Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hotshots Memorial State Park

Suzanne planned a day for us and as usual, I just joined in after she did all the planning and work. I love that about her, she likes to plan and I like to show up. So Suzanne, Penny and I took off early on Wednesday morning, December 28th.

Suzanne planned a hike in a newest State Park in Arizona which just opened earlier in December --The Granite Mountains Hotshot Memorial State Park. The park is up near Yarnell and it doesn't resemble a 'park' in any sense. It is a small parking lot dug out of the mountain beside the edge of Highway 89 with some informational kiosks, a port-a-potty, and a trail that starts right up the mountain. The mountain looks a bit daunting at first, but we found the trail had been designed with wide switchbacks that made the hike do-able. It was moderately hard not because it was overly strenuous, but because it was all uphill to the look-out site. Sometimes it's hard to judge a hike by a written description so we weren't sure if it would be in our range of ability and fitness. But it was enjoyable.

The hike is 2.85 miles out to the lookout with a 1200 foot elevation gain, then an additional .75 miles down to the actual memorial site where the firefighters passed away. We got to the lookout, but some other hikers told us the trail down that last section was especially muddy and slippery, so we enjoyed the lookout site and took some time to enjoy the view, read the signs and eat our lunch.

Here's what was heartwarming about the hike. The trail leads to the site where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013, and the trail honors the fallen men. Granite plaques honoring each one are placed every 600 feet along the trail. The plaques show a picture and a written biography of each of the firefighters. The emotion of seeing and reading these memorial plaques along the way made this a very different hike, much different than a simple walk in the hills.

Suzanne had an especially emotional reaction when the tragedy happened. There's a comment on her facebook page. A friend of her's: "That day was so sad . . . still is."  Suzanne: "Agreed. We went to the Fourth of July parade in Prescott less than a week after it happened. They had 19 riderless horses go through with boots backwards in the stirrups and the names of each on the horse. Everyone stood in silence in tribute. It still chokes me up every time I even think about it."

The area is pretty, the views were spectacular, there was a bit of snow lingering near the top and the weather was perfect. We were plenty warm just wearing a flannel shirt.

We very much enjoyed our day, tired and a bit sore for the evening, but so glad we went. We drove from Yarnell to Prescott for dinner then back home to the valley.

We could keep track of our progress by tracking the names on the plaques as we hiked. 
They were mounted along the trail in order of rank.

A few of the granite plaques along the hiking trail.

It was a nice clean trail most of the way, but got a bit snowy and muddy near the top.

It was a little eerie to walk by burned out trees and shrubbery 3 1/2 years after the fire.

This was the actual site where the hotshots passed away, as seen from the viewing site. It's a 3/4 mile hike down. At the time of the tragedy, a group of firefighters had already created a memorial on the site. When the state bought the land, there were 19 iron crosses on the ground marking where each man's body was found. The design committee decided to leave them there and design a rough circle of gabion baskets and chain to surround the crosses.

Note: No matter what we do, Penny always looks cool, calm and collected. Suzanne and I look like we've been hiking. Penny's hair is perfectly in place and lipstick still on.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

December 2016

Well this sad little blog needs some attention. I haven't written a thing for a year. I have enjoyed making the blog entries into a hard cover book at the year's end in the past, like a family yearbook. So I'm going to start up again. It's early in January, but instead of starting with today, I'm going to jump back and re-cap part of our December. It was a fun month.
Chronologically, here we go.
Dave built another float and was in the Electric Light parade. According to my calculations, he has been in this parade 10 years now.

My brother Curtis got married. Curtis and Laura are a great match and the wedding was unconventional and fun. Curtis sang to Laura as she entered the venue-- very sweet --  and Dave performed the ceremony (his first as a newly ordained Bishop).

Our annual Bookclub Christmas party was (and always is) so fun. Suzanne hosted at her house this year. We had a cozy sit down dinner and a fun gift exchange. We all bring 3 book related items or gifts inspired by something we read this year, then draw names and exchange the gifts.  These were my awesome gifts I came home with. My initial, cut out of a hard cover book!

The photo doesn't do these gifts justice. The pages were removed from this book, a zipper added, and it opens up to a silk lined bag/container. Awesome!

