Reclaiming Experience

This blog is a tool for recording my experiences as well as evaluating my day-to-day life. With my camera in hand, I will make meaning out of my life.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 182: Rabbits vs. Turtles

Best Moments
1. Picnic by the castles and lake
2. Climbing up to Mary's bridge to look over the castles
3. Luge ride with the luge warrior, Shelli, and the extreme rabbits Rene and Jennifer
4. Our group photo with the castle in the background

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 181: Contrasting a Sobering Experience with Happy Moments

Best Moments
1. Great guide at Dachau that provided knowledge about the unique history of the camp
2. Seeing the memorial sculpture of individuals jumping onto an electric fence to end their suffering
3. Hearing birds sing at Dachau
4. Beautiful stops along the way to our destination including Wieskirche Church
5. Paying for sanitized toilets (I didn't really appreciate this until we reached Italy)
6. Buddy introductions that delved deeper into the people we recently met and would get to know even better

*My audio was cut off, so it is not complete, but here is what I have.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 180: The Search for a Biergarten in the Afternoon

Best Moments
1. Extended lunch shared with great people
2. Searching for a Germany shirt for the big soccer game (Germany vs. Italy)
3. Beer at the beer garden and Rick helping me finish it
4. Following a night watchmen through the medieval town
5. Walking the wall and overlooking the town
6. Rainy night watching the soccer game and Rene getting poured on by a waterfall of water

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 179: New Connections on the Rhine

Best Moments
1. Herr Jung's sobering experiences
2. Thomas's enthusiasm and overly kind gestures with the ice wine
3. Piano music at the poster shop
4. Guide flicking off kids at Reinfels castle
5. Rhine river cruise with wine
6. Night strolls of Bacharach with friends
7. "Life is good" with white wine (dry, semi, and classic)
8. Making a wish in a fountain that Herr Jung said is proved to work 

Link to Flickr Images 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 178: Guten Tag Germany

Best Moments:
1. Morning walk in Haarlem before leaving for Bacharach
2. Beer tasting and film dubbing at Arnhem
3. Fatima's funny jokes and amazing hospitality
4. 700 year old hotel in scenic town

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 177: The Dutch Way

Best Moments
1. Chocolate filled and covered croissant
2. Van Gogh Museum-big grin after seeing familiar places
3. Canal cruise
4. Wine, cheese, and crackers with two great sisters in our courtyard 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 175: Bon Voyage

Well, I have just returned from my trip and I will begin the process of updating my blog.  I have 22 days to catch up on, so this may take awhile.  The format for these next 22 days will vary from video, audio, and text.  Caution, the audio contains a lot of "ums" and ramblings.  The common thread throughout this will be the photos, but I will link them instead of posting them straight here.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 174: Travel Pic

Here is my Kendra picture for this trip.  I mentioned this the last time that I left, but I always take a picture of Kendra with me.  She looks so peaceful in this one.  I will miss her.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 173: Good Company

My visitors left me today.  We went down to the downtown area to have breakfast at Egg Harbor Cafe and then went for a little stroll before they got in their car and made their way south.  The time went by too fast.  Till the next time.

I spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready.  Packing took longer than I thought it would.  It is nice to do it a couple of days ahead of time because then I can think about what I might be missing and actually have time to get it.  I've got a pretty full bag.  It is amazing how much stuff I can fit in there.  Hopefully I can keep it this organized as I go from place to place.  I think that will be my biggest challenge.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 172: Road Trip to Galena

It was a short night last night considering what time we went to bed.  I got up and fixed breakfast and tried to fix coffee.  I just drink espresso, so I don't have a big coffee pot.  We used my dad's keurig and kind of flooded my countertop.  We also managed to get some coffee out of it too.  

We hit the road around 8:30 to Galena.  We took the scenic route out so we could see some of the countryside and sneak into Iowa to say we went to another state.  It was a nice day, just hot.  Once we got to Galena we grabbed some lunch at a place called Gobbies.  Linda and I shared a sandwich.  I really liked the salad that we got there with the raspberry vinaigrette.  Becky and Linda got to try beer nuggets for the first time.  I think they liked them.

After lunch we wandered the town, weaving in and out of shops.  We also did a little wine tasting at Massbach Ridge and Galena Cellars.  I love Galena Cellars.  Unfortunately it was time to get back on the road to make it home for dinner time. 

