Music, Flapjack and Public Transport

Well it has been a busy week for my husband and I, one that we have been looking forward to for a while. Thus you get a slightly long and rambling post.

About 6 months ago I got a Facebook notification that one of my favourite bands, Epica, were going to be playing in Manchester. I immediately booked tickets and arranged my work schedule so that I could finish early that day. That was to be on Thursday November 12th.

Then we were invited to a family reunion with my father’s family. It would be on the other side of the country but we decided it would be worth the trip. So, again, I booked time off work and added it to my calendar. That was to be on Saturday November 14th. We decided we would take the train from Manchester (where we live) to Grimsby (where my parents live) on the Friday night and drive down to London with them on the Saturday, it would be considerably cheaper. We could then drive back to Grimsby with them on Sunday and take the train home again that evening.

A short while later I saw that another of my favourite bands were also going to be playing in Manchester in November, how exciting! I was a bit unhappy when I saw the date however: Friday November 13th. That would mean travelling to my parents’ house on the Saturday, getting straight off the train and getting into the car. But, I really love Garbage and have done for many years so I decided that it would be worth it. This time I booked to leave work early on the Friday and also booked off the following Monday to recover.

So, Epica on Thursday, Garbage on Friday,family reunion on Saturday and a heck of a lot of travelling.

Roll on November.

As it is near the end of the year my husband and I realised we had some holiday left to use before the end of the year so we decided to save our energy and book the days of both gigs off as well as the weekend and following Monday. Fun times.

Work disagreed. I had already promised to go help out our new Union rep in Nottingham, originally we had decided to do this on October 30th and make our recruitment/question day Hallowe’en themed. Then the date changed. Yep, you guessed it, it was now going to be right in the middle of our week off. On Friday the 13th I was heading to Nottingham.

I was also going to have to bake as we were tying it in with a Children in Need themed cake sale.

Thursday

I decided to make some flapjack and a chocolate cake for the bake sale.

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Flapjack is a wonderfully simple recipe, I used one from the river cottage website.

Ingredients

 

  • 175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 150g demerara sugar
  • 250g medium porridge oats
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 bags of dark chocolate chips

Method

  • Preheat over to 180°C.
  • Heat together the honey, butter and sugar until the butter has just melted but the sugar is still grainy.
  • Take off the heat and stir in the porridge oats and salt.
  • Pour half the mixture into a greeced 8 inch square pan and press down firmly.
  • Bake for aproximately 10 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edge of the tin and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrack.
  • Repeat with the other half of the recipe.
  • When the flapjack has cooled cut each square into 8 pieces.
  • Melt the chocolate and pour over half of each piece of flapjack.
  • Allow to set.
  • Yum.

For the chocolate cake I must confess I had some help from Betty Crocker but I think we can all agree I was pretty busy.

That evening we went to see Epica ^_^.
They had two opening bands Scar Symmetry and Eluveitie. I really liked the second one who used a lot of folk instruments like a hurdy-gurdy, a violin and various pipes. I am not keep on growling lyrics but enjoyed the instrumental parts and the female led vocals.

Epica were, of course, amazing. They seemed to be enjoying the show and each others’ company, which is always good to see. I particularly enjoyed the wearable keyboard which allowed the keyboardist to move around like the guitarists. I am still envious of all sopranos. We got home at about midnight.

Chris and I are in here somewhere. Photo from Epica’s Facebook page.

Epica

Friday

At 6:30 the next morning I was up and heading out for Nottingham, carrying a large chocolate cake, a bag of Union goodies and a big tub of flapjack. Several people commented on the cake so at least I know that it looked tasty.

My train was late so my ride at the Nottingham end had to leave without me. I could not call her because she would not have her phone at work. So I called my work and asked for the number for her office. They gave me one and I called it. I work in insurance, I got through to a soup kitchen.

So I tried again and was given a different number. This belonged to a rather grumpy man and was a private number. Oops.

Third time lucky I finally got hold of my colleague and got directions to her office. I decided that the easiest way to get there was to take a tram. I have been on trams in Manchester, Rome, Paris and various places in the Netherlands. I have never been on a tram that had special stop buttons and did not stop at every stop. I did not realise I had to press anything and so my stopped sailed by. I got off at the next tram stop, changed sides and caught the tram back again. This time I pressed to the stop button repeatedly. Again the tram did not stop and I watched my destination slide past again. I got off at the next stop and just walked. It seemed easier.