These were made by my friends (members of bookclub)! I always like bookclub. I look forward to it every month.

We made a short visit to New Orleans. I'll make a separate post about that trip.

Dave took the youth Christmas caroling on his parade float. It is an annual traditional now.

Roxanne and Jonny were going to spend Christmas with Jonny's family in California, and Melanie is moving away shortly after Christmas, so we decided to have a faux Christmas Eve a week early. We ate in the living room by candlelight next to the Christmas tree, exchanged presents, enjoyed a pleasant evening. I love family holidays! Brady wasn't with us this year, he was terribly missed.

The next week, the real Christmas Eve, we decided to go out to eat. We went to "A Different Pointe of View" up at the Pointe Resort. It was beautiful. We had reservations at 5:30 so we were able to see the sun go down and the city lights come on. The food was good, the service was good. Suzanne was the one who suggested that restaurant, and without talking to each other, we both made reservations there at the same time. Us with our family, and her with friends.

After dinner, we drove through the Moon Valley area looking at amazing Christmas light displays in the residential neighborhoods there.

Christmas morning was wonderful. Christmas fell on Sunday this year. We decided to relax and sleep in a bit today. We got up and went to church at 9, our ward choir did most of the program, and it was very sweet. It was nice to spend the morning with our ward family. The kids spent the night here and went to church with us.
After church ended, we came home and enjoyed a day together eating tamales, opening presents, cooking together, playing games and eating all day. Melanie has a new boyfriend who spent part of the day with us too. 

Overall, another wonderful Christmas season. 

On the 28th, Suzanne and Penny and I planned a hike up near Yarnell, I'll write a separate post for that, then on New Year's Eve, we (our YW Presidency) talked the YM presidency into taking on the food service at the New Years eve dance for the youth this year, and we took the night off. In our defense, we did plan, purchase and prep all the food, then handed it over to them to actually attend. Then Dave and I put on our jammies, put in a movie and relaxed all evening. Melanie was not impressed that we planned and looked forward to just that. She was off partying all night. She and Chris had 3 events they were going to pop in to. 

So that's our December 2016. It was a good year overall and we are looking forward to 2017. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Orleans

Dave and I made a quick trip to New Orleans. It was a very nice birthday present from Dave. A few months ago on my actual birthday, it was an odd and boring day (we planned to celebrate it later in the week as a family). Then on the day we planned a b-day activity, it didn't quite go all smooth. I'd give it an 'A' for effort, but 'meh' for actual activity and celebration, I picked a blah activity and everyone was tired, and there was some moodiness amongst the group. Then the following Sunday, Dave pulled a surprise gift together for me. He researched 4 or 5 different cities and had suggestions for activities in each city. He said "Pick one and let's just go explore for 2 or 3 days!".  I picked New Orleans, partly because I've always wanted to see it, partly because it had moderate weather in the winter, (we would have wanted to wait for better weather for some of the other suggested cities), and partly because the time we wanted to visit the city, it was dressed for the holidays and it was off season. We're not interested in Mardi Gras, so the off season was perfect. We stayed in a beautiful Astor Crowne Plaza in the French Quarter, took a bus or walked most places we wanted to go. We went on a dinner cruise on the Mississippi, visited a Katrina museum, ate fried alligator, looked at Mardi Gras float displays, toured Oak Alley Plantation, enjoyed street musicians, went on a swamp tour, held an alligator, visited a couple of eateries featured on 'Diners, Drive ins and Dives', walked through a park and enjoyed 'Celebration in the Oaks' with light displays all through the park, saw Lake Pontchartrain in the dark. shopped, ate beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde, and walked along the Mississippi. Then on Saturday, we started getting notifications from the Airlines saying our flight was being postponed, which meant that we'd miss our connecting flight (there was crazy winter weather all over the northwestern states, which affected air traffic everywhere). We tried to resolve it over the phone, but ended up just having to go to the airport earlier than we planned and solve it. In the end, we were supposed to get home at 10:30 in the evening, then we were going to miss our connection and maybe not get home at all, then we booked got on another flight and we were going to get home at 2:55 a.m., then changed and we'd get home at 1, then the airlines got an empty plane to come from Atlanta to pick up our group and take us non-stop to Phoenix. We finally got home at 12:30. Crazy night, but a great trip overall.

