Something Old, Something New

This weekend I traveled to Tucson, Arizona to attend my cousin’s wedding (mom’s side) and visit my grandparents (dad’s side).

Prior to this weekend, I hadn’t been to a wedding since I was in 4th grade!  Only a handful of my high school classmates are married, and none of my close friends are.  (At that wedding in 4th grade, I was SO amazed by the bride wearing Minnie Mouse-themed Converse sneakers, it was like — wow, she is SO cool!  Hahah.  Offbeat bride before it was cool…. ;D )

I also haven’t seen my cousin and his younger brother more than a few times in the past 10-15 years, so it was nice to catch up.  There were only about 130 guests, and it wasn’t too crowded.  Tucson has some really nice desert landscapes, and it was so neat the whole thing was on the outskirts of town with lots of natural desert beauty to spruce the place up.

The wedding was fairly typical, but I appreciated the short ceremony (15 minutes!) and their dog being the master of ceremonies. ;)  Luckily there weren’t any awkwardly long and inebriated toasts, just a few short heartfelt speeches by immediate family and some of their college friends.

But best of all?!  GELATO BAR.  I’m really enjoying the trend of people personalizing their ceremonies and receptions, and I love gelato, so I was totally excited to see they had hired a local company to bring a small gelato cart to the reception!

Chocolate hazelnut gelato and salted caramel gelato and flower centerpiece.

A cup of chocolate and hazelnut cookie gelato and salted caramel gelato with one of the nice centerpieces at the wedding. Good times!

YASSSS.  I had chocolate hazelnut (it wasn’t just flavored — it had crumbled chocolate hazelnut cookie mashed in with the chocolate gelato!) and salted caramel.  The other flavors available included strawberry & champagne, raspberry, mint chocolate chip, pistachio, and one other.

Best of all — they were super friendly and aware.  My dad asked them to leave off the cookie straw in his cup, and they quickly said “Oh, gluten allergy?”  He explained he’s sensitive, and they immediately said “oh, I would recommend choosing another flavor, since this one is made with hazelnut cookies inside”.  Super on the ball but casual — sometimes you find out too late there’s something you can’t have, and you suffer.  We appreciated their attention to the customers!

So if you’re ever in Tucson or Phoenix, be sure to visit Frost Gelato.  …or apparently in the Middle East (?!?!) or Chicago.

The next day at my grandmother’s house, she told me she had some photo albums I’d never seen — a big one of my dad’s family trip when he was a kid, they picked up and spent 3 weeks on the east coast in Pennsylvania, doing Civil War battlefields and seeing family friends.  It also had some excellent 60s fashion and silly cowboy outfits on my dad and uncle!

Dog and great grandmother at the wall by the house.

My dad’s dog Duchess and my great grandmother, both looking over the wall at my grandmother’s house in Tucson — about mid-1960s.

I also got some quality time with a few albums from times I visited when I was 2-7 years old — awesome old 80s and 90s pics!  Hahah.  Love it.

Me in 80s-tastic clothes.

Me in my bomber jacket-style sweatshirt and super cool plastic visor. Not sure where we were, but it was 1989 and I was probably 3 and a half.

The archivist in me is screaming in horror that the albums are made of such acidic paper and I have a burning need to rescue the oldest photographs of the one album — they’re fading like crazy and the paper sure isn’t helping.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to scan the pictures properly, so I was stuck taking pictures of pictures.   Also, the plastic sheets covering each page are horrible, and make it really hard to take clear pictures of what’s underneath.  Agggh.  Definitely going to make a concerted effort on my next trip to rescue the albums, or scan what’s in them at the very least.

Family photos are my favorite things. :D  Anyone have memories of some great old pictures?

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Fleischpflanzerl — Little Meat Plants

Yes, literally.  (Fleisch = meat/flesh, pflanze = plant/vegetable, -rl = a diminutive form like -ita in Spanish.)  Probably the only plants I can work with successfully…

When I visited my friend P in Germany last May, she graciously cooked for me two nights, and this was one of the dishes!  We ate out other meals, heated up precooked pasta, or ate leftovers other nights.  Let me tell you, these are great hot or cold!

