Sunday, January 15, 2012


Winter has finally set in here in northern New York. The temperatures had been mild (dancing around the freezing mark) and the weather very fall-like (only one snow significant for the plows to come out, about 4"), but that was before Friday.

Friday morning, I woke up and looked outside to check the weather (to estimate my drive-time to work). It was raining, as it had been for several days, so I went about my business getting ready for work. By the time I made it down stairs to pack my lunch, I looked out the kitchen window and 2" of snow had already fallen. In the next 24 hours, we would get about 18" of snow, total. I was fortunate they sent me home from work much earlier than I was scheduled (which is 6 p.m.) so that I could drive home in the daylight. My usually 25-ish minute drive home took about an hour, with white-out conditions. If you've never seen white-out conditions, it basically means you can at best see vehicles maybe 40' in front of you, and only if they have their lights on. It also means you can't see the lines on the road, and you have to just guess where to aim your car. I am not a fan of New York.

Nathan was a little horrified at that snow storm. I had been trying to tell him that's what winter is normally like here, but he was deployed last winter and hadn't experienced it first-hand. Luckily for me, he was off work on Friday so he could shovel the driveway before I got home. Last year, I would have had to just leave my car in the middle of the road until I shoveled a space big enough to move my car. That's SUPER safe in white-out conditions and snow plows coming around.

We haven't been doing a lot so far this winter. We made it home for Thanksgiving to see both families, and also made it to the Egg Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss football game). Mississippi State won! And thanks to our good friend, Paul, we got great seats. We got to see a lot of our friends, but a lot of friends are also Army, and couldn't make it back for the game. While we were in Starkville, we also got to revisit many of our favorite restaurants. It was hard to get to all the restaurants we wanted to, so we just ate about five meals a day to try to fit it all in :)

For Christmas, Nathan and I decided that as little time as I had off from work, combined with the sky-high prices of plane tickets, we couldn't really get home again. We decided to have Christmas here with some good friends who happen to be neighbors of our here on post. We had a great time, and, of course, ate entirely too much food. We didn't get the White Christmas I had been promised, though. When Nathan found out where he would be stationed after he commissioned, he called me at work to break the news. His exact words were "So... you know how you always wanted a White Christmas? Well, you're going to get one. We're going to Fort Drum." Of course, this was the year of the weirdest beginning of winter in recent history. The only snow we saw on Christmas was a brief flurry that had melted less than 20 minutes after falling.

Nathan and I decided yesterday that we should enjoy the snow if at all possible. We picked out some sleds and took advantage of the sled hill right behind our house. The communities here on post have different featured mini-parks during different times of year. There is also an ice skating rink in the next neighborhood over. I realized I hadn't been sledding in years, so we had a pretty good time. We even took a few turns pushing the kids on sleds to get them going.

Today, we have bright sunshine, but I don't think the temperature has even broken above 0 yet. I don't mean above freezing. I mean above 0. The low overnight was -12. Brrr. Overall, I'd rather never have snow, but never see the negative temperatures. That's just me. I prefer over 100 to below 0.

When do we PCS, again?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lake Placid with Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad came up to visit again this summer. We took it easier this time than last, not running all over the state. The only trip we took was to Lake Placid - possibly one of the only significant places in New York State we DIDN'T visit last year.

Lake Placid has mixed emotional memories for me. The first time I visited was with Nathan two days before he deployed to Afghanistan. It was late March, so the snow had mostly melted. It was also about about 34 degrees and raining. I, of course, was miserable anyway. We stayed only one night, then came home just in time for Nathan to leave. My second visit was last summer when I climbed Mt. Marcy with a group of friends. Even though I really missed Nathan being there with me, I had a wonderful time, including a night spent on Marcy Dam where I saw more stars that I've seen in my whole life - more shooting stars than I'd seen before or have seen since. That will be important in another blog post. For now, this trip with Mom and Dad was my third trip. I was glad to be tipping the scales to more pleasant times.

Mom and Dad really wanted to see the Olympic sites. If there's anybody who doesn't know, Lake Placid has hosted Olympic games twice, once in 1932 and again in 1980. The 1980 Olympics was the "Miracle on Ice" where the US beat the Soviet Union in hockey to win the gold medal. This was the first time in the history of the Olympics we won gold in hockey. But anyway, we went to the Olympic sites.

We took a ski lift to the top of Whiteface Mountain, one of the highest in the Adirondacks. If you can see the tiny white dot just above the center of the frame and to the left of the most right cable, that's the building where the chair lift started. As you can see, it was a very long way up.

This is a view of Lake Placid from the top of Whiteface.

Nathan wasn't too thrilled with having his picture taken.

This is the skating rink where Miracle on Ice happened. History was made. The US rocked the sports world :)

This is the ski jump ramp. You can see how small the door at the bottom is, so this thing is very, very tall.

This is looking down to where the jumpers land. The gray square at the end of the green patch is where the skiers have to stop at the end of their run. I think you'd have to be out of your mind to ever do this.

A view up from the bottom. Again, you'd have to be out of your mind.

