Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Chipmunks, a 2 Mile High Hailstorm, and a Miracle (Vacation 2015 Part 1)

Wow! Summer, she’s a-flyin. At first, time seemed to be slowed down. But as per usual, 4th of July rolls around and it hits hyper speed on the downhill to kids birthdays and back to school.

This year, our downhill turn to hyperspeed took a detour. A family reunion/50th anniversary celebration in Estes Park, Colorado. All I can tell you is if you have never been to Colorado, you are missing out. Big time. At least the mountainous parts. Eastern Colorado is pretty flat, mostly because it runs straight into Kansas, which is where the idea for pancakes came from. But the mountains, that is amazing.

We left our steaming home town heading north and west for a 10 hour drive to the city of Castle Rock, just south of Denver to spend the night with college friends. They were worried about how ‘hot’ it was there. After I stopped laughing, I reminded them of where we came from, and no, it most definitely is not even close to ‘hot’. Warm for them, but not hot.

If you’ve been hanging out with me for any length of time, you will remember our vacation disasters. Every. Single. Time. We either get trauma, drama or a puking kid. Without fail. It has gotten to the point that I really, truly question my sanity when we plan a trip. This, however, was not just a vacation, it was a special occasion, so I didn’t have the luxury of questioning anything. We’d initially planned to take my car, a Subaru Outback, with a car top carrier to put our luggage in. The problem, was that my car didn’t have the proper rails to secure the carrier to. No big deal, except we didn’t discover this until about 7:30 the night before we were leaving. I was pretty sure this was signaling the beginning of another trauma/drama filled trip.

Load up, hit the road Saturday. It was a great day for a drive and we made good time. The last 40 miles before our friends house was through a very remote area and incredibly beautiful, rolling hills and farms. My kids wanted to camp there and I just thought about how many stars we’d be able to see at night. A lovely dinner on the deck looking at the foothills and a beautiful sunset ended our first day.

Ok, I”m thinking. So far so good. But I’m not dumb enough to say anything out loud and jinx it. Neighbors that night decide to use their fire pit and have a party. Til after midnight. With open windows. Close windows=much better. An hour later, my girly is in our room ‘Mom. I think I’m going to be sick.”  Here we go, I thought. She’d just gotten over heated in a stuffy room. She was fine, thankfully.

Arrive at Estes Park Sunday afternoon and the home away from home in time to greet family and nose around the houses. Mom and sister in law and I make a list and hit the grocery store. You know, I never really thought of a grocery store trip as an adventure or anything requiring protective gear. But this is Estes Park. They apparently only have one in the entire town. The town that swells to 3 to 4 times it’s population in the summer. It felt like I was at WalMart on Black Friday. Or the local grocery following a blizzard warning. Between trying to maneuver the cart and the empty shelves, it was chaos. I don’t envy the people who have to recover and restock the store overnight. The cashiers really should get hazard pay. Here’s a tip, if you’re a grocery store owner, put one in Estes Park, you’ll make a killing!

Here’s the first half of our trip:

Sunday: A short trip from Denver to Estes Park. Which was nice, since the drive on Saturday was about 10 hours. See above adventure in local Safeway.

Sunset over the Rockies our first night

Monday: Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove up to the Alpine Visitors Center. On the way, we saw wildlife, got rained on, hailed on and snowed on! In the photo below, you can see the rain moving through. Those clouds dropped a single bolt of lightning and the PING of a lone hailstone that sent us all scrambling for our cars. A few minutes later and further up the mountain, a hailstorm at 11K feet was incredible and frightening all at once!

Rain moving through the valley, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rain moving through the valley, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Above the treeline, Rocky Mountain National Park

Above the treeline, Rocky Mountain National Park

Mountain stream, RMNP

Mountain stream, RMNP

Tuesday: Rafting the Cache La Poudre river. It was very fun and yes, the water was ridiculously COLD! The bus ride up and back was an adventure in itself!

Cache La Pudre River. Water was in the 30's!

Cache La Pudre River. Water was in the 30’s!

Wednesday: We attempted shopping downtown. With 19 ppl, it’s more like herding cats! In the evening we had surprise anniversary party for Mom and Dad in law, it was their 50th we were celebrating. I don’t have any pics of the gang shopping, so I’ll share a few of the flowers and scenery.

These babies were everywhere!

These babies were everywhere!

A random bathtub. Why not?

A random bathtub. Why not?

Yes, this is near the home as well!

Yes, this is near the home as well!

Beauty around the home.

Beauty around the home.

Stay tuned for Part 2! More to come!

Visit Estes Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

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A Pack of Wolves, The Wild Woody, and The Case of the Mysterious Melted Gum

It is summer. Which means road trip & vacation season, right? Well you know, I hate to be left out of these things. Especially when I have a job that is extremely flexible and the boss lets me work around my husband’s schedule.

We have good friends who live in St Louis and we do our best to visit them every summer. St Louis is a very fun city that has so much to do for everyone. Our friends actually own three, count’em THREE haunted houses in St Louis, so needless to say, it’s never a dull moment when we visit! To answer your next question, yes, we’ve been through the houses, but only with lights on and no actors present (I’m a great big ole weenie!).

Last year, they partnered with a friend who had a business in Branson, aka Entertainment Capitol of the Midwest. I haven’t been to Branson in over 20 years, and in that time, nearly every single country star you can think of has opened a theater of some sort. It’s gone from a sleepy little regional kind of vacation spot, to a really jam-packed and popular destination. There is all manner of entertainment you can possibly want for the whole family. Shows, mini-golf, shopping, restaurants, lakes, I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

So this new business venture, Branson’s Wild World, is a really fun & cool place. It’s part aquarium, part zoo, part family fun center. They have sharks, gators, snakes, spiders, fish, and even a pack of wolves! Seriously, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a wolf before, but theirs are all black and beautiful. My kids were able to touch & hold snakes (ew, not me) and pet a tarantula. Again, not me! They also have black light indoor mini golf! I know! It was very challenging, but fun!