 New Orleans at Christmastime

Mardi Gras Float Displays


Tour of the steam boat engine room. Dave always likes to know how things work.

Swamp Tour!

Beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde

Dave had a picture of this on the wall by his desk for years - a picture that 
inspired him (a dream board sounds corny, but it was kind of a dream board). 
Twenty years later, here we are standing in front of it! 


Isn't he cute? 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Overheard on Christmas -- 2015

At the dinner table, Christmas eve, Jonny interrupts the conversation and says: "Can I talk about an important family matter?" Roxanne looks at him, worried for what he might be bringing up as serious family business during our Christmas Eve celebration. Jonny "What time are we all getting up tomorrow morning?  The last time I spent Christmas here, I was too new to the family to have a say in this matter, but I was sorely disappointed at how late this family sleeps on Christmas morning!"  (note: we have no children in the family at this particular juncture in time. The youngest person at the table is 23).  After a long and heated (and hilarious) debate, with an earlier hour almost decided, Brady says "Wait, why are the early birds calling the shots here?"
(in the end, 7:00 a.m. was agreed on, but 8:15 was the actuality)

I made the kids practice and sing a new song all together for Christmas Eve. It had a little harmony.
Roxanne: "Were you singing the main melody?"
Kyle: "I have NO idea."

Kyle (opening gifts of art supplies).
Jonny: "Are you taking up art for real?"
Kyle: "Yes, You should see our kitchen table"
Jonny:  "You painted your kitchen table??"

Referring to one of Brady's gifts, a Mechanical Engineering reference book:  "I'll bet it took a Mechanical Engineer to figure out how to bind that thing."

Still discussing Brady's very large reference book: "What's in it? We could open it to any page and we could discuss. I'll bet we could look up flux capacitors!"

Numerous uses for napkin rings.

Handing someone a present: "Hold this upright."
"Why? Is it a lizard or something?"

Trying to guess what is in a package.
"You know what it is, right? Think hard."
"You don't need to think hard, You can just open it, you know."

Taking too long to open a package. "Hurry up! Can you just bite through that cellophane, please?"

Guessing presents:
"I knew it was candy! I squeezed one until it broke."

To Brady and Stephanie:
"You got a lot of textbooks!"
Brady: "We're kind of lame."

Dave found a roll of excessively glittered wrapping paper that he used excessively in his wrapping.
"Aaaaahh! There's glitter all over me!"
"Pass this package over to Rachel"
"YOU pass it to Rachel, I don't want that glitter on me!"
"We need Hazmat suits!"

Gift opened - Viva la Juicy perfume.
"I need some Viva la Manly!"

Hollering: "Thank You Santa!!!"
"Santa's already in bed. He can't hear you"

Frustration, having a hard time opening a box.
"There's a mechanical engineer here that can help you out with that."
"There's a garbage can that is about to help me out with this!"

"I just got a text from your Dad" (Dave is across the room)

 Jonny never writes actual names on the gifts that he gives, this one is from himself to Roxanne:
"To: the new homeowner, From: the guy who inherits the whole house if you die"

A present to keep someone in? or keep someone out . . . we don't know. 

We had tamales, handmade by Jonny, for breakfast.
"Mexican Tamales!"
"He's only half Mexican you know, he grew up on the beach in southern California, so take that into consideration."

"I've always had a fear of a break-in on Christmas Eve"
"As long as they don't take the tamales. I'd rather the presents be gone than the tamales!"


Looking in stocking: "There's a LOT of candy in here -- Thanks!"
"Honey, it's Christmas morning. SANTA brought that."
"Santa LOVE me!"

"Model your new coat for us Dave!"
"Heel . . . and toe . . . and turn . . . and pose!"
"It's got glitter all over it!"

Talking to Melanie (on her mission) on a Skype video call.
Melanie: "There are some things, worldly things, that I need to know. I don't have access to the internet."
"We'll give you any world news you need, Ready - go"
Melanie: "Ok, In the Tarzan movie, what is the name of Tarzan's little friend?"
"What??   . . . Terk?"
Melanie: "Yes! Thank you! Things get into my brain, and I have no way to research!"

