Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Life update

I feel like I haven't been posting much about life lately, besides trip reports and such. This might be because things are kind of... uneventful right now. Nonetheless, here is a brief report on the very exciting lives of the Mr. and Mrs. Durfinator household.

  • Brings home the bacon every day. Not literal bacon, unfortunately, but he provides me the moola to buy it and that's just as good  because we still get bacon just the same. And come on... who doesn't like bacon? (Answer: no one that isn't in denial.) On a more serious note, I really am thankful for Dallin and his good job. I'm especially thankful that I will be able to stay at home with our kids in the future. Very blessed. 
  • Goes canyoneering when he/we can, which is pretty often. 
  • Does a great job in the Spanish branch presidency. At least, I think he does. And I'm definitely not biased or anything. Also, the fact that I think it's really attractive when he speaks Spanish absolutely doesn't influence my opinion at all. Nope.
  • Is the best husband I could have asked for. Really though, he's a keeper and I'm very lucky he was crazy enough to want to marry me.
  • Unemployed, at least for now. I'm finding that this has its perks, meaning I love having time to read, sew, and do what I want. I'm taking advantage of it since I know it won't last.
  • Busy getting ready for seminary to start. We have a new curriculum that I am SO excited about. It is going to make things so much easier on me and I think it works with my teaching style much better than the old manuals. Also, 8 of the mastery scriptures are different... whaaaaat? 
  • Trying to become a better pianist. In other words, I'm trying to add a few songs to the list of 5-6 that I know since I'm the pianist in the Spanish branch and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one that is getting tired of singing the same songs over and over and over. It's kind of hard though since I pretty much taught myself, meaning I stink. I am improving though, slowly but surely. Emphasis on the "slowly" part.
  • Preparing to die during this weekend's heatwave. (I'm definitely not melodramatic or anything.) Living in the cool mountains my whole life has made me dread any temperatures over 95, and it will be well over that. Yes, I am a pansy, but seriously. I think the earth should have a temperature limit of 85 degrees max. Thank the heavens above for A/C... and popsicles.
  • Goes canyoneering most of the time with Dallin. Not always though, because sometimes I wimp out on the really strenuous ones, especially when it is hot. (see above)

Even though things are fairly uneventful, life is good. Very good indeed. 

Roman theater ruins in Spain
A very attractive picture of us on our most recent adventure. We're pretty smoking hot.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy places, fresh air, and Lao Tzu

I have a lot of happy places. Here's a few for example:

1. Anywhere that I have a Ben & Jerry's carton in hand
2. Thrift stores
3. Snuggling with my husband
4. Not doing the dishes (I'm at this particular happy place a lot lately)
5. Reading

One of my number one happy places, however, involves cool weather, tall trees, green things, and fresh air. It's even better when there happens to be a quaint little mountain stream involved. 

A few weeks ago I was feeling quite cranky and restless. A little adventure with my camera was just what I needed to cheer up. Something about cold water on my bare toes, warm sun on my cheeks, and the smell of trees, creek, and growing things always lifts my spirits. It's home to me.

Accidentally discovering one of these dead bugs with my hand was not my favorite part of the trip.

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of technology-free, distraction-free, quiet time. Time to think, to be still, and to ponder on the things that are important to me. I think the art of stillness, peace, and quiet is being lost in "bigger, faster, stronger" tone of the world, but I believe there are few things better for the soul than just that: stillness, peace, and quiet. 

Even just a few minutes every day in one of my happy places, whether it be one of the ones I mentioned above, or something like reading my scriptures, listening to or playing music, taking a walk, or just sitting on my doorstep makes a huge difference for me. 

What's your happy place? 

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
-Lao Tzu

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bullfight, birthday, and museums (Spain part 4)

I was lucky enough to get to spend my birthday in Spain. It just worked out to be the best time for us to go! We spent most of the day at museums. 

First, we went to the Prado. I didn't take many pictures because I wasn't sure when it was allowed, and being chewed out by angry Spanish lady docents (in Spanish of course) is kind of a scary experience best avoided. Trust me. 

Las Meninas! This photo was taken right at the precise moment one of the said angry Spanish lady docents gave me a chewing out accompanied with a most dirty look. Maybe it's because I'm American because there were definitely a few Spaniards taking pictures and she didn't say nothin'! 

