Monday, August 22, 2011

I Am Grateful for Friends This Summer: Part 2

I have more friends to be grateful for this summer. As I mentioned, Ben & Sara Jensen live in New Canaan. I knew Ben in college and was excited that we knew someone in the area we were moving to. It has been such a delight to get to know them better and to spend time with them! Both Todd and I feel grateful that they invited us to do fun things with them, and we feel that having their friendship has been such a bonus this summer while we are so far from family and friends in Utah.


Sara has been a delightful summer companion and a fellow "lady of leisure". Sara is smart and interesting, and we share many of the same interests such as food and cooking (and reality TV). When she told me that she used to eat green beans straight from the can I knew she was a kindred spirit. I know that doesn't say much about either of our food tastes, but I understood her in that moment and I liked her.

We talk a lot about food and life. I find Sara extremely refreshing in her "realness" and inspiring in her social attitudes. I am an introvert and she is an extrovert, and it has been tremendously helpful for me to have a friend that helps me think outside my comfort zone. All I really want to do is plan, cook, and host delicious meals at my house for friends, family, and people I want to get to know better, but my shyness, social awkwardness, and laziness get the best of me. Sara actually DOES those things! Spending time with Sara has helped me remember how fun it is to socialize and meet people, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. Now that I am leaving CT, I hope I can get enough doses of "Sara" to keep me motivated and on my toes! She has been sweet and good to me this summer. Thank you, Sara! I love you!

So it was fitting that Todd and I spend one more weekend with the Jensens before I come home. (It has also been so nice for Todd to have a friend in Ben.) They invited us to go camping with them at Burlingame state park in Rhode Island. Todd and I brought NO camping gear with us this summer, but thanks to some generous benefactors (the same generous benefactors that have let me and Sara use their pool all summer) we got hooked up with a HUGE tent and an air mattress.


On our drive up to RI, Sara had suggested we stop and check out the peach festival at Lyman Orchards near Durham, CT. There wasn't much of a festival unless you counted the face painting and the free balloons, but Todd and I spent a little time in the U-pick orchards.


Can you appreciate those rolling hills lined with hundreds of fruit trees? There were apples, pears, nectarines, and peaches with several varieties of each! It was gorgeous countryside. The peaches were GIANT and almost too beautiful to pick!


It was fun to just walk amongst the rows and rows of trees and feel the breeze and hear the bees buzz and smell sun-ripening peaches.


It sounds all very romantic because it was just a little. Todd is a farmer at heart, and he could not stop himself from picking peaches, even on a phone call.


We ended up with over 25 lbs of peaches. Some of the individual peaches weighed over a pound each! And they have been delicious!

That night Ben and Sara joined us and we ate foil dinner and had Nutella s'mores 'round the campfire. I'm telling you, don't mess with the chocolate bar nonsense, Nutella is the way to go.


Todd and I slept really well in our spacious tent and separate beds. We both had our electronics to wind down with.


Pregnant ladies need a little extra comfort when "roughing" it hence the multitude of pillows. And I was not sleeping on a hill as it appears I am. It was a good night's sleep.


The next morning we all loaded up our bikes and headed up to catch the ferry over to Block Island, RI. Block Island is only an hour ferry ride and it is a charming location with a small town of cute hotels, shops, and restaurants and cute houses and farms further inland. There are only about 900-1000 permanent residents, and the single school has 150 students from K-12. But during the summer, the island is full of cottage renters and day-trippers. It was busy but not overly crowded.


I am SO glad we brought our bikes with is this summer! Rosie has been a great bike and she is SOLID as a tank! We got to see a little bit of the island as our GPS lead us on a wild goose chase to find the restaurant we had selected. We ended up on a very hilly dirt road that ran past cute farms and cottages. I didn't mind the ride at all, but Todd's bike had a breakdown, and we had to walk and coast on our bikes all the way back to the hardware store.


