RSS

California’s a Big State (Part 4) – Oregon House Farm & High Sierra Beef

We continued to head north from the RV docking point we used for San Francisco.  We’d been so busy with national parks and city touring that we were looking forward to some downtime.  Our first stop was two weeks at a campground/RV park on our Thousand Trails Zone Camping Pass in Oregon House, CA- about 1 hour south of Chico.  This is rural America.  The drive in was absolutely beautiful and the country began to remind us distinctly of New England.

Wherever we are, I always check localharvest.org for local farms, farmstands, and farmers’ markets.  Since we eat paleo, fresh meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits are our staples.  As you can imagine, this can get tricky.  No rice to fill a 3rd of the plate.  No beans to bulk up a meal.  No potatoes in the storage bin (anymore) to tide us over until we find a decent farmstand or market.  It takes some diligence and planning to ensure that our food supply is plentiful and sustained but it’s something we enjoy (the philosophy and the flavors) and believe in so it’s well worth the effort.  And there is less guilt when I buy those inorganic strawberries because I know our bodies are strong and healthy and can tolerate the occasional insult.
_MG_2112

We’re arriving in the north country a little early for the beginning of the farmers’ markets season so I was hoping I might find a local farm for meat, eggs, and seasonal produce.  My freezer stock of grassfed ground beef and cuts that I loaded up on in Tucson from the University of Arizona was waning.and eating grocery store meat is really a last resort.  We lucked out!  I found Oregon House Farm owned and operated by Jenny Cavaliere just 2 miles away – a cooperative member of High Sierra Beef who also operates a weekend farm store out of her 100 year old barn.  My e-mail inquiry to Jenny resulted not only in stocking our freezer but also a personal tour of her farm – 5 separate pieces of land – which included bee hives, calving cows (and calves!), chickens, sheep, and a peek into the life of a sustainable farmer.  Jenny also invited Sadie to sell her handmade felted pins, hair ties, beaded earrings, and flaxseed packs at the farm store the following weekend.
_MG_2148

Talk about knowing where your food comes from…  Jenny names all of her cows, walks among them in the fields, and they come down to greet her when she calls.  We talked freely about the processes and logistics of sustainable and humane breeding, feeding, and, yes, even slaughtering.  We even walked through the metal corral and down the ‘hall’ used to keep the cows still and safe for procedures and onto trailers for travel.
_MG_2114

You know, traveling is only partly about the places.  That’s how it starts.  The reason it continues and is fueled is the people.  Jenny is one of those people- who would take an entire afternoon to hang around in pastures sharing her passion with a family just traveling through.  Chris and I have been tossing around the idea of farming.  Jenny’s honesty about it’s 24/7 tether has put our dreamy prospect in check.  But this close connection has made us even more dedicated to knowing our farmer and their practices as much as possible.  Truth be told, there are a lot of different phrases used on packaging that are used to airbrush dirty or unhealthy practices.  My decoder ring can’t keep up with the myriad of ways that these practices get off on technicalities or fuzzy language and into the market.

Here are a couple of articles I like about grass-fed vs. grain fed beef:

Health Benefits of Grass Farming

The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef

And one to ponder about the ethics of eating meat:

Is Eating Meat Ethical?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 25, 2012 in California, Food, Travel log

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

California’s a Big State- Part 3 (San Francisco!)

Where to park the RV when visiting San Francisco?  No where near the city, that’s for sure.  We planned to really immerse ourselves rather than driving to and fro so we knew we’d be Priceline- ing a hotel room.  But there is the matter of the rig.  We parked her at an RV park several hours outside of Dodge – er- San Francisco, locked her up, and headed to the Bay for a couple of days in our little VW Rabbit tow car.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Our first afternoon in town, we discovered the perils of having a car in San Francisco.  Parking is t_MG_1848ough to find and very expensive.  We paid $3.50/hour at a parking garage downtown (which was actually pretty reasonable comparably) and walked to Chinatown for lunch.  It is wild to walk the steep hills covered in city.  Sitting in the Capitol Restaurant was neat- we were flat and the world outside was at a very steep slant! And, as you can imagine, the food was delicious.  Then we walked to the California line of the Trolley.  And we found a fantastic playground in Chinatown on the way!  For $6/person, we hung off the side of the trolley all the way through the city just like the Rice-A-Roni commercials of my childhood.  What a thrill!  And the driver actually encourages you to hang off the side poles if you want.