I took the kids up on Friday and we went to the Wild World, and I took loads of pictures. Saturday, that was our day to go to Silver Dollar City. If you’ve never been, it’s in a very hilly part of the world, and I am always surprised when I see women walking around in heels. Anyway, it’s an old-time western kind of theme park. they have rides, some really huge roller coasters, artisans like black smiths, leather workers, and many other craftsmen. Although, I have to say, it was quite frustrating. The roller coasters are run by software, unlike the ‘olden days’ when they were operated by a switch. The newest ride, Outlaw Run, is a wooden roller coaster and supposed to be a big deal. We went straight there when we got in, and were immediately greeted with a message that the ride was down and repairs were being made, but they didn’t know when, or if, it would be back up. At that point, many people decided to try their luck in other parts of the park. We decided to wait and just see what happened. You never know, it could be 5 min, or 55 minutes for them to get it going again. We waited an hour, they got it going and sent two cars with people through and just when we were in sight of the cars, the people who’d just gotten their seats, were told to get out, and resume their spots in line. Sheesh. We decided to go and do something else and come back later in the day. Of their big rides, they had malfunctions that day on 4 of them that we know of.

Because of my friends’ business, we were able to get discounted tickets. This didn’t make it any less frustrating, but if we’d paid full price to get into the park, and the rides were constantly out of services, I’d be really mad.

So, the gum. My son, whom I love more than air, is turning 13 next month. I’ve been told by parents of teenagers that boys tend to get a little ditzy when the hormones kick in. So far, we really haven’t had to deal with that much, but I know it’s only a matter of time. We rode a roller coaster called Wild Fire. It’s a HUGE coaster on the side of a mountain that does at least two corkscrews. Being an almost teenage boy, he thought it would be funny to spit his gum out on one of the corkscrews. Yeah, I know. So when we get off the ride, he tells me he’s done this, and that it bounced off his foot & disappeared. Great. That’s just charming. Later in the day, we decided to give Outlaw Run another try. After another 45 minutes of waiting, finally, they get to ride (I passed on it, having dealt w/vertigo and not wanting to take a chance of setting it off). When everyone makes their way to me, our friends daughter announced that my son had sat in someone’s gum. Hmmm, really? I think I know whose gum it is! And yes, it was melted to the shorts between his legs. He removed as much as he could and we carried on.

That night, the kids played tag & hide & seek outside our friends apartment. Did you know that high grass hides things like chiggers, burrs and spiders? Yep, everyone had bug & chigger bites on them the next day. My son still has burrs on his socks that I’m going to let him remove.

Sunday morning we hit one of the family fun centers and the Wild Woody! Go carts are so much fun! The Wild Woody is built of wood and has a spiral tower, kind of like a parking structure. Super fun, I was hoping my daughter would be able to drive, but not on the Woody, she rode with me. She was able to drive on one of the other courses. it was her first time, she’s nearly 10, and the look of concentration on her face was priceless! She wasn’t going to let the cart get the best of her! She kept having to shake her hands because she was white-knuckling the steering wheel!

We made our way home after a quick visit and were so glad we were able to go, even for a quick trip. It is really our only vacation this summer, so I’m glad it was fun!

What about your summer? Seen any wolves or found any mysterious gum on your shorts?

http://www.silverdollarcity.com
http://www.bransonswildworld.com
http://www.bransontracks.com

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A White Tiger, A 50 Pound Gold Nugget, and a Surly Teenager

Our kids were out of school on Friday as well as Monday for President’s Day weekend. My hubby can’t get any time off over spring break, the whip cracking bosses are making him do inventory. In a clothing store. The weekend before Easter. Yeah, I don’t know which calendar they’re looking at, but have you been clothes shopping right before a holiday where new clothes are not required, but encouraged? Tell me, what did the stores look like? Were they well stocked and neat, or did they look like the closet threw up? Right, see what I mean? Well, anyway, since he can’t get any time off then, he was able to get this weekend. We decided to send the mutt to doggy jail, load up the offspring and head south to the booming metropolis of Dallas, Texas.

It’s an easy drive, one I made hundreds, maybe thousands even, of times when I was in school there. We went straight to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, with a pit stop at In N Out for lunch! The Perot is a new museum in downtown Dallas and is a really interesting structure. At first glance, it looks out-of-place. All the other buildings around are symmetrical and beautiful, but this building is none of the above. They have exhibit halls on several floors ranging from gems & minerals (our favorite), petroleum extraction/refining, fossils, birds, engineering, the human body. It was very fun and interesting. In the hall with the gems and minerals, we saw a nugget of gold that was over 50lbs! And a geode with amethyst inside that was at least 5feet tall! Outside was a water feature and xylophones as well as a ‘gravel chime’ that made music when you drop gravel into the openings.

Oh.Em.Gee. I mentioned living in Dallas, which has a reputation for crazy traffic, and it’s very well deserved. It rivals LA, seriously. It seems there is always road destruction construction. You’d think they’d get finished some day. Nope. I think they just like digging in the dirt and causing more headaches. Highway 75 (AKA Central Expwy) has always had construction on it at some point. On this trip, there was more than I’ve ever seen. The interstate btw Dallas & Ft Worth, I30. And 635. In addition to Hwy 75. They like their elevated highways in Dallas. It’s really astonishing to see roads being built 70 feet off the ground. The interchanges, and now even the roads are that high, at least, there are some that are even taller! Another reason I’m glad to be outta there!

From there we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, which was walking distance to the museum. It’s in a new location and looks like it’s straight out of the 60’s. The bar is surrounded by gold chain mail & glass bubbles hanging from the ceiling.

I hate to say it, but this trip was sad in many ways. SAd in the realization that some places we used to visit have now become abandoned and decayed. In the 80’s & 90’s, the West End was the place to be in Dallas. I went numerous times and it was a blast. There was a ‘market place’ that was in an old factory with all sorts of shops on multiple levels and attached to it was the Dallas Alley. it was the night club to beat all. There were about 8 or 10 different clubs of all types, piano bar, blues, country, classics, dance, you name it. Pay one price and get entry to all of the clubs. My friends and I had so much fun there. We saw the building and the sign on the side so we decided to take a stroll over and check it out. Sad sad sad. Not a soul in sight, well, besides the business people scurrying home and the random vagrant. And another location that had been called ‘Restaurant Row’ in Dallas in the 80’s & 90’s has now become vacant and abandoned buildings, a nudie bar or a car dealership. I guess time moves on and not everything progresses or stays the same.

