Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.37: Moving Forward, Going Back

I'm joining Ginny this rainy, autumnal afternoon for this week's Yarn Along.

I'm nearly finished with the Stylish Squares lapghan; should be binding off tonight.  Then there will be many ends to weave in, and blocking, and it will be ready to mail off in time for DD2's birthday next week.  I know she's going to love it.  Not just because of the blue, but because last weekend her sister saw it, and immediately said "I love it!  I want it!"  Now, if Miss Purple (DD1) loves that blue lapghan, I know Miss Blue (DD2) is definitely going to love it.

(And I'm wondering if I should try to track down more of the same yarns and make an identical one for DD1, or maybe look for similar yarns in purples and make one, or just let it go and hope she forgets about it. . . .)

Also in the picture above is the beginnings of this month's dish cloth.  I found a skein of sage colored cotton in my stash, and since it perfectly matches the color of my kitchen, I decided that September's dish cloth is going to be for me.  What could be better for my chicken-themed sage-colored kitchen than a sage colored dish cloth with a rooster design? Rodney the Rooster   is a pattern I'd found on Ravelry and downloaded several years ago.  Unfortunately, when I checked today (to copy the link), it seems to no longer be available there.

Those two items are my forward progress.  Notice that I don't have DH's Decathlon stripey sock in any photos today.  That one is the 'going back' part of this post.  I decided to undo the heel flap, deal with the questionable section of yarn, and set that project aside for a while.  I had originally planned to make DH's socks in September, leaving October and November to make two other pair of socks that will be gifted at Christmas time.  October is nearly here, the yarn in the Decathlon sock isn't working right (see last week's yarn along post for a lament about that), DH has no idea I'm making him socks (and any time I've asked him in the past if he wanted me to knit him something, he's always responded apathetically), I'm tired to messing with this particular yarn, and I'd rather start my October socks instead.

Being as I need the needles in the Decathlon sock for making the socks I have planned as my October project, I have unknit the heel flap, and will put the remaining stitches on stitch holders.  Maybe if the October socks knit up quick enough (and I think they will) I'll tackle the Decathlon socks again.  Or not.  I haven't been crazy about the feel of that particular yarn ever since I cast it on back in August.  With the current problem of the thickness being inconsistent and not keeping the correct gauge, I'm pretty disillusioned with it.  It's only saving grace at the moment is the masculine color scheme, and the fact that I have no other wool fingering in manly colors to make socks for DH with.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

DNR Stories

I am blessed in that my children never stopped talking to me.  Not in that hateful middle school phase, not in the independent-don't-need-no-family-just-friends high school phase, and not even in the whole new world of college phase.  Sure, now that they are adults I don't see and talk to them on a daily basis, but when something is troubling them, or when something excites them, they will call and tell me about it.

This past summer, DD2 lived here at home while she worked her summer job at a nearby state park.  Working there made her an official DNR (Department of Natural Resources) employee.  The DNR spans the wide realm from being someone who sells day or annual passes to visitors at the state parks, to being a Conservation Officer.  There are tons of people working for the DNR who do all the tasks in between. Be it recreational, environmental, ecological, flora, fauna, nautical. . . if it's outdoors, or has to do with the outdoors (lots of lab work too) there is a DNR person doing it.

Hardly a week went by this summer when DD2 didn't share with me some interesting experience she had at work.  From counting goslings on the beach (and cleaning up goose poop), to chasing people off the beach after dark (when the beach area is closed), to finding a Luna moth in the campground shower while cleaning it, to trying to rid the dumpster area of marauding raccoons, it seemed like there was always something she wanted to tell me about.  Some of it was fun--like trying to bait and catch raccoons with her fellow summer workers, some of it was reaffirming--like the generosity of the campground hosts who gifted her several times a month with things like freshly made salsa or ice cream on a hot summer evening, some of it just made us both shake our heads--like the night a group of 10-13 year old kids staying at the campground with their parents snuck away from their campsite and tried to vandalize the DNR truck (DD2 enjoyed catching, and scaring the bejeezuz out of, them).

Typically DD2 worked the 'night' shift, going in at 4:00 in the afternoon and getting off work at 12:30 a.m.  She worked mainly in the campground not just doing office work (like selling camping permits and firewood), but also maintenance (bathroom and shower cleaning), as well as walking the campground loops several times a night dealing with noise complaints and other issues.  Also included in her tasks were to check the local boat access sites that 'belonged to' her state park.