Some friends we met in Tucson are originally from S.F. and gave us a recommendation for great ice cream – Mitchell’s ice cream served up at St. Francis Fountain.  It sure was – rich and creamy in a little diner that I’m sure hasn’t changed since the woman who recommended it was there as a child.  Old school charm.  And right down the street from Vermont Street – SO twisty! – and the up-and-down, steep neighborhoods that you think of when you think of San Francisco.  What the movies can’t show?  When you go up one side of these streets lined with tall, skinny, prettily painted, side-by-side homes, you may get to the stop sign at the top and not be able to see the road in front of you, the stop signs of the cross streets…  Really, you won’t be able to see anything but the sky.  Yeah, they’re that steep.  The up feels like a roller coaster.  Had Chris let off the break, the down would’ve, too.  Whoa!  There was lots of disbelief and giggling in our car.  We also stopped at McKinley Park for a walk on the trails- all on the side of a hill!  We settled in for the evening at a Red Roof Inn (they allow dogs and even had a discount for pet month in April because we brought Skooter) by the S.F. airport.  Cheap, cozy, and on the bay.  Skooter and I had a beautiful sunset stroll and even happened upon a dog park on the way back.

_MG_1904

The next morning we were up and out early to make our reservation for the 9:30 AM Alcatraz Cruises ferry to Alcatraz Island.  Although the island is a national park, the ferry that gets you there is an independent company so you have to pay.  No way around it.  It cost us $28 per adult and $17 per child (age 5-11).  There is no extra national park entry fee.  The cost of the ferry covers it and includes the headset audio tour.  The audio tour came highly recommended on the review sites and it was fascinating, riveting, and a little frightening.  We’re glad we went early because as people linger throughout the day (you take a scheduled ferry to the island but any ferry thereafter to return), it’s easy to see how the island gets congested with people and the audio tour could get dangerous.  We were already doing a little bumping as everyone was attentively following the directions in their ears.  The movie was also really interesting and told, not only of the time period when Alcatraz was a prison and of the families that lived there during that time (wow!) but also about its history before and after as the first U.S. built fort on the west coast and the occupancy of Native Americans in the late 1960s for 18 months to call attention to Native American rights initiatives.
_MG_1911

We got off the boat back on the mainland around 12:30 and hungry.  I had done some online research looking for little known, great places to eat on a budget.  Voila!  I turned up Tanguito from this Food Dude video– an Argentine food truck on Fisherman’s’ Wharf.  We walked the 2+ blocks and ate utter deliciousness- empanadas, short ribs, and garlic fries- handmade and delivered to our sidewalk table by the owners.  Feeling utterly satisfied, we wandered back the way the tourists do- down a boardwalk lined with gaudy beach shops, chocolatiers, stores with guys out front telling me I need a new lens for my camera, wax museums, etc.  The few street performers that were out were nothing too exciting so we kept walking to the historic carousel of Pier 39.

Tanguito short ribs
Pier 39 is a hopping place.  On this Friday, it was crawling with people.  The Pier 39 carousel was also brought to my attention by our S.F. native friend.  It was crafted and hand painted in Italy and is the only carousel in the country that sports murals of its home city.  It is gorgeous!  The kids liked the out of the ordinary animals to ride.  Sadie rode a dolphin and Elijah rode a sea lion.

Pier 39 Carousel 1
Speaking of sea lions….  There were a whole big bunch of sea lions down at the end of Pier 39.  Noisy and funny- we had a great time watching them.  Skooter was a little freaked out by them, though.
Pier 39 Sea Lions

We weren’t feeling like doing the tourist shopping thing but Elijah was very excited that there was a store for left-handers – Lefty’s–  there.  Turns out, they were also having a giveaway to left-handed shoppers.  He came away with a much-prized left handed pen.  It has improved his penmanship tremendously.  He loves it so!

After packing up the car on Saturday morning and checking out of the hotel, we headed for the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Building. It was as big as I expected but much more expensive.  I guess in an area where everything is high priced, the farmers’ prices are up there, too.  We loaded up on produce, eggs, and a bit of meat – not knowing when our next good opportunity would be in our travels – and headed back to the car.  We stopped to eat some strawberries on a bench and then stopped again at a very cool fountain across the street that you could walk up on!  We also loved this cool sculpture:
When in San Franciso...