Our hotel was not fancy, but it was clean, had an indoor pool, and a free breakfast. All bonuses. And it was centrally located in regard to where we were planning on going.

Babe’s Chicken Dinner House was our dinner of choice on Friday night. The last time we’d been there was 3 years ago and our children have not stopped talking about it since! Seriously, if you get an opportunity, you should go, they’re scattered around the DFW metro area. You choose your meat and the sides are served family style. Three of us ordered the fried chicken dinner and they brought out 12 pieces of chicken and let me tell ya, they weren’t all wings. We took home probably half of them!

Saturday was clear, sunny and 50 so we decided to go to FtWorth Zoo. We’d never been and the weather was perfect. All I can say is, if you get the chance, go! It was a really beautiful zoo. I’ll tell you right now I’ve never been to San Diego. I’d love to, but this was pretty incredible. Nice, wide open enclosures that were well-kept and laid out. The white tiger was a stunning creature and just breathtaking. The giraffes were fun to watch, we were mesmerized by them. My kids both loved the reptile house with all the snakes & gators. We spent 5 hours there and only left because we didn’t want the food they had available. Why would you want to eat the crummy hot dog/pizza when you’ve got all the choices available in DFW?

Oh, the surly teenager. Yeah. Still not quite ready for that one. My son, my oldest, has always been a happy guy. I knew he wasn’t feeling well if he woke up any other way than smiling. He’ll be 13 this summer. We were talking about this trip. His response, ‘I don’t want to go.’ He wanted to stay home & play on his computer. Not even the temptation of an indoor pool or Babe’s chicken was enough to shake his resolve. He was this close to staying w/my folks. I told him if he was going to be grumpy the whole time he could stay here! He went, a little grudgingly. Today I asked him if he was glad he went. Guess what response I got. Shoulder shrug, aaah. Good times.

http://www.perotmuseum.org/
http://www.fortworthzoo.org/
http://www.babeschicken.com/

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A Fire, A Rowdy Beaver, and a Bubble Bath

Wow! This has been one busy week! Crazy. It seems we hardly go anywhere for a long time, work and school keep us tied to the grind stone. And then BAM! we’re going and doing lots. No real vacation in 2011, but this past summer we had about three! Feast or famine I suppose.

I recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of the greatest day of my life. Yes, my husband is a retail manager and we got married two days after Christmas, what on earth were we thinking? Obviously not about celebrating our anniversary in January I”m sure.

This weekend, we snuck away to Eureka Springs. I’m sure I’ve written about it before, but in case I haven’t, it’s a lovely 1880’s era Victorian village in the Ozark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas. We love staying at the bed and breakfasts that are scattered throughout the town. There are several we’ve stayed at. Our favorite is the 1884 Bridgeford House. Like most houses in Eureka Springs, it’s got gingerbread decoration and the whimsical period painting (it’s pink!) as well as being furnished mostly with antiques. We’ve stayed in three different rooms and enjoyed them all. The breakfast is wonderful and the innkeepers are very friendly and accommodating.

We chose to stay in their suite this time and I’m so glad we did. It’s a really gorgeous room with a gas fireplace (that really cranks out heat), a bubble bath for two and a separate bathroom. The bed is hung with lace curtains that can be released for a really romantic setting.

Our trip is about 3 hours, really easy. Friday night was the Cotton Bowl. Being Oklahoma State fans, we cheer for teams that play OU,and since Texas A&M (a former Big 12 team that moved to SEC this year) was playing OU in the Cotton Bowl, we wanted to see the game. We also wanted to see what Johnny Football is all about. Unfortunately for us, most of our favorite restaurants are closed for the season. What? There are places that do that? We were surprised to find that out too. They close from Jan 1 to Valentine’s day because business is just so slow there, they are heavily dependent on tourist traffic. We found a bar that had tv’s and a decent menu and ordered some food and settled in to watch the game.

Have you ever been to a place that really has potential, but someone ruins it? Yep, that was the Rowdy Beaver. It was a small bar in downtown Eureka that we went to eat & watch the game. Before the game started, we were literally the only people there. Then, in walks a local, a regular, who starts plugging the juke box. I know, they really still have them, but they’re digital now. The music starts (random crap that’s really LOUD), and we can barely hear each other speaking. Then the local sits at the corner of the bar and begins a conversation w/the bartender. They apparently knew each other. Well. The local, I’ll call her Lobby (loud & obnoxious), had a very limited vocabulary, all centering around the term ‘effin’ (I won’t burn your eyes with the whole word, but you get my meaning). As in ‘Effin this’ or ‘Effin that’ or ‘My effin brother got a dui’ but when she’s having this conversation, she’s saying everything AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS, SO YOU CAN HEAR HER, IN CALIFORNIA OR NEW YORK.

FINALLY, the music stops. (sigh) I asked the bartender to turn up the sound on the football game that had just started. She obliged, nearly. We could almost make out what the announcers were saying. We got almost through the first quarter before the karaoke started in the next room. Ok, that’s our cue. Packed it in and watched it in our room. Which was fine, but it just can be more fun in a bar sometimes.

Saturday found breakfast brought to our room on china. i was so full when we finished eating, I literally went back to bed. I never do that. EVER. I laid there dozing while hubby watched a movie. I was just full and warm and content. The fire was crackling away and it was so cozy and relaxing. Probably around noon we decided to go and see what shops we could find open.

Eureka is an artist village. Most people there make something in some way, shape, or form. Paintings, photographs, pottery, glass blowing, jewelry, all sorts of really interesting & beautiful things. We wandered around just taking it all in, enjoying being there without the crowds that are normally present.

