The Shaefers visit Nashville!

Susie, Luke, Bridget and Michael were patient enough to sit through epic construction traffic just to come see me in Nashville!  We had such a great time!

Michael is such a trooper!  The Shaefer kiddos are great road-trippers!P1010350Dinner at Calypso Cafe and we got to see the banner that the kids of St. Ann’s Episcopal made!

What a loong day in the car!  Zzzzzzz!

Gooood Morning!!!  Wait… somebody’s still sleeping?!?!


After a great sleep – Big sister gets little brother ready for breakfast!


We hiked up to the top of the pedestrian bridge to see if we could see any boats.  Nope.  But we did spot Cumberland park!  Let’s Go!P1010353

We had to take the LED elevator down to playground.P1010355SWEET!!!  There’s a waterfall under the bridge and a bunch of little jets of water that shoot up!  FuN!


Oh yeah!  Michael is TOTALLY loving this!  P1010364

Bridget spies a climbing wall and net!  Cumberland Park is awesome!P1010363

Come on, Michael!

He’s doing it!  Through the water fall!P1010372

He did IT!P1010371

What’s the best way to celebrate a fun time at Cumberland Park?  JENI’S ICE CREAM!P1010391

This girl is going to be a Kindergardener this fall!  Can you even believe it?P1010408

NAP TIME!!!!  (Bed head!)



B & I hung out in the GIANT CHAIR!
P1010461We spotted butterflies in the garden!  (Can you spot the Swallow Tail?)


Michael liked the colorful peppers.P1010436

The log cabin in the Nature Play area was fun.


Time for dinner at the LOVELESS CAFE!


Fresh biscuits and homemade jam while we make up our minds about what to eat for dinner!P1010487

It rained and thundered on the way home- then off to bed!  The next morning, B practices rolling up her sleeping mat.  She’s such a good (indoor) camping buddy!


Michael had a bit of a ceiling fan obsession… although in this photo he looks like he’s having a religious experience.  Luke looks so proud.
P1010502Bye guys!  It was SO fun to have you visit!


Love you, Shaefer Family!






Redneck Riviera: Florida isn’t just for retirees and Disney fanatics.

Summer camp is done.  All the post-camp meetings are finished.  Time to take a road trip! photo 2-6 I figured that I should take advantage of my current latitude and enjoy a weekend at the beach!  When I asked Laura if she’d like to road trip with me, she said ,”Yes! Let’s go to the Gulf coast, Florida!  They call it the Redneck Riviera!”  The Redneck Riviera!?!?  Was that supposed to be a selling point?  I had only been to Florida once… when I was 14 and our family went to Disney.  It was an amazing trip but it firmly cemented a stereotype in my mind – Florida was full of retirees, Daytona Beach bikers and Disney fanatics.  (I’m pretty sure these stock photo retirees are on their way to Disney.)impact1 Laura insisted that the panhandle was the best part of FL (besides the Keys!) and I’d be a fool not to drive down there with her.   It took up seven hours of our Friday, but it was worth it!  Highlights include: a rest stop with a real rocket ship, cows asleep in the shade, a CAMP license plate, pop up campers that looked like Hershey kisses, self-service ice houses and chocolate-covered graham crackers from Cracker Barrel! P1010160 P1010159