We all had a great time in San Francisco.  It ranks as one of those must-visits.  It is beautiful with lots of museums and interesting things to do and great eats.From what I experienced, I wouldn’t want to live there.  We didn’t find the vibe very friendly.  Skooter was one of few dogs we saw out on the three beautiful days we were there and was not very well regarded by passersby.  It was very expensive and parking was obscene.  I guess, being such a small city, bikes or mass transit would be a much better scenario for residents.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 22, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

California’s a Big State- Part 2

From Santa Barbara, we had a lovely driving day through farm country… until we got near our RV park destination where we came upon agri-business farms- one after another with loads of cows in pens lying in muck and eating grain out of troughs.  No grass in sight.  No room (or reason) to roam.  Given our recent focus on paleo eating and continued desire to eat local and organic, this was eye opening for the kids.  I’ll get into food in another post but the visual of this was a great opportunity to talk about our choice to eat meat and where we get it and why.

We stayed at Sun N Fun RV Park in Tulare, CA because of its proximity to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and decreased cost with our Passport America membership.  There isn’t a whole lot to the RV park but it made a nice place to stay- safe, quiet, near enough to stores that we needed, a picturesque drive to Sequoia NP, and a tiny little pool where we spent some time each afternoon that we were there.

I couldn’t take enough photos in Sequoia NP to satisfy my desire to capture its beauty.  The first day we were there, the kids picked up their Junior Ranger workbooks at the Visitors’ Center and worked on them there a bit with the information provided.  Then we proceeded into the park from about 1,000 feet of elevation to 6,000 to see the Sequoia trees.  It was interesting to note the distinct differences in the elevation zones.  Snow!  The zone with the sequoias had snow!  I think the kids were more excited about the snow than the trees.  Maybe we played them up too much…  Oh well, at least there was snow.  It was funny (growing up in New England) to see our kids look like Bambi on ice walking on snow.  We gave them a few tips.  The trees are extraordinary.  They are the biggest trees in the world by volume (not the tallest).  The diameter of the largest (General Sherman) is over 36 feet at the base and the massive girth continues to the top.  We came prepared with jackets but it was still pretty cold so, after walking the General Sherman Trail (very crowded- it was Good Friday) and taking turns with other tourists for photo ops, we headed back down the mountain. 
General Sherman
The Kids Stand in a Sequoia Fire Scar
The kids worked on their Junior Ranger books at home and we went back out to the park on Monday for hiking, exploring, on-site Junior Ranger work, and their swearing in back at the Visitor Center.  🙂

Tunnel Rock

Waiting for a free RV spot at the Thousand Trails park near Yosemite National Park, we stayed 10 days in Tulare.  It was a relaxing time for decompression after so much busy Legoland/family time/etc. since leaving Tucson.  The drive to Yosemite was thrilling as a passenger, nervewracking (I’m told) as the driver- twisting and turning up, down, and around the sides of mountains with long sprays of snow-melt waterfalls visible on the opposite mountainside.  Sadie lost her lunch into our stock pot and we pulled over one other time to put out two random rest area fires.  Who starts fires (and leaves them burning) at a California turnoff?
Our campsite at Yosemite Valley
I considered that maybe Yosemite wouldn’t live up to the hype.  We’d been hearing about this national park for… ever.  It’s so huge.  Maybe we’d see the ‘wrong’ stuff and miss out on the greatness.  The Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails is located 5 miles from the entrance to the park.  5 miles.  That is fantastic.  From the main entrance, it’s 24 miles to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center.  And, oh, what a 24 miles it is – views of Half Dome, 2 feet of snow on the ground, driving directly under the base of Bridal Veil Falls, and right next to El Capitan.  The parking area is about 1/4 mile flat walk to the Yosemite Valley Visitors’ Center (there are others but they were closed this early in the season).  We talked with a Ranger who gave the kids their Junior Ranger worksheet (much less involved here in the way of puzzles, word finds, etc. This one focused on experiential learning which worked out well so we could really make the most of our time in the park.) and talked with us about available hikes.  The kids requested a ‘rugged’ hike (sweet!) so we headed off for Upper Yosemite Falls.  Rugged, indeed.  It was about 4 miles roundtrip with a 2,600 foot elevation gain and well worth it.  We spotted a bobcat during our hike!  After viewing the upper falls, we were pointed to a little offshoot of the trail that took us down to a breathtaking view of the upper, middle, and lower falls.  Wow.  Elijah talked most of the way down about how eating paleo has made a tremendous difference in his wind, strength, and endurance.  Huh.  OK.  The hike wore us all out and the descent took its tolls on Chris’ knees.  The kids were intent on getting back to the Visitors’ Center before they closed to turn in their work for their badges.  This was the first park that had a sign-in book.  The kids liked that and were taken aback by the standing ovation preceeded by an announcement of their achievement.  It’s a little different everywhere we go!

