Archive for July, 2008

keep tahoe blue



this weekend we packed up our suburban and dragged the boat up to lake tahoe for a pseudo family vacation (sans brothers). 

i’m going to do a top 8, bottom 4 list for the trip. i most definitely stole this idea from someone else’s blog.

top 8: 
1. lake tahoe= breathtaking snowcapped mountains surrounding a crystal clear lake lined by soothing rocky beaches. need i say more more?
2. feeling like I stepped into a post card every time I walked outside. 
3. early morning runs along the water.  
4. seeing james taylor play saturday night. 
5. riding around on the boat all weekend and finally catching up on some reading. 
6. climbing around a little island we found in emerald bay (a little cove on the south side of the lake). the word to describe this place would be enchanting. 
7. docking at sunnyside’s for sunday brunch. 
8. enjoying time with my family. we’ve all been running around in different directions the past few weeks, so it was good to get some time in together. 

bottom 4:
1. getting sunburned on my lips, head (part), and ears. and then everywhere else too.  ouch. 
2. getting poison oak all over my arm from who knows where. 

that is all, i cant even think of two more things because it was just such a great weekend. 

here are some pictures.


i want to bring some more people, go back, and never leave.


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I’m a doer. I fill up my days as full as they’ll go and I tend to measure the success of a day based on how much i have accomplished. This isn’t a particularly unique quality, because I think it’s a common struggle seeing that we live in a absurdly fast paced society. This summer I’ve observed this speed through the family that I nanny for. Here is an example of a typical day in the life of JT and Skyler. 

6:30- wake up
8:00- leave for hockey camp (or science camp, kids country, tennis camp, swim camp, cheerleading camp, golf camp, soccer camp, etc. -it just depends on the week and the child)
12:00- i pick them up and we have lunch and get ready for the next round of camps
1:00- afternoon camp- this could be any of the camps i listed above 
4:00- i pick them up and take JT to soccer practice and Skyler to cheerleading practice on MWF and then swim team practice on TTH
7:00 JT has hockey practice again on MWF after soccer

I mean…seriously..it’s ridiculous. These kids do not know how to play because they are constantly engaged in some sort of activity. A couple weeks ago they didn’t have any camps and I had to watch them all day. Misery. I thought I was going to go out of my mind. Instead of being normal kids and playing outside, watching cartoons, swimming, etc. they sat there are complained/threw tantrums/cried almost all day, every day about how bored they were. No matter what activity I tried to come up with I couldn’t fill their days as well as camps and practices can. And trust me-i tried. We’re talking games, crafts, parks, bikerides, baking cookies- you name it, i tried it! The only thing the kids know how to do when they are home is turn their gameboys on and stare into the screen for hours until they have defeated every level and conquered every boss. This makes me sad. I know that kids aren’t easily entertained, but I feel like there is something very sad about the fact that they don’t like to play outside and can’t enjoy a day getting to play around at the house. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this summer I’ve really come to realize the extent of the problem with fast paced life. One day, I want my kids to be able to experience all the fun things that come with being a kid…making forts, playing dress up, running around with kids in the neighborhood all day, coloring, making messes, etc etc. 

Watching their busy lives has really made me realize how important it is to sit still. I think that the very best moments of my life have happened in the stillness. Busyness has become such a way to distract us from all the wonderful things in life that we can only enjoy when we aren’t so busy. It’s hard to live in a world where the Lord is a mere whisper among the booming thunder of our human efforts to keep ourselves preoccupied with things that don’t really matter. I want to escape that noise and rest in the quietness of salvation. Unfortunately, that goes against the grain of my own personal habit of keeping myself really busy. I want to be less busy. How come that is so much easier said than done?  