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P’s kitchen. Bacon on the stove, fleischpflanzerl and garlic bread in the oven.

There are lots of variations, it seems — but essentially, they’re meatballs.  This recipe uses a lot of ingredients, including spices and things that I didn’t use, but they sure look good!  I’m not sure about the soaking in milk though.

The recipe we used was from a generic recipe book P had, which she shared with me.  Unfortunately, it’s sort of vague.  I’m pretty good at following recipes, but not so great with being spontaneous!

Here’s the original recipe:

– 1 roll from the day before (aka breadcrumbs)
– 500 grams ground meat (she used a mix of beef and pork)
– 1 egg
– 1 onion
– 2 pears
– bacon  (one for each patty)
– raclette cheese (one chunk/slice for each patty)

Chop onion and tear up the bread.  Mix the bread, meat, egg, and onion.  Form into patties/meatballs, and fry on the stove until cooked through. Spray pan or baking sheet and heat oven to 180*-200*.  Chop pears and raclette cheese.  Put a slice of pear and a piece of cheese on each patty/meatball.  Put the assembled patties on a baking sheet/pan, and pop in the oven.  Start frying your bacon.  Pull them out when the cheese is melted.  Pop bacon on top of each one, and serve.

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Delicious delicious meat plants, courtesy of P’s kitchen.  I love her green placemats. :D

…well, this is a little vague for me.   How much bread is one roll, exactly?

So this is what I did!

I didn’t have a box of breadcrumbs, so I decided to make my own.  I had “french toast bread” on hand — it’s uber-whitey bread that’s slightly eggy in color, and is about an inch thick.  I thought it would be better to have too much rather than too little, so I cut up 2 slices into cubes and let them dry out overnight.  (P used boxed breadcrumbs, they were easier to gauge how much you were adding.)

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Ingredients for the recipe. (The egg is hiding.)

…the pears at our grocery stores, even the nice local one with nearly-always-amazing produce, were hard as rocks.  :(  So I bought canned pears in pear juice (not syrup).  At least I didn’t have to skin them…

The store also didn’t have raclette cheese.  (It’s used in nice cozy Swiss chalets, they stick it by the fire and warm it up, then you scrape off gobs and eat it with bread and stuff.)  I’m sure Whole (Paycheck) Foods has it, but… even a chunk an inch thick and the size of the palm of my hand of Edam or Emmentaler was a good $12.  For something with canned pears, I’m not spending $12 on cheese.  I don’t even LIKE Swiss cheese that much!

We already had Oscar Meyer’s finest bacon… and an egg…

Then onion.  I don’t know what size onions are in Germany off the top of my head, but if I had used a whole onion like what we get here, they would have been called Little Onion Patties (with some meat in there somewhere).  I used three generous slices, about a third of the onion.

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About a third of a decent-sized onion. Also, some Hobbit-y moral support! Breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner…elevenses…

For the meat — I used just a hair over a pound of meat.  500 grams is 1.1 pounds.  Obviously, this recipe is not built on an exact science, so really you could use as much or as little as you want. :P  I used ground round, and it’s the one good ingredient in there — from our local non-chain market’s own meat counter.  Mmm.

It never occurred to me to make the bread chunks into crumbs — stupid me… so you’ll see my patties look like they have Kix or croutons in them.  My mom suggested rolling the chunks with a rolling pin to make crumbs.

I ended up using 1 cup of chunks/crumbs — that was half of what I’d cut up, so about one giant slice of bread.  I’d use less than a cup of crumbs if I was using just crumbs, since they would be packed so much tighter than my crouton-chunks!

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Breadcrumbs, go.

After beating the bread/meat/egg/onion mix to death with a fork, I scooped out blobs to make patties in my frypan.  When P made them, I think we had about 11 or 12 tiny patties.  Enough for about 3 bites each.  I’m too lazy to take care of that many, and I wanted to have something more the size that I could just eat one.

