Paper faces on parade…
Hide your face, so the world will never find you.
If I just succeeded in getting that Phantom of the Opera song in your head then you are exactly the type of person that should have attended the Lords and Ladies Masquerade Ball. I am not ashamed to admit that I will now be humming that tune all day and that I love the mystery and intrigue of a masquerade. Maybe I’ve been conditioned by all those fairytales I read as a child or the chick flicks I’ve cried and giggled through as an adult or maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic but, whatever the reason, getting all dolled and costumed up to go to an extravagant ball is right down the Rachel alley.
Our group looked muy fantastico!
Last year we attended the inaugural Lords and Ladies Ball. This event was conceived by the charity In Our Own Quiet Way as a fundraiser. We had a great time at the party even though the two of us were surrounded by total strangers but this year we were determined that we were going to go to this ball unsolitarily. So we asked around and found two couples interesting enough to be interested in attending with us: my brother Drew and his wife, and Drew’s friends Adam and Abigail.
It's probably best if you don't ask.
Drew and Adam played the part of snooty aristocrats well. It seemed to come quite natural to them.
Jas and I have a very large reservoir of costumes so the decision of what to wear to the ball could have been a difficult one but Jason was very keen on sporting the pirate costumes I made about 5 Halloweens ago so, being the perfectly amiable wife that I am, I agreed. (No snickering!)
Our knight in rusty armor?
My costume didn’t exactly blend in with the rest of the ladies at the ball. Most of the girls were dressed in the puffiest girliest costumes they could find and then there was me…a pirate wench ready to make any scurvy blaggard walk the plank at the slightest provocation. But my lack of petticoats and hoopskirts did not hinder my enjoyment of this magical evening.
What fine specimens of manliness. Wait, do I see tights?
Searching for buried treasure or Prince Charming? Crawling through a hidden tunnel is fun even if you're not looking for anything but the other side.
This year, instead of holding a formal dinner, food was served at several stations with different city themes. You could wander and snack at your leisure. Each “city” provided more than just things to chomp; they each had their own entertainment and décor as well. We visited Barcelona, Venice, and Damascus and enjoyed the ambiance of romantic accordion serenades, exotic belly dancing, and limber acrobatics. I liked this informal setup. It was nice just to relax and explore the estate with our group of friends.
Even the statues wore masks.They were "required" after all.
The one hang-up of the evening was Drew’s tardiness. Drew and Simone were unfashionably late. Being the enormously nice and courteous people that we are, we refrained from eating as we wandered and waited for their arrival. We should have been selfish and started stuffing our faces the second we got there because by the time Drew arrived, much later than he estimated, the food was already dwindling and the other activities of the night were soon to begin. We did get a taste of Venice and Damascus before we were ushered onto the dance floor but, sadly, we didn’t get a chance to savor the flavor of Barcelona. Sigh. Little brothers are the worst! Just kidding-there are probably a few things in this world more problematic.
Girls rock! Girls wearing frilly skirts rock awesome!
Girls on tramps! Need I say more?
Even though we didn’t get to consume as much as we desired, we did get ample opportunity to dance, promenade, and hangout in tepees. It was a lovely warm night with a drooping full moon providing the backdrop to a landscape glowing with clusters of twinkle lights. The company was good, the festivities were jovial, and the cause was worthy.
These stilted men added nicely to the fantastical feeling of the night.
I hope more of you that find the charm and anonymity of a masquerade fascinating will be inclined to join us next year. I know you are out there and I know right now you have lines from that song rumbling around in your brain along with all your storybook fantasies. So why not don a costume and spend an enchanted evening with the coolest people you know?
My racing team from last summer got together to run the Utah Marathon Relay again this year. The Utah Marathon Relay takes place in South Jordan every September and, as the name suggests, it’s the length of a marathon, 26.2 miles. Fortunately, the course is split into 5 loops so each team member only has to run 5.2 miles, which makes the race completely doable even for the non-nutsy. Although our team hit some unexpected snags this year, we still managed to beat our previous time. Yeah us!
That look on Jeremy's face is the look of a man that knows he may lose bowel control at any moment.