On that note, I wanted to talk about this book that I’m reading right now. It’s a short read by Henri Nouwen titled Out of Solitude. Our new young life area director asked us to read to get ready for the fall and I have to say that it’s probably going down on my list of favorites. I’ve only read a few books of his, but at this point I’m fairly positive that Henri Nouwen has never set pen to paper without the very spirit of god pouring out through his words. I can’t seem to get through a page of this book without underlining almost every sentence. Like I said, I really battle with not being able to let go of my desire to accomplish things. I want to finish every day feeling satisfied that I have been productive and checked off all the boxes on my plethora of to-do lists that are scattered around my car, room, pockets, etc. I’ve been trying to learn how to “sit still more” this past year, and despite all that I’ve learned, I still can’t seem to be satisfied in just being. Here is what i’ve learned from the truths that Nouwen has shared in this book…

“More often than not, we not only desire to do meaningful things, but we often make the results of our work the criteria of our self-esteem. And then we not only have successes, we become our successes…when we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the point to measure our worth..That means we are not only in the world but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us…When we have sold our identity to the judges of this world, we are bound to become restless, because of a growing need for affirmation and praise…it is in solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts…”

i highly recommend this book. it’s worth every penny of the $4.00 you can get it for.

i’m not really sure how to tie this whole post together because i feel like it was so scattered, so i’m just going to leave you with something pretty. 

my new favorite vase + a lovely peony i picked up at a flower shop in berkeley. beauty. 

ps. spanish friends: that new vase is from spain. you know it looked familiar!

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…Te quiero, amor mio!

Meet Marion.

This is Katie’s teacher who invited her class out for a night on the town. Grace and I invited ourselves to tag along. After being introduced to a few local bars, we ended up in a karaoke bar. Were we the only people in the bar? Yes. When we first arrived at 11:30 we thought we were just a little early. Then 2am snuck up on us… and we were still the only people in the bar. 

Song 1: Bailamos. We requested it in Spanish but the DJ must have underestimated our bilingual abilities because he played it in English. Bummer… but we learned that the words are actually “Te quiero, amor mio” not “Te quiero, mamia.” Write that one down, folks. It means “I want you, my love.”

Song 2: Total Eclipse of the Heart. Duh. [I haven’t said or heard anyone say ‘duh’ since I last saw Hannah…miss you.. and the 90’s.] What is karaoke night without Total Eclipse? As you can see, the Spanish themed song idea was short lived.

I must add that Marion, Spanish teacher, LOVES Bon Jovi and Shania Twain. Given thus, other hits of the night include: “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” “Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and of course, “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Also, in our party were two music majors who took themselves a little to seriously on stage. Their hit of the night was “Summer Lovin’.” I believe it was during their performance of this classic broadway tune that Grace said “I just got chill bumps, I’m having so much fun.” I mean, it was true. This night is going down in the books, right at the tail of night at the Sangria Garden in Sevilla. 


Mas Fotos:

 A great moment of surprise captured on film as Cullen and I were posing for a normal picture when the Plaza lit up at 10:00 sharp, tonight.

Emma, double fisting as usual

Katia y Laurita, preciosos.

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i’ve got lots of pictures!

this past weekend sweet blair and hannah came all the way from the east coast to visit me. what a wonderful blessing it was! it was sooo fun to see FRIENDS! I kind of forgot what it feels like to have those in the flesh. i’m pretty sure that every other sentence that we said was, “oh. my. gosh. i cannot wait to go back to auburn.” 

blair arrived on thursday afternoon and despite my very rude late pickup, she still got in the car with me (what a good friend!) and we rushed off to fill our bellies with mid-afternoon crepes at this wonderful little cafe in walnut creek. later on that evening we drove down to santa cruz to visit some friends (the florida boys) who are playing worship music for a summer camp on mt. hermon. we got there in time to see them play a few songs which was so great. after that they had the night off so we drove into town to a very idealistic santa cruz coffee shop where we sat talking for hours and enjoyed coffee foam art that was almost too beautiful to drink. it was such a fun night and felt like a little slice of auburn right here in norcal.