Those boat access sites were usually deserted after dark, but not always.  One night a group of elderly people (apparently there were more than a few who were in their 70's and even 80's) thought it would be fun to go skinny dipping at one of the access sites.  Which probably wouldn't have been a big deal, and they probably wouldn't have gotten caught had one of them not nearly drowned.  The stress from the near drowning brought on a heart attack, and one of the skinny dippers never made it home.  So, there was that interesting story the next day (after wondering why, at 1:30 a.m. DD2 hadn't come home from work yet).

Another boat access site check in mid-summer yielded a drug bust that left DD2 shaking her head at the stupidity of some people.  She had been making the nightly rounds with the park ranger on duty and had been the one to notice a vehicle parked in one of the access sites.  Three hours later, she had quite a story to tell of how she had assisted in detaining two people until more rangers could arrive (the vehicle's occupants were both arrested), how much 'evidence' was collected, and how her name had been credited on the paperwork reporting the incident.  As a mom, I'm really glad I didn't know in advance how much of an issue drugs (marijuana, mostly) are in the area and that my 18 year old daughter's job as a seasonal temporary worker at the state park would regularly involve detecting campers with pot.  I'd thought it would be mostly boring tasks like cleaning pit toilets, restocking toilet paper, raking the beach area, cleaning out fire pits, and selling park passes and campsite permits.  But several times a week she came home with stories of dealing with campers in the possession of pot (which is illegal to possess in the state parks, medical marijuana card or not).

I swear, the experiences she had this summer would make an interesting book.

Even though she's back at college, those DNR experiences haven't come to an end.  She was able to get a transfer from the state park she worked at all summer to the one closest her college, so she's still on the job, although now it's weekend days instead of five nights a week.  Thankfully, drugs seem to be virtually nonexistent at her new place of employment.  I mean, DD2 is a sturdy girl and can be imposing (she's not petite, being 5' 10" tall and built like a farmhand) but as a Mom it still worries me what she might run into.

Her latest adventures she relays to me are of the animal, not illegal substance, kind.  Apparently her new state park is also a DNR hunting check station.  And September is black bear hunting season there.

Almost two weeks ago I got a very excited phone call from her on her way home from work, which she started by saying "Guess what happened at work today?  I have blood all over my hands!"  Realizing how that could be taken the wrong way, (I guess she remembered the midnight phone call I'd gotten from her back in June that started with "Hey Mom, do you want a freshly killed buck?  Should I gut it and bring it home?"  that in my groggy state of being awoken from a sound sleep made me panic that she'd hit the deer on her way home from work, rather than that one had been hit on the road leading to the state park and she recognized the opportunity for good fresh venison) she quickly assured me that it wasn't her blood.  In fact, it wasn't human blood at all, but bear blood.

The ranger on duty with her that day had had her help when hunters brought their bears to the check station.  Being as she is a Wildlife Ecology major, he thought that she might find it interesting to see what sorts of things are done to officially record a harvested game animal with the DNR.  Not only did he have her observe and fill out the paperwork, but on the second bear, he had her do the actual check and tagging of the bear, which includes pulling a premolar in order to age the animal.  Which is how she got bear blood all over her hands.

Last weekend she got to check in another bear, the biggest one--at (I believe she said) 260 pounds dressed weight--she's seen yet.  It's really cool to listen to her recall what she's seen and done.  From the elderly "lady as old as Grandma (who is 72) and just as little" to the "15 year old girl who shot her first bear!  Imagine, your first bear; at home everyone gets excited about shooting their first deer!", she is adding even more stories to that potential book.  Not to mention all great experiences and skills to put on her resume.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.36: Challenges and Indecision

Joining Ginny today for this week's Yarn Along.  The weather is depressing; very grey and imposing, with a severe storm supposedly on it's way shortly. It's not just the fact that the sky is so dull that makes it depressing; it's also that I have seven acres of hay down that we were planning to bale this afternoon because there wasn't supposed to be any chance of rain until Thursday afternoon back when we decided, on Sunday, to cut it.  Of course the dew last night was heavy and the hay isn't dry enough to bale right this minute, and so I watch the storm clouds gather, knowing I am going to lose my long awaited second cutting.  First the summer was too dry, and even though we took first cutting in early June, the hay field didn't even grow hardly at all until late August when we got cooler weather and regular rains again. Now, that my second cutting is down, it is going to get drenched, and the next five days have rain or chance of rain in the forecast.  So, most likely not going to end up very good hay at all by the time it dries enough to bale.