I made 7 patties.  I cooked them about 5 minutes on each side, to make sure they weren’t pink in the middle, and so they got a nice little crust on the outsides.

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The bread bits look so weird. @_@ Luckily everything smells amazing once you start cooking.

Unfortunately I didn’t flatten them quite as much as I would have liked — oops!  I forget they shrink up.  They smelled amazing though!

After cooking the patties completely, I transferred them to a glass pan and started assembling.  My canned pears were pear halves, and my mom kindly sliced them nicely for me.  I’m lazy — I probably just would have cut them in half and called it a day.  Also, the swiss cheese slices made life much easier, just half a slice or so, and done.

Meat, pear, cheese, go!

I preheated the oven to 350*, and popped them in for 2 minutes or so for the cheese to melt.  While I was melting the cheese, I microwaved the bacon.  Yes, I’m a bad lazy person.  Whatever.

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Patties, assemble! This is after adding all the pears, and halfway through the cheese process.

Once the cheese was done, I took them out of the oven, popped them on plates, and dropped the bacon on top.

They were surprisingly good, considering I used canned pears and Swiss cheese isn’t my favorite!  Hahaha.  The meat came out perfectly, but I would like a way to make them taste more flavorful — maybe spices?  I don’t know.  Maybe just cook the onions first, or something.  I love onion flavor.

They tasted even better the second night — I reheated one in the microwave, and ate it as a sandwich between two pieces of toast.  Yummmm!

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The finished product! Sorry for the darkness, but it was getting late, and I was hungry. >.>

So!  -My- …recipe, we’ll call it…

– 3/4 to 1 cup of bread crumbs/croutons/assorted bread bits — add to your desired consistency
– 1/3 of an onion-ish — add to your preference for onion
– 1 egg (yay, something straightforward!)
– about a pound of ground meat
– 1 can of pears, or two pears, sliced — you could also do apples, I bet that would taste amazing
– 1 slice of cheese per meatball/patty
– 1 piece of bacon per meatball/patty

Mix patty ingredients.  Make patties according to your desired size, anywhere from 5 or so to 12.  Fry patties about 5 minutes per side (less time for smaller patties, of course).  Preheat oven to 350*.  Assemble meat + pear + cheese, toss them in the oven until cheese melts.  Fry bacon.  Take m+p+c out of the oven, add bacon, serve!

I call them ‘MERICAN STYLE.  They’re larger than the German ones, canned fruit, Oscar Meyer bacon, and lunchmeat-style sliced cheese.  Classy.  ;D

A Journey to Distant Lands

Dramatic, eh?  No, really.  I did go to Distant Lands!

I’ve lived in the same house since I was 2 and a half, within about 15 minutes from Pasadena’s “Old Town” district.  The area has had its ups and downs over the decades — it was pretty run down and grody when I was a kid, but it’s getting a lot more nice stores recently.

The light rail was extended to the area about 10 years ago, so now there are more apartment buildings and whatnot in the area to attract people to be in the area rather than just passing through and leaving after regular business hours.

I’ve always passed by this travel book store, Distant Lands, for years, but never stopped in.  Busy busy busy.  Apparently the store has been in Old Town since 1989!

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Aurora borealis (Arctic tour, but maybe on the eastern side of Canada? I forget) — from Quark Expeditions site. (quarkexpeditions.com)

I had to hang around the area, I was doing a favor driving someone home after an appointment.  So I decided “coffee it is!” and parked in the nearest city structure.  I decided to stop in to Distant Lands first, since it was just across the street — so glad I did!

The store isn’t enormous, but it uses all its available space efficiently.  It is two tiny stores connected — one side is the books and travel agent desk, and the other side is luggage, packing knickknacks, clothing, and other travel gadgets. They have a travel agent who can help suggest places, can book Europe rail passes right there, and lots of other stuff.  I love that such a niche store can exist!

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Kayaking on Antarctica tour — from Quark Expeditions site. (quarkexpeditions.com)

Right when I walked in, I didn’t have an agenda, but the lady that greeted me seemed to like to chat, and I love chattering when I can (can you tell?).  Although I can’t really travel right now — more’s the pity, so much free time…  :(  I said I was interested in Germany and Belgium, and that my friend was interested in Antarctica.  (Same friend who went to the coroner’s shop with me.)