We finally decided to grab a bite and went to a reliable joint called The Balcony. It’s on a balcony, can you imagine? It’s in one of the oldest hotels in town, The Basin Park. Had a quick bite and decided to go warm up with a bubble bath. There’s nothing like a crackling fire and a hot bath on a cold winter’s day to make you feel completely relaxed. Throw in a glass of wine and you can understand why I was ready to fall asleep before I got out of the tub! When I finallydid get out, I envisioned a piece of overcooked pasta!

Dinner was a new favorite called Local Flavor. It’s one of those placed that you’ve driven past a million times but for whatever reason, never stopped. It was packed out, mainly because so many others were closed, but it was a good place to eat as well.

It was just what we needed, rest and relaxation. A perfect weekend to cap off 15 years, and another busy Christmas season, to get us ready for a new week and the second semester of school.

If you ever get a chance, these are a couple of the places I mentioned.

http://www.bridgefordhouse.com

http://www.localflavorcafe.net

http://www.ermilios.com

The last one, Ermilio’s is amazing Italian & was closed til Valentine’s day for this trip. We’ve been several times, it’s wonderful. I highly recommend it.

 

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A Baby, a Bunch of Cowboys, and a Double Double in 24hrs

Wow! Is it really a new year already? Someone please give me the remote that will slow things down! Sheesh. My boy will be 13 and my girly will be 10 this year. So not ready. But before that happens, I’ve got another adventure to share!

I know you don’t know this, but I’m a huge Oklahoma State University Cowboys fan. Having gone there in the late 80’s, at the same time as the best RB ever, Barry Sanders, when Mike Gundy was the QB. Needless to say, since Gundy’s taken over as head coach, things have changed for the better and the Cowboy Nation couldn’t be happier. It’s nice when you get to step out of big brother’s (OU) shadow and show the world what you’ve got.

That said, I’ve really loved screaming at my tv every Saturday afternoon this football season. Yes, I really do scream. To the point my children gripe at me and tell me to be quiet! I tell them to go outside or join me! When we were chosen for this bowl game, the Heart of Dallas, we were pretty disappointed, feeling our bowl should’ve been better. There was actually a chart listing which teams should go to which bowl, based on their ranking in the conference. That chart showed us potentially heading to one of two, the Alamo or Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Heart of Dallas is a new bowl game, only been around 3 years, and not high on the list of bowls. I’ll stop there, because I go off on a tangent and get really upset. So I’ll spare you my rant. Anyway, if you haven’t heard of it, Heart of Dallas bowl takes proceeds and uses it to help the homeless in Dallas, which is a terrific thing. I haven’t been to a game in a very long time. The ticket prices are ridiculous, being a stay at home mom w/two kids, it’s difficult to spend $200 on two tickets to a football game when I can watch on tv, right?

Here’s the cool part. I was on the Heart of Dallas facebook & twitter pages. They had challenges and different things and they were giving away pairs of tickets. I did several things, but didn’t win. Then they posted a question, ‘Tell us why you love your school’ and they were giving away 25 pairs of tickets. So, being me, I answered it and told them why I love Oklahoma State. This was on Sunday evening. Monday morning, New Year’s Eve morning, when I looked at Facebook, I WON! I ran upstairs to my still sleeping husband and asked if he wanted to go bowling. He lifted his head, cracked an eye and said, ‘what?’ I excitedly told him my news. Needless to say, he was not as excited as I was. He didn’t go to OSU. Don’t get me wrong, he cheers for them, but just not with as much enthusiasm as I do.

So we packed our kids off to my mom’s house and hit the road for the 4 hour drive to Dallas. We got a hotel room no problem. As if all the hotel in Dallas would be full. If you haven’t been to Dallas, it’s incredibly enormous and very spread out. We had plans for where we’d eat. First we wanted to go to Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. OMG. The best fried chicken on the planet. You choose your meat and all the sides are served family style. We ate there a few years ago, there was so much chicken on the platter, that three of us ate dinner that night, and it fed all four of us lunch the next day! Amazing. But when we hit Dallas, it was 7PM on New Year’s Eve. There’s no way we’d be able to get into Babe’s. It’s a very well known and loved establishment. So, we picked the next best thing, In N Out! Double Double Animal Style and fresh cut fries. Yum-o-rama!

Checked into our hotel and set off in search of beer. What? Yes, I said, it. I do occasionally drink beer. My favorite we can’t actually get in Oklahoma b/c of archaic liquor laws. Fat Tire. Love love love it. Surely it wouldn’t be hard to find a liquor store and get some, right? Yeah, so wrong. We drove around for 15 minutes and stopped at some ‘convenience’ stores that were a little on the seedy side. The kind that have the huge bars on the windows and the ‘Pay your bills here’ signs in the window. After a couple of those, we decided to head back on the other side of the tracks, thinking getting mugged might not be the best end to our year. I think we were in a dry part of the city (Yes, they have those too, in the DFW metro if you can believe that). Finally found a decent looking gas station and found my Fat Tire. Yea. New Year’s Eve was in a hotel room with my favorite beer, my favorite guy, and watching the ball drop in NYC. There was a huge party in downtown Dallas, but it was cold and damp out, and we had to be up early. So we just packed it in. Happy New Year!

The game was an 11AM kickoff in the Cotton Bowl. We debated, train vs car, and ended up just driving there. Parked and were inside the gates by 10. Holy crap it was cold. About 40-ish, cloudy, damp, windy. I had on three layers under my down parka, scarf, down mittens, & stocking cap. It was a blow out game, and really cold, but we had fun. I’m so glad we got to go.

We thought after the game, we’d hit Babe’s for an early dinner and get back on the road home. Yeah, it was just not in the cards this trip. We’d seen a Babe’s on the map near Garland. Stopped for gas, and this is hilarious, asked for a pen & a PHONE BOOK. The girl behind the counter looked at me like I’d just arrived from another planet. ‘I have a pen, but no phone book.’ What? Seriously? I know I’m old school, I don’t own a smart phone, but come on! Everyone has phone books. I have a feeling I’m not the only one refusing the smart phone thing as long as I can. Fine. I called 411 and was put thru to the Babe’s we were trying to find. The cheerful voice on the other end told me they were closed until 5!! Now I felt like Charlie Brown just after Lucy picks up the ball. AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH. It was 3:15, we were starving and had a 4 hour drive ahead of us, waiting 2 hours was not going to happen. Crap. So we headed home, and found a place to eat on the way, it was ok, but not nearly as good as Babe’s. Oh well, we’ll just have to make a return visit, right? Ok.

