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Monday, February 28, 2011

Venice, Italy: View from the Water (and a gondola ride)

Once upon a time, Matt and I went on an incredible European honeymoon. I blogged about it here and there, but never quite finished... and my sister Heidi has never let me forget about it. :-) So over the next few weeks, you'll see plenty of European posts mixed in with our regular, right-now life posts. I know it's old news by now, but pictures of Italy and France never go out of style, right?
I left off in Hallstatt, Austria. From there, we slept in Salzburg and caught an extremely early train to Venice. Our first glimpse of the City on Water came at a distance from our train window and I was already in love.
We arrived at the train station and headed to the canal to catch a water taxi. Water taxis are the most efficient way to get around Venice, but they are far from cheap! Since our hotel was on the lagoon by Saint Mark's Square, which is on the opposite side of the city from the train station, we used water taxis to and from the trains but used our feet the rest of the time. We loved seeing the city from two different perspectives--from the water and from the land--and I'll break up my Venice posts accordingly.
The city was so enchanting on that first water taxi ride, and I couldn't wait to get off the boat to see it up close!
Matt and I checked into our hotel and began exploring the canals and alleyways of Venice. The most important item on our agenda was to ride a gondola (and kiss underneath the Rialto Bridge, of course) so we followed the signs and made our way toward the bridge.
Along the way, we saw dozens on gondolas crammed into the tiny canals and crossed our fingers that our gondolier would take us on a slightly less crowded path (he did).
Near the bridge, we commenced crossing one of the most classically romantic experiences ever off our bucket list. Our Vin Diesel-esque gondolier was perfect.
Venice looked beautiful from the water taxi, but it was even more breathtaking on the slow-paced gondola that took us through the canals and allowed us to really soak the city in. We took a few pictures but mostly let the camera have a rest while we just enjoyed our gondola ride. It was incredible.
Though you can't tell from the overexposed picture above, the sun was starting to set when our gondola ride ended and the city was beginning to light up. Much more to come on that in the next post!
We were back on the water the next morning to head back to the train station. Along with being gorgeous, Venice is also small and astronomically expensive. This makes a one-day, one-night trip a very good option for two young newlyweds.
On our water taxi back, we noticed a tiny little park squeezed between the old buildings. Real estate is hard to come by in the cramped city!
Before we knew it, we were right back to where we started at the train station, and on our way to Rome! Of course, the Rome posts will have to wait until I've shown you the rest of Venice.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Black widows and hiccups

I tend to think of myself as pretty fearless--for a girl, anyway. From cliff jumping to rock climbing to surfing to sky diving, I'll try it all in the name of a good time. But I do have three major fears, which I refer to as the three S's: snakes (deadly ones -- I used to play with garden snakes as a kid), sharks (all kinds, but especially great whites) and scary people (you know, the kind that end up in prison for life). There is also a fourth, lesser concern, which is coincidentally also an S: spiders -- more specifically, spiders of the poisonous variety. The others are unsanitary nuisances, and the poisonous kinds freak me out. Good thing I live in an area crawling with black widows, eh?
(See? I'm fearless! I jump off cliffs!)

Awhile back, a friend of mine found a black widow in her bathroom sink (despite having the home sprayed multiple times) and promptly killed it with a shoe. I told Matt if that had been me, I would've left the house and let the black widow have it. I was only partially kidding. My fear of deadly spiders can be traced back to my younger days, when my dad decided it would be funny to make his daughters watch Arachnophobia with him. Oh yeah, I developed arachnophobia alright. The potential situation that creeps me out the most would be having a poisonous spider in my bed -- far worse than in the bathroom sink, right?
(Or on my back porch, like this nasty creature.)

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when a bad case of the hiccups struck right at bedtime. For some unknown reason, I got the hiccups like 1200 times during a 10-day period. Matt found it hilarious. We tried everything to get rid of them -- holding my breath, drinking upside down, etc. Matt tried "scaring" me a few times but come on, a "Boo!" around the corner probably only works on a 3-year-old. So there I was, laying in bed, helpless to combat the "hics" that violently escaped my mouth every few seconds. Meanwhile, Matt was trying to contain his laughter as he drifted off to sleep.

