-thin so we heard when our next door neighbors were taking their showers. Plus, whenever we flushed the toilet, it made such a racket that it sounded like the person using the toilet had just gotten sucked into the toilet too.

Motel 6 is a trip. Our bed had a Motel 6-themed bedspread with depictions of people traveling and staying at Motels 6. I never saw this type of product placement before! The shower had the force of a fire engine hose. And the TV skipped certain stations that the motel said we had access too, such as CNN.

We drove into Death Valley, which was quite amazing. There were really interesting looking mountains, sand dunes, other rock formations, and these plains covered in salt where there used to be a river or lake. And did I mention that the temperature was in the 50's and there wasn't any snow at all?

View of the salt plains:

Me, on top of a sand dune, with mountains in distance:

We also toured "Scotty's Castle," which was a summer mansion built in the 1920's by a millionaire life insurance executive named Albert Johnson. His "friend" was Walter Scott, who was basically a con-man who stayed at the castle for entertainment value (he told wild stories about his life as a cowboy with Buffalo Bill Cody). The mansion was colloquially referred to as Scotty's Castle because people would come there to hear his crazy stories. We had a really good tour and heard some great stories about what life was like back then.

Here's Jim in front of the "castle":

After that, we headed back to Las Vegas. It was starting to rain and we felt like we had gotten to see a lot of Death Valley. It took a couple of hours to get back to Vegas. We drove down Las Vegas Blvd on the way to our hotel and had a look at some of the crazy casino/resorts there. Really, it is a cross between Times Square in New York and Disney World. There was a lot of traffic, probably due to the fact that it was Friday and tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

We got dinner at a place called Bahama Breeze, which had nice seafood. We're staying in tonight and we'll go explore the sights of Las Vegas tomorrow.

I'll catch you back here tomorrow and tell you about Las Vegas.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ghost town

This afternoon we saw a ghost town, Rhyolite, a town that was built around 1904 when gold was discovered in this area. At one time it had 12,000 residents. But it was abandoned by 1919 due to an economic crisis and problems with the mines. "Rhyolite" is apparently the name of the mineral in which the gold was found. There was another town built at the same time, called Bull Frog, but apparently there is nothing left of that town.

In Rhyolite, there was an old train depot, a house made out of bottles, and an old general store. There were ruins of 2 banks and some other structures. We also found an old cemetery down an old gravel road. It was really interesting. Most of the graves in the cemetery were unmarked or marked in a very primitive way (like a makeshift cross or a piece of old wood in the shape of a headstone). It seemed that many of the people there were buried long after the town had been abandoned. They probably grew up there and wanted to be buried there. It makes you wonder what it's like to live long enough to see your entire town completely disappear.

Here is a photo of the general store and bottle house:

From the cemetery:

After that, we headed back and looked at food options. There was the Sourdough Saloon, the Mexican-American Restaurant, and "Rita's," inside a casino. AAA recommended Rita's, so we went there. We had to walk through a very smokey casino, where there were a few people playing slot machines. The restaurant was unremarkable.

After dinner, we drove back out to the road to Rhyolite to look at the stars. There are no lights anywhere and we could see the Milky Way and about a thousand stars. I saw the entire Orion constellation, and I think I found the Big Dipper and the Seven Sisters. I wish I knew the other constellations.

Tomorrow we'll see Death Valley. Here's a preview (we drove a few miles into the park this afternoon):

Then we'll head back to Las Vegas, which we'll explore until we go back to Boston on Sunday morning.

Beatty, Nevada

We have stopped in Beatty, Nevada for the day, which is near Death Valley. It's still early so we're going to go tour some ghost towns. That's about all that's around here. Cactus and abandoned gold mining towns. The one that we're going to see now, Rhyolite, has been abandoned since 1919 but I guess some old Westerners were filmed there in the 1920's. I'll post some photos later.

We were going to do Zion National Park this morning, but lo and behold, it was snowing again and all the mountains were fogged in. We'd already been through this scenario in the Grand Canyon and didn't think it was worth the disappointment with Zion. So we'll have to do both Zion and Bryce some other time, preferably not in February.

On our way here, we stopped in Las Vegas to go to In 'N' Out Burger. Did you know that they have a secret vegetarian option there? If you go to the secret menu on their website, you'll see that they carry a grilled cheese sandwich. Quite good. It had 10,000 Island dressing on it, which you wouldn't think would taste good but it did.

