Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moab is Calling

Ethan has a thing for the desert. He always loves to go to Moab. He feels at home there. Ethan and I had planned to visit Natalie and her family this weekend and then head to Moab. Poor Nat has that nasty head cold stuff going on, so we flipped our plans. We were going to get out of town by 6:00 a.m. so that we'd most of a day to play together. However, since we were going to Moab first, I decided to take our time getting out of town. After lounging with the DH and packing we finally left town around 10:30. We have a wonderful, eventless, blue sky drive to Moab. We checked out the town and then searched for a place to camp. We settled on the old Conservation Corps Camp Delton camp. There is not much left of the camp, but it has a lovely set of four trees that we used as a base camp. It was such a lovely night. We made a camp fire, set up shop to sleep in the van and spent the evening reading together. We loved the Inkheart books and welcome the opportunity to read Inkdeath, the last book in that series. After the fire died down we were off to sleeping in the van. We were surprised at how comfortable it was to sleep in the van. The sky was clear, the stars were bright and the night was mild.


The day dawned clear but there was a gathering of storm clouds off to the west. We spent most of the day in the car. First we wanted to check out some of the southern parts of Moab. We had gone by Ken's Lake yesterday so headed there first. Since we seemed to be the only ones in the area I let Ethan drive for a while. We began on old, paved roads which switeched to washboard dirt roads. The views were lovely. We figured out how to get to the mountains that had called to Ethan on Saturday. I took over a little later. We were going to head back into town, but followed Bike-laidened vans up a hill to Sand Flats Recreational Area, home of the famouns Slickrock. We had hoped to ride together, but we could not get the left pedal on my bike, so that was out. Instead, Ethan and I drove the entire course. It was such a lovely park. I can't wait to share the photos with you later. The amazing thing is that it is just shy of ten miles away from Arches, but the landscape was so different. I loved how the bright, light sage green of the plants contrasted to the deep red sandstone. The horizon sported a threatening sky so we headed back to town. I was not interested in getting stuck on single lane dirt roads on the side of a mountain. We hit a local thrift store, picked up some shorts for Ethan and settled at the local bookstore coffee shop for a while. We then checked out a few more shops, the ever favorite rock shop, Pagen Mountaineering and Gear Heads. On the way in we were excited to see special equipment on the railroad. It seemed like they were going through and replacing the railroad ties, the railroad track, the spikes, etc. We braved the intense winds to check it out. By the time we got there you could barely open the door to get out - that was how hard the wind was blowing. We have great photos we will share with you soon. Next up, we had to decide where to camp. The trouble was, it was getting much colder. Last night we were comfortable sitting around in our sweats. This afternoon we were cold in the car. We had dinner at Zax and decided to stay in a hotel. Finding a hotel was another story. Out the window of the restuarant we spied a lovely, Austrailian Shepard that was patiently waiting for his owner. We were taken in by his big brown eyes so we took turns going out to pet him. We finally settled into a Super 8 Motel. This seemed to be the right choice since it had begun to snow. It was refreshing to be warm and clean. It is amazing how having dirty hair was so distracting. We've indulged in a little Food Network and some warm showers. We are hoping for a sunny day tomorrow. We'd love to do a little hiking, sans the wind.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dream Vacation, Coming Soon

See these cute girls? You can spot them soon in California. If we are lucky, you might even be able to see them on television. They are just about to embark on a fabulous California vacation.

Anna just turned 13 a few days ago. Her Uncle Michael and Aunt Diane invited her and some friends to come out for a visit. That visit has turned into a dream vacation. I wish I was going to join them. Here is the scoop. Early Saturday morning they are flying out to California. They will arrive there at about 8:30 a.m. From the airport they will go to get the place where the Kid's Choice Awards will take place. They even have tickets for the Orange Carpet. They are all wearing very bright neon punkish outfits (very 1980's punk rock style, if you ask me)in the hopes that they will be noticed.It was kind of fun shopping for the outfits. Ellie ended up with black and white checkered sunglasses just like the ones I had when I was in high school. It seemed natural to me that she would then need the checkered Van tennis shoes to go with them, but that was not in her plan.

That night and the next few nights they will stay at the Disneyland Hotel. The next few days will be spent having a blast at Disneyland and the California Adventure Park.