the next day blair and I went to berkeley where we ate at cheeseboard, scouted out salvage/thrift stores, and drooled over deep v tee’s at american apparel. saturday morning we woke up and headed over to yellowwood coffee shop and sat outside all day working on our boring online summer classes. our afternoon ended perfectly with a WONDERFUL skype session with Holly (here’s your shout out- i miss you so much it hurts, get back to america soon please. thanks)!


hannah finally arrived on saturday evening and we once again headed down the east bay to meet up with the florida boys at in-n-out in san jose. there were a few who lost their in-n-out virginity in our crowd that night which was thrilling to say the least.


sunday (my birthday!) we got up and made a lovely drive into the city with my family. we went to City Church and then spent the day exploring.

Hannah at some cupcake shop. We didn’t actually buy cupcakes here, hannah just loves cupcakes we had to stop here so she could have a moment with them.   

Ice cream sundays at ghirardelli! (note: every picture up until now involves food…as far as I’m concerned, this is how every birthday weekend should be)


We visited fort mason gardens where we found delicious raspberries and took loottttsss of pictures.  

(note creeper dad in the background)

for some reason, taking an emo picture was really important to hannah. i think it was the hoodie.  

blair and I shared lots of special moments in the garden together. 

the GOLDEN gate bridge on my GOLDEN birthday. that wasn’t even planned. cosmic.  

monday was a fun day full of manicures/pedicures, the yogurt shack, and a big dinner with the dixons (nieghbors from charlotte who are living in palo alto for the summer). then these two wanted to have a photo shoot in my backyard to get some pictures to put in their house. i took about 200 and probably 4 turned out ok. not because of the gorgeous models, more because of my poor photography skills. oh well.  

tuesday morning they both departed and my soul was was ripped apart.

i couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

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Ah, sweet introversion. 

This weekend, all of my amigos went to the beach in Portugal but someone had to feed the fish and let the dog out, so I took on the responsibility to stay behind. [I also didn’t have the euro amount required to go.]

After 3 weeks of having a variety of friends at hand, a weekend to unbutton my collar in solitude sounded killer. I will not lie, I had really high expectations for this weekend… which usually leads to a let down but I think the high expectation let down usually involves people letting you down. And there was no people in my expectations… there was anti-people. And I was not let down.

Friday night, after waving bon voyage to my traveling friends, I walked myself down to Leonardo’s (a fast food-ish sandwich place) and got a ham, cheese and tomato baguette. Unsure of what to do and where to eat, I peeled of the wrapper and ate my baguette like a push-pop as I walked to the cathedral. Now, I have walked past this cathedral almost everyday since I have been in Salamanca, somehow managing to overlook a huge park right beside it. In my defense, the Cathedral is a really big attention hog with its towering towers and ringing bells. Shocked and intrigued by this new [to me] park I propped myself up against a tree and enjoyed my humble dinner and pulled out The Sun Also Rises. About half way through my sandwich, I couldn’t eat anymore so I gave it to man who was walking around begging. He said something that I’m assuming was “Thank you” in what was definitely not Spanish and then tore the baguette in half, giving the bigger half to his dog, which made me laugh. That is my kind of homeless man. With one eye on Hemingway and the other on the picnics, music and dogs, I passed the first half of the night in the silent company of my fellow townsmen.

At about ten, the warm breeze turned cool and I couldn’t stop thinking about hot chocolate, so Ernest and I relocated to the Plaza where I ordered a cup. What I received from my… how shall I say, friendly waiter, had more than just milk and chocolate in it. Unable to finish anything in it’s entirety that night, I drank only half before becoming fearful of not being able to find my way home alone if I finished the whole cup. More reading and people watching here… then I walked back, praying every step that I wouldn’t be abducted. And I was not, Praise the LORD.

Saturday consisted of similar activities in similar locations, plus shopping. In Spain, there is a chain clothes store called Zara with Anthropologie-esque clothes on H&M prices. Dangerous! …but fun! So, la di da.. more exploring, reading, people watching, music listening, pistachio ice cream eating, flower picking, hymn humming, picture taking, Argentinean meeting, bridge crossing and LORD praising. The perfect ending to a perfect day was a long skype date with Meg and Blair, sigh. I love my friends.

