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  • skywatcher 4:57 pm on October 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Massage Therapy #14/52 

    Good news – I went on another job interview, and they were interested! A very small company, but I was willing to take the risk.

    Bad news…they contacted my current boss for a reference without having offered me the position and then ended up hiring someone else.  But wait…how did this come about?

    Scene 1:  My boss comes to me early this week and says, “So tell me about this new job!”  I squirm and equivocate.

    Scene 2: I receive a forwarded email from my boss that was sent from the prospective employer.  In it, he notes that they have decided to hire another candidate.  &!!#$@!? Un-be-lievable.

    Needless to say, I ended the week in a fairly stressed-out frame of mind.   To celebrate my birthday (yes – an eventful week) I had booked my first massage.  Good timing.

    It was, in a word, delicious.  I’ve been knotted up for most of my life!  Although it was sometimes a little uncomfortable, it really worked the kinks out.  Bliss!  There will be more of these…

    Having oozed down the street to a local coffee house, I sit here relaxed and full of biscotti and Darjeeling.   In true Scarlett O’Hara fashion, I’ll leave damage control until “tomorrow.”

  • skywatcher 8:30 pm on September 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Memorize Poetry #10/52; Vegan Cake #11/52; Scones…and the Beach #12/52 & #13/52 

    The following “adventures” pale in comparison to those of others, but they made me feel that I had tried something new, and for me, that is a large part of my adventure quest.  (I am wondering, though, why so many of my exploits seem to involve food?!?)

    Memorize Poetry #10/52

    While playing in the stream on my camping trip,  lines from this poem kept running through my mind; I decided that Wordsworth’s “The Word Is Too Much With Us” would be an apt poem to memorize.  And I did!

    Vegan Cake  #11/52

    My daughter wasn’t very helpful about what kind of cake she wanted for her 17th birthday.  She’s a runner, and all she would say is, “something healthy.”  Well, you can only go so far with healthy when it comes to cakes, but I did find a fantastic vegan chocolate cake recipe.  Dress it up with chocolate glaze and organic raspberries…yum!

    Blueberry Scones  #12

    I love baking (and eating) scones and have tried all kinds:  oatmeal (with and without raisins), cranberry-orange, cinnamon, and blueberry…aah, the blueberry.  Let’s face it: when I’ve made blueberry scones, the dough has turned blue as soon as I folded in the blueberries.  So I determined to try a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated…a pain-in-the-arse recipe, as it turned out.

    The technique worked fairly well:  I did not have blue dough.  The key was to press the blueberries into the dough,  fold the whole conglomeration into a rectangle, and finally, cut triangular scones.  The pain-in-the-arse part had to do with grating frozen butter and then keeping everything cold until just before the dough was kneaded and formed into scones.  The end result was a little too sweet for my taste, but I think that’s more a matter of personal preference; i.e., whether you like a “biscuit” vs a “cake” scone.

    At any rate, they looked pretty, and they disappeared quickly enough…

    The Beach  #13

    Why is it that men seem so much less self-conscious about their bodies than women?  I spent a few days at the beach recently, and there were plenty of men matter-of-factly applying sunscreen to their beer guts (while drinking yet more beer).  At the same time, the women were a little more reluctant to expose themselves – and I felt uber-critical about my own appearance!

    Here’s where the adventure comes in – simply a matter of screwing up my courage.  I wore a (string!) bikini in public for the first time in many, many years and found that it wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated.  In fact, I felt okay – no Demi Moore, but no one recoiled in horror or shielded his eyes.   No photos available – I’m brave, not crazy! 🙂

  • skywatcher 12:10 pm on July 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Camping #9/52 

    This I have learned about backpacking:  it costs a fair amount of money to be able to live primitively!  I had a decent tent and hiking boots, but everything else had to be evaluated in terms of traveling light…whew!  I had already established a route – a trail I had visited before as a day hike.  The campsite I remembered was about six miles in, tucked into a grove of trees and bordered by a wide but shallow stream.  And I would be spending the night on a Sunday, which meant my chances of getting the preferred site were good.

