Glamping, Birthdays & Back Pain


Another trip around the sun, another birthday camping trip with my family and friends… AKA, another year I sucker everyone into pitching tents and making me birthday food in the woods! (It’s been working since I was a kid! If it ain’t broke, I ain’t gonna fix it. Moowhwhahahaahahahahahh!) And while one might not equate fine dining with a camp stove and fire pit, my brothers never cease to amaze me with what they’re able to whip up. This year was no different.


My brother Ryan and his campground delivery service.

The exception, however, to the overall Smith family camping awesomeness, was the addition of my unexpected and unwelcome return to searing back pain. YES!! And lemme tell ya – it’s definitely not what you want when facing your next couple of nights on the forest floor. (Or in the back of a KIA Sportage – I mean, come on – there was a pack of WOLVES in the area! True story.) Yep – rather than hiking around one of my favorite places in the world, the campground of my youth, I spent the entire trip reclined in my little brother’s swanky zero-gravity lounge chair, which I ruthlessly occupied he generously let me commandeer the entire time.

Long story, short – seems the back surgery I had a few years ago didn’t quite take care of business. I visited the doctor after returning from camping and it appears I have a bone-rubbing-bone situation in the same area as my old surgery – Who needs cartilage?! I’ve always found it overrated… ANYway – I anticipate more surgery in the near future… But who wants to talk about that? NOT ME. I’ll just proactively ignore it while taking pain pills and burning through my DVR queue… And finishing my family camping story.


Since we’ve all been having a fairly busy summer, there wasn’t as much planning and prep that went into the trip. My brothers usually bust out some ridiculously elaborate campsite feasts – ones I wouldn’t attempt even in my own kitchen. As mentioned, this year wasn’t any different, but we did simplify things a tiny bit. For instance, we did make more than a few meals on sticks – Team Food on Sticks ™ for the win!! Nothing like meat cooked on a stick over an open fire… Granted, open fires were banned due to an incredibly dry forest, but my brother’s gas fire pit did just as good a job. (Legally, thank you.) It didn’t put out quite the same heat as a campfire, but it certainly did justice to those wily hotdogs… Mmmmm… Food on sticks!

In addition to meat prepared on sticks, my brothers also produced quite an excellent fish fry-up. My brother Ryan and sister-in-law, Beth hauled up the iron kettle deep-fryer that Beth’s dad handcrafted. (Beth’s mom and dad also made it up camping – first time camping with the Smiths. Heh. I hope we didn’t scare them off!) They hand-cut and breaded fresh cod and fried it up with freshly cut potato chips. (Beth and I lovingly cut EACH chip ourselves. With questionable knives. On a wobbly camp table. #RoughingIt) Beth’s mom also made her delicious coleslaw and my Stepmom, Marilyn brought up some incredibly tasty macaroni salad. There haven’t been many times I’ve had deep-fried cod and potato chips in the mountains – no other times, actually. However, when cooking in the woods with my brothers, you never know what’s gonna happen. I think they should do a cooking show from the campsite, in fact… (Food Network – are you listening??) I think it should be called, “Cooking with The Glampers.” ™


Delicious hand-breaded fried cod and chips



On the topic of glamping, I come from a long line of glampers. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some backpacking and can bathe in the creek with the best of them, (with eco-friendly soap substitutes, of course) but I do love my family’s tradition of bringing ALL the comforts of home into the campsite. Before the days of the more conveniently sized generators and such, my family brought big screen TVs (before they were flat screen), all manner of cooking devices and whatever else which could possibly make sitting around the campfire more ‘comfortable.’ I’m pretty sure someone in my family has attempted to bring a hot tub up to the campsite at some point… Because, what’s better after a long, hot day of motorcycling than a nice soak in the hot tub? While roasting some food on sticks…

And to top off the birthday affair, my awesome family and friends helped further distract me from back pain by showering me with lovely gifts and a GINORMOUS birthday cake! Seriously, we’re all still eating that cake – and there were 15 of us up there to tackle it! It was honestly one of the largest cakes I’ve seen in a while… Thanks, Dad! I think there was pretty much enough room in there for someone to jump out. Seriously – can we get on that for next time? Cute guy jumping out of cake. Check.

