Sunday, August 24, 2014

::{ cinci }::

Many months ago now, Steve surprised me for my birthday by planning a getaway weekend to Cincinnati.

T'was amazing.

This was the first time that Steve and I spent time together without AJ for more than a couple hours, and after doing it, I'm wondering why it took us two years (and two months) to do something like this.  I'm pretty certain that every parent would agree that sometimes you just need a break, but I'm not sure how many parents would actually make the arrangements to plan a weekend getaway.  Steve did, and I'm so glad.  I love my kid (like, A LOT a lot), but I know that I am a better parent when I'm not exhausted, stressed, stuck in a rut, etc.  It's hard to leave a munchkin with someone else, but man oh man, after having done it for two days, I'm a firm believer in taking a little break from the kiddo to recharge the batteries and remember what life is like when an adorable toddler isn't trying to help you do the laundry by destroying your folded piles, or compliment your cooking by seeing how well the food coordinates with the linoleum and her pigtails, or give you a giant bear hug while simultaneously wiping her nose all over your shoulder as you are trying to walk out the door and go out in public.  Sometimes a break is nice, and if it's long enough, it makes you miss all those things I just mentioned so that when they happen the moment you get back, you laugh and giggle instead of sigh.

So yeah, Steve nailed the birthday surprise.  We had a blast.
It was a weekend full of food, fun, and good friends.

We love gumbo and lobster bisque, so we had to try both when we went to Pappadeaux's - a recommendation from a friend, which did NOT disappoint.


Pappadeaux's Seafood Kitchen

We hit up our favorite store in Cincinnati, Jungle Jim's, in order to stock up on all the goodies we grew accustomed to in the UK, which are not readily available in the U.S. except at stores like Jungle Jim's.  This place is awesome, as the following pictures will attest.

Steve made me include this picture.  Like I said, this store is entertaining from the parking lot through  to the check-out registers.

Inside Jungle Jim's.

Outside Jungle Jim's.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to spend an evening with our dear friends, the McKeans. These people are the epitome of good people.  They are some of the first friends we made in Columbus, and even though we were bummed that Jon's medical residency snatched them away from us, we're so glad they ended up nearby in Cinci.

Another highlight of the trip was the canoeing expedition that Steve planned on the Little Miami river.  When we were eating at Pappadeaux's, our waiter asked us if we were going "cabrewing" on the Miami when he found out what was on our agenda.

Hmmm....not quite.
[This initiated an onslaught of gerund creations loosely connected to canoeing.  =)]

Steve even planned time to stop at the Museum of Art.  Does this guy know me well or what?
Look how far we've come from our trip to the Louvre (back in 2010) when I took a picture of Steve passed out on a couch.  What a sport.

I didn't realize that Goya's Los Caprichos were in the Cinci art museum.  I won't go into details, but this was pretty cool to see in person so I wanted to remember it.

More good eats.  Lots of people told us that we had to try the mac & cheese at Keystone.
Steve had a BBQ bacon concoction, and I opted for the pesto version.  Both were delish, and we add our names to the list of those who recommend this place.

I had no idea mac & cheese could taste so good.

Ummm.....yeah.  Every city has its charm or its downright crazy character.  I think we found the latter on one of our exploratory walks.  =)
[In case you can't see what the sign says under the brownies, it reads "loaded with herbal medicine!" Yikes.]

A view of the city from a pretty overlook.

I had to document the damage from our trip to Jungle Jim's.  This stash basically represents our year abroad in '09-'10.  Crunchie bars, fruit squash, chocolate-covered digestives, and FOX mints come from the UK, the kinder bueno bars represent Austria & Germany, the waffle cookies come from Amsterdam, and the Marabou chocolate comes from Sweden.

We're addicts when it comes to any of the above (especially the Marabou bars - rich European chocolate with delicious mint flakes spread throughout.  I don't even like mint things, but I gobble this stuff up with the best of them) so it's probably good that Cinci is two hours away.

