Monthly Archives: June 2013

Our First Couple’s DIY

If you have been reading my previous posts, you know that I have been traveling and wedding planning this past month. Although it has been great, it means a lot of time away from my special guy as he is working two hours away. Thanks to technology, we have been able to Skype, call, and text non-stop all month, but actual time together has been more rare than we are accustomed to. This past weekend, I was so excited for George to come to my home town where I have been wedding planning. We made the most of our weekend together, not with a typical romantic date, but with a less traditional bonding time. We undertook our first Do-It-Yourself home improvement project!

My dad recovered this antique table and set of chairs from a relative who recently passed away. The set is very old and was in very bad shape. Most of the chairs were tottery and broken, the surfaces were scratched up and in various states of rehab. Some areas where sanded or colored different, but most edges were rough, and some green paint remains were visible. To me, it almost looked to be in a state of un-repair, but my dad is a fix-it man, and he had a vision.

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Before

Mom and I had some imperative business to be taken care of at our favorite store Kohls, so I let the boys get a head start surveying the project and choosing a starting point. We returned on some serious male bonding, as Dad was showing George all of his secret sanding and wood glue tricks. Dad has been the home improvement type and with years of experience, he has come up with lots of creative tricks. I really liked seeing the first man I loved share his wisdom to the man I will marry!

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Before: The Boys working on the table

I joined in on the hard work, and quickly began to sweat. We choose a very hot day for this project. It started off so well, as I sanded I just kept thinking, “Wow! How cool is this? It is so satisfying to be working together to finish this table that we will use together in our apartment.” This is way better than just spending a lot of money on a finished table from a store. This way every time we eat on it, we will know that we (re)built it with out own hands. Well my feelings began to change as the day got hotter and my fingers were numb from the sand paper. (I gave up on the electric sander because I felt like the vibrations shook my entire body). My expressions changed to “lets just give up and buy a table!” “who’s idea was it to put so many dumb curves in the legs” “we are not doing this again”.

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Those dumb curved legs that took FOREVER to sand

We choose a dark color to stain after we finished the hours upon hours. I began to get excited again after we began staining. I loved the dark color and I was beginning to picture the beautiful set in our apartment.

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The Before and After of the Chairs

11 hours (plus probably3-4 more on the sealing), we have a beautiful antique oak dinning set! If you look really hard, it’s not perfect, but I am so proud of our hard work and the gorgeous final product.  I take back all of the negative thoughts I had in the process. It was definitely worth the hard work  and time to have the satisfying feeling when the project was completed. I love the look, the feeling of ownership, and having a piece of my family history in my home. When I eat on my beautiful oak table, and can remember my great-cousin Jackie, my grandma, and the special day of hard work with George and my Dad!

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The finished table!

Now that I have one set under my belt. I decided what’s one more…. Look what I found at a garage sale today.

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It’s a nice a sturdy oak coffee table, that we can refinish to match! George, what are you doing next weekend?

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How about another date?

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I have spent my last month…

WEDDING PLANNING! Yes it is true. We are finally planning for the big day. It has been a complete whirlwind of events working to make sure everything aligns together for the big day!

I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but here are a few photo previews!

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I know I had the plans to keep up on this blog regularly, but I have found that wedding planning is a full time job! Between the shopping, phone calls, churches, and event venues, I haven’t had a minuet to sit down to write.

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It’s still early in the game, but I would like to think that I am not the “bridezilla” type when it comes to all of the wedding planning. I have always been more of a big picture girl rather than concerning myself with all the small details.  My biggest concern for our special day is that I can share it with all of those who love and support us.

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I am excited to be a princess on our wedding day, but it’s nothing compared to my excitement to start a life with my best friend by my side as we learn and grow.  I couldn’t ask for more in a life partner! George is a loving, patient, honest, understanding man.  He has been wonderful in this planning process (He has been practicing “Anything you want Julie” 🙂 as his most popular response. )

IMAG0086So do you have any tips when it comes to wedding planning? Advice on being married?

Ill have another post SOON I promise! George and I had a special date I want to share.