(That was me.)

About ten minutes later, my nearly-asleep husband's body suddenly stiffened. "Ash, don't move," he whispered urgently. "I just felt something on my leg." Naturally, I did the exact opposite, flinging the covers off and jumping out of bed as fast as I could to escape the treacherous beast that was surely in my sheets.

I rushed to turn on the lights and when I did, I saw Matt standing there, smiling. "You're welcome," he laughed. There was no spider. And no more hiccups, either! That little stinker had scared them away (and they haven't been back since!).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sun and snow

Matt and I definitely enjoyed Southern California's beautiful 70-degree sunshine in January, but we still found ourselves missing snow--just a little. We remedied the problem by hitting the slopes on a warm, sunny Saturday at Mt. High.
We enjoyed a fun day of snowboarding, complete with a gorgeous sunset view from the top of the lift--the sky was clear enough to see the ocean! Talk about having the best of both worlds. Then we bundled up for a couple hours of night boarding before heading home to some hot cocoa.
This time, I mastered my turns and didn't fall once! Maybe next winter I'll start carving. Baby steps, you know.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A day in the life

I always want to write more about our day-to-day lives, but I'm always so far behind in blogging about our activities and whatnot that I just never find the time. I should really fix that somehow, shouldn't I? Last week, my friend Tobi requested a "day in the life" post and I figured that's an easy enough place to start. Plus, my life has been so different over the past five months than it ever has been and ever will be again that it's probably worth documenting.

See, my daily schedule has been the complete opposite of a normal person's because of my work schedule... which is the complete opposite of a normal person's (3-12 instead of 8-5). So instead of getting up, going to work, coming home and then having free time, I get up, have free time, then go to work and come home. It definitely took a whole lot of adjusting. Here's the basic schedule I finally figured out, through the eyes of last Thursday:

(Note: Please add a huge "ISH" next to all the times. I believe in structure when necessary, but I would go crazy if my free time were actually scheduled to a "T." Or scheduled at all, really. This just tends to be about how it breaks down.)

