Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 in numbers

These numbers don't include Larry, because as he said, "I don't keep track of that sh*t." I'm sure he flew at least twice as many times as I did and read double the number of books that I did. But I've got him beat when it comes to Instagram since he only posted 53 photos last year.

The dog food stat is all Gravy and Banjo. Here's a math problem: If Gravy and Banjo ate 696 pounds of brown kibble in 2014, how much dog poo is in Larry and Rachel's backyard?

For 2015: more travel, more reading, more documentaries, more veggies, more exercise, and maybe I'll turn those quilt tops into actual quilts! And while we're talking numbers, there are 67 unpublished draft blog posts in my Blogger dashboard, so maybe I'll even start posting regularly again in 2015...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

that's what he said . #9

*We interrupt this lack of blogging for some comic relief:*

Larry: We had our first frost last night.
Me: "When the frost is on the pumpkin..." How does it go?
Larry: Your daddy's a bumpkin?

(Poetry fail!)

Me: Which smells worse - dog food breath or beer breath?
Larry: What about farts?

(These boys are trying to kill me!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

these feet...

these feet 2014
Over the past three months, these feet have tromped all over VA, NJ, CO, WY, ME, and NM. They've hiked on trails and boardwalks, and through mountains, streams, and canyons. They've explored cities, climbed ladders, and pedaled bicycles. They've trekked through 8 airports, sat restlessly on 10 flights, and slept in 10 different beds...

As I was sitting on a plane flying home from New Mexico yesterday, I had images of all the places Larry and I have traveled to over the past year and a half flashing through my brain: Oahu, Maui, Smith IslandKentucky, North Carolina, New Jersey, Colorado, Wyoming, Maine, New Mexico... My mind was zipping all over the USA as hundreds of mental photos flew through my head. They say pictures of your life flash before your eyes before you die, and if this is what I'll see, I'll know that at least I experienced life to the fullest in 2013-14. But I'm not sure where I am right now...

It seems like just yesterday that it was June, and I was anticipating the beginning of summer. I was looking forward to eating dinner on our back porch, sweet corn, cold beers, lazy weekends, and perhaps a trip to the beach. And then I was whisked across the map via airplane: DCA>DEN>DCA, DCA>ORD>JAC>DEN>IAD, DCA>BGR>DCA, BWI>ABQ>BWI. And now suddenly you're telling me it's October?! I feel a bit like I was blindfolded, spun around, and placed stumbling and dizzy in the middle of the U.S. map. Where am I today? I've been to the mountains, the desert, the city, the coast, the forest. I've slept in secluded cabins and fancy hotel rooms. That feeling of waking up in an unfamiliar bed and taking a few seconds to figure out where I am is all too familiar right now. I'm feeling a bit discombobulated.

I'm not the kind of person who gets homesick. I prefer to be out in the world exploring and adventuring and trying new things. At home, I fall into ruts and bad habits and the routine of daily life wears me down and zaps my energy, motivation, and attitude. That's not to say I don't miss things in Virginia when we're away: my dogs, our friends and family, and after spending several nights sleeping in a Motel 6 bed with a pillow that was the approximate size and thickness of a piece of kleenex, I definitely appreciate our plush king-sized bed at home.

So while I'm not quite sure how to transition back into life at home, after months of scheduling one last minute trip after another, and hours spent on planes and in airports, I think I'm finally ready to be here for a while. And after visiting the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the incredible Canyon Road in Santa Fe, I feel more artistically inspired than I've been in years. I need to act on that before it disappears! Within a week, I'll probably be itching for adventure again, but right now I can say that I don't want to see the inside of another airplane until 2015.

So good job, feet. You've taken me far this year. I've pushed you to walk further and climb higher than you ever have before. And you've allowed me to explore and interact with new environments and people all over the country. You've taken me to see things that inspire me artistically - the natural world, the architecture of different regions of the U.S., the work of other artists. You've treated me well, feet, but I think it's time to put you up for a bit. At least until next week...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

life list #29a: see a mountain goat in the wild

mount evans, colorado
Are you mocking me, Goat?

It's been a long time since I wrote a Life List post, but as I was scrolling through my list of all the things I wanted (or thought I wanted) to do with my life since 2006, I realized I've checked off quite a few items in the last year. (I also realized it's time to revisit that list - there is some hilarious stuff on there and it might be time for an update!)