Overall the day was good. I answered a lot of Union questions, sold a lot of cake and came home very tired.

Which of course made it a perfect time to have a quick change and head out to Garbage!

My friend Kim came with us as well since she has very good taste in music. Garbage were playing up at the University in Academy 1. There was a gig in Academy 3 as well (a much smaller venue). Our gig had people of all ages but the other seemed to be mostly teenage girls. Kim and I had never heard of the band they were going to see and decided that we felt old (We are 29 and 31).

Garbage were fantastic. Because this was a 20th anniversary tour for their first album they played the whole album (out of order) and b-sides from the singles. It was also the chattiest gig I have ever been to with the lead singer discussing sex, sexism, how they met and all sorts of random stuff that came into her head. Again a really good atmosphere and we had a great time. If they are playing near you go and see them.

Pictures are courtesy of Kim who has a much better camera in her phone than I do.

 

Once again we got home after midnight. No worries, we didn’t have to be up until 5am on Saturday.

Saturday

Our train was supposed to be at 6:13. This would get us into Grimsby just before 9am giving us time to stretch our legs before heading down to London about 10ish. We got to Manchester Piccadilly train station at 5:50. Then our train was cancelled. The next train was not until 7:20 so we decided to go and get a cup of tea. A 7:20 train would get us there before 10am although we would not have time for a break between trips. I am not a morning person, as anyone who has ever stayed over at my house will tell you, but I drank my tea and kept my griping to a minimum. It may have escalated a bit as the next three trains by the same company were also cancelled. I kept checking ours on the website and it said it was ok but I was not having high hopes.

Still 7:20 came and a train arrived. Chris and I got on and started to get settled, we put our bags up on the rack… we realised that Chris’ bag was still in the teashop. Chris legged it back to get his stuff while I stood half on, half off of the train hoping he made it back before I had to start an argument with the train conductor. Thankfully he did and we settled down properly for our trip.

Now Grimsby is normally a straight through trip taking about 2.5 hours. That is when the train runs all of the way though. Ours got cancelled at Sheffield, still an hour and a half away from Grimsby. And there were no trains going to Grimsby that we could change to.

We decided to get as far east as we could on the basis that, if absolutely necessary, my parents could pick us up in the car if we got close enough. There was a train going to Scunthorpe, which is only half an hour outside of Grimsby. It was a local stopping train which meant it would take forever but it was going the right way. The national rail website also stated that there was a train running from Scunthorpe to Grimsby. It was also supposed to leave Scunthorpe 2 minutes before our train arrived. We asked if anything could be done about that. No.

I fell asleep on the Scunthorpe train, hardly surprising, I hope you will agree. When I woke up we were stopped at a platform that seemed to be in the middle of a field. I waited for the train to continue. It stayed suspiciously still. Then the conductor came on the tannoy, because of a problem with the tracks we were going to turn around and go back to Doncaster, one of the previous stops. Doncaster is an hour away from Grimsby. We called my parents who told us to get off the train where we were and they would pick us up and head south directly from there.

Now it was 9:30 –  45 minutes after we were supposed to have gotten to Grimsby – and the furtherest east we could get was a field in the middle of nowhere. Well, actually in the middle of Hatfield and Stainforth but I think that everyone who is not from there will agree that that is the middle of nowhere. There were horses in a nearby field and we did briefly consider seeing if we could borrow them to get a bit further east.

We eventually took shelter in a local Asda’s where they were kind enough to let me use the staff toilet. It also gave us an opportunity to stock up on junk food for the trip.

As you may have guessed my parents did find us and, after a 5 hour trip, we managed to find our hotel. From there everything was straight forward. The family reunion was a lot of fun and I did a lot of dancing. The trip home was long but uneventful (thank heavens). The sleep on Sunday night was deep and well needed.

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Miscellaneous Rome

And lastly for Rome, a few shots that don’t fit into the other categories.

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The Spanish Steps

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Marcus Aurelius Pillar

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Elephant and Obelisk

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The Wedding Cake (or Typewriter or any of another half a dozen names)

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The Castel Saint Angeli and a couple of angels from the bridge approaching it.

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And lastly some interesting rooftops, taken from the Villa Borghese Grounds

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Next time will be moving onto the Vatican.

Fountains of Rome

As the title suggests ;p

This is the first Piazza we went to, Piazza del Popolo. Also where the Count of Monte Cristo and friends go to watch an execution.

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The fountain opposite the Pantheon

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Trevi fountain. It is indescribably huge and in a relatively tiny square. It’s amazing.