As if that was not enough, they will then hit Hollywood! I am not sure what is planned for that stop, but I am sure it will be wonderful. I think Michael is as excited as the girls are. He called his sister, Laura (Anna's mom) several times and asked if there was anything else that she could think of to make the trip even better!

By early next week they will be in Oceanside, CA for a little R&R. They can swim, go to the beach, hang out in the hot tub, you've got the idea. They will also spend a day a the San Diego zoo where they are going to ride segways.

There is even talk of maybe going to Seaworld. We will have to wait and see if that one happens. Either way, those are such lucky girls. They will have such a great time. I am can't wait to see the photos once they get home!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Many Interests of Ethan

Last week Calvin was in town for Eleanor's funeral. He love skateboarding. He even convinced Ethan to give it a try. Ethan looked very serious as he tried it, but he did enjoy it.

Since bike practice started on Thursday, Ethan decided to give his bike a complete cleaning. It was great to see how lovely the cassette looks when it is all shined up. I sometimes forget how messy Cyclocross is.

Ethan has wanted to learn to weld since he was about ten. It is a natural fit to go with the blacksmithing he does. Until now he has been limited to reading about it and watching videos on how to do it. Our neighbor, James, just purchased a welder and invited Ethan over. I think James got to use his new stuff for about five minutes before everyone else moved in to take it over. It was great to see Ethan using his new chaps that we got for him for Christmas. He had a grand time!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In Need of a Bit of Diversion...

For the last three or four weeks I have had a nagging headache, sitting on the back of my brain like a monkey clutched to the peanut vendor. What with the funeral and the upcoming final project for a class I was taking, I could not escape stress. By 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday I was finished. I checked over my final project and sent it in. The funeral and all that goes with it was complete. I felt, very suddenly, like I was a marionette released from its strings - exhausted- more so than I had expected. By Wednesday I have developed a small little fantasy where I would pick up something for dinner (not made by me) and a few movies. We would enjoy each other's company, the take out food and some movies. I picked out a few. The reality was quite different, but at least I did start a movie or two. I watch "Happy Go Lucky" because it had been nominated for so many awards. I was not sure why it showed up there. The acting was fine, but the story left some to be desired. The movie I finished today was the one I enjoyed. That would be "The Duchess" starring Keira Knightly.

It started a bit slow, but then drew me in. It is the true story of Georgiana Spencer, The Duchess of Devonshire. She was a lovely, interesting woman with a smashing sense of fashion and a tragic life. The story was moving and the film is worth watch just for costumes alone. It is not a feel good movie, but one where you can loose yourself in thinking about the time period. Next up I am looking for something a bit more upbeat, but not too stupid as so many of those films tend towards.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Let the Races Begin!

These past few days were busy,busy, busy. Last Wednesday and Thursday we had a ton of family members come to town for Eleanor's funeral. Thursday I was a wreck. The anticipation of the funeral was terrible for me. Friday went better than I expected. The funeral was really lovely. My DH and his older brother spoke. The church was filled nearly to overflowing and the lunch reception put on by the members of the church was grand. I will write more about it on another day, maybe. Friday was the only day when everyone was in town so we celebrated Elli's 12th birthday by playing putt-putt golf in a glow-in-the-dark course. That was fun, too. I thought it might be weird to celebrate on Eleanor's funeral day, but it was actually okay. It was us enjoying each other and Eleanor loved that.

Saturday was the first race of the season. This time Ellie was the only one to race and that felt weird. Ethan spent the day with Keenan who is leaving for the Marines today. It may be years before we see him again so I understood Ethan's reason for skipping the race. Ellie was amazing. She finished the 14 mile time trial in 39 minutes. That comes to an average of 2.78 minutes per mile. Her very fastest TT time per mile last year was 3.10. Last year her fastest ride for 10 miles was 37 minutes. This time she did 14 miles in 39 miles. And she could have been faster. Half way through the race her racing shoe broke and her foot came out. She was forced to do the last half powered by one leg (can you imagine?) When she was done she said, "Mom, it was really good to go out and be fast again." I love when things like that happen. We celebrated her first place win with giant cinnamon rolls from Johnson's Corners, a place famous for them. We then stopped and used our REI dividend to get her new shoes. We may yet try to get the others fix since they are still under warranty.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Oh you, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

One of the favorite gifts I received when Ethan was born was a "Billboard's Greatest Hits: Lullabies" tape. I am pretty sure we played that old tape for Ethan and then Ellie until it became so stretched and funny sounding that it threatened to become completely wound up in the cassette player. Alternately, I sang most of the songs to the kids many a night. Now my friends at work are becoming new parents and I want to set out and make a "tape" (or rather CD) of many of the songs for their little ones. That led me on an interesting path. I found that certain songs can only be purchased from ITunes if you buy the entire album. "HushaBye Mountain" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is one such song we love. Since I did not want to buy the entire album from ITunes I found it through my library instead. I thought I would just grab that one song and go, but I find myself almost entranced. I can sing along with nearly every sound.