This morning I had big plans of sleeping until 10 or so and then going to what I know to be the only protestant church in Salamanca at noon. Against my will, I woke up at 8:30 and couldn’t fall back asleep. So, grumbling, I got out of bed, took a shower, and left, thinking I would take my time wandering over to the church in case I had a hard time finding it. I didn’t have a hard time finding it but I was surprised to read on the door that the service would be beginning at 11 for the summer. I look at my watch and it’s 10:45. I confessed my grumbling, thanked God for waking me up and walked inside. I was greeted by an old man at the door who introduced himself to me as Juan. I introduced myself as Holly, told him I was studying in Salamanca for 4 weeks and that I was really excited to be with them this morning as he walked me inside and sat me on the very front row. In-tim-i-dating. I took a quick look around the sanctuary, noticing the words “Soy El Camino, La Verdad y La Vida” [I am The Way, The Truth and The Life] engraved in the wood above the stage, and then I pulled out my journal and started to write, hoping my blonde hair and English Bible wouldn’t attract too much attention. But of course it did. As people filed into the small sanctuary, I received nothing but Bienvenidos, hugs and kisses. Shortly after, Juan walked up to front and led the congregation in prayer. Then we sang for about half an hour which was GLORIOUS. Lucky for me, there wasn’t many big words like sanctification or justification or ebenezer so I could understand what I was singing. Then Juan, who I am beginning to realize is the Pastor of this church, walked up front again and invited the congregation to stand as we read about the Great Commandment in Matthew 22.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” vs. 36-40

I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about but that’s ok. Then we took communion and sang a few more songs. THEN Juan announced to the congregation that there was a guest in their presence. “Holly esta nos visitando de Los Estados Unidos!” [Holly is visiting us from the United States!] Then he made me stand up and tell where I was from. Seriously? I could feel my face turning purple. Afterward, tons of people came up and said things to me in Spanish that I couldn’t understand. Just smile, nod and say si, si, gracias, gracias. Despite the minor embarrassment and inability to understand the majority of words spoken, my soul was fed. I left the church and spend the rest of the afternoon reading in a nearby park.

And now my sunburned friends are back and I am glad they are here to share the last 8 days with me. 8. more. days.

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Beautiful, wonderful, magnificent Andalucía!!

Precursor to this chronicle: last weekend feels like a 10 day duration because it was so packed. Three Andalucían cities in 3 days is way too much to see in a weekend but we did it on little sleep and little food. The weekend is somewhat of a blur so there is no doubt that the recollection will be the same. 

We left Salamanca on Saturday morning and drove to Toledo where we spent the better part of the afternoon. It was really pretty and old, like all other Spanish cities. We were only there for a quick walk through the city and our guide spoke Spanish and looked like Peewee Herman so I could only understand bits and pieces due mostly to laughter and partly to language barrier. I did, however, find a pottery store owned by two brothers who sculpt and paint everything in the store. I got a vase that was way too expensive but it was too beautiful and the brothers were too kind to not buy it. 

Panoramic view of Toledo

From Toledo we drove to Granada, the pomegranate hub of the world, hence the name Granada which means pomegranate in Spanish. Surprisingly [and saldly], I didn’t see any pomegranates while I was there. Granada is also the home of  the Alhambra which an ancient Moorish palace. Due to a lack of funds, I didn’t get to go inside the Palace because it cost 13 euros but we spent a long time in the gardens and courtyards which were really beautiful. We, then, explored the rest of the city and the Cathedral built by Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand after the Moors were overthrown by the Catholic Church. I much prefer the muslim-esque architecture with all the colorful tile and symmetry to the dark renaissance style so it wasn’t as enjoyable as the Alhambra but the King and Queen are buried there, which was pretty cool. Here are some pictures in the garden….

