Last Day in Las Vegas

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Our last day in Las Vegas was pretty quiet. My daughter wanted to go to a bookstore our friend introduced us to last year. It’s called ‘The Writer’s Block‘ and one of the nicest bookstores I hve been to. She left with a big stack of new books. The tfip back is taken care of.

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Las Vegas – Red Rock Canyon

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday!? In anticipation of the big Thanksgiving meal we took the kids on a short ‘walk’ to work up an appetite. Calling anything a hike is always a gamble and will trigger a string of complaints but we have been in the same spot before. Apparently a hike is anything above 2 miles according to my son and just too much effort (that does not mean we don’t do it anyway, we just deal with the complaints for half an hour and after that it suddenly subsides and everyone is having a good time).

Our friends live really close to Red Rock Canyon which is a State Park right next to Las Vegas. It features a scenic drive and beautiful hikes. We parked the car at the Calico Basin parking lot and walked up to the big red rock formations you see from there. We did the same walk/hike before but in a loop. Since we did not have as much time until the turkey was ready, we just went a little up the hill and then turned around.

There were a lot of rock climbers to watch what was really fun. We are not climbers but made our way up the hill what involves climbing over quite a few boulders. Ther are also plenty of different rock patterns to observe.

I did not get as far up as the rest of my family because I got a little dizzy. The air in Las Vegas is very dry and that combined with the altitude was a little much that day. The view was beautiful nonetheless. On the left in the distance you can see a little of the Las Vegas strip.

I am happy to report everyone made it back home without injuries. It was interesting to watch the other hikers climbing up while I was waiting for the others to come back down the hill. There was a family with two little kids and the expression on the mom’s face was exactly how I must look like watching my kids climb up a rockface (terrified and nervous). There was a couple where the woman was grumbling about ‘just a short Thanksgiving hike’. It all sounded very familiar (my husband has a reputation for coming up with interesting ‘short cuts’).

This is Las Vegas, too. It’s not all the strip with its casinos and glitter.

Friends who stay

Thanksgiving past (2006)

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Today on Thanksgiving day 2022 I am being thankful for friends who stay. As I said before we are spending our Thanksgiving with friend in Las Vegas. Since we don’t have any family living in the US I am grateful that we have them around to spend time with on this holiday. The other day we were looking at a picture from our first Thanksgiving 17 years spend also with them.

We did have family visiting before and I had the pleasure of making a Thanksgiving dinner for my parents-in-law. Especially my father-in-law was very appreciative of the big bird.

But back to the ‘friends who stay’ topic. After 17 years in a country far away from my home country I am very thankful for friend who stick with you throughout the years no matter if you are far away or see them ones a year or every other. It’s not easy and the longer we are away the harder it gets I feel. I do have a handful I get in touch with every time we visit Germany and I will check in every now and then. I appreciate it so much that they still show as much interest in my life as I do in theirs. We left at a time when everything was in flux. Everyone moved around to their ‘forever’ jobs to different cities, they got married, started families – even if you still live in the same country things and friendships change, I know that. When we first moved we had a lot of visitors but now after 17 years it’s mostly family who will make the trip out what I completely understand. It’s an expensive visit to make especially if the family is growing.

The friendships that ended did not end because we had misunderstandings or were fighting they just fizzled out overtime.

There have been new friends along the way, too. Some were made having kids the same age and I already know that at least one will stay with me for sure. Sometimes you just know. Some of them were made at work but since both my husband and I work in research it’s hard to keep them alive since we only have time 3-4 years to build something up before they move on to new positions and new cities or countries.

It probably also has something to do with the time you have available to build a lasting connection.

So here is to friends who stay without questions, over a distance who accept you for who you are, who will ask you ‘how are you?’ and mean it, who will also reach out to you as you do to them. If you are reading this, you know who you are.

Realizing dreams – Meow Wolf Las Vegas

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

Our Elementary School PTA is financing art classes and their teacher is amazing. She introduces the classes to a new artist every couple weeks. During one of the classes she showed them a video about Numina the Meow Wolf art exhibit in Denver. He came home so excited and was asking how far Denver is. I looked up the exhibition and realized that Denver might be a bit far, but that there is the Omega Mart also by Meow Wolf in Las Vegas. So today was the day he was looking forward to.

You enter the exhibition through the Omega Mart which is set up like a super market with all kinds of weird products. Through the freezer we went into the main exhibition area.

There is a whole backstory to the Omega Mart you can find online according to the kids. Because I don’t want to hit publish I am trying hard not to get sucked into that right now but I am sure you can find it online if it interests you.