    The friend who had agreed to go with me backed out at the last minute (nice), but I determined to go anyway.  I left about 1 pm, carrying 1 1/2 liters of water; temperatures were in the 90’s.  Not a great day to be packing it in, but I made it; after about three hours, camp was set up and I’d taken a dip in the stream.  (In retrospect, I didn’t need the tent fly, but thunder early in the afternoon had caused me to err on the side of caution.  You just never know…)

    The water purifier is a genius invention – I had refilled all of my water bottles within 15 minutes of arriving at camp, and it tasted just fine.  Dinner was reconstituted mac and cheese (not bad!) and hot tea…yes, the temps were sweltering, but I find a cup of tea to be very calming.

    So…what does one do after dinner in the middle of the woods?  After hanging my bear bag (containing all food), I spent most of the time wandering around the stream, cooling off and playing with the fish.  Spending time in nature is like detox for the soul.

    Once the sun started setting, I put on my headlamp and settled in for a little reading; I was too tired to stay up very late, though.  Sounds of the night?  Bullfrogs, breeze in the trees, and a whippoorwill – which I hadn’t heard since I was a kid!  I had hoped to hear owls, but I guess you can’t have everything.

    I broke camp by 7:30 the next morning, planning to make it back out before the heat really set in again (it had stayed relatively sweltering all night).  The trek back felt harder…oh, my aching limbs!

    I’ve already talked with another (more dependable) friend about a longer trip before the summer’s out, so we’ll see what happens.  I can’t wait to do it again!

  • skywatcher 7:23 pm on June 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Earth Mother meets Italy #8/52 

    Several of the adventures on my list have nothing to do with risk or excitement – they’re just about trying something new.  Today I made my own laundry soap (and will find out in a couple of days how well it works!).  If anyone else is interested, I found super easy instructions at The Simple Dollar.  The nice thing is that I refilled plastic detergent jugs, so that’s a little less packaging to go into the landfill!

    While I was in the make-it-yourself mode (and looking at the basil plants on my back deck), I decided not only to make fresh pesto, but to try my hand at making fettuccine from scratch.  No pasta machine?  No problem!  I rolled the dough out and used a pizza cutter to cut the noodles; then I hung the pasta over a couple of plastic coat hangers to dry.  I have to say that dinner was a success – especially after adding a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio!

    • eatveggiesdrinkwine 8:18 pm on June 24, 2010 Permalink

      Great adventures! I’m interested to hear if your laundry soap is effective. I like the “try something new” adventure category myself.

    • blueskiesinva 4:16 pm on July 3, 2010 Permalink

      I’ve now used the laundry soap on several loads, and it works just as well as store-bought – in my opinion, better. The clothes seem fresher, and it isn’t from artificial fragrance…maybe the borax? Two thumbs up!

  • skywatcher 7:52 pm on June 13, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Double Play: #6/52 & #7/52 

    Habitat for Humanity #6/52

    I stopped by Habitat for Humanity’s “Women Build” display earlier this year, when I was looking for opportunities to volunteer in a meaningful way.  During Memorial Day weekend, I was able to join a crew of other women in working on a quadriplex; my part involved helping install windows and window trim.  I was also able to assist the crew foreman in marking chalk lines for the siding.  We began the day before 9 am and worked through until about 2 pm…at which time there was a birthday party for one of the volunteers.  Obviously, I picked a good day to work!

    I already knew how to use a hammer, of course, but the nail gun – now that’s power!  (And kind of fun…they nearly had to pry it out of my hands! ) While I was working on windows, other crews worked on framing.

    I’ll be back this week to help put siding on the house, and I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ve met a couple of the partner families, as well as some wonderful women, and it makes me feel good to be giving back to the community.  Thanks to this website for prodding/encouraging me to get involved with something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

    Job Interview  #7/52

    Well, I did it:  first in-person job interview of the year.  This is a public forum, so I won’t go into details other than to say that I applied on a whim for a position traditionally held by a male.  The interview went well, and although another candidate was ultimately chosen, I’m glad for the experience.  The fact that I was even called for an interview makes me more optimistic about the future.  I’ll keep plugging away!

    • yearof52adventures 4:10 pm on June 14, 2010 Permalink

      I have always wanted to do this! Annnnnd I suppose I will now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • skywatcher 7:55 pm on May 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bald eagle   

    Eagle’s Nest #5/52 

    I happened upon this adventure by a stroke of luck…

    While talking with a friend a few weeks ago, he told me about an eagle’s nest and promised, “Once the babies are bigger, [my wife and I] will show you.  If the nest is bothered when they’re too young, the parents will abandon them.”

    So.  This week I met them for the big visit, and we made our way across a field to a creek bed at the edge of the woods.

