Monday, August 31, 2009

Catching My Breath at the Continental Divide

We're here!

Our plane landed after a little turbulence in Denver. We hightailed it to our hotel room to get some sleep. I am not sure that anyone got much, even though it was a nice hotel (Courtyard Marriot.)

On Sunday we drove down to Colorado Springs and saw "Garden of the Gods". We wanted to go up Pike's Peak but when we got to the entrance it had started raining. We asked the ranger, "is it worth it to go up?" We hadn't been able to see the mountain all day because of the cloud cover. She shook her head, no, and said that it was snowing and hailing at the top and she wasn't sure that we would be able to make it up there.

We drove to our next destination which was Salida in preparation for our White Water Rafting trip. The hotel there was "ok." Clean but older.

We got up early and went on our rafting trip! The river is very low right now so the rapids were tame, but it was fun to do.

After our rafting trip we drove to Montrose and on our way we crossed the Continental Divide!
Driving was hair raising with hairpin turns and cliffs on both sides. I will add pictures later. As it is I am competing for computer time with my family who wants to download all their pictures.

We also stopped at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison before going to our hotel. AMAZING! Sheer cliffs down to the Gunnison River. Like nothing we have ever seen before. We suddenly became afraid of heights.

The kids described the landscape approaching the Rocky Mountains as, "everything is so big." The sky is big, the land stretches on forever, and mountains beyond mountains. There are cows grazing everywhere, miles from any building that we can see. They look so vulnerable.

I realize that we have such a puny understanding of how vast this land is.

We have an amazing Creator. I look forward to being awe-struck some more!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Countdown to Colorado and West

Here we are coming down to the wire. Preparing to fly and camp has been quite the undertaking.

We have our camping equipment packed into large duffle bags, all within Southwest baggage specifications, of course. We measured and weighed our biggest and heaviest bags and we should meet all requirements! (Pray, pray!)

With the help of some Space Bags, I managed to fit 3 sleeping bags and other stuff into one duffle bag. These things are amazing. The only problem is finding a vacuum cleaner on the other end. I got the kind that you can roll to squeeze out the air, which is sufficient, but vacuuming is so much better.

Going back to my previous post, I will review my solutions:

#1 was the sleeping mat fail. We just decided to bring the 3 air mattresses and our plug in blower. They actually aren't that much bigger than the self-inflating mats, only heavier, but we don't really have to hike with them or anything.

#2 was partial pillow fail. We are going to bring some regular pillows, I will probably just Space Bag them and they won't take up much room.

#3 was coffee fail. I bought a camping coffee press. We used to drink French press coffee all the time, but our press is glass. I made a sample cup and we are good for a nice cup of Jo in the mornings.

#4 was lighting fail. I purchase a Coleman mini-lantern and it seems good. We also have several new flashlights and a headlamp.

#5 was fire fail. I fit the two burner Coleman stove in the luggage! We will still have a fire for fun and warmth, but we are not depending on it to cook.

I said that I was going to work out a menu for each day, but now I realize that is unrealistic. I have tried to figure out what we can have depending on where we are. In hotels we will have a microwave and refrigerator. I personally hate cooking in a microwave. My husband's solution: eat out, order large and microwave the leftovers for our next meal.

I did find some items that are camping friendly :

milk – yes, those little cartons are shelf stable.

•”Mini-moos” - these are those tiny creamers you see next to the public coffee and ask, “shouldn't this be refrigerated? Will I find cheese when I open it?”

Trail Mix – Of course, the perfect combination of protein and carbs. My trail mix recipe: peanuts, pecans (in the adult mix), pretzels, raisins and M&Ms. I tried it with chocolate chips, but they melted. M&Ms are required.

fruit cups – all different fruits and applesauce combos. These are all shelf stable until opened.

pudding cups – who knows why these don't require refrigeration?

Jiffy Pop!

•”Shake and Pour” pancake mix – just add water!

•”Laughing Cow” cheese – I didn't realize it until I saw these on the shelf at Job Lot, that they do not require refrigeration.

canned tuna and chicken – these can be added to the rice and noodle packets to make a meal out of a “side”.

dried and canned soups and chili mixes.

