Thursday, November 29, 2012

Giving Thanks

We went to Montana to visit my mom for Thankgsiving. Like Lewis and Clark, we took a bit of time to explore the Missouri River. First up, a little geology.

K's mom was just teaching us about "concretions" earlier this summer! Those are the potato shaped rocks embedded in the the river bank rock.

We noticed this pelican just hanging out, as if walking on water is easier than floating in it.

We saw plenty of "Sign of the Beaver."

We parked at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and walked to Giant Springs State Park. It takes "less than 50 years" for the water to get to Giant Springs from the Little Belt Mountains.

There was a vending machine for feeding the fish. One big handful for $.05! We splurged and spent $.10! So much fun for one thin dime!!!

Rabbit, rabbit! It must have been a great time of day for the bunnies.

There are pretty things to be seen on an autumn day.

Mom was released from the hospital awhile ago. She is doing better and getting stronger. L. was released also and is doing great! We are so thankful for that good news and thankful for all the people who love and look after Mom while we are living states away. We get so happy about all the little things, like the ability to walk along the Missouri River. Not such a little thing afterall. Eyes with which to see bunny rabbits, ears to hear the spring water bubbling up and cascading down... So much to celebrate! We dined at Wheat Montana and brought some things home from their store. We spent the night with Suz in Sugar City, Idaho--so great to have her all to ourselves for a few hours, but not enough time to ask her all the questions that run through my mind. On the way to Idaho, we passed through a part of Yellowstone and stopped to switch drivers. Snow in Yell. No surprise there! The red and orange shrubs along the river were outstanding against the white snow. Wonders everywhere to make your heart sing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eight is NOT Enough!

We recently celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. What a blessing it has been to have been married to Mr. K for these moments, days, weeks, and years. He continues to impress! I never would have pegged him as someone to order an edible arrangement, and yet he did, and there it is, photographed on the kitchen counter. Nope, eight is not enough anniversaries, however, I shall always be grateful that we've had at least that many.

Another lovely thing he did was take our wedding rings back to the jeweler to get cleaned and shined. They are so sparkly! Everyone knows how a ring is a symbol. For us, getting them cleaned and shined (what's the term...plated?) is a symbol in and of itself--sort of an inventory about how we're treating our marriage and each other. With daily wear and tear, our rings will wear down a bit and lose that sparkle. The same thing can happen to a marriage unless you pause occasionally to check in and see how things are going. Thankfully, K has really embraced that big idea of "wholesome family recreation" to ensure we're spending time together, talking and walking and working on things so that the memories and happy times are always there. I really appreciate that about him.

We were lucky enough to attend the temple on our special day. That was a peaceful, pleasant time of reflection and joy. We were so smiley and happy and K kept giving me little kisses on my forehead. I will never regret getting married in the right place by the right authority.

This year, our anniversary dinner took place at...Wallaby's! Wallaby's is the restaurant we hired to cater our wedding luncheon. We are not fancy people and yet we wanted to have some kind of a luncheon, so we chose them to cater it. They drove all the food clear out to Eagle Mountain and set it up in the middle of the cultural hall at the local chapel. Our guests LOVED it!!! Some of them still talk about it! I guess folks were expecting more of a hoity-toity luncheon with watercress sandwiches and delicately sliced fruit on petite plastic plates, but no, we fed them heartily: plenty of smokehouse pulled pork, fully loaded mashed potatoes known as Smashers, fresh hot rolls, and green salad. That was it and yet the guests were raving about it. There was a lot of food, so everyone who wanted more got more. I decided to order the exact same meal and it tasted just as good as it always has.

The anniversary comes but once a year and then we move on to other holidays and events. What a privilege it is for me to have K by my side as we continue walking straight into our bright and happy future. To quote a band, "These are the moments, these are the times, these are the best days of our lives!"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cake and Presents

But first, a photo taken from inside my classroom of a visiting soldier bailing out of one of the playground swings. My students loved it. Go Army!

Now on to the cake. My husband loves cake. He grew up in a home where cake was a big deal--only for birthdays. His mom worked so hard on each cake! She bought special pans molded into special shapes and she spent hours decorating the darn things. I've seen lots of family photos and the discussion goes something like this, "Was that the year we had the Garfield cake?" Eventually, my husband grew up and moved away to college at which time he began cooking for himself.