Jason, Fran, and I were all very prepared for this race since we had run a half marathon just a month before. Nothing makes five miles look like a walk in the park like running thirteen. Jason’s brother Jeremy seemed reasonably ready for the event as well, though he didn’t train as much for it as last year. I think running five miles didn’t scare him this year since he knew he could do it so the fear of being the humiliated downfall of our team didn’t inspire him as it had previously. My brother Drew, after he barely survived last year’s race, intended on thoroughly training for his run this year but somehow those good intentions never resulted in actual exercise. The race got closer yet his plans to prepare remained in the indefinite future so he only got in a few pathetic runs before the relay.
The first runners waited valiantly in the cold for the race to start. I'm there somewhere in their midst freezing my tukus off.
Drew looks surprisingly peppy here as he passes the 4 mile mark.
But, ready or not, our race day came and that’s when things got a little messy. The day before the relay I was showing signs of catching a cold: headache, sore throat, stuffiness…the usual. Although a cold wouldn’t stop me from racing I was concerned that it would hinder me from doing my best. Then Jeremy came down with something in the wee hours of the morning on the day of the race that, unlike my cold, was a showstopper. He got a bout of food poisoning and warmed up for the relay by running to the toilet over and over again during the night. While he still showed up bright and early at the starting point ready to run there was no telling if the large quantities of Pepto-Bismol he had downed would be enough to keep all his fluids in their proper places inside of him. We had him do a little trial run across the parking lot to see how his stomach held up and that didn’t go over well so Jason and I collectively decided that he needed to abort. Running and the runs may sound like things that go together but they really aren’t. With Jeremy off to be buddies with his bathroom we had to hurry and find another runner. Luckily, we know an abnormal number of active people so Fran was able to find a friend willing to be a last minute addition to our team.
I came zipping through the finish line at 50 minutes and 35 seconds. I'm pretty proud of that; my short legs had to work hard for it.
So after all that how did we do? Being a little under the weather had no ill-effects on my performance; in fact the opposite surprisingly seemed to be true. I shaved about a minute and half off my time from last year and crossed the finish line in just over 50 minutes. This trend continued for my teammates who all bettered their runs from last year, even Drew was about a minute faster than the year before. (I’m sure not getting lost helped.) Jason’s time was the most impressive though. He was almost five minutes quicker this year than the preceding at 41:38. Way to go Jas!
Team name? The Gait Keepers. Average Team Speed? 9:15/mile.
With about an 8 minute/mile average, Jas was flying! This picture makes it look like I might mean that literally.
All our slightly quicker paces paid off. We finished at 4 hours and 2 minutes, which was 11 minutes faster than our previous time of 4 hours and 13 minutes. This put us in 82nd place out of 124 teams. Not too shabby considering Andrew was in our group. LOL. Just kidding Drew…mostly.
Here's my dramatic handoff to Fran. Cue the Chariots of Fire music.
Good job everyone! May we rock even more awesome next year!
Where can you find chilly water, pelting desert sandstorms of Arabian magnitude, lovely beaches, and impressive starry skies? Read below to find the answer to this and other incredibly pressing questions.
Yuba is a smallish reservoir located a little over an hour away from our house. It’s been nearly a decade since Jas and I have camped at Yuba so we were game when my brother Drew and Jeremy Rowley suggested we go there for a combo camping and boating extravaganza over the long Labor Day weekend. I would be lying if I said every moment of this outing turned out to be splendid. There were some complications and commotions that made parts of it less than enjoyable but our trip also had some really lovely bits that probably made it worth all the bother.
Here is my faithful account of our Yuba expedition including all the problems we encountered while on our “relaxing” getaway.
Problem 1: Labor Day weekend camping reservations
Difficulty Level: 3
Outcome: Goal Achieved
We successfully made reservations for our group to camp at North Beach on the night we desired, which was no small feat considering it was during Labor Day weekend. North Beach is a nice sandy beach, probably the best beach at Yuba. However, there is one problem with a nice sandy beach…the sand.
This mass of sand was propelled on the tail end of a great gust of wind. I couldn't convince myself to open my eyes long enough to get out my camera when I was in the midst of those stinging particles. So this is the best photo I got.
Problem 2: The Sands of Death
Difficulty Level: 6
Outcome: No Casualties
When Jason and I, and my brother’s family, arrived at Yuba the wind was bent on total destruction. Sand was blowing everywhere in gusts up to 30 miles an hour. Large swirling pillars of it stretched high into the air like enormous gritty fingers. It stung our eyes, flew in our ears, and assailed our legs. Ouch!
