Saturday, November 4, 2017

Self Improvement

Since January, I have been trying hard to lose weight. I had done years of low cal, low fat, healthy whole grains. All it got me was 266.8 pounds. I decided to try something different. I had been reading up on the ketogenic diet and the overall low carb/high fat approach. I started eating this way in January. I cooked meals to suit my new way of eating and the rest of them could eat or not. Mostly they ate. Since then I have lost 70 pounds, and Jeff has lost a total of 100 pounds. We both are feeling better, and lab work is looking good. I have lost 11 inches off my waist. Jeff has gone from a 58 pant (which he has on in the picture) to a 48. We are very happy with our progress!
L: Jan 2017, R: Oct 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

School 2017

We are starting our 5th year of homeschooling. Katie is going in to 6th grade, Maggie 4th. I had been wondering if we should try something different in school. I looked into Utah Virtual Academy. Jeff and I decided to enroll the girls. UTVA is an online charter school using k12 curriculum. Once the girls were accepted, they were sent ALL the supplies they would need for the school year. Three big boxes worth!

The girls got up on Wednesday, Aug 23, for their first day of class. They each sit at their own computer and listen to a live broadcast of the class. This is all done online. Kids from all over the state can attend. The girls also had to take an assessment test to see where they were at, as far as their education. I had no idea how they would do, I had never given them any kind of assessment. To my absolute surprise they both did very well. Maggie tested well into 4th grade and Katie was on grade level for math and an entire grade ahead for english. Yay! 4 years with mom teaching class did not screw them up!

UTVA has at least one big activity a month for the kids, and they get a chance to get out and meet some of these kids they interact with online.

In August was Back To School night at Sugarhouse Park. They had cotton candy, popcorn, cake, snow cones, and a magician. They even had hamster balls for the kids to get in a roll downhill. That was funny!
Maggie and her teacher Mrs Andersen
Mrs Bundy, Katie, Mrs Ellis

In September they had an activity at Liberty Park all about the Solar System. The Science director had mapped out the distance of the sun and planets in meters and it was essentially the length of Liberty Park. It was a good object lesson for the kids to be able to visualize the distances between planets.

In October, Katie's STEM group had an outing to the STEM Fair at South Town Expo. Lots of great displays and activities for the kids to do and play with.

Maggie's class had a field trip to Red Butte Garden on one of the most beautiful fall days I have ever seen. We hiked all over the wilds behind the formal gardens.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Great American Eclipse 2017

Several months ago, Jeff emailed me and said "hey, I got an idea! Let's get reservations in Idaho for the eclipse. There is a cabin in Island Park that is available". I agree and he reserves it. Now there was plenty of gloom and doom predictions over the state of emergency services in Idaho for this eclipse. They anticipated several hundred thousand people converging on the Rexburg area and all along the line of expected totality. Hmm, maybe we should stay home? Nah, sounds exciting. So we prepared. We packed like we were going out on a camping trip- extra water, food, and gas.

The drive to Idaho was pleasant and uneventful. We stopped in Pocatello for lunch and to say hello to a young friend of ours, Sam. He was so surprised to see us walk into his shop!

After our stop we continued north and finally got up to our Island Park cabin around 4pm. It was a tiny cabin, but it was cozy and the price was right. I had brought our own sheets and the girls helped me make up the beds. Then we decided to go to dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Very tasty!
Back at the cabin it was time for some hot tubbing! The girls loved this and it did feel really good after sitting in the car all day!

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and got on the road. We were headed to Craters of the Moon NM. According to the map, we drive to Rexburg and hang a right onto Route 33 west towards Arco. We got to Craters around 11am and the place was packed! Apparenlty it was the busiest day ever in the history of the park. We picked up some Jr Ranger forms and headed out on the drive through. The girls worked on the forms while we were in the car. At the first stop we got out and all of us hiked the loop. Saw many examples of the lava- a'a and pahoehoe.

One of the stops on the loop was at a lava crater, we made the short hike and were amazed to see snow still in the bottom of the crater. It was probably about 20ft down or so, but still amazing for late August in a place where the black dirt and rocks can get up to a temperature of 150F in the summer! Back in the car we decide to return to the Visitor Center and collect our Jr Ranger badges. By this time, the crowds are insane and they have actually CLOSED THE PARK! We were a tad anxious aobut how the traffic would be back to Island Park, but we made it just fine. It was good to get back to our base! Katie and Maggie made use of the hot tub, while Jeff and I watched some TV and planned out our Eclipse Expedition for the next day.