San Francisco Day 7:Headed Home

Waking up today was a little bitter sweet. As much as I love sleeping in my own bed,  I was not ready to leave the majestic views of Yosemite. The world is still turning, and life back in the Lou is still going on with out us. It is time to head back to our jobs, daily routines, and to do lists. Although I will miss the excitement of experiencing new things on vacation, I don’t think I will miss sharing a hotel room and bathroom with the whole family.
We made one more stop to see the Giant Sequoia grove before heading back to the airport. I wrote about the ancient red wood trees in Muir woods earlier on the trip; well the Sequoia’s put the red woods to shame. These guys are huge! They are a closely related tree, but the redwoods are taller, and skinner compared to the Sequoia. This grove had about 5 giant sequoia mixed in amongst the ponderosa pines. Its hard to imagine how old these giants are!

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Before leaving this morning, I looked up this best route from the sequoia grove to the airport on my tablet. I acted as navigator on the way back, and Google maps showed a nice short cut that seemed like a straight shot that would avoid some serious mountain winding of the main highway. What Google maps failed to mention, was this road was a butt pucker-er! Imagine sitting in the back seat of a car facing downward on a very steep hill. Now imagine the road being barely wide enough for two cars. Now imagine the road swerving and winding…with no guard rail and a gazillion foot drop just a few inches to your right. Oh and don’t forget to picture mom in the front seat slamming her imaginary passenger seat brakes, white knuckled, and leaning so hard left she’s practically in Dads lap. Yeah, thanks Google maps.

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Once we reached the bottom of terror hill and joined the main road, we could smell burning rubber from the breaks (this is not an exaggeration… Don’t tell the rental company though, I’m sure we owe them new break pads). I burst out laughing when mom said her feet were sweaty from bracing her self in.

I am proud to announce we are safely back in St. Louis with no air sickness issues. The Whitneys back and more tired and sore than we were 7 days ago, but we are also more cultured, wiser, and closer to one another than we were 7 days ago.

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I really hope you enjoyed hearing about our vacation as much as I enjoyed documenting it! It is really encouraging seeing the number of views grow, as I treasure this experience and would love to share with many.
I want to give a HUGE shout out to Mom and Dad who have made our family vacations a priority for our family as we learn about our nation and spend time together as a family. Thank you for saving for these opportunities and all the hard work and planning you did to make this trip a success! Thank you for packing snacks, and Band-Aids, and driving the car, and carrying my pack. Thank you for doing all those things we don’t think about, yet seem to be engraved on your loving hearts.

I hope you all will check back as I post more about my journey this summer as I travel to South Africa, and begin my life in a new city!

San Francisco Day 6: Yosemite

We were eager to start out day 6 of our vacation after just having a taste of Yosemite Park the day before. After discussing our physical fitness and hiking experience with the park rangers yesterday, we chose a hike that would challenge us(Will and I), without overworking our senior aged driver and trip planner that accompanied us (Dad and Mom). Okay, that’s not true at all, not only are we blessed to have parents who plan (and finance) awesome vacations, but they are full of energy to hike and explore.
That being said, we are all used to the much lower elevations, and gradual inclines of the Midwest. We opted for a guided bus ride to the top of Glacier Point and a hike back down to the valley. Our tour guide on the ride up was not a Whitney favorite, but he did know a lot about forest burns and California wild fires. Even a cooky guide couldn’t ruin the experience. The stunning panoramic views, and smells of the pines were so over whelming it becomes hard to think about anything else.

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The ride to the point was a little over an hour, but once on top, it was hard to believe we were ever down at the bottom.

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Dad is pointing to where we started.

The view was absolutely amazing. I am actually struggling to find words to describe what it felt like to be up so high and surrounded by so much beauty. (And I don’t just mean my mom).

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The beautiful view, and beautiful Mom.

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With a loss or words, I want to post more of the photos I took, but even the photos don’t seem to do it justice.

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Moral of the story: plan a trip! (Message me and I’d love to share details of where we stayed, and recommendations)

Our hike down was on a trail called the 4 mile trail, which was deceiving because it was actually over 5 miles plus a flat land hike to the parking lot. Even though the hike was down hill, it was no stroll in the park. The trail was very steep and slippery at times, which was scary at places were the trial was narrow, and the fall was steep.

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Will liked to make mom nervous.

Although a good portion of the hike was shaded by the ponderosa pines, some parts got very hot with the sun beating on our backs. We took frequent water and food breaks to snap more photos and soak in the moment.

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The pack mules carried our snacks and water.

