Friday, February 22, 2013

Mountain Ice

A Question for You: When you see ice cascading down the side of a steep, rocky mountain like a frozen waterfall, what thoughts go through your head?

We'll come back to that later, but first...

When my hubby and I got married and moved to Wyoming for the first time, one of our favorite things to do was to go driving. We would take a day (or half a day) and head out in the car with the dogs and go exploring. We liked looking for wildlife, taking pictures, getting out and hiking with the dogs, picking out places we'd like to live and so on. We haven't done a lot of that lately, for a couple of reasons: 1) Gas costs $3.21/gallon (that figure is already outdated...) 
and 2) Kids don't sit in the car for long periods of time quite as well as dogs do. But, this past Saturday was just a beautiful, clear day, and we hadn't done a family activity in a little while, so off we went! In the car with snacks, boots, hats and coats... and The Wheels on the Bus cd... we made a stop at the store for batteries for the camera and a stop for gas and we were on our way.

I refuse to bring the portable DVD player along when we do stuff like this. Sure, we usually have to endure some degree of whining, but I feel like when we go for drives like this if we just stick the kids in front of a movie for the whole time then they aren't really a part of the activity. And if there's nothing to see in the car... they will look out the windows! It is amazing how much they notice, even with as young as they are. They will comment on stuff they see and ask questions about it, ask questions about stuff that we are talking about that we saw, etc. Our son is just over three and a half, and he knew that we were driving down a road that was unfamiliar to him, because about ten minutes into the trip he started saying that he didn't know where we were going, he didn't know this road, and he was worried because he didn't know how to get back home. (Of course we reassured him that daddy knew exactly where he was going and how to get home.) Lately whenever we get in the car and start driving, he'll tell us where a certain road that we're on goes (to the storage unit, to the post office, to his friend's house, etc.), and he's rarely wrong! They really do notice more than you'd think! On our trip this day, we had stopped at one point and I was taking some pictures of a group of deer that were pretty close to the road. I was not thinking about what our daughter was doing in the backseat, but when we started to pull away she waved and said, “Bye-bye, deer!” She's not even two yet, but she can spot a deer in the sagebrush like you would not believe! (We see them regularly right beside our apartment building, so she has lots of practice. She's even spotted them on days when I have missed them!)
I took this picture right from our apartment window a few days ago:

As we drove, we saw:
Bighorn Sheep (Just some ewes this time. At this time of the year most of the rams have started to move back up into the remote mountain regions since the breeding season is finished.)

Pronghorn (I caught these critters as they were going under a fence. It was funny watching them. They lined up single file and went through one at a time.)

Mule deer

Whitetail deer, red-tailed hawks and chukars. (Sorry, I didn't get pictures of these guys.)

We also picked out a number of places that we would really like to live! We dream of having a place with a few acres so we can garden and raise a few animals and give our kids the country life like we both had growing up. There's just something about it...

The scenery was just gorgeous, especially as we got back farther into the valley. It always is... but I love it even more with all the snow on the mountains.

It was a really windy day, and one tall snow-capped mountain was covered by a haze of blowing snow. It was really wild looking.

Coming back to our previous question about the ice, I personally would think, “Wow! Look at that – how beautiful!”, or something along those lines, and then I would probably take a picture of it. In fact, that's exactly what I did do. However, there are some people in this world that see something like that and say, “Cool! Let's climb it!” Which camp are you in???

If ice climbing sounds exciting to you, you might want to come to Wyoming in winter! You may not have known that our area is a popular destination for ice climbers, but it's true – we're not just known for rodeo! As we drove, we passed by a number of vehicles parked along the road and at the trailheads. We drove through a small campground and it was pretty full – including some tenters. I mean, it was a nice day... but it was still pretty COLD (especially up in the mountains), and it was snowy – not my idea of camping weather. When we got to the end of the road, the parking lot at the trailhead there was full of vehicles. Apparently it was a great day for ice climbing. (We did find out later that it was the weekend of the annual ice climbing festival.)

We stopped there for a little while so that I could get out and take some pictures of the mountains. It was a great day for taking pictures, too! As I was exiting the car, I mentioned to my hubby that it would be neat if we could see some people ice climbing (at first glance, we didn't see anyone on the mountain). While I was snapping away, he was watching the mountain. There was one large ice formation that we could see pretty good from where we were, and after a few minutes he rolled the window down and told me that he thought he could see someone moving up there. We had forgotten the binoculars, so I zoomed my camera in as far as it would go, took a picture, then reviewed it and zoomed in even more and lo and behold...

