Friday, July 29, 2011

what I did on my summer vacation

We're in the home stretch.  Home looms ahead.

We LOVED Mesa Verde.  I am so glad I pushed to go there on our way back.  We spent one long afternoon at the top of the mesa and squeezed in two Ranger-led tours before staying in their lodge.  Incredible.  I think the boys were just as impressed.  There are over 600 homes built into the cliff-sides by "pre-Puebloian peoples."  (Apparently "Anasazi" is a politically incorrect term these days, meaning "ancestral enemies" and the tribes who have descended from these people don't like it to be used.)

I'm not sure what has been my favorite.  I am in love with Colorado, although the eastern half has no point in being around at all.  We drove through green mountain passes twice and felt as if they almost equaled the Beartooth Highway, although there was less snow visible.  And we still didn't see a big-horned sheep or mountain goat.  (You have tried to guess my animal photo in the last post, right?)

We were at a grocery store in Nowhere, CO when a scruffy-graying-bearded-guy-in-a-pickup (that narrows it down to all the men in the state over 40) commented on our distance from home and then nicked my plans to drive through Santa Fe.  He called it a "dusty big city" and suggested a different route.  I wish I could tell him we'd taken his advice and had a lovely drive.

The kids have been great. They've had lots to do in the car and we haven't had any "I'm bored" comments at all.  We have had to confiscate Bug's books to make him look out the window at times.  We've given them some choices-- longer but prettier, or faster and maybe time to read aloud before bed, etc., and they've usually opted for the scenic route.  We packed a huge box of books and only Bug has read more than one.  (At least we didn't fly.)

Enough chat.  Here are photos.
The photo of the Tetons that everyone must take

Out by the Snake River, looking unsuccessfully for moose
Can you see the Triceratops femur? Almost as wide as the photo, 4' long

Petroglyphs at Dinosaur National Monument
Bug and Pook working on one of many Junior Ranger badges

Long House at Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace
Goodbye National Parks.  We're on our way homeward.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

contest time!!!

I think I shall have my first ever Pook and Bug contest!  See below for details.

The boys are a bit disappointed that we haven't seen more wildlife than we have.  I think I promised them moose, which has not happened, even in the Tetons.  We have seen:

  • elk, which are all over like pigeons around Mammoth Lodge, and scattered here and there everywhere else in the park
  • bison, which I am not to refer to as buffalo without hearing Bug correct me
  • two pronghorn antelope, which are apparently not really antelope at all
  • a bear of some type, although Pook missed it.
  • prairie dogs
  • trumpeter swans in the Tetons
  • mule deer
  • llamas (yeah, they were on a ranch, but still...)

So, here is the contest.  Look at the photo below and find the animal.  Something is hiding there.  No, I don't see it either, but it's there!  Leave a guess in the comments and win a prize-ish-like-thing! (Or at least my profound admiration.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

gloop, gloop, gurgle, gurgle

When Pook was a baby we made up songs for him all the time. I made them up because I hadn't been a mom very long and didn't remember the words to kid songs I'd once known. (I never remember lyrics.) CD made them up because, well, because he liked to make them up. Sometimes, as Pook got older, he made them up on request. Among the repertoire were the Diaper Song, the Crawling Song, the Swimming Pool Song, and the Humidifier Song. Don't ask me to sing any of them, sorry. But for some reason we've just spent dinner singing (too many) of them. At this moment the kids are playing with Dominoes on the floor of our cabin while singing the Diaper Song.

Me, I have the Humidifier Song in my head. "Gloop, gloop, gurgle, gurgle goes the humidifier. Gloop, gloop, gurgle, gurgle, there it goes." (No, not Grammy material.) But unlike the kids and the Diaper Song (thank goodness not applicable these days) I have a good reason for my tune.

