Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Such a busy world... and squeezing in life

It seems lately that everyone is just so busy, me included.  It feels like there are so few hours left in a day to do the things I want to get done - some days it's like there are no free hours.  I wish I could find time for multitudes of things... to really keep my home as clean and organized as I'd prefer... to do all the junk purging and donating that needs to be done... to work the extra hours at work that would be so beneficial... to volunteer at the SPCA... to update this blog regularly... to post the hundreds of pictures online that I have from probably the last 12 or so months... to take the photography classes I've been yearning for... to have a consistent workout schedule... to cook the hearty and healthy meals I really want to... to spend more time outside... to actually use the many hobbies I have... to see my family and friends more... to have the consistent daily quiet time with the Lord that I want and need... and so many other things.

It looks like many other people have the same "busy" problem as I do.  Many of the blogs I keep up with don't get updated like they used to.  I play phone tag with people constantly.  Even the people I would tag as having all the free time in the world seem to constantly be on the move.

So what's going on?  Is everything in the world just getting more and more fast paced all the time?  Are we doomed to just run around like crazy for the rest of our lives, with our speeds just increasing exponentially?  Are any future kids I may have going to just have no hope of having any free time?  (And yes, I know that in most cases kids tend to add to the busy-ness of your own life.  But I tend to think that your priorities and schedules shift - I know mine would have to, because I wouldn't stay sane otherwise.)

For a long time now, I've often brainstormed about ways to slow down... to make the WORLD slow down.  It seems like such an impossible feat to help the entire world do so.  But for me, I could probably do it.  It would take some lifestyle changes and people in my life being understanding of those changes.  But a lot of times, I really think it'd be worth it.  Maybe lose the cell phone for a weekend and spend that time camping and hiking in the woods, away from everything.  Maybe give up some sleep... haha, sike - not a good idea - I need more now as it is.  Maybe give up the few TV shows I do watch in my few spare hours a week to do some of the other things on the list.  Maybe make myself even more lists than I do now, but instead of just scratching down all my random thoughts and to-dos, put aside time every day to organize my thoughts and agenda items, and make a plan so I can get it all done, and just live by a constant schedule.  Heck, maybe even job changes come to mind sometimes, but that's a big consideration for another day.

This does make me think of the Andy Griffith episode with the famous tagline of, "What's your hurry?"  A visiting preacher gives a sermon on slowing down in life and not being in such a hurry.  Makes me wish I had as much free time as they did... sit around on a Sunday afternoon and decide to walk down the street to get ice cream, or go watch your cousin wash his car, or suddenly get the notion to revamp the old band and have a band concert the same day. :-) Here's the link to the episode if you want to see it (this is the first third, the next two are right after it):

I was searching for a funny "busy" picture to include here before I published, and I found this cartoon that perfectly depicts the priorities of the majority of today's world... made me laugh, so here ya go...

And this one is pretty good too, for a reality of the usual excuse for not exercising...

Anyway, these are more just thoughts out loud, but I'm really curious if anyone else has had a time of evaluation that I seem to be having at the moment.  If so, did you make schedule or lifestyle changes?  Haha, or did you just come to grips with the fact that you'll be running around like a madman forever?

(I did just realize, however, that running around like crazy does fit the name and idea of the blog... "The Nut House."  But I do need some satisfaction of being able to do some of the things I want to do in life as well.  Just need to find some middle ground is all... keep some of the craziness and nuttiness, but fit it in with the rest.  Haha, I think I'm even going to create a new label for it.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Whistler-Blackcomb and the Winter Olympics!

With all the talk about the Winter Olympics starting soon, I thought it was a fitting time to show the fantastic trip that Jason and I were able to take last winter - especially since I've never put anything up on here about it before, and it's such a cool place.  We went to Whistler-Blackcomb for a week, which is a ski resort/town in British Columbia, Canada, comprised of two giant mountains that are side by side.  It is one of the locations for many of the events in the Winter Olympics this year, which are based in Vancouver.  Jason had been to Whistler one time before, many years ago, with a bigger group, and only got to stay for a few days.  He hardly got a true taste of the place, so he really wanted to go back.  His desire rubbed off on me, and before long we were both so excited to go.  We got the trip planned and booked, and went to our little lookout spot at the airport multiple times a week, just anticipating and getting excited to go.  Looking back now, I really think of it as a trip of a lifetime.  Sure, you can drive a few hours to go skiing all the time around here at our state's little resorts.  But Whistler is world-class - I mean, it's the home for the Winter Olympics.  But it's a place that takes a good bit of effort and time from this side of the country to get to.  Then once there, I really was in awe the whole time at how majestic this earth can really be, and the many ways how God can demonstrate the grandeur of this world, along with how small we really are.  The beauty of it all was just amazing, and it's something that you just don't see every day.

So, I'll stop with the talk and get going with the photo stream...

We started with a flight that took off before dawn, so we got to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise from the air along with a nice, quiet, cool morning 2-hour flight...

We landed for our connection in Chicago, and got our first taste of snow earlier than expected...