    I’m not sure what the eagle prerequisites are for real estate, but this pair had set up house at the top of a very scraggly pine tree.  Although large, the nest was not easy to find; you had to know where to look.  Once I was pointed in the right direction, I pulled out binoculars and was able to see a large black bird sitting in the nest:  Baby!  The adult eagles were nowhere to be seen.

    We moved west of the woods line so that we could get a closer look – and by “closer,” I mean that we were still a good 150 feet away.  This, however, was too close for Mama and Papa, who arrived out of nowhere.

    I can’t describe what I felt in seeing two bald eagles soaring overhead.  I was, and still am, awestruck.  They moved fast, and I had to anticipate their flight path in order to see them with the binoculars.  As I gave myself vertigo trying to follow them in the sky, my friend – a wonderful photographer – snapped frame after frame with his camera.  The eagle pair made “clicking” sounds and then resorted to a cry resembling that of a gull.  Clearly, they were upset and trying to chase us off… although my friends surmised that the adults may just be trying to ascertain whether they could “pick off the small one” (that would be me!)  Meanwhile, back at the nest, Junior knew his parents had returned and sat with his mouth open, waiting.  We didn’t stay much longer.

    As we crossed the creek and headed back uphill, the adult eagles followed us overhead to make sure we were leaving.  By the time we neared the road, they had returned to the woods.

    I’ve seen hawks, of course, and ospreys while kayaking – a Great Horned Owl even lives nearby – but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a bald eagle in its natural habitat.

    • yearof52adventures 4:07 pm on May 24, 2010 Permalink

      what an amazing and opportune adventure!

    • faolan01 4:45 pm on May 24, 2010 Permalink

      wow, that sounds great! the picture is beautiful, is it one of the ones that your friend took?

    • blueskiesinva 6:36 pm on May 24, 2010 Permalink

      Yes – he’s an incredible photographer, isn’t he?!

  • skywatcher 6:52 pm on May 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , dog adoption, puppy   

    Canine Commitment #4/52 

    Okay, so this adventure wasn’t on the partial list that I made public in my first post, but it’s something I’d been thinking about for quite a while.  The time was right, opportunity presented itself, and…yes, I adopted a puppy from the SPCA!

    Our nine-week-old addition is slowly but surely becoming acclimated, and I’m becoming used to having a “baby” in the house again – although I could do without these midnight trips to the backyard :-\  Lots of plans for my future hiking/camping buddy!

    • faolan01 4:41 pm on May 18, 2010 Permalink

      SO cute! Good luck with your new adventure buddy!

    • yearof52adventures 11:17 pm on May 18, 2010 Permalink

      What an adventure! He is adorable! Thank you for going to the SPCA, too!

    • Holly 11:25 am on June 4, 2010 Permalink

      Puppies are fun and the waking up doesn’t last forever. I’ve been fostering two puppies for a local shelter the last three weeks and I don’t know if I’ll be able to give them up. The reason I took them is after finding this website and realized that life is too short. Sometimes you have to be spontaneous and just do it. And it doesn’t matter what that is. I think we all really do regret the things we haven’t done.

    • blueskiesinva 1:53 pm on June 13, 2010 Permalink

      Update on my “little girl”: she’s an early waker (sigh) but she keeps her crate dry. A very sweet girl, and she went for her first swim yesterday – jumped in the lake and loved it! That’s my little retriever : )

  • skywatcher 9:26 pm on May 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Nelson Rocks, Via Ferrata   

    Via Ferrata – #3/52 

    The alarm went off on Saturday morning at 6 am, and I was excited.  A friend had told me about the Via Ferrata at Nelson Rocks Preserve in WV, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.  My excursion planned for the prior weekend had been postponed because of predicted thunderstorms; apparently, it isn’t a good idea to be attached to a steel cable with lightning in the vicinity.  Go figure.  At any rate, I pulled the kayak off the top of my car, stopped for coffee and Kashi bars, and headed west.

    The Via Ferrata is a mountain climbing route relying on permanently installed steel cables; the climber is attached to this cable by harness and caribiners at all times, meaning that people like me, with little or no climbing experience, can complete the course in “relative” safety.  Still, if one slips, the drop can be from 5- to 10-feet…ouch!  Here’s a shot of the vertical ascent; the steel rungs in the face of the mountain are just visible:

    I arrived at a small reception building just as a climbing group was about to head out.  At that point, I was dismayed to learn that my scheduled hike had been postponed again…but no one had called to let me know.  Luck was with me, however; I was able to tag along with a group of four NYC adventurers visiting West Virginia for the sole purpose of climbing throughout their weekend.  I couldn’t have picked more enjoyable people to share the experience!