It was an exciting end to 2012 and a terrific beginning to 2013. And now, in a few days, we’re off on a quest for rest and relaxation, to a bed & breakfast in Eureka Springs to celebrate our 15th anniversary.

Happy New Year to you! I hope your holidays were merry and bright and 2013 brings you much happiness and prosperity!

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9 Days, 14 hours, and a Lost Key (Summer Vacation Part II)

I just realized I didn’t post this. It is part two of our summer travels. Never a dull moment in my family!

Whew. Do you have any idea how long 14 hours in a car with two children can be? It can seem more like 114. Thankfully, our time wasn’t like that the whole trip. We just got back from a lovely family vacation to the beaches in Florida. I found a condo for rent that was right on the beach. And amazingly enough, my husband was able to get the time off from work. You see, he actually gets 4 weeks of vacation a year, the problems with that are 1. getting him to actually take it, and 2. finding a good time between busy times at work. Last year, he left at least a week of vacation on the board because he just didn’t take it. He couldnt’ find the time, didn’t want to, etc. I know, I know. If it were me, I’d be taking every single vacation day I was allowed. Him, well, he’s a very hands on manager and many times just doesn’t feel comfortable leaving his store in the sort of capable hands of his team. So when I get the go ahead from him, I jump on it! We were originally only looking at 5 days at the beach, but the owners made me a good offer if we made it 7, so between two extra days of travel, that brought our total to 9. Which in case you didn’t know, is a really long trip!

Do you remember our past vacations? Something happened every time we traveled, either a puking kid or some other disaster. It has scarred me and really made me nervous about traveling. I was bloody freaking thrilled at our trip to Idaho and the absence of problems. Waking up on Friday morning, everything seemed to be ok, until my daughter came down stairs, wearing a long face that did not look good at all. She said she wasn’t feeling well. I told her she was fine, just excited about our trip. I gave her some sprite and crackers. She nibbled at the crackers but wasn’t too into them. I was literally holding my breath, just waiting…. she seemed to be stable, so i told her we needed to go to the library to pick up some movies for our trip. Then I told her my theory on mind over matter-if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. I had her repeat ‘I am fine. I will not be sick on vacation.’ over and over and  that perked her up a little. So we hopped in the car for the short 1-1/2 mile to the library. We hadn’t gotten quite a mile down the road when she said the word we all hate to hear, ‘mom!’ with that special tone of kids about to barf. I always keep a trash bag strapped to the passenger headrest in my car. I reached over, ripped the thing off and handed it to her just in time. She let it all out. Blech. But seemed to feel better once it was done. And yet again, my trash bag was sacrificed to a kid puking the day of a big trip (the first time was my son when we were on our way to Hawaii). but better the trash bag than the carpet/seat of my car! She seemed to be alright after that. I think she may have been hungry. My kids are weird taht way. After we’d been on the road for about an hour, she said she was feeling sick again. Earlier she’d been feeling well enough to have some oatmeal, which I thought was a very good sign. I tried to give her some saltines, but she wanted peanut butter crackers instead. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but they seemed to do the trick!

We left home to drive to Little Rock to stay overnight w/brother-in-law and his wife. A double bonus, we get to see them and knock 4 hours off the drive. Up early and on the road on Saturday for a 10 hr drive to the Pensacola area. Thankfully, we didn’t hit any major snags on the way down like zombies, volcanos, or godzilla, which I was very grateful for, as I’m sure you would be too!

My children are weird. They always have been. Put my children in a car for a road trip and they do not sleep! I mean really, isn’t that a rule for young kids? After about an hour in the car, I have to use toothpicks to keep my eyes open. Not my kids. My girly especially. We took a road trip when she was 16 months old. A nine hour drive to my sister-in-law’s house for Christmas. My girly refused to sleep, which on a kid that young can get really ugly.  And ugly it got, by about hour 8. And it was dark and she was completely unhinged and inconsolable, which made me somewhat less than happy. But there really wasn’t much I could do. I didn’t have any Benadryl handy, so we just had to deal with it. (just kidding, I have never medicated my kids solely to get them to sleep) I think she may have slept a bit this time, but they seemed to get along well enough. Between dvd players and hand-held video games, as well as travel versions of Sorry and Connect 4, they stayed occupied.

Our destination was a small beach area called Perdido Key. It is between Pensacola and Orange Beach, Alabama. Perdido is the Spanish word for ‘lost”, hence the ‘lost key’. Thank goodness I didn’t really lose a key, that would be disaster!  It is a very family friendly place. The condo we stayed in was not huge, but comfortable and in good condition, and literally RIGHT on the beach. The sand is as white as can be and powder fine and super soft. It even makes a funny noise when you scuff your feet.

I sat on the balcony and had my coffee every day watching the waves. Life doesnt’ get much better than that. Our first day, we saw dolphins, which was a great way to start our vacation. We bought flashlights and hunted for sand crabs at night. I had no idea those little suckers are so tiny! smaller than a dime! We hunted seashells, found living sand dollars (but they were small, my husband called them sand ‘quarters’!) watched the sea gulls and pelicans flying overhead, and tracked enough sand in my car to fill a sandbox! We went to a state beach named for a black soldier who’d died in the line of duty saving three other soldiers in Korea, I believe. It was a really incredible beach. The best part is that it was nearly deserted. Gorgeous white sand & dunes, sea oats, stunning emerald green water, and hardly anyone else around. It was like our own personal beach. This beach was so wonderful, we went back a second day. My kids loved it b/c there were little fish in the water that would nibble their ankles. Me, well, yeah, not so crazy about the fishes swimming between my legs and around  my ankles. They thought it was hilarious to see mom jumping and screaming about these little creatures! Hey, at least I’m good for a laugh, right?