What luck!  This lady said she had just taken a trip to Antarctica in November with Quark Expeditions, and she was going to be hosting a talk with slideshow about her trip.  Whee!  She told me all about it, and I learned so much — I can’t wait to go to the talk and report back to you guys!

For example, did you know all the boat companies get together and organize their travel routes so that they never see each other during any boat’s entire trip?  How awesome is that?

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Artic tour — from Quark Expeditions site. (quarkexpeditions.com)

I’m going to ask her permission to post some of her pictures, but for now — go check them out!!!  She’s got pictures from Antarctica, the islands nearby, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tibet, France, Yemen… so cool.

…for a cool $5,500 to $20,000, an Antarctic or Arctic trip could be yours!  Oh well.  We can dream, right?  She said she got hers 50% off by booking last minute (a month before the trip).

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Antarctica tour — from Quark Expeditions site. (quarkexpeditions.com)

What’ll it be, polar bears or penguins?

Roadside America — A Quick Visit to the Coroner’s Office

Apparently it used to be the “Los Angeles County Department of Coroner”.  (Where is the “the”?  This is confusing.)  Now, it’s officially the “Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner”.  The change is important, trust me!

…let me back up.  A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came to visit me.  She’s a NICU nurse, who worked around here for a few years.  We’ve gone on a few road trips since we’ve been friends, and our group of friends likes… wacky things, to say the least.

She likes checking the Roadside America site/app for things to see wherever we are.  Haven’t heard of Roadside America?  You tell it where you’re going, and then you can find out where the bizarre sights are — biggest strawberry in the US?  Window cattle portraits? (I have another post coming for the “Exotic Meats and Dinosaur Farm!” trip we took.  They have velociraptors.)

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Raaawr! (Picture by K.C.)

So, before I dropped her off at the airport, she said “The coroner has a gift shop!  Let’s go!”

What?!

For about a year or so, when I would drive home from work on city streets rather than the freeway, I would pass by the LA County USC Medical Center, and the sign announcing the LA County Coroner.  I…never knew they had a gift shop.

Well they do!  And, guess what — it’s called “Skeletons in the Closet”.  Awww. :D  And they have a website!

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“We have our work cut out for us.” Hahah. From the gift shop website.

Yes, I guess it could be morbid.  It could be awkward.  There’s notes in the Roadside America app saying “please make sure to not be disrespectful to family members who may be at the coroner on business, so please don’t laugh in the lobby on your way to the shop”.  Ouch.  No worries.  We’re professional.  The store’s purpose is “to promote how fragile life is and create awareness and responsibility toward one’s actions”.  Good on them.

But that doesn’t stop their sense of humor…

The lady in the store is super nice, and she showed us all the neat things celebrities have signed and given to her, pictures of people… they have a couch made from a coffin, a sparkly black mini-Christmas tree, and fun merch.

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Signs at checkout. ;D From Shannon V. on Yelp.

Apparently ours in LA, and Las Vegas, are the only cities/counties with gift shops.  Hmm.  I wonder what that says about us…

Anyway — if you’re in the vicinity, and don’t mind morbid humor — stop by!  The lady is really nice. :D

AND — some of the merchandise is going to be collector’s items, because it still has the old name on it!  Hee.  Get it while it’s hot!

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One corner of the shop. From Shannon V. on Yelp.

Coming next — either more Roadside America (exotic meats!) and a mountain snow drive, or more Wyoming.   We’ll see. :)  Thanks guys for sticking with me!

Campfire Fried Chicken

Call me a city slicker, but who knew you could fry chicken over a campfire?

When we arrived our first night at the lodge in Wyoming, we pulled up near the campfire area and saw someone tending a campfire with a giant iron pot on top.

Huh.  Cooking on the campfire.  This seemed like advanced camping cooking to me — I personally only trust newbie campfire foods, like marshmallows and hot dogs.  (My friends tried to make campfire nachos one trip — a nice idea, but they came out TERRIBLY…the random sticks they put on the fire made such acrid smoke that it made the chips taste disgusting.)

Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of the campfire chicken… I was too busy trying to shoo a stray dog away from the fire.  The poor thing kept trying to lick the chicken greased lid of the pot, but not being too smart, it didn’t realize (multiple times) that the lid was hot!

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Basque doggy basking in the sun, hoping for a snack handout.

We found out that Basque sheepherders move through the area with their sheep, wagons (like wooden covered wagons/mobile homes!), families, and dogs.  This dog got separated from the group, but nobody decided to come looking for it, so it  hung around at the lodge/campground hoping for some food.

In the first Wyoming post, I mentioned we were a little fearful about the food situation.  An hour and a half+ away from the nearest grocery store?  New, unknown staff?  No electricity?  I was envisioning horrible lumpy biscuits and gravy, tough gross meat, and instant mashed potatoes.

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This is not your average camping dinner. Mmm! Dinner the second night, as described below.

Um, can I have a HALLELUJAH for our wonderful cook?  She was an angel.  She not only cooked for about 20-25 people (full breakfasts and dinners) but made lunches for everyone, cleaned up, did all the dishes, checked guests in, and cleaned cabins and probably a million other things I never saw.

Sadly, I don’t have pictures of the campfire chicken — curses!  I was shocked though.  I’m a lazy food snob — I don’t like most fried chicken (greasy and slimy) and I usually can’t be bothered with bones in my meat.  (I just want to eat.  Give me the delicious things ready to put in my mouth!)

It was -amazing-.

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One of the other guests’ dogs looking at our food. It was so cute, but unfortunately the dog had to suffer seeing a group of 12’s meals right by the window!

I did recover from my shock the next night and took pictures of dinner.  Holy.  Cow.

Steaks grilled over the campfire — SOFT and delicious and juicy, I can’t even comprehend how they did it over a campfire…it’s hard enough making a good steak on a stove in your house.  Sweet potatoes au gratin.  Herbed biscuits.  Sweet tea.  (Mmmm.)  Salad with fresh ingredients!  Grilled veggies.  Other things I forget.  TWO CAKES.

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Yummmmm. Cake. And yes, those are kerosene lanterns.

The only time they turned on the generator was to use their washing machine and dryer, to power the internet once or twice a week to check lodge email, and to occasionally use the lights to clean the kitchen.  I’m still in awe!  I’m so not used to living like that.

What amazed me was that people would wander in — hikers, fishermen, and more than once the forest service weirdos (in our three day trip…what???) wondering if they could buy dinner or whatever.  It’s not a restaurant, people!  The cook was so amazing though — she usually was able to accommodate these random people.

Moral of the story — praise your southern cook highly, and tip her well!  I’m usually hungry for snacks all the time — I was NEVER hungry between meals at this place, despite horseback riding and hikes and running after small children.  :)

** New theme, guys!  You probably wouldn’t notice unless you actually visit my actual blog, rather than the wordpress reader/RSS feed/etc. Any thoughts?  How do the pictures/layout look?**

9 Reasons To Love New Zealand Airports

I found a new blog yesterday, AirportsMadeSimple.  A blog!  About airports!  This is so useful!  Such a simple idea — but so smart.  Everyone writes about places to visit, but who writes about the practicalities of the things that GET you where you need to go? Not so much. Huzzah for information!

Anyway, poking through I found a guest post by Steve Zima (a professional surfer!), “Travel to Brazil in Side Wedge Style”.

Wow, talk about pro tips for Brazilian airports — hidden gates, recycled gates, and the perils of the Brazilians’ love of shopping and how it will impact your layover time.  :D

Reading that reminded me of how much I loved the airports in New Zealand!  We visited five airports — Auckland (domestic and international terminals), Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington, and Rotorua.

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Relax! See? It actually tells you to relax as an official boarding announcement.

I could probably write a whole other post about airport tips, but I thought I’d sing the praises first.