Anyway, I've been on the quest to see a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep in the wild since Larry and I first visited Colorado together in 2005. We've been to numerous national parks together and time after time, these creatures have evaded me. FOR NINE YEARS. It's become almost comical.
mount evans, colorado
On my fourth trip to Colorado in July, I finally saw and photographed the elusive mountain goat on Mount Evans. With a summit at over 14,000 feet, Mount Evans is the highest paved road in North America, and my friend Sarah, who lives in Denver, assured me that every time she's been up Mount Evans she has seen mountain goats. Ah, but you haven't tried to see mountain goats with me, Sarah. Something *will* go wrong...
(Told you so!)
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
Looking for goats? Pondering the meaning of the universe? Appreciating the awesome beauty of the natural world? 
Nope, she was intrigued by that drainage culvert.

Our expedition to see the goats actually took two attempts over a span of two days. There were originally six of us who started out on this adventure, but due to flat tires and other mishaps, only three of us made it to the top. (The girls, obviously!)
mount evans, colorado
It was worth it. Mount Evans was beautiful. And I FINALLY saw a goat. Not just one goat, but LOTS of goats, including the jerk who stuck his tongue out at me. Also, BABY GOATS.
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
mount evans, colorado
My nine year quest to see a mountain goat is finally over. Life List #29: Finally see an elusive mountain goat or bighorn sheep in the wild. Take its picture. Check...

But I'm still searching for that blasted bighorn sheep!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

collections | summer souvenirs 2014

collections | summer souvenirs
Today is the first day of Fall. Summer 2014 is officially over. I'm so sad to see it go, but man, it was one for the books! We had so many amazing travel opportunities and took more trips this summer than we ever have. (We typically prefer to travel during the off-season to avoid crowds and save money, so we rarely travel during the summer months.) But this summer was jam-packed with repeatedly packing our suitcases, sitting on airplanes, and outdoor activities in multiple states. It flew by, but it was awesome.

A couple weeks ago, Veronika posted a picture of her souvenirs of summer and I knew I had to copy the idea since it fits in perfectly with my Collections series. You really should just go read her post because she perfectly sums up my own desire to hoard travel ephemera and various pieces of useless crap that I collect as I go. I've mostly trained myself to accept that photos are the best souvenirs (they're free and don't take up space), but I still end up with tens of thousands of digital pictures that I can't seem to sort through. And even though I've learned to limit myself when buying souvenirs (I usually only allow myself to spend money on postcards and Christmas ornaments), I return from every vacation with a pile of maps, receipts, lists, tickets, brochures, and boarding passes. Most of it is garbage, but I just can't seem to throw away my memories!

Anyway, I thought Veronika's idea to photograph her collection of souvenirs was genius and would allow me to document the stuff I collected and then get rid of the useless bits of paper that clutter up my house. So here is the story of my summer, as told by the crap I collected along the way...
collections | summer souvenirs
 1   Park Maps - Mount Evans, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Acadia
 2   Toiletries Kit provided by United Airlines after losing our luggage
 3   Map of Jackson, WY
 4   DC VegFest Program
 5   Bison Sketchbook purchased at the Jackson Airport
 6   Bike Maps
 7   Trail Map - Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton National Park
 8   Bear Warning Flyer - Grand Teton National Park (we carried bear spray on our WY hikes)
 9   Books - I discovered I can buy paperbacks at the library, 3 for $1
10  National Parks Annual Pass - The best $80 we spend each year
11  Balsam Pillow - Acadia National Park (Smells like my Nana's house!)
12  SD Cards with 25 GB of digital photos
13  Bottle Cap - Moxie soda from ME
14  Museum Tickets - Museum of Natural History butterfly pavilion and Lemurs 3D IMAX movie
15  Concert Tickets - John Eddie at The Stone Pony, NJ
16  Flip Flops - Purchased at Jackson, WY Kmart after airline lost our luggage
17  Boarding Passes - Flew on 8 flights, but booked on twice as many due to delays/cancellations
18  Belvoir Farms Lemonade Label - my favorite non-alcoholic summer beverage
19  Vegetables from Bull Run Mountain Farm CSA
20  List of things to look forward to in Fall
21  Reasons This Summer Was Awesome (Notepads available in my shop.)
22  Camelbak Water Bottle for my new bike
23  Business Card - Little Notch Bakery, Southwest Harbor, ME
24  Map Pins to track our summer travels on our travel map
25  Sailboat Christmas Ornament from Acadia National Park
26  Coaster - Bluejacket Brewery, DC
27  Moose Sticker from WY
28  Bike Taillight
29  Matches from Matchbox Chinatown, where we celebrated our 11th anniversary (and first date)
30  Cork from a bottle of Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon, which we drank at our cabin in ME
31  Beach Badges from Belmar, NJ
32  Brochures - Clyfford Still Museum, Denver Art Museum, Chihuly at Denver Botanic Gardens
33  Headlamp for dark nights in campgrounds and cabins
34  Packing Lists
35  Homemade Salsa and Pesto - The freezer is full!
36  Parking Pass - Acadia National Park
37  Hike Sticker - I think this came with a pair of shoes
38  List of things to do in Denver, written on hotel stationery
39  Trail List - Grand Teton National Park
40  Vehicle Pass - Mount Evans, CO
41  Bobo's Oat Bar - our favorite trail snack
42  List - 2 pages of bike research. My bike was the best "souvenir", but it wouldn't fit in the photo.
43  Postcards for my travel journal