It all feels like a wild dream with many sounds, colors and patterns. There are all these walkways and stairs you can explore. It’s called an immersive art experience for a reason.

The pictures really don’t do it justice. Behind every corner you end up in a new room or walkway.

It’s a very different art experience to a regular museum but if it helps to get the kids interested I approve. And honestly we all had so much fun. So much so that we are already thinking of visiting another one. I know it’s not for everyone but do you think you would go?

The exhibit is located in Area 15 in Las Vegas. It’s a big warehouse space filled with exhibits, experiences, food and stores. It’s loud, dark and colorful. It was fun to wonder around for a while and take it all in.

Inside you are greeted by this giant skull. Projections change its appearance every so often.

Outside you will find more art installations, too. After seeing all this part of me would be interested in going to burning man one year but I think I could not stomach the heat and the dirt (not to mention the required organization beforehand).

We ended the day with a cooking class in ‘how to make cheese spaetzle’. My husbands family is from the Black Forest originally an and this is one of our most loved recipes. There are multiple ways to make spaetzle but we opted to get our friends a spaetzle press and I chose a German cook book in English that has the recipe. Even though my husband was not convinced that it was a very good interpretation of the original. We made do and according to him the result was 8/10. Not too bad…

Hit pause

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

After the last three days on the road we had a lovely relaxed day ay our friends house. It’s so nice to see them again after such a long time (it’s been a year).

In the morning I made pancakes for the kids. Isn’t it disorienting to operate in a strange to you kitchen? In vacation rentals I feel usually fine since they are mostly sparely equipped that it’s easy to find the things you need. This is a living kitchen as they really like to cook.

I played the game Carcasonne with my son for a bit to get him off the computer. It was a good learning experience, too since he won in the end after whining sometime in the middle that he would surely loose. We really should do that more often. I always liked board games but my husband does not so it’s never everyone. Can your family agree on this or are you divided?

In the afternoon I took the kids ice skating. It was a small rink at a mall outside and felt really festive. Of course they already have Christmas decorations up everywhere. I keep wondering if that was like that all these years of if that is a recent thing? It still feels early days. We had fun but the skates were not the best and now I have a scrape on my ankle.

We went shoe shopping after. It was time for a new pair of crocs for my son. If you look closely at the box we brought back you will find that those were not the only shoes that came home with us.

The boxes were very much appreciated by the resident cat. So I will leave you with a cute cat picture.

Roadtrip to Las Vegas- Day 3

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

The last stretch of our Las Vegas travels lay ahead of us. It’s ~ 320 miles from our hotel and google maps said it would take 5 hours. I think with stops and everything it ended up being 7 hours – somehow those distances always seem theoretic and I learned from previous trips that you should always plan for some extra time.

I always feel like there is not much that much to see or nice places to stop on that stretch of the trip but we made do.

Elmer’s bottle Ranch entrance

Our first stop on the way was Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch about 2.5 hours in. Josh from California through My Lens wrote about it here. He also had quite a few other suggestions for stops along the way so we have more to see on upcoming trips. I read it’s a little unpredictable if the bottle tree place is open but I suppose we got lucky. It was pretty impressive what the guy did with bottles and other found things. You can freely wonder around between the bottle trees and it was a fun place to explore for sure.

Times gone by
All the bottles…

We had lunch at In-N-Out Burger in Barstow what was about the half way point. In theory we had plenty of time to get to our next stop before sunset but we hit some traffic after Barstow. We drove by the Seven Magic Mountains before but I really wanted to stop this time and get a little closer. It’s not really a detour when you drive to Las Vegas as the street just runs parallel to the highway. There was just the last bit of sun on the stone columns when we parked the car. We still had a look up close and saw the sun set over the mountains. It was a good end to the day.

Seven Magic Mountains
Sunset on the other side

We made it to our friends house safe and sound and picked up some dinner up from the Cheesecake Factory. It was so much fun to take a couple of extra days and now we have a couple of days here before we head back.

I know a couple of you mentioned that driving seemed safer then flying because of the pandemic and in some ways I agree. You have more control of how close you get to people but then you also are at more places. We tried our best like we always do. Fingers crossed all goes well.

My friend mentioned that we should go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving today. Have you been shopping for the holiday yet if you celebrate? It always feels like everyone thinks that the stores will be closed for a week but then it is just that single day if that at all.