Dinner was kind of a pitch-in.  Linda brought lasagna, I made a salad, portobello mushrooms, and garlic bread, and Becky made crepes suzette for dessert.  It was a nice family meal, too bad we were missing one person: Lori.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 171: Visitors

My guests arrived around 7 tonight.  I am so happy that they decided to come visit me.  We immediately opened some wine as we looked around at my new place.  I was eager to show them the DVD of my trip, so that was what we did first.  Hopefully they can see why I am so excited and have an idea of what I will see.  

After the video, we decided to go down to the Naperville Riverwalk.  It was such a beautiful night down there.  I felt like I was in Europe for a moment because there was an accordian player providing some entertainment as we walked.  We strolled up and down the river for awhile, enjoying each others' company.  After the walk, we drove around a bit and headed back home.

I rented some DVDs at the library that I thought could entertain us in the evening.  We watched a movie called "Bread and Tulips," which is a foreign film about a wife that gets left behind on a tour and she ends up getting a job in Venice and staying for awhile.  It was a cute movie with lovely Venetian scenery.  Around midnight, we headed to bed to get ready for the next day

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 170: Busy Week

A busy week lies ahead of me.  In 5 days I leave!  Tomorrow two of my aunts and grandmother are coming to stay for a couple of nights.  I look forward to spending some time with them and going to Galena on Wednesday.  I spent the morning preparing my apartment for their arrival.  There has been some cleaning I've wanted to get done and I'm almost there.  I still need to hang a few things up before they arrive.  

Crystal came over today for some pool time.  It was a warm day, so spending the afternoon by the pool was perfect.  Nothing like a summer day laying out with a margarita.  

I'm finishing my evening watching Downton Abbey and researching a few things.  It feels nice to just be relaxing at home. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 169: Diving in the Sky

What an amazing day.  I didn't even jump and I feel like it was so much fun and that I learned a little life lesson.  We arrived in Beloit a little before 8 this morning and the weather was prefect.  Dad and Crystal were the second to jump.  In the first picture you can see Crystal with her jump partner: Ted.  I think Ted was playing with them because in the next picture he had the girls in the prayer position, but my dad didn't have to do that.  He was quite the jokster.  Poor Crystal had to deal with most of his jokes.  

My dad jumped with Corn (Cornelius).  Everyone in the hanger was so nice.  Woody was the videographer that documented his jump.  They really seemed to have a passion for what they do and they have a good time doing it.  In the picture below you can see my dad and Crystal in the air.  Crystal is with the blue chute and my dad is with the red/yellow chute.  I think I had the biggest smile across my face as I saw the little dots falling from the plane.  How wonderful to create this life memory.  I am happy that I was able to be there for it.

I really like the picture of my dad giving Ted a handshake.  Handshakes are kind of a dying art and I think this picture shows a very sincere one.  I feel like I'm not doing a very good job of expressing my thoughts behind the day.  I guess I mostly feel an interest in what these people do for a living and what their story is.  There are so many ways we can choose to live our lives and it is always fascinating to see how others do it.

We finished our Father's day with dinner at Catch 35.  The meal was fantastic.  Thank you dad for being such a great one!  

Day 168: Wind Beneathe my Wings

Today was jump day.  Jump from a plane 14,000 feet in the sky day.  Unfortunately the weather was not cooperative enough to allow for this.  It began with rain, then clouds, then wind.  Overall, it was still a good day.  The picture shows Crystal signing her life away.

One of the funny things to take away from the day is what people do why they are waiting or bored.  We waited for a few hours to see if the weather would improve.  While waiting, some people threw rocks, some people played games, and some people did gymnastics.  We hung out, walked around, played stinky cheese (or something like that) and chatted.  

Skydivers are interesting people.  How strange of a job to go to such extremes: the ultimate rush to waiting around for the right weather.  Everyone was so friendly, it was great.  The owner kept trying to convince me to jump, but don't worry, I won't.  It just isn't my thing.  