Well, gotta go! Time for a packing and home inspection (bills paid, cat box set up, trashes emptied....that's a whole other story!)

(This is the 3rd time I have written this blog post as “blogger” says it is saving it, but it disappears when I publish!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Camping Revisited

As you know, if you read my previous post, we went camping this weekend. It was a "dry run" for our trip out West that we will embark on in 2 short weeks. I feel less prepared, but Steve was very happy for our failures this weekend. He said, "Yay, now we know what won't work!"

We did find several issues that need to be addressed:

1. Sleeping Mat Fail: I found out that the self-inflating mats I purchased were "JR" size and only 4 ft long! These were supposed to be for the 3 "adults" and then we purchase 3 foam mats for the kids. When we pulled out the 4 ft mats, we had to switch everything around. The adults got the foam, one kid got the self-inflating mat, and the boys slept on the ground! Interestingly, none of the kids complained about their mat choices or lack thereof. I was surprised that even with a history of minor back complications, I slept "okay" on the foam mat. I slept the second night on the 4 ft. self-inflating mat (hey, I'm short) and did not like it at all. The air displaced and I ended up with a bubble at my head and my hip bones digging into the ground. Solution: Not sure yet. Either buy a higher quality self-inflating mattress or drag our old air mattresses with us.

2. Partial Pillow Fail: 2 family members did NOT like the inflatable pillows, but most of us thought they were fine. Solution: I may just allow the complainers to choose one normal pillow to bring along on our trip.

3. Coffee Fail: The funky one-cup coffee funnel thingy I bought made a crappy cup of coffee. I found this out when I tested it at home and so I just brought some normal filters to put in it. It still made a weak cup of coffee because the water just goes through too quickly. I'm sorry, but I need a decent cup of coffee in the morning. Solution: I am going to buy a camp percolator.

4. Lighting Fail: I had purchased these little LED lanterns from Walmart and boy, were they horrible. They do not illuminate. They blind! Solution: not sure yet.

5. Fire Fail: The fire wasn't really a failure, but I realized that attempting to cook over a fire will probably be a waste of time. Camping on our trip is a way to save $ on food and lodging. We have many other activities planned to fill our time. Getting a fire going and down to cooking coals takes a lot of time and bringing a cooking grate takes up space and weight. Solution: Most likely we will not do any food preparation over a fire. All food prep will be on the camp stove.

I have not gotten any further on my food menu, but my husband is now on board with finding food ideas that require little preparation or preservation. The search continues.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Going Camping

I have been wanting to blog all week about the busyness of my life, but every time I started to do so I thought, "I'm really too busy to be blogging." I can't even systematically write down all that is going on from the daily mundane to the unexpected glitches to the extensive planning for future events.

So, I will tell you about camping.

I have spent this week planning and packing for our church camping trip, but with a larger purpose. Even though we are just camping this weekend for 2 overnights, we are planning a BIG trip out West for 2 weeks and much of the time we will be camping. The catch is that we have to fly out there and then camp along our route. So this weekend is our opportunity to see how many bags our stuff can be packed into and how we can cope without some of the amenities that we have available while camping here - primarily electricity. So, I am attempting to plan a non-electric weekend (even though there will be plugs at our site.)

I figured out long ago that you must find the appeal in planning a camping trip. Everything needs to be pre-prepared and packed. There is a sense of satisfaction in having just the right things available for camping convenience and fun. Nothing beats having the kids say, "mom, did you bring _______?" and answering, "yes, yes, I did." Of course, my former attitude about camping, being hatred, was spawned from being an uneducated and unprepared camper. This will be a tough weekend because we are purposely leaving many things at home to see how we will fare without them on our big trip. Fortunately, I can bring whatever food I want on this trip, because we will be buying all of that when we get out there for our trip out West. Still one has limited car and cooler space and so meal-planning is a must. In fact, I think meal planning and preparation is the main complication to camping. If you didn't have to eat, camping would be easy.

I have learned to keep a running list of necessary (and not so necessary) items and menu and use it from year-to-year. The only problem out West will be when will we have refrigeration and access to grocery stores. That's hard to predict, so I am trying to think of as many non-perishable meal items as possible without getting into too much preserved, prepackaged crap. I actually have a pretty good list, and I think I may plan out a complete menu so I know what I am making and purchasing for every day we are camping and eating. I am hopeful for a few hotels with breakfast included too!