Well, I guess that’s all I’ve got for this installment. I shall now retire with my pain pills and ice packs back to the couch. And continue blowing through my DVR queue. And some of that cake…

Thanks to Dad, Marilyn, Ryan, Beth, Eli, Josh, Ann, Belle, Emily, Layla, Beth, CJ, Marvin and Ruth for making my birthday awesome!

Until next time – Cheers!

p.s. The aftermath of Ryan’s campsite delivery service


I think my brother’s can-smashing expertise and CJ’s jaunty scarf really make the shot.

30 Days of AWESOME


As an artist, it is important to have inspiration and be motivated to create. Whatever the impetus might be – muse, inspiring situation, location, etc. – it is vital to the process. That said, when working as a professional artist, it can be equally important to develop the skill/ability/tricks to perform creatively when the feeling of creativity is at a minimum. It’s like any other job in that regard – you’ll find some days tougher than others to muster up the enthusiasm.

I’m lucky to work in a creative industry, but this can sometimes backfire when attempting to carve out time for my own artistic endeavors. One can gain a certain complacency in creativity when the job which largely pays your bills demands a high level of creative input and output. It can also be deceptively satisfying when you are indeed contributing artistically, but the artistic vision to which you’re contributing is not your own. This is definitely where I draw on the skills/abilities/tricks I’ve developed over the years to perform effectively as a creative person.

But sometimes a girl just needs a good dose of actual, real-deal artistic inspiration…

It’s been a few years since I’ve experienced that absolute, uninterruptable drive to create something – to actually feel like an artist capable of original expression. It hasn’t been for lack of looking or trying, but the inspiration just hasn’t presented itself. I’ve always loved trekking off to worlds unknown and my wanderlust has certainly led me to great inspiration, but with the trappings of being a somewhat responsible adult, come the trappings of staying in one place for longer periods of time. And having a “real” job. And paying bills. (On time) And actually going to bed at a respectable hour… Bah. So how do I bring my old globe-trotting, creative self into the responsibility of my present day? Hmmm…. There must be a way!

And with that, I present to you the last 30 days of my life. Bottom line, I think I’ve more than succeeded in jumpstarting my creative soul. Because honestly, if I can’t find inspiration in the total awesomeness of the past month of my life, I should probably just hang it up as an artist. Heh. I’ll elaborate more on certain aspects of the month – and I even plan on getting back to my original writing and music projects – but initially I’m simply going to write down a list. (Okay, a list with small descriptions – I just can’t help myself!) To quickly share my adventures, yes, but maybe also for a selfish need to bask in the awesomeness just a little longer …

30 Days of AWESOME

Prelude – I decided to finally use some of my vacation time and take a real vacation this year. Something longer than a 4-day weekend which didn’t involve answering email while on said ‘vacation.’ Hey – why not go to… CHINA! The dojo I belong to was planning a trip to China, so I signed up. YEAH!