The jumpers have postponed till tomorrow morning.  Hopefully they get to check one thing off their bucket list.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 167: New Kicks

When I talked to my dad last night, he said that I needed to make sure I had good shoes because I would be hiking in the mountains.  So, today I went to the Clark's outlet store and found two new pairs: one pair of sandals, one pair of sneakers.  Best part, I saved about $70.  They are super comfy, cute, and a great deal.  What more could a girl want.  Look at that, I should be a foot model :).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 166: Getting Ready

I almost forgot to get my picture today.  Woops.  The next few days are going to be pretty busy.  I made sure that I can use my phone and credit card abroad.  I also started reading about the places I am visiting.  On Tuesday I get my package that includes my guidebook, backpack, translation book, and other items.  That will be fun.

I got a call late in the evening from my dad and he reassured me that I made the right choice.  He watched the DVD that was sent to me and he is very envious of what I get to see.  He said that it could maybe give me some ideas for what I can do during my summer and perhaps I would enjoy guiding a tour like this.  Maybe some doors will be opening up?  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 165: Piles

I have piles of things around my apartment today.  Travel books and dvds, items to pack, euros, laundry to get ready, and other random things.  

As I was going to bed last night, I started to question my decision and pessimistic Melissa came in.  I worried about what might happen while I'm gone.  Would Kendra be okay?  It is so funny because a couple hours earlier I was a romanticized Melissa that was happy to grab this opportunity and go for it full-heartedly.  I must be a little bipolar or something.

Pessimistic Melissa is gone and practical Melissa has stepped in.  I've started to make a packing list, type my itinerary on a calendar, and start thinking about what I need to do before I go.  It is kind of a bummer that I don't have more time to plan because that is half the fun.  No complaints here though.  Instead it is just an adrenaline rush of excitement and thoughts.

Overall, I would say it has been a good day.  At this point my mom doesn't need surgery for her pain, just physical therapy.  I hope it helps.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 164: Big Decision

Rick Steves showed up in my mailbox today.  I received a catalog of his 2012 tours and I think I am in trouble.  There is a 21 day tour that includes the best of Europe. I would get to see Amsterdam, Haarlem, Backarach, Rothenburg, Reutte, Venice, Florence, Rome, Cinque Terre, Lauterbrunnen Valley, Beaune, and Paris.  I would get to see two places that I am in love with and get to visit tons of other sites that I have always wanted to see.  The price may seem a bit steep, but it includes so much and the best part of all, it is all set and ready to go.  The brochure comes with a DVD and this DVD is dangerous.  You get to see all of the destinations and meet some of the travelers and host.  

So it has come to a point where I need to make a big decision.  I would leave on the 24th of June and come back the 14th of July.  Then I would leave the 15th to go to New Orleans with my dad :).  It sounds so crazy, but I can't help but think that I should go.  My dad and I are really big on living our lives and doing what we want.  That is why he is jumping from a plane on Saturday (crazy man).  Anyway, when we were talking, he said, why not, you may not be around next year.  I'm not exactly in the best place financially, but I have enough that I can make it work.  I would have to cancel a few things, but I can make this work. Some may think it is odd to travel solo, but I think it is so exciting.  Being alone forces me to converse and meet the new people.  With a travel group of no more than 28, I get to possibly meet new travel partners.  I just don't see enough negatives to discourage me from going.  There are way too many positives.  My aunt Linda says, "seize the moment."  I think she is right.

I'd love to hear all of your thoughts.  I am going to sleep on it tonight and decide tomorrow.  It is only 11 days away, so I better decide fast.  

Here is the link if you want to see: 

Update:  I didn't sleep on it.  I'm going!  How crazy...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 163: Restoration

Time to turn this desk into a vanity!  Here s the before shot minus the drawers.  A basic shape with potential.  The next picture shows the basecoat on the drawers.  The goal is to have this blue peaking through the white crackle.  It will hopefully have a sea kind of feel to it.  The final picture shows one of the drawers with the crackle and its new hardware.  Overall the vanity looks pretty good.  It definitely looks weathered.  Now I need to find a mirror...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 162: Up North

 I went up to Lincolnwood today for a wine fest.  There were several wineries and distributors set up with over 100 wines to taste.  I think I tasted around 30, that was enough.  They also had some wonderful cheeses, bread, and meat skewers.  

One of my favorite booths had a guy selling Spanish wines.  We started talking about traveling and he talked so highly of Spain.  The wine, the jamon, and the scenery.  It sounds like a wonderful place to go.  He also talked about how this Muga wine used egg whites as part of the wine-making process.  I had never heard of this before.  I think I will have to check it out.  All in all, I tasted some great wines, hand some conversations with people, and discovered some new wineries I want to visit.