We stopped at a dairy farm on our drive back to Columbus and participated in standard Irvine  photographic "contrivation."

Cow pie ice-cream!  
It pays to buy local...this stuff was scrumptious.

We didn't have time for a round of mini-golf, but the name of the course deserved mention: Udders and Putters.

More fun from the jaunt down the Little Miami with the Mister.

Best birthday surprise ever.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

::{ Turning 30 }::

Guess who's thirty?!

It feels a little weird, but completely normal all at the same time.  Actually, it doesn't feel different at all - it's more mental at this point because I haven't started feeling the physical effects of aging aside from the malfunctioning pancreas I've dealt with for 28.5 years (and counting).

Seeing how the big 3-0 is a decent milestone to mark time, I've spent some time reflecting on both the past and the future with equal amounts of pleasure.  I loved my twenties.  They were jam-packed with opportunity and adventure, and I look back at the decade with no regrets.  That's not to say that I didn't make really stupid decisions or act in a way on any number of occasions that makes me cringe, but I've grown from those experiences and choose to dwell on the positive rather than the negative, though I've certainly had to confront and overcome the latter.  All in all, I'd say it was a pretty formative decade.  Here are some of the events that stand out in my mind as shaping me over the last ten years.  I:

-Graduated from BYU and made some remarkable friends and memories in the 6-year process.  I danced my way through the first two years, traveled my way through another year, and somehow selected Art History as my field of choice in the middle of all that.  To be completely honest, I never considered going to BYU until a few weeks before I submitted my application.  I don't think it is the world's best university in terms of academics, and it drives me crazy when people whip out the "but it's the Lord's university" card.  However, it turned out to be a great experience for many, many reasons and I will always treasure my time there - the good and the bad.

[One of my dear friends from BYU, Else Endecott.  Sure love this girl.]

-Served a mission in the Texas San Antonio Mission, aka, the mighty TSAM.  It was life-changing in both spiritual and practical ways.  God bless Texas.  Before 2006, you'd never hear me say that.

[With Pres. & Sister Larkin at a TSAM reunion.]

-Got my first job as a sales associate at GAP.  My dad teased me that a good chunk of my paycheck went right back to GAP with my expanded wardrobe (that is only partially-true).  In the end, I learned important lessons about time, hard work, money, self-discipline, and education.  I knew it wouldn't become a career (are you kidding me?  Retail management? Gap card quotas?), but it was a great first job.

[Working in retail killed my love of shopping, and I can't shop at Gap or Banana Republic anymore because after three years of getting the employee discount, I can't justify paying full price.]

-Experienced a broken heart.  This doesn't apply exclusively to relationships - there are many variations of a "broken heart," and I definitely experienced a few of them over the course of a decade.  I was on the giving and receiving end, and neither position is easy or enjoyable to be in.  These experiences were hard in the moment, but I'm grateful for all of them.  They've changed me in significant ways and I'm grateful for the feelings and lessons tied up in each one - I hope they'll be of use someday for my kids (or others) to lean upon.

[BYU Spring Performing Arts Company - it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...]

-Traveled a bit.  Whether it's a short road trip or a grand continental tour, my love of exploring new places, cultures, foods, etc. reached new levels.

[Venice circa 2010.]

-Found Steve.  This was definitely the best part of my twenties - hands down.  Our meeting, courtship, engagement, and now marriage has been preeeeeetty awesome.  Through ups and downs, sickness and health, silly mistakes and serious decisions, Steve has helped me discover my very best self.  He brings it out, and still motivates me to be even better.  I've never met anyone like him, and he's helped me discover my own potential and abilities and dreams in a way that no other person has ever done.

[The day I married I best friend.]

