29 July 2013

Art at the Park

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My entire day yesterday was spent sitting in a park pavilion, checking in volunteers for The Trout Museum of Art's Art at the Park festival (53rd!). Art shows are interesting events to be a part of, and I've seen them now from all three perspectives: a visitor, an employee, and a vendor. One thing that doesn't change, whether you're selling your work/edible delicacies or working in some other capacity, you arrive as the sun comes up.

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Art fairs, for me, are nostalgic things. I enjoy being a part of them in some capacity, even more than I like to simply visit them. My experience comes from travels to such art fairs with my dad, who has been a painter for almost my whole life. When I was a teenager, many of his summer weekends would be booked in various locales, both regionally and in places such as Florida, Oklahoma, California, and so on. He still does shows occasionally (like this one, because it's local and therefore very easy to do), but I would argue that the 90s, pre-economy nosedive, was the zenith where art festivals were concerned. At least when it came to people actually purchasing art. Things have changed, but people still visit them, so they keep on keeping on.

However, turnout to these sorts of events is always buoyed by the amazing food and snacks. Like last year, Art at the Park had a sparnferkel (pig roast), along with the requisite egg rolls, lemonade, and kettle corn. This year we finally had funnel cakes back, and I hope they stick around from now on.

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The show is located around the square block of Appleton, Wisconsin's City Park, while all the food vendors, kids' activities, community projects and music are hosted inside the park. The artists used to be inside the park, too, following the walkways, but one year it rained so badly that the grass was soup, so they moved it to the street and it stuck. Everyone seems a lot happier this way, and it makes crowd control a breeze.

Not to mention that visitors to the event can hang out inside the park where there is plenty of room to sit and chill, and spread out. One of my favorite things is the large tree that was struck by lightning a couple of years ago, is dead, but hasn't been removed. Instead, there's just a gigantic gash in the middle and a line of stripped bark. And, of course, an Appleton native would recognize the City Park fountain immediately.

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As the volunteer coordinator, I was essentially stationed at a table all day long, however I managed to function as information booth, lost and found, and lost-kid-mom-finder too.

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It felt like lunch to me, but at around 10am my mom stopped by (she was volunteering!) and brought some cajun cookin' for sustenance, from local Jambalayas. Sausage and rice, and alligator bratwurst. !! I know, right? It was excellent.

It started raining a bit in the middle of the day, and things calmed down for a little while. Happily, it lightened back up and the crowds picked up a bit more in the afternoon. I kept myself amused with people's choice in umbrellas.

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Overall it was a really long, exhausting day (not to mention I had been there for a couple of hours the night before -- after working at the bookstore! -- to set up) but it was a great success. Artists were happy, volunteers were happy, and most of all, visitors seemed to be happy. So we event-putter-onners were happy. :) So much planning goes into something like this, and my little piece of the pie was very little indeed. So I have to give credit where credit is due: the Trout Museum of Art staff and all of their board members and affiliations did an amaaaaazing job.

Okay. End blubbery.

I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely weekend!

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Days to Edinburgh move-in: 40

26 July 2013

Take to the skies

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I know, I know... an airline ticket in itself isn't much other than expensive ($$$), but purchasing airfare yesterday was like the icing on the cake of the last year and a half.

I'm not sure I ever mentioned that this whole grad school idea was actually concocted in the fall of 2011, when I had hoped to attend university in the fall of 2012. It was not to be, as I was well into debt from prior student loans and just couldn't stomach the cost out of pocket at that point (with loans, but still). So, I prudently waited a long-ass year and applied all over again, and here we are. It's been a long wait. So having a travel itinerary in my hands is tangible evidence that this is happening. I'm moving to Scotland. I'm leaving September 6. I couldn't be more excited!

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As I was out photographing the break in the clouds (more for effect, I admit, than an exhibit of any actual photographic prowess on my part), I noticed that the tomato plants in our back yard are EXPLODING. Thanks to lots of rain and a slow start at the beginning of summer, everything is just freaking out. We've already had a couple of ripe yellow tomatoes, and they are amazing.