1.  You’re in beautiful places.  Well, this is a given.  Just look out all those windows!  Airports usually have a million windows, but unlike LAX (mmm, tarmac…), you almost always have a great view.

2.  They don’t care that much about checking your ID (domestically).  Coming from the US, it’s a complete shock (and relief).  They’re an island!  Either you’re a native, and you’re a pretty known quantity, or you’re a visitor, and you’ve already come through customs in Auckland.  I’m pretty sure nobody checked our ID for any domestic flight.

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No snow, when we arrived in Queenstown…

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Oh, there’s the snow. Leaving Queenstown.

3.  FREE WIFI.  In a country of irritating poky internet speeds, tightfisted access to wifi, and hardly any free wifi… I definitely appreciated the glorious freedom to actually look at more than 8 MB at a time.  (Seriously.  A hotel we stayed at — 20 minutes per day, or 8 MB, whichever ran out first.)

As Liz of Young Adventuress said “As I understand it from my tech friends, NZ is literally at the end of the under-the-ocean-magic-internet-cable” (#6 on this post).  Yes.  It is.  And you pay for it!  Like crazy!  So be happy when you get free wifi.  (Pro tip — the Auckland airport even had free computer terminals to use, if you don’t have a mobile device!)

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Mm. Ice-blended chai, in Rotorua.

4. Pharmacies!!!  Hello, why isn’t this a thing everywhere? Like not just a few packages of painkillers and some bandaids — the bigger airports had full service pharmacies.  (Christchurch and Auckland at least, probably more.)  In a place where you’re corralled with germy people or just got released from being trapped with ’em — wouldn’t it be nice to fill a prescription immediately?  Or talk to a pharmacist?  My mom was able to chat with a pharmacist about a mouth concern and get advice, for free.

5. Self-service everything, if you want.  For people who hate waiting in lines if they don’t have to, most airports let you do everything yourself when checking in (if you’d like), including tagging your checked luggage and tossing it onto the conveyor belts!  Ahh, sweet relief.  THANK YOU AIR NEW ZEALAND!  :D

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Truly a magical place — for travelers. And airline employees getting to live out their LotR fantasies. ;D

6.  Heavenly security procedures.  Jacket on?  Who cares!  Coffee?  No problem.  I’m 90% sure they don’t check your boarding pass, either — you can hang out in the gate area if you want.  Just remember that security opens and closes in the smaller airports between flights.  (Not the end of the world, but an interesting idea.  It gives them time to reorganize between streams of travelers.)

7.  Simple public transportation.  We took buses to and from every airport, and it was pretty easy to get maps and information.  Even the tiniest airport had frequent buses running.

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Thanks, glad to be here! Approaching the Wellington airport terminal.

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Weta Workshop built Gollum and fish for the Wellington airport for the first movie — they upped the game with Gandalf’s giant eagles this year!

8. Comfy lounge areas and plenty of food for everyone.  Leaving Auckland, before you go to the gate, they have an entire area full of little loveseat couches to just sprawl on.  Christchurch had a food court bigger than half the malls in LA county.  Plus, most of the time — anyone can access the food and lounge areas, because they’re pre-security!  Three cheers for waiting with family members in comfy locations.

9.  And another given — friendly people!  Okay, everyone has an off day, but it was such a relief to go through unfamiliar places with nice people.  Just go talk to the dude in the silver Airstream selling coffee at the Auckland airport, he’s happy to explain what a “flat white” is, how the owner bought the trailers in Arizona and had them shipped, and how to get between the international and domestic terminals.  :)

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Friendly dude in the Retro Espresso trailer at the international terminal in Auckland. :D

I’m pretty sure I’ve never been less stressed in airports than when in New Zealand*!  

(* Well, except when I burned my mouth on boiling hot spinach pasty, that really killed the mood for a few days…)

Have you ever visited a nice, thoughtfully planned airport that didn’t stress you out to visit?  Any horror stories?  ;)

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Christmas tree decoration in the Auckland airport — a little birdie sitting on the national symbol, a silver fern.

Wagons North!