My husband managed to dig up a crab, and not a tiny one. It was at least as big as his hand. He saw some seagulls sitting right where the sand began to slope toward the water so he walked over and started digging w/his hands, thinking he’d never get to the crab. WRONG! he actually got it out, and it made a beeline straight to the water! it was hilarious. And the next day my daughter found another crab the same size just hanging out on the sand. We think he may have been a little sickly. He fought at first, but he wasnt’ trying to get away, even though he was on the sand and not being held at all. They tried to get him to go in a crab hole, but he was just too tired, so we put him back in the ocean. although I didn’t tell my kids that I thought he was probably already dead.

A couple of times it looked like ugly storms rolling in, so we packed it in. I just don’t have a fondness of being outside in a thunderstorm, near a large body of water, call me crazy, I know. And of course, after packing it in, the storms rolled the other way and didn’t come to where we were at all. which is good and bad, a pain to pack up and leave, but good that we could go back out!

We visited the Naval Aviation Museum and HOLY COW is about all I can say! It was huge and made our dinky little air and space museum look like a carnival side show. We spent at least 4 hours there seeing aircraft from essentially the beginning to current. Including a presidential helicopter, retired fighter jets of nearly every make and model and a blimp! There were motion simulators and trainers the kids could climb in. And the best part was that it was free! The motion simulators weren’t, but admission was. From there we went to Fort Barrancas which was initially built by the Spanish when they controlled Florida to protect Pensacola bay. And then later when we controlled it, it was reinforced. this was all on the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.

We did eat seafood while we were there, but I’m sad to say we obviously chose the wrong establishments because I was completely underwhelmed. I was expecting great things from the seafood there, since hello, you can’t get much fresher than caught the same day! Alas, I was let down. Oh well, live and learn right?

I had read stories of jellies being in the water there, but thankfully we didn’t have any of that to worry about, just sunburn. We all wore SPF1000 and rash guards and didn’t really get much sun til the last couple of days when we went w/o the rashguards. One morning, while drinking my coffee on the balcony, I was looking at storm clouds rolling in off the water to the east and saw the beginnings of a water spout. My husband had said he hoped to see one. I was the one who saw it. It looked like a string hanging down from the clouds, and went down and  back up, and down, and back up. I got binoculars and could see where the surface of the water was kind of fuzzy, but never saw the connection between the two. It was pretty cool though.

And now we’re back home with enough laundry to keep a dry cleaner in business for a few weeks and enough sand in the back of my car to build our own private beach! If you are considering a vacation to Florida, Perdido Key would be a good option to keep in mind. It’s small and away from a lot of the busyness of the big city, but close enough to be as much a part of it as you want to be. I’d love to go back some day.

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Two Gals, 250 miles, and a Vampire Slayer

My best friend recently turned, gasp, 50. I still have difficulty getting my brain around that. She doesn’t look like what I used to think a 50 year old would look like. Nor does she behave the way I thought a 50 year old was supposed to behave. I guess I was expecting gray hair, false teeth and a walker. Huh. How ’bout that. That’s good to know, since it’s not too far off for me now! Funny how the closer we get to an age, the younger it looks. Am I the only one who thinks that?

I wanted to have a party for her, but she shot me down. But you can’t let a milestone like that just get by without some sort of celebration, right? I’m so not into the whole tombstones/over the hill crap, so don’t even think that! Since she didn’t want a party, I suggested a girl’s weekend in Dallas. A short 250 mile drive away. We shopped, we ate (a lot) and that was only Friday!

We’d planned our trip for several months. We were both really excited. To be able to have a complete conversation without my dog barking, or a kid interrupting sounds terrific! Until….I wake up on Friday, the day we’re leaving, with a wicked crick in my neck. Pain. Ouch. Ow. Crap. So, rather than being chauffeured to her weekend getaway, my bff, Lisa, ended up driving me. I was wrecked. I had to use two, not one, but TWO travel pillows stacked up to immobilize my neck. I know, it sounds totally weird, I’m pretty sure it looked that way too, but it was better than the collar my chiropractor wanted me wear.

We hit the outlet mall on the way to our hotel. Shopped til dinner time, then went in search of food. Ah, Pappadeaux, how I love you. The hotel is a really gorgeous facility that was all done in hues of blue and green. I’d never been in a hotel that was decorated like that. Normally browns, earth tones, flat neutral colors. This place was all aquatic feeling and very calming.

Saturday was facials, massages and more eating. yes, I know. We practically ate our way across Dallas! But hey, when you’re in a city with the good stuff, you gotta take advantage.  We’d initially planned to spend the afternoon lounging poolside. I had the soft side cooler and insulated drink cups all ready to go. But then we saw the puddle, I mean pool. seriously, I think my husband’s shoes are bigger than that! it was almost a lap pool, for an 8 year old. Oh well.

Dinner and a movie. I love my friend like a sister. We have fun together, we cut up and goof off, but we also give each other the kick in the pants we need every now and then. She’s more of a shoot’em up/blow up movie kinda gal. I like lots of movies, but shoot’em ups are not my favorite. If it had not been her birthday, I would never have gone to see ‘Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer’. She knew it wasn’t my kind of movie. And she knew that the only reason I’d see it was b/c it was her b-day. She said we could see something else, but, it was her trip, so we went. Any other time, I’d definitely pass. And I can say for sure, it’s an awful movie. Well, to me it was. Lisa, well, she sat on the edge of her seat and clapped like my kids watching ‘The Avengers’. So I think she liked it. And that’s what counts.

It was great weekend, minus the cranky neck and the crazy woman banging on the door at midnight. I’m so glad we went. And I’m glad she enjoyed it, most of all.

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A Missing Jacket, a Skinned Knee and a Fat Lip (AKA Summer vacation part I)

Wow! School is out (finally) and we wasted no time start our summer! Seriously. I don’t know that we’ve ever started it quite like this, but I have to report that unlike other vacations in the past this one was missing something (I’ll get to that later). By Thurs. both kids were out of school and on Sunday we were on the road baby! Take that summer! Right in the kisser!