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This was near the Quirinale

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The Quattro Fontane

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The Moses Fountain.

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Fountain de Api

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Piazza Novana

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Including the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

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At the other end of the Piazza Novana

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Ancient Rome

Well, it’s been a while. Life has gotten away from me a little and between work and an increasing backlog of posts I basically gave up the idea of blogging. However I feel more balanced these days and would like to get back to it. I’m going to catch up on a couple of memories from the last couple of years, heavy on the photos probably, and see where we go from there.

The following are some of the pictures from our honeymoon. One of the days we spent doing the Ancient Rome trio of the Colosseum, The Forum and Palatine Hill. Other pictures are from the nearby Imperial Forum museum and Augustus Mausoleum.

Augustus Mausoleum
Chris and I had our first dinner in Rome in a lovely restraunt overlooking the Mauseleum. It felt very strange to sit and have dinner next to an ancient emporer’s tomb. Definitely a different experience!
I recommend the restraunt, Gusto, it was exquisite and one of the best meals we have ever had.

Augustus Mausoleum Chris and I had our first dinner in Rome in a lovely restraunt overlooking the Mauseleum. It felt very strange to sit and have dinner next to an ancient emporer's tomb. Definitely a different experience! I recommend the restraunt, Gusto, it was exquisite and one of the best meals we have ever had.

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Here start the pictures taken at the Colosseum. There were a lot more so I have just selected a few to share.

Here start the pictures taken at the Colosseum. There were a lot more so I have just selected a few to share.

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After the Colosseum we went to the Roman Forums and up Palatine Hill. It was an exhausting day but well worth it!

After the Colosseum we went to the Roman Forums and up Palatine Hill. It was an exhausting day but well worth it!

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Colosseum from Palatine Hill.

Colosseum from Palatine Hill.

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Vestal Virgins.

Vestal Virgins.

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A personal high point; the birth place of Romulus and Remus.

A personal high point; the birth place of Romulus and Remus.

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The last three pictures are from the Imperial Forum museum, well worth a visit.

The last three pictures are from the Imperial Forum museum, well worth a visit.

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And here is a representation of the other myth of the founding of Rome. Aeneas, carring his father and leading his son, fleeing Troy.

And here is a representation of the other myth of the founding of Rome. Aeneas, carring his father and leading his son, fleeing Troy.

Bridal Shower

Being a child of two nations I have always gotten to celebrate both American and British traditions (or, where conflicting, pick the best one!). For example I celebrate July 4th and St. George’s Day although I have learned that the British just aren’t as good at celebrating things as Americans are. I think I probably celebrate the British things in a very American way.

Last weekend was another example of this as my mother threw my an American style bridal shower. Next weekend my maid of honour is throwing me a hen party (I have no idea what style this will be since it is a surprise, all I know is that I need to wear clothes I can bend over in :s concerning).

Last year when we were in the States we were going through a box of pictures and newspaper clippings my Grandma had and found a delightful article talking about a bridal shower she had been to which listed the ladies present, the games played and which lady won which game. It was beautifully quaint. The article also listed when the bride and groom would be honeymooning and their address… where all of their wedding presents would be… unattended. Different era. I think those clippings were from the late 1920s maybe early 30s.

Mom decided to throw a 1950s style bridal shower for me but other than some foods and fashion changes it appears to be very similar. Certainly more civilised and pretty than a British Hen Party (or American Bachelorette party, I told my American aunt I was having a hen do and had to repeat it several times and explain before she stopped giving me a confused look).

The first fun part was of course trying on lots and lots of clothes to find a suitable 1950s outfit. I ended up going with a dress I already had but the trying on is always a must. Chris got me the below a couple of years ago because the shape really suits me.

And here comes Chloe in the background. Isn't the bunting on the gate cute? This is the closest dress I had to a 1950s shape plus it is just plain cute. From Sohos in Afflecks if you want to know.

And here comes Chloe in the background. Isn’t the bunting on the gate cute? This is the closest dress I had to a 1950s shape plus it is just plain cute. From Sohos in Afflecks if you want to know.

My maid of honour Kim came across from Manchester with me and, as a guest in our house for the first time, helped make lunch. She had a genuinely vintage dress which was black lace over a bright pink, very cute. My sister also had pink and black so the three of us were unintentionally co-ordinated.

Also in this picture our friend Annie, who also came as a guest, who also helped make lunch, bless them both!