That's one challenge.  Another is the heel flap of the sock I actually worked on this week.  It just didn't seem right as I was knitting it, and I stopped several times to check different things.  Had I somehow gotten a smaller needle mixed in?  Was I unusually tense while knitting?  Why did it seem that the stitches on the heel flap were so much more difficult to knit than they should be?  Was I misunderstanding the pattern?  (It isn't the usual heel I use; I decided to follow the pattern on this one exactly as written, and not substitute in my favorite heel.)

No, the needles are all the correct size. No, my tension isn't off. This heel is definitely not turning out right. It's so tight, so not stretchy, and seems so short for a man's sock (heck, short for a woman's sock).  I'm doing the pattern right.

Then why isn't this feeling and looking like a heel flap should?!? Maybe it's the yarn, for as I get closer to turning the heel, suddenly my yarn is feeling springy and squishy again, as it did in the leg portion.

the gold section is stiff and non-stretchy compared to the rest

So now I'm undecided. I'm pretty sure it's a 'bad' spot in the yarn that is the problem; a length of yarn that is spun tighter and slightly thinner than the rest of the skein.  Do I go back, cut this portion out, and then begin the heel flap again as written?  Do I go back, leave this portion of yarn in, and re-knit the heel using a different pattern (my go-to heel pattern which is a bit stretchier)?  Do I go back, cut the yarn out, and then knit the heel in my go-to pattern?

Oh, I'm so undecided!  Especially since this is self-striping yarn and I'm worried how to make the second sock match the first one if I cut a section of yarn out.  And, if I cut a section of yarn out, then cut the same section out of the second sock in order to match them, will I have enough yarn to finish the second sock?  Too many options and potential outcomes to weigh.

Meanwhile, the afflicted sock sits in time out in my knitting bag while I work on the Stylish Squares lapghan instead.  I'm getting closer to finishing; just one more section (oh, about 56 rows) and then 5 rows of seed stitch border to go.  It will definitely be done in time for DD2's birthday.

As if the weather and the hay and the naughty sock heel weren't enough challenges for now, our computer is acting up.  The cooling fan doesn't work most of the times we've had the computer on in the past couple of days.  Which means it's in danger of overheating and getting fried.  Being as it's a nearly 5 year old laptop, do we bother with trying to replace the fan mechanism?  Or do we just start shopping for a new computer (which really isn't in the budget currently)?

I haven't yet figured out how to blog using my phone, which is making the computer dilemma even more frustrating.  I have so many posts I'd like to write, and actually have a bit of time to write them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Yarn Along 2016.35: A Little

Happy Wednesday, Happy Yarn Along Day! I'm joining Ginny this morning for this week's yarn along.

You'd think, since I missed the Yarn Along last week, that I would have pictures of nearly finished items to show you.  All that knitting time, right?  I mean, two whole weeks have gone by since my last Yarn Along post.  Surely I have completed something.

In actuality, it wasn't a whole lot of knitting time.  I did work on DD2's Stylish Squares throw a bit before going on vacation with DH; it is now more than half done.  As I was nearing the halfway point I realized that what I thought was tons of this yarn in my stash really wasn't as many yards as I had thought (when you are used to working in fingering, with 400+ yards per skein, finding out your big honking skein of super bulky is less than 85 yards is a bit of a shock).

In fact, I was not going to have enough to finish this lapghan.  And, as it turned out when I went looking for more of the same yarn, it wasn't easy to find--probably because I bought it over a year ago.  Which apparently means that this color combo is so last year. . .  Good thing DD2 doesn't change her favorite colors as often as the marketing and fashion industry does.

But I did find lots of skeins of the same brand of super bulky that had the exact same shade of turquoise as the yarn I'd been using (which is blue and dark grey).  So I made the decision to do the second half of the lapghan in solid turquoise.  I think (and hope) it will look nice like that; as if I'd intentionally done a two-toned blanket, rather than as if I hadn't had enough  yarn to do the whole thing and had to substitute a different yarn when I was nearly to the end.  Changing yarns in the middle looks like a design feature, not an oops, right?  Right?

Time will tell, but I'm pretty sure it's going to turn out just fine.