Drew brought a new fandangled tent that was supposed to practically pop up all by itself. It popped up alright...and then it tried to become the first unmanned flying portable shelter.
Problem 3: Tent Apparatus Erection
Difficulty Level: 4
Outcome: Operation Successful
We somehow managed to find a great camping spot away from the swirling sand and secluded from other campers and went about setting up our tents. Drew’s tent was way too aerodynamic for the blustery conditions so it took some serious teamwork, and a whole lot of staking, to finally get it to stay in place.
Simone and Drew wandered along the beach holding hands. Precious.
Problem 4: Rowley Category Stress
Difficulty Level: Infinite
Outcome: Moodiness Diverted
The wind wasn’t the only brooding force at Yuba. We encountered another problem when Jeremy and his family arrived an hour or so after everyone else: Rowley Category Stress. Jeremy is famous for flipping out a little randomly and having anxiety over stuff that other people would classify as “no big deal”; I think it’s the drama queen in him. When his family met up with the rest of us he was freaking out a bit about a number of things. Apparently driving his boat down did not suit him, or parking it, or getting it stuck briefly in the drifting beach sand. He was not a happy camper (pun intended). But going for a little swim in Yuba’s frigid water seemed to lighten his mood. Nothing like wading in a freezing reservoir to improve your outlook on life.
Do the boys look tough and masculine in this picture? Well they shouldn't because, with the exception of Jeremy, this is about as far as they had the guts to venture into the water. Sissies!
Problem 5: Glacial Waters
Difficulty Level: 5
Outcome: No Permanent Damage to Extremities
Yup, we walked down to the lake and let the kids get as mucky in the sand as they desired. They loved it. The wimpier members of our contingency ventured into the water a little…a very little. They got their toes and calves the tiniest bit wet and then retreated back to the shore claiming that the water was inhumanly cold. But Jeremy and I, obviously the tougher members of the group, dared each other to go further and further into the icy water until all but our heads were covered and there we reluctantly stayed. We got used to the temperature of the lake and didn’t shiver too much after a while but getting back out was a completely miserable and teeth-chattering experience.
Jadon and Milo had a blast digging a canal through the sand.
Problem 6: Dinner
Difficulty Level: 1
After swimming and freezing it was time for our camp-style super. Jas and I had brought tin foil dinners with us to cook for everyone that evening: a Rachel original recipe. Mmmm… potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, bacon, and lots of seasonings. It makes me hungry just thinking about those babies sizzling over the fiery coals. We overfed ourselves, roasted marshmallows, and kept a talking until after midnight. We were in no hurry to go to bed since it was very pleasant conversing around our cozy fire and the star strewn sky overhead was amazing. There was no moon out that night so countless glittering orbs were strikingly visible above us, as if the dark fabric of the sky had been stretched past endurance and hundreds of tiny holes of light had been ripped into its threads. That twinkling canopy reminded me just how much beauty is dimmed out by civilization. Gorgeous!
Those blimps way out there are me and Jeremy. If you're not impressed now you've clearly never experienced the water at Yuba.
Problem 7: Sleep Without Heat
Difficulty Level: 6
Outcome: Operation Suffered Major Loses Before Achieving Victory
Going to bed was more of a theory than a reality for me that night. It was cold, in the low 40s or high 30s, and I could not get warm in my sleeping back. I wore a jacket, flannel PJs, and Jason’s socks to bed but for some reason my body refused to heat up. I was awake for hours after everyone else had dozed off and eventually I got that deep achiness in my bones that comes from cold muscles twitching too much, which didn’t help induce restfulness either. It wasn’t until Jason woke up much later and kindly unzipped his sleeping bag a little and covered me with some of it that I got comfortable enough to nod off. As much as I’d like to whine about my sleeping grievances, and I am obviously doing so, I really can’t complain too much. Sleeping poorly is part of the packaged deal when it comes to camping.
After the wind calmed down the weather at Yuba was quite lovely.