Some big names up there! Although after going to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg I think I'm too spoiled when it comes to museums...
For lunch, we ate at Telepizza! Dallin ate here often on his mission because they have a buy one medium pizza, get one free deal that is perfect for missionaries. We got the carbonara pizza, and it was oh so good! And of course we had to get orange Fanta to drink. I think I drank more soda during the time we were in Spain than I've had all year, and that actually might not be much of an exaggeration. It was just so good! American soda really is crap compared to this goodness. 

We visited the Reina Sofia Museum after lunch. This museum had more modern art whereas the Prado is mostly classical. There were lots of Dalis and Picassos, including Guernica which was even bigger than I expected! Of course, no pictures were allowed of that (and thankfully they actually had signs here letting you know what you could photograph!).

This is the awkwardness that ensues when I ask Dallin to take a picture of me.

One of the many Picassos
We were pretty tired so we took a little break at the hotel during medio dia, or middle of the day, which is when things pretty much shut down for a couple hours in the afternoon. Wish they did that in the US! :)

My birthday palmera and with (of course) orange Fanta. I'd take this over birthday cake any day! 
We did some more exploring and shopping after this. It was really fun to just walk around (holding hands of course) just seeing what we could see. 

I'm really proud of myself... I only bought two scarves this trip!
Dallin finally got his paws on one of the calamari sandwiches he'd been looking forward to! On the outside, this place looked like kind of sketchy (which I think is what Dallin was looking for, to be honest) but they lead us back through the noisy bar to a nice dining area we pretty much had to ourselves.  

I wasn't going to order anything, but I ended up getting the gazpacho. Very... interesting dish. It is a vegetable soup that tasted good but was a little overpoweringly rich. And I was not expecting it to be cold, not at all! Dallin got a big kick out of my reaction that makes me question whether he "forgot" to tell me that it wasn't served warm. ;) It was pretty much a pureed, chilled salad.

More walking around. I think I already mentioned this in a previous post, but I loved all the street musicians. There were quite a few out when we were walking around this time. They must have known it was my birthday or something, right? ;)

Breakfast the next morning: churros and chocolate! It's a good think this isn't something I can find in the US.

This is fat free, right? 

The Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple that was moved to Madrid around 1970 to preserve it because a dam built on the Nile was threatening it. Pretty cool! I would have liked to go in but there was a herd of people waiting (in the hot sun, no less, a ginger's worst enemy) so we decided to pass.

A beautiful rose garden! 

We went back to the Almudena/Royal Cathedral to climb up into the dome.

View of the Royal Palace

Madrid skyline
There were statues of saints all around the base of the dome.

I like this guy. He makes a good travel buddy. ;)
Inside the cathedral

I loved the ceilings! I don't think it is any secret that I love bright colors and patterns, so this was right up my alley. 
This was a really interesting mix of Gothic and modern art/architecture. The stained glass windows are kind of absract, which wasn't my favorite, but it was interesting. 

The last thing we did on our last day in Spain was go to a bullfight. 

Oh boy, was this an experience. A very intense experience.

 I'm not sure it would be accurate to say I "enjoyed" it, but it sure was something else to see these crazy guys dressed in sparkly outfits elude a 1,400 pound horned beast that wants to (and easily could, if given the chance) rip them to shreds. Oh and by the way the only thing you get to "protect" yourself is a little cape.

If there is anything I learned, it is that becoming a bullfighter is not the career choice for me. No sir.

I didn't know a whole lot about bullfights before coming to Spain. It is more structured and involved than I thought. There's four stages to each bullfight. First, they let it loose and the matadors tease it with pink/yellow capes, as seen above. This was my favorite part because this is when the bull is most active and energetic, and there isn't any blood or gore (Yet! But don't worry, there are no gory pictures here... yuck).

Here's a video from that first segment!  

Then two picadors some out on blindfolded, armored horses with a long spear in hand. The bull charges the horses and the picador spears it in the back of the neck a few times.

After that, the banderilleros come out and have the gutsy task of jabbing short sticks with barbs on the end into the back of their neck, meaning they have to jump up and reach over the horns of the bull. That has to be the worst (as in scariest) job of them all. You don't even get a cape or anything to distract the bull. Yipes!