Hubby’s job gives him 4 wks vacation a year. The problem: finding time to take it. I know I know. I’m all over him all the time to take his days, but so many times, the year ends and he still has vacation left. When he worked for Mervyn’s (I miss Mervyn’s) they were allowed to sell back any unused days. It was wonderful. But not his current employer. Use it or lose it.  And even though he’s taken some already this year, he’s still had a couple of wks left when we took this trip.  (their year is July to June, so you see our scramble) A few yrs ago, his parents moved back to Idaho, but we had a difficult time finding the time (shock!) and decent air fare (that’s the real joke these days). We didn’t want to drive- it’s two solid days’ drive-hard to give up that kind of time when you’ve only got a week.

I actually managed to find reasonable airfare and started planning our trip. The catch: we had to drive to another airport 1-1/2 hrs away (it saved us $400, I’d do it again in a flash). Ok, no prob. I can do 90 minutes for $400, wouldn’t you? Sunday we load up the car and head out at 9AM. Get to the airport, park, check in, grab a bite of overpriced airport food. Denver flight is 1-1/2 hrs. The crap part, we had a 4 hr layover in Denver. Boo. As we’re going to the gate for our connection, I spied a New Belgium Hub. New Belgium, in case you don’t know, is a brewery out of Colorado and they make my favorite beer, Fat Tire. Imagine my joy! They have my beer on tap and some really good food. Ok, that’s 2 hrs down, now what? we whiled away our time walking on the moving sidewalks and perusing the random overpriced shops. 1-1/2 hrs flight to Salt Lake City, pick up the rental car andcan it be? This time I spied In N Out burger! Dinner done, back on the road for the 2-1/2 hr drive to the in-laws house. Sheesh, for being a faster mode of transportation, it still took us 14 hours traveling.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park, I highly recommend it. We only had a very brief visit, but it was amazing. To think it’s a prehistoric GINORMOUS volcanic caldera is really pretty intimidating. If it goes off again, we’re all toast. But until then, we’ll just admire the beauty. We saw geysers (Old Faithful, natch), basins, paint/mud pots and lots of wild life. Antelope, elk, bison, and……wait for it….bears! Yes, a black bear was just walking along the road eating. And a bit farther along a grizzly. My sister-in-law was in the lead car and saw the hump on its neck that says ‘i’m a grizzly, don’t mess with me’. The crazy part of the bears, people were OUT OF THEIR CARS, some were even crossing the road and dragging their small children to get a  better look!  Seriously people, I wanted to yell at them ‘THIS ISN’T THE ZOO!’ but I didn’t, we just kept driving. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get a pic.

This is Firehole River, not far inside the West Entrance of Yellowstone. It was very full from the snowmelt.

We saw hundreds of these.

We’d prepared for cold weather (it snowed over Memorial Day wknd), wearing layers and fleece. Because my daughter didn’t have any long sleeves with her, I packed two jackets for her with the thought she could layer if necessary. By the time we made it home, we only had one. How does that happen? Nine people and no one saw what happened. Oh, I nearly forgot snow! There was actually quite a lot of snow. So we stopped and let kids have a quick snowball fight. That’s pretty fun, considering we only got about 2″ of snow this year!

This is West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. Just one tiny little part of it, it’s a huge lake.

Going south from Yellowstone is an area I’ve always wanted to visit, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons. Wow. They are absolutely breathtaking. I’ve seen mountains, been in mountains, camped in mountains, but these were simply spectacular. Huge, rugged and snow-covered. It was worth the trip and they were even more amazing than I’d dreamed they’d be. There are truly no words to describe being there and even though I’ve got some really wonderful photos, there’s no way they can ever do justice.

Imagine coming around a bend and seeing this. Amazing.

We stayed in Jackson a night. It’s a really cute little old cowboy town. There are lots of log buildings and heavy wood used to give it all a real western feel. We went to the Million Dollar Cowboy Saloon. Holy cow! This place is old school. All of the wood was knotty pine that had been lacquered to a really deep brown, glossy finish. There were silver dollars IN the bar top and the bar stools, well, they were saddles, stirrups and all! Across from the saloon is the town square. The entrances to the square itself are marked by 20 foot high elk antler arches! It was just a cool little town. From what I understand there’s some really incredible skiing there in winter. And in case you get the idea of buying a home there, unless you’re independently wealthy, it’s not happening. Just for grins and giggles I picked up a real estate magazine.  Ha. For a few mil I could have 3 bed 2 bath condo.  It’s always fun to dream, but until I win the lottery….

Yippee kay ay cowgirls!

There are four of these and they’re about 20ft tall!

OMG I nearly forgot. Moose. We were hoping to see bears and moose. Day two on our way out of Tetons National Park, we came around a bend and there were several cars parked in a little pull out. There was a man with a camera that had a lens on it as big around as my thigh. Of course that means there’s something there so we stopped too. At the base of this hill, in a little grassy area right next to a stream was a female moose laying down and according to the people there, she was in labor. She’d pant hard, look at her behind, and relax. And do it again a few minutes later. Unfortunately we had no way of knowing how much longer it would be and didn’t have time to stand around to wait. Back in the car. On the road called “Moose-Wilson”, now I know why. Driving through the mountains on a rutted, dirt road, feeling like we were the only ones around is pretty cool. Another bend and we’re out of the trees, and in another field, we spy another female moose out for lunch. We were really excited. For a short visit, we saw quite a lot!

this is the mama moose we saw. I wasn’t nearly as close as it seems, I zoomed in to get a better look at her.

The weather was perfect for our entire trip. And then it was time to come home. Another 14 hour travel day. Did I mention the hail storm? Yep, the airport where our car was parked had a hailstorm blow thru and my car got some hail damage. Judging from the size of the dents, I”m glad the windows weren’t shattered!

Now comes the really incredible part. I didn’t say anything while we were gone b/c I totally didn’t want to jinx it. I think you may have read my posts about previous vacations. Something always went wrong. Be it delays and missed connections, or a puking kid. Not once were we able to take a trip without something going wrong and vomit playing a role in our trip. I waited until we were home and did my own little happy dance. Minus the missing jacket, a skinned knee (my boy) and a fat lip ( my girl during a game of hide & seek in the dark), our trip went perfectly! I was so freaking thrilled! Little blessings, I know. But hey, I’ll take them when I can get them!