We've seen lots of hydrothermal features at Yellowstone. I think I was under the impression that the Old Faithful area of geysers was it. The reality is that they are scattered all over this huge park. The high sprays of water may get the most attention, and the turquoise pools may be breathtaking, but the mud pots are my favorite. They just make me laugh. We saw one at the Artists Paint Pots area which had caused them to rope off part of the boardwalk. Boiling clods of mud were spraying out, ten feet up and away. The noise could be heard from a dozen yards away. "Gloop, gloop..."

This is another, the Fountain Paint Pot:

Beehive Geyser, which went off at the same time as Old Faithful, but higher

White Cone Geyser, which we watched erupt while eating our salami sandwich lunch

The Great Prismatic Pool, with rainbows of water, stone and steam

Celestine Pool, a boiling turquoise hole

Saturday, July 23, 2011

turn left at Montana

Yellowstone was right around the corner.  But, we didn't drive a straight line. As CD and I are prone to do, we decided to take the scenic route.  The Beartooth Highway was significantly longer, but it called to us.  And it was worthwhile.  Those choices always are.

Snow.  Yes, after 104°temperatures the morning before, and cold, windy rain the night before, now we encountered snow.  At the first patches we stopped-- even had a snowball fight with a family from Grand Rapids, MI (I owe that boy a snowball down his shirt...) then drove past more and more as we gained elevation.  At 10,947 feet, at the pass, we were above the tree line.  It felt like we were living in a postcard.
The road wound around; sometimes we could see the serpentine path beyond us for four levels.  We reached the northeast entrance to Yellowstone and breathed a sigh of relief.  We'd put over 2200 miles on (my parents') car and we'd made it.
The mountains gave way to plains again, and rivers passed beside us.  We had our first "animal jam" for two female elk at the side of the road.

We reached our rental and spread out.  Books, clothes and more books and more Stuff quickly reached into the corners.  We made it home, if only for five nights.  "Big Sky Country" it says on the Montana license plate.  Yup.  This is the view from our back windows.  "And the skies are not cloudy all day."

Friday, July 22, 2011

and in the afternoon we'll go to Disney

I'm a bit lost in my days of the week, but I think this is the order of events:

We left Nebraska Monday morning and hit the open road.  Seriously open.  I'm not sure if this photo out the front windshield is from Nebraska or Kansas.  I do see some bug smears however and Kansas had some huge suicide-seeking bugs.  The landscape was beautiful and we took lots of photos out windows, for better or for worse.

We reached the first truly unusual landscape at the Badlands. The kids were fascinated.  If it hadn't been so hot

we would have taken a few hikes, but, as Bug noticed, it was too hot to even sweat.

The Badlands were a trip to the moon.  Surrounded by flat plains and scrub, the cliffs jut out of the ground and crack open into the earth in a most amazing way. (This artsy picture with the sunflowers in the foreground was taken by CD.  Credit where credit is due.)

Our stop that evening was in Rapid City, SD.  We stayed in a fancy conference center and the boys had time to go for a swim.  A great break after all the heat of the day.
When I was in Europe as a student I sometimes heard people tell me of their plans to visit the US.  They would see the Statue of Liberty in the morning, hit Disney World that afternoon and maybe San Francisco the next day.  We attempted a similar feat on Tuesday.  I'd known it would be tough and tried to plan for it. We'd stayed only half an hour away, so we headed to Mount Rushmore early.  We didn't spend a lot of time there, but there really isn't much to do after you've seen it anyway.  A ranger talk about the carving process would have been nice, but instead, as I stood at the bookshelves in the visitor's center, I noticed a book by someone I knew,"Mr. Spy" so we'll continue our education as we read it.

The rest of the day was long. I'd told the boys that there was a nightly rodeo in Cody, WY, and that we'd go IF we got there in time.  Big mistake.  I could tell they would be disappointed (I would too) but there was nothing much we could do.  Traffic construction, bathroom breaks, other delays that the Google family never encounters. However, as we reached Cody we realized that Gertrude, our GPS, had never adjusted to Mountain time. We had a spare hour!