Climbers! I'm willing to bet you didn't spot them in the picture at the very beginning... but if you did – good for you! You must have eagle eyes!

Here's a zoomed out view of where they were climbing. Pretty impressive, I think!

Those guys look pretty tiny compared to that massive mountain. And the distance they would have had to hike from the parking lot is pretty impressive in and of itself! (And this was probably one of the closer climbs to the parking lot, since it was the only one we could really see.) I wish we would have remembered to bring our binoculars. I would have liked to sit there for a little while longer and watch them climb. But, we turned around and headed back home.

We had been planning to get out of the car and go for a short walk near that parking area, let the kids tromp in the snow a little, but our son had fallen asleep and it was pretty chilly out there so we decided to skip it. An hour later, when we got home and he woke up, he was horribly disappointed. I felt so bad. I didn't know he was counting on it so much. There were tears... We'll have to get out again soon. Unfortunately the kids and I have all been battling colds for the past week or two, so we've been spending a lot of time cooped up in our little apartment. I think we're all going a little stir-crazy. Time to get healthy already!!!

So, all in all our trip took less than three hours, we drove about 100 miles round trip on pavement and gravel, we saw gorgeous scenery, people involved in extreme sports, four species of big game animals and several different types of birds... Have I mentioned that I love where I live?!?

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.”
-Psalm 95: 3-4 (NIV 1984)


Here it is – the household tips post! I've been thinking overtime about these household tips for the last few weeks. At first I couldn't think of many, but after a while I realized that I have oodles of little tips and shortcuts that I use all the time – they're just so much of a habit now that I don't even think twice about them anymore. Thanks to the people who sent in their tips, I think we've got a pretty good little list!

I hope you enjoy reading through these. If you think of any others, feel free to add them in the comment section below.

  • Wrap celery ribs in aluminum foil before you put them in the fridge. They'll stay crisp for weeks! For celery ribs that have already gone limp, cut a little off the bottom (stem) end and put them into a cup full of ice water for several hours to re-crisp them. You can then wrap them in the foil and they'll still keep for a while longer!

  • Use dish soap to remove both new and old grease stains on clothing.

  • Make your own laundry detergent.

  • Organize kid's birthday cards and notes from family and friends by punching holes in the cards and sticking them in a three-ring notebook binder. Along with this, purchase some page protectors and put special programs, bulletins or drawings in the protectors and add to the notebook.

  • When making meatloaf, meatballs, ham loaf, etc. - Take a small amount of your meat mixture and fry it in a pan so you can taste it and adjust the seasonings as necessary before you put the whole batch in the oven. This is especially useful when trying a new recipe or experimenting with new ingredients in an old recipe.

  • Use white vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner (Use about ¼ cup of vinegar to 2 gallons of water for floors. Use full strength for windows, just put in a spray bottle. You can even use old newspapers to wipe the vinegar off the windows.)

  • A Fun Kid's Activity: Pudding Painting! (I saw this on a friend's blog recently) – You use food coloring to tint instant vanilla pudding different colors, then let them “paint” with it on a clean plate (use a spoon, or fingers, whatever works!). Edible masterpieces!

  • Make your own play dough.

  • Our son loves this one – set out a number of custard cups or other small bowls, a liquid measuring cup with white vinegar, a small bowl of baking soda, spoon and liquid food coloring (in the little dropper bottles). We do this on the floor in the kitchen. He will pour a little vinegar in a custard cup, tint it the color he wants, then spoon in some baking soda. Voila! Colored bubbles!

  • Make your own vanilla extract for baking. I saw this recently online. You take some alcohol (vodka or rum) and put it in a mason jar, add vanilla bean pods and let it steep for a couple months. I'm going to try this when my current bottle of extract runs out!

  • So it's not really in style, but you can make cut off shorts from kids pants that have holes in the knees. They make great outdoor play shorts for the summer (and your preschooler doesn't care about the latest fashion, anyway).

  • Clean and save plastic containers from sour cream, gallons of ice cream, cottage cheese, etc. and reuse them for storing 1) leftovers, 2) dry food (beans, rice, flour, pancake mix...), 3) toys with multiple parts, 4) household odds & ends (nails, screws...), 5) craft supplies (beads, ribbon, crayons...), 6) homemade play dough, and many more! (It's great to reuse what would otherwise be thrown out right away, and if I forget something in the back of the fridge for two months and it becomes a science experiment – I can throw the whole thing in the trash and not feel guilty about it!)