photo 1-7We stocked up on supplies and visors at Publix, then headed to St. Andrew’s State Park to set up camp!  Nice sites! P1010256             Once we were settled, we made grilled cheese, grabbed the kite and headed down to the beach to catch the sunset! P1010203 There was a pirate ship that cruised the shoreline.  We saw it again the next day, ‘firing’ its canons.P1010206 There was a neat Great Blue Heron just chilling on the beach.  We sat 20 ft away from him for almost an hour as the setting sun lit up the clouds.P1010216 The pier at St. Andrew’s State Park. P1010226   There was a nice breeze and it didn’t get too hot in the tent.  The next morning, Laura cooked up some breakfast, eggs and sausage.  (The palm-like underbrush gave the park a very tropical vibe.) P1010254 We decided to pay $20 to take a boat over to ‘Shell Island’ for the day.  Just finding out how to do that was quite the task since the brochure offered very little info… like where you buy tickets.  It took us 2 tries.P1010258 We learned there is no shade, no bathrooms & no services on Shell Island.  The ticket sale girls told us to pee in the ocean, that’s what the fish do!  Um, ok…  We had picked up a discarded umbrella from the beach the night before.  Off we go, the shuttle leaves every 30 minutes. P1010259 After 10 minutes wading through the sugar sand, we arrived at the beach!  (We were really glad we had decided not to bring along the cooler!)  This is a photo of the people flocking to the Ice Cream Boat!P1010260 There was plenty of empty beach to claim- so we found a spot and set up our free umbrella.  Ahhh…P1010263 Laura had thought to bring goggles for both of us, so we swam down along the break wall to where the little tropical fish hang out in the rocks.  Then, we had ‘snack lunch’ and took the kite for a walk.P1010282   We spent six hours living the beach life on Shell Island, then headed back to camp.  Being at the beach all day had made us hungry for FISH TACOS!  We spotted this cute little place, right on the water.P1010284 The fish tacos were pretty mediocre (cheddar cheese?!? Really?) but the view and the onion rings were on point!P1010287 We decided to risk it and try to make it back to the beach for sunset again… but we just missed it. P1010300 Luckily, Laura is a marine-animal-magnet and she spotted a HUGE sting ray from the pier AND this adorable little turtle, chasing his dinner!  He swam along under the pilings, entertaining us with his cuteness, but it was getting too dark to get a clear photo. P1010298 We had to buy ice for the cooler, so of course we stopped by “EVERYTHING A DOLLAR” on the way.  The lady who works there makes hot glue ‘sculptures’.  Laura thought her sunglasses tan made her look like that cute little owl, so she bought him! photo 4-4 Sunday morning, we made friend egg sandwiches (Brilliant!) and tea, then packed up camp to drive to Destin.  The 2 state parks we had originally wanted to stay in are there, Topsail and Henderson.  As we drove between Panama City Beach & Destin, there were an intense number of giant hotels between the road and the beach.  A bit of a bummer, but they also had lots of public access points to make sure you could get to the 1-5 Lunch that day was donuts.  The Krueller was magical.  The Key Lime Pie donut was perfection.  The cream filled Long John was so sweet it made our teeth hurt.  Luckily, Laura had a half gallon of milk in the cooler. photo 2-7   We  stopped in Destin to get some caffeine to combat our OMG-we-ate-donuts-for-lunch sugar crash.  There is a big board walk with zip lines, airbrush stops and people coming in from fishing trips.  So many fish.   Look!  I found a pirate ship!photo 2-5   It was time to head home, but first- let’s get some more ice for the cooler!  This photo was taken 2 seconds before 20 lbs of ice plummeted into the cooler.  Luckily, I thought to take the eggs out before loading up. photo 1-4   We drove and drove… and we were still in Alabama when I remembered that it was 8pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner!  Tragedy! (Remember what we had for lunch?  Geesh.)  Like a food beacon, we saw a WAFFLE HOUSE at the next exit!  Our waitress, Trouble tolerated my request for UNsweetened tea and suggested the marinated chicken breast with hash browns.  It was 4-3   Thanks, Laura!  What an awesome trip.  That won’t be the last time I visit the Florida Panhandle. P1010283

Celebrations: Americana style, Netherlands style


The wonderful and well-traveled Natasja came to Nashville to stay with me for the first week of July 2014.  Natasja and I met in S. Africa in 2008, we hit it off so we adjusted our travels to scuba and surf together.

673_101479000787_9697_n 1898_105077040787_3025_n In September 2013, Mom, Dad & I spent 3 days with her in Prague!

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-406-AM.jpgShe came to Nashville via New York, where she had spent 4 weeks at a yoga farm in Woodstock, learning how to teach Sivanada yoga.

10502149_10152269070983877_2373131883078282818_nI went to pick her up at the airport on Sunday night and Monday we had breakfast at Sky Blue Cafe.  Across the street there was an adorable house with a white picket fence and an insane amount of flowers!


Then we hit up Kroger and headed out to Opry Mills Mall.  We bought $15 Gap jeans, shoes and matching $3 patriotic Flag shirts.

That night we tried to eat at the vegetarian restaurant, Wild Cow, but got there just before they closed.  We went across the street to Rosepepper and Natasja got a vegan burrito and was super happy.

July 1st: (Happy Birthday Jessie!)  Today we went to a little boutique called, OMG with 300 lbs of gold glitter lacquered into their floor.  Then we mailed Jessie’s birthday package and headed down to Hillsboro Village.  We went to Pangea and bought cat postcards and to BookManBookWoman and bought nothing.  At 4pm we saw our first movie at the Belcourt!  It opened in 1925 to show silent movies, then was briefly the home of the Grand Ole Opry!  Afterwards, we head to Wild Cow again… and it was closed on Tuesday.  Pfft.  Calypso Cafe was a great replacement!