I was so close to Evanston that I decided to stop by.  I was going to walk on the beach, but apparently it isn't free.  It is in the winter, I don't see the difference...  Here you can see a man laying out in the grass while reading a book.  A lot of people were relaxed on this warm Sunday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 161: Graduation

Today called for an early morning so that I could get ready for graduation.  The activities began with a free continental breakfast.  I joined up with Ashley and her family while my family saved seats for everyone.  Before we knew it, it was time to line up.  I was so glad that it was not outside because it was a hot day.  Even in an air conditioned room I felt warm with two layers of clothes on.  

The ceremony began with us forming a tunnel so that the faculty could come through.  We applauded them as they processed into the rec center.  We then walked in to find our seats.  The first portion of the ceremony included several speeches from people like the president, mayor, and the director of the Peace Corps.  It offered some food for thought as we all continue on our journey.

Finally it was time.  The graduate students were called up first and I was sixth up.  In the first picture you can see me being hooded by one of my professors.  It is definitely a tradition, but it is one that feels like it has some significance.  I didn't originally plan on walking, but I am glad that I did.

In the other pictures you can see my friend Ashley being hooded and then us getting our picture together afterwards.  It was a nice ceremony.

After graduation, it was time to eat and celebrate.  My family and I went to Maggiano's and it was delicious.  I hung out with the fam for a little while and then rested for most of the evening.  What a nice day.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 160: Practice

The day started off full of errands.  While running around, I stumbled upon a garage sale.  I have been looking for a vanity and I've found something that I can fix up.  It is actually a small desk, but with some paint, special treatment, fancy hardware, and a beautiful mirror, I will have the vanity I want.  I love all of the drawers because I will be able to hide all of my makeup, hair stylers, nail polish, and everything else that I use to beautify.  Stay tuned for before and after pictures.

This evening was graduation practice.  We found our seats and got the overview we needed to be prepared for tomorrow.  Afterwards, some of my graduate girls and I went to Quigley's for a refreshment.  That is another great thing about school, you get to meet new people.  Tomorrow is the big day.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day 159: Indoors Day

I killed a bird today.  I was driving to school this morning and a bird landed on the road right before I drove over it.  As I drove away I saw feathers fly and a little body fall to the ground.  Sorry little bird.  I didn't mean to.  

I didn't end up staying for long in my new classroom, but I put up the fabric on one bulletin board and was able to visualize what the room will look like.  The first picture is where my reading corner will go.  There will be reading nooks throughout the room, but this is where the main bulletin board will be along with my library.

The second picture is where my math corner will be.  There will be manipulatives for stations and other displays to help the kiddos with math.  I will also have a writing corner and science/social studies corner.  I figure it will be easiest to organize my room by subject.  We will see how it goes.

It felt good to stay inside today after being burnt yesterday.  I had fun today working on my French pictures.  As I write this, I am watching the DVD that my Aunt Lori made.  When I see the pictures and videos, it is so hard to believe that I have seen these places.  I sometimes feel that I am in a novel and the story is told in third person.  "She went to Provence with her favorite aunts (and adopted aunts).  It was an experience she would never forget."  How fortunate I must be to see what I have seen.  I used to believe that the good people always suffer.  Either I am not a good person or my suffering is waiting for me because I have been so blessed with the life that I have.  One of the goals of this blog was to help me see that, and I definitely have.

The last bit of news tonight relates to the next trip.  My dad and I will be going to New Orleans again.  I booked the hotel tonight and I am excited to see what it is like.  Here is the link if you are interested in seeing:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 158: Feelin the Heat

My Aunt Lori is probably going to kill me because she just sent me an e-mail about wearing sunscreen, but I am a crispy critter.  Crystal came over today and we went to the pool that Ashley works at to soak up some sun.  I didn't put on sunscreen right away, but I did later.  Apparently it was too late.  Besides the burn, it was a wonderful day.  It was the perfect makings for a relaxing summer afternoon.  Margaritas (or Margrets as Crystal calls them), good company, beautiful weather, and time.  Mix these all together and you get fun in the sun.  We came back from our roast to fix dinner and watch "500 Days of Summer."  As we sipped wine, ate dinner, and watched a movie I was thinking that this is the life.  