This is the new bobsled course. The one from the 1980 Olympics couldn't handle the modern speeds safely, so they built this mile-long track. We walked down it (no riding though ;-) ). 

I think Nathan would win the race, though. Even on foot.

We took a boat tour on Lake Placid, itself. Each of the cabins there (called "camps") costs over 1 million dollars. The money you have to make to afford one of those places was outrageous. The families that own Texas Instruments, Calphalon, and Alpo each have camps.

I was glad to go again in the summer, this time with Nathan with me. Mom and Dad really enjoyed the trip, too. They love to see historic sites and Lake Placid has a nice history to offer. I was also glad to see the sites and check them off my "bucket list" :-) 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

St. Lucia Wrap Up (Boy am I terrible at blogging)

I left off with a photographic tour of the Sandals grounds. Very beautiful, but doesn't scratch the surface of St. Lucia. Here are a few quick pictures from our speedboat tour.

Rich people's houses on the side of a mountain overlooking the ocean. Must be nice.

Private beaches.

These mountains are the Pitons. They're considered the most memorable feature of the St. Lucian landscape. They are even reflected in the "double peaks" of the St. Lucian flag. On the left is Petit Piton. On the right is Gros Piton, the taller of the two mountains (it looks shorter in this picture because it's farther away). Petit Piton is a very difficult mountain to climb, and I didn't want to we decided to climb Gros Piton (the day after this boat cruise).

The edge of the tree line marks the beginning of the volcanic valley. We went into the crater for a volcanic ash bath. It makes skin feel silky.

There's still heat coming out of this thing, too. I burned myself in the water where we did the ash bath.

This shoe-shaped rock formation was in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I don't know which one because I'm not very good at pop culture...and I wasn't terribly impressed with the movies.

The day after the speedboat tour, Nathan and I climbed that mountain I mentioned, Gros Piton.

This was on the way up Gros Piton. You can just see the island of St. Vincent off in the distance to the south.

Here you can see the island of Martinique to the north (far off above the horizon). It's amazing how close together all the different Caribbean nations are. It's a good thing they aren't fighting with each other because it seems like you could throw a rock from one island to the next.

Petit Piton looks a whole lot steeper from this view. I was so glad we didn't try to climb it.

This one is for Mom. She's grown this purple plant called Wandering Jew as a house plant for as long as I remember. Here, it grows all over the side of the mountain in huge patches.

Hot and sweaty and gross and exhausted, we made it to the summit! 2438 feet high.

Still sweaty and gross and exhausted, we got a great photo op with the Pitons in the background :)

This, obviously, wasn't on one of our outings, but we celebrated my birthday while we were there. I don't know why the creepers in the back felt the need to smile for our picture, but whatever.

And as a last picture of St. Lucia, here's a beautiful panoramic from the top of Gros Piton looking out to the south.

That's it for St. Lucia! More random updates to come.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Sandals Grounds

There will probably be more than a few posts about the St. Lucia trip. For one thing, I like to relive the trip. How I miss those warm tropical breezes. *Sigh* For another thing, I took about...500 pictures? Don't worry - I'm not going to post all of them. But I'll post a lot of them in various groups and try to make sense of them.

This time I'll show you lots of pictures of the Sandals Halcyon grounds. "Lush" and "tropical" are the two words that come to mind. Like most mountainous islands, St. Lucia has the dry desert side and the tropical rainy side. We were on the tropical rainy side. You'll see.

The gardens were gorgeous.

They don't overlook the details, either.

They had some rooms with some serious garden appeal. We didn't stay in one of these. Why spend all your money on the room exterior?

For my birthday, Nathan got us a massage. They do them in this gazebo right on the beach. It was wonderful :-) The lady said that I'm very tense and I should get another massage when I get home. Maybe I should remind Nathan she said that...

My favorite restaurant at our particular Sandals (there are three on St. Lucia) was The Pier. We went there for my birthday dinner, too.

A couple of other interesting notes. There was one particular tree (the white five-petaled flowers in the garden pictures earlier in the post) that had these caterpillars on it. They were about FIVE INCHES long. Huge. One of the workers told me they were flesh-eating caterpillars. Obviously I'm no idiot, and since they were eating the leaves on the tree, I was pretty sure they were just a big variety of regular caterpillars... that eat plants. Intimidating to squeamish girls. Me, not so much.

Also, they had a few sets of these...

I like to call them Wizard's Chess. If you don't get this reference, you should really get out more. And watch some Harry Potter movies.

