Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Just Can't Get Enough

It's clearer that winter is quickly approaching. The leaves are rapidly changing to rusty oranges, vibrant reds, and golden yellows. My heater is at work, whirring in the corner. Next to me is a mustard yellow ceramic mug filled with hot chocolate and whipped cream. The weather forecast for this weekend is boasting about a slight chance for wet snow.

Autumn is my favorite season and every year, it seems to slip by too fast. I make an effort to save time for a few traditions each year and with Aiden, that seems even more important. Fall parades, apple cider, painting pumpkins, corn mazes, hay rides. There is just something about this season that deserves special attention. Perhaps it's the smell of pumpkin spice or the way it feels to wake up on a cold morning but I can never get enough.

One of the things I love most about my sleepy, little, hometown is that we always celebrate holidays and traditions in the best ways - from our tree lighting, to our annual carnival. This weekend was our fall festival complete with a pancake breakfast, petting zoo, bake sale, flea market and of course, the parade.

The funny thing about the Wellsville parade is that everyone is in the parade, there are hardly any spectators. Between the firetrucks, tractors, antique cars, floats and children walking in costume, the sides of the street are fairly bare.

That just means more candy to catch.

On Sunday, I squeezed my schedule to make time for pumpkin painting. I put off a marketing paper, read my economics assignment at the laundry mat, finished folding my clothes at 10:00 p.m. but hey, the pumpkins got painted.

Aiden selected a "martial arts" theme for his pumpkin. This meant a funny mustache, a white stem, "martial arts symbols", and army tank drawings. Me? I settled for a tiger.

When things didn't go quite as planned for our afternoon, we snuggled up on the couch to watch Puss N Boots. Too bad I rented the wrong one. (You got me this time, RedBox.) Who knew that an animated movie about a cat, with all of the characters voices narrated by William Shatner, could be so bad? So bad, that we watched it twice.

The second time? More unbearable than the first. So instead, we settled for baking gluten free pumpkin muffins, complete with cream cheese filling in the center. Who knew a six year old could be so good at cracking eggs?

Autumn, stay a while. I'm not ready for snow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day Dreaming

Waking up to a sixty-two degree apartment makes it hard to believe that just this month, I was reveling in the 80 degree weather of Scottsdale, Arizona. It also gives me the motivation I've needed to study, fill out my Honor's College application, and research co-op positions, in hopes of entering Arizona State University's Marketing PhD program in less than two years. Even though the chilly morning reminds me of why I need (okay, want) to leave Pennsylvania, I think I'll still make a trip to buy a space heater today. After all, motivation means nothing if you're too cold to get out of bed.

In the mean time, I'll recount my sunny adventures here - day dreaming about Arizona is bound to make me a little bit warmer, right?

Machine Guns? Yes, Machine Guns.

You never know what you expect when you visit a new place. Now, imagine visiting a new place with a cousin you've met once.. to visit an Aunt and Uncle you don't really know, either. This could obviously go one of two ways. When our first adventure post-airport was shooting machine guns, I was a little bit skeptical.

I'm only kidding - I love trying new things and shooting a machine gun? That was definitely new.

Our Uncle Rob is a big fan of shooting and belongs to the Scottsdale Gun Club. Since most of our vacation would be spent doing girly things like window shopping, eating chocolate, and getting our nails done - it only seemed fair to include Uncle Rob's favorite hobby.

And I'm glad we did.

Our targets before shooting.

I'm an eager learner.

For our first time, we did a pretty good job at demolishing our targets. Then again, we did have two magazines and a fully automatic machine gun. Our Uncle Rob made it clear to us that if our boyfriends ever misbehaved, he would do the same to them.

Nail Salon

Knowing our Aunt Sarah, there's no way we could spend too much time doing things not entirely girly - we left the gun club and headed straight to the salon. Better yet, a salon with a cute little puppy.

The Gelato Spot

It's always fun to eat new places and spending our first night with Mongolian stir-fry and gelato wasn't a bad start. We also got to meet our Aunt Sarah's "Arizona Family". By the end of the night, Caitlin and I were ready to adopt them, too.

As You Wish

Our second day plans were to road trip to Sedona for a day of hiking but when I woke up with a 100 degree fever, we ended up in Urgent Care instead. Does that come as a suprise to anyone? Fortunately, a pain medicine and antibiotic prescription and a trip to Walmart later, I was feeling a bit better but not nearly up to hiking through hot sand and cactuses.

Instead we visited the neatest outdoor mall for a trip to As You Wish - a paint your own pottery studio.

Apparently I'm serious about my color selection.

We each painted a picture frame which turned out so bright and fun. If I ever get around to printing my Arizona photos, I'll make sure to post the finished product - it was the perfect souvenir. (Though the baby cactus I brought for Aiden was pretty neat, too.)


Our road trip was postponed to the next day and well, it didn't go quite as planned.
The original destination was Sedona but when we missed our exit, we ended up in Flagstaff - 7000 feet above sea level. At that high elevation, the mountain was topped with snow and the city remained in the 60's while Scottsdale pushed 90 degrees for the day.

Flagstaff is an artsy little town - my favorite kind. We ate an old hotel, visited an eclectic costume shop, ate delicious chocolates, shopped for clothes and laughed at ourselves for missing the exit to Sedona.


As we headed down the twisted canyon roads to Sedona, you could see red rocks in the distance. Nothing could prepare you for seeing the rocks up close, though. No Pennsylvania skies, forests or landmarks could begin to compare.

The town of Sedona is a bit artsy, too - but more so, down to earth and mystical. Apparently, there are four energy vortexes which ooze an energy that is not quite magnetism or electricity. We didn't venture to find spiritual uplifting in a Sedona vortex, but we enjoyed seeing the signs on the way to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

The chapel is built high into the rocks and to visit, you must park and walk up a narrow twisting road lined with cactuses. As we were leaving the chapel, I managed to step to the side of the road to avoid an oncoming car and ended up with a piece of a cactus in my arm.

Throughout the whole time, I was infatuated with cactuses. Oddly though, I kept mentioning how soft and squishy the cactuses looked. Ironically, I learned my lesson when I spent twenty minutes pulling needles out of my arm. Despite their soft appearance, cactuses are unrelenting.

Grasshopper Point

We took a break after exploring the rocks of Sedona to explore it's beautiful hiking trails, instead. We pulled off at Grasshopper Point and found our way to a little river which flows down the mountain.

Along the way we found picnicking people, sunny flowers, many types of cactuses (which I managed not to run into) and better yet, we managed to avoid any rattlesnakes.

Red Rocks

As we left Sedona, I laughed at a line of tourists who stood in amazement with their cameras. That is, until I turned around and saw what it was they were taking photos of. 

An early evening full moon over the red rocks.

The Turquoise Arches

On our way out of the town, we had one more stop to make. As an avid fan of the color turquoise, I was amused at many aspects of Arizona - especially that companies change their logos to turquoise to fit the southwestern environment. In Sedona, even McDonald's caught on.

An adobe McDonald's with turquoise arches? It doesn't get better than that.


Unfortunately, fall break only lasts for a few days and we knew that we'd eventually have to leave the sunny desert for chilly East Coast weather. We had a few last minute things to take care of though - photographing ourselves with cactuses and eating Mexican food.

Arizona is now on the top of my list for places to be and this vacation was easily one of my favorites. I am so thankful to have family who is willing to plan an impromptu trip across the country and I'm so glad that Caitlin and I are now a mere fifty minutes apart. I can only wait until May for another trip to the southwest and a new baby cousin to meet.