From beginning the decent, till we reached flat land,  he hike took about 2.5 hours. We stumbled around the park for a little longer for a few more photo ops, then headed back to the resort for some well earned pizza and pool time!

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San Francisco Day 5: Yosemite

For Whitney vacation day 5 we had enough Shannon’s good morning song so we decided to dump her at the Oakland airport. (Okay just kidding…kind of. She has a new job and was only able to take a short vacation with us) with a little extra room in the rental car, we ventured west to Yosemite national park for a change of scenery. What a beautiful sight!

After a few hours of driving we were surrounded by tall beautiful ponderosa pines, huge granite formations, and the twisty Merced river. I won’t lie, I feel asleep on the way over, but it was the fresh smell of pine and nature that woke me up to the breathtaking views. Once we reached our resort, we marveled our balcony view, unpacked our luggage and headed straight to Yosemite vally.

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The view from our room!

We checked out the history in the visitor center, and watched the informational video about the formation and preservation of the Sierra Nevada. The park is over 1200 square miles and has over 860 miles of designated trails. In 1864 President Lincoln signed a grant to protect the area as the first national park.
Dad’s favorite parts of vacation are sharing what he learned back at MU as a geology major (rocks rock!) Different from the Grand Canyon, Yosemite is not layers of rock formations, but rather all granite. The granite was actually pushed from the tectonic plates shifting , and then reshaped by the ice age avalanches.

Because a lot of our day was spent traveling, we decided to keep our hiking to a minimum and check out a few trails in the valley including a great view of the Yosemite falls.

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We then caught a wonderful live performance of a “buffalo soldier”. This man was an African American park ranger here at the park when he discovered that post civil war, a regiment of black soldier were stationed in the park. He made it his responsibility to educate the nation by sharing these soldiers’ stories. He delivered an incredible monolog as one of the black soldiers in the regiment. They got their name, the buffalo soldiers, from the native Americans who thought their hair resembled that of the fur between the horns of a buffalo. These men were stationed in a beautiful area where every day was a Sunday. Their job was to protect the park from loggers and poachers. It was really interesting to hear the story. He had a really amazing way of making me feel like I was there, having a conversation with a buffalo soldier, hearing his story, and sharing his feelings.

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This looked like dinner for the hunters in our family… But we let him go for the other visitor s to enjoy

I have been fortunate enough to be able to explore the trails of the Grand Canyon, Zion, the Badlands, the Petrified Forest, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Burren region and now Yosemite. Still, each and every time I see a place so beautiful, and so different from anywhere else in the world, I am in awe of our Creator. He has given each and everything so much detail, uniqueness, and beauty. We are blessed with so much to enjoy, explore, and protect.

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This is just a small piece of paradise  here on earth, I can’t even imagine what life after this must look like!

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San Francisco Day 4: Golden Gate Park

“Good morning, good morning, its great to stay up late” is the song we wake up to thanks to Shay joining us. (Ps check out Shannons blog for her comparison of the Whitney family to the Tanner family from the 90’s sitcom filmed in San Fran: Full House at  callmeshannon.com)
We started out day 4 with an early breakfast as the Chestnut Diner and headed off to the Golden Gate Park. Like usual, we had our plans for day and starting early at the California Academy of Science was first on the agenda. Unfortunately, we are still running on Midwest time, and people out west seem to run on a little slower pace. We found out the hard way that things don’t open until 9:30 here, it was 8:00.

Four days into a Whitney family vacation, we gladly would have welcomed the extra sleep. Going back to the hotel was not an option, but we were able to entertain ourselves by watching the interesting people of Friso. The west coast style is much different to what we see in the show-me-state. We also observed some pretty serious tai chi masters.

Once the museum opened we explored the science exhibits. Our favorites were the I-max  movie on earthquakes, the 3 story high rainforest, and extensive aquarium including an albino alligator.

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The rainforest had great displays of reptiles, bugs, and plants found in the different layers. My favorites were the parrots, colorful song birds, and tons of butterflies.

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Next we traded our walking shoes for segways! After a training session where we learned how to balance and maneuver the scooters, we headed out for our tour of the Golden Gate Park. This park reminded me a lot of Forest Park in St. Louis or what I imagine Central Park to be like. The 1000 acres that is now the park used to be only sand dunes.  It was a super shocking fact because the entire park was covered in huge trees, beautiful flowers, and even a serene lake with a waterfall. The park is home to a science museum, art museum, lawn bowling, outdoor amphitheater, concerts, festivals, green house museum, and a Japanese tea garden.