  • Save old newspapers to use for starting campfires, as a drop cloth for messy craft projects, cleaning windows, etc.

  • Buy in bulk and freeze the extras when you can – baking supplies (chocolate chips, nuts...), shredded cheese, bread, muffins, cookies, meat, butter, etc.

  • If you have chickens and they are producing more eggs than you can use or give away, did you know you can freeze them (uncooked) for later use? They will last for up to six months in the freezer. There are several methods for how to do this – look it up!

  • When I make pancakes or waffles on Saturday morning, I always make a large batch and put the extras in the fridge or freezer for quick weekday breakfasts. To reheat, simply microwave or toast. (If you put it in the fridge, use it within a week. If you put it in the freezer, layer with waxed paper or parchment paper so they don't stick together, or freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then put them in a freezer bag.) I also make large batches of cookies and freeze them for packed lunches.

  • Finally, ENCOURAGE your little helpers!  (Even if it's sometimes messy.)

Happy (Belated) Valentine's Day

So... this is about a week late for Valentine's Day...  I had this post all ready to go last week, and then I experienced some technical difficulties, and then I got sick.  Better late than never, right?  :)

My future husband and I met for the first time in the ninth grade. My mom says that she knew they were “in trouble” when I came home from school at the beginning of the year and reported, “There's this new boy in my FFA class... Everyone gets annoyed by him, but I don't mind him.” That boy and I became pretty good friends during our first year in high school. One of my funniest memories of that year is the time when my best friend and I spent part of one class helping him to write a “love note” to an older FFA classmate he was enamored with. I still laugh when I think about it. At that point, I never could have imagined the two of us being where we are at right now.

We didn't keep in contact with each other over the summer that I remember, but when school started the next year we found that we had several classes together - which gave us even more opportunity to get to know each other. It was a few months into the school year when I found out that he was planning to ask me out. He had a class with a couple of my good friends and when he began questioning them to find out what I thought about him, of course – being the faithful sort of friends - they told me all about it. It was during lunch when they told me, I think the date was December 9th, and I remember that I could not finish my food. I think I was pretty taken aback by the fact that any boy was interested in “going out” with me. My best friend had had a boyfriend for a little while at this point, and – being young teenagers in high school – it seemed that everything anyone was talking about was who was going out with whom, and I had (until now anyway) been feeling a little left out. I remember thinking that I had never thought of him as anything more than a friend, but maybe we were such close friends that it made sense. It took several days for him to work up the nerve to ask me. However, he did not have to work up the nerve to ask other kids their opinion over that time. (This should not surprise anyone who knows him!) I recall when I was sitting in biology class beside him and I heard a classmate ask, “Did you ask her yet?” He ignored the question, and I pretended I didn't hear even though I knew exactly what he was talking about. My parents had told me that I was allowed to date after the New Year, and I believe it was December 16th when he finally called me. I said yes, but we had to wait to make it “official”. He gave me a really huge, stinky blue candle in a jar for Christmas. He was 15, I was 16. Neither of us could drive, so he used to ride his bike three miles to come to my house. We would sit on the couch in the living room listening to cds and saying which songs we liked. If it got dark before he left, my dad would drive him home. In March we held hands for the first time on a youth group trip to New York City. It was the best. :) On our first real date, sometime after he got his driver's license, we went to a restaurant and when we walked up to the host and asked him for a table for two he said, “Oh, I thought you guys were a brother and sister, waiting for your parents.” We have never forgotten that, and have laughed over it many times.

Yes, I married my high school sweetheart, the only guy I ever dated. <3 We have been married for going on eight years now. Thankfully I can say that it just keeps on getting better! It did take us a few years to learn to live with each other, though I blame that largely on the fact that we are both firstborns – opinionated and stubborn (or should I say... persistent?). :) The events of this past year have brought us closer together than ever. That's not to say that everything is fairy-tale perfect all of the time (we are human, after all), but I know that he will be there for me no matter what – and that means an awful lot. I appreciate the way he works so hard to support our family, helps out around the house and with the kids, is willing to serve others and that he keeps God first. He is a complete extrovert – my total opposite – so he's always encouraging me to step outside of my comfort zone, which can be a good thing. He keeps my life interesting... Who else could have such a knack for picking out terrible movies, making up new words or putting things away anywhere but where he found them? I think I would be pretty bored without him around! I appreciate his gifts and talents and I am proud of the way he has chosen to use them to serve the Lord. He is still my best friend. He's my hero, and I feel so richly blessed to have him in my life. 