    Our guide gave us a safety talk at the base of the Via Ferrata and told us how to safely clip and unclip from the steel cable.  It felt very awkward in the beginning, but as the climb progressed, we all became more comfortable (and ambidextrous) with the skill.

    The experience was intense, and I found it to be both a physical and mental challenge.   As I returned my climbing gear, I felt a real sense of accomplishment – as if I’d joined an elite cadre of non-chickens.  Yes, there was a rush in taking a physical risk (and in the wind gusts that reached 30 mph); I’m sure that was part of the draw for me.  But how can something like that not leave its mark?  If I can climb the vertical face of a mountain, I can deal with pretty much anything life throws at me.  It was definitely an excellent adventure; I’ll be back for more.

    • yearof52adventures 10:05 am on May 12, 2010 Permalink

      Intense is an understatement! The wind gusts alone are extra spicy! This looks like so much fun. Congrats on undertaking such a difficult adventure!

    • faolan01 12:20 pm on May 12, 2010 Permalink

      Awesome! How high is the climb? Is it a one-day trip or a full weekend adventure? That’s great that you were able to join up with a group of fun strangers for this!

    • inkstainedangel 8:22 pm on May 12, 2010 Permalink

      Wow! That sounds amazing! I really can’t wait to get some rock-climbing done of my own, this just intensified my anticipation!

    • mary chris moore 9:15 am on May 13, 2010 Permalink

      Just wanted to share that I work for the Via Ferrata at Nelson Rocks Preserve and caught this thread as a Google Alert. Glad to hear the experience was enjoyable (despite a few initial glitches). We welcome anyone who is interested to come try it! It truly is a unique, thrilling and memorable experience and we are starting plans to have a Canopy Tour installed by this fall at the same location. You will be able to choose to do a treetop to treetop zip line back down to the start, or do the mile hike back down on foot. Ages 13 and older. By reservation only. We are in the process of getting our booking system online and electronic to help facilitate reservations and response time and we are trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. Any suggestions for appropriate/well-read publications for advertising would be appreciated!

    • jeindeer 1:07 pm on May 13, 2010 Permalink

      Wow, that is really adventurous even amongst the adventures! Congratulations!

    • blueskiesinva 9:59 pm on May 13, 2010 Permalink

      A zip line? Awesome! The Via Ferrata is only 2 1/2 hours away from me, so I’m definitely planning to return! Hope I gave an accurate representation; I tagged it on purpose : )

    • June 5:13 am on June 2, 2010 Permalink

      (testing message board)

    • June 5:24 am on June 2, 2010 Permalink

      I stumbled upon this site a month ago but never took the time to post, so now, here are several adventures I have completed and one I am in the midst of:

      1. Adventure #1 – Eating a MRE

      I had been curious about the Meals Ready-to-Eat (or MRE’s) used by the military and wondered what they were all about. I’ve occasionally seen them offered for sale and thought that keeping a few on hand in my emergency cabinet might be a good thing to do. At a group yard sale this weekend the marine-looking guy next to me was selling a few, so I went ahead and made a purchase of 8, for a dollar each.

      The heavy duty plastic packet was about the size of a squished loaf of bread, slightly heavier, and evidently contained several other smaller packets in it. I selected one marked “boneless pork chops” and opened the outer plastic bag to discover the remainder of the contents. There was a plastic packet marked “pound cake” that was flattened to the size of a large cookie and infused with calories totaling 280, a “vegetable cracker” slightly flatter than the cake, a packet the size of a pocket comb marked “cheese spread with jalapenos” (my eyes caught some bold print on this proclaiming it was “FORTIFIED.”) There was a box about the size of a thin pocket novel labeled “spiced apples,” another box of the same size marked “pork chop, chunked and formed, with Jamaican style seasoning and noodles.” The two remaining packets received my closest scrutiny.