*12:30 a.m.: Pull into the garage from a long day at work.
*1:30 a.m.: Fall asleep.
*7:30 a.m.: Matt wakes me up with a quick kiss goodbye as he leaves for work. I fall back asleep.
*9:30 a.m.: My alarm goes off after 8 hours of sleep. I eat breakfast and then snuggle up on the couch with my scriptures.
*10:30 a.m.: After reading scriptures and checking e-mail, bank accounts, etc., my stomach is ready for a workout. I turn on Jillian for a 20-minute warm-up and then lace up my running shoes and head out the door.
*11:30 a.m.: Shower and get ready for the day. I've never liked putting my makeup on in the bathroom--I always felt like I was missing out on the action at home--and nothing has changed. I tend to either use the mirror above the piano in the living room (because there's a ton of natural light in there) or just wait for the car (because I'm lazy).
*12:15 p.m.: Get a few things done around the house.
*1:00 p.m.: Matt comes home for a late lunch. He often has noon meetings but instead of taking a lunch, he chooses to starve himself and just wait for them to end. Otherwise, we wouldn't see each other at all--literally--on my work days. He's the best. We watch Chuck on Hulu as we eat leftover tortellini, and then Matt heads back to the office. I always love having dinner-type food for lunch because I'm only able to have lunch-type food for dinner. Trust me, sandwiches twice a day gets old.
*2:00 p.m.: Matt's back at the office and I have a little bit of free time. This is when I might play the piano, call a friend, blog or read friends' blogs (or I'll switch that productive morning chore time around with afternoon computer time), but this day I was busy with homework for the photography class I'm taking from UCLA. The assignment was focused on macro photography, which is something I never really do, and I chose fruit. I also never take pictures of food, so it was all the more challenging.
*3:00 p.m.: Gas up and hit the road for a soccer game that's an hour away. Get to the game early only to have it start late. Take notes while watching some pretty great high school soccer.
*5:30 p.m.: Halftime. Run to the car and turn the heat up full-blast. The high may have been 65 that day, but the sun was down and therefore the temperature was, too. It was probably just under 50 degrees and my layers and down comforter just weren't cutting it. (Translation: I'm a sissy when it comes to sitting in the cold.)
*6:45 p.m.: Once the game is over and I've interviewed the coaches and a couple athletes, I drive to the office and eat a PB&J sandwich for dinner as I write my story.
*8:15 p.m.: With my story saved into the system, I proceed to spend the rest of the night taking calls and writing little game capsules, proofreading other journalist's stories, pulling stories off the Associated Press newswire, and working on a feature article for another day.
*10:45 p.m.: We're getting closer to deadline, so we start proofing pages and making changes as needed. To help this all make more sense, here's a summary of the process: write stories in Text Edit, save to InCopy, transfer to copy desk where they're placed on an InDesign page, proof the InDesign page, send to FinalProof for (you guessed it!) the final proof, then send to the newsroom where it's turned into a newspaper.
*11:15 p.m.: This is deadline, so cross all of your fingers and toes that the pages have already been sent! After this, we'll head back to our desks where we'll wrap up stories that we're working on, put in photo assignments, go through e-mails, etc. This all takes place in our office, which looks a little like this but 40 years newer and with a whole lot of Mac computers.
*12:30 a.m.: Roll into the garage after a long drive home. Go give Matt a kiss goodnight and say couple prayers. Depending on how awake my brain is, I'll either get ready for bed, read, or catch up on blogs and whatnot (I'm sure plenty of you have seen a comment from me at one in the morning!). Finally fall asleep around 1:30 a.m. Repeat.

Once again, though, I'd like to point out that my life is SO not this structured. Some days the schedule works out about like this, other days it's totally different. And other days, I don't really feel like doing much so I'll just read my scriptures, work out, hang out and work. It just really all depends, you know? Oh, and one last disclaimer--this post is sort of already outdated because I'm swapping out my salary for student loans. (This is the only reason I felt comfortable posting any sort of schedule on the internet--the fact that it's no longer my schedule!) More to come on that later.

There you have it, Tobi! A regular, boring ol' day in the life of Ashley over the past five months :-)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love love and I love holidays (including the made-up versions) so, naturally, I'm a fan of Valentine's Day. It's not the commercialized version I like as much as just the extra excuse to party and celebrate love. Since Matt and I don't play into the Hallmark side of the holiday, we typically don't even celebrate it on Feb. 14th. This time, we commemorated another year of love two weeks early with a romantic picnic at our favorite beach.
We indulged in mouthwatering Nadia cupcakes and sipped sparkling cider as we watched the sun dip into the ocean. Matt even surprised me with a few new songs he'd learned on the guitar. It was perfect, really.
Once it was good and dark, we headed out to a nice mall in the area. After all, what says "love" like shopping? I kid, I kid. But instead of buying each other gifts this year, we had decided to pick out one new pair of shoes each. I'm in love with my new Toms! (Matt went with Sanuks. We have to fit in here in California, you know.) Then we enjoyed a very late dinner at Cheesecake Factory, which just never gets old.
Due to work schedules, it was impossible to do anything tonight, so instead Matt and I got up early and made a big breakfast together. We ate delicious waffles with cool whip and fresh strawberries, and had eggs and bacon on the side. It was amazing! I think we have a new favorite Valentine's Day tradition.
I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday with the ones you love!

*Also, an update: Remember that one time our bumper randomly flew off the back of our car on the freeway? That was on our way to our romantic Valentine's date. And remember how I said it was going to cost an arm and a leg to repair? Yeah, we got quotes upwards of $900. And remember how Matt is the best husband ever? He got creative and fixed it to the tune of $4.95. Hooray!
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