-Got married and immediately moved to Scotland to get a Master's degree.  Family parties?  Sunday dinners with the parentals?  Holidays without airplanes?  Built-in babysitters?  WHAT ARE THOSE THINGS?!?!  We have no idea!  Ha!  I actually consider this one of the greatest blessings I've ever received even though it may seem like we are lacking something in some way to some people.  I'm glad it's been "just us" since our wedding day.  We've certainly appreciated the help we've received  and the visits we've enjoyed at various points, but it's been remarkably special thriving as "Team Adams."  It's made us draw closer together, and at the same time we have had to step outside our comfort zone and build a network of friends, neighbors, colleagues, and co-workers that is independent of our families.  That network wouldn't be as strong if we had relatives nearby.

[Edinburgh castle during the annual Tattoo.]

-Discovered the Midwest so that Steve could get his MPA at OSU.  I remember ward members back in Bountiful being obsessed with Ohio (they're native Buckeyes) and I couldn't understand why.  Now that I live here, I totally get it.  We love Ohio.  I have no idea how long we'll be here when all is said and done, but it will be a bittersweet parting if/when we move away.

[Scioto River near downtown Columbus at dusk.]

-Managed a pregnancy.  I'm not sure when most people (please keep in mind...I grew up in Bountiful, Utah, a very conservative place) get asked by their doctor if there is a chance they are pregnant.  I was fourteen.  FOURTEEN, people!  After the initial shock of the question wore off, the deep and forever unsettling realization of why he asked that question began to sink into my psyche.  It has never gone away.  Type I Diabetes and pregnancy is serious business, and while my doc was not concerned in any way with my religion or standards in asking that question, he made certain that I knew exactly what I was getting into should that (then or ever) be the case - pregnancy, that is.  Every expectant mother is fearful of birth defects or unforeseen and often inexplicable complications happening to their child during pregnancy that they don't have any control over.  Diabetics (and others - I don't single out diabetics as the only people with issues that bring a greater chance of risks and complications) do, however, have a bit more to deal with than the usual anxieties that come with pregnancy.  A cold, elevated stress, exercise, too few or too many carbs at a meal, a bad insertion site, anything really (I'm not even joking), can throw off good control on a good day.  Once you introduce a developing human into the diabetic equation, it gets incredibly complicated and sometimes, downright scary.  People might judge me for not wanting a brood of children, but until those people have lived nine months in Type-I diabetic pregnancy mode, I simply smile and nod.  Back to my original point, I'm really grateful I managed a successful diabetic pregnancy.  Go me...and Steve...and the best OB/GYN on the planet...and the best NP on the planet from my endo practice.  They weren't kidding when they said, "It takes a village..."  I offer a hearty amen.

[The munchkin and I before she arrived.]

-Had a baby.  After my lovely rant above, I'm so grateful AJ arrived happy and healthy.  There are many people who are not able to have biological children, but desperately wish they could.  Despite the  diabetes-induced stress and paranoia, I am certainly aware of the blessing it is to be able to have a baby.  Everybody could benefit from a little more compassion and empathy from everyone else (and should return the very same) no matter their circumstance - lots of kids, a few kids, no kids, adopted kids, biological kids, foster kids, whatever.  Aside from Steve, AJ is the next best thing that happened to me in my twenties.

[I can tell this is from the sleep-deprivation stage based on my appearance, but I love AJ's face in this picture.]

-Jumped headfirst into a Ph.D. program with a 4.5 month old.  That was crazy.  It still is crazy.  But I know for a fact that if I wasn't doing it now, it would never happen and I would regret it for the rest of my life.  I know myself well enough to say that I am not one of those people who would be able to go back to school when my kids are grown up and out of the home.  No way.  It's way too demanding, and I wouldn't have the drive or the energy to get it done.  Life has never slowed down or gotten less busy as I've gotten older, so I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that it's now or never.  I'm eternally grateful to Steve for helping me accomplish my goals.  I better figure out a way to get his name included on my diploma when I graduate because this degree will be his as much as it will be mine.

