Category: Vacations!

Capitol Reef Family July 4th Weekend

Hey guys! Happy 4th of July! I hope you all had a pleasant holiday weekend. I ended up having a fun time with my family at one of Utah’s lesser known national parks called Capitol Reef National Park.

For many years my Dad has loved going down to Central Utah to ride his dirt bike motorcycles and ATVs with his friends over the rough terrain. Last year he bought a property for camping and such that he deemed as ‘Adventure Acres’. He loves going down there and getting away from the stresses of life which I can certainly appreciate.

That said, it’s never had much appeal to me because there is no lake, beach or river to swim in and I’m not interested in motorcycles or ATVs at all. I also don’t like to camp if it can be helped and red rock scenery is pretty but not my favorite.

Nevertheless, almost my entire family including all 5 of my nieces were going down to Adventure Acres for the 4th weekend so I decided to finally check it out. It’s still not my cup of tea but I had a good time spending time with my family.

The only frustrating part of the weekend for me was dealing with the slow internet connection at the hotel because my friend Jonathan and I recorded our podcast on the Doctor Who finale and it took 2 days to upload! You certainly do become grateful for high speed internet when you are away from it. That’s for sure!

Capitol Reef is not as splashy as Grand Canyon or Bryce with it all feeling like a small town but it still is beautiful and a lot of fun to visit especially if you are in to hiking and motorcycle dirt biking. I just enjoyed hanging out with my nieces and spending as much time with them as possible since they live in Portland, Oregon and the DC area and I don’t get to see them very much.

Anyway, we ended up having a good time together and I particularly loved spending time with my nieces. Here are some photos of the trip with commentary:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

News and Updates

Hey guys! I just wanted to give you a quick update as Memorial Day is coming to a close. I hope you had a great day! I am happy to inform you I am pretty much healed from my illness of the last 2 weeks. It was brutal but I’m so grateful for all the support I had. If there’s one thing a tough experience can teach you it is it shows you all the love you have in your life. Thank you for all your love, support and prayers.

I have some fun news to share with you! The first exciting news has to do with the church congregation I go to. I have done my fair share of complaining on this blog about my family wards and how out of place I feel. Unfortunately it was my only option because I was too old for the YSA singles ward and the midsingles ward was 30 minute drive and that wasn’t going to happen. Well, I am so excited to announce that we are getting a midsingles ward in Draper!!!!  They announced it last week and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  It is going to start up right away with a fireside to be held on Sunday and the first meeting on June 12th!

This does have its downside because the ward will be massive- containing singles 31-45 from 28 stakes in the Sandy and Draper area. I am sure I will feel somewhat lost but as I already feel that way in the family ward at least there is some potential to make friends/date. Currently my life has little opportunities to meet new people so I am most excited for activities/Family Home Evening and other gathering times in the new ward. It should help my social circle at least a little bit (hey even if I meet one additional person that is a plus!)

midsingles

The other drawback is I will lose my home teachers, The Porters, who I love very much. Hopefully we can still stay in touch because they are only 2 houses down from me but I will miss their visits. They are the coolest people I know and so warm and accepting of me with all my flaws. I could talk to them for hours and have on a more than a few occasions.

Other than that I am excited to at least try something new. Hooray!

The other exciting news is I had to get my passport because I am going to Spain for the beginning of July!  I will be visiting my sister Anna in Valencia, Spain. I was determined to go to the beach this summer and she was there so I figured why not take advantage of it? I don’t know much about the area but am doing research. It looks like a neat place with beautiful water, which is most important to me.

valenciaI have been to Europe since I was in high school and haven’t been anywhere aside from a Mexican cruise since 2005! I am very excited.

I also don’t think I will be swimming the GSL race this year. It was a very hard decision for me but this recent illness finally sealed the deal. I just don’t think I will be strong enough Saturday to take that on. It’s so hard on my body with the salty water that it just doesn’t make sense. (It pains me to write that and a side of me still wants to do it. Darn it all!).

Anyway, that’s my news. I hope you are all doing well.  Let me know what you think!