Sarah and Chris hiking Upper Falls

Chris’ knees took a few days to be up to extended walking- never mind hiking.  Our second day in the park was lower key and it felt great to already have Upper Falls under our belts and to just meander around the park.  We walked up under Bridal Veil Falls (wet, wet, wet!), picnicked under El Cap, and walked the paved path to the base of Lower Falls.  While much of the park was closed, we felt like we’d landed in one of the most awe-inspiring, spirit-filling places on earth.  The waterfalls flowed fully and loudly with snow melting in ribbons off the tops of the mountains.

Upper Falls

The excitement doesn’t stop…. We were on our way to San Francisco! Stay tuned…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 13, 2012 in California, RV, Travel log

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

California’s a Big State! (Part 1)

So now I’m back-blogging (as in- still behind where we are right now…).  Right now we’re in northern California but we started down at the ‘bottom.’  As you can imagine, there’s a lot to catch up on.  But I would feel remiss if I didn’t try.  There has already been so much that I didn’t record here of our east cost travels that I’ve got to catch up on these last few months since Tucson.

We’ve been in California since March 16th (my birthday).  The stars (or logistics) aligned for us to travel on my birthday.  Ah, well.  The night before we left I made a coconut flour, double-decker death by chocolate paleo cake.  It was freakin’ fabulous.  We made our way to Jamul, CA – just outside of San Diego.  Our drive took us from sunny, dry, hot Tucson where the vegetation makes every attempt to spear you to the rainy, lush, green countryside of southern California and let me tell you how great it is to end a rainy travel day with a huge chocolate cake topped with fresh strawberries (and candles)…

Elijah (and more recently Sadie) had been waiting for this stop for a long time.  Legoland!  We were situated in a rainy, woodsy campground.  The lush green, mountainous area made for beautiful driving to and from our temporary home.  We spent two days in Legoland.  It was- eh.  My theme park bar is set high by Disney World.  Say what you will, Disney is a plugged in, full on enjoyable experience.  I thought Legoland was seriously overpriced.  Disney ticket prices for a Lego Six Flagesque experience.  We were delighted to get the hook-up with information about homeschool day prices.  We ended up saving more than half and that made it all better for me.  The kids LOVED it.  It’s a theme park.  And there are Legos.  Elijah participated in the Lego Mindstorms (robotics) class and (despite not being overly thrilled about taking time away from his theme park experience) thought it was awesome and was glad he went.  It entailed programming robots to navigate a course and perform varied functions to complete an assignment.  The best part of Legoland for everyone was the gift shop.  Holy moly, that is a seriously comprehensive gift shop.

 _MG_1121

My oldest brother lives in California.  We stopped through for a delicious dinner and renewed connection and ended up spending the night and making another date for our families to spend more time together.  We are 7 years apart and were always in very different parts of our lives.  It seems we’ve found common ground now as adults with young children pursuing our personal and familial passions with vigor.  Man, that was fun.  It warms my heart to hear my kids talk about their cool aunt and uncle and their super-fun ‘new’ cousins.  My favorite memory?  Hiking in the Cleveland (not in Ohio) National Forest with my brother in his family.  I feel closer to him now than ever.  I’ve committed myself to giving more attention to family connections.  I’ve made this (private) commitment before but this time feels different- it’s out of excitement rather than obligation.  But it’s tricky with poor cell signals and sketchy internet so the blog is my love letter to y’all until we hear each other’s voices again.

