{ Car Surgery }


OK...I love my Subaru. But, I don't love that it sometimes carries a funky odor that, despite my having the carpets and upholstery professionally cleaned, using deodorizer on the carpets, consistently using air fresheners and being a clean person, I can't seem to get rid of. The car came with the smell, and I was hoping it would fade over time, but so far, no doin'.

I decided to get to the bottom of it today by performing car surgery. After some good sniffing around, I pulled up my back seat in the Soob and lo and behold I found a disgusting dried pool of smelly, sticky yuck on the metal under the seat AND on the foam that makes up the seat. Gross. Even grosser? There was a bit of mold growing on it. SICK! Looks like the last car owners weren't all that keen on cleaning up stuff they spilled (I'm not sure how) under the seats.

I pulled out the bleach cleaning products and razor blade and got to work to remove the unwelcome sludge from the metal and the foam. It took about 45 minutes to get the whole thing squared away, but I think it did the trick. Or at least it better have, cause touching that goop was ick.

The cleaned metal of the back seat after I scrubbed the goop off, and cut off the parts of the white fabric that were goop smeared.

De-gooping the seat foam on the underside of the seat. Disgusted look on my face was totally appropriate.

I used a razorblade to get a clean cut as close as possible.

{ The Things Some People Will Do For A $29 Lift Ticket }

Thanks to 40 inches of fresh snow and discount tickets offered at Brighton for their closing weekend, Kates and I had no choice but to head up the mountain last Saturday to enjoy the powder (slush by the end of the day) and the sunshine. The resort had a special $29 lift-ticket deal (compared to the normal $58) for anyone who wore beach wear to the ticket window, so I grabbed my scuba mask, and we stopped by Walmart to get some super-stylish floaties on our way up Saturday morning -- a great idea on all accounts.

The day was clear and warm, and the snow was smooth so we could haul it down some blacks toward the end of the day which was rockin. Overall it was an excellent day, including tree runs, jumps and a little bit of pipe. Have I mentioned how much I love living in Utah? :) Here are a few shots from the day:

Kates at the top of one of the lifts as we strapped in.


Look at how clear the valley is behind us!? Talk about beautiful day. And, PS, who knew my goggle lenses were reflective-y?

About to drop into the pipe.


In other news, the snow storm last week also enabled Kates and I to build this killer snow man. If you can't beat the April snow storms, may as well enjoy them.

Snowman with signature snow top hat. The brussle sprout eyes, carrot nose and fabric scarf were impromptu, but I like the result.


{ Adroit at Finishing Peanut Butter }

I'm not sure if getting every possible ounce of peanut butter from the peanut butter jar during your lunch break is a skill, but if it is, I definitely deserve an award or something. Talk about waste not, want not. I should have been a pioneer.

{ IRELAND! is lovely }

If I were to choose three words to describe Ireland, they would be tranquil, green and friendly. Just as you'd expect (and as Ireland is famous for), the country is filled with sheep, green fields divided by low hedges, old, quaint cottage homes and lovely people who are more than willing to chat and walk with you, stranger or not. As my favorite trip taken to date, this trip incorporated all the top things that I think should be included on a vacation: laid-back, adventurous travel companions;epic scenery (and lots of it); running water and plumbing; and a lack of restrictions on what I was allowed to do. As a bonus, Ireland also included low-impact, high-reward hiking, lovely maritime towns, nightly live music, men herding cows on bicycles, and unseasonably beautiful weather. A number of people we ran into on the trip had come to Ireland planning just to visit, but then ended up staying indefinitely. I can totally see why.