20140702_122946_Richtone(HDR)July 2nd: THE BEST DAY EVER!  We canoed the Piney with Paul and Laura!  N & I stopped at Mitchell’s Deli and bought everyone a yummy sandwich.  (They were as delicious as Zingerman’s but half the price!)  Then we picked up Laura and Paul and headed East.  It’s still amazes me that 45 minutes outside of Nashville, everything is all backwoods and pick-up trucks.


20140702_171325 Our canoe outfitters were great: Pinewood Camp & Canoe.  The gave us this cool canoe with a toking rabbit.

20140702_123219_Richtone(HDR)It was a perfect paddle: quiet river, all to ourselves.  A green heron followed us along the river.  It was 83 degrees and we stopped to swim. Ahhhhhh.












We had gotten dropped off and paddled back to camp- when we got there we found a rope swing!  Paul and I went off of it 4 times.  Super fun!


We stopped at M.L.Rose for veggie burgers (& 2 for 1 beers!) after our paddle and met this awesome person: our waitress, Meridyth!  She spent 3 months in Cambodia and was hilarious.  Obviously, we’re buds now.


Since none of us wanted this super day to end, we walked Paul’s dog, Neepa and got shakes at Bobby’s.  It was 10pm before we headed home.  Best Tuesday on record.

July 3rd: We made oatmeal & headed out to Sri Ganesha- a Hindu temple that I drive by on my way to work.

IMG_7639We arrived while the priests were doing a ceremony.  We took our shoes off, entered the temple and inside there was a giant room with many small shrines to Hindu gods along the wall.  In the center, there was a 10×20 room with a giant statues of Ganesha.  The priests chanted as they made offerings of fruit to the elephant-headed god.  They rang bells for a long time and wafted incense over the offerings.  When the short ceremony was over, they passed the plate around and brought you back fruit from the altar commensurate with your donation.  Natasja and I each got a banana.

There were ladies sitting on the floor, threading fresh flowers into leis to purchase for the statues in the shrines.  There were little kids running around and fliers for senior’s activities.  The temple had a very family-oriented vibe, like church.  We thanked them and headed off.

Next, we headed to Warner Parks so Natasja could see where I had been spending the summer.  We met the lovely ladies at the Nature Center, prepped some crafts at the Field Station and walked around a bit.  Then it was time to find dinner!  Paul had a fantastic vegetarian suggestion, Woodlands Indian Restaurant!

Natasja was thrilled that Woodlands was all vegetarians, since it’s pretty hard to tell if ‘stews’ contain meat until it’s too late. We shared Thali- Chai tea & rice pudding.10527305_10152276429838877_296938232793117789_n

Then we raced off to the Ryman for one of the Bluegrass nights: Yonder Mountain String Band!  They had 2 special guests: Sam Bush and Alli Krall.  Alli sang ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton and RAGED on the fiddle.  I wanted her to play Dolly’s songs all night.  Yonder was great but they were prone to long ‘solos’ for each player… during EVERY SONG.  Natasja discovered that she’s not really into ‘jam bands’.10450530_10152276857968877_1084731628425221884_nWhile we were listening to Yonder at the Mother Church of Bluegrass, MOM & DAD arrived and made themselves at home.  We cruised Honky Tonk row after the show, so they were asleep by the time we got home.

57578_10152276860558877_8768768425272158152_o 10492462_10152276861393877_8156770494169857809_n

You may notice the police officers in the background… Natasja was entertained by their golf carts.  They must have been bored, later they were shining their flashlights on Natasja & giggling when I took her photo.


July 4th: HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, AMERICA!  I had planned a day jam-packed with patriotism, so we made breakfast and headed down to a little neighborhood that has been putting on a 4th of July celebration for 38 years!  They start with a what they called a ‘children’s parade’, even though each child had at least 2 adult escorts… so it was more like a ‘parent’s parade’.


We took our dish-to-pass to the food tent & found our seats for the reading of the Declaration of Independence!

Can’t you just hear this couple’s conversation?

“Alan!  Alan!?!  You’re going to miss the symphony, Alan!” “Martha… I’m right behind you.”IMG_7668

Dad is looking super-happy because of all the free hot dogs.10478149_10152278330468877_5500900182724045057_n

After the symphony finished their Sousa marches, it was time for the pot-luck!  YUMMMMM!!!