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And it wouldn't be a walk around outside without one of the kitties. Scamp decidedly needed attention this time. Old, fat, arthritic fellow he is... he's always been my favorite. <3

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Looking forward to a veeeery busy weekend through to Monday. But then, I'm telling you, I'm so excited for an entire day off that I might even take some real photos. ;)

Cheers!

Days to Edinburgh move-in: 43

25 July 2013

Auntie Katie!

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I've been waiting to be able to break this news: I'm going to be an aunt! For the first time! My beautiful sister Ali, who was married last month, is about 16 weeks along with her first baybay. Per the image above, she told my other sister and I in early May, shortly after our birthdays. These cards were her cute little way of getting the point across without having to really say anything at all. It was wonderful! Needless to say, we're all super excited around here!! Of course, I'm about to take off on la grande aventure but I'm stoked to be able to book a trip home after the new year -- right around the time she's due.

Anyone who takes a moment to do the math, will know that she was "in the family way" during her wedding and also on our magnificent trip camping to Glacier Park earlier this month. Apparently, she's been feeling great for the most part, if just a little more tired sometimes than usual. Other than feeling "huge," she's doing wonderfully. Did I mention we're all so excited!??

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BABY!!!


In other news, my visa arrived in the mail today, so I'm all about scouring the internet for the best travel deals at the moment. Soon I should be receiving all of my matriculation forms/details so that I can actually join the university and register for classes and all that fun stuff.

I've been suuuuuper busy working both jobs lately. The bookstore is the bookstore is the bookstore, as it always is -- crazy -- in the summer. But the museum has tacked on an extra 20 hours or so, this week, because their annual art fair is on Sunday and they've been trying to get everything together in a very, very short span of time. I'm in charge of coordinating the volunteer base for that day. Once the weekend is over, I'm all but wrapped up at the museum, save one or two small tasks. Then it's on to the next thing...

Time continues to fly on by...

Days to Edinburgh move-in: 44

23 July 2013

Visa! Airfare! Oh my!

The searching for and purchasing of airfare is the most:

a) exciting
b) irritating
c) painful
d) all of the above

...part of planning a trip.


Sticking with the travel theme, the picture above is one I took many years ago, of the ceiling of my first car, a 1985 Saab 900. The ceiling had begun to crumble (as they do in those cars), so I stripped it and replaced it with maps. Anyway.

With someone just today, I was discussing the sort of built-in exhilaration that comes with airfare: it's that positive, tangible thing (or email confirmation) that puts you in get-there mode. With the purchase of an airline ticket, your travel plans go from "possibly taking a trip" to "damnit, I have a five-hour layover in Detroit."

Big news: I just received an email from the British consulate claiming that my visa has been issued and it is en route to me as. we. speak. This is a big day! I was paranoid that it wasn't going to go through for some reason (no worries, there's no real reason it wouldn't have, beyond my incapability to fill out forms correctly or send the wrong kind of passport photo). But alas! It has been approved! Within days I shall receive this beautiful, necessary document, and within the next few days I hope to have purchased an exciting/irritating/painful round-trip airline ticket.

I've decided to come home after the new year for a week or so (after Hogmanay, of course!!), and besides, round-trip tickets look a lot better to immigration officials than one-way trips. As much as they want me there for study, they would prefer I go back home at some point. ;)

Anyone have any great tips for buying airfare, short of contacting a travel agent? Any amazing sites/deals you've stumbled upon? I tend to stick trusty Kayak.com, but I'm all about broadening my airfare search horizons.

Cheers!


Days to Edinburgh move-in: 46

21 July 2013

The art museum... and Vincent Price

Have I mentioned that I work part time at an art museum? Very part time, as it happens, but enough that for the last year or so, I have been working to create (from scratch!) the small museum's permanent catalogue and inventory.

