Saturday, July 30, 2011

Let us know how that works out

Photo circa November 2010

This afternoon Thing One noticed my wedding ring.

"Mom, are those real diamonds in your ring?"

"yes, son they are"

"WOW, Dad spent a load of cash on you. When I get married, I'm gonna give her just an onion ring"

um, yeah...good luck with that...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Beauty of Birthdays

Yesterday I celebrated my 46th birthday. And I could think of no better way to celebrate than to fill my kitchen with the ladies from Coffee Club. Together, they bring so much laughter and love into my life....right up there with Hubby and the Things.

Coffee and Friends...the perfect blend indeed!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Movie Time

The post-vacation blues is setting in: yesterday I had to deal with the DMV and the receptionist at the orthodontist. Both women were being 'rigid' and I wasn't having any part of it.

After a good night's sleep, I woke up this morning and am ready to carve out a new mood for the day. What better way to start the day than with a ride....since the sidecar is still sidelined, it'll have to be a virtual ride.

Hope you enjoy the view! I know I did!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hitting the sauce?

Tonight's dinner: spaghetti and meatballs.
Thing Two's face was covered in red sauce....
When I commented about it, in his serious "future attorney" voice he replied

"Yeah, Mom I hit the marinara sauce pretty hard didn't I"

Escaping with a good book...

When I started summer vacation, I created a "to-do" list. On it, I listed 10 things I wanted to tackle during vacation. One of those was to "read 3 books". I figured that was a reasonable number to tackle. Suffice to say, I have read three and then some. Here is a quick peek at what I've found myself reading.

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. I may have started this one before summer break. Not exactly sure. Anyways, the women at work were talking about the movie coming out, and I hadn't heard anything about the movie or the book. Sounded interesting. And it was...especially as I pictured the main character as the ever-so-yummy Matthew McConaughey. The book moves quickly, with a couple twists that were well thought out. I liked it: and am now eager to read other books by this same author. I kid you not, but I read this book in a day! I dropped the boys off at the movie theatre, and started reading. By the next day, I was finished (and yes, I did pause to retrieve the boys from the movie, fix dinner, sleep and other essential tasks). The book starts with the disappearance of the Governor's pregnant wife. 20 years later, the remains of the pregnant woman are found. Only problem is, there was no signs of the baby. She had been born and only the woman had died What happened to this woman and her child? Read the book and find out! That's why I couldn't put it down. I had to figure it out (and on a nook, it is much hard to jump ahead and sneak a peak at the ending). Ok, after I read it, I was a bit disappointed. The premise was great but the way it all wrapped up? Seemed a little too neat and pretty for even my tastes. One to something with a bit more "bite" to it...
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I read this for my neighborhood book club meeting in June. It was fascinating! When I finished, I remarked that a book can be good even if it sad. The story, set in the late 1700s on a plantation in Virginia (with some of the story taking place in Williamsburg), follows the lives of two women living on the plantation. One was a black slave and the other was a white woman who arrived in America as an indentured servant. Through other books/films, I had a pretty good appreciation for the challenges that slaves faced during this time in history, but hadn't really given much thought to the indentured servant experience. The author did a great job of creating characters both primary and secondary that were credible and engaging. At times I wished for happier story line but let's face it, this time in history was not happy. Overall, I would encourage others to check out this book...however, have a happy book ready to dive into next.
That being said, I jumped right into this book by Lisa See. Shanghai Girls. It had been on my nook for months and I just never got around to reading it. Figured I was on a roll with historical fiction. Um, uh...probably not a great idea to go from one emotionally draining story to another...set in a different location and time in history but still a story filled with hardships and sadness. This story starts in Shanghai in the 1930s and follows the lives of two young girls sent to America for arranged marriages. Perhaps because of the culture I married into, I found it fascinating to learn more about the immigration process during this era. Also, I am not a "serious reader", so I need to have my history served up to me in a fictional fashion. This book delivered that and more. I will say I HATED the ending...until I discovered that the author has already written a sequel. Good, because she sort of left you hanging at the end of this book. Ok, I like my books to end with things all wrapped up. I'll let it slide knowing that this was more of a "cliff hanger" than an ending.