We are staying at a Motel 6 tonight. It was the only hotel in town, aside from a couple of sketchy places, one of which Jim claims is called "Grandpa Chuck's." In order to get an ethernet cable, you have to put down a deposit of $10 (I don't think they've heard of wireless internet yet). When I was registering, the receptionist told me where "the restaurant" was and where "the gas station" was. I think that's because there's only one of each. When we walked into the room, the shade was down. Jim said that if we pulled up the shade and saw an alien outside, we weren't staying here. But no aliens, at least not yet. This place is so deserted and is near Yucca Mountain, where they're burying all the radioactive waste, that we wouldn't be surprised at seeing odd things around here.

Why, you may ask, are we staying here? Because we are so damn tired of sitting in the car!!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cedar City, Utah

We had really fabulous weather today. The sky was impossibly blue and the sun was out. Yes, it was a little cold. But that kept away all the other tourists!

Today we went to Arches National Park, which I think is my favorite national park of all time, as of now. I will post a couple of photos from the ton that we took. It's this relatively small park (about 100 square miles in total) with crazy rock formations, some in the form of arches. It has several very manageable hikes (1 mile or less) where you get to see the best of the arches. The trails are extremely well-maintained. Did I mention how incredible the rock formations are?

Here are a couple of typical photos. First, a photo of Turret Arch:

Here is Jim, on top of one of the smaller rock formations:

View of North Window Arch from Turret Arch:

After Arches, we drove for a long time. We basically drove across Utah. The scenery was out of this world: rock formations in various colors and snow-covered mountains, mainly. Here's a typical view:

The road and the land around it was mostly deserted. One stretch of road went about 100 miles without any exits.

We stopped for lunch in a town called Green River whose claim to fame is that it's the world's watermelon capital. It has a watermelon festival every September. No watermelons this time of year though.

We have stopped for the night in Cedar City, Utah, which is somewhat near Zion National Park. We are going to Zion tomorrow morning before driving into California for some (hopefully) warm weather. We are also near Bryce National Park, but I think we're going to skip Bryce and just do Zion this time.

Cedar City is kind of an unremarkable town. We stopped at a motel that we thought was a Best Western. But when Jim went in to get a room, they told him that they were no longer a Best Western. Jim realized that the receptionist had been scraping the Best Western sign off the door when we pulled up. Then we realized that there were trucks in the parking lot, covering over all the Best Western signs. Kind of weird. But the room is pretty cheap, and it's clean. So it's OK.

We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Don Miguel. We were the only ones there. The town seems somewhat deserted.

Lots of driving tomorrow, but hopefully more amazing sites and continued good weather.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moab, Utah

This morning we woke up to over a foot of snow that had fallen overnight. And no snow plows in sight. The car nearly got stuck. Here's a photo of it with the snow:

I can't say that we were surprised to see more snow, but not this much. I am really glad I decided to pack the winter boots. I almost didn't. I wish I'd brought my hat, gloves, and my big wool coat.

We were going to stop for breakfast at the little restaurant in front of our hotel, but we didn't want to get stuck in the parking lot so we hit the road instead. We stopped at a Burger King drive-through and then started driving out of Chinle. We decided not to stop to see Canyon de Chelly after all because we didn't want to get snowed in.

Then there was a 50 mile drive on the road up to the main road. The road seemed like it had been plowed in parts, but it was very slippery. As we got closer to the main road, the snow had started melting and there wasn't as much of it, so the road was much better.

So we drove back into Kayenta, where we ate at the same diner, and then headed into Monument Valley, which was incredible. There was only a little snow, and none on the road, which was good. The weather was clear, with a blue sky. Monument Valley contains these red rock formations that just spring up out of the desert. They were very striking in the snow. They almost looked like they were carved and placed there by an artist.

We kept on driving and arrived in Utah. We started to see more rock formations. One of the first was in Mexican Hat, Utah, where there is a formation that sort of looks like a sombrero. We also saw the Abujo Mountains, which were covered in snow. The formations were more of a tan color, instead of red. One of the most striking was Wilson Arch (you can see the little dot of Jim, with his orange shirt on, which gives you an idea of the scale of it all):

I think we will see more of these tomorrow when we go to Arches National Park.