One day, he took a closer look in the baking aisle and discovered (as in LO! and BEHOLD!) cake mixes. And frosting. Many flavors of instant frosting. And so cheap. So he read the directions on the back of the cake mix and found out this: so easy! He couldn't believe that it was so cheap and so easy to make a cake. With frosting and everything. And since then, he's been in love. Mostly with frosting. He may have even felt a teensy bit betrayed that his mother had kept this secret from him his entire life. So he went home, baked a cake, frosted it, and enjoyed every bite. He's been a fan ever since.

The first time he invited me to his apartment for dinner, he served cake for dessert and I must say, I was rather impressed that the man cooked, actually served a VEGETABLE, and had cake for dessert. One he obviously had made himself. Not bad.

A couple of weeks ago, he made a cake. It was a strawberry cake with pink frosting. He told me they have this new vanilla frosting that's already colored pink (or you can buy it in blue). It came with sprinkles, so, bonus! After the cake cooled, he asked me to frost it, because I like to take time making swirls and stuff. I decided to take pictures. I proclaimed to my husband, "Well, either we're headed for a baby shower or Easter dinner at Grandma's!

Now for the presents. At risk of spoiling the surprise here on my blog, I'm going to distribute these along with our class cookbook as we head out the door for Thanksgiving Break. It's one of the ingredients in the recipe that I'm submitting. Each one of us had to choose a favorite recipe/food and write an essay about "the story behind the recipe." I love reading why these children love these foods! One boy wrote what I thought was a charming little essay about how Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup just hits the spot, especially right after swimming. He explained how to open the can, mix the water, etc. However, his mother emailed and revealed that she had found the paper I sent home with guidelines for this project in his closet behind his laundry hamper! She made him do it over and his recipe is now an actual cook-from-scratch recipe.

It was soothing to be able to sit on the couch for awhile next to my husband on a rainy Saturday and tie a few ribbons around cute little bags. These small moments and tasks are part of the happiness in my life!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chip and Dale

I remember some sort of television cartoon from my me out. I believe it was two rodents, possibly squirrels, who were so incredibly polite to each other that it was funny. At least to me. I believe they were forever insisting that the other go first, and they were full of "thank you, after you, and pardon me." I believe their names were Chip and Dale. Does anyone else remember this cartoon?

Mom hasn't been especially well, especially lately. I began getting phone calls from my sibs about ten days ago. There was a doctor appointment in place until the weather became too severe to travel. We all worried, but couldn't change the weather.

A few days ago, at 10:30 p.m., my phone rang and I said aloud, "That's not good." It was a sister telling me she got a phone call from the ambulance crew. Right after that, another sister called telling me she got a phone call from another ambulance crew. And since then, we've all been getting and making a whole lot of phone calls.

Mom has a significant Significant Other named L. He is so amazing, that sometimes we refer to him as Saint L.! Well, St. L started having chest pains and a call went in to 911. The ambulance arrived to load him up and help him out. However, L. wasn't about to leave Mom alone. Mom was so worried about L. that her breathing, which has already been compromised, became worse and the EMT's could see that she also needed help, so they called a second ambulance. That's when the argument ensued. "You go first, I'll wait." "No, I'm fine, you go first." "No, I'll be okay, you need to get going now." Et cetera. Isn't that hilarious? The EMT's settled the score and took L. first since that's what the 911 call was about. The roads were horrible. Horrible. They advised my sisters to stay put, but Eldest went barreling off to the hospital anyway. It only took her three and a half hours to get there.

L's ambulance crew called Baby Sister and so she naturally asked if they had any information on Mom. The only thing the woman could tell Baby Sister was that Mom was being "cantankerous." Yeah, they had to strap her down to keep her from ripping her mask off. That's our mom! L. had a heart attack and they put a stent in. They are both still in the hospital and it looks like L. will be released first, possibly today. Mom has more healing to do.

I just think it's fantastic that two people care enough about each other that even during a medical emergency, they can both sputter niceties such as, "Oh no, after you, I insist!"

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mojave Magic

Mister Park Ranger drove out to California to attend the annual ANPR conference, more popularly known as Ranger Rendezvous. We still like each other a lot, so he begged me to join him. I flew into Long Beach on Halloween.

Have you ever flown on Halloween? Not too bad. It was a very "open" flight. I must say it was a sweet ride with Jet Blue for less than eighty bucks. AND...they served Caramel flavored Popcorners, my new favorite snack.