Problem 8: Converting to a Strapless
Difficulty Level: 4
Outcome: No Casualties Except Jeremy’s Tranquility
The next day we went boating, which turned out to be pretty much your typical boating experience except Jeremy forgot to take off one of the boat straps when we were launching his vessel. It took us a while to figure out why the boat mysteriously refused to unload and Jeremy was pretty frazzled by the situation but even he chuckled a bit when we realized all the trouble was due to his dumb mistake.
Jadon carried his sister around like this and oddly enough she didn't seem to mind at all even though her feet dangled about a foot from the ground.
Despite all the sand I’m still digging out of my scalp, the less than optimal temperature of the reservoir’s water, the scant amount of sleep I got, and the occasional stress-induced ravings of Jeremy, the trip was pretty fun. After all, there’s nothing quite like skewering marshmallows and chatting over a toasty fire with nature’s beauty strewn about you.
Incidentally, I learned a bit about the history of Yuba reading a sign at the boat dock. Yuba Dam, which created Yuba Reservoir, was built about a hundred years ago to water the dry farmlands that surrounded it. All the farmers in the county had to pitch in $5 for the building of it. As ridiculously small as that sum may seem, apparently many of them didn’t have sufficient funds to donate so instead they opted to work off their required contribution by helping build the dam. These workers got a kick out of saying, “U.B. dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.” while they labored away on this barrier. The phrase became so common that “U.B.” was eventually transformed into “Yuba” and that’s how the reservoir got its name.
There are days in our lives that stand out in our memory, moments that stick with us when other recollections fade into insignificance. These memorable days are often so because they represent a major shift in our lives: changes that we either steadfastly move toward or shrink away from but that inevitably come regardless. If we are lucky those that matter most to us surround us when these shiftings occur. For the fortunate, familiar faces are there to support, witness, and share in the momentous events that carry our lives. And, when these occasions call for celebration, hopefully those loved ones are there to party with us like it’s 1999.
Kristen and John make a cute couple. They seemed ecstatic about being husband and wife. Congrats little sis!
My little sister just got married to a man she has been committed to for years. This wedding symbolized a big adjustment for her, not just in her circumstances but also in her attitude. I remember her profusely stating for years that she didn’t believe in marriage and had no desire to be married but somehow John changed her mind. As her wedding approached she didn’t apprehensively retreat back into her previous way of thinking but instead seemed to pick up momentum and show increased satisfaction with the new direction her life was taking.
Kristen and John's cake was vegan and wheat-free. Sounds nasty, right? It was actually very tasty and looked quite elegant topped with fresh orchids.
My hairdresser did a fantastic job on my do. A lot of people seemed wowed by it. Excellent work Stacy!
Kristen and John were married at the Ogden Nature Center out in the middle of the untouched environment that they both love. The wedding procession was a little awkward, I’m guessing there wasn’t much in way of rehearsing, but the vows John and Kristen wrote for each other made up for the lack of processional preparation. Their declarations were sincere and full of adoration. And, after all, we were all there to honor Kristen and John not to scrutinize the bridesmaids’ apparent confusion.
Two of the flower girls, my nieces, were quite willing to pose for oodles of photographs. This is one of my favorites of the pictures I snagged of them.
GQ material all the way baby! I could be biased but I think Jason looks smoking in this shot.
After the wedding there was a little of that unavoidable picture taking but, in my opinion, there wasn’t nearly enough snapping going on. The wedding photographer really didn’t adequately make use of the unique scenery at the preserve and the photo opportunities it afforded. So I went in search of those perfect picture spots, along with many other idle family members and wedding attendees. We all ran around wild in the preserve’s expansive bushy jungles and dry August meadows in our formal attire like the mad escapees of some barbaric cocktail party. I’m sure we looked odd tramping through the tall yellowed grasses in our tulle and ties as we scanned the landscape for distinct and beautiful places to take pictures but we definitely found what we were looking for. I shot some really lovely photos of my family and the newlyweds out in that unkempt terrain.
Little boys are practically as difficult to catch on film as Sasquatch because they never stop moving. I miraculously got a few cute photos of my nephews while they were all stationary.
Kristen, Simone, and I had a girly night out a couple days before the wedding. We got darling pedicures and then ate sushi until we were ready to burst. It was girltastic!