And maybe someday (is the year 2020 a reasonable goal?), I'll find the time to sort through my vacation photos from 2014 and blog about our amazing summer trips to Colorado, Wyoming, and Maine...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

postcard travel journals

postcard albums
Almost four years ago, I wrote a blog post about my lifelong postcard collection. A few weeks afterwards, I organized my postcards into albums, but true to disorganized Rachel form, I failed to post an update as to how I ended up organizing my collection. Today, my friend Sarah asked what kind of albums I use for my postcards since she wants to create an album for her four year old daughter, Anna, who has a growing collection of postcards. So I was spurred to action and I grabbed my camera and took some photos of my current albums.

What I wanted to share today was how I document our travels. While I have a compulsion to document the shit out of everything (much to Larry's annoyance), I am not at all interested in scrapbooking and post-sixth grade, I've never successfully kept a journal for more than a few days. My blog is definitely my most successful means of documenting my life. I am obsessed with photography and have a hard drive with probably a hundred thousand photos on it. I have the best intentions of creating albums for all the vacations that Larry and I have taken together, but making photo books is a somewhat gargantuan task. (Someday...)
postcard albums
I have, however, been writing postcards about all our travels since Larry and I took our first vacation together in St. Thomas in 2004. I've written a daily postcard for every vacation Larry and I have taken over the past ten years and now have amassed several volumes of travel journals - all written on the backs of postcards and stored in simple 4x6 albums.
postcard albums
I love this method - it's simple and doesn't take much time as your journal entry is limited to what you can fit on the back of a postcard. (I don't actually mail the postcards, so I can write two columns of text on each one.) It helps to write each night while our day's adventures are still fresh in my mind - and that way, I've still documented our vacation even if I don't get around to blogging about it until months later.
postcard albums
I have postcards from our adventures in national parks, road trips with friends, and our wedding in Hawaii. Here are the cards from our most recent trip to Wyoming a few weeks ago:
postcard albums
postcard albums
I created a simple title page for each book. The back of the title page is a map where I can write the dates we traveled to each location:
postcard albums
The goal here is to keep it simple or I'd never be able to keep up with this project. 4x6 postcards in 4x6 albums, done.
postcard albums
postcard albums
As for Sarah's question about the albums, I use 4x6 SEI Preservation Albums. I'm sure there are fancier albums out there (my choices were limited when I bought these four years ago), but I like these because unlike a lot of the mini albums that only hold 10-20 photos each, you can add extra plastic sleeves to these albums with SEI refills. (I have about 50 postcards per album.) These albums also allow the front and the back of the postcard to be visible and display only one postcard per page - both important criteria for making my album feel like a book and read like a page-a-day journal. They aren't fancy, but they do the trick and only cost a few bucks each at ShopSEI or

I used the same method for organizing the postcards I've been collecting since childhood, starting with the first postcard I got from my dad in 1983:
postcard album
Now I've got my postcard collection organized and a nice little stack of memories to flip though.

And I'll be sure to send little Anna some more postcards for her collection, just as friends and family did for me when I was little.

Monday, August 18, 2014

summery summary

Summer on the back porch - a duet by Larry and special guest, Merlin of The Borrowed Abode.

When I last blogged, I think it was still snowing. And I was sick. Don't worry, I haven't really been sick for the past four months. Nor have I given up blogging or been intentionally hiding under a rock. There have been a few frustrations keeping me from writing (a broken computer and a complete meltdown of all Apple products in the Smoellke house being the main problem), but mostly I've just been busy doing other things.