Speaking of brothers, Chris has one in California, too!  Jeesh – for east coast kids, we’ve got a lot of family on the west coast.  Back to one of my favorite RV park/campgrounds situated on a horse ranch in the Padre National Park mountains to the east of Santa Barbara (with the Pacific Ocean to the west).  Here we spent two weeks with Chris’ brother and 4 year-old niece.  There’s just something about cousins.  I’m so happy that our kids get to see theirs more regularly than they would if we were living in a stationary home.  The cost of four plane tickets, west and east coast family, and time off from a facetime job made it very difficult.  One of the biggest reasons our kids like to travel is that they get to see family much more frequently.  Park play, delicious restaurants that could accomodate our paleo nutritional choices, an afternoon at the Ty Warner Sea Center with Emma, a hike with spectacular views of Santa Barbara, a hike to another waterfall right from the door of our RV, a horseback trail ride for Sadie and I, and precious time just ‘being’ with family.  Well, we didn’t spend much time in the RV park but we did love our time in Santa Barbara.

OK- well that gets us to central California.  I’m out of breath and will catch up on the rest soon!  One of my toughest parts of blogging is calling a post ‘done’ and pressing ‘publish’ so I must type and publish all in one hit!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 7, 2012 in California, Family, Travel log

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Loving and Leaving Tucson

Confession: I’ve fallen off the blog wagon and would love to get back on.  I’m seeing it now as a great way to stay in touch with family and friends who are not on Facebook and also as a way to share more than can be shared in a 2 sentence status update.  I started writing this post a couple of months ago and it has been sitting in my ‘drafts’ folder. 

Big hugs and ‘hello!’ to all of you who have asked me to continue to blog.  I’d love to keep sharing with you!  Bear with me as I catch up…  ❤

———————————————————————————————-

Once we found our groove of living ‘on the road,’ we found (retrospectively) that we tend to plan about 5-6 months in advance, live it out, and then plan another 5-6 months.  There are different phases involved in the planning so that everything goes smoothly but we never feel rushed or stuck.  First, we’ve learned not to plan things that feel like a stretch.  Because then the time in between becomes wrought with the stress of trying to make it to whatever, wherever we had planned rather than focusing on the ever-present opportunities wherever we are- and there always are… everywhere.  We try to make our life a journey of flowing adventures with planned highlight points rather than a disjointed there and back, up and down, back and forth.  So far, we’ve found ourselves in all the right places at all the right times.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t people or places we aren’t seeing.  It means that everything and everyone we are seeing are perfect right now.
_MG_9384
So here we are in Tucson, AZ.  Last fall, as we saw our savings taking hit after hit, I put out a call on Facebook for ideas of places to work camp.  The kids and I love to do a variety of projects and would like to contribute to the family economic well-being while Chris is teaching online.  I was expecting RV park recommendations for work camping from my traveling friends.  Instead, a dear family of friends in Tucson invited us to share their land in exchange for some project work.  I was hesitant.  Where would the boundaries lie?  How would our relationship be affected by the close proximity, extended time, and work expectations?

We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 or so days with them as we passed through the area last year.  And so, after some heart-to-heart e-mails and being really clear about everyone’s expectations and emotions, we all agreed this could be really great.  We started with the intent of staying a month or so – to be extended as determined by how everyone was feeling.  It ended up that we stayed about 2 1/2 months.  Yes, it went well.  Better than well, really.  The sense of community with a continued ability to retreat to our own dwellings and routines was perfect.  Having good friends a stone’s throw away for play, talk, hobby and project work, and emotional support was wonderful!  The best part?  No guessing.  There was always open, honest communication about where people were at on a given day.  Have you read The Four Agreements?  The biggest that came into play in this scenario were that we don’t make assumptions and we don’t take anything personally (because it’s not about you).  These have been huge realizations and paramount to living well in community.  Everyone was supported in their journey and in responsibility for their own, unique needs and desires.  Wow- we just loved it in Tucson.  It’s hard to separate what we loved about it but I can tell you that our ‘neighborhood’ had a lot to do with it.  And that ‘neighborhood’ extends to a tremendous network of unschooling families who engage in many ways at all hours of the day and night- children and families who enjoy each other’s company and share similar values in child rearing but whose journeys are extremely varied.  I enjoyed time with other moms both with the children and at moms’ nights out.  Chris went to dads’ cards night and always came home smiling and refreshed from some time out with the guys.

_MG_9859

_MG_9854
AND!  We had a most amazing visit with our friends the Camerons (who you may remember we met just as we were beginning our traveling in late summer 2010) from British Columbia.  They’d parked their campervan for a bit and were living a cozy life up north and decided to hop back in to spend a couple of weeks with us in Tucson!!!  AND!  They ‘brought’ the Rosnaus!  We’d heard tell of this fabulous family many times from the Camerons and hoped to meet them one day.  All the stories were true.  We felt an instant kinship between our families and know that we will continue to share a deep connection whether we are next door or across the globe.