I did take the Decathlon socks I am knitting on vacation to Colorado with me since that project is much more portable than DD2's blanket is, but didn't end up doing much knitting while there. I think I actually knit more rows sitting in airports waiting for flights than I did while 'on the ground' riding in the car or at the hotel(s) in the evenings.  Probably because evenings were pretty tiring after hiking and visiting brewpubs each day (you can read about my Colorado adventures here), and there was so much beautiful scenery to look at while in the car.

You really can't tell from the picture, but I managed to finish the leg and get 6 rows done on the heel flap while I was gone.  I confess that I haven't picked this project up since I've been back; something about work and laundry and catching up on canning tomatoes since returning from vacation. . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Colorado: Mountains, Hiking, and Beer (Trip Number Three)

The third trip I took in the past three weeks was out to Colorado.  DH has gone numerous times for work in the past eight or ten years, and he's been asking for five years if I'd like to go too, provided we could tack on a few extra days at either the beginning or end of a work trip.  Ever since the first time he asked, I've said yes, but there's always been something come up that kept me from going.  You know, like having young kids at home, or having older kids at home with some important event going on that I should be at, or my not being able to get time off work, or the dates of DH's trip that particular year only becoming verified (and thus approved by the powers that be that pay for employee plane tickets and hotel rooms) a scant few days before DH needed to leave making it impossible for me to make my own arrangements to go (not to mention not having money for a $$$ plane ticket booked on short notice).

Well, this year was different.  This year DH and I decided that we would go to Colorado, on vacation, sometime around Labor Day/the first full week of September.  So I made plans at both horse farms to have time off (actually, I gave notice at one farm that I was quitting and just made my last day of work be in late August).  We were just about to book flights and hotel rooms for a 5-day trip, when DH heard that he would be going on a work trip to Colorado in early September.  So, when we arranged our plane tickets and hotel reservations we just made our 5-day trip as an addition to the dates of his work trip.  Which meant me flying one of the ways by myself, but that was okay with me.

(Side note: I once flew, 'alone', with all four of our kids when they were just 11 months, 4 yrs, 5 yrs, and 8 yrs to visit DH when he was on a 5-month special assignment on the East Coast. So actually flying by myself and only having to keep track of myself on planes and during airport layovers is not such a scary prospect.  Wrangling four little kids through big hub airports, and keeping them quiet and entertained on planes is much tougher than being all on my own.)

Anyway, our vacation at altitude is now over, and I lived to tell about it.  I don't say that lightly, because we had two main objectives: do a lot of hiking (which really isn't in our normal repertoire) and hit a couple of brew pubs a day. Too much of either activity is hard on a body.  ;0)  Colorado has tons of hiking trails.  It also has tons of microbreweries.  Not only were we planning a potentially 'dangerous' time there a mile high or more in altitude, our vacation didn't start off too well with me getting sick during the descent into Denver.  (First time I've ever puked on a plane.  All I can say is that the flight just seemed really loud, really crowded, really stuffy; I got a headache, and then a hot flash, and then we hit some turbulence. That's when things got ugly, and I don't want to ever repeat that experience again.)

But let's talk about more pleasant aspects of my vacation!

The Mountains and Hiking:

Sprague Lake

Day One was spent hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, where we encountered several mule deer.  First, a couple of mule deer does about 8 or 10 yards off the hiking trail we were on near Sprague Lake. 

Next, while following a small creek, DH nearly had a mule deer buck walk into him.  Literally!  DH was walking, looking straight ahead, and I was a few steps behind him when from the corner of my eye I saw movement directly to DH's left, in the trees.  Right about then my brain realized the movement was a buck, walking with his head down, between the trees.  It was then that I said, as quietly as possible "DH! Left!" DH stopped and looked to his left at the same time the deer picked his head up, saw us, and also stopped.  A few seconds passed where we were all frozen, staring at each other, then the deer spun ninety degrees and ran off.

Just minutes before our buck encounter near this creek.

The buck's rear end, 
which was all I got on camera by the time we realized what had happened!

While driving back out of the park, we saw a small herd of elk, including 4 young bulls and a nice 6x6.

Day Two, also in Rocky Mountain National Park, mostly driving, but we also did a little hiking in the highest elevations (12,000+ feet above sea level).  

view on the road to the top

It was really cold and windy up there, with limited hiking trails so as to not destroy the tundra environment.  

From the high peaks, we drove on the road that runs on the west side of the park to the southern entrance/exit point.  About halfway along that drive, I spotted a moose, and we pulled off to get some pictures.  Turned out to be not just one moose, but a cow and calf pair.

moose calf

mama and baby

We ended our drive in Breckenridge, where we stayed for most of the next two days.