After our impromptu photo shoot the evening was far from over. We stuffed ourselves on vegan tacos (surprisingly tasty), toasted the bride and groom, and then obligingly danced to the jubilant beat provided by a Celtic band. I love to dance so I especially enjoyed that part of the evening. I boogied with my nieces and nephews, my sisters, my dad, and of course my sweet hubby. The joyful energy was almost tangible as we kicked up our heels in a chaotic churning mass of people. We were celebrating. We were celebrating Kristen and John, their happiness, their new life together, their commitment to each other, but more than that I think we were celebrating our connections to each other as friends, family members, and human beings.
Getting Kristen, and her enormous dress, out to a picturesque spot was quite the undertaking. Since she got married in her bare feet she also had to borrow shoes from a friend to trudge through the poky plants.
This is one of the best pictures I took of Kristen and John. I love the contrast between the wild landscape and their fancy garb.
I believe my little sister had a memorable wedding day, a day that will stay with her when other memories lose their importance or fail to be recalled. I hope the giddiness that she felt as she contemplated spending a lifetime with the man she respects and loves will linger with her long after other details have become obscure.
We may not be newlyweds but Jas and I still have a thing for each other. It's easy to be sweet on such a fun, happy, intelligent fellow.
What a charming picture of my mom and sis!
I know it will be a while before I forget the euphoria I felt twirling about in my high heels on that patio under the stars with the smiles of so many of the people I love surrounding me.
Last week I had to go to Park City for my chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ annual golf outing.
This year we extended this event into a two-day affair with scientific lectures and dinner at Ruth’s Chris the evening before, which meant that I pretty much had no choice but to stay in Park City for a night. It was a big sacrifice, certainly one for the record books. Yes, I gave up a night of hanging out at my house to vacation in a luxury cottage suite at the Hotel Park City with Jason. (Jason selflessly volunteered to come with me even though this was not his clan of geeks. What a thoughtful husband, right?)
Our cottage was on the banks of a tranquil pond. I wish I would have had more time to enjoy this serene setting.
The board for our SCC chapter, which I am a part of, arranged for killer rates on some of the fancier rooms at the Hotel Park City during our event. Since I needed to stay in Park City regardless, I was more than happy to take advantage of these deals. I’ve stayed at the Hotel Park City before so I was expecting a nice room but man! Our luxury cottage suite was the bomb! It had a big sitting room, a fully equipped kitchen, a dining area, two bathrooms, a massive master bedroom suite, and a patio equipped with a gas fireplace and our own private Jacuzzi hot tub. Additionally there were giant LCD TVs and gas fireplaces in the master bedroom and the sitting room. Yeah, sweet! The view from our cottage was also fabulous. Our suite was on the edge of a quiet pond and its giant windows afforded a great view of the wandering ducks with their ducklings and the jumping fish. The slopes of the Park City Resort ascended in the distance adding to the picturesque scenery. I think I could get used to that kind of living…only I really shouldn’t because who knows when we will stay in a room this plush again.
I haven't played golf in over 15 years so I thought choosing to participate in the SCC golf tournament might be a mistake...a mistake my poor team would pay for. But I actually had a great time and didn't suck as much as I thought I would.
Since I wasn’t in our room much, thanks to the nonstop SCC activities, Jason was the one that truly got to enjoy our posh space. He didn’t seem to mind being left alone in this lavish sanctuary. He spent the hours reading a book out on the patio, playing some StarCraft II, and lounging in the sitting room.
This giant building was our "cottage". It housed four suites.
Though I didn’t get much of a chance to appreciate our splendid cottage I did find enough time in the evening to hop in the Jacuzzi with Jas and burn holes in the backside of my board shorts by the patio fire. Yup, I discovered that that magic fabric that dries so fabulously when you hop out of the lake does not handle heat well. Sadly, I ruined my favorite pair of board shorts discovering this little known fact. Oh well, maybe I can start a revealingly holey fashion trend.
I wasn't around our room much but Jason managed to snag this picture in the little bit I was.
Our quick trip to Park City was a nice little outing, though it was way too busy for me to call it relaxing, but I think Jason found it quite mellow and refreshing. I hope our monstrous suite didn’t ruin normal hotel rooms for him forever though; he was already a bit of a hotel snob so I’m sure our cottage did nothing but further this pickiness. Many thanks to the SCC for making my husband even snootier.