On a side note, Lisa See has also written Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I read it a couple years ago, and am anxious for the movie to reach my local theatres. Right now it is on a "limited release" and not even playing at the artsy-movie house here in town.
Next up, I found myself setting the nook down and picking up a traditional book. I received this book last year for my birthday. From my aunt I believe. She said she it reminded her of the "coffee club" I so often speak of. Yes, for the past 4 years, a group of us have met at the local coffee shop every Wednesday morning. Ok, not every Wednesday, but the group meets on Wednesdays and when schedules permit, we all try to drop by for a quick chat and cup of coffee.

Anyways, this author takes a similar starting point and weaves a story of four very different women and some of the challenges they are facing. I admit, it was a little too much "chick lit" for my tastes at the beginning. Characters seemed predictable and almost cliche. But in the second half of the book, I found myself eager to discover how all their struggles worked out. In the end, it turned out to be a good book. Mind you, not what I would consider a 'great' book, but an easy summer read just the same. Talk about an easy summer read, this book by Alexander mcCall Smith is our July Book Club choice. It is less than 100 pages and well written. If you have ever read anything by this author, you will be familiar with his writing style. Some may say it is an acquired taste and at least for me, something I can handle only in small doses. In this book, the reader meets 3 very quirky Linguistic professors. As one reviewer noted, think of the German version of Frazier and Niles. 'Twas a fun read and I am sure our book club will have a good time talking about it later this month.
And finally, these last three titles. No, I didn't read them, we listened to them on our big vacation adventure. I'm not sure I've whined on my blog about the 'car' side of our vacation, but I really was a bit worried about driving that many miles. I used to love the adventures of a road trip, but then I became a mom and got old. Driving across town is an effort for me. If I can't get there in 15 minutes, I don't want to-or- need to go. So knowing that about myself, I decided I had better be prepared. I went to the library and scoped out what I hoped would be ok books to listen to in the car. The boys would be zoned out on their gadgets, but I had to make sure what I was listening to was "ok" in case they tuned in. And, I hadn't really planned in advance, so I had to go with what the library had in stock vs. requesting books in advance.

Dave Barry's Money Secrets was a collection of his essays. Some parts amusing but others where sort of 'eh...". It's been awhile since I've read his material, but I had a recollection that he was funnier in his early works. Again, could be age playing tricks on me...but overall this one was not a huge hit with any of us in the car. We finished it but not sure I'd recommend it for a car-trip choice.

Next up was the memoirs of Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson. My guys are huge fans of this show and I thought it would be interesting to listen to. And it was. But she sort of repeated herself in many different chapters and I didn't think the book really "flowed" as easily as one would hope. I did find it fascinating to learn how much time goes into creating just one episode of the Simpsons. Initially, each episode was hand-drawn. That has changed with the advances in technology, but forget how much work goes into such a program.

The last road trip choice was a huge hit. David Baldacci is a good author and his audio book is well recorded. Someone sets off a bomb in Lafayette Square (across the street from the White House) and Oliver Stone is assigned to sort through the many layers of who might have done it. The title is taken from the fact that jurisdiction in this park is split and trying to achieve cooperation with the various agencies (D.C. police, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security) is a hellish process. This book also captured the boys' attention and often they would chime in with questions "so, who do you think is the mole?". The down side? We got home before we finished the reading...but hey, I've got a CD player, we'll just finish up those last 45 minutes in the house...because NOPE, I was not going to drive any longer just to finish hearing it in the car.