We had been wondering where we would go to watch the eclipse. We figured in town somewhere, maybe one of the many pay lots we had passed along the way. However, as we passed through Rexburg this morning, the farmland gave way to BLM land. We thought "Hey! BLM land!" It was wide open for miles and miles and all we had to do was find a spot to park the car. In fact, there were already people out there camping. We looked at a few maps of the path of Totality, and Route 33 and realized that they are practically parallel! So our plan for the morning: 5am wake up, be on the road by 6am, hopefully to BLM spot by 7:30 or so.

We actually did pretty good! I was up at 5am, started breakfast. Got the girls up, and they got dressed quick. We got our cooler packed and got on the road by about 6:10am. There was a solid line of tail lights headed south. We were just a tad nervous about all the cars, but the closer we got to Rexburg, the highway widened out to two lanes and we made good time.

And just as we expected the BLM land was wide open. We turned off on one dirt road and left the highway. Up a hill and around the corner we find a lovely spot on top of a hill with 360 of wide open views. We even brought our own Port-a-Potty!

We had a couple neighbors, a young guy who had been camping there for the last 2 nights in anticipation of the eclipse, and a couple that came in just after us. He had a sweet telescope set up that he let us look through. Shortly after 10am the show started! We had our certified glasses that I bought from Clark Planetarium and we just sat and watched. The kids were amazed. I was amazed. Jeff was amazed.

As the moon began to cover more and more of the sun, the light started to get dim. You didn't need sunglasses, and the light was rather eerie. Then as the exposed sun grew smaller, we noticed the temperature seemed to dip as well. Then the sun was gone. Words cannot express the sight of that glowing white corona, and the 360 twilight. There were stars in the sky! We were laughing and cheering. And then it was done. And just like that the sun came back, and we warmed up.

We hung out for a bit in our spot reliving that amazing sight. After about a half an hour we pack up and headed back towards Rexburg. That little town was bumper to bumper traffic heading south with everyone trying to leave. We didn't worry though, we were still here for another night. We figured that northbound would be pretty backed up, so we decided to take a side trip to see what was left of the Teton Dam. I was about 6 or 7 when that burst, but I do remember hearing about it on the news and people talking about it at church. The middle section is still standing and the dam is washed out on either side.

At this point we decide we will try heading north. HA HA! bad traffic, we leave the highway and decide to take the scenic drive to Mesa Falls. Yeah us, and half the rest of the drivers. This wasn't much better. The falls were cool, but when it takes about 3 hours to go 15 miles, well you start to get tired of it all. As this scenic drive lets out onto Hwy 20, the traffic starts to clear and we then make good time back to our cabin in Island Park. Whew! What a day!

Tuesday we had to check out- after stripping the beds, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, and vacuuming the floors. I was tired! It was an AirBandB type rental. We got on the road and made good time home.  I am so glad we took the girls to see this once in a lifetime sight. Definitely something none of us will ever forget!

*Many photos were snapped from the car with my phone, apologies for the spots in the pictures!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Olympic Park

In July, Jamie and her girls came down from Alaska to visit and soak up the sun and heat. One day we decide to go to the Utah Olympic Park. In the 15 years since the games, I have never once been up there! Anyway, there was an obstacle course they wanted to do, and I agreed to join in the last minute. I had lost 50 pounds this year and was feeling spry.

The obstacle course is at the bottom of the ski jump hill. So while you are waiting to get on the course, you can watch the practice jumps.

They weigh you and size you for a climbing harness. Then you go to the beginning of the course. Once they hook you in, you are at the Point of No Return. The only way out is to finish. I start out doing pretty good for a 47 year old gal. Maggie is up ahead, and Katie is just in front of me. She was freaking out the whole time, but kept on putting one foot in front of the other. I felt like I was back in Basic Training climbing Victory Tower.

There was one portion of the course that was really treacherous. It was a stretch of five flat panels. The two panels on the ends had holes cut out of them that you could hang on to. The middle panel just had the little rock climbing wall grips screwed to the surface. As I tried to adjust my foot on one of those, my foot slipped and I fell. I was  hanging by the harness and since no one could rescue me, I had to claw my way back upright. And I did it! Holy Cow! I finished that stretch and found that my left arm/elbow was all scraped and bleeding. But I kept going. I think Katie and Maggie were very worried when they saw me fall, but I got up and kept on. It showed them that mom is a tough old bird.