Good Night

Roadtrip to Las Vegas – Day 2

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I have to say I did not plan well in advance this time around other than booking the hotels we were going to stay at. We had to cancel a trip short notice the presidents’ day week (my son started to have covid symptoms the day we were supposed to leave and sure enough he tested positive), so I am a little reluctant now to make plans.

We have been in the area before so we had one spot I wanted to try again. In December 2019 we did a road trip that also took us to Pismo Beach. We visited the Monarch Butterfly Grove back then which had about 3000 monarchs visiting over the winter at the time. Since then the monarch population recovered somewhat and this year there were close to 24,000 in that specific location.

Monarch Butterfly Grove

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture above but they hang high up in the trees in huge clusters. Those little specs in the sky – butterflies, too. They were everywhere. The picture below shows the view through a binocular that was set up by the volunteers.

Through the binoculars

What I did not realize last time was that the beach is fairly close, too. So that was our next stop. There were some concerns that we were on the way to make the outing a hike but as soon as the water was spotted all was good again.

through the dunes to the beach
through the dunes to the beach
dipping our toes in the pacific

Next stop on the map was Ostrichland near Solvang. I saw Instagramfriends post about it and it looked very entertaining. You have to pay an entrance fee and get to have a look at some ostriches and emus that roam around behind fences. If you are brave enough you can also feed them. You get a kind of dust pan that holds the feeding bowl and if you watch how they pick at the food it’s probably a good idea to be able to hold it as far away as possible (my feeling about it). But it was fun, too and everyone agreed that it was worth it.

Ostrichland
Seems to taste good

For lunch we stopped right next door at Hitching Post II. They had tables set up outside in the shade and the pulled pork tacos I had were very yummy. In the distance you got another view of the ostriches.

Lunch with a view
Tacos, yummy

I always wanted to visit Solvang. It’s a small town that is known for it’s Danish-style architecture and bakeries. It always looked very quaint to me when I saw it in pictures but it did not match the vision I had in my head. Maybe I had an off day? It felt just very touristy and busy to me and did not live up to my expectations. So the only picture I am willing to share is of one of the arches at the mission Santa Ines in Solvang. There was a private event at the time and we just walked in the garden for a couple of minutes before driving on.

Did that ever happen to you that you thought something would be great and then you were just left wondering what all the fuss is about? Maybe we should have stopped at one of the bakeries and it would have become clear but I also wanted to get to the beach before dark because I promised.

Old arch at the mission Santa Ines in Solvang

Last sight seeing stop of the day was at the beach in Santa Barbara. We already went here a couple of times and we knew it would not disappoint especially at sunset.

Walk on the beach

I always find it fascinating that a walk on the beach is just fine but as soon if we hit a trail there is always complaining from one family member 😉 We do it anyway from time to time and most of the time it will stop after 30 minutes.

Sunset in Santa Barbara

We headed to our hotel in Camarillo shortly before the sun was completely gone. For dinner we just picked something up at Trader Joes and called it a day.

setting sun along 101

Stops today:
Paso Robles – Pismo Beach – ~45 miles – ~45 minutes drive
Pismo Beach – Ostrichland – ~50 miles – ~45 minutes drive
Ostrichland – Solvang – ~4 miles – ~5 minutes drive
Solvang – Santa Barbara – ~33 miles – ~40 minutes drive
Santa Barbara – Camarillo – ~44 miles – ~45 minutes drive

Roadtrip to Las Vegas – Day 1

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

On the road

Thanksgiving week break started for us yesterday after school, hurray! I am so glad school is out now for the whole week. I kind of needed the break, too. When I asked the rest of the family what they wanted to do, my daughter suggested we visit our friends in Las Vegas. Luckily they are happy to have us and honestly I can’t wait to see them again. They moved away a couple of years ago and I miss them dearly. I met her at work when we first moved here and we became really good friends. When our son was born my daughter stayed with them when we had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. They feel more like family to me.

Las Vegas may not necessarily be my first choice for a vacation spot. We stayed a couple of times by now already before they moved there just because it’s so convenient when you do a road trip through that area (California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah). We don’t gamble, I hate the smoke in the casinos but like in any place you can find other things to do (and the Cirque du Soleil shows are amazing) – I will report more next week.

I was thinking about flying this time but with 4 air fare tickets and the holiday timing price wise it came down to almost the same and we do love a good road trip. It’s a long drive from us and it took us anywhere between 10-14 hours so far (google maps tells me 9 hours but it is wrong, I can tell you that). Most of the time we spent a night in Bakersfield to break it up a bit and there are things you can do just not very many – maybe later more about that.