Melanie: "Czechs are hard, until you crack them. When you get past their hard exterior, then they kiss your cheeks and rub your arms."


We had a scheduled 45 minute visit with Melanie in the Czech Republic. We had our computer hooked up to the TV so we all could chat with her on Skype. This is what she opened with. (btw - it's hard to have Christmas with 'almost' everyone home. It was good to see she was happy and healthy. This visit warmed my heart.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Conversation with my European daughter in the middle of the night.

Funny conversation with Melanie today - it went in so many directions, I could hardly keep up. She usually gets to a computer to e-mail mid afternoon on Mondays (7a.m. our time) and she has limited computer time each week, but today she was on earlier in the day and my phone started beeping with her e-mails coming in at 1 a.m. our time. I was in bed, but I picked up my phone to watch her messages and pictures come in. I usually don't chat with her, but I read this:

1:03 a.m. Melanie: "MOM! I need you ...
I need recipes Can you help?"

1:05 a.m. Me: "Good Morning! What recipes? I'll get them right now before I go back to sleep."

1:07 a.m. Melanie: "Here are the pictures you asked for, will any of these work?" (sending picture attachments to me as we chat, I asked for a good picture for our family Christmas card this year)

1:09 a.m. Me: "Roxanne and I were just talking about using green for our photos. How did you know? Perfect selection. Thank you! You are beautiful in every one of them!  So. . . what recipes?"

1:11 a.m. Melanie: "You're so great. We are doing a huge Thanksgiving with our little branch. It is the second time ever doing it and sorry this is last second but the Czechs are sort of last second people .... so......that's fine. 
We will need:
Dad's cinnamon rolls
How to make Gravy
Peanut butter
And tips for baking a turkey. In an oven. (I don't know why I signed us up for this. once again we are being prepared for the future here out on the mission!)"

(Note - Melanie is competent in the kitchen, but doesn't have a large skill set with proteins and for sure has never roasted a turkey! As a missionary, she has limited time to shop, research, gather supplies, and cook.)

1:12 a.m. Me: "Are you getting back on line later today? Dad is sound asleep but he will be getting up in about 5 hours. I don't know what cinnamon roll recipe he uses but he can get it to you when he wakes up. 
And. . . Making peanut butter? What? Can't you buy that?"

1:15 a.m. Melanie: "oh! sorry. I meant PB cookies. 
And yes, we will be back on briefly at 4 or 4:30 today so that is fine."

So I get up and start searching recipes from the internet for her. The only way I have cooked a turkey is in a Turkey Oven Bag, Since she will not have access to what I use, I start googling, copying, pasting, and sending: "Baking a Turkey, easy method"  and  "How to make gravy, easy method"  and "Basic Peanut butter cookies".  

1:19 a.m. send recipe for cookies

1.20 a.m. Melanie: "Here are some more pictures, do you like the ones with or without the hat?"

1:22 a.m. send instructions for baking a turkey
1:24 a.m. send instructions for making gravy

1:24 a.m. Me: I'll have to wait til we take our family picture and see which one looks best with one of yours so they match on our card.

1:25 a.m. Me: For the gravy, make this Giblet stock if you have time, otherwise buy chicken stock or chicken broth or bouillon.
You'll need to pull out the neck and giblets from the turkey (usually packed inside in wax paper)
1 turkey neck
Turkey giblets
5 cups water
INSTRUCTIONS . .  .(etc)

1:28 a.m. Melanie: "please define giblets. Thank you !!"

1:29 a.m. Melanie: "Mom, I can't remember the dropbox password"

1:33 a.m. Me: (internet definition search) "Giblets refers to the little bundle of parts sometimes found inside the cavity of a bird, such as chicken or turkey. Usually the giblets includes the neck the gizzard (a muscle that grinds up food before it enters the digestive system - think of it as a second stomach), the heart, and the liver."

1:34 a.m. Send password

1:35 a.m. Melanie: "good glory mother! Thank you for that definition!"