O'Hare had a really cool underground tunnel that takes you between terminals, actually going underneath the taxiways.  J was more concerned with keeping us on schedule, but I totally was enthralled with the experience.  I also took a video of going through the tunnel, which I'll have to find and get on here.

After we boarded our plane in Chicago, it slowly backed up to get out onto the apron.  We then sat there for over an hour, before we ever even moved forward, with no word from anybody who would know what was going on.  After quite a miserable time of sitting and lots of de-icing of the wings, we finally felt the plane get going again and start to move forward.  The sun baked us in the plane like meatloaf in the oven for the 4 hour flight, and we finally landed in Vancouver not a moment too soon.  We spent over an hour slowly winding forward in the line for customs, right behind some very fashion-forward (read:  fashion-strange) girls, admiring their skill to keep standing in some sky-high heels.

After some QandA from the customs lady, we went to find our bags from the various bag areas, praying our snowboard bag had made it through.  We finally found it in a random pile of the oddly-sized items, then had to somehow find our way to the correct bus to get us to Whistler.  After some wrong lines and misguided information from airport people, we finally found the lady that would direct us to our bus.  We were the LAST two people to get on this short-bus, and I ended up with the window seat above the tire (aka the one with no leg space).  Yay for a three-hour drive in icy slush at dusk up a road called the "Sea to Sky Highway" that overlooks cliffs. :-) Thank goodness the windows were foggy and it was getting dark, so I didn't get so freaked on the ride up there.  And thank goodness for a travel partner who doesn't mind when I need to stretch out my poor legs over his lap.

Our bus driver LOVED to talk, but unfortunately he couldn't multi-task, so his driving severely slowed whenever he was having conversation.  The dude sitting up front apparently didn't realized this, and kept him in conversation for the entire drive up there.  But, thank goodness Jason and I had each other for company and distraction.  We also took a short pit-stop in Squamish at a fast-food restaurant, which let us get a little air.  When we finally made it to Whistler, in the dark, after a full day of travel, we learned that the driver barely knew his way around the resort.  It was then, thanks to his endless chatter, that we found out he wasn't a regular driver - he was one of the owners/planners for the shuttle company who doesn't even live around there.  He had to come fill in because the scheduled driver couldn't make it.  So, after driving all over creation, secretly fearing we were stuck maaaaany times on really steep driveways, and actually having to direct our driver around because we knew more from our online research and learning for the trip than the driver did, Jason and I were the LAST people to get dropped off at our hotel.  Ours was a partner hotel with the one nextdoor, so you had to check in there and get keycards to get into our hotel.  We got it all done, trudged across the snow with our bags, and finally got into the lobby - SO thankful to finally be there.  But, we were treated with quite the lovely first view upon arrival, which definitely helped... (sorry it's blurry - but it's snowing, and I love all the Christmas lights!)

Me outside our hotel, finally here!!!  Look at all the snow!

Inside our hotel lobby - I secretly want one of these chandeliers for our future home... j/k.  Maybe if it's in the mountains. :-)

Huuuuuge fireplace in the lobby that I thoroughly enjoyed...

And after documenting the lobby, we finally made it into our room.  I L-O-V-E-D where we stayed, and I would so enjoy having something just like this every single day of my life.  The best part of the kitchen (besides the granite counters, huge frig, awesome appliances, and everything needed to cook provided)?  The tile floors are HEATED.  Yes, they are WARM.  Oh my gosh, I just stood there every morning, basking in the warmth that radiated up through my cold little feet.  The bathroom also had them, and both rooms had a thermostat for the floors.  Haha, so innovative, and so cool.  I would just love to have that every day.  That was probably one of our favorite parts of the entire hotel.  So serious.

We also loved the view out the living room - it looked up the side of one of the mountains, the pool areas, and at the other side of the semi-circle hotel.  So beautiful.

On the first morning there, this is the gorgeous early-light view we were treated to.  Everything was so calm.

We did some walking around and getting to know the area on the first day.  This is Creekside Gondola, right outside our hotel.  That run directly up the left of the photo is part of the Dave Murray Downhill, which is the run being used for the men's alpine event in the Olympics.  I can't WAIT to see it on TV and know that I've been right there!

We caught the shuttle to the main village to explore a bit there.  It's more of the "happening" place, if you will, but also therefore louder at night and busier.  We chose to stay in Creekside, which was the original "village" before what is the main village now existed.  Creekside is quieter and more serene, which we really liked.  But it still has all the necessities - restaurants, bank, grocery store, ski shop, etc.  The main village just has more of that, plus lots of shopping and more restaurant variety.  Here are two of the beautiful hotels in the village, right at the base of the mountain.  You barely have to walk out the doors to get to the lifts.

The lift map for Blackcomb mountain - all lifts were currently open on that mountain.  Not all lifts were always open though, because there had been a lot of dangers of avalanches that season, which were causing lifts and runs in the higher elevations to close.

Looking up one of the main runs from the village, at the base of Whistler mountain.