So yesterday I packed up the car in the morning while the others finished up work and school and off we went. Instead of the 5 we are taking 101 this time. The first night we stayed in Paso Robles. It’s a little over 200 miles and the drive took a little over 4 hours. We arrived pretty late so we just hopped quickly in the hotel pool and went off to bed.

I made no concrete plans for today yet. The hotel has breakfast so we will likely decide then.

What would you have done – road trip or flying and spending more time in one place?

Living with alopecia

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

No hair, don’t care

The title of this post sounds more dramatic than it is for me. If you see pictures of me you will likely see me with a hat or a scarf on my head. If you would see me in real life you would realize pretty quick that I do not have hair.

I am even not sure anymore when it started but I must have been around 15 or so. It was not very dramatic at first. I did not suddenly loose huge amounts of hair but at some point there was no denying that I had spots that just did not grow hair anymore.

It took a couple of doctor’s visits before I received the diagnosis through the hair ambulance at the University hospital in Hamburg that I had indeed alopecia areata.

In a nutshell alopecia is an autoimmune disease where my own immune system attacks my hair follicles in some areas and there is no hair growth anymore. There is:

  • alopecia areata where you have bald patches somewhere on your body
  • alopecia totalis where you lose all hair on your scalp
  • alopecia universalis where you lose all hair

If you have a parent with the disease you may inherit it or you may not. My dad has it, too but I am the only one of my siblings who does. In most cases the hair grows back, sometimes it does not. There are some medications that may help but they may not. When I was first diagnosed I tried a couple of things including a medication that required monthly trips to Hamburg for a blood check-up. I still remember those trips because it was on Fridays and I had to take the day off from school. I had the best time with my mom on those days going to the big city. Alas the medication did not help and the patches actually grew bigger over time.

I can’t remember exactly how I felt about it. I had good friends who did not mind, I had a boyfriend with 16 who loved me for who I was. When I lost my hair I did not care that much about fashion and I had time to ease into it. I was okay. Not okay to the extend that I embraced it or to not try to hide it with long hair and hats which became kind of my trade mark. When there was no way of hiding it anymore I did get a wig in my early 20s. It never felt quite right.

In my mid 20s I broke up with my boy friend of six years and started over. That was the point when I decided I would shave off whatever was still left of my real hair and leave off the wig. I kept thinking that I would not want to explain to a new love interest that “oh, by the way, this hair is not real and in fact I am bald”. I am happy to report that not one person reacted in a negative way – the opposite was the case. Hats became a daily part of my outfit. The styles changed a little over the years form berets to newsboy hats to scarfs. I feel a little naked without any. It’s not so much that I feel embarrassed without, it’s just something I am used to (and honestly some days it’s a little cold or a little to sunny).

I will come across people from every once in a while who think I have cancer. All of them are relieved to hear that it is “just” hair loss and nothing more serious. Even though I never quite understood why you would tell a stranger that you hope they will recover or that you pray for them if you don’t know at all what is going on in their life. I do not want to hear things like “Oh, there are so nice wigs these days. Why don’t you get one of those?” Inappropriate, my choice! And yes, I heard it before.

I sometimes feel wistful and a little relieved if my friends talk about their adventures in hair cuts. I believe hairloss can be very traumatic for some, especially if you feel that your hair is one of your best features. This is my story and I can’t speak for everyone. All I am saying is that you can be happy without hair, that there is beauty in that, too. I would wish for a world where appearance does not matter that much in general. Not because I am not feeling beautiful but because I think we all would be much happier if we would not feel judged for how we look like all the time.

Feeling thankful

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

I had a very full birthday yesterday. We had cake for breakfast as usual and I unpacked some of the presents. I got gigantic mugs so I can make a huge cafe-au-lait on the weekends now. It was a pretty normal day but I got lots of phone calls and texts from family and friends, I felt very special. At work we went out for lunch and I picked Thai food (what is one of my favorites). My family is not so into it and I have the feeling I have it once a year for my birthday with my lab mates. When we got home in the evening there was a beautiful flower arrangement on my door step that my friend sent me. And we had Korean for dinner (another favorite of mine).

The best birthday present by far was the picture my daughter drew for me ( see above). She took a picture on one of our walks and now I know what it was for. She was gifted an aquarell color set and this was her first try. A while back I started a book where the kids can draw, paint or write us something for our birthdays and Christmas. It is slowly filling up. But I think I want another one of that drawing for the wall. Maybe I can convince her to make a family gallery for me? There is a week off from school coming up next week 😉

What was your favorite present you ever received?