Germany and Austria Trip 2017 Part 2: Castles

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:14 am on Sunday, September 17, 2017

While in Fussen, Germany, we visited Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles, which were the homes of Mad King Ludwig. The history is fascinating. It’s well worth the side trip to see these castles, which were built in the 1870s. Personally, I liked Hohenschwangau better. You learn more about Ludwig’s family and it’s more leisurely and interesting. They kind of rush you through Neuschwanstein.

Here’s a tip for visiting the castles: You will have to take a 40-minute walk up a mountain to get to Neuschwanstein Castle. It’s quite a hike, although my 5-year-old was able to do it. There are horse-drawn carriages that go up the hill, which may be a better option, especially if you have trouble walking. Either way, you have to factor going up the hill and back down into your visiting time, so make sure you think about that when planning your trip.

(Also, reserve tickets online or get there first thing in the morning. The tours sell out fast.)

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Hey, it’s Neuschwanstein on a hill!

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And there’s Hohenschwangau. Let’s go there first.

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Hohenschwangau is fantastic.

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Look at the views!

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And this lion statue.

Too bad they wouldn’t let us take pictures inside. Oh well time for a break.

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Let’s eat a schneeball, a snowball, which is really a donut ball.

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Aw, those horses are kissing.
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Now for a walk up the Alps.

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That was hard, but here we are. Up close, Neuschwanstein is less fairytale, more scary fortress.

Too bad we couldn’t take pictures inside. Oh well.

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Here’s another view with Hohenschwangau in the distance.

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And the countryside. Time to hurry down the mountain so we can catch our bus. Thanks, castles.

Next up, Salzburg.

Germany and Austria Trip 2017 Part 1: Germany

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 3:41 pm on Thursday, September 14, 2017

This summer we went to Germany and Austria for vacation. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. It was also really long, so I’ll split it up in a few posts and try to touch upon the highlights. First up, general Germany. We went to Munich, Fussen, and Andechs. While there, we:

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Went to many beer halls.

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Looked at the scenery.

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Ate sausages, especially weisswurst:

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Walked around towns.

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Looked at art.

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Sat in meadows.

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Admired the Alps.

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Wore out our son.

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Visited a 900-year-old monastery, where we also drank enormous beers:

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In short, Germany was great.

Next up, castles!

Sequoia National Park

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 11:37 am on Thursday, May 18, 2017

This has been a busy year so far. I planted a garden, went on many hikes, watched Laura Marling perform, saw a parade, and attended a lobster and rose tasting, where I eavesdropped on rich people arguing about servicing their Audis. I learned that an Audi oil change costs $100, but the service agreement is $700, so if you’re only going to keep the car for three years, it’s better to pay for the oil change out of pocket. However, the other rich people argued, what if your Audi is a lemon? Then you could be out thousands. What then, huh?

I also took several small trips. I went to Monterey, visited the snow in Tahoe, and wrote in a cabin in the redwoods. But the best thing we did was take a spontaneous trip to Sequoia National Park.

I mistakenly thought that sequoias looked like coastal redwoods. Not at all. They are orange, for one thing. Their bark is flat, scratchy, and brittle and spongy at the same time. Imagine a bunch of giant orange trees on top of a huge granite mountain, and that’s Sequoia National Park. Pictures:
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Kyle by sequoias

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Looking up at one of the trees.

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We came upon this cute family holding hands around the tree.

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General Sherman, one of the biggest trees in the world.

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Ranger holding up a pine cone

We also climbed to the top of this:

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That’s Morro Rock. There was a staircase going up to the top. It looked like this:

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Here are some views from the top:

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Gideon also climbed the rock. I was proud of him. Here we are as a family, at the top. This was right at the moment Gideon started acting squirrely and scared us by flopping around.

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No one died.

Goodbye 2016, Which Wasn’t So Bad For Me

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 12:37 pm on Tuesday, December 27, 2016

There’s no arguing that 2016 was a terrible year for the nation as a whole, so I feel almost guilty saying that it was a great year for me personally. Almost every month was full of exciting, fun, or interesting events, and the year felt very full and rich for us.

Sorry.

I mean, 2016 was the year I went up in a hot air balloon. How can I think it was all that bad?

Work went well this year. I attended two artist residencies, completed a draft of a new novel, studied with Paul Harding, was a finalist in a novel contest, spoke on the radio in Ireland and Australia, and published some of my best work so far. Here are my favorite publications from 2016:

We traveled a lot this year. We took a 3,000-mile RV trip to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and Vancouver. Kyle spoke at a computer security conference in Amsterdam, and I took smaller trips to LA, Humboldt County, and Monterey. I also went to Cuttyhunk Island Writer’s Residency and to Wildacres in North Carolina, which was a wonderful experience.


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Is it just me, or are double rainbows becoming more common? I saw at least 10 this year. The best was a full double rainbow that ended in a Montana lake. I’m not sure why this is happening, but I like it.

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I spent a lot of time in nature this year, in the redwoods and the Blue Ridge Mountains, on boats and islands, beside glaciers, in national parks, and near my home in Sonoma County. As such, I had many close encounters with wildlife. I saw a bear, buffalo, elk, big-horned sheep, a bald eagle, two tiny screech owls, a weird spider, deer, chipmunk, and many other creatures.

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Look! A Baby Buffalo!