We were hungry at this point and did not want to keep searching for this elusive restaurant that was at odds with our GPS, so Sara the extrovert asked the locals at the hardware store where they would eat and we went there.

We were all in the mood for some good seafood, and this place (Finns, in Old Harbor) served local catch.


We ordered local oysters (yum!) and BOTH fisherman's platters... the fried one AND the broiled one. And a few french fries. I swear there is a salad and some broccoli on that table somewhere! We ate fried cod, broiled flounder, scallops both ways, fried clams (I passed on those), fried shrimp, and lobster salad. Fresh seafood is the BEST. We have really not taken good advantage of that this summer. Here's the damage...


Clean platters are a good sign of good food. I know it looks like we did a number on lunch, but we saved a bit of room for the homemade ice cream served next door.


Don't you love summer and cute ice cream shops?

Lastly, we headed over to the beach for some nap time which was well deserved after our little bike ride and our huge lunch. The beach was full of revelers and music from a live band, but the weather was warm and sunny and we laid down and enjoyed the summer atmosphere.


What a lovely day spent with lovely friends! See why we feel grateful? (See my growing bump?)

Todd and I have loved being here in Connecticut. There have been small moments of feeling lonely for family and for the summer family gatherings that we have missed out on. It's not fun to be away from the people we love so much, but we have really made the most of this unique opportunity. We have seen so much and have had great adventures. My brother, Chip, pointed out to me that while our involvement with everything we do in our "normal lives" is great and fulfilling, there is something unique and special about taking a "vacation" from that and just being together for a prolonged amount of time. This has been a second honeymoon of sorts.

So thank you to friends who have enhanced this fun experience. We will always treasure this summer, and we hope to see you again soon!

I Am Grateful for Friends This Summer: Part 1


I love friends.

Last week I had the privilege of spending some quality time with my two bestest friends, Wendy & Brittany. Since I am in Connecticut and Brittany is in New Hampshire, we felt so happy that Wendy would fly all the way out here from Boise to have a little "lady" time.


It was so kind of Brittany to host us considering she is recovering from Lyme Disease and she also has FIVE kids. But her home was as inviting and charming as ever, and she and the kids went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home. Thank you to Brittany's oldest girlies for giving up their CUTE and COMFY beds for us!


Wendy brought her baby son with her and he was our little mascot. He was sweet and quick to smile and laugh. He's SO CHARMING! We love him!


We were lucky enough to be able to spend some alone time together (thanks to her very busy Jake!). We love to just talk and reminisce about our school time together. We laughed over our 90's fashion, our good and bad decisions, the boys, the trips... We were definitely missing our 4th and (unofficial) 5th roommates, Jenna and Brooke. We LOVE you ladies and wanted to be with you, too! There will be a full Frolic Palace reunion in the future!


One of the highlights was seeing my high school friend, Susan.


Susan lives in NH and made a generous detour to come see us at Brittany's house. She has two DARLING little boys; I was very excited to meet them. Susan is so delightful! She is smart and interesting and she is such a cute mom (drool on the shoulder and all!). I loved seeing Susan as a mom. Life is a series of evolutions, and I was so happy to be able to catch up with Susan and see how things have evolved in a very happy way for her.

It was fun to stay up late watching movies and talking. We went to Portsmouth, NH for desserts and Maine for the outlets. Girl stuff. We shopped for books, candy, and baby clothes.


Another highlight was being able to go to the Boston temple. It was Brittany's daughter's first temple trip and both Jake and Britt wanted to be there, so Wendy and I tagged along. How lucky to have a temple so close (comparatively speaking... when I was a youth in Boston we drove down to Washington D.C. once a year, not a bad trip, but a logistical nightmare from my adult perspective!).



Jake was a part of the good old college days as well, and it was fun that he spent one of the nights looking at photos with us and reliving those cold, wintery Rick's days. Everyone had interesting stories that had been long forgotten and embarrassing revelations to share. No one was spared humiliation at the follies of youth. But we love each other, and those things are fun to look back on.