Sunday night we went to a “cave” called Los Tarantos to see some Flamenco dancing [we were told we were going to be in a cave but it was just a building like looked like a cave on the inside… kind of like El Palacio in Huntsville.] It was SO much fun and SO hilarious. The dancers loved Cullen, but I mean, who doesn’t?

Monday had our finale in Sevilla. We toured the Jiraldo Catherdal which is the 3rd biggest Cathedral in Europe but the 1st biggest Roman Catholic one. Pret-ty cool. It’s huge. There was a painting on one of the walls that looked like a normal size picture from where we were standing but it was really the size of an apartment! Ay Ay Ay! And we had an incredible tour guide who has lived in Sevilla her whole life and loves it so much that she has made a living telling people about it. Kind of like STUDENT RECRUITERS! haha, kidding. But not really. That is the best kind of guide, for sure. I loved it.



Emma at the Jiraldo Catherda

And Monday night was our best night yet in Spain! It may actually be on my top 5 best nights, ever. I know, bold statement, right? It’s true. With Rick Steve’s help, we found an unmarked, local sangria garden. It had 3 different sections. The first one was like small cave, cavern room with a tiny little stage. The second was a big music hall-esque room with a bigger stage and a big bar on one side. Rick Steve described this place to be the spot where the beach boys would hang out if they were Andalucían. I can’t think of anything to describe it more accurately. This second room was kind of like a closed in porch with big fans, open doors and windows and huge picnic-ish tables for seating. Outside was the actual garden: a big patio with tons of tropical plants, more picnic-ish tables and, of course, cheap Sangria. We started out on the patio, 1. because it was really hot inside and 2. because we were kind of intimidated to be the only Americans in a completely local bar. But when we heard a roar of applause abrupt from the porch room, we mustered up the courage to go inside only to find a Flamenco group singing and dancing. It was amazing. THEN, we saw 4 people walk by with a pitcher filled with something delicious looking and topped with whipped cream so naturally, we asked what it was in our humble Spanish. They told us it was Agua de Sevilla [water of Sevilla] and even though it was 15 euro, we bought a pitcher. It was SO worth it. I mean, when in Sevilla, drink the water. Now I must say, I realize that I have not had that much experience with alcoholic beverages, but this is my favorite by a long shot. I will find the recipe and make it for you all (21+) upon my return to the U.S of A. Post agua de Sevilla, we migrated to the once empty, smaller cave-ish room housing a Spanish local bar band. Also fabulous. Word must have spread to them that we were from Alabama because they played Sweet Home Alabama… or maybe it was the LORD reminding us of his humor. I like to think the former. Nonetheless, we went crazy. “Somos de Alabama!!! Somos de Alabama!!” [We are from Alabama!!] Then they band played “I Will Survive.” We sang along in English while the rest of the crowd sang along in Español, everyone, Española and Americana, bent over in laughter. Beautiful moment. We retired  to our hotel with a sweet taste in our mouths. Charming weekend!

Toasting “Salud, Amor y Dinero y tiempo para disfrutarlos” [health, love and money and time to enjoy them] in the nameless bar with agua de Sevilla

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a piece of the pie.

Picnic in Madrid outside the Royal Palace.

This is a Roman aqueduct in Segovia. Each stone was hand picked for an alloted place and it was built without mortar. In other words, those stones on the bottom side of the arch that have nothing to rest on have been held in place for more than 1,000 years with mere tension. The aqueduct is still functioning, bringing a small trickle of water into the city. They just don’t build aqueducts like they did in the old days.

Another picnic… kind of. But with worse food. And in Segovia.

Country side in Segovia.

[Emma, Me, Grace, Katie]

The famed Plaza Major in Salamanca.

Sweet Emma at a cafe outside the plaza. Cheap sangria=happy girls.

More to come! The internet is really slow so it takes a really long time to load pictures. But you’re worth it. Get ready for more pie.

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