Atlanta Fun Day 3: Steak n Shake and Coca Cola

My final day in Atlanta was a pretty simple one but I enjoyed it.  For nostalgic sake I went to a mission favorite Steak n’ Shake.  I think it is the best ‘fast food’ place because the food is carefully made with quality ingredients and you can actually get seated with a menu if you want.

I enjoyed the 3 way chili which is like a spaghetti bolognese but with chili and it is yummy! I need to make this one day at home.  It’s simple but delicious.

steak n shake2

And then I had the brownie fudge shake and I will be dreaming about it until they come to Utah!  It isn’t thick like an iceberg or dairy queen shake or too thin like an In n Out shake.  It’s perfectly sippable and spoonable at the same time.

steak n shakeSo that brought me back to the mission and was a lot of fun.  With my remaining afternoon I decided to check out The World of Coca Cola which is kind of like Hershey Park in Pennsylvania but without the rides.coke plant4It was strange to spend an entire day in basically a big advertisement but it is such an American icon that it was interesting and I was entertained.  I am not a big coke drinker any more because of my insomnia but I love seeing how things are made so the plant was cool.

coke plantIt was also fun to try 100 different kinds of soda!  I don’t think I had that many but it was a lot.

coke plant2coke plant3And then I was off to the airport and go to enjoy first class because of a mileage upgrade (greatest thing ever!).

first classI put together some tips from my experiences in Georgia and other solo traveling I’ve done and made a video for my youtube channel.  I would really appreciate you checking it out and subscribing if you haven’t already.  The focusing did some weird things but I think you will enjoy the content nonetheless.

Atlanta Fun Day 2: MLK, Southern Food, Botanical Gardens

If you are someone who doesn’t like to read travelogues of other peoples vacations this post is not for you! I recently returned from a half business/half fun trip and it was a great experience. The work part was very effective and rewarding and the vacation part super fun.  I posted on Thursday about my food tour of Atlanta which was a wonderful way to be introduced to the city.

This trip was a solo trip which some people find very intimidating and it can be but it has its advantages.  First of all, you can do whatever you want.  If you want to eat at the same place for all 3 meals you can.  If you want to sleep in till noon you can.  It’s your trip and you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s opinion or tastes.  You can also go at your own pace which for me is a huge advantage.  I’m a tough person to travel with because I am slow and need to rest frequently. Sometimes if I’m with others I feel guilty holding them back but by myself I can just walk in my way and savor the experience.

Traveling solo can be very rejuvenating when with others it can be more exhausting but still fun.  Either way I encourage you to take advantage of what opportunities come your way.   I’m so glad I stretched a business trip into a little solo trip.  There was no option to travel with another person so I took advantage of the chance I had and I’d encourage you to do the same.

breakfast meSo day 2 started out sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely morning.  Then I went to a popular breakfast spot called West Egg and got a southern breakfast.

southern breakfastI had a pimento cheese omelet with bacon, grits, biscuit and fried green tomatoes.  It was good but I kind of wished I had ordered the pancakes.  I figured I could order pancakes anywhere but they looked so good.  I try to get local flavors when I visit new places and I’m glad I did.  This was my second time eating fried green tomatoes and I’m not a huge fan of the dish.  Something about the texture of big warm tomatoes isn’t my favorite.  Live and learn!

oj
Always got to have your orange juice.

After a pleasant brunch I went to the Martin Luther King historic site.  It was a neat place and I left feeling inspired by the words of Dr King and the courage the Civil Rights movement showed.   The site is very large with 5 buildings including visitors center, Ebenezer Baptist Church (MLK’s first church), Auburn St restored firehouse, MLK tomb and Freedom Walk, and MLK birthplace.  It was all put together very well with lots of volunteers which I feel gives a heart to the tours you don’t get with paid tour guides.

In the visitors center they have a recreation of the Selma bridge march and you can stand amongst the figures and feel a little bit of what it might have been like.  All the exhibits were very well done with a mixture of video, memorabilia and more hands on like the statues.

selma

 

I was very moved by this plaque with Dr King describing his calling to the movement.  “I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying ‘stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth.  God will be on your side forever”.  I can relate to that experience of receiving a call from the Lord and the reassurance I am up for the task (nothing like what Dr King was asked to do but I could relate on a smaller level).  I know that Dr King wasn’t a perfect man but God works through imperfect people to do great things and we can certainly see that with him.  This calling reminded me a little bit of Joseph Smith’s communion with God in liberty jail where he worried and turned to God receiving the guidance to go on serving boldly to the end of his life.