We ended the trip with a little trip for Brittany. She drove down to Norwalk,CT with us to visit a friend from the college days.


We all met Ben at Ricks, and I have become good friends with his wife Sara this summer as they are living in New Canaan, CT. We enjoyed a lovely meal at their home, and it was fun to catch up with another friend from those days. Thank you for hosting us!

I love that time and place do not affect our love and affection for one another. We are not the kind of friends that call all the time or get together that often. We make an effort when we can. But I know that I can call these ladies ANY time so share good or bad news. They put up with my personality flaws and love me anyway, and I love them. When we do talk or get together, it's like no time has passed, our friendship is suspended in time.

We have definitely changed over the years. We are (thankfully) not the same people we were when we knew each other in high school and college. It's fun to see growth and progress and happiness in each of our lives. I am so glad that these ladies have made choices that have led them to happiness. They are such good people! How did I get so lucky? I feel so happy that I can call these ladies sisters... or sister-wives as both Jake and Todd joked (I don't love them THAT much).


I love you ladies! When's the next get-together?

Monday, August 08, 2011

It's A Boy!


Laying out these little clothes which we purchased on the way home from the ultra sound appointment made it a little more real for me. There will be a baby body in those clothes in 4 months.


I have been trying to hide my pregnancy a little bit in the last two blogs. I'm sure it has driven some people crazy that we haven't announced this yet (you know who you are), but A) it has hardly felt real, even still B) we have health reasons to be cautious C) we have enjoyed "incubating" this new bit of family life and keeping it for ourselves.


Todd and I have enjoyed being together here in our tiny apartment in Connecticut this summer. It has reduced our family life down to the bare essentials. We have some clothes, some dishes, a sewing machine (that needs using), a couple of friends, and ourselves. Oh, and a 17" TV. We share a car and all of our free time. There are no callings that distract us, and even Todd is done with work when he gets home, which is very fortunate this time of year.


We were lying in bed and talking the other night about how we wouldn't change the timing of this. Of course, we wish it had happened a little sooner, but we still wouldn't change it. I have had time to be with nieces and nephews as they have been little and have loved being the "available" aunt. I have loved my callings and my job. I have loved having ten years to be with Todd, to love Todd, to really get to know Todd, to become a team. Our relationship is so much stronger now than it was ten years ago when we began "trying" for a family.

There is a lot to be said for having children young, before you know too much about what you're getting into. Believe me; age and experience breeds fear. The older I've gotten the more apprehensive I've become about being a mother. I even reached a very comfortable level of accepting that we WOULDN'T have kids. That's a peaceful, quiet, enjoyable realization that not everyone can accept. But those of you who were fortunate enough to begin younger than 36 should also feel good that they had the energy and enthusiasm of youth! Good on you! Having your youngins young is the natural way to go!


So just to answer some commonly asked questions:

1) I feel great.

2) This was an in vitro (meaning "in glass"... yes a test tube, or rather a petri dish) I did have some of the same ovarian complications that I had last time, but that and the nausea passed by the 11 th or 12th week and I feel fantastic. In fact, only my growing stomach reminds me I am pregnant. I feel very "normal".

3) Yes, we have a name picked out. We've had 11.5 years of marriage to work out baby names. He will be Oliver Kent and you can call him Ollie or "OK Rhodes" until he asks you to stop. Oliver because it is classic and has a cute little kid nickname and I am a fan of Charles Dickens, AND if he is an only child he will be spending a lot of time with cousins and we thought it was an appropriate nod to the "Brady Bunch" that the only-child cousin would be "Cousin Oliver". That in itself is very Dickensonian. And Kent because that is both Todd's father's name and my father's middle name. It is a solid and masculine middle name and has the air of Superman about it. If you knew a kid named Oliver that you hated, or who was fat, or rude, or mean, or gay... we don't care.