Breckenridge was all about the hiking.  DH had heard you could hike the ski area, as well as the tons of bike trails in the area. Lacking a map and description of area hiking trails, we just asked at the front desk of our hotel where to find a nice trail nearby, and we ended up on the Burro Trail at the base of Peak 9 at the ski area.  

creek along the lower part of the Burro Trail

clearing on a side trail

I have to say, it's a good thing DH and I didn't have a printed hiking guide to consult, or we may have just stayed in our room!  (Not realizing how much hill climbing we were going to do, and thinking we weren't capable of hiking a moderate or difficult trail. . .) We wandered around on the Burro Trail for a little while, then took a side trail, and another and found ourselves at the bottom of what we figured was a slalom racing run, as there were poles on either side and a building that looked up the slope.

this looks like it might be part of a ski run

Little did we realize, we'd hiked over to Peak 10, and were staring up the Cimarron Run.  We decided to see how far up it we could get. (I swear, sometimes when the kids aren't around, we forget we're in our mid-40s, not our early 20s!)  It was really steep, and we only made it about 1/3 of the way up before deciding that was far enough.  When you're so out of breath you flop on the ground, you could say it was a strenuous hike.  Apparently the proper way to hike the ski runs is to catch a tram or other ride to the top of the mountain, then hike down.

the view from flat on my back

sitting up again, looking down the run we'd just attempted to climb
(I'd like to note that I was wearing the pair of Solar socks I knit in August; wool socks are great for hiking in, no sweaty feet and no blisters!)

We hiked back to our room (where we figured out we'd climbed 850 feet in elevation in a mile of our hike, yay us!), recharged with a lunch of garlic hummus and tortilla chips, then struck out again, this time hiking a couple miles of the Peaks Trail which runs between Breckenridge and Frisco. While the Peaks Trail rolled up and down, it wasn't nearly as steep as our morning hike had been. Gathering clouds and the forecast of a late afternoon thunderstorm were what ended our hiking this time.  

Cucumber Creek on the Peaks Trail

Our final morning in Breckenridge will be hard for me to forget.  DH surprised me with a trail ride booked through Breckenridge Stables.  Oh my!  Horses!  Not only did I get to ride, but DH also rode (in the 25+ years I've known him, I've never seen him on a horse; he's always had some excuse or another why he couldn't get on mine "it's too small and dainty", "it only knows how to wear that little English saddle; I can't ride in that", "I don't want to ride in circles"-- meaning in an arena).  

It was so awesome to not just see my hubby on a horse (a very hefty Percheron/Quarter Horse cross), but to see him smiling and having fun on a horse, WOW just WOW! (Have I said how much I love this man?) The trail ride itself was pretty cool too, riding up some of the same trails we'd hiked the day before, as well as other trails including an ancient Native American trail and having the horses pick their way up and down the steep rocky paths.  The views were great. The guide, well, he was pretty great too.  I asked a few questions about the stable's string of horses and how long the guide had been working with them, and somehow that lead to not just the fact that he had been working in various states as a trail guide for several decades, but that in his younger days he'd shown Open Jumpers out East and even trained with a former Olympic Show Jumper.  So, while DH meandered quietly on his trusty dapple grey packer, I chatted English riding with the guide and let the feisty little pinto mare I'd been assigned (when you say you are an experienced rider, the stable gives you a livelier horse than what they put beginners on) take me up and down the hills.  It was a really fun time for both DH and I.

my favorite memory from Breckenridge

somehow, everything looks more awesome from the back of a horse

Interspersed with all our hiking, deer, elk, and moose sightings, horseback riding!!!  and taking pictures of the gorgeous mountain scenery, we hit more than a handful of the microbreweries Colorado has to offer. I didn't take nearly as many pictures of them, but I did snap a few.