The museum was "begun" only about three years ago, but it was an organization/co-op/gallery space/group since the 50s, possibly before. Some of the early involvees are still around, but the museum as it is now, is the way it is because a particular gift was made to what was previously just an art center, and the gift of a collection, along with $1m, turned it into a small museum. Suddenly, where there used to be decades' worth of lithos and paintings and drawings and tapestries that had been donated throughout the years to the art center, there was now an official "permanent collection" to go with it. And very little documentation about what was actually in the museum.

This is where I came in. Whatever was stowed in boxes, bags, storage rooms, on the wall, on the floor, in closets, in offices, etc -- I made a list. I cross-checked a big, whopping list of some 500-600 pieces, and there are still many loose ends. For about 200 of those pieces, I measured, photographed, described and catalogued every one. For the rest, I just checked to make sure they were present. But I came across some surprises -- like today. Perhaps you've never heard of Bill Forsche, but you've probably heard of the likes of Vincent Price and Kirk Douglas. Today in the storage room, I stumbled across this:

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Creepy, right? Bill Forsche is a Hollywood makeup artist who was originally from Wisconsin. Hence the museum having some of his plaster casts used for films -- somewhere hidden in a box is Kiefer Sutherland, and I was a little disturbed to uncover a plaster cast of Freddy Krueger. Interesting, nonetheless!

On a totally separate note, I dug out a real trove of Native American items, and even an African spear. Excuse the kind of poor photo quality; I took these with my iPod. ;) I was totally enamored with this exceptional turtle shell pouch. It would be just big enough to hold my iPod, for scale. It was gorgeously crafted, and it was all I could do to resist putting it on.

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It's days like this, and finds such as these, that remind me why working at a museum can be so awesome -- and why I'm pursuing that path academically. Whether I end up being a curator or a professor or whatever... being involved with art and artifacts can be just plain cool.


Days to Edinburgh move-in: 48

19 July 2013

Just a decoupaged Polaroid camera.

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It might not seem like a big deal, but one of the coolest things about moving is having to go through everything. What to get rid of, what to keep, etc. Some of it's tedious, like clothes and furniture. But some of it's really fun, when it comes to sentimental stuff -- the photographs, knick-knacks, souvenirs, gifts, and so on. I'm not one for much of the knick-knacky stuff, so what I do have usually holds some sentimental value. That, or I've just had something for so long that I can't imagine not having it. Does that make sense?

So, I put on a record (Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials in this instance) and started excavating.

I went through a couple boxes of things from the last move. These were the things I thought I would keep forever, and mostly that's the way it turned out. I ended up reorganizing them into a box so they would fit better, and snapped a couple photos along the way. Nostalgia can be so much fun. Rediscovering and studying the things I've been given over the years, or taken, or kept for whatever reason -- it's that stuff that makes this whole process fun. In miniature, memories come out of the box, and then they go back in. Someday they'll be unpacked somewhere nice... :)

My favorite things have always and will always be old photographs. I don't have many, but my prized possessions include just a couple that my dad took back in the late 60s/early 70s in California, amongst others.

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I even uncovered the pair of moccasins I made as a senior in high school for an anthropology course. We studied the Kiowa culture, and the big project was the construction (from scratch) of authentic moccasins. Deer hide, sinew (well, something like it), and awl. ;) Tehe. Anyone in my graduating class who made the moccasins wore them to the ceremony. They still fit!

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I unearthed one of my many old Polaroid cameras (the others I'm fairly sure I've given away or lost at this point). This one I was possessed to decorate one day, with that lovely thing called Hodge Podge, and decoupaged modern art images all over it. See if you can recognize Mr. Warhol and Rrose Selavy, to name a few. ;)

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If I could only get my hands on some [ahem, inexpensive] film, I'd love to be able to use this baby more. I miss being able to stroll into the nearest store and pick up a pack of film, albeit usually at more than a dollar per picture near the end there. It was worth it, though. I tried using The Impossible Project's imitation film, but I had a hard time with it. Perhaps more on my Polaroid fixation later...

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!


Days to Edinburgh move-in: 50

18 July 2013

Musing on teen fiction...