  • July 1: After a 12+ hour flight, complete with five in-flight movies and several glasses of wine, arrive in Shanghai, China. OMG IT’S HOT IT CHINA!!! Wall. Of. Heat.
  • July 2: Shanghai city tour – Visit The Bund, Jade Buddha Temple, Yu Yuan Garden – Beautiful! And I’m pretty sure I’d already sweated away 5lbs by this point.
  • July 3: More touring of the ENORMOUS city of Shanghai. Biggest city in the world – the urban sprawl (side by side with the ancient urban sprawl) never seemed to end. Visited the Shanghai Museum and saw real Ming vases! (And made a very cool addition to my ongoing global museum quest.) Went on a very cool Shanghai River boat cruise that night with dinner. Crazy Sci-Fi skyline on one side of the river, beautiful, stately British colonial architecture on the other side. It was like Blade Runner meets Empire of the Sun…
  • July 4: After a very long bus ride, a 2-hr flight and another long bus ride up a CRAZY, winding mountain road, arrive at Wudang Temple. A magical, mystical place – completely awe-inspiring. I’ve always marveled at this scenery in the movies and there I was, right in the middle of it. Worked out that night with dojo-mates in the ancient courtyard under the stars. Amazing.
  • July 5: Enjoyed a package of red, white and blue Skittles to celebrate the 4th. (As it was technically still the 4th back in the US) Bus ride back down crazy road to the Purple Cloud Temple for cultural exchange with the Taoist Monks and Abbot. Turned out we were the largest group to ever visit – in the history of the monastery! It ended up being a major event and was apparently covered by Chinese national TV and newspaper! We then trained for 2 hours in the ancient temple courtyard with the monks. 2 hours learning Tai Chi forms from the masters was INTENSE. Oh, and OMG IT’S HOT IN CHINA!!! We then went back up the mountain to Wudang Temple where we proceeded to trek further up the mountains (and a LOT of steps – A LOT!) to visit the Golden Temple. I can’t begin to describe the beauty… Ancient and breath-taking… And if that weren’t enough hard-core physical activity for the day, we hiked back down the mountain to go get ready for a 2+ hour belt test with the masters in the temple courtyard. (I was going for my purple belt – ACHIEVED!) After a day spent doing martial arts in the cradle of martial arts, we all enjoyed a lovely dinner in the communal dining hall and then consumed several rounds of questionable Chinese liquor. One of the best days of my life…
  • July 6: Very long bus ride through the countryside to Dengfeng City, home of Shaolin Kung Fu. Arrive (finally) at hotel and the entire area is dedicated to the martial arts. KICK ASS. Literally. Students out in courtyards everywhere practicing, “malls” dedicated to selling martial arts goods and weapons – wow! Before we all passed out that night, we attended an excellent exhibition show performed by the Shaolin monks. My mind still cannot comprehend how they are able to perform some of those moves.
  • July 7: We visited the Shaolin Temple and TRAINED WITH THE SHAOLIN KUNG FU MONKS. Still can’t quite process learning forms from the actual monks… Also took a little “hike” up to Dharma Cave – part of the birthplace of Chan Buddhism in China. (Thousands of crazy stone steps! OMG.) Tiny cave on the top of a mountain with a very ancient alter inside – and a monk! I’m not Buddhist, but I kneeled down with the monk and gave offerings anyway. When in Rome.
  • July 8: Travel on bullet train to Beijing. 250 mph – NICE! Tooling about Beijing – total different vibe than Shanghai, but mesmerizing in its own way. Definitely know you’re in the heart of the People’s Republic of China. (It also added to the feeling being our hotel was 3 blocks up from Tiananmen Square. Our guide warned us to not talk about topics such as the Tiananmen Massacre while walking through the square as she didn’t want any of us to ‘get disappeared.’ She was serious.) Attended an insane Chinese acrobatic show – AMAZING!
  • July 9: Visited the insanely beautiful and epic, Summer Palace. Such opulence… With sprawling grounds and a huge man-made lake! But not to be outdone – and one of the reasons I came on the trip in the first place – was our visit to The Forbidden City. I’ve been fascinated by this place since the first time I saw The Last Emperor. To actually walk the grounds on my own and take in the history will forever be one of the highlights of my life. Later that night, my dojo mate, Allen and I took a stroll towards Tiananmen Square and ended up in the 600 yr. old marketplace, Qianmen Street. This particular adventure deserves an entry all its own, but in a nutshell, I thought we were gonna have to throw down in Beijing. True story. Luckily, we eventually made it back to our hotel. Throw down in Beijing evaded.