The lift lines and base station (in the building) of Whistler Gondola.  This became one of our favorite lifts, because it has a station in the middle of the mountain where you can get off, or load there to go up as well as down.  We used this at the times we were exploring and taking some photos, so we could ride up to the station to see the views and take lots of photos, but be able to come back down without having to cart all the gear around with us.  Also notice that there is NO line for the lift.  We apparently came at the perfect down time in the middle of the season, because we never once had to wait in a line longer than just a few minutes.  It was great, and definitely unexpected.

The base of the Blackcomb Gondola, later in the afternoon.  You can see on the map how the higher lifts were closed on Whistler mountain.

This is the view that afternoon outside our hotel - I just love the snow on the trees.  It's one of those beautiful views that I could never get tired of looking at.

Later that night, we caught the Fire and Ice Show that they put on every weekend during the winters at Whistler.  It's run by the Whistler-Blackcomb staff, and the ski and snowboard school instructors are the cool dudes and gals doing all the tricks.  I've never seen anything like this in person, so it was quite a show.  I really enjoyed it, and I was lucky enough to get a front row spot next to the rails.  The hill is actually built up just for this show - it is right at the bottom of the run that you can see from the village in the photo above.  This is one of the snowcats grooming the hill before the show started...

We watched as they did some practice runs...

We watched some cool ladies throw and spin fire around for a while to techno music...

Then they lit the ring of fire, and spun wreaths of flames around their heads...

Then came the tricks!  It really was cool to watch the amazing things these folks can do.  Not to mention the ability to ski (or snowboard!) behind the snowmobiles that pulled them back up the hill every time for their next run.  Haha, kind of reminded me of waterskiing and wakeboarding, but a lot harder looking.

And here's all the awesome instructors that put on the show for us...

We hung around for a little while after the show and got to see the snowcats completely maul the hill of snow and flatten it back out for the next day's ski crowds.  It really was cool to see how much snow they have to work with and do whatever they want with.

Speaking of lots of snow, check out this video for how much snow Whistler has been dumped this season so far.  It's WAY more than they got last year when we were there, and even then I couldn't believe how much there was.  So the Games should be awesome!!  Check out the snow...

And, as a good ending for now, check out the aerials in the beginning of this video.  One of them has a good view of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, side by side, with the village at the base of the both, so you get a good idea of the setup of the entire place.  I just watch it, and it stirs up this want to go back so badly!  I'm just in awe when I see it and realize that I. have. been. there.  So awesome...

More photos, trip details, and cool info on Whistler-Blackcomb to come.  The Olympic opening ceremonies are tonight!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The past week or so

Besides all the snow, here are a few semi-interesting things that have been going on in the past week or so, in a more interesting picture format...

Enjoyed a gorgeous sunrise through RDU on my way to work.

Finally got assigned a permanent parking space at work... and of course, of all the open spots, I get the one with a tree canopy two feet above my roof.  Hooray for bird poop, little berries, and blooms that will undoubtedly cover the FJ soon.  Not to mention the lovely feeling of anticipation I'll have during thunderstorms at work, wondering if I'll have another crack in my windshield.  Can't wait.

One might say that being a corner, oversized spot is great... until you come back to work after the snowstorm and find that they've used your corner as the piling up point, and didn't bother to make room for most of your vehicle.  Good thing I wore my Goretex boots today, and good thing they have a good rubber toe for kicking blocks of snow.

Ahem, enough of that...

Incorporated breakfast for supper back into the meal plans.  YUM.
(Hooray for free Krispy Kreme donut coupons from people at work... and hooray for the store being only a few blocks away from work!)

Made a scrumptious chocolate pie, after J's continual requests

Totally enjoyed the still-warm pie - something we don't get to do very often at all... then shared this pic with Mom and Dad. :-)

Incorporated raisins back into my snacks... which brought back many fond memories of California Raisins from when I was little.  I had a complete set of toy figurines, and there's a picture somewhere at home of me and the Raisins at an NC State football game.  Gotta find that.

Caught a beautiful sunset through the airport on my way home... not so good with the camera phone, but hey.  Squint a little if needed.  I love the clouds.

Included cinammon rolls in our snow day breakfasts... special treat for us.  YUM.

Started cooking some fish... made some yummy salmon and mashed potatoes last night.  One of the prettier plates I've made, haha - I don't cook for presentation quite yet!
(I must say though, the fish oils I usually take are great because they don't give you fish taste later at all... definitely can't say that about eating the real thing!)

Hmm, do you notice a theme with all the food?  Haha, oh well.  Cooking (and eating) is fun.

I did have a snow video from the phone, but I need to change the file format later.  And the snow photos are on the desktop, so all that will come next time. Good news is though that I finally got J to try the Greek place near home, and he loved it... it is now one of our go-to place when we eat out. Who'da thought?

Taking photos throughout the days like this really makes me think about doing the 365 Photo Project - it's something I've read about for a while and have considered.  Just need to carry the small real camera with me, instead of relying just on the camera phone.  Just might start it up here soon.

I also got a lot of cleaning done at home during the snow days... much of it has been on my to-do list for quite some time, and streamlining is one of my big current goals.  And putting a big dent in that definitely feels good.  Now I'm in that groove where I feel the need to get in there and finish it all.  So truthfully, I should say... hooray for wanting to clean!