[This is one of my favorite comics courtesy of Ph.D comics. =)]

With those events in my past, it's now time to move forward, and I have to admit, I'm really looking forward to my thirties.  One of my favorite people on the planet, Lana Larkin, always used to say, "Make it the best day so far."  That thought runs through my head almost every day.  And now I'm applying it to a new decade.  My twenties were great.  My thirties will be even greater.  And on and on and on...

I was intending to talk about the awesome surprise that Steve planned for my debut into a new decade, but this post is reaching novel lengths (for a blog, that is).  More on that in the next installment.

Friday, May 23, 2014

::{ travels }::

To celebrate finishing my Ph.D. coursework I decided to visit Europe.

Paris, Madrid, and a 1/2 day in Toledo, to be specific.

Last Fall I applied for an international conference in Paris that I forgot about until February when they asked me why I hadn't responded to their email about my paper proposal.  Yikes.  After discovering that their email got lost among library reminders and textbook requests, I quickly responded to the organizers, applied for some grants, then left for France about a week after the semester ended and my grades were turned in.

Since I was already going to be over there, I decided I needed to visit Spain.  I can't explain why, but for a number of years (including the year I lived in Scotland, until the last month when I had run out of travel time) I never had any desire to visit Spain.  STUPID.  So, so stupid - especially considering that I know Spanish better than German or Dutch, and certainly better than French.  Anyway, the trip to Spain was the highlight of this excursion and I hope you enjoy the pictures.  Please consider this my anti-selfie tour.  I don't like selfies and even though I took some, I still can't stand them so I'm not going to post them.  That being said, most of these pictures are people-less, and all but one or two are Kristen-less.  Even though my dad always taught me that photos are better with people, I figured something is better than nothing.

So here we go...

This is the Institut National d'histoire de l'art (INHA) building where the conference was held in Paris.  It was gorgeous, and the classrooms weren't numbered, but instead were known as the salle Giorgio Vasari, or salle Walter Benjamin, or Jullian, etc.

I walked all over the place while I was there and found this small apartment building rather aesthetically pleasing.

This family had hired a professional photographer to follow them around Paris (I don't actually know that, but it makes for a good story.  However, the photographer did have an assistant carrying around professional equipment, so I don't imagine I'm too far off).  Anyway, I loved the photos with the umbrella.  Paris in the rain was actually really pretty.

The Louvre!  It used to be one of my favorite museums...until I saw the Prado.  =)

More Louvre, from a different spot.

Inside the Louvre near the inverted pyramid.  Since I didn't have people to photograph, I had to try and do other fun things with lighting and angles.

This room contains the Marie de Medici cycle by Rubens (completed in the 1620s) - political propaganda at its greatest.  The French hated Marie - she was an Italian foreigner who married Henry IV so Rubens had his work cut out for him to please the patron while not patronizing the rest of the country - a brilliant artist and a cunning diplomat.

This is a modello for the Triumph of the Eucharist tapestry series that I've been working on for a few years now.  Rubens made a modello for each of the twenty tapestry designs that ended up in a convent in Madrid.  For a sense of scale, the modello is about 2'x3'.

This is what kills me about the Louvre.  Well, not the Louvre, but more the people that go to the Louvre.  Do you see the picture hanging in the middle of the wall on the bottom row near the man in the blue shirt and the woman standing with her back to the wall?  That is a hugely famous painting by Titian, a hugely famous Italian Renaissance artist.  NOBODY IS PAYING ANY ATTENTION TO IT!  Do you want to know why?

Because on the other side of that wall is the Mona Lisa, which everyone flocks to while ignoring everything else nearby.  I took pictures of people taking pictures because it cracks me up every time.  The Mona Lisa is against the wall that you can't see here, but the two figures on the far left are the museum guards protecting the painting and keeping the chaos to a minimum.  As soon as people take their photos (from quite a distance), they walk around the wall leading into the space in the picture above, and walk right past the Titian.