My current job as a bookseller at a used bookstore offers a huuuuuge and wide-ranging selection of good reads at any given time, so pretty much whatever I'm in the mood for, I can find something, old or new, that caters to my taste right then. Currently stuck with bookmarks either at home or work are titles ranging from Tales of the Blackfeet Indians to Kate Atkinson's latest title, Life After Life. I also read a good deal of young adult/teen fiction during the summer.


I just finished Cassandra Clare's followup trilogy to her Mortal Instruments series, The Infernal Devices. Like Mortal Instruments (the first of which, City of Bones, is about to be a movie), and a slew of other series geared toward teenage girls, it's quick and light reading, but Clare is an excellent writer, so she can weave a more believable, engaging tale than a lot of other authors I've encountered. It's worth mentioning that for me, The Infernal Devices was several lengths better than The Mortal Instruments. I think Clare honed her craft. ;)

Another good author pick might be Libba Bray, whose latest title, The Diviners, I just borrowed and am about to start. I was impressed by the first in a trilogy of hers, A Great and Terrible Beauty, even if the second two fell a little flat. I've heard The Diviners is another winner.


I'm not entirely sure what it is that can be so appealing about the teen genre, aside from sweeping romance and epic supernatural battles, of course! There is much that I don't care for -- case in point, Twilight, or any other number of teen girl-oriented "snob fiction," we like to call it, such as Gossip Girl, Vampire Academy, the It Girl series etc. I can, however, give Twilight credit for basically re-starting the genre of supernatural teen fiction after its initial baby-start in the late 80s and 90s with L.J. Smith (author of the Secret Circle and Vampire Diaries) and Christopher Pike. But then there was more of a focus on the young adult thriller/horror genre (think R.L. Stine) and super-sappy Lurlene McDaniel, and no such thing as a "teen genre" to speak of. Not on the scale it is now.

I thought I would include a list of books I've enjoyed, just in case you find yourself curious:

The Infernal Devices Trilogy  -- Cassandra Clare
The Mortal Instruments Series -- Cassandra Clare
A Great and Terrible Beauty -- Libba Bray
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer -- Michelle Hodkin
Harry Potter -- J.K. Rowling (obviously)
The Hunger Games -- Suzanne Collins
The Giver -- Lois Lowry
Weetzie Bat Series -- Francesca Lia Block
Hush, Hush -- Becca Fitzpatrick

Not to mention that big-time adult fiction authors such as James Patterson, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult and others are now trying their hand at young adult fiction and succeeding commercially.

The reason I love The Infernal Devices trilogy, for example, is that it puts the protagonist (usually a teenage girl in teen fiction) squarely in her place as heroine. She is depicted as intelligent, a little headstrong, and the type of girl who goes after what she wants, even if she's not totally sure what that is all the time. Of course, they're teenagers; they don't know what they want. This is what gives teen fiction that bit of an edge, in my opinion, when it's done well: the visceral, emotional, teenage response to everything creates conflict in itself. The theme or plot is usually a little less complex than adult fiction--that should go without saying. But where adult characters might try to sort things out logically, such as a middle-aged character looking back on past experiences which shape this new experience, teen characters don't have past experience to guide their decisions, so their responses to conflict are usually rash and immediate. And the basis for even more conflict. Authors who can really tap into the emotional whirlwind of teenage characters are the ones who can create really engaging fiction.

Summer reading at its best!

NPR.org has a great list of 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels, some classics and some recent titles. A good place to start!

17 July 2013

Juillet est fou!

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What's happening to summer? Where is it gooooinngggg? And why is it so HOT? Thinking of cool, lakeside Glacier NP on steamy days like today...

Wow. The days are flying. And what am I doing? Nothing very picturesque, lamentably. Yet I've been busy. When I returned from my trip to Glacier NP, where I want to be still (hence the photo), I hit a metaphorical wall of shit to do. Pardonnez mon fran├žais. Let's be honest: I've been stressed. More than I should be at this stage of the game, but what can you do? So much is going on!