The Breweries:

  • Fate Brewing Company in Boulder for dinner and some microbrews on our first night.  Both the food and the beer were awesome.  DH loves IPA, so he had the Moirai, while I (the dark beer lover) had Sudice--many of the beers at Fate are named after mythology.  
  • Twisted Pine Brewing, also in Boulder.  DH had another IPA (Agaveras) and I had their Cream Stout. 
  • Avery Brewing in Boulder, where DH had the IPA of course (I think it was their regular IPA, not any of the specialty ones) and I had the Ellie's Brown Ale. 
  • Tommyknocker in Idaho Springs  where we had a light lunch of garlic fries and beer--Pick Axe IPA for DH and (one of my favorite brews) Maple Nut Brown Ale for me.  In the part of the brewpub we were seated in, they had very cool wooden boats up on the walls; a canoe and a kayak.  I was able to get a picture of the kayak without looking too strange (ie. embarrassing DH)
  • Breckenridge Brewery (in Breckenridge, of course) where DH had the  471 Small Batch (IPA) and I had the Vanilla Porter.
  • Broken Compass in Breckenridge, is a really neat, quirky place that seemed to be mostly locals (versus tourists) and the beers were great.  DH had the IPA--what a surprise, right?-- while I had the very delicious Coconut Porter.  
    While there, I noticed a neat thing--they had made a lamp out of a growler.  So I had to get a picture of that for future reference (being as DH has quite a collection of growlers at home and the area of our basement which will be his future bar has a need for lighting. . . )

  • Left Hand in Longmont, makes one of my favorite brews, Fade to Black Ale (a Metallica reference, perhaps?).  Unfortunately, it's a seasonal beer and isn't on tap yet.  So I had the Milk Stout Nitro instead.  DH had the Extrovert IPA.
  • New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, where we had reservations for their 3:00 tour.  Not only is it a really neat place, but the tour (and the beer samples on the tour) are free.  During our tour we got to have sample glasses of 1554, Citradelic IPA, Sunshine Wheat, and Tart Lychee. DH also had a pint of the Citradelic after the tour was over, but by then I'd had enough beer in five short days (normally a 6-pack will last me more than a month) that one more glass of beer no longer sounded appealing.  Honestly, I was craving a big glass of milk!  I'm just not much of a beer drinker, I guess.  I did get another decorating inspiration while there; although I'm not sure how well a chandelier made of beer cans will fit in our basement.  It looked pretty neat at New Belgium, anyway.

That wrapped up our final day of vacation.

The next morning it was time to fly back home. Which, because of time zones and layovers, and just distance in general between Colorado and Michigan, was an all day endeavor.  I'm glad to report that neither plane was loud or stuffy, I suffered no headaches, no hot flashes, and only a little turbulence. I'm back in good flyer mode.  :0)  We're even talking about taking another Colorado trip in a few years.

We definitely want to go again.  There are more hiking trails to do (and we'd really like to hike the entire 7.8 mile--one-way--Peaks Trail; you can take a shuttle from either trail head, so we could either hike from Breckenridge to Frisco and take a shuttle back, or do it the other way round; or even do it as a 15.6 mile out and back, skipping the shuttle).  Plus, we barely scratched the surface on the list of micro breweries to visit.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Back to School For DD2 (aka Trip Number Two)

My second trip in the past three weeks was getting DD2 settled back into her dorm at college.  You know, the one 500 miles away.  I had been planning a nice 4-day trip there and back since, oh, about the beginning of August.  I was just waiting to hear from her what the official date was that she could move back into the dorm.

What I had in mind was one day to drive up (it's about a 9 hour drive), camp in our favorite out of the way state forest campground that is never very full, spend a day making sure DD2 was all moved in and had all her finances and books taken care of, spend a day just vacationing and relaxing in nature, and then drive home on the fourth day.  A nice, peaceful, non-rushed trip while assisting DD2 in getting back to school.

Well, that didn't happen.

First, a good thing happened that changed my plan.  DD2 had been working for the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) down here all summer.  When she gave them, near the end of July, her official last date that she could work, she asked if there was any chance she could transfer to the state park near her college for the remainder of the season rather than actually quit (she was hired as a seasonal temporary worker).  All of her supervisors were so pleased with her this summer that they personally called the head of the state park near her college, recommended her for transfer, and made all the arrangements on her behalf.  So, instead of not having an income after mid-August because it was time to go back to college far away, she is able to work part time around her class schedule until the end of the season (late October).  Which meant that she would need a car of her own at college instead of us driving her up and dropping her off.

But she still wanted us to move her up there, and DH and I really kind of wanted that little vacation in the Upper Peninsula, so I still planned to make the trip even though we would be taking two vehicles instead of one. DD2 asked us if her best friend since 9th grade could go too (so that she might see DD2's school and surrounding area), riding up with DD2 and riding back home with DH and I.  We both said sure.