I traveled with a group of 9 other kids from UVU and around Utah Valley. It was kind of a modge podge of a group (co-workers, friends, girlfriends, strangers), but thankfully everyone was awesome, so we had a ton of fun. Here's the group in front of a castle in Carrickfergus -- one of the towns we drove through. We had stopped to look at a castle and collect sea shells. Note: WE are facing the castle in the photo, so really, you can just see the town of Carrickfergus behind us :)
From left: Wuss (aka Scott), Ty, Ali, Nicki, Carrie, Bailey, Mike, Aaron (squatting), Chance and Lissa

Major trip accomplishments:
1. I learned to drive a manual transmission car on the left side of the road, shifting with my left, and I didn't get in an accident.

2. I was able to purchase three meals for less than 3 pounds total (not each, but total) in Belfast, and

3. I located and acquired a set of the cutest vintage napkin rings ever in a second-hand store in Dublin. And, purchasing them at a second hand store means they were actually owned by someone in Ireland before I got them! Even cooler.

The 8-day trip was too long and too full to give a travel log, but the long and short of it was this: During the days, we would drive to destinations in our rental cars and adventure. During the nights, we would find a fun pub local to where we were and listen to/dance to the live Irish music (with the exception of the one night we spent in our ocean-front hostel in Ballycastle -- we were the only residents for the night -- playing cards and eating make-shift camping dinners :) I had crackers with salami and white cheddar). Our trip began in Dublin, then we drove around the northern edge of Ireland along the coastal route (so beautiful), down the Western coast, then straight across back to Dublin. We drove something like 1200 km in all.

Unexpected enjoyment:
Experiencing the pubs was fantastic. Seeing as I'm not a big proponent of drinking, I'm not sure I should enjoy them as much as I did, but believe you me, they make for some good craic (an Irish term used to denote fun and all around good times. Used in sentences like "Oh ya ... That was some good craic!") How can you not love being surrounded by happy people, listening to live Irish flutes and violins and guitars?

I didn't take this video (the video format on my camera doesn't upload to youtube or blogger), but I did go to this pub in Derry and listen to these same musicians. And I'm pretty sure I may have even been standing in the same spot as this video taker, so it should give you a good idea of what it was like there. The video may seem kind of jumly, but it makes my heart smile.

Favorite adventure takent:
As far as adventuring goes, the Cliffs of Moher by far took the cake for coolest thing I experienced in Ireland. They are these colossal, ocean-side cliffs on the West coast of the country. We hiked along them for about 3 miles, and the views never disappointed. Hundreds of feet high, the cliffs range in color from jet black to deep grey, and are freckled and blanketed with vibrant green moss and snowy white seagulls. We hiked out to the Cliffs of Moher coast (I just made that name up for descriptive purposes) from our hostel in Doolin, then took the coast route till we reached the "actual" cliffs visitor center. Funny enough, by the time we reached the touristy Cliffs of Moher, they weren't nearly as enchanting as some of the views from the hike. I think we only stuck around long enough to take one picture before we hitched a ride with some friendly Syrians back to the town of Doolin. Non-traditional parts of our hike included making up an Irish jig song that included the phrases "whale of a tale" and "walked in the muck," eating a lunch of shortbread cookies and grapes while sitting on the side of a grassy hill overlooking the ocean, impersonating leprechauns and laughing like crazy, and making friends with a man named Jack from Poland who took a picture for us.

These are my favorite pictures from the hike:
On our way out to the cliffs. We didn't actually know where we were going, but this friendly wall path looked inviting enough, and thankfully took us where we wanted to go.

Our first view of the cliffs. Ali was holding my hand because I was standing precariously close to the edge.

Me and Ali at my favorite spot on the hike -- it was our second view of the cliffs.

Bailey , Ali and I taking a non-necessary but totally beautiful rest on the tufty grass.

Me, Ali and Bailey. We were car travel buddies (I was the driver, and the other seven members of our group were in a van with Chance as the driver) for the whole trip. Mini black car + Bailey + Ali + Nicki = Most smile-filled travel combination ever. I absolutely adore these ladies.

I hiked up higher to grab a shot of Bailey and Ali looking down.