My visa application has been received at the New York processing center. Technology is so amazing these days -- that they can email me to let me know they've received it and when-about to expect the decision. The whole process is a huge pain in the arse (and expensive), but it's streamlined online as much as it can be, and I appreciate that.

Additionally, working two jobs is no small investment of time, especially two distinctly different kinds of jobs. It's not all bad, though. The money is nice. ;) And of course, there's the work experience in my chosen field of art history, however part time, that I can use in the future.

In other news, I've rounded up the vast majority of of my wardrobe into what will be rummage sale-bound in a month from now. Much of it I've priced already. Now it's a matter of going through furniture, kitchenware, home decor, etc. and weeding out all the things I don't want to hold onto until some later date in my fuzzy future. Bahh!

Right. Remember. Calm and cool, Kate, you're moving to the UK. Stop stressing. It's amazing.

For now, I keep an eye on the end of July, when my projects will be concluded at the art museum and I can focus on actually moving. And maybe partying a little ;) So here's to looking forward to August!


Days to Edinburgh move-in: 52

13 July 2013

Farewell, Chinchie!

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Today marked one of the more taking-this-seriously moments in the getting-ready-to-move department. I had to part with my pet chinchilla. He has now happily moved to the home of a friend (and her very excited six-year old son), so I know he'll be well taken care of. I took in this chinchilla from someone else who wasn't able to devote time enough to it, and now that I'm moving overseas, I needed someone to continue to care for it. So I simply gave him away, glad to know he has a place he'll be cared for and loved.

Even though I've never been much for any type of pet that has to be in a cage most of the time, chinchie really grew on me in the three-ish years I had him. (I renamed him Bernie, but I don't think I've ever actually called him that.) He's a bit cleverer than a hamster, but still very much a rodent. Just a really cuddly, unbelievably adorable and supersoft one. ;) I'll miss thee, chinch.

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I just spent another good chunk of my afternoon pricing and boxing clothing for a rummage sale next month. And there's more to throw in there, too -- another good raid of my closet should do pretty soon!


Days to Edinburgh move-in: 56

11 July 2013

Bourbon & Tunns Tavern

Yesterday was yet another part of my visa application puzzle put in place with a brief appointment for fingerprinting at the application processing center, which was just another name for the Department of Homeland Security in Milwaukee. So, I was dually printed and handed my receipt, all before 11am, and it was off to try to find some place that was open for an early lunch.

We intended to stop at a tapas place my mother had heard about from a friend, but we were disappointed to arrive there and find the door locked, even though their posted hours suggested they should be open. Needless to say, we had to find someplace else, so we drove back to the historic Third Ward neighborhood, parked, and go out to stroll for a block or two.

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In all my years in Wisconsin (most of my life) and all the trips I've ever taken down to Milwaukee, I have never been in the Third Ward! It's one of the nicest areas I've been in that city, and I don't know why I didn't stop there sooner. The things that sway us, eh? We found a place just opening up, and were drawn in by the decor, first and foremost, and the lovely pub tables butted up against open air windows. So we could be next to the sun, but not in the sun, and enjoy yummy Arnold Palmers before lunch.

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The place was Bourbon and Tunns, an apparently newish/rebranded restaurant with a really sweet interior theme of dark wood, copper tile, exposed brick, and sturdy furniture.

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The lunch menu was simple and delicious, and we were starving, so everything looked amazing (and was reasonably priced). I settled on the catfish po'boy (because if I see the word 'po'boy on a menu, I'm not not ordering it), and my mother had the Chattanooga salad. Both were very good, especially with the side of fresh pub chips that were still warm and perfectly seasoned. Alas, their bar area looked really wonderful, but we were a little early for drinks, but it looks like a place worth stopping. As for lunch, we'd definitely do a repeat.

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Absolutely gorgeous weather we've had the last couple of days. Summer perfection.

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I've finally got all of my forms filled out and other components collected; all I need to do is send in the visa application! Perhaps all these hoops are designed to be so annoying that you wouldn't even bother if you weren't serious about your trip. ;) Time is a-dwindling.