The week before DD2 was to leave, DH was really bogged down at work.  It looked like he might not be able to take the time off to go on Thursday when DD2 was leaving.  At best, he thought we could leave on a Saturday morning, and drive back home at noon on Sunday.  Or, if DD2 could cram everything she needed until Christmas break into her car, she could just go alone.  DD2, BFF, and I were a bit disappointed at the thought of DD2 going alone and the rest of us not getting our little U.P. vacation.

However, he did (on Wednesday) manage to make arrangements to have at least part of Friday off.  So, our plan was amended that DD2 and her BFF would leave for school on Thursday morning, stopping for a late lunch at the BFF's grandfather's place that was actually on DD2's route, about 2/3 of the way to her college.  Then they would continue on to our favorite always nearly empty state forest campground and stay there for the night.  The next day, they would meet up with DD2's roommate for the year (a good friend she made last year) and the three of them would rearrange the furniture in the dorm before unpacking the two students' cars.  DH would work half a day on Friday, including a meeting he had to present at, and he and I would drive up to that campground Friday afternoon, arriving around nine p.m.

All was well.

Except that in the craziness of his work week, DH totally forgot that the vehicle DD2 was taking needed new tires before snowy weather arrived, and that he'd intended to get some before she took it up to school.  Amongst my own craziness (my last days of work at the horse farm I'd been employed at since Nov. 2014) right before DD2 left, I forgot about the tires too.

On Wednesday, DH had the forethought to look up the campground's actual address so DD2 could put it into her GPS since some of the roads out there in the boonies aren't well marked.  It was while he was looking it up online that he found out that campground had suffered a lot of damage in a severe storm about a month prior.  So much damage that it was closed for the remainder of the season.

Big change of plans at the last minute, finding two other state parks/campgrounds for DD2 to check out when she got there, hoping that neither one of them would be full (the one she'd be working at was full, so it was out of the running).  And then we sent an almost 19 year old and a 20 year old off by themselves on a 500 mile trek!

They made it just fine, and from the messages I got along the way, it sounds like they had a lot of fun.  Two young women road tripping, what an empowering thing.  They even decided to take an evening swim in Lake Superior once they'd gotten to the campground.  Because, as DD2 put it "It's late August, Lake Superior doesn't get any warmer than this!"  (Lake Superior is a COLD COLD lake.)  Told ya their road trip was empowering.

Friday was a bunch of challenges. DH's meeting ran long, putting us behind schedule.  DD2 realized she'd forgotten to pack a few things and sent me a text of items to round up and bring with us. Once on the road, DH had to make a few work related phone calls during the drive, and answer a couple of texts and emails too.  Not exactly the hours of quality marriage time I'd envisioned for our first day of 'vacation'.

To top it off, when we were about an hour away from our destination, and it was nearing dark, DD2 texted me, telling me she'd blown a tire.  Oh!  Those tires!  The ones DH had meant to replace!  So that necessitated a call to the insurance company to have roadside assistance sent to DD2 to help her change the tire since we were still an hour out and she didn't have a jack in her vehicle (another oversight).

The tow truck (driven by a young local guy) arrived about the same time we did, and the (fairly handsome) young man got to work on changing that tire for DD2 (while she and her BFF stood nearby, looking like college girls do).  Except he couldn't get one of the lug nuts off.  DH, being older and wiser and supposedly more experienced, gave it a try.  Nope, not budging.  In fact, it seemed to be stripping out rather than turning.

So instead of changing the tire and having DD2 go on her merry way, the tow truck driver ended up having to load her car onto his truck, drive it into town (luckily the same town where she attends college) and drop it at the local tire shop.  Because if we were going to have to have someone with an air wrench get that lug nut off, we might as well just get the tires replaced while the car was there.  DD2 and BFF hopped in with us, and we went to the campground, set up DH & my tent, and went to sleep.

The next day was much better.  It started with a walk along the Lake Superior shoreline, where the water really was warm (for Lake Superior) and the lake was placid.  DH and I got to talk, and relax, and look at all the different kinds of rocks in the water and on the beach.   Most of them were well rounded from the lake, but differed in composition.  Some were red, some were pink, some were yellow, some were black, some were grey, some were purple, some had speckles, some glittered, some seemed to glow under the water, some had stripes. . .   We oohed and aahed and picked up rocks to show each other for well over an hour.  Now that's more like the vacation I'd had in mind!

our favorites, dry 

our favorites, wet
(as they looked in the lake)