But now that we’re in Tucson, it’s time to plan out another 6 months or so.  Where do we go from here?  We have ‘high’ points but what we have realized is that some of the most special memories are the ‘in between’ spots.  So does it really matter where we go?  While basking in the glow of shared time with friends, we acted on a dream that we’d been tossing around logistics of for a long time.  With a kick in the pants from the Camerons (thank you!), we booked an Alaskan cruise.  Chris and I could have gone round and round on the logistics (and we had for months and months) and never made the final arrangements so it was very exciting to book it and plan while in the company of our shipmates (yes, the Camerons are going with us!). 

With that as our final destination of the next leg of our travels, we have begun to plan out the days, destinations, and activities (roughly) for our journey north.  And, boy, are we excited!

And that is what keeps us from completely falling apart (or staying still) whenever we leave people and places that we love so much.  Tears flow and then the thrill of new sights, sounds, and people to hug flow in and create a new sense of excitement.  We love you, Brett family!  Tucson – until we meet again.

Our Tucson favs:

Agua Caliente Park– an oasis in the desert!

Saguaro National Park– the kids are Junior Rangers here.  Amazing desert scenery.  I’ll be posting lots of photos to my Flickr account once we have better internet.  🙂  We made several visits for photography, hiking, and I took my mom on a sunset drive.  Just beautiful.

Tucson Tamale Company– organic, non-GMO, with vegan options.  We got there right before closing and they sent us home with a huge bag full.  We’ve tried almost every kind and they are all delicious.  Sadie has proclaimed this her favorite restaurant thus far.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum– Wow.  Must see.  Raptor show was fabulous. 

Buenos Aires Wildlife Preserve– We tented here with the Rosnaus and Camerons.  The complete desolation and beauty was perfect.  Sleeping on the ground… not so much.  🙂

Tubac Arts Festival and Tubac Olive Oil– Tubac is an hour or so south of Tucson.  It’s a lovely little town with a western feel and a nice vibe.  We happened upon the festival on the way back from the camping trip to BAWP (above).  Wow!  The artists and selection of art were so beautiful and fun!  The actual destination was Tubac Olive Oil.  We love balsamic vinegar and use it a lot.  Now we use it even more.  Ho-ly Cow.  We got two bottles of the 18-year traditional.  The second was supposed to be a gift.  We’re using that one now (so much for the gift) and I’ll be ordering more soon.  Taste testing there was delicious and overwhelming.  Everyone in our family was in heaven.

Sabino Canyon– Close to town and really great (endless) hiking.  This is a national park so the NP pass gives you free parking.

Farmers’ markets– they have one on the west side and one on the east.  The offerings are a testament to the interest in and dedication to food of the city’s inhabitants.  Gluten free baking, gourmet, grain-free dog treats, organic and pesticide-free produce, free range/grassfed meats, free range eggs, locally dried and blended teas, etc.  AND- they have a knife sharpener and jammin’ live acoustic bluegrass music (at least the day we were there).  Skooter liked that they welcome well-behaved doggies.  🙂

International Wildlife Museum– OK, so everything here is dead.  It’s a museum of taxidermy animals.  That said, this was SO awesome.  My kids would rather one dead animal be preserved so they can look at it than to go see live ones in cages at the zoo.  The range of animals here was extraordinary.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Arizona, Travel log

 

Tags: , , ,

On the Way to Tough Mudder- Central Texas!

Around last April, I saw a Facebook post by a friend fishing for companions to join her in a 10 mile mud-and-guts obstacle course on October 9th in Central Texas called Tough Mudder. Supposedly, the obstacles were designed to replicate British Special Forces training – complete with head games. I didn’t even blink before I was in. I just had to convince Chris. I mentioned it. Done. That was easy! We were in. Second thoughts have entered, mind you. For Chris, it’s the iced water obstacles. His mind can’t wrap itself around putting his body, particularly his testicles, through the numbing pain of swimming in ice. For me, it’s electrocution. I’m claiming sanity on that one and reminding myself (like I did during childbirth and on the Tower of Terror at Disney) that hundreds of thousands of people have done it and lived through it. I will feel supremely badass when it’s over… if I live. I did have to sign a death waiver, after all. Come to think of it, I had to sign a similar waiver for my wisdom teeth extraction so whatever.