Days to Edinburgh move-in: 58

09 July 2013

Going-to-the-Sun

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On our third day in Glacier National Park, my sisters and I decided to drive north from Two Medicine and check out the famous Going-to-the-Sun road, the only through road in the entire park. Starting in St. Mary, MT on highway 89, we passed through the main entrance -- where we would have ended up had we stayed the course when we first arrived. After the fact, though, we thought that Two Medicine was our preferred place to stay, and visiting the more heavily-traveled Going-to-the-Sun road made for an excellent day trip!

The road winds around amazing vistas, past numerous falls and sliding snow/glaciers, and in many places the melting snow falls onto the road, so we got a cool sprinkle on the car every once in a while!

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This guy was super cool, although seemingly sort of cornered in the middle of a little visitor walkway that led to a scenic view point. Eventually he managed to get out of there, but not before taking a little stroll in front of me. My sisters were patient for a second while I waited for Mr. Goat to figure out which way he was going to go. 

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The photos above were taken at a falls, looking westward toward the Weeping Wall on the right.

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We drove to Lake McDonald on the western end of the park, and decided to call it. Since there's only the one road, we had to drive all the way back, so we stopped to get our feet wet and my sister was able to actually swim for a second, since the water in this lake was much warmer than the lake at our campground.

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We spotted a little more wildlife, just hanging out on the mountainside... and came back around St. Mary Lake on our way back out. It was such a gorgeous day for a drive. The campgrounds and stops along the Going-to-the-Sun road offer a lot in the way of recreation and views, so no one's bored. Perhaps if I made it to Glacier NP again, I'd stay in another campground there just to get a different perspective on the park.

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Skipping ahead to day 4 of our journey at GNP, we woke up early and did a little canoeing on Two Medicine in the morning. Although this area is known to be windy, the previous couple of days had been calm, but this morning the air and the water was a little choppier, so we were challenged more than we had anticipated. Not to mention that since there were three of us, one of us had to be sitting duff, and it was freeeeezing. The water was so cold and with no help from the aluminum canoe, we cut the trip a little short. But it's something to keep in mind for a calmer day. I do love a good canoe trip!

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The last full day that we spent in the park, apart from the canoe trip early on, was very lazy. We sunbathed a lot and read books and cooked food over the campfire, generally taking it about as easy as we could. A lot of driving lay ahead, and bright and early the next morning we ventured onto the road en route to Wisconsin -- by way of Yellowstone National Park.

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In the late afternoon, just as we were starting to approach Yellowstone, the weather began to roll in. This particular storm was fun to watch because it seemed to hover over the small cluster of mountains and the lightning was amazing. Eventually it caught up with us, though.

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We made a point to go see Old Faithful, if we saw anything at all. Luckily, we arrived just in time, and only had to wait about ten minutes to see it. The rain started falling pretty much right after it died back down, and we ducked into the gift shops for a second to grab t-shirts and stickers and all those must-have items. The place was packed with tourists -- it seemed so much busier than Glacier, but we had also arrived just in time for the start of July 4th weekend, so the campgrounds were fully booked and the crowds were enormous.

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We arrived on the much quieter eastern side of the park in the evening, entering Buffalo Bill State Park and Wyoming proper. As the weather swept through and darkness fell, the landscape became increasingly creepy-looking, and well into the night, through Wyoming's Bighorn National Forest, the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well as a little of the Badlands -- the landscape was weirding me out in the dark. By the time it was morning, I (the other two were zonked) was treated to an amazing red sunrise and then we were straight home as fast as we could possibly get there.

All in all, it was an amazing week, and the first real sister road trip I've ever taken! We wanted to be able to get one in before I move, and before other busy life events come along... 

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Tomorrow I'm headed to Milwaukee to get my biometric information recorded for my visa! Documents are rolling in and that is getting wrapped up pretty quickly. Soon enough I'll purchase a plane ticket -- can't wait to get that taken care of!



Days to Edinburgh move-in: 60