Off to the rodeo!  Just in time for the highest winds we'd ever experienced.  Like the crazy fools we are, we only waited for the worst of the storm to pass then huddled with other foolish tourists in the cold and searing wind.  The double rainbow and the looks on the boys (especially Bug's) faces made it worthwhile.  Another long day.  Tomorrow we'd head across Yellowstone to our rental condo in West Yellowstone, Montana and the boys would add yet another state to their list of visited places.  And we'd rest a bit.  We have five nights planned in Yellowstone.

Monday, July 18, 2011

on our way

We're finally on our way to Yellowstone!   The long-anticipated great American road trip of the summer.  In fact, I am sitting in the quiet dining room at my cousin Les' home in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I'm never up this early, but I wanted to see her and her husband before they left for work today- a Monday in the Real World.

We began with a Friday evening trip up to my in-laws.  CD's sister's family came over for a slightly early birthday dinner for him that night.  (Must mention the gift that Bug gave his daddy:  he composed a piece of piano music "The Superdaddy Theme Song".  I have no idea how I would attach it here unfortunately.  But he worked it out at the piano, and together, with help from his piano teacher, we got it written out with music notation software.  Anyway, I'm a bit jealous; no one has ever composed music for ME.)

We gave our love and got an early start, ready to begin this huge adventure.

We made it to St. Louis in remarkable time and spent the rest of the afternoon at the arch.  The lines to ride up into the arch were long and running late, so the afternoon quickly spread into evening.  Was it worth it?  Probably not, to me, but the kids were fascinated and excited.

And it made for some lovely photos!  This is our shadow, reflected in the Mississippi river.  We were peeking out windows at the very top.

No road trip is without a few problems, so we tried to get them over with early.  We have old fashioned paper maps we've hardly consulted, a GPS named Gertrude Penelope Smith, from CD's parents, and Google maps prepared at home.  Nevertheless, we exited from our parking garage, turned the wrong way, made at least one other well-intentioned-but-poorly-chosen turn, and ended up in Illinois again.  The traffic to return to Missouri was backed up with lane closures at 2pm and now it was Saturday evening, and still backed up.  We slogged across it again and began searching for some sustenance for our starving children, arriving at our hotel in Columbia, MO after 10pm.

Sunday we detoured around the swollen and flooding Missouri river, bypassing a drive into Iowa entirely and heading into Kansas instead. This photo, taken out my window while CD drove, proves that Kansas is not, in fact, as flat as a pancake.

Today is a long drive north to Rapid City, SD, stopping in the Badlands. The kids are doing well; we're surviving the long boring stretches fine. We'll have more photos and I'll post again in a few days!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

red, white and blueberries

Pook and Bug both have lovely blue eyes.  Pook's are a light blue with a darker ring around the iris.  Bug's eyes are bolder and he also got dark lashes, dark brows and hair that I thought might stay blond but didn't. Especially when still a blond toddler he got comments everywhere we went. He started giving his own answer to the question "Where did you get those blue eyes?" by answering "I put blueberries in them."

This is my segue to say that we went blueberry picking on Friday and brought home two gallons of berries.  The boys are definitely useful now.  They put more berries in the bucket than the belly.  We only picked from about six bushes, spending less than an hour to fill our container.  We were charged $20, but I had to ask her what it would have cost at the farmer's market where she sells them (and I get my CSA)-- $60.  I'd say that is worth the sweating!

Friday's recipe was a Dump Cake:
   1 cup self rising flour
   <1 cup sugar
   1 cup milk
   < 1 stick butter, melted in preheating pan
   2 cups berries
30 minutes in a 350' oven

Saturday we had sourdough pancakes with blueberries.

Sunday we finished the Dump Cake

Today we made a crisp without a recipe (really, can you go wrong?) The general ingredient list consisted of:
brown sugar
melted butter
pinch salt
4 c. blueberries tossed with 1 T cornstarch and splash of lemon juice
30 minutes in a 350' oven, served with vanilla ice cream this time.

Tomorrow's plan is to make Blueberry Sour Cream Ice Cream.  

Happy Fourth of July everyone!