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If you ever have a chance to ride a segway, definitely don’t pass on the opportunity. Its really cool how the technology senses body weight and speed is controlled completely by shifting body weight. By the end of the trip, the segway felt as an extension of the body. The whole family received our driving certificates, and looked cool doing it!

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If you have taken any Spanish courses, you might know that San Francisco means Saint Francis and is named after the catholic saint Francis of Assisi. In 1776 the Misión San Francisco de Asís was  founded by a priest of the Franciscan order. The mission building is the oldest building in San  Fansisco, as it survived the historic earthquake and fire of 1906.  We went to church in the original mission chapel, which was very beautiful. After speaking to the priest for a few minutes after the service, we found out his mother was from St. Louis. Small world. He recommended a Mexican place for dinner, and then joined us for tacos. He was quite the talker, and we learned a lot!

San Francisco: Day 3 Alcatraz

The whole family together in the foggy city, why take any chances, take us right to prison! Alcatraz penitentiary was our first stop today. We loaded an early morning cruise ship that took us over the 1.25 miles across the bay to “the rock”. 1.25 miles may not seem like too far of swim, but the strong currents and frigid temperatures kept prisoners at a painful distance from freedom.
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The view of San Francisco from the island.

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The rock.
The island had so much cool history which we experienced in an informational video, garden tour, and audio tour of the cell house. The island was first used in the civil war for military purposes as union soldiers feared attack. The island never saw military action, but did always house prisoners, the first being rowdy military.
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Eventually, the purpose changed to the maximum security prison it is known for. Before being closed in 1963,  about 1500 prisoners served time on the rock, some of the most famous being Al Capone and the bird man.  When our boat arrived on the island we were greeted by a man who actually lived on the island as a child. He was the son of a guard, and lived a normal life amongst the families of other guards. I found it really interesting how life seemed so normal to these families. They went on a 15 minuet boat ride to school in San Francisco, and came home to life on Alcatraz. A seemingly normal life with other children to play with, and beautiful gardens to view. He said they hardly even realized their neighbors were convicted felons. The tall, thick walls provided safety and separation.

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The gardens recreated by volunteers of the park are so beautiful.

Entering into the cell house was like an entirely different world. With out the beautiful bay view and luscious gardens,  the place was cold, damp, and drab. Alcatraz was home only to criminals who caused issues in their first jail assignment. The worst of the worst. There was a set of basic, yet harsh rules. Prisoners were given food, clothing, and health needs. Everything else must be earned: books, time in the recreation yard, letters, visiting, everything.

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The regular cells were tiny little rooms 5×9 feet, with a bed, small sink, toilet, and table/stool combo. 

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Prisoners that caused problems were put in an area called the D block where they were only allowed out of their cell once a week for a shower. Their cells got the worst of the wind and rain. Even worse than the D block was solitary confinement. This was a pitch black tiny cell. No toilet, no bed, just darkness. The audio tour was really cool because the speakers were previous residents of the rock, including ex-cons, guards, and guards families.  If you ever have the chance to come to San Francisco, this is definitely worth your time.

We boated back to Fisherman’s wharf for lunch at the Boudin sourdough bakery. They say the secret is using a hunk of dough from the batch before to continue the use of the original mother batch. The bread was delicious, and dad and Will enjoyed the famous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. (Us girls aren’t into sea food too much, we had sourdough sandwiches and pizza).

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They made loaves shaped as cute animals too!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the views and shops of fisherman’s wharf. One area was a great viewing sight of the sea lion bachelor pad. Over 40 sea lions just basking in the sun on these docks was quite the sight. When the female sea lions head south to mate, some of the immature or lazy males stay behind. They were entertaining to watch as they waddled around and fought for the best dock  real estate. 

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Sea lions

We visited Ghirardelli square where got chocolate samples yum! We then decided to head back to China Town to get more delicious cherries to snack on.  

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Mom’s loves, Dad and chocolate, on their anniversary (mom and dads anniversary that is).

I didn’t get this post up as quickly as I had hoped. Vacation is wearing me out! I promise to fill you in, even if its a day behind!