We stopped for the night in Moab, Utah, which is quite a different place from the places we stayed in the Indian Reservation. It is in a valley, surrounded by red-rock mountains that are almost golden in the sunlight. It is a little town with restaurants and gift shops. We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant and bought some postcards.

Tomorrow we are driving to Arches and then Bryce National Park. The plan then is to head into California for some warmer weather. We'll see how it works out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chinle (Canyon de Chelly), AZ

We had quite a day today! Although there were periods of snow, we got to see a lot of amazing sights.

We started out at the Grand Canyon, where it was snowing. The snow and fog cleared for a little while and we did get a good view.

But then a blizzard set in and the driving was pretty scary. It was a sheet of ice. But as the elevation began to decline, the snow stopped and the views were even more amazing:

We then headed to Kenyatta for lunch where we ate at The Blue Coffee Pot (a local diner). Then we went to Four Corners, which is where four states join up in one spot: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. Here's Jim, standing on four states:

After that, we decided to drive to Canyon de Chelly, which is where we're spending the night. The sights here are amazing. We drove through red rock formations and desert with tumbleweed. We ate dinner just now, and it started snowing hard while we were eating. So I think we're in for the night.

We are technically staying in the town of Chinle. It is quite amazing how desolate and poor this area is. There are trailers everywhere, with very few houses. The school looks like a prison. A lot of the schools we've seen around here are just a bunch of trailers clustered together. It makes you wonder how kids can get an education with such poor resources. Along the side of the road, we saw a lot of huts and stands where the native Americans are selling jewelery and pottery. This whole area is an Indian Reservation. It is so desolate - there are no trees, no farming, just desert. I wonder if the native Americans had a choice about going here, or if this is one of the circumstances where the U.S. Government decided to find the most barren part of the country and forced them to live here. I don't understand how they live. They can't even farm out here.

Anyway, the scenery is unlike anything we've ever seen before. It's amazing to us that we're still in the same country as the Northeast.

So we don't regret staying with our original plan and driving this way. Tomorrow we will drive up to Utah via Monument Valley.

Grand Canyon again

Here's the view from the Grand Canyon this morning:

Here's our hotel:

We are going to head to Monument Valley anyway. It looks like the snow might let up. I think we're going to see the Four Corners today too, depending on the weather.

Time to go!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Grand Canyon, Arizona

After flying into Las Vegas last night, we drove to the Grand Canyon today. We made a brief stop at the Hoover Dam and then drove through the desert to the town of William, and then on to the Grand Canyon. We're staying at El Tovar, a hotel built in 1905. It is very cozy and has a lodge atmosphere.

Here's the view we're had of the Grand Canyon so far:

Yeah. Not so much. It is actually snowing really hard here and the canyon is almost completely clouded in. The temperature is in the 20's. It's pretty disappointing. Actually, the Grand Canyon looks a lot like what we saw in Yellowstone. :(

We are hoping the weather improves tomorrow, but the Weather Channel says that they're supposed to get 3-5 inches of snow tomorrow and 4-6 more inches tomorrow night. So probably not. And all the sights to see around here, like Monument Valley, Zion, etc. are also supposed to get snow all week.

So we are probably going to drive south and then to California tomorrow. I think we're going to try to see Death Valley and Joshua Tree instead. I need a break from the snow, and worse than the snow is the fact that everything is clouded in! So we can't see anything.

On the good side, though, we did get to see some amazing sights at the Hoover Dam. The rock formations/mountains there were amazing, as were the Colorado River and Lake Mead. We drove and walked across the dam. They are building a suspension bridge right next to it, presumably to divert traffic away from the dam.

Here are some photos from the dam:

It'll be a surprise where we blog from tomorrow night, I guess.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Good news, bad news

The Bad News:
I'm probably getting laid off when I get back from vacation. I found this out last night, shortly before I left work for the day.

The Good News:
We start our vacation today! We are flying to Las Vegas and then renting a car. I can't wait to get away. Usually I'm a little nervous when I leave for a trip, but not so much this time.

The Bad News:
I get to think about what the hell I'm going to do with my career for the whole vacation.

The Good News:
I get to think about what the hell I'm going to do with my career for the whole vacation.