This is the most patriotic pie I’ve ever seen!  And it was Natasja’s favorite: Rhubarb-Strawberry!




After we pulled ourselves away from the festivities, we stopped at Centennial park. Did you know that the largest train fatality in the US happened in Nashville in 1918 on “Dutchman’s Curve”?!?!

Well, now you do.

IMG_7738 IMG_7729

IMG_7756Then we head to Hillsboro to have Las Paletas popsicles- they are handmade in 30+ flavors!  Mom & I had Mexican Caramel, made with goat’s milk!  Dad had lime.  N had banana, dipped in Olive & Sinclair chocolate.  We were all tuckered out from the festivities and head back home to nap.  We had dinner at Tenn16 (Dad wondered why his chicken & waffles had so much syrup on the chicken…)  Mom & I shared some awesome meatloaf.  We couldn’t linger, we had to make it downtown for the fireworks!  Luckily, Laura & Won had been holding some prime viewing real-estate for us!  We were still wearing our patriotic matching outfits!

10486781_10152278330678877_305175584603433856_nThe 10 minute drive to downtown took 45 minutes… but when we got there- it was totally worth it!


The show was the 2nd, only to NYC’s this year!  The thing that made it really over the top was the Nashville symphony- they were playing music, synchronized with the blasts!  Too bad they didn’t have louder speakers.  While we waited for the traffic to clear, we checked out Won’s house, that used to be a bank.  He turned his 3 story vault into a library, using shelves from the bankrupt Border’s Books.

IMG_7847 IMG_7850

This is where you make deposits! And photobombs!IMG_7856

There is a theatre upstairs!  And a ballroom!IMG_7868

Laura's bank house



July 5th: Breakfast at home, then off to Olive & Sinclair for a chocolate tour!IMG_7880Mom and Natasja look fabulous in their hairnets!   Roasting Beans. Even the chocolate grinder is patriotic.




IMG_7886IMG_7874Then, off for burgers and Mint-Oreo shakes at Bobby’s and a stop at Antique Archeology, which is the shop from the History Channel show, American Pickers.  There was a long line and it was boring.  Don’t bother.



It was WORLD CUP time!  Off to a patio pub to watch the Netherlands vs. Costa Rica!

10487308_10152279967668877_9124329047859517929_nIt was 0-0 at the end of the game… so on to penalty kicks!  HUP, Holland, HUP!  AND THEY WON!!!



To celebrate the end of a successful visit, we toast with tiny mustache glasses full of Limoncello, sent as a gift by Natasja’s handsome Italian cousin, Silvio.  It’s too bad this epic week is over!  I miss you, Natasja!  Ciao, Bella!IMG_7925IMG_7926







July 6th: Mom and Dad headed home after breakfast, taking their, “newest & tallest daughter” with them.IMG_7933

I was sad to see them go, but N got to see the new house in progress AND my baby photos.  So it was worth it.  Natasja-  I can’t wait to figure out where in the world we will meet up next!!!


Meeting G’ma Sip’s Cousins

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

We woke up in Klato and Elena made us omelets + liquor for breakfast, toured a neighbor’s garden and had mushroom soup (made by Michael’s mother, Hana).   Mushroom Soup

Every time we left a relative’s house, we got presents- usually it included alcohol!  (See below: my bell + apron!)

Elena's kitchen

On our way out of town, we stopped in Nedanovce (a tiny town a few miles away from Klato) to plan a visit for the following week with another set of relatives.


(Zdenka & Marie: The sisters are 80 & 85 year old cousins of his mother!)  It was a pretty old-timey way to set up appointments.  They sure were surprised to see us!

Hana’s summer cottage is in Neda Nofsa and she took us over to the cemetery to visit dead relatives.

CemeteryLovas Grave IMG_0794

We headed back to our Slovak ‘home base’- NITRA- It’s a mid-sized college town where dad is friends with a Lutheran priest called Pastor Ivan.  We settled in at the Penzion Vila Aria and made plans to drive across the country the next day.  Luckily, in Slovakia it will only take us 4-5 hours.  🙂


September 23

In the morning, a tiny, hummingbird of a woman, Anka, made us omelets for breakfast and forced me to take a pile of salami for the road.  She didn’t speak any English, but she was very concerned that I might go hungry.  This often happened to me in Slovakia… I guess I just have that look about me. ; )

ANKE at the Aira

Before we begin our cross-country trip we pop over set up a visit with “Young Jan” who also lives in Nitra.  Dad knew where Jan lived, so we stopped over- but no one was home.  We called Jan’s cell phone and he answered but the connection was bad… until he stepped out onto the front porch!  HEY!!!!