Alright, so we didn’t take covered wagons, but it sure felt like it at some points…

[Edited to add… in my excitement, I forgot to mention this is the beginning of our Wyoming trip.  Whoops!]

My dad’s family is quite small — my dad has one brother, and my dad’s parents were both only children.  I’m an only child, and my uncle has four children.  The last time we all got together, I was four years old, and we went to an amazing dude ranch in Montana.  Horseback riding!  Berry picking!  Hiking!  Swimming in the pond!  Swinging on a rope in the mess hall!

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Me and my cousin outside the bunk house at Cheff Ranch, Montana.

This time, they decided we had to go back to a ranch/lodge that my uncle worked at one summer in high school.  I call this a ranch very loosely — usually when you think of ranches, you think of rolling landscapes covered with scrub or grass, in valleys or plains.  This was like…mountains with baby valleys.

My mom and I are the queens of preparation — so when we looked at the website of this place, and saw it was under new management, and they didn’t respond to emails very quickly, and they were still advertising for staff positions to be filled late in spring… we braced ourselves and stopped at a gas station for peanut butter and crackers in case nothing was edible.

We were a little worried — we knew the place had no electricity, and a communal bathroom/shower (like a campground).  Boulder (WY) was the closest “town” (a gas station) at an hour and a half away.  The closest actual town with a grocery store or medical anything was Pinedale, another 20 minutes down the road.

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My dad’s mother’s family. Mid 70’s, I’d say…at a cabin in Colorado. My grandmother is in the green shirt, my dad is reading the Cosmo. ;D

The road out of Boulder turned from blacktop into a very nice dirt road (we were still able to go about 65 mph!)… but then once we turned off onto the road up the mountain toward the lodge it was 45 minutes of bumpity bumping on a one lane dirt road — gaining 2,000 feet in elevation.   We were in a minivan, others had Suburbans… I can’t even imagine how anyone with a horse trailer or cattle trailer went on that road!

…oops, let me backtrack.

My aunt, uncle, cousins, and the associated kids drove from Pennsylvania.  My grandparents drove from Arizona.  Luckily, my family flew from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City (Utah), and my grandparents picked us up and drove the rest of the way!

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I just love the bears at any Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop! This one was at the Salt Lake City airport.

I guess the flight is a popular route, but not popular enough to warrant a large plane.  I think it was even a propeller plane!  We were crammed in with a large group of performers from the Polynesian Cultural Center (in Hawaii) traveling to Salt Lake City for a conference.  Most of the guys were from the Pacific Islands originally, then moved to Hawaii.  They did dancing, fire spinning, all sorts of cool things!  I felt bad — I’m tall, but they’re built like football players — I bet the plane ride was pretty uncomfortable.

After my grandparents picked us up, we drove towards Park City and slightly beyond to stop at a restaurant my grandparents have been to in the past that they found in Sunset Magazine.

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Road Island Diner, in Oakley, Utah. (Near Park City.)

The Road Island Diner — what a cool place!  It was originally a train car, on exhibit at the 1939 NY World’s Fair, then a diner based in Rhode Island.  After carting it across the US, it was plopped in Utah and opened in 2008.  It’s all Art Deco old fashioned, and they only have one guy running it.  What a sweet guy — Irish, wears a bowtie and old fashioned soda jerk outfit, and memorizes all the orders.

I had a burger and fries and a shake — mm.  Delicious.  Don’t go if you’re counting calories!

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After lunch, we booked it as fast as we could for Wyoming.  I was pleasantly surprised by the area around Park City — very green, fluffy grass and open spaces for horse farms.  Once we got into southern Wyoming though it was …sadly, sort of dull.  I’m used to the flat desert spaces of Arizona, and this was pretty similar, except not even any mesquite trees.

The ranches and farms of the flatlands were pretty, once you started getting higher in elevation.  I could see having a house there…in the summer.  ;)

Thankfully our GPS and mapreading skills were up to par — the directions weren’t amazing, but we made it to the lodge just in time to meet up with our family and settle in to dinner.

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Next Wyoming post — exploring the cabins, lodge, and the area + food and a hike!