1:35 a.m. Me: "You boil them, it gets all the flavor into the water, then discard the solids and you have a wonderful liquid to make gravy with. 
If you are buying a turkey, find out how they are sold. If you buy a frozen turkey (that's about the only way to buy them here) it takes DAYS to thaw out in a fridge. Buy it TODAY!. "

1:36 a.m. Melanie: "Here's one more picture of me - but I don't like this one. It makes me look funny."

1:36 a.m. Melanie: I'm afraid dropbox hates me. Its not working at all. Does it work for you? sorry you're doing this in the middle of the night. I love you! (All during this conversation, she was also trying to download her camera memory card onto my dropbox account) 

1:41 a.m. Melanie: "as far as we know, we will get the turkey (assuming it is thawed) on Thursday afternoon and we are to cook it all Thursday night for the party on Friday evening. Pray for us !!"

1:45 a.m. Melanie: "Mom, I had to reset the password, can you confirm it on your end?"

1:46 a.m. Melanie: "Mom, WHY DOES DROPBOX HATE ME ?"

1:48 a.m. Me: (another quick internet search) How to Safely Thaw the Turkey: be sure to let your turkey completely thaw before cooking. If it was frozen through when you bought it, the turkey will thaw within a few days in the fridge, approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. For quicker thawing, place the turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes until it's thawed.

1:50 a.m. Me:  "Ahh, maybe because I am signed in? my computer stays signed in. I just logged off, try it now."

1:52 a.m.  Melanie:  "Dropbox works now. Enjoy the pictures I'm sending you."

1:56 Melanie: "YOU ARE A MIRACLE WOMAN!!!
Thank you mother dearest. We have all instructions needed to successfully celebrate Thanksgiving. 
You are the best, now go to bed :) I love you dearly. Sweet dreams."

1:59 a.m. Melanie: "P.S.  I will be using personal funds for the thanksgiving recipes but the branch will reimburse me meaning the reimbursement will go in my pocket since I have no way to transfer funds back to you. It shouldn't be a lot. just expect that on the credit card. You will be blessed for your sponsorship."

2:02 a.m. Me:   "Good night Mel. I'm turning off my phone so I don't hear the 'ding' every time a picture downloads, so I hope you don't have any more questions. I love you and we WILL pray for your Thanksgiving feast to be a success." 

I was not quite expecting to be sitting at my computer in the middle of the night frantically searching for written instructions on "baking a turkey" , but now I'm very anxious for next Monday's e-mail letter for the results of "The Great Czech Republic  American Thanksgiving Feast of 2015" 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

yuki matsuri

We came to Japan for many reasons, but the reason we came in bitter cold February is for the "Yuki Matsuri" Snow Festival. The festival started in the 1950's when some high school students built some over the top snow statues, then later the local military groups joined forces and started building massive snow sculptures. It has become a yearly event with up to 400 snow and ice sculptures and brings in well over a million visitors each year. Even years when accumulated snowfall is low, snow is brought in from outside Sapporo and the festival goes on.
There is a live snow statue competition built by teams from other countries. There is a design or drawing in front of the workspace so you can see what the eventual sculpture will be and it is fun to see the ongoing carving. Sapporo's sister cities are often involved including Munich Germany and Portland Oregon. There were 10 countries competing this year. Apparently Hawaii isn't considered part of the US because there was a Hawaii team and a US team.
The festival is held in Odori Park - a big park one block wide by maybe 10 or 12 blocks long right in the middle of the enormous city of Sapporo. There were sculptures, stages, performances, ski and snow board demonstrations, kiosks for souvenirs and trinkets, food vendors, commercial booths etc etc. Another part of town hosted the ice sculptures and carvings. They are much like you would see at a fancy wedding or bar mitzvah, or on a cruise ship buffet, but larger than life. Many were commercially sponsored and had a product themed design. The third area of the festival was a playground for families and kids. Slides built of snow, mazes for the kids to go through, zip lines, games and again food, food, food. 

These are built larger than life out of compressed snow. Amazing to see during the day, then light shows transform them at night.

Here's what's weird. The population of this entire country wears dark and conservative colors and clothing styles. Everywhere we went, every single day. Then we came to this park geared for families and all their toddlers wore adorable prints and fantastic colors!  At what age do they put these away and vow to wear only black and tan for the rest of their lives?