 

 

king calling This quote also touched my heart.  It was written by Dr King from jail in 1963.  “when you are…living constantly at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a denigrating sense of ‘nobodiness’; than you will understand why we find it difficult to wait”.   I can’t begin to understand what that kind of hate and persecution must have been like but  I can relate to small moments of being ‘plagued with inner fears and outer resentments’. Again nothing like what they went through but I guess finding some part of my own life that could relate to these feelings helped the experience at the site feel real and less like a textbook. It certainly took great courage to do what they did and I was humbled to be immersed in their stories for an afternoon.

freedomLeading up to MLK’s tomb there is a long freedom walk with a fountain that goes 4 or 5 levels.  Considering it was in the middle of the city it felt contemplative and peaceful.  freedom walkwayAt Ebenezer Baptist Church they have stained glass, which I love, and a recording by Dr King called The Drum Major Instinct.  It’s long but I was really moved by his words about the dangers of envy, enmity and selfishness.  That if we must fight the temptation to vault ourselves up higher than anyone else.  It was just a neat experience to be in the room, hear his voice preaching and think about what I could do to be less selfish and envious. If you are looking for a good listen for your morning devotionals or scripture studies this would be a very good one.

https://smilingldsgirl.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/01-26-the-drum-major-instinct-february-4-1968.mp3ebenezer3

ebenezer2After all the MLK sites it was time for dinner and since I had been dreaming about it after the sample on the food tour I decided to go and get a full size portion of fried chicken at Max’s Wine Dive.  As I said in my tour review this is the perfect place to go on a tour for me because I would never have gone into such a place on my own because I don’t drink alcohol and wine is in the name.  This fried chicken is the best I’ve ever had.  It was so moist and yet still very crispy.  It has a little bit of heat from jalapenos in the soak and they give you a chipotle honey which undercuts the heat..  So good!  They serve it with mashed potatoes and greens that are also to die for.

chickenI guess the key to the chicken is to fry it on low heat for a long period of time.  The waitress said 285 for like 20 minutes.   I’m going to try it one of these days because unfortunately Atlanta is too far away for me to get it again anytime soon.  One of the yummiest things I’ve ever eaten bar none!

After my dinner I still had time and was feeling pretty energetic so I went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.  I have never been to a botanical gardens like this but it was huge and featured an outdoor walkway with lush trees.

botanical gardensA pond with a ‘Earth Goddess’ statue.

earth goddess 1A Japanese garden

japanese gardenA edible vegetable garden with a wall of herbs

veggie garden truthsI loved this covered walkway.

walkwayThen there was a large indoor section with an orchid garden that was stunning ( I love orchids!)

orchidsA rainforest section with all these vines hanging everywhere.  The photo doesn’t really do it justice.  It was so beautiful.

rain forestIt was such a stunning place and may have even been the highlight of the trip.  I spent about 3 hours there just walking at my own pace, enjoying how beautiful it was.   In fact, I even got to meet a frog friend…

frog prince2
It’s like the garden variety of a mascot like Mickey or Minnie.
Will I get my prince?
Will I get my prince?

All in all it was a fantastic day and for all that I did it didn’t feel rushed or crammed in.  Just a fun leisurely day with good history, nature and food.  My kind of vacation!

Peachtree Food Tours

P1070018Today I had a lot of fun on my first day of traveling here in Atlanta.  I went on a food tour called Peachtree Food Tours.  It was something new and different and a very pleasant way to get to see Atlanta and eat some very yummy food!

The tour is led by John Hannula and he lives on Peachstreet in Midtown and is very well versed in the neighborhood, history, architecture and everything else.  We ended up going to 6 different spots and one bonus and while it was a little more walking than I had at first thought I had a very good time.

It started at the Varsity Diner a massive local hot spot where we tried some orange shake and peach pies.