4) Yes, you can babysit.

Even though I really thought this baby was going to be a girl, during the process of writing this I am getting more and more excited about having a boy. I mean, OF COURSE I am trilled to have a boy, but I was just really sure it was a girl and I am having to wrap my head around it a bit... buying some boy baby clothes has helped. But as a friend pointed out to me, "the world is in need of good men right now." And I cannot think of a better role model than Todd. This is the luckiest little boy in the world to have a dad who loves to camp and fish and skate board, and who will always have candy in his suit pocket when they go to the Priesthood Session of General Conference.

I feel really lucky. I am lucky to feel so good. I am lucky to be pregnant. I am lucky to have so much support for this little baby and so many people to love him. I am lucky that he is healthy. I am lucky to have a lot of favors to call in... just kidding, I won't be obnoxious. I will probably post more about this on the Baby Rhodesbud site, so check it out later. Meanwhile, I will continue to bask in my pregnancy "glow" (it's a tan).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Lobster Hunt 2011 & Todd's Birthday

We have been planning this trip for a YEAR! We LOVE to visit Tyler and Brittany in Fort Lauderdale, and usually take the opportunity to do so in May when we go down for one of Todd's big events. But since they had a brand new baby in May, we decided to come down this year for the lobster hunt/Tyler & Todd's birthdays.

Now this is a hunt I can get into, not like deer hunting where you're just sitting around in cold weather waiting for a deer to happen by, only to shoot it with a big loud gun, have to watch the poor thing bleed and die, gut it, cut it up, haul it out of the woods, stick it in the freezer, and stick its head on the wall. Lobsters are quiet. They live in warm water. You don't have to shoot them with a gun. They don't bleed. You can eat them pretty much right away. They taste good.

After a nice relaxing weekend with the the FL Rhodes (and some minor repairs to the boat) we headed down to the Keys. We stayed in a nice little condo that was perfect to share. This was my first time to Key West. I've wanted to go there for a while. I helped design two Del Sol stores down there but never got to go on an install. I was surprised to see that it was more "civilized" than I had expected (and larger), but we'll get to that.

Tuesday was day one for the hunt. Tyler, Landon (Tyler's co-worker), Todd, and I went out in the AM to a spot Tyler and Landon hunted last year. Brittany stayed in the condo with the kids that day and put together a cake and decorations for Tyler's birthday party that night. Due to some storms off Cuba and Grand Caymen, the waters were rough and the visibility was not great. We stayed on the lee side of the keys where the water was more calm, but there was nothing but sea grass.

We headed over to the Atlantic side and braved the rougher waters in search of rock ledges and coral; as Tyler likes to call it "lobster condos." We were never in water deeper than 7' or 8'. There are so many sand bars and whatnot that sometimes we would be close to a mile off shore and could stand up in the water. Alas, there were no lobsters the first day. We did experience the company of a manatee as it swam along side us for a few minutes. I didn't see it until i put my mask in the water and it was swimming between my legs (in 5' of water). I freaked out a little; they are really big. But we followed it and then it followed us. Who'd ever thought I see a manatee in the wild.

We consoled ourselves with a little dinner out that night. No one ordered lobster. We are at Hogfish Grill. It's charming, outside, on the water...

That day, Brittany and the kids did this:

And then we did this:

Owen is really good at birthdays. He sings and everything.

The next day, we ALL went out on the boat. I am so glad because I wouldn't have had fun if Britt and the kids couldn't be with us. I think we were all a little nervous about having a 2 year-old and a 2 month-old out on the ocean for a whole day, but Owen and Collette were CHAMPS! Owen is a little sailor man and Collie slept pretty much the entire time in her tiny life jacket.

Todd and Tyler did a little reconnaissance that morning and with the use of an iPad and Google Maps found what looked like a great place for lobster condos. We used a GPS and Todd's iPhone (in a waterproof cover) to locate our spot. It was gorgeous. As the tide started going out there was a very strong current, but that did not stop us from hunting or from Owen enjoying a swim. He's such a good swimmer!