More St. Lucia posts to come!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Puerto Rico Detour

How behind am I on this stuff??? I'm a little annoyed at myself, but I'll try to play catch up. I hope you don't mind being a little behind, but I'd rather tell you about my trip late than not at all. We cool? Cool :-)

A few weeks (now months *ahem*) ago, Nathan and I finally got to go on a nice welcome home vacation. I'll skip the annoying details, but thanks to the Atlanta airport's poor planning, they made us miss our connection from Syracuse to St. Lucia. Delta re-booked us to St. Lucia by way of Puerto Rico. The only thing was instead of getting to St. Lucia at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we'd have a six hour layover in San Juan. Nathan and I decided that since we had such a long wait and it should be relatively simple to leave the airport and come back in time for our flight, we should go try to see SOMETHING in Puerto Rico. I mean, since we were there already, why not? So with a little advice from some in-airport ticket agents, off we trudged with our carry on bags (Nathan was sweet enough to deal with the one rolling one). We didn't really have time to do more than eat and go stand on the beach if we wanted to get back to the airport with a big time buffer (we REALLY didn't want to have to miss another flight)... so we took a cab to a highly recommended restaurant that just so happened to be a couple of blocks from the beach. Kill two birds with one cab fare.

We went to a restaurant called Metropol. From what we heard, it is THE place in San Juan to go for authentic Puerto Rican food. Our server was very nice. He gave us directions on the easiest way to get to the beach from where we were, told us about moving back to Puerto Rico from Brooklyn when he was a teenager, and about all the famous people that come to the restaurant when they're in town. We tried the flan...

And the tres leches cake...

I actually like my own tres leches cake recipe better. Okay okay, to be fair, it's P-Dub's recipe. But I still like it better.

I couldn't help but notice this place right next door...

I forget that cockfighting is legal anywhere in the U.S., but Puerto Rico gets to play both sides. They're American, but pay no federal taxes and they get to do pretty much whatever they want.

And again, for a place with such rich culture, this street is a little disappointing. Can you count the fast food restaurants in this one picture?

The beach was beautiful...

And we were being very touristy :-) Standing on the beach with suitcases, taking pictures - I'm sure we looked pretty ridiculous.

After the beach, we headed back to the airport. The Caribbean being a tropical place like it is, it started raining just before we boarded the plane. Now, I've done a good bit of flying. I've even been on quite a few regional "puddle jumper" jets. I have never before this trip, however, been on such a rickety PROP plane. A.k.a. death trap. A.k.a. vomit comet. It was so small, it never even made it above the clouds (and therefore, the storm). We had to fill out our customs form during the flight, too, so imagine trying to fill out a legal document while your hands are bouncing all over the place. It was MISERABLE. Pray you never have to fly on one of these guys...

Coming soon - St. Lucia!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Welcome Home!

After approximately four delays in the two days leading up to their scheduled arrival, Nathan FINALLY made it home Sunday morning at 2 a.m. Yes, 2 a.m. He spent 360 days away from home. Most soldiers don't push the 365 day limit so much, but in Nathan's group someone had gotten to 362 days. If a soldier spends 365 days in the country he's deployed to, it costs the Army a lot of extra money. The Army tries to cut it as close as possible without risking going over.

Our good friend Sarah spent the day helping me frantically clean, and then came with me to the ceremony to take pictures for me :-)

Since the Welcome Home Ceremony was supposed to start at 1 a.m. up until they changed it four hours before, I decided to show up a little before 1 juuuuuuuust in case it started early anyway. At 1 a.m., they started showing the video of the plane carrying all the soldiers landing, and then all of them coming off the plane and shaking the big wigs' hands. They played the video over and over and over... It was painful to watch, really. I just wanted them to hurry up already. This was also the point where my hands started shaking and I got light-headed. Nerves do some crazy things to the body! It was a long hour for sure, watching my hands shake and trying to focus on breathing.

Here is the huge open gym where the ceremony took place.

It was agonizing just sitting there, watching some of the important people come in, hug their families, knowing we're all watching them and wanting our soldiers back. I think if I wasn't allowed to see my husband yet, they shouldn't have been hugging their families right in front of us. I just think that's bad taste. But you know, my opinion just doesn't matter much to the Army...

Here is the group of soldiers. Now how in the world am I supposed to be able to pick Nathan out of that group???

I couldn't very well. This is me, totally not clapping like we were supposed to be doing, and thinking "Which one is Nathan?!?!?"

He told me later where he was in the line up. He's in that second row, fourth in line. The one with the tiny black arrow head pointed at him. I most definitely couldn't tell that from all the way up in the bleachers.

After a short speech that I couldn't understand because of a bad sound system, and really didn't care to hear since I was looking for Nathan, they said a prayer, sang the 10th Mountain Song (I'd never even heard of it, but it was so important they had to sing it at 2 a.m. before turning the soldiers loose???), sang the Army Song, and then all out chaos. Fortunately for me, Sarah spotted Nathan. How were two short people supposed to find each other in that crowd?

This is my favorite though. You have no idea what a good feeling this is.

I really really missed this guy :-)

Also, the guy on the left hugging the woman in black is Nathan's friend Rich. He was creeping in most of our pictures. There's a picture where Nathan is kissing me, and Rich is looking over at us and laughing. I've done a bit of creative cropping :-) Rich said we're in all of his, too, so I guess that's only fair.

Somewhere around 3:00 a.m., we finally made it out of there and headed home. Saturday/Sunday morning was probably the absolute longest day I've had all year, but deployment is OVER!!!