Also in this picture our friend Annie, who also came as a guest, who also helped make lunch, bless them both!

Kim and my sister, Chloe

Kim and my sister, Chloe

The prize for best outfit definitely goes to my Aunt though who went to great efforts with the below:

She also had a scarf in her hair and little bows on her socks, so cute!

She also had a scarf in her hair and little bows on her socks, so cute!

The house was decorated with lots of bunting and a pink and grey set of shower things that Mom had bought, it looked great.

We got this bunting at the church Christmas fair. My mother thinks ahead! I had pink cup cake and teapots. I am sure we can use this again.

We got this bunting at the church Christmas fair. My mother thinks ahead! I had pink cup cake and teapots. I am sure we can use this again.

This took some work to get it to stay up.

This took some work to get it to stay up.

Chris had to walk through Grimsby town centre carrying this and a bunch of purple stocks. He got some comments.

Chris had to walk through Grimsby town centre carrying this and a bunch of purple stocks. He got some comments. The plates and cups also had this design.

Mom even co-ordinated the toilet paper.

Mom even co-ordinated the toilet paper.

Overall we had 12 ladies plus my mother and I. Since Mom and I were not allowed to win prizes that left the other 12 potentially lucky women the chance at these:

The lilac are the winners' prizes with pink booby prizes.

The lilac are the winners’ prizes with pink booby prizes.

We just about all fit into our front room but I enjoyed the coziness, it meant you could see and speak to everyone.

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Mom had arranged several games for us to play, some just fun and others with a wedding theme.

The first game was not bridal specific but fun, we had to match the pseudonym (wow I got the spelling correct first time!) with the real name. I discovered that I am better at men’s names than women’s and we had a laugh trying to pronounce some of the original names, no wonder celebrities change them sometimes!

Next we had a wordsearch of wedding related words. This was ongoing during gaps between the other games. Overall I did ok at this but did manage to find some words that were not on the list but should have been such as ‘Wed’. I also think most brides will agree that ‘Fat’ is something that preoccupies them for months before the wedding!

Next was a game that was definitely biased towards the happily already married as it involved matching wedding anniversaries to the present for it e.g. 1st paper, 25th silver, 50th gold etc… Apparently electrical appliances is now an anniversary thing. I want to know what got bumped off the list to make way for that! As unwed ladies Kim and I were hopelessly confused by this but now I know what Chris needs to be buying me each year!

The next would be a fun game for any party: a list of things such as ‘types of flower’ or ‘cities’ down the left hand side and a name across the top (you may use your own, you don’t have to use mine like we did). People then have to try and think of an example from the left hand column which starts with the letter from the top. So for RACHEL you could have Rhododendron, Apple blossom, Carnations, Heliotrope, Evening primrose and Lilac for flowers. If no one else in the room has the same item in any given box you get a point. Of course I can think of them now, at the time I had a mind blank!

Lastly we had a brief game of Mr and Mrs. Everyone got a number and whoever had the number correlating my final score won. Chris and I got 9/15 which isn’t bad. One question neither of us knew the answer to so I don’t count that one! I got a couple wrong and he got a couple wrong *cough* date he proposed *cough*. He’ll never live that one down! But it was a laugh.

Following the playing of games and the winning of prizes we had a lovely buffet prepared by my Mom, Kim and Annie.

Mom made red velvet cupcakes and lemon cupcakes. The lemon were a trial run for the weddng cake. Both were fantastic!

Mom made red velvet cupcakes and lemon cupcakes. The lemon were a trial run for the weddng cake. Both were fantastic!

How cute.

How cute.

All the food!

All the food!

One of our guests made some truly delicious bakewell cupcakes, yummy!

One of our guests made some truly delicious bakewell cupcakes, yummy!

The lemon cupcakes are pink, the red velvet are purple.

The lemon cupcakes are pink, the red velvet are purple.

Egg and cress, ham salad or cheese and mango chutney sandwiches.

Egg and cress, ham salad or cheese and mango chutney sandwiches.

Devilled eggs. Apparently a must for this era's parties.

Devilled eggs. Apparently a must for this era’s parties.

Celery with cream cheese. Can you tell my foodie best friend had the camera?

Celery with cream cheese. Can you tell my foodie best friend had the camera?

Pretzels are of course and American favourite.

Pretzels are of course and American favourite.

I learned that Doritos were the new big thing in the 50s-60s.

I learned that Doritos were the new big thing in the 50s-60s.