As the day wore on with no signs of lobster it was clear that while this was a great place to find them, they had probably been cleared out of their condos the day before. The radio had said that there were 20,000 to 30,000 people down in the Keys for the lobster hunt this year. So now we know where to go FIRST next year. Brittany and I were actually praying that we would find a lobster. I don't think Todd and I cared as much as Tyler, he was the host and I think he would have felt bad had we come all that way for naught.

And YAY! our prayers were answered! Tyler caught a lobster!

To celebrate, that night we went out for pizza. The condo was not adequate for cooking such a special catch. We walked up and down Duvall Street, the place where all the stores, restaurants, and people watching action is. It was HOT, but fun.

I love that first pic of Brittany holding a baby while taking a breathalizer test in a bathroom hallway. Only in Key West.

We were sad to leave the Key West. But the drive home was fun, too. There is a road side attraction called Robbie's where you can eat, charter fishing boats, and feed the tarpin. Tarpin are really large sport fish, not great for eating, but great for fishing and feeding.

We all took turns throwing sardines and dangling them just right to get a tarpin to jump up with its giant mouth and swallow your fish. These photos are in backwards order, but I am too tired of writing this to fix it. This is me enjoying Robbie's.

I love this one of the boys all checking out the fish.

These suckers are 4' long!

The tarpin actually have big teeth. Sometimes they scrape a knuckle or two, but Todd was brave.

These are all of the object that have fallen out of pockets and off of heads as people have fed the tarpins. There are brand new phones, really nice sunglasses, and other really random objects hanging here.

The night we got home from the Keys we ATE the lobster.

Tyler cooked it up on the grill and slathered it in cilantro butter. It was yummy! We split it four ways...

On out last day in Fl with the Rhodes, we decided to take the boat out and cruise the canals of Fort Lauderdale. Tyler and Britt live in the historic section of town, so it's fun to cruise around and look at the big houses and the giant yachts anchored along the canals. These are in backwards order, too.

We ended up at a state park on the other side of a little canal from a huge beach. It was gorgeous and we played for a little while.

These are our gracious hosts. We always have such a good time. We miss them while they are not living in Utah, but we LOVE that they live somewhere so FUN to visit!

Here's Owen, the little sailor man.

This is the drawbridge near Tyler and Brittany's house. We affectionately call it the "Jack Donaghy Bridge" because the old-timey image on the bridge looks like Alec Baldwin's character on "30 Rock".

It's always sad to say goodbye to the Rhodes, but we are excited to see them at Christmas and to be together then. Thank you for having us in your home and on your boat! We love you guys so much!

On Monday was Todd's birthday, I don't know that I could top his birthday tribute from last year so soon, so you'll just have to scroll down and revisit it (you know you want to ). We spent the evening with Sara and Ben Jensen at their lovely apartment in New Canaan. They have a roof top patio with a grill, and Todd's birthday wish was to grill us up some New Yorks, so who I am to stand in the way of a birthday wish?

The menu was Todd favorites: New York steaks, sweet potato fries with a bacon-brown sugar dipping sauce (thanks for the suggestion, Tyler), tomato-cucumber salad, and green beans...

Here are Ben, Sara, and Todd enjoying the view, the after-rain cool evening, and the food...

Sara made Todd a DELICIOUS German chocolate cake in the shape of the "forbidden doughnut". It was darling. I need to get one of those pans.

Ben and Sara even got Todd a gift, which is more than he got from me... isn't the sky pretty?

We've had such an amazing summer. We are grateful to friends and family who actually want to hang out with us. We have been missing home and family so much not being with them this summer, but we have tried to take advantage of any and every adventure during this special time in Connecticut. I will be home on August 28th and Todd will be home October 1st. I have four more weeks of summer and those four weeks are packed with FUN. I can't wait for more adventures!