So, that pretty much wraps up what I've read this summer. The list of what I'd like to read is longer than I started, but oh well...this summer alone, I've "traveled" to China and Europe (Shanghai Girls and Portuguese Verbs), I've felt the heat and the deception of Virginia (Kitchen House and Hell's Corner) and even spent some time in sunny California (with Matthew McConnaughy and Bart Simpson). A book really can take you away.....even if you never leave your house or car!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

All roads lead to....Home!

Hey Guys...look it's Yellowstone again
(cue the moans/groans from the peanut gallery in the backseat)
Fear not, it is just the easiest way to get where we need to go...
And, we're about halfway home too!
Crossing the continent...

See guys, told you we were just passing through Yellowstone....

Now we're headed to another national park

cue more moans-groans and a cry..."but this is the THIRD one this vacation".

Yep, you can count son! I am so proud of you

More mountain pictures for my sister Laura...

Oh, you mean this does not apply to my kids?

Here, have some cheetos boys...we need to keep moving

We've got miles to cover, mountains to see, and apparently continents to divide

(having just passed another divide sign, we would cross it at least 5 times that day)
Clouds cleared, looks like the storm is not going to follow us home...

Can you call it brunch if your first meal of the day isn't until 2pm?
Ah, but it was a tasty sandwich

The restaurant with the tasty sandwiches had this cool playground...

You'd think after sitting next to each other for over 2,000miles they wouldn't want to sit next to each other on the swings. Nope...they are still liking each other...

No need to seek alternative means of transport home...Schnitzel continues to perform as if she is on the Autobahn in Germany. *and I have yet to receive a performance award, which is good...have I mentioned she just floats at 80mph?

And here we are with one of my dearest college pals...Jen.

On our way to see Jen and her family, Thing One said "Does she have any hot chicks for daughters?"I didn't know how to answer I didn't.But, here is Jen, her hubby and 3 of her 5 kids (the little girl was the neighbor girl...the teen aged boys were not around for the photo op).

Thing One begged to stay longer at their house....I am guessing he found the scenery here more pleasing to the eye than all the mountains, glaciers and geysers I'd exposed him to over the past 11 days.

And now...I am home. 2600 miles, 11 days, 3 national parks.

Happy trails to you!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yellowstone in a Day

Yes, the park can be toured in a day...but oh my...what a long and tiring day!
We started at the far north end, near Mammoth Hot Springs.

Lunch was a trip down memory lane....I took the boys over to the General Store where I worked as a soda fountain girl some 27 years ago...

The shop has been remodeled but remains pretty much the same general design.We gulped down lunch and scooted over to watch "Old Reliable" perform at the noon-time show...
Thing One was feeling a bit grumpy as we waited for the "show" and I pointed out that watching Old Faithful is Americana at its best...his sassy-14 year old self replied with a "Yeah, we could just stay home and watch it on You-Tube". * Yeah, at that moment I said a little prayer of apology to my own I too probably didn't appreciate the efforts that went into all the family adventures we took when I was his ageThe Old Faithful Lodge remains unchanged....

Time to get back on the road...(disclaimer: not on this classic Yellow Bus....but it made for a good photo op)

The advantage of sitting by the window on the fully enclosed air-conditioned coach bus...Thing One had cheered up by this point and said "Can we bring him home and call him Sprinkles?".

Ok, kid, you might be back in my good graces and won't have to walk home...

We reach the half way point of our adventure and check out the Falls.
Taking advantage of the "twin connection"...a family with young twins approached me and asked if I wanted them to take a picture of me and my twins. Who was I to correct them when they managed to capture Thing One smiling AND looking at the camera (a rare occurence).

And here we are, back where we started...Mammoth Lodge...dinner time for the elk. 10+ hours in a tour bus, over 150 miles traveled, countless photos taken...

Another good day on this Western Family Adventure....