P1050994 P1050992Then we walked about 4 blocks to a beautiful old building that houses the Georgian Terrace Hotel and a restaurant called Livingston.  We got to enjoy the southern classic shrimp and grits.

P1070004 P1070003I was with 2 other patrons and the tour guide Daschelle and Doug and our tour guide.  They were all very friendly and I enjoyed spending the afternoon with them.  There were some beautiful buildings on our way to the various stops including a couple lovely churches and the Margaret Mitchell house.

P1070001
Fox theater is an Atlanta landmark
margaret mitchell
Margaret Mitchell house
P1070005
This was a very pretty church
P1070024
Fed reserve

Then we went to Cyprus Street Pint and Pub for a wild hamburger tasting with a burger with a donut for a roll.   That was pretty nuts to have a donut on a burger but it did add a layer of flavor that was pretty delicious.

P1070010

P1070009Next up was a little bit healthy at a place called the Hi-Five we had a kale salad.  This wasn’t my favorite item or stop. It didn’t feel Atlanta enough and since I am so in love with the kale and quinoa salad in Utah I didn’t think this was as good. They had alcohol at most of the stops but I of course did not partake of that portion of the tour.

P1070017 P1070013We learned that Georgians like to have peanuts in their cokes.

P1070016Next stop was Max’s Wine Bar where we had the best bite of the meal this amazing fried chicken.  It was so crispy and there was a chipotle honey that was delicious. Mashed potatoes were creamy and the greens weren’t too bitter.  Very good and the kind of place I would never have gone on my own being it is called Max’s Wine Bar

P1070026 P1070025Final stop was Cafe Intermezzo which was an Italian coffee and dessert type restaurant with a dramatic pastry case and like 82 different types of coffee/tea.  I had a drink called Island punch that was a mixture of different juices with club soda and a red velvet cake with whipped cream which is perfect for a Southern day.

P1070044 P1070043Like I said it was a little bit more walking than I thought it would be but that was good to work off some of that food! Overall it was a great way to spend an afternoon in Atlanta.  I got yummy food, visited with some nice people and learned a little bit about a new city.  It makes me want to look up food tours at other cities I go to and have a similar experience.

To learn more about the food tour go to http://peachtreefoodtours.com/

rwagner

 

NYC Trip Day 4: Rainy Goodbye

Quicker than it probably should have the final day of my trip came on Saturday and while I was sad to see it all come to an end I had the beginnings of a wicked virus, my feet hurt and I was tired.  Ready to come home you might say.

But fortunately we still had Saturday to enjoy and it ended up being a rainy day in the city. We decided to do a bus tour because we figured that would be better than walking in the rain and I wanted to see the 9/11 memorial before I left.

meg bus
Megan on the bus

 

Here I am on the bus
Here I am on the bus

The bus was fun but I wish it had been more of a tour.  There really wasn’t much of one so it was kind of like a wet taxi ride and then to my great annoyance they dropped us off like 8 blocks from the 9/11 Memorial.  It was the 9/11 stop and we had to walk forever and again nowhere in NYC has benches to rest. There is also construction at the site and it is very confusing where to enter and go but eventually we found it and I was able to stop for a moment and pay tribute to those who lost their lives on that horrible day.

9-11 memorialWe didn’t have time to go to the museum but at least we were ale to see the Memorial and then we made it back to the bus and finished the tour.  After a quick lunch my shuttle picked me up and it was bye bye New York!

nycI was exhausted and have been sick all week but it was worth it.  It was a great experience to take a risk, do something different and unexpected, a little bit unplanned which is hard for me.  Everyone at the RHAP Survivor event couldn’t have been nicer and I’m so grateful to all of them.

I am also grateful to my sister for coming up and spending the time with me at my pace.  It is rare I have anyone who is fine walking with me and waiting with me and occasionally listening to me moan and groan over my feet.  She was there just to spend time with me and that was really touching. I’m someone who isn’t often doted upon and it meant a lot to me that she did that.

Overall it was a great trip.  Highlights were the RHAP event, my trip to Soho Birchbox and video, American in Paris and the yummy food. Thanks New York! Hope I see you again soon!