After setting up a visit for the 30th, we start our journey to Poprad, at the foothills of the Tatra Mountains.


The Agricultural Fair in Klato Nova Ves

Michael cheers DadWhen I last left you, we were just leaving the VINOTEKA – where we tasted BURCIAK (wine’s sweeter/younger/cloudier cousin) and gave the chandelier the ‘Ultimate Test’.  We headed towards Alena’s school through the grounds of an abandoned mansion- the family had collected ‘exotic’ trees that we recognized from Michigan!  Species like Black Walnut, Ponderosa Pines and Sycamore trees!Klato MansionThe Mansion was owned by the mayor and in 1901 his wife started a school in a spare room.  Now, Alena is the principal of that school, on the same property.  Today is the Agricultural fair and all the kids have brought their biggest vegetables/fruits to school to win ribbons.

Outside of the school, Veronica was gathering seeds for her garden.Nika picks seedsInside the school, the ballroom was lined with folding tables heaped full of the bounty of the backyard gardens of  the town of Klato Nova Ves.  It was pretty impressive!

The spoils of Nature

The school kids recreated the town with cardboard box houses, decorated with seeds  and leaves.

Klato recreated

This is the cutest Leaf-Fox I’ve ever seen.  Good job, Anetka!Leaf Fox

Mom found a BIG pumpkin and a basket of gourds!

Big PumpkinThere was also an entertaining table of door prizes – our favorite was a gift basket of wine, paired with a first-aid kit!  Just incase you injure yourself in a drunken stupor.  We headed out an hour later and stopped to admire the fountain in the ‘Nameste’ (Town square).

Klato fountain

Then, we head back to Alena’s house for leftovers! We’d spent 1/2 the day, wandering through this tiny town!  As we made our way home, these hearty geese chased us across their yard… eventually, I should post videos- these guys were SO NOISY!

Klato Geese

Slepacia, Slivovecia and wood-fired pork knee! Oh my!


We arrive at Alena's house just before noon and lunch smells fantastic!


Meals are long and boozy when we are hosted by our Slovakian relatives. Every course begins with a shot of local liqueur called Slivovica, served in a fancy cut glass. Whoa! Mom & I play along- knocking back our shots and shouting, “Nastrovia!!!” Dad has learned that he can opt out of most celebratory drinking with a single word, “Chauffeur”, since the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.0%. Slovakians take drunk driving very seriously… probably because they take their drinking very seriously!


*Upon closer review of this photo- this is breakfast. Omelets and shots = Yowza!

The first course is always Slepacia. Homemade, delicious chicken soup with delicate handmade noodle (if you're lucky). Alena had ordered focaccia with bacon from the bakery and I had to pace myself- everything was so delicious but there was more to follow.

Then, the pork knee arrived at the table, wood fired and full of flavor. (Did we have veggies?) There is a little plate of cut veggies & pickles- just like at G'mas house.


We sat for a while after dinner- Michael in the center of multiple conversations- and then dessert arrives on the table. Kolache! Dad's favorite kind of Slovak cake is a roll with walnut paste inside. There is also a poppy seed version that is very popular. G'ma Sip used to make both varieties. Two & 1/2 hours after lunch began & its time for a walk… Or a nap. We opt for the guided tour of Klato.

In such a small village, the principal attracts attention wherever she goes. We stop to talk to kids & parents as we head up the hill to the cemetery.Alena and her students

One of the older women we pass offers us handfuls of walnuts that she has collected.Walnuts

In the cemetery, we visit Alena's mother's grave, Stephania who passed away 3 months ago and clear the leaves off her grave and light a candle for her. In Slovakia, everyone takes care of their own family's grave – one family was there doing some landscaping with white quartz rocks.


The town of Klato is so small that they do not have a church- the chapel in the cemetery holds services on Saturdays, when the priest from the next-town-over is available.

Klato chapel

We stopped in side to ogle the paintings on the ceiling and making sure our number wasn't up…

Now serving

Jesus is now serving number 888.

After leaving the cemetery, we make the logical next stop… the VINOTEKA!!!

On Tap

Slovakians grows lots of grapes and many of them make their own wine. This guy built a bar in his basement and it's awesome! He is also a metalsmith and really went all-out decorating the bar in a manly fashion.