In 2016, Kyle and I worked at home full time and Gideon attended preschool. He’s starting to read and write. We remodeled our kitchen and added two more chickens to our flock, bringing it to a total of four. I got pretty good at baking bread, but of course my husband one-upped me and made croissants. I went mushroom foraging too, although I’m pretty terrible at it. (Don’t worry, I won’t poison myself.)

As usual, I planted a big garden. I discovered that ground cherries are prolific and delicious and that glass gem corn is disappointing, but makes good popcorn. My mulberry tree continue to be the most delightful plant ever. I killed thousands of box elder bugs—no exaggeration—and they still ate all my nectarines, and a raccoon or fox or skunk ate most of my figs.

Next year, I’m going to be more protective of my fruit.

There you go. A New Year’s resolution.

Happy 2017!

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Merry Christmas 2016

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:32 am on Sunday, December 25, 2016

May Christmas uplift your spirits and bring you peace and love.

Kitchen Is Done!

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 2:36 pm on Monday, December 19, 2016

We have successfully remodeled our kitchen.

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This is something we’ve wanted to do for nine years, since moving into this house in 2007.

Here’s what the kitchen used to look like:

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As you can see, the kitchen that came with the house was probably 50 years old. It was dingy and needed to go.

I mentioned in this post how difficult it is to tear out your kitchen and put another one in. At one point, the kitchen looked like this.

We had people install the cabinets and counters, but we did everything else, including painting, plumbing, electricity, and tiling the backsplash behind the stove.

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One day in an antique store we ran into a vintage tile mural of Don Quixote fighting a windmill. It was hand-painted from Spain. I knew right away I wanted it for behind the stove.

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Up close:

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Now the house is 90% remodeled.

Nine. Years. Later.

Whew.

Yellowstone National Park Part 2

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 7:36 am on Thursday, December 15, 2016

Here’s more from our trip to Yellowstone National Park. See Part 1 Here.

Yellowstone is the Earth’s largest active geyser field.

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We’ve all heard of Old Faithful Geyser, but it is one of hundreds of geysers in Yellowstone. There are so many that the landscape steams with them.

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It rained for part of our trip, so many of my geyser pictures didn’t turn out, but they are quite a sight. Some look like the mouth of a dragon. Some look like bubbling mud puddles. Some shoot water hundreds of feet into the air.

My favorite was the Grand Prismatic Spring. Here’s a picture of it from the air:

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Because of the fall weather, we didn’t see that version of Grand Prismatic Spring, but what we did see was fascinating. The colors in the spring are caused by heat-loving bacteria. As such, each area is a different color and pattern, often reminding me of stained glass.

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I have to stop myself from posting more pictures. I mean, the mud looked like this.

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And this.

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I would definitely go back to Yellowstone. We barely scratched the surface of what there is to see there.

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Ominous witch cloud bringing the rain.

Today I’m 40 Years Old

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 10:50 am on Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It’s weird–Awful? Irritating?–to say that I’m 40 today.

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Eh, what are you going to do?

Yellowstone National Park Part 1

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 11:31 am on Tuesday, December 13, 2016

In October, Kyle, Gideon, and I went on an RV trip. We rented a Cruise America RV and drove over 3,000 miles through Nevada, Idaho, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Glacier National Park in Montana, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Portland, Oregon. Here’s the route:

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The RV looked like this:

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We covered a lot of the country, but the highlight of the trip was Yellowstone.

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For one thing, the park has the best wildlife viewing I’ve ever experienced. On this trip, we saw buffalo, elk, coyotes, antelopes, deer, chipmunks, bald eagles, and big horn sheep. Most of these were in Yellowstone.

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At one point, a huge herd of buffalo crossed the road right in front of us. The bulls sounded like bears growling.

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Speaking of bears, there were signs of them everywhere. For example, these claw marks:

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Yellowstone has a varied landscape that includes forests, waterfalls, plains, a huge lake, and even its own Grand Canyon.

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Because of all the volcanic activity, the earth was all kinds of cool colors, red, pink, yellow, orange.

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The fall foliage was colorful too.

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And of course there were the geysers. PART 2 HERE.

Wildacres Writing Residency

Filed under: Personal — Administrator at 9:00 am on Friday, October 28, 2016

In September, I attended a writing residency at Wildacres Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a terrific experience. I can’t say enough about Wildacres and the people who run it. They help all kinds of artists by giving them the gift of time and peace to work, which is valuable and important work.

For my residency, I got to stay in a cabin and write for a week. There was no Internet, cell phone, or distractions. I wasn’t sure if I would like that. I imagined being lonely and restless, but I was delighted to find that I’m a natural hermit. In fact, half the time I didn’t even leave the cabin to go to meals. (Don’t worry–I stopped at a grocery store on the way there.)

Here’s the outside of the cabin:

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The inside had a full kitchen, a king-sized bed, and a table where I spent most of my time working:

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I also worked on the deck until I figured out that North Carolina bugs really like to bite me.

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It was inspiring to be in a forest, especially since my book is set in a forest. I saw so many animals while there. I saw a bear, first of all. (I was in my car.) I saw a doe and a fawn. I saw tiny owls, butterflies that looked like fall leaves, lizards with blue tails, and the strangest spider ever, the Arrowshaped Micrathena.

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The Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most beautiful places in the United States and I plan to keep going back. While at Wildacre, I took tons of pictures of the Blue Ridge Parkway, all while singing this song to myself.

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