When you finish the course you zip line back to the start, Katie wanted nothing to do with it. I may, or may not, gave her a little push. The zip line part was fun!

After the course we ate a picnic lunch by the Freestyle ski jumps and watched the skiers practice their flips and twists. Once lunch was finished we went into the Olympic museum. That was really great. It brought back a lot of fond memories of the games.
Front to Back: Eva, Maggie, Emma, Victoria, Alexander, Katie, Ella

Monday, July 24, 2017

Spruces Campground

We spent Pioneer Day weekend at Spruces Campground. Always a favorite, this time is no exception. We had our favorite spot and our favorite weather! Hot and dry. We arrived later on in the afternoon and got our gear set up. We enjoyed a fire and then off to bed. That always feels nice after a busy day of preparation.

As we were sitting there enjoying the fire, we noticed a small weasel hopping around. He was so fun to watch! The way he acted made us think he was a youngster. But it was so hard to get a good pic of this guy. We think we found footprints the next morning however....

Most of the time here was spent relaxing, reading, and playing. The weather was beautiful, and it was a much needed break. Saturday night Jeff's parents came up for dinner. We tried a selfie...

This trip was much more pleasant than the one on Memorial Day weekend. So much warmer! We decided to leave on Sunday instead of Monday to give us a bit more time to clean up and recuperate. As always, we had a fabulous time!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

City of Rocks 2017

The last three Octobers we have camped in Arches with three other families.  One of those families, the Larsens, decided to join us in City of Rocks. They hadn't been there before, and since we won't be going to Arches this October (roadwork), we decided to see what southern Idaho had to offer. We arrived on Thursday evening and set up our camp. We had stopped in at Rock City for Jeff to get a selection of good beer that is not easy to get here, and since Smoky Mountain Campground has power and water hookups, we can use the fridge in our pop-up!

The Larsens have two kids (Talia- 15, and Drake- 11) that Katie and Maggie really enjoy, so they were very excited about this camping trip with them. They are a nice bunch! Once they arrived and set up we enjoyed a group campfire and s'mores.

The next day, we all got in our car and went over to Castle Rock State Park, and did a bit of hiking. We even brought the dog along on this trip. But I am a bad dog mom as I forgot to bring water for her. On our way to the pictograph, there was a small creek, and this dog hopped right in, waded around, and drank her fill! After walking out to the pictographs, Jeff and Katie took Minnie and went back towards the parking lot, there were picnic tables where they hung out. Maggie and I, and the Larsens continued on up the trail and essentially hiked around a big rock. Haha. But the day was gorgeous and the prickly pear was in bloom!

When we got back to the car, we all got in and drove back to the campground for some lunch and water! City of Rocks is in a very small town called Almo, ID. But Almo does have a hot spring. The last few years we have never remembered our swimsuits, but this year we did! And the hot spring pool felt great after all the hiking!

Dinnertime was grill night! We all got together for burgers, and salads. Then it was time for a fire. When it finally got dark enough we set up the telescope and enjoyed looking at the stars. We were fortunate that there was no moon, and those skies are full of stars!

Saturday was a rather lazy day. The kids played, I read my book. It was very relaxing. At one point, Jeff took Mrs Larsen, Talia, Drake, and Katie to the store for firewood and wi-fi while Maggie and I stayed at the camp. All the sudden I hear "MOM! I CAUGHT A LIZARD!!" Maggie had used the butterfly net to trap it and then gently shook the lizard down into the butterfly cage. This was huge, as Katie and Maggie have been trying to catch lizards for years! When the others returned from the store they were all duly impressed. We watched him run around in the cage for a while, and then eventually let him go, after taking a ton of pictures!

Saturday evening we had pork tacos. Before we left I cooked up this recipe, and froze it to take with us. This worked out very well. We heated it up, had a bunch of toppings and fed this hungry crew! Saturday evening was time for a fire, s'mores, and more fun. Lots of laughs were had!

Sunday the Larsens left, our reservation was until Monday. But Jeff's back was bothering him and so we decided to leave on Sunday as well. We had a nice breakfast, instead of our usual quickie breakfast and then started putting things away. I think we finally got on the road by about 1:30 or 2. We finally got home about 6pm and put things away, and got cleaned up. Always a good feeling.

It was an awesome weekend and a good time was had by all!