Look at that delicious feast. We also had a fruit (non-alcoholic) punch.

Look at that delicious feast. We also had a fruit (non-alcoholic) punch.

After much eating and much chatting I opened my gifts.

Mom displayed my gifts in an umbrella in the entrance hall. A great idea especially when you have run out of table space.

Mom displayed my gifts in an umbrella in the entrance hall. A great idea especially when you have run out of table space.

Mom said they used to have three showers, one from the Mother of the Bride, one from the Mother of the Groom and one from the Maid of Honour. There would be different kinds of showers such as personal showers or showers where people bought specifically kitchen or house gifts.

Since Chris and I already have a house which is pretty well equipped I had a personal shower. Gifts are supposed to just be very small, inexpensive things but I have to say that some of our guests did go a little overboard. I’m not complaining, I got some wonderful things. Some designed to help a stressful bride relax such as bubblebath, cream soaks and even a book ‘keep calm for brides’. Also a book ‘don’ts for wives’ which was a very short volume!

I also received some very personal gifts such as night dresses and underwear, I’m sure Chris will enjoy those on the honeymoon as well 😉

Kim gave me a very thoughtful gift of a memory box into which I promptly put some of things from my shower.

All of the gifts had to have a ribbon on it. This had a dual purpose. The idea is that however many ribbons break as I remove them is how many children Chris and I will have. My Mom had wrapped her gifts oddly tightly! In the unwrapping process I ripped one ribbon and one broke completely in half so I guess that is two kids for us. We then took the ribbons and pulled them through a paper plate to make a ‘bouquet’ that I can use for our rehearsal.

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I also got the gift of advice. Each lady wrote a piece of advise on a slip of white material which was then attached to a pillow which said ‘love’ via a heart shaped button.

Before everyone left we had a little favour for them as well which my mother had hung on a tree in the hallway.

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I want to thank Mom for throwing me such a beautiful and fun bridal shower, you’re the best. I also wish to thank Kim and Annie for helping us pull it off! Also all of the wonderful family and friends who came: thank you for the presents and thank you even more for coming over and making it such a lovely afternoon.

So on a closing note, if you are a bride-to-be, have a shower and a hen do. Two very different entertainments and both very worthwhile having!

P.S. Always say ‘at the shower’ never ‘in the shower’. We learned this the difficult way.

Arches National Park

My friend Kim and I were looking at random pictures on the internet last night when we came across an iconic piece of Utah. It’s so iconic it is actually on their licence plates: Delicate Arch of Arches National Park. I got so excited to come across it randomly that I got out a few of my own pictures from the road trip my parents and I went on in 2010. If you are ever in Utah I cannot recommend enough that you visit Arches, it is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. To my English eyes it was very alien with its sparse dessert plants and red rock. Seemingly impossible structures have been created by natural erosion, they have stood in the park for decades. The arches and other landmarks are contradictions; both delicate and easy to destroy yet at the same time it feels like they could stand forever.

Although the park is called ‘Arches’ there is actually quite a variety of formations there, not just the titular arches, plus some human history in the form of petroglyphs. I hope you find the places pictured below as whimsical and stunning as I did.

Canopic Jars

Canopic Jars

Three Gossips

Three Gossips

The Sheep

The Sheep

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This guy is either a rabbit or an indian chief. Maybe he is a rabbit indian chief, native american myths are very animal-centric.

This guy is either a rabbit or an indian chief. Maybe he is a rabbit indian chief, native american myths are very animal-centric.

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Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

A human-made alternative... a little smaller...

A human-made alternative… a little smaller…

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I think this guy looks like an elephant

I think this guy looks like an elephant

A walrus look-a-like

A walrus look-a-like

Double Arch

Double Arch

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North and South Windows. I think it looks like a giant nose.

North and South Windows. I think it looks like a giant nose.

Inside the window.

Inside the window.

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Views near the windows.

Views near the windows.

He's so cute!

He’s so cute!

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Fiery Furness

Fiery Furnace

Petrified Dunes

Petrified Dunes

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Fallen Arch

Fallen Arch

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Happy, sneaky flower

Happy, sneaky flower

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Sandy Arch

Sandy Arch

Underside of Sandy Arch

Underside of Sandy Arch

Sky Arch

Sky Arch

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Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

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Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch – you can see a tiny little me showing how big it is. The drop on both sides is fairly sheer, especially on the far side. It was actually quite scary! But amazing.

These pictures were taking by my Mom and I. I hope you like them.