It was only my second time flying into Long Beach which seems to be a quick and handy airport. It's all outdoors--you get off the plane outside, deplaning at the rear of the aircraft, you go to the restroom in these little facilities outside, you claim your baggage fact, I'm pretty sure the Long Beach Airport doesn't really exist. I'm beginning to think it's a plywood wall built on top of a big piece of tarmac to make people think it's an actual airport, but it's not. It's just a big parking lot for planes to unload their passengers with a rental car facility nearby, after you successfully walk all the way around the plywood wall (because they want you to suppose there's an airport on the other side of the wall, but you never get to go in to said airport, which is why you realize there's no such thing as an airport in the middle of this big parking lot for jets). I swear, it's a California Conspiracy! Anyway, there was my darling husband, smiling, kissing, hugging, ready to whisk me away for lots of fun.

We drove off toward the desert and began to chat. K asked, "So, did you meet anyone, sit by anyone interesting, or talk to anyone?" I paused to reflect. I began, "No, not really, but a man in Salt Lake dropped something and when I brought his attention to it, he picked it up and yelled out to me, 'Oh, THANK YOU, I LOVE you!!!'" K laughed. Then he asked, "Wait, was he skinny with long bleach blonde hair and carrying a red briefcase?" I replied, "Yes, do you know him?" K chuckled and said, "He must have been the first guy off your plane because when he came through he stopped and yelled out, 'HelLOOOOOOOOO California!!!'"

K got to stay at a very nice resort in Indian Wells called the MiraMonte. And...he got to stay there for the "ranger rate." The conference was closing the following morning so I slept in while he attended. At break time, he came to get me and I sat in on the two closing speakers of the rendezvous. Wonderful talks. Kept my mouth shut since I'm not a member. I also got to see some other rangers that I know from my own NPS experiences. Rangers are the best!

We headed off to play. First stop, Indian Wells Tennis Garden. We got a free personal tour. Paulette grabbed the keys and gladly walked us over--so nice!

Next stop, Shields Date Farm. We learned more than we ever knew before about palm dates. They are a lot of work. Of course, we bought some.

Next stop, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Sorry, no actual pictures of the actual tram or ride to the top, but it's amazing. We went up to around 8,500 feet. It was a great way to cool off from the desert heat. While up there, we hiked a couple of miles to all the notches and lookouts. The Jeffery Pine, which looks a lot like a Ponderosa, has bark that smells like vanilla, so yes, we really were hugging the trees and doing a litle scratching and sniffing.

We found dinner and then headed back to the resort for a swim. This was just one of their pools and it happened to be the first thing you saw when you opened the door from our hotel room. There's a heavenly hot tub back behind the pool and we had both all to ourselves!

There are over a hundred golf courses in the Palm Springs area. We noticed a TON of pharmacies. I guess it's an older, retired population. And thus...

The next day, I finally made it to Joshua Tree National Park. I first "met" Joshua Trees while living in Nevada, but I never got up close and personal with one until now. We did a lot of desert hiking and went on a four-wheel drive geology tour in our vehicle. Of course, we found volcanic stuff again (if it weren't for volcanoes, where would the world be?). My big, big FAVORITE find of the day was the Cholla Cactus Garden. The light was beautiful in the afternoon, but I couldn't capture it all on camera. A nickname for these is "Teddy Bear Cactus" because they look so soft and fluffy. However, each visible spike has gazillions of microscopic poisonous whatevers, so you really should never touch these guys. The sign said, "If you're not a Cactus Wren, steer clear! (or something along those lines)" The other name for these guys is "Jumping Bear Cactus" because if you try to touch the Teddy Bear, you'll immediately turn into a Jumping Bear! Warnings all around to watch pets and children. Ouchie. So beautiful. Can't tell you how magical it was for us to be there. They went on FOREVER.

The following day, we drove through Joshua Tree again and saw a few different things. We were hiking along and found a sign about mortars. K had already seen these elsewhere during the service project the rangers had done a few days prior. They were very cool.

Agave? Yucca? Sorry, I can't keep it all straight. But I love the curly swirly things.

After Joshua Tree, we started heading toward Vegas via Mojave National Preserve, another NPS site. We stopped at the Kelso Depot for lunch and checked out a few sites after that. We were jealous that Bob had time for Hole in the Wall. As always, unfinished business awaits in the Mojave. K pointed out two trees growing in the crevice of a big rock. One is a Joshua Tree and one is a Juniper, so let's call them Josh and June. Who do you think will win?

K got us back in time for Church. It was great fun being two love birds sharing a little Mojave Magic together. Home really is where he is!