      The condiment packet contained a heavy duty brown spoon, instant coffee, powdered creamer, sugar, instant lemon/lime drink mix, salt, a wet wipe, a small packet of toilet paper, and a teeny tiny glass bottle of tabasco sauce! The final packet was a chemical heater that could be activated with water. The directions instructed me to open the top of the plastic bag containing the heater, slide the plastic meat packet into this bag, fill water to a marked line, and finally placed the entire thing back into the pork chop box and wait for 15 minutes. I added the water and the packet began to bubble and then get hot. I stepped aside and allowed the chemical reaction to take place away from my delicate skin and eyes. After the 15 minutes were up, I removed the hot food packet and recalled that I once read somewhere that the remaining heat packet might be utilized by a person trying to get warm.

      The “pork chops” reminded me of canned pet food both in looks and perceived taste. (The following day my digestive system reminded me that the remainder of MREs should be reserved for only life or death situations.) In a nutshell, the cracker was good but the cheese had a strange texture; the spiced apples and cake both tasted good but were too high of calories for the average person; and the other items I didn’t feel the need to sample.

      Am I glad I did this, and what did I learn?

      Yes, I’m glad I tried this because it made me feel more capable of fending for myself, more empathetic of those who have to actually eat these things on a regular basis, and better educated about something I had a curiosity about.

    • yearof52adventures 9:52 am on June 3, 2010 Permalink

      June, feel free to join the group and post your adventures to the site as they surface. If you want to become an author, sign up for a free wordpress account and email me, Kimberlyhula@gmail.com to let me know!

      So happy to have you!

  • skywatcher 10:13 pm on May 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

    New Places, New People #2/52 

    The word “adventure” has gotten me thinking lately – and I’m a great one for over analyzing.  The word seems ubiquitous on the Internet, and I wonder why.  What is it we’re all after?  I’ll admit I’m a little bored with my life right now – it’s too settled and too predictable.  It isn’t that I’m not thankful for all that I have (two fantastic teenagers, nice home, stable income, etc.), but it just isn’t…enough.  What’s important to me right now  is to seek out new experiences…shake things up…step outside my comfort zone.  I don’t necessarily need to make waves with every adventure – but I can sure as heck make some ripples.

    Which leads me to last weekend.  Without going into a lot of detail, I’ll say that I took a my longest bike ride ever on a new route. It was not without its challenges (which included a big black dog named “Rambo” – but let’s not go there!)  I will also say that the lovely hills of the Virginia Piedmont seem a lot more scenic when one is riding down.

    The following morning, I joined a group of total strangers on a Habitat for Humanity fund-raising hike.  The trail was beautiful and the people I met were fantastic.  (Meeting new people is definitely at the top of my list of adventures; I don’t know how, as an introvert, I can crave social contact so much, but that seems to be the way it is!)  Finally, I took my kayak out on a lake I’d never visited before.  It was very windy but sunny and warm…and I’ll confess that I spent more time aimlessly floating around than I did paddling!

    Exciting? Not really…but what a great weekend!

  • skywatcher 9:02 pm on April 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , soapmaking   

    Adventure #1/52: The Smell of Lavender 

    I love, love, love the scent of lavender.  I even tried to grow it, but my Black Thumb is so much hardier than any plant.  There was no question about the fragrance I would choose in my initial soap-making attempt.

    The first – and possibly most challenging – step was to find the Martha Stewart Holiday magazine that I bought (okay, I admit it) 3 1/2 years ago.  While looking for the instructions, I came across a recipe for limoncello.  Umm…but I digress.

    The needed supplies were already in a basement cabinet, purchased…well, you can probably figure that out; I’ve wanted to try this for a long time.  The process was really quite simple:  cut the amount of glycerin desired off the block, and then chop it up into tiny pieces.  At first, I was going to melt it in a double boiler, but I had visions of future chocolate truffles tasting faintly of lavender bubbles, so I opted for the microwave.  Not difficult.

    Once the glycerin was liquefied, I added lavender essential oil, color, and oatmeal flakes that I had run through the food processor. (The last ingredient was my own idea.  No dried lavender around, but I thought things needed a little texture.)  I used plastic yogurt cups as my molds and let the soaps harden for a couple of hours.  The result is shown below:

    When it comes to “authentic” soap making, I cheated.  There was no lye, no lard/vegetable shortening, no constant stirring involved.  I have a book with “real” soap recipes on my shelf, and one day I’ll experiment with one of them.  But for now, I have my pretty little pink (pink?!) rounds of lavender soap, and they smell delicious.  I feel calmer already!

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