Babe – I love you more now than I ever did before. Thanks for being such a great husband to me and an awesome father to our kids. Happy Valentine's Day!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
-1 Corinthians 13: 13

Monday, February 11, 2013


Just a reminder that this Wednesday the 13th is the deadline to send in your helpful household tips!

Then stay tuned to see what everyone came up with!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You Want to Do What?!?

Recently my hubby began taking some night classes. Any guesses what for?
Here's a hint: It involves flashing lights and sirens.
I can't believe it myself. He is taking an EMT-Basic course (and if you actually guessed that one - good for you!). He says he's always wanted to do something like this, but that's news to me! (Just further proof that there is always something new that you can learn about your spouse...) I didn't really believe he was serious when he first came to me with the idea, but he took several weeks to think and pray about it and... here we are! Frankly, I don't understand it - which is probably because I could never do it myself. I get a bit squeamish just thinking about it. I won't even look in his textbook. (Insert shiver here.) But, of course, I am glad that there are people like him who are willing and able to do such a job!
The course began in mid-January and will continue through the end of May. He has two (four hour) classes each week in the evening, with a few Saturdays thrown in. He is very busy with homework and studying between classes, so it feels like it is kinda taking over our life for the time being, but that's okay. I have been helping him study after the kids go to bed, so I am picking up a good deal of medical terminology along the way as well. Not really sure how helpful it is that I now know the name of the bump on the side of your ankle (malleolus), but anyway...
Of the group who began the course, the leaders estimate that only about 1/3 to 1/4 of them will actually complete it. In fact, there have been quite a few who have already dropped out. There are several tests throughout the course, and the students have to maintain at least an 80% average to be able to take the final exam. Their first test is coming up next week, and he has been studying very diligently. He sat on the floor at our friend's Superbowl party this last Sunday and made flashcards for pretty much the entire 4 1/2 hours. I'm praying that all his hard work pays off for him!
As far as the kids go, they are as rambunctious as ever these days. One day I plan to set up the camera and take time-lapse photos of my living room floor... At our last house we were priveleged - no, more like BLESSED - to have a large playroom in addition to our living room. Here, the living room IS the playroom. Despite the fact that almost all of the toys are stored in the kids' bedroom, which is right beside the living room, they very rarely play in there. Instead, they prefer to coat the living room floor with toys so that one cannot walk across it. Every day. On the plus side, both of them are becoming very good cleaner-uppers!
They are growing so fast these days. Both of them are outgrowing their clothes faster than I can keep up with. Our son is beginning to learn better pronunciation. He does pretty good if I remember to keep reminding him about it, but if I let it slide, so does he. This month he learned to say the "L" sound, which means that when he sings his favorite song, God is not "roaring like an ion" any more - lol. Our daughter will turn two in just a couple of months, and I feel like the "terrible twos" are making an early appearance... Okay, so it's really not that bad, but she has been quite the "stinkerwitz" these last couple of weeks. (For those who aren't sure what a stinkerwitz is - it is a PA Dutch-based term of ... endearment ... which means that a person - usually a child - is displaying naughtiness at a level that is humorous rather than punishment-inducing. A good example of this would be - a couple of nights ago, when our little girl came tearing out of the bathroom at high speed, laughing hysterically, while she pulled half the roll of toilet paper across the house. She was naughty, yes, but too cute to scold - she was having so much fun... and I just ended up laughing with her as I collected the tp off the floor.)
This week both my parents and my in-laws booked tickets to come and visit us this spring. We are all very excited, and looking forward to their visits with great anticipation! It is not that far away... but it kinda feels like forever anyway. But, seeing as how it is now February and I feel like we just hit the New Year yesterday, maybe it will go faster than I think!
Well, that's about it for my update right now. I just made some really awesome cookies with regular and white chocolate chips, toffee bits, coconut and walnuts. They are super chunky and chock full of yummy goodness... and they are fresh out of the oven... and I gotta go pour some milk to go with them...
Oh, and don't forget... please send in your tips for cooking, cleaning, housekeeping, child care, etc. (see previous post if you're not exactly sure what I'm referring to)!!! Email me at by February 13th (that's next Wednesday!).
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom."
-Isaiah 40: 28-29 (NIV 1984)