After having breakfast at our favorite breakfast spot (that, ironically, we could never afford when DH was a student at the same college), and stopping at the tire shop to pay for a set of new tires (talk about things we can't afford!), we went out of town in the other direction and headed for Hungarian Falls to do a little hiking and to show DD2's BFF one of the popular waterfalls (having an upper falls, a middle falls and a lower falls) of the area.  We found out while there, that she's afraid of heights.  She was a good sport, though, even doing a little climbing on the rocks with us.

between the falls, it's a quiet little stream

middle falls

doing a little adventuring between falls

From there, DD2 requested that we drive up Brockway Mountain. The drive there is very scenic, and puts you at the northernmost peak in Michigan, where the views are spectacular.

looking down at the tree tops

 looking out


The girls spent that night in DD2's dorm room, and after church the next morning (what a joy it is to see such a thriving campus ministry), DH, BFF and I hit the long road home.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The First Trip

The first trip I took in the past three weeks was a multi-generation day and a half adventure to Shipshewana, Indiana.  My Mom, DD1, DD2 and myself all drove the couple of hours to Amish country, where we ate awesome food (oh my gosh, I love farm style food; probably because that's how I cook at home, LOL), talked, wandered the flea market and shops, and made (more than) a few purchases.  I can't give details on everything we bought; let's just say Honorary Son and DH both have birthday gifts stowed away waiting the proper dates to be given.

Our first stop, by popular vote, was the store E&S Sales.  I had heard about it from more than one person, (in fact, there's a neat blog post with some good pictures here) and wanted to see the legendary Amish dry goods store for myself.  Oh my goodness!  Within two minutes of walking through the door, I decided that purchases at E&S were not going to come out of my trip money, but rather my normal grocery budget!  So many spices!  And sausage making ingredients!  And bulk instant pudding mixes in flavors you could never find at the grocery store, like maple walnut.  Mmmmm.

Not only did they have just absolutely hundreds of dry good items, they also had candy (no pic to show, both my daughters bought some and took to their homes), and nice coloring books (I got a few for the grandkids) with simple pictures--rather than TV or movie character themed--and they had candy molds for only $1.49!  Being as I've been eyeing online a turtle mold for about five times that (plus shipping on top of that!) for several years, when I saw the turtle mold at E&S for only $1.49, I grabbed it of course!

 Plus a tractor mold

and a maple leaf mold; next Spring I can make maple candies.

The next morning, we hit the flea market (which is on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the first week of May through the beginning of October) bright and early.  Actually, it wasn't all that sunny of a day, it was overcast with thunderstorms predicted, which seemed to keep the crowd at bay. It was busy, but not so crowded that you couldn't get a good look at everything on display at the various booths.  We spent probably a good six hours walking through the flea market, and easily could have made it an all day affair if we hadn't made the decision that we were looking mostly for handmade items rather than mass produced for resale stuff.  Although I did pick up a couple nice Rada knives for the same price as online, and saved myself the shipping.  I also bought a few other Rada items that I will give as Christmas gifts to family members.  (My first Rada items were given to me as gifts by DH's grandmother over 20 years ago and are still going strong after regular use through all those years.)

In addition to the Rada products, I came home with a few other household related odds and ends, plus a few 'fun' things.  Like two Amish dolls that will be for the grandkids to play with when they are at my house.  Dolls that were handmade by an 81 year old woman.

Also some Amish-made woodworking, like a maple leaf that was actually made of walnut.  I chose one that I think is really neat; it's cut from a board where one side of it has the characteristic dark wood of walnut, the other is from the younger sapwood and is much lighter.

I also bought a beautifully simple nativity scene.  I've been wanting a nativity scene for many years now, but didn't want one that was overly ornate or super expensive (kids, you know, have a way of shortening the life of things, and losing pieces. . . ).  So when I saw this lovely one in a woodworking display, I knew it was just what I had been waiting for.  Simple, natural, and not horribly expensive.

Plus, get this!--it's cut from one piece of wood and stores away like a puzzle.  How cool is that!

As if that wasn't enough of a trip, we also went to Yoder's Meats and purchased some delicious meats (German style bologna, yum!) and cheeses, jams, and other savory eats.  And then, we went to the fabric shops. . . I may have spent some money there, but I restrained myself to only fat quarters and half-yard pieces.  LOL

Overall, it was a nice ladies day out kind of excursion.  Mom enjoyed it, DD1 and DD2 enjoyed it, I enjoyed it, and we all came home with some gift items to give, plus a trinket or two for ourselves. Oh, and fabric for making stuff.  :0)