The steps leading up to Montmartre...

Which leads to one of my very favorite places in Paris - Painter's Square!  It's a little square that is tucked away in Montmartre, but it's a short walk (right around the corner, really) from the Sacre Coeur basilica.  Painters used to come out and set up their easels where they would paint outdoors, and you could buy their canvases on the spot.  It's changed quite a bit since I first visited this little spot, and now it's mostly caricature artists who feed on the tourists.  It's still really pretty and fun though.

One of the cafes near the main square.  I take hoards of photos of scenes like this, because in the back of my mind I'm always transforming these scenes into paintings.  I'll get around to painting again after I graduate...maybe.

Sacre Coeur basilica that dominates Montmartre.

And here we have Notre Dame cathedral.  The puddles from the rain made for some really fun photographs.  People gave me a few looks when they saw me pointing my camera at the ground, but they got over it when they figured out why I was doing it.

I took a bunch of pictures of Notre Dame for Steve since it's one of his favorite buildings in Paris.

From across the Seine as the sun was setting.

Most of the bridges along the Seine are covered with locks like this.  It reminded me of Cinque Terre.

Inside Notre Dame.

And now we move on to Spain...

I hunkered down and spent 7 HOURS inside the Museo del Prado.
Holy moly - it is AmAZinG!  Words simply don't do it justice, and sadly, no photographs are allowed inside the museum, even without a flash.  Que triste!  Had I not nearly passed out from standing, walking, writing, and staring so long at all the amazing paintings in this museum, I would have stayed even longer.  The best part was that I made it to the Prado after I went to see the Convent of the Descalzas Reales (where the Rubens tapestries reside), and in the Prado they had a special temporary exhibition on the Triumph of the Eucharist series, with an awesome display of the modelli and tapestries together (4 tapestries and 6 modelli).  I was in heaven.

The figure in the statue is Velazquez.  The Prado's equivalent to the Louvre's Mona Lisa is Velazquez's Las Meninas.  I realize that I'm completely biased, but Las Meninas is so much cooler than the Mona Lisa!  Ahhhh!  I'm obsessed with the Prado.

Another entrance to the museum.

I went on a day trip to Toledo and decided to climb to the top of the bell tower in the Toledo Cathedral.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Who knows when I'll be back in Toledo so I figured it was now or never.

The flying buttresses.  I love flying buttresses.  They're a dead giveaway that you're looking at Gothic architecture as opposed to Romanesque, and they're just so beautiful!

I don't usually get good photos of stained-glass windows, but this one actually turned out pretty well with the angle and lighting.  This is inside the Toledo Cathedral.  I was mesmerized by the windows as well as the stone tracery.

My next painting....after I graduate.  =)  I love this photo.  It perfectly captures the streets of Toledo - they're narrow, colorful, and you can easily get lost as you wander through the streets and wind your way through the city.

This gateway is near the Alcazar on calle de Miguel de Cervantes.
So yes, you guessed it, that's a statue of Mr. Cervantes himself, welcoming you to Toledo.

The view of Toledo as you approach it from the train station.  Pretty fabulous.

After I got back to Madrid after visiting Toledo, I took a quick spin through the Reina Sophia museum in order to see Picasso's Guernica.  No photos are allowed in that portion of the museum, but as I was quickly strolling through the rest of the museum (modern art isn't really my thing), I came upon this work by Michelangelo Pistoletto.

I wrote a paper on Pistoletto's mirror paintings (this image is one of many in his series of mirror paintings), and thought I needed to pay homage to the semester I grappled with the concept of the tableau with a photo.  It's not actually a mirror, but highly polished steel, onto which he then applied a silk-screened easel and canvas.  I enjoyed working on these mirror paintings because my interests lie in illusion, engagement with the spectator, and the manipulation of space, so Pistoletto gave me a lot to work with and think about.