The owner really wanted to put up this sweet chandelier and then his wife pointed out that tipsy patrons may try to swing on it. So, he re-installed it to support up to 250 lbs. In the photo, Veronica + Michael are giving it 'the ultimate test'. It seems to be holding up!


Did you notice the pitcher of cloudy 'wine' in the photo of all the taps on the wall? No? Well, it may have been your introduction to BURCIAK- its midway between grape juice and wine. A lot of the sugar hasn't fermented into alcohol yet, so it's sweet yet gives you a buzz. And since we had WALKED there, Dad's usual excuse did not apply. This photo cracks me up!

The tour of Klato wasn't over, next we head over to Alena's school to check out the Agricultural Fair! We'll save that excitement for next time!


Leaving Prague… if our car isn’t impounded!

Wednesday, September 18th

Recap: It's 4pm – Natasja just left us at the Ameriky Bar and we took Dad back to start his nap.


Mom & I head over to the Metro and make our way to Prague Castle.

On the way to the tram, we pass this lovely fountain- landscaped with curly kale!

Momma and the cutest curly kale.

Then, it starts to rain. Again. Mom kept saying that the rain made the cobblestones look so pretty.

What do you think? (That's me, trying not to fall down on the slippery cobblestone.)

Ok- back to our trip to the castle… the Guinness Book of Records lists Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. It is basically a walled city with a huge cathedral in the center of it. In fact, it doesn't really look like a classic 'castle' but there are guards posted at every entrance.

Mom really enjoyed the view- those red roofs are her favorite. You might notice the cloud cover is thick.

The only benefit of the rain was that we got to see the downspouts on the cathedral do their thing.
There were some pretty neat building in the castle compound.
What a pretty city! We got back to the hostel @ 7pm to wake Dad up and take him to dinner!

Photo Copyright: © OUR PLACE, The World Heritage Collection

We had a traditional Czech dinner (which turns out to be very similar to a Slovak dinner) of meat & gravy, boiled potatoes and dumpling- which are a steamed bread, sliced. It looks something like this…

This is also where we discovered the magic of Medovnik- a layered honey cake! Yum!!! No photo, but you can check out the recipe & a pix, here:

We also had a yummy Czech beer, so now we're tuckered out! Plus, we have to pack up & get leave Prague

in the morning!

Thursday, September 19th-

Good-bye, Prague! The Sipkovsky's are off to explore Slovakia!

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Not so fast! Remember how we had to put the rental car in the parking garage when the parents arrived? Well… It turns out that we royally messed that one up! We knew to park in the underground structure of the Ibis hotel, next door. We were not staying at the Ibis, so we parked in the green area marked, VISITOR. Easy, right? The green area had some parking spaced roped off, like they had just been painted, so we drove past those and a huge steel door slid open and there were open spots! Great! Let's park here!

Upon our return, the door that had magically slid open for us was LOCKED! No answer from the intercom box, either. We headed upstairs & the hotel desk clerk informed us that the green area was for the law firm next door… they moved their offices 2 years ago. She could not help us- besides, we might have been towed already!!! EXCUSE ME?

Freak out time!!! Dad kept his cool & we left Mom to wait with our luggage while we tried to get our car back. There was another hotel that shared the garage & when we told them our sad story they called in a guy with a walkie-talkie. Making no promises about whether our car was still there or not, he followed us down to the inpenetrable steel door. The intercom worked for him! After a lively conversation in Czech where he explained that the American 'tourists' had created a 'problem' with their 'auto', THE DOOR OPENED! Deep breath…. and our car was STILL THERE!!! Apparently, the other cars we saw in that area belonged to the construction workers who were renovating the old law firm. We were so relieved! We paid the $60 parking fee ($30/day) and high tailed it out of that crazy city! (Dad has sworn never to return. That means Budapest too, so don't even ask if he'll go there!)

Whew. Now we can all relax. Road trips are totally our thing!


Getting the information to the people. (Or how I ended up working at the fair.)

Info Adrienne

Last week I spent four days working the info booth at the San Juan County Fair. This is my story.

*Disclaimer* Things happen to me in round-a-bout ways, derived from me talking to so-in-so about people we know and what they're up to now-a-days. Therefore, the only people that maybe interested in the details of how I ended up working at a 4-H fair on an island in the Pacific NW may be the YMCA Camp Jewell staffers from the Paul Kamin Era. For the rest of you: I worked with somebody at camp and now she runs the fair. Short Version.