I am sure that our church friends will think we are nuts as we ignore the electrical plug at our site this weekend and make our coffee in a funnel with a filter....

but I am bringing my Crockpot for the potluck....sssh, don't tell my husband.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Stimulating the Economy Against My Will

I am wondering if other families find themselves in financial conundrums like we do. I feel like we are spending money like drunken sailors with no end in sight. It's not like we are shoppers or folks who eat out a lot either. I consider us rather frugal, but we have had some astronomical purchases lately.

We got our son a new camera for his birthday. He is really talented artistically and he wanted to try animation, using stop-motion techniques. We really felt that we should invest in his natural talents.

Steve and I have no camera. He wants to buy one.....a nice one.

I got a new computer. My old one was v...e....r....y slow and was having some serious memory issues. It was really getting bad. I use the computer A LOT for our homeschool non-profit group.

Our oldest daughter is embarking on some life changes that are causing necessary but costly expenditures:
1. Worldview Academy Leadership Camp - Okay, so it wasn't really necessary, but a very worthwhile week! She came back a changed person - Worldview Academy: expensive; Rewards: priceless
2. Driver's Ed - This only cost about $75 BUT now I am thinking that we need to add her to our car insurance! Ugh! I am thinking that we will ask her to foot the bill but haven't thought that through yet.
3. College Classes - She will be a Jr. this year and so is eligible to take a few college classes at the local community vollege. It counts towards college, but it still hurts the pocket.

We are getting goats. The goats themselves didn't cost much but the housing is adding up. I am hoping that not having to buy milk will more than make up for it over time!

Car repairs. The back latch on our Sienna just broke and cannot be opened.

My printer just died. The paper does not feed anymore. We will probably need to buy a new one.

I am probably forgetting some other taxes just came due, school expenses coming up.....

Oh, and did I mention we are going on a 2-week cross country vacation this fall?

Obama would be proud.

Monday, August 3, 2009

More About Me

Well, as one of my first posts, I guess I should explain a little about who I am , or maybe I am supposed to put that in a sidebar somewhere? Whatever....ooops. I told my son to stop saying, "whatever" because it was dismissive and disrespectful!

I am a wife of almost 20 years (in just a few weeks!) to Stephen Brock. He is a web-developer, with a company that he formerly co-owned. I don't think he likes managing people, so he is happy to be a "worker bee" in the company now. He really likes his work and I am glad of that. He is a good provider ; )

I am a mother to 4 children, ages 16, 14, 12, and 7. I am sure they will come into more detail later.

I homeschool my children. See, I knew they would come up again.

I am an artist. I actually was on artistic sabbatical for about 15 years and have finally taken up the watercolor brushes again. I don't have my own camera though, so I need to rely on one of my children to let me take pictures of my paintings. So, sorry, no visual accompaniment, but maybe later. The title sunflower watercolor is one of my pieces. My husband and I both graduated from RISD.

I am a gardener. I don't really see this as a label for myself, but I guess it has become one. I do have a very prolific garden. My husband comments on it's craziness every year. I guess it is a talent/skill that has grown over the years. I tend to notice my gardening failures more than the successes....this year, too much rain, probably a poor tomato crop. Too bad because that was what I was planning on stocking for the winter - sauce and salsa are staples in our home!

Oh, and I am a Christian. That is the overarching definition of who I am. It IS who I am.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Blah, Blah, Blah

Well, with the help of my teenage daughter, I am finally starting a blog. She is a trustworthy teenager, although she did hack my Facebook profile today and changed my picture. All sweet and in good fun. *ahem* I'm glad she is trustworthy.

When asked what I would write about, I just thought random stuff like, homeschooling, gardening, what I did that day, or my latest pet peeve. Hence the title "Blah, blah, blog."

There is a lot going on here in our household and so I should have quite a bit to write about in the coming weeks. Let's see.....we're getting goats, my husband is building a duck house for my daughter, I have Lyme disease, we are going on a 2 week vacation to the Rockies and west.....I'm sure there will be plenty to write about.