  • July 10: Last full day in China. OMG IT’S HOT IN CHINA!!! Visited the Badaling portion of the Great Wall of China. Walked along the route that Chairman Mao took to give his big speech from ‘Hero Rock.’ One of my favorite pics from the trip is from this area:(I will be posting more pics in the near future, but this one just keeps cracking me up. You think there’d be better language translations at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But I’m glad there aren’t!) To walk along the Great Wall of China was pretty epic, to say the least. Again, still processing… Topped off the night with a lovely Beijing duck dinner. Delicious! (On a related note, the food overall was excellent! There indeed some mystery items, but I love a good mystery – More on the food scene later!)HeroStoner
  • July 11: 12+ hour flight back to Seattle. Watched five in-flight movies and enjoyed several glasses of wine. Because that’s what I do on long-ass flights.
  • July 12: Jet-lag like I’ve never experienced! Yowsa. Everything is floaty and surreal… La la la la laaaa…
  • July 13: Return to work. Insert sad trombone: HERE Still in floaty jet-lag land…
  • July 16: Competed in Warrior Dash race! Jet-lag still present, but starting to fade… Fully covered, head to toe in MUD. Jumped through fire, crawled on belly thru mud pit under barbed wire, etc. But there was beer at the end! I’ve been wanting to compete in obstacle course races for quite some time and I finally did it. (And several of my excellent co-workers joined me!) Next up is the Tough Mudder race in September and the SPARTAN race in October. (I’m kinda scared for that one!)
  • July 17: Attended a screening of The Lord of the Rings at Benaroya Hall – with live a live performance of the entire score (including choral!) by the Seattle Symphony. The entire movie! It was amazing – and I was sitting in 10th row!! Phase I of my return to musical inspiration – COMPLETE.
  • July 21: Saw Peter Gabriel and Sting perform as part of their Paper, Rock, Scissors tour at Key Arena. My friends Beth, CJ and I were in the very top row, but the sound was still awesome! Eddie Vedder even joined them for a couple of tunes! (Driven to Tears and Red Rain – badass!) For the tour, they’ve both got their full bands and take turns performing their own tunes along with each other’s! Like a good-natured battle of the bands sort of affair. AWESOME! Part II of return to musical inspiration – ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
  • July 23: Went on a crazy road trip with my pal, Patti and caught an AMAZING performance at the Gorge. Dead & Company pulled off two mind-boggling sets of music. Truly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen! I was speculative of the mix of original Dead members along with new additions like John Mayer, but it turned out to be the perfect recipe. And the bassist, Oteil Burbridge blew my mind! I also experienced a similar recipe regarding friends at the show. While Patti and I haven’t known each other for that long, we’ve become fast friends. Add in a very serendipitous reunion with three great guys I hadn’t seen since HIGH SCHOOL and WOW! Good times with new friends and old – amazing! Scott, Corey and Danny – So many great memories with these guys and it was beyond excellent to catch up. I just hope we don’t go that long without hanging out again. :-} Part III of return to musical inspiration – and just my inspiration in general – 100% COMPLETION ACHIEVED!
  • July 24: Trip back to Seattle area. Stopped at two of my favorite places in the world on the way back home – The Thorp Fruit Market and the awesome town of Roslyn. Picked up WAY too many items at the Thorpe Antique market and followed it up with a great lunch at the new Basecamp Books café and bookstore in Roslyn. We also stopped on Snoqualmie Pass on the way back. It’s rare I ever stop there in the summer and it was a particularly beautiful day – brilliant green mountainsides, blue sky and fresh air. Ahhhhhh.
  • July 24: Actually muster the strength to return to my regular dojo training – and it was great! Needed to take a few days to process all of the intense training in China… But glad to be back!
  • July 31: In the midst of a week of crazy overtime, got to meet up for brunch with my dear friend, Emily. At which point I pretty much recanted everything I just wrote out above. And she was kind enough to humor me and listen to the whoooooooooole story. (sucka!) (jk) (sorta.)

30 Days of AWESOME, indeed!!

If you’ve made it this far, thank YOU for humoring the sharing of my saga. And a special thanks to the actual saga for pulling me far, far out of the artistic funk in which I was languishing. Like I said earlier, if I can’t get inspired from the past month, I think I’ll just hang up my artistic license…But I’m not really worried of that happening.  🙂

I really didn’t intend on elaborating quite as much as I did, but I honestly feel like I was super condensing things. I shall expand further on some of the highlights in the coming month – with more pictures! Will this month be awesome as well? Let’s just see, shall we. Please join me!