 Last of all, one matador comes out with a red cape and a sword, and after he teases/weakens it he stabs the bull through the back of the neck and (hopefully, unless he hits a shoulder blade) into the heart. Then some horses come out to drag it away so they can prepare the meat to sell. 

Ugh... this gives me the willies! No thank you!

There are usually six bulls per fight so they repeat this five more times. It's pretty intense! I was sitting anxiously on the edge of my seat the whole time, especially since the first matador got gored and the bull got on top of him. Somehow he avoided getting stepped on (you'd be toast if that happened!) and he got up and finished the job. Another matador got nicked in the face, but again he stayed in and finished. They are very proud and I imagine it would take something pretty serious to get them to give up the fight.

The bullfighting arena
Rather than take the metro back to our hotel we decided to walk because we would have had to buy another pass to get to the airport in the morning. Plus, as Dallin said, it was a lot more romantic than cramming on to the crowded trains. 

We flew home to the good ol' USA the next morning!

We were sad to go, but it is always good to be home. 
Hope to see you again soon, Spain! :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fairy tale castle, creepy basilica, and temple (Spain part 3)

(Click here for part one, part two)

I have been some really beautiful places in my life. I've done a bit of travelling in my life and spend a lot of my time outside exploring and hiking. This means that it's a big deal when I say that Segovia (our next stop after Merida) is in the top 3 most beautiful places I've been. I felt like I was walking around inside a painting of a fairy tale. It was magic, I tell you... magic!

My favorite picture of us!

Looking up at the castle from the river.

First order of business was to check out the inside of the castle.

Tiny suit of armor!

There were some amazing views from the castle tower of the town (with the cathedral in the center) and some snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Working off all the delicious food on the stairs to the tower! 

Here is a closer view of the cathedral we could see from the tower.

Inside was beautiful, and very different from the cathedrals I saw in Russia.

Next stop: the incredible, huge Roman aqueduct! It's almost in perfect condition, even after all these years, and it is truly a sight to see.

See little Dallin way down at the base?

We couldn't stay long because we had one more place to stop before headed back to Madrid, so off we hurried to our car by way of the beautiful path/stairs. These were much more fun going down than coming up.

A couple more pictures of the grandeur, because it was irresistable...

...and then we were off to our next stop, Valle de los Caidos, or Valley of the Fallen. Now, this is kind of a controversial place. It was built by Franco, who was kind of a bad dude. And when I say he built it I mean he forced his enslaved opposing political leaders to build it. I don't know the whole story thanks to my limited knowledge of Spanish history, but all I know is that this place gave me the willies. Although majestic and amazing, is was very creepy.

There is a huge basilica carved inside, but no pictures were allowed. Look it up if you'd like!

I wish you could tell just how massive that cross is. 

We tried to walk up to the cross, but the trail was closed, so we got as close as we could and then walked around the big monastery a bit before heading out.

We drove through El Escorial where there is a huge, beautiful monastery. I didn't get a picture of it, and we didn't have time to find parking and see it, but it was beautiful! 

After El Escorial, we managed to successfully make our way back to the airport to return the car, which was both stressful and miraculous. The next morning we woke up bright and early to attend the beautiful Madrid temple.

We were able to do both sealings and initiatory, and it was wonderful! Oh, it is beautiful in there. The Celestial Room is so bright and gorgeous, and I just loved being there. Maybe one day we can go on a mission here!

P.S. I got to wear the Shabby Apple dress I got with the gift card I won from the lovely Katie (from Katilda, which is one of my very favorite blogs to read) to the temple! The bright red felt very fitting for Spain. :)

Lunch of a Spanish tortilla, bread, and European orange Fanta. Also known as what I wish I could eat all day errrday. If you haven't had real Fanta (not the crap from the US) or a Spanish tortilla, then you are missing out, folks. Good stuff right there. And of course it tastes even better when enjoyed at a cute cafe with outdoor seating.

We spent the evening exploring Retiro Park.

The Crystal Palace

Pretty leaves in the park. Aren't these cool?

A view of Puerta de Alcala on the walk home.

The next and final edition of our last few days, which included a crazy bullfight, museums, my birthday, and a really beautiful, unique cathedral, will be coming soon! :) Thanks for reading!