I made a quick trip out to the Madrid LDS temple, and even though I didn't have time to do any work inside, I'm still glad I got to see it.  I've always thought it was a really beautiful temple from pictures I've seen and it's nice to understand where the pictures I've seen of it were taken from, etc.

Not sure how I lucked out with such awesome skies and lighting, but I'm glad to have some nice photos from this whirlwind trip to Spain.

On my last day in Madrid, my host (I stayed with a fellow student's mother who lives in Madrid and let me crash at her place for three days) showed me around some of the scenic spots in the city, including the Buen Retiro Park.

The Glass Palace inside the park.

The other picture from the trip with me in it.  =)  Felisa asked if I wanted a photo so I took her up on her offer.  This is of the puerta de Alcala, near the main entrance to the Buen Retiro park.

This is the National bank of Spain, and they are currently hanging the banners of the two soccer teams that are competing for the title.

This is inside the last of the three museums I visited in Madrid, the Thyssen Bornemisza collection.  There were some great works that I wanted to see, but above all, I was dying to see this work by Jan van Eyck - the Annunciation diptych.  JvE is usually credited with the development of oil painting, which resulted in remarkable illusionistic effects.  There is a long tradition of a paragone, or competition between the arts - especially between painting and sculpture - and as you can see here, painting trumps all.  It is "schijn sonder zijn," or semblance without being.  The extraordinary effects of the oil paint medium allow it to appear as sculpture, like what you see here in this illusory grisaille imagery.  And these are not big works - each panel that you see (one with Gabriel and the other with Mary) is about 12" high and 5" wide.


A view of a portion of Puerta del Sol.  It's the central hub of the city - a lively place filled with tourists, vendors, street artists, cafes, etc.  It was fun to walk through, but it wasn't my favorite place in Madrid to be honest.

Back in Paris, this is the Hotel de Ville - the main government building in the city.  I met up with a friend from school and we had lunch together at a nearby cafe.  It was fabulous being with a native for a couple hours.  =)

When Steve and I were in Paris in 2010, it was January and it was freezing cold.  As a consquence, St. Chapelle was closed, which was really a bummer because I was excited to show this place to Steve - it's another favorite place of mine.  So the following pictures were taken to give Steve a taste of what we missed, and what I hope we'll get to visit on a future trip to Paris.

Three of the four walls of this small chapel (built by Louis IX in the 13th century) are covered in stained-glass windows.  It was built to hold two famous relics that Louis IX purchased, and which together cost more than the chapel's construction.  The chapel functioned as a reliquary itself with all of the amazing stained-glass windows.

Each window (there are 15 in total inside the chapel) is read from left to right and from bottom to top and relates stories from the Bible stemming from the book of Genesis up through Christ's resurrection.  My favorite panel is the one seen on the right side of this photograph (the camera doesn't do the colors justice, especially seen from a distance - amazing oranges and purples and reds stand out), which relates stories from Ezekiel.

I saw this flower market near the Cite metro stop after leaving St. Chapelle and had no choice but to take some photos. =)

The last thing I did in Paris before coming home was visiting Pere Lachaise cemetery.  I was staying nearby the cemetery, and wanted to check it out before I left the city.  I didn't take the time to find all of the graves of famous artists, composers, writers, etc. (think Chopin, Delacroix, Balzac, Oscar Wilde), but I enjoyed wandering through the streets, most of which looked similar to this.

I promise I'm not the only weirdo who really likes cemeteries.  There were a good number of people reading books on benches (myself included for a good chunk of my time there), walking with strollers, laying out on a blanket on the grass, and exploring the graves.

After a slight fiasco getting back to Columbus - I spent an extra night in Canada thanks to a delayed-flight-resulting-in-missing-my-connecting-flight situation - I was welcomed home by Steve, the Bug, and my oldest brother, Scott, who is staying with us for a week to attend a convention for work.

We're glad to have him here....and yes, he's already addicted to Jeni's ice-cream just like the rest of us!