Longer Version: When my sister was here we had intended to head out to Orcas and spend a few days with Ethna Flanagan – but she was camping and so after I dropped Jessie off in Seattle, I booked it to Anacortes and hopped a ferry to Orcas Island. Ethna and I were catching up and she mentioned that a fellow Jeweller, Maddie Ovenell, was running the fair this year and she could pass along a good word for me since they were FB friends. I filled out an application, sent it in and Maddie wrote right back! I was in! Maddie did Nature's Classroom and trips AND our years/friends overlap but for the life of us we can't recall meeting each other! All this talk of camp is making me want a 2 lb eclair from the Colebrook store… but I digress.

Working the fair was a bit like all my memories from our 4-H fair growing up, combined with summer camp- the staff all had radios, matching t-shirts and ran around all day solving problems to make sure everyone was having fun. Then we'd sit in the office each night sharing funny stories from the day.
It was nice. Except for the rain.

This fair had 'normal' things like 4-H kids showing livestock and cotton candy & carnival rides and then it had some 'quirky' things like the Zucchini races. (Every gardner knows that zucchinis are super easy to grow but harder to get rid of- so they started making derby cars out of the abundance of fruit and the Zucchini 500 was born!) The fair feels a bit like a block party- with each house in charge of an event; 4-H kids holding their chickens at the start of the chicken races, fashion shows where all the outfits are made with recycling or the guy who hauls his old 6mm projector out of storage to show movies in the backyard.

Chicken Whispererwpid-Photo-Aug-23-2013-1015-PM.jpg

I loved/was terrified by the carnival rides. They were beautiful in that nostalgic way- the glittery cars full of nervous teenagers, spinning and screaming and laughing. They were terrifying because they looked like antiques and I wandered through the fairway willing them to hold together for just a few more nights.

carnival rideZipper line

Merry go round

I spent 9-10 hours a day sitting in my tent, watching the people stream by- on their way to see if they won a ribbon or to watch the frisbee show put on by a group of rescued collies. I love people watching. People are so interesting. And beautiful and unique and silly. I got to answer lots of questions (Where is the ATM? The bathrooms? What time do the chickens races?) and also spent some time wandering the fairgrounds, soaking up the memories.

Holiday Jumps Heather PearlJen's Shirt booth

This is Jen- she is the head of the Fair board, designed the official fair logo and ran her own t-shirt booth. She is very talented/tired.

Call Ducks

Meet Mr. & Mrs. Duck- they are Call Ducks- the cutest little birds! In the olden days they were used as live decoys!

Black Stallion

I loved watching the 4-H kids showing off their animals. They were nervous, but you could see them processing what they learned and trying so hard to do their best. What great practice for life!

There was also epic cuteness happening at the fair. Baby Pygmy goats!!!


I loved being at the fair! I had as much fun as a baby in a pile of bubbles!


Shawarma Sisters in Seattle

Where did we leave off… Jessie & Adrienne had hit Multnomah Falls, Hood River and Portland on Thurs/Friday~ then they were off to Mt. Saint Helens on Saturday! Next, the sisters cruise into Seattle for an ethnic eating adventure! Due to the kindness of Friends (Becca P!) we have a place to crash in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

And Jessie is craving food that she can't get in the Vail Valley- so the first night we find a Vietnamese restaurant and feast on a huge bowl of Pho (soup) and spring rolls! Yum! We're off to a good start!

Sunday we make ourselves breakfast (and discover that the eggs left in the fridge were hard boiled. Oops!)

Then we head off for our tour of the Theo Chocolate factory! It was $7 and is HIGHLY recommended! They source their beans personally and then ship them to their factory- so they are a Bean-to-Bar facility! So cool to see the whole process PLUS we got to eat a LOT of chocolate. 🙂 My personal favorite was the Vanilla Cacao Nib and Jessie loved the Chai tea bar. None of it was bad. So we bought all of it.

We headed out the door and wandered into the Sunday market! It was a optical extravaganza of amazing booths! We spent oodles of time staring at the amazing ($15) flower arrangements grown on a local farm, checking out rocks & amber and chatting to a guy who was bending wire into animals as he spoke to us.

If we had an extra $70 we would have bought Jessie a wire picture entitled, “Mermaid Bubbles” that depicted an adorable, farting mermaid. Perfect. We picked through tables of Russian pins, embroidered name badges and vintage costume jewelry, then took a break for some garlic Naan. Yum. We could have stayed all day! It was one of the most interesting markets we'd ever seen but we eventually had to leave – and go see Ballard Locks!