Between many of the songs are little memorable soundbites. Listening to the song hearkens me back to when I was very young. I loved to swing and sing. You can picture it. I would have my long dark blond hair in two tight pigtails that most likely had matching ribbons in them. I would pump on the swing to get myself going as high as our little backyard set would go. (I always had visions of pumping my feet hard enough that I would eventually fly over the top and make a complete circle - I think nearly every kid dreams of doing that.)Chances are that I would have no shoes on. My cute shoes ( I am sure they would be cute because my mom LOVES cute shoes)would have been cast off to the side. I would swing and sing as loud as I could. I imagine that I must have both embarrassed and amused my mother as I sang, "Oh You, Shitty Shitty Bang Bang, I love you..." You see, at the time I could not really hear the difference between "Chitty" and "Shitty." I would finish up with that song and launch into "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree." From there the mix was varied. I loved "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "Alone Again" by Gilbert Sullivan. Then I might go back to more Chitty related songs. The one thing missing from the otherwise wonderful and complete album is a small sound bit from the Candy Man & Child Catcher, " Candy" he would call, "Candy for girls and boys. All free today."

All of this makes me think of my days of my childhood. How I loved "Green Acres" and "The Flying Nun." I could sing along to the songs in "The Sound of Music." I would dance to the Charlie Brown specials and look forward to watching "Witch Mountain," "Escape from Witch Mountain" and "The Trouble with Angels." I find it funny and fun how creating a present for one person actually created one for myself...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Alien Invasion Cupcakes

Things have been crazy busy since I posted last. I had Parent/Teacher conferences which means I was at school on Thursday from 7:15 a.m. until almost 9:00 p.m. On Friday I had one of my Face two Face meetings for the online ed. classes I am teaching to other teachers. It was fun, but stressful as my material did not get released from the developer, but it did get released to everyone else. Since I don't write the course I walked into a day long class dealing with some stuff I could only guess at. The other instructor had rights so it worked out okay. The developer felt bad for forgetting to add me in. From there I picked up Ellie, had dinner with a lovely friend and then zoomed off to spinning practice. The girls' coach, Luwanna, had a guest speaker who deals with sports nutrition. It was great information that I may post here some time soon. While they were spinning I worked with Coach Bill to order new cassettes for Ethan's and Ellie's bikes. I am thankful for Bill. He and the bike mechanic seemed to be speaking a foreign language but the best ones I could afford got ordered. Then we waved good bye and sped off to a dinner party. It was fun, but I was pooped. We played "Buzz Word" and Rock Band. I think I most likely simply fell into bed around midnight.

So, you might be saying to yourself, What does this have to do with the cupcakes at the top of this post? Well, I'll tell you. Ellie wanted to do something unusual for her 12th birthday. At first she was not going to celebrate at all, but then she changed her mind. She had a small, fun party which I will post about later. Part of the fun was the cupcakes. She found inspiration in the "Hello Cupcake" book I got her for Christmas. Here's how you do them. You make regular cupcakes and freeze them. Once they are frozen you build up the shape. We used minidonuts, donut holes, cupcakes and a can of frosting. You use the frosting like mortar. This gets frozen, too.

You tint another can of frosting and put it in a thin, small glass measuring cup or wide mug. You cook it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so, just enough to make it the consistency of syrup. Then you dip the cupcakes into the frosting. It coats nicely and drips off the extra. Next, you put on eyes made of jelly beans. The antennae was a bit more challenging. I found I had to sort of dig a hole with a pastry tip, stick in the licorice and push it in with a toothpick. The end result was very cute and very popular. They reminded me of Lilo in the Lilo and Stitch movie.

The kids were excited and declared them a success. In reality they were a bit too much and no one could eat the entire thing. The squirrels were happy to help by carting them off. We hope they are not allergic to chocolate. Happy Birthday party, squirrels! Ellie sends her best wishes to you!