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cabin Fever

The day after Going to The Sun Road trip, we all found ourselves with a case of Cabin Fever. As in "let's stay close to the cabin" and just hang out!Thing One found his bliss in the "bunk house" where our family slept. He had his I-touch and my laptop and while not connected online, was able to watch his plethora of videos. Earlier, he had gone for a short side car ride with Hubby and they checked out the local family Adventure center so he had gotten some fresh air.
We sent Grandpa out with Thing Two for some western Adventure. I heard tales of horesback riding and white water rafting. Pictures to follow: my heart is still racing as I hear more about the white water trip. One of those cases of "tis better to ask for forgiveness than request permission". Protective Hover Mom would probably have balked at the water adventures (the snow melt is still causing the river to flow really high and fast).

And, me? Well, after a quick trip into town for some stuff, I grabbed my nook and headed for a quiet corner to read. Yes, the cabin was rustic. No dishwasher....but with a view like this...washing dishes hardly seems like a hardship. Soon, it was time to feed the hungry crew. Who needs cell phone service when you need to locate the gang? Just sound the alarm, and if they are hungry, they'll come find some grub.

Here we are: enjoying the sweet life...
Grandpa (a.k.a my dad) would be celebrating his birthday in the days to come. Forget cake when you can have a giant slice of Huckleberry Pie!
Dinner is done, and while the sun is far from setting (it would't even think about getting dark until well past 1030, and even then, it never got really dark), there was a chill in the air. Let's put Thing Two to work in the wood shed. From the grin on his face, you can easily see he did not consider this to be work at all!

This Thing found it very easy to step away from the distractions of city life...who needs Xbox when you've got a shed full of wood to chop?And the reward for a day of hard work and fresh air? Being allowed to dive right into the pie...eating straight out of the dish (disclaimer: everyone else had their fill of Huckleberry pie)

But alas, all good things much come to an end. Thursday we bid farewell to our friends Bobskoot and Kari and Ron as they headed west towards their homes. It really was a fun experience sharing this vacation with family and new friends. Creating a sense of community that you don't necessarily get when you vacation with just your own people.

Friday, it would be time for Hubby and Grandpa to take off on their next adventure and the boys and I will break camp Saturday morning. While we are getting road weary, there are still a few more stops planned along the way. Stay tuned for more Chang Gang adventures!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Opening Day

If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, one of the must-ride rides is the Going to Sun Road. It is the only road that takes you directly across the park. And, it is only open "seasonally". Late snowstorms and record accumulation, had resulted in multiple delays with the opening of this road.

You can imagine our delight when we learned that TODAY, the road would open for the 2011 season.

this poor little baby goat seemed a little confused "Hey, Ma, these things weren't here yesterday...what are they doing in MY way?".

The historic red buses were filled to capacity.

So, yes, while the travel was slowed down with fellow tourists, motorcycles and construction crews, I must say it was pretty cool to be part of the "Opening Day" frenzy!

*Tonight's disclaimer: while I am not sitting outside on the steps of the property owners, I am sitting in a pie shop using their free wi-fi. Free but not very fast. In the interest of time, I went with small size photos. Sorry for the small pictures.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looks like we made it....

Three days road travel, over 1200 miles completed thus far...and yesterday...we reached our destination...

Some of Hubby's motorcycle buddies are joining us.

Until yesterday, we only knew of them through their online blogs.

Now? I feel like we have friends who live in Oregon and Vancouver, BC!

Meet Mickey...

Mickey was the Russian immigrant who immigrated to the Valley in the late 1890s and set up a homestead (MT word for Ranch). His descendents continue to live here and a couple decades ago left the ranching life and now use their assorted cabins as vacation rentals.

We were told it was to be a rustic experience.

the only guarantee was indoor plumbing...

supplemented by some outdoor options

but as you can see from the smiles, rustic works for us!

*Disclaimer: internet options are limited. I am submitting this while sitting outside on the porch of the owner's...with their permission using their wi-fi. I've never blogged in the bright sunshine with a weak signal so I don't feel like spending a lot of time fiddling with the format. I want to get back to enjoy the quiet life!