My summer activities can pretty much be summarized into three categories: books, travel, and vegetables. Oh yeah, and broken shit - like my computer. (And also the car, toilet, tub, kitchen sink, and front door knob. And my iPhone. Pretty much everything is broken right now.)

Anyway, I thought I'd break the blogging ice with a summary of what we've been up to these past few months. I hope to write in detail about a lot of these things at some point in the future, but for now - bullets:

Summer is reading season for me, and I've been checking out huge stacks of books from the library and tearing through them. Just like last summer, I've been instagramming what I've been reading (and drinking) - check it out with hashtag #booksandbeverages. I'm pretty much obsessed with books right now - I like discussing them and I'm currently addicted to the Dear Book Nerd podcast - give it a listen, fellow bookworms!

We've been out of town 18 days out of the past month. And I love it. In July we took trips to New Jersey, Colorado, and Wyoming. We visited friends and family, explored national parks, hiked, biked, floated, sat on the beach, and tried new restaurants. Next month we go to Maine. It could not be a more perfect way to spend summer. I am my happiest when I am traveling. Our relationship is at its best when we're exploring the world together. And travel is such a great reminder of all that is out there and all that I want to see and do in my life. (Keeping up with life at home in between trips is a bit chaotic though. The house is littered with suitcases, receipts, maps, and piles of dirty clothes. Oh well!)

Larry and I have been eating a plant-based diet since the end of March. It wasn't something I felt comfortable writing about when we made the switch, but now we're four and half months in and I've been surprised at how many friends have expressed interest, curiosity, and support for our new diet. So at some point I will share our thoughts and favorite recipes (and I promise not to be a preachy vegan!). We also joined a CSA this year (Bull Run Mountain Farm) and so we have spent the summer drowning in vegetables. I have enough homemade salsa and pickles and pesto to feed an army!

This spring we got into a weekend tradition of taking a hike or visiting our CSA farm in the morning and then stopping at a winery on the way home to sit outside and enjoy a bottle of wine in the Virginia (or Maryland) countryside. We've been to Paradise Springs, The Winery at Bull Run, Greenhill Winery, Maggie Malick Wine Cave, and Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. We also love stopping at our favorite lunch spot in Falls Church, Nourish Market, for vegan chick'n salad sandwiches. Evenings are spent in our own backyard.

Exercise is still a part of my life, though I've found I have a hard time sticking to a routine when I'm traveling so much. Luckily, we've had very active vacations that have included hikes and bike rides, so I'm still logging lots of miles on my FitBit and instagramming my progress with hashtag #ayearofactive. We're currently obsessed with cycling and are looking to buy bikes of our own, which so far has proven more frustrating/confusing than shopping for a car. (We've been to NINE bike shops in the past week...)

When we started changing our diet back in March, it only seemed natural to pay more attention to what I was putting ON my body as well. I've spent the past five months switching to natural and chemical-free skin and beauty products. I've found some great stuff and am still searching for others. (Mineral sunscreen is a bust so far - the ones I've tried leave my skin coated with a white film that I can't stand!) This is another topic I'll write more about, when I have all the answers...

My business has been put on the back burner this year. I'm still shipping prints and I even designed a new product, but I'm taking a break from art markets until the holidays. I'm also discontinuing the majority of the prints in my shop - so once they sell out on Etsy they'll be gone forever. But new stuff and hopefully a new website will take their place in the coming months, once I get these technical snafus sorted out...

Back to that broken computer. It's still broken. It's actually been broken since January. (I'm currently blogging from Larry's laptop which he brought home from work for the weekend.) And yeah, it's annoying to not have a computer, but it's also kind of nice. I like spending my time doing things other than staring at a screen all day. I like not spending hours editing photos. But it's no way to run a business or keep in touch with people. I honestly cannot keep up with 200 e-mails a day on my phone (which seems to be selective about what messages it receives anyway), so if you e-mailed me this year and I didn't get back to you, I offer my sincerest apologies and I promise I am not intentionally ignoring anyone - many e-mails have unfortunately slipped through the cracks. I've told my friends that I am currently only capable of communicating by text message or Instagram!

So I can't say that this is the beginning of regular blogging again for me, but I at least wanted to check in. Hopefully, I'll save the cash/gain the know-how to fix my poor iMac soon. Until then, Instagram...and exploring the world!