Did you notice the title? “Part I”? things went so well the first time around, and with all the vacation hubby’s got to burn (plus a bonus!) we’re taking kids to Florida next month! I so hope I can share good things with you all about our trip then too! That would make my freaking year! How sad is it when you’re thrilled about no one puking?

One last shot, me and my honey.

Me and my honey at Signal Mtn, behind is us the Grand Tetons and Jackson Lake. Stunning. Our thing is the arm stretch, he’s gotten quite good, don’t you think?

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Observations from a Driver on the Street

Hello again, my friends. I wanted to take a break from the lifestyle posts and share some of my recent observations. Just a quick word on my current location. I’m in a city in the midwest (or south central, it’s been described both ways) population about 500,000 of the craziest hillbilly drivers you’ve ever seen. Although, on a trip to Cozumel, I did see things I”ve never seen anywhere else. For example, a flat-bed Nissan pick-up with plastic lawn chairs in the back, Cozumelino taxi? Or on the same trip, we rented the worst POS we’d ever been in, neither of the seatbelts worked, the windows almost rolled up, the sunroof was permanently retracted which would be a problem in the case of a sudden downpour, and the brakes kinda sorta almost worked. It was fun and frightening all at once! We were driving the one road that goes all the way around the island and saw a Nissan Sentra with about 9 ppl packed inside! I’m all for ride sharing and all, I’m just happy it wasn’t me piled in that can of sardines on wheels!

I will tell you now, some of these things are not only what I see, but are serious, true pet peeves of mine. The kind that drive me to swear like a sailor (only in the absence of little ears).

Today, was really idiots on the road day. Twice today, on the same 1 mile stretch of road, I was witness to some really astonishing displays of the lack of brains and common sense required for a driver’s license. TWICE.

In the morning, I was driving east on an arterial street taking my son to school. We were sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change when an older Range Rover (going north) blasts through the intersection and instantly slams on the brakes in the middle of the intersection, just as the left turn arrow for the left turn lane on my street turned green. As I’m shaking my head and kindly asking this person what the H-E-double hockey sticks he was doing, he proceeds to slam the car into reverse and go back to where he should’ve stopped. I’m thinking why on earth is this knucklehead doing this? Why didn’t he just totally blow the light and keep going? Then I saw why. It was a cop car, in the lane beside said knucklehead. Dude drove past a cop to run a light, but thought better of it and stopped and only halfway ran it. Hmmm, I wonder, do you get a ticket if you only halfway run a light? As we drove past, i saw windows down and words being exchanged. It was all I could do to shut off my rubber neck instinct to see what was going to happen. Alas, I will never know, damned school start times!

later in the day, on my way to pick my boy up from school, more idiocy. I suppose I must point out two things: it’s the last Friday of the month, and this street is about a mile, maybe less, from the nearest police station. Although I saw more police vehicles today than I’ve seen in months. Sorry, so we’re on our way to pick up my boy, half mile from the intersection of the previous display of no-brainers on parade when I see a motorcycle cop w/a car stopped. Except this idiocy goes in two parts. The car that got busted, rather than driving the 50 ft to turn onto a residential street and get off the main arterial street and out of traffic, this knucklehead stops, in the lane of traffic. I know, i know. I have a feeling, I’m not the only one who was cussing him. It was in the opposing direction, so it didn’t slow me down at all. anyway, I’m assuming the cop told the dipstick to drive on and turn the corner because as people were just beginning to go around them, they started to move. Are you ready, here comes  the kicker. Grampa on his scooter. Yes, he was at least my mother’s age (mid-70’s) driving his scooter in the turn lane….wait for it…..right next to the cop, who was driving in the lane of traffic. He had a look of determination that I’ve seen before, but it normally involves a toilet and intense concentration, if you know what I mean. He was bound and determined he was gonna get past that cop, he was refusing to look over there, as if he could ignore him and he’d go away! when I was passing them, I saw the cop with his head turned toward gramps and once again, there were words being exchanged. Blast it all, school dismissal, once again, I was robbed of seeing the outcome! Oh well, at least it wasn’t me, right?

things that drive me crazy: people who insist on pulling out in front of you….and going…this….slow….when there’s not a blessed soul behind you for at least a quarter mile.

People who drive in the fast lane, going the speed limit.

people who don’t turn off their turn signal, ever. They look like they should be going in a circle, rather than a straight line.

People who ride my bumper, thinking that will make me go faster than the above-the-speed-limit-speed I”m already going.

People who put on their turn signal to turn and slow down, 100 yards before their turn.

People driving in the outside lane on the highway/freeway who won’t move over a lane to let me on, when they totally could (and yes, I do this every time I can, it’s called courtesy).

So….what have you seen lately?

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Sam’s Lemon Crunch Cookies

O.M.G! I have a new fave!  And I have to tell you, Sam is the innkeeper in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, not Sam as in ‘Sam’s Club’. They don’t share recipes. And I have a feeling if they did, they wouldn’t be 4 ingredients! We enjoyed a wonderful stay with Sam and Jeff last weekend. When we checked in, a plate of these were sitting on the bed waiting for us. These cookies are very lemony and have a surprising little crunch to them.  I’ve never had anything like them and I’m sure you’ll love them too if you like lemon!

Mmm! I have a new favorite!

Sam’s Lemon Crunch Cookies

1 pkg lemon cake mix

1 egg

1 C crisp rice cereal

1 stick butter melted

1. melt butter. preheat oven to 350F.

2. mix all ingredients, including butter. dough will be rather thick and stiff.

3. place in 1-1/2 tsp balls on ungreased cookie sheet. bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. 8 if you want softer cookies, longer if you like crispier cookies.

4. store in an airtight container to maintain chewiness.

Seriously, 4 ingredient cookies? Count me in! If you want them a bit more lemony, you can add some lemon zest or lemon extract.

Thanks Sam! These are wonderful!

You can find out more about Sam and their beautiful Circa 1884 Victorian B&B in Eureka Springs here www.bridgefordhouse.com

It’s a wonderful place to stay for a nice relaxing weekend.

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