Chris and I (like you, I’m sure) have watched those bullshit armed forces commercials that show obstacle courses and teamwork and make the whole military experience look like ropes-course-sleep-away-camp for adults. We dreamed of being able to participate in the time-limited physical challenge as it is depicted – teamwork, heart, strength, pain, drive… ultimate challenge – without the rest of the military committment.

We read everything on their website and various blogs of others who had participated in various locations throughout the country, signed up, and paid our money. Shit. Now we’d have to train- hard. We’re physically fit people but the prospect of this (we hoped) would take us to an entirely different plane. We were in South Carolina at the time. We immediately began training using the program on the Tough Mudder website.
DSCF5942

Tough Mudder is not a race. It’s a challenge and focuses on camaraderie and teamwork. I have to say that Chris and I have bonded tremendously with ourselves and each other over this experience. We have trained 5-6 days a week through eighteen states – all in and around the RV using playground equipment, picnic tables, and household items. While in New Hampshire this summer, I found a book called, “You Are Your Own Gym” by Mark Lauren. We were getting bored and feeling a bit of a plateau settle in with our workout regime. This book has been a big turning point for us. Some major nutritional revelations have been the other key but that’s really an entirely different post. Long story short (in case that post is delayed in coming)- we are thriving on a no sugar, no gluten, no processed flour, low glycemic diet. It’s strangee to even describe it in a way that I’m only telling you what we don’t eat. What we do eat is so freakin’ fantastic! I often post what we’re eating on Facebook so friend me!
DSCF5931

I’m writing this post on the way to Austin, Texas where we’ll be spending the six days surrounding the event. Stay tuned! Soon we (and our team of 4 other badass homeschooling parents) will be Tough Mudders! Oh, and did I mention that they’ve lengthened the course to 12 miles with 29 obstacles? Bring…it…on.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Texas, Travel log

 

Butterflies!

Last Christmas, Sadie wanted and received one of those insect kits to raise butterflies.  We’ve been so busy traveling and visiting that we just haven’t used the voucher to order the larvae and start the process.  She recently pulled the box out of her cubby and it seemed the perfect time.  So we went to www.insectlore.com and used the voucher from our box to order the larvae.  We paid only shipping because the kit included the voucher but you can order and pay for a variety of insects there without the kits as well.  Sure enough, 2 days later we received 5 little black caterpillar-looking larvae.

They grew like mad!  It seemed everytime we walked by their little cup, they were significantly bigger to the point that they ended up greenish, brownish, fat, fuzzy caterpillars.  The cup had tiny air holes and included the food they needed to get to their chrysalid phase so we didn’t do anything but watch for about a week.  They made silk strands criss cross the cup and walked around on them and one day one of them attached its rear end to the paper lid liner of the cup.  The other four promptly followed.  That was about a week ago.  We watched them change from soft and squishy looking to covered in hard, dry casings that had iridescent gold spots on them.  According to the instructions, we removed the paper lid liner from the cup and safety pinned it to the lower inside edge of the net butterfly house.  In the process, one of the chrysalids fell off.  Yikes!  I was able to gently rub the silk remaining on the top against the cup and it stuck back on.
IMG_6841

 

Yesterday I got a call while I was out from Chris.  “We have a butterfly!”  Indeed, we do.  And it is a beautiful miracle of nature!  So awesome.
IMG_6853

Sadie picked the heads off of two of her potted petunias, mixed the sugar water, and dropped a few droplets on the petals.  We all watched this morning as our butterfly friend extended its proboscis and drank the sweet mixture.  It was visibly disturbed by our hands, our presence, and household noises.  Before our bumpy drive to Austin this morning, we decided to set this one free.

We have four other chrysalids remaining.  In the process, the same chrysalid that had come detached before fell again.  We picked it up and examined it and could see the butterfly wings inside!!!  This time it would not stick back on.  I took a piece of dental floss and tied it to the silk hanging off and tied the other end to the strap on the top of the net house then zipped the zipper closed over it.
IMG_6857

Guess what?!  As I’m typing this post, that butterfly has emerged! Phew. I was kind of worried about that guy.

We are all excited to observe other insects from http://www.insectlore.com. Having read just about everything about butterflies we have gotten our hands on, it’s positively awesome to watch their transition first hand. I think any other observations may have to wait until spring weather… The nights are getting chilly here in Texas already!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Projects

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,