Ballard Locks

The boats have been coming in and out of these locks since 1917- and people still stand there and watch it happen. If you walk past the locks you can go under the surface and watch the salmon on their migration through the ladder.

That night we found SHAWARMA KING! We had lamb shawarma with saffron rice, hummus and falafel. Heavenly! Plus the owner was cooking in an open kitchen and we looked over and he was experimenting with an olive calzone-ish appetizer and he gave it to us because he couldn't eat until sundown!

Monday Jessie + I drove up to Anacortes to go on a whale watching trip… the Sipkovsky family has a bad luck with whale watching. And that streak continues! We had perfect weather and a lovely crew but we just couldn't find a whale anywhere! Not even in Canadian waters! 😦 I hope you enjoyed these nice pictures of water. Because water is what we saw.

Island WaveSunshine Sailboat

Sip Sistas are not daunted by a lack of whales & so Tuesday we got lost driving to Lake Union and then accidentally got onto a highway express lane and had to take a time out in the parking lot @ the Space Needle.

Jessie rerouted us to Pikes Place, where we enjoyed a yummy lunch @ a place called, Sisters. Then we ate yummy Russian pastries for dessert & made our 2nd attempt to find Lake Union. Success!!!

There were 3 tourist-filled Duck Boats (buses that drive into water) tooling around, being sprayed by water cannon on the front of a police boat full of kids in ponchos. Then they had to open the drawbridge to let a giant scientific vessel through…I think it was name Melvin. It was definitely a nerdy name that started with an M, anyway. Lastly, there were SEA PLANES taking off & landing against the backdrop of the Seattle skyline! All of this action wouldn't distract Jessie from her houseboats! She loves them & as she was checking out other people's plants, she was divising ways to keep people from looking in the windows of Her future houseboat.

After nap time, it was dinner time! Off to eat @ an El Salvadorean restaurant- Tiko Riko! Super yummy tamales, pupusas & plantain fries! Plus there were 3 sauces! “Oooh sauces”, says Jessie. We head home to watch 'Wanderlust' and snuggle with the Saber-tooth kitty-cat. Ferocious!!!

Wednesday Jessie has to fly home 😦

We wash the sheets & clean up like good little house guests and then head out to Shawarma King to grab Jessie some airport lunch. So good! Those things that Jessie says look like fried intestines with chocolate drizzles are spectacularly sweet walnut baklava! Yuuum. I give Jessie a big hug & head off for my next adventure, Orcas Island! Love you, Sista!


My sister hitched a ride to Umatilla.

I had been asking Jessie when she was coming to visit me in Portland ALL SUMMER. She's my favorite travel partner.

Jessie Relaxes

She and I have the best time adventuring together because she lets me do all the planning and as long as I include enough naps, she just goes with the flow. It really works for us . (For a recap, check out our 2009 “Sister Soiree” aka. 3 weeks in Belize & Guatemala.)

Soooo, I was uber thrilled when she called up on a Monday and asked, “What are you doing starting Thursday?” Luckily, I had nothing on the docket and on drove for 3 hours along the Columbia river to pick up Jessie in Umatilla. She had hitched a ride with Troy & Bugs who were on their way to the Gorge to spend the weekend watching Phish. Yay! Sister adventure begins!

Thursday afternoon Jessie & I headed back towards Portland and made a few stops

1- Hood River (beer/alpaca petting/Rainier cherries @ the farmer's market) 2- Multnomah Falls/Vista House

Multnomah Falls

Shadow Dance

Shadow Sisters at Vista House!

Friday morning Jessie + I met Emily for breakfast at SHUT UP AND EAT. Awesome homemade English muffins and awesome name.


Then we had a beer @ a hat store, Emily helped Jessie buy an outfit for Timmy's wedding and we headed to the Powell's-~ the biggest, most awesome bookstore in the country!

Then we got on I-5 and headed north towards Mt. Saint Helen's! I hadn't made a reservation at a campground and we pulled in as the Camp Host was locking the front gate!At 9pm! Whaaa! Luckily, there was a cancelation and we set up camp on Yale Lake.

Saturday morning we packed up and headed to Two Forests- where the lava incinerated the trees but left tree-shaped tunnels we could climb through.

Tree Tunnel

Ape Caves- we did the short tunnel (2 mile round trip) and then headed off to LAVA CANYON, which was an awesome hike with a suspension bridge, a waterfall and (eventually) some awesome views of Mt. Saint Helen's.

What's a rock like you doing in a place like this?


Then we headed off to Seattle- next post tomorrow!