Tomorrow I get to go into my new classroom to do a little decorating and sizing up.  Then Friday I've got graduation rehearsal and drinks.  Saturday is graduation.  And Sunday is a wine festival in Lincolnwood.  Life is pretty great.  The only worries I have are the IRS and my blood test results.  More information to come about these items later.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Day 157: I Would Walk 500 Miles

I learned a life lesson today.  When going to a new forest preserve and deciding to walk a trail, don't just walk a trail.  It was a beautiful morning and I thought hey, why not go for a walk.  I hopped on a trail and took off.  I figured that it would loop around and the sign said 2 mi, so I thought hey, that sounds like a nice little walk.  Well, loop around it didn't, at least not exactly.  As I was walking through the prairie, I lost sound of the construction on the road and sight of people.  I felt like I was walking back around, but my car never appeared.  After walking about 4-5 miles, I came across a visitors center.  Like a real dummy, I rang the bell and asked for help.  I was getting desperate and almost asked for a ride back to my car.  I had a doctor's appointment and didn't know if I had enough time to walk back.  After looking at the map I realized I had at least another two miles to go.  So I trekked back and when I saw my car again, it was a magical moment.  I sat down in my car and dumped the rocks out of my shoe.  I made it!  It was definitely a good walk and I needed it, just wasn't planning on it today.

I made it to my appointment on time and I was happy to see that the doctor thinks I should have a sleep study done.  He also ran some blood tests.  I may be a little bit of a hypochondriac, but it would be so reassuring to know that nothing is wrong.  I am so fatigued and I'd like to know if it is something I can do something about.  I guess we will see.  Plus, it is pretty cool to have a sleep study done.

All in all, it was a good day and I am finishing my evening with some indie movies featuring Ryan Gosling. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 156: Funny Moments

Today had a couple funny moments worth noting.  While at the teacher store I was told by the lady next in line that I am a brilliant woman.  Although I know this already, the reason she claims I am is kind of odd.  I was purchasing a calendar for my classroom and some lightbulb came on in her mind.  I don't know what it was, but I'm glad I could contribute.

As I was contemplating walking Kendra this evening, a voice came through my screen door.  Some guy was belting it out in his apartment.  I would say that his music background is pretty minimal, but good for him for not feeling self conscious about the whole neighborhood hearing him sing.  These are probably moments that would be more entertaining if you were here.  Instead, I will chuckle with Kendra.

In my first picture you can see my new tablecloth.  I can't wait to fill it with dishes and company.  I'm sure you know what the second picture shows.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day 155: Summer Sundays

 What a wonderful day. I took my time this morning before leaving for Geneva.  I stopped to do some shopping and then at the French Market.  Yes, a French Market in Northern Illinois.  I finally broke down and bought a Provencal tablecloth.  I bought a couple in Provence, but the nice ones were too expensive.  Instead I bought it here.  There is a french woman at this market that I have talked to a few times and this is the place I was supposed to get my tablecloth.  We talked for awhile and she helped me pick out the perfect one.  When I asked to take a picture, she laid out all of her best tablecloths.  I get the impression that she is very proud of what she does and what she sells.  I think that quality deserves my business.

After the French Market I went to Galena Cellars for a wine tasting.  I know that it may be a little odd to do a wine tasting on my own, but if I want to taste wine and I am alone, I don't think I should miss out.  I was originally planning a solo trip this year, but financially it would be better if I didn't.  I think instead that I should work towards doing what I want when I am out on my own.  The goal of the solo trip was to learn about myself and grow.  I think I've said this here before, but I think true growing occurs when you are facing something independently.  Being free of influence is a reflective thing.  But anyway, I think I will just try to continue doing this on a smaller scale.

Later in the evening I was fortunate enough to meet up with Ashley for dinner and drinks.  We sat outside and enjoyed the nice evening.  It is so nice to have someone so close that is such great company to hang out with.  I think it is going to be an awesome summer.

I ended my night with a few sips of wine sitting outside with my pup.  I am a happy girl right now.

As I lay in bed tonight, I have my window open and I hear people speaking in Italian.  A woman is laughing and I wonder if I'm really in Illinois.