SIDE NOTE: One thing I really liked about Ireland was that they don't have fences along the edges of cliff hikes. There were times when our trails would be less than a foot away from a 300 foot drop, and no fence. I think it speaks oodles for allowing people to think smart, be alert and take responsibility for their choices, all very good things. It really impressed me.

Favorite old Irishman met:
My favorite old man from Ireland that I met was Reverend John McConnell Auld. He lived in what he deemed a "Traditional Irish cottage" (it was way too awesome to imagine that everyone lived in homes like his) on the rocky sea shore on the Northern coast of Ireland in Ballycastle. We were starting a hike near his home, and after starting up a conversation with him, he informed me that I could park my car anywhere near the beginning of the hike. "You can do whatever you want," he told me. "You're in Ireland." Which is a pretty true statement :) John invited us into his mill-converted home and gave us a tour. Turns out John had lived in Utah at Westminster college before receiving a full-ride scholarship to Princeton and singing with the Princeton choir for US troops during WWII (he showed us all his certificated and medals). He was full of great stories. And his home was full of incredible nic knacks and objects -- porthole sidelights from the Titanic; 1500-year-old flint pieces and canoes from the shores of the Irish coast; 17-century pianos and paneling from a torn-down Irish manner. It was by far the coolest home tour I have ever been on.

Here's John:
Rev. John McConnell Auld. 

Me and John with his certificates from singing to US troops during WWII.

An ancient canoe in one of the corners of John's home. The entire house was equally as cool.

Outside John's home -- he was explaining to us how he had scored that ship bell at an auction on accident.

The seashore in front of John's house.

Overall, the trip was just fantastic, thanks to unparalleled surroundings, great company and lots of laughing. This blogpost is getting too long, so I think I will just end on this picture I took of sheep while we were hiking the Giant's Causeway hike.
Look at how cute their little faces are!! Oh man. Adorable. I don't blame the Irish for having so many of them around -- I would want them around too.

Oh! I lied -- this is the last picture. It's my look alike picture for the photoshopped one below. This is me at the actual Carrick-a-rede bridge :)

Also, in the post below I put together a slideshow of 50 photos out of the 813 I have from the trip. I tried to pick the best ones. Our trip covered 8 cities: Dublin, Drogheda, Belfast, Ballycastle, Derry, Doolin, Galway and Wicklow. And the major sites we saw were Newgrange (part of a tomb complex in Drogheda), The Carrak-a-rede bridge, The Giant's Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, the Spanish Bridge and Glendaloche.

{ Valuable Life Skills }

I would have to say that my work has taught me a lot of skills: Mastery of the key design programs, negotiation tactics, keeping calm under pressure... the list goes on and on. But no lesson has been as valuable as the lesson we learned during a 10 minute break last week at work: How to effectively (and impressively) rip a phonebook in half.

I guess one of our owners got a hold of a bunch of phonebooks, and naturally we decided that phonebook-ripping lessons were the best way to utilize their potential. Jon, one of our sales team, learned the skill from a man he knew in California. I am sure he had no idea how handy that skill would be on a slow Friday, years later. It's definitely way easier than I thought it would be. But, it should be noted that I could only rip a little one in half. The guys got the big ones though. Here's the formula:

STEP 1: Wiggle and bend the center of the phone book like nobody's business.
Step 1

STEP 2: Place your hands toward the center of the phone book and form a distinct line in the pages. NOTE: The side of the phonebook that is near your thumbs should be flat, and the bottom part by your fingers should carry the slack for the crease line.
Step 2

STEP 3: In a quick, tough motion, roll your wrists outward while pulling your elbows down and into your sides (this should "pop" the phonebook and start your rip). Obviously you can see how serious business this is by how blurry the photo is.
Step 3

STEP 4: Finish your initial rip all the way through the book, and BAM! Phonebook-tearing fame!
Step 4

Nicki schmidt with ripped book
Does this say victory or does this say victory?

PS -- Ireland pictures and stories to come either tonight or tomorrow.