Category Archives: Family Stuff

I grew up with four funny, fabulous sisters who couldn’t be more different. We’re loud, creative, rambunctious, hilarious and competitive, especially when croquet or boardgames are involved. We’re a mixed bag, but we fit together really well. Yes, my family is kind of kookie, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Spring Outdoor Gardening With OXO

I haven’t posted since March? Well, we’re not dead – we just moved!

The Complete Package pulled the trigger on retirement and the lure to be close to our grandkids was just too strong for me, so we packed up our stuff and we moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Okay, not Beverly Hills exactly, but we did move to the hills west of Austin. Hello, Hill Country!

Two weeks after we moved into our new home, we were hit with a massive hail storm that blew out three picture windows, totaled TCP’s truck, dented the guttering, destroyed our roof and beat our landscaping to a pulp. (Stupid hail.) Not the welcome we expected, but it didn’t dampen our love for the new place. It just meant we had more work to do. And we still absolutely love it.

While we wait for contractors to fix the big stuff, we started on the yard with a little help from OXO. Their Spring Gardening campaign kicked off just as we were preparing to redo the flower beds. Perfect timing! The box of tools they sent were exactly what we needed.

OXO Spring Outdoor Gardening Tools

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love OXO products. Their commitment to smart design at a great price continually knocks me out. They don’t just design comfortable handles, for example. They add gel pads to the grips to prevent blisters. Ergonomic and comfortable for the win!

OXO Transplanting Trowel - Gel Pad Comfort

I decided to start with the hand plow and tackle replacing the salvia that got beat literally to death. Hail hath no fury? Try telling that to the salvia.

OXO Plow To the Rescue

Because of the pointed tip, I could literally plow through the rock to the soil beneath. This is a serious hand tool. Besides digging rocks, I also used it to re-trough the edge of the bed where approximately two gallons of tiny gravel from our asphalt shingles washed off the roof. Apparently, when golf ball size hail beats your roof badly enough, all that gravel will indeed come off and end up in your yard, which is totally bizarre. But fear not! The hand plow is your friend.

OXO Pointed Plow Blade

Next, we tackled trimming the broken branches from our oak trees and bushes. (Stupid hail.) I don’t have any idea what this bush is, but I like it. Could it be a blueberry bush? Only time will tell. If you recognize it, feel free to shout it out.

OXO Bypass Pruners

The bypass pruners made quick work of those branches and also helped me clean up our poor agave. He did not fare so well with the hail. Poor guy had holes blown all the way through his fronds.

Our Poor Hail-Damaged Agave

Once he was spruced up, I used the hand rake to create a zen pattern in the sand. You know… to help calm him and restore order. Quick question: Do you talk to your plants? I’m asking for a friend.

New House - Agave & Rock Bed

And the hand rake I mentioned? Wait until you get a load of it. Man, I love this thing. It’s the Edward Scissorhands of hand tools.

OXO Hand Rake - Fully Expanded

We used it to help spread new mulch because the storm washed all of our previous mulch into the adjacent greenbelt. (Stupid hail.) What I loved about this rake is that it’s expandable. Did you hear that? I said expandable!

OXO Expandable Hand Rake Collage

You can’t help but play with this thing, but the truth is it’s so functional and easy to use. TCP dumped piles of mulch, and I played with the new hand rake. I mean I ‘worked hard to improve the beds’. (Sometimes I wish he didn’t read my blog.) It made getting into tight nooks and crannies super easy.

OXO Hand Rake - Working Those Corners

Because you can release the lock and adjust the rake width in or out, you can put that mulch into any corner instead of accidentally flinging it out into the grass. That’s a big bonus for a klutz like me.

Now for my personal favorite – the Pour & Store Outdoor Watering Can. I’m telling everyone about this puppy. It’s pure dynamite. The spout actually swivels so you can fill and store with ease. What?!? You heard right!

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Easy Fill

And it holds 2+ gallons of water! You’d think that would be heavy and awkward to carry, but it’s really not. The can is so well balanced, you can grab it and go. And you don’t have to constantly peek into the can to see if it’s full yet, because the handle is translucent and you can see the water as it fills. See what I mean? The designers at OXO are so smart! Why did no one think of this before? Why didn’t I think of it before? I coulda’ been RICH, I TELL YOU!

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Easy View Fill Level

Other features that rock – the pivoting spout that allows you to fold and store easily and the removable spout head that goes from rain function to full stream with a twist. You’d better believe I am watering ALL the things now.

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Thoughtful Design

Once you’re done, give it a quick wipe, twist the spout back around and pop it under a kitchen cabinet. Pure genius.

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Easy Storage

We had so much fun playing with our new toys, we got a wild hair and planted a herb container for the front entry. In case you’re wondering, I’m already planning a Margherita pizza around that basil. ‘Hey, Basil…looking good! What, these? Oh, they’re just bypass pruners. No big whoop.’

New House - Herb Container Garden

It felt good to stand in the driveway and look over our work. The beds look good again. The plants are pruned, watered and feeling loved again. The oaks are still bruised and holding a grudge, but 2 out of 3 landscapers agree that they’ll probably recover and grow to be big and strong despite the trauma they endured.

Yes, we are still waiting for guttering and the roof to be replaced, but we really can’t complain. It could have been worse, that’s what insurance is for, and no one got hurt. For that, we are truly thankful.

New House - Front Beds & Porch

Now if OXO could just design a shingle remover and a guttering installer tool, we’d be set. Go ahead, guys. I know you can do it, and I’m willing to wait.
Up Next:
An update on the inside of our new house, including photos from that storm. (Stupid hail.)

NOTE: As a member of the OXO Blogger Outreach Program, I am occasionally given the opportunity to test OXO products, which I receive at no cost to me. I do not receive any other compensation and all opinions are my own. If you are a blogger and would like more information on the OXO Blogger Outreach Program, CLICK HERE.

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Family Stuff, Things I Love

The times, they are a-changing.

So many changes in this new year, my friends. I’ll start with an apology for not posting since before Thanksgiving. Your patience has been greatly appreciated. In fact, readership has actually increased, and for that I am truly grateful. That you choose to follow the random thoughts in my head is an endless source of amazement and joy, and I love you for it.

What’s happening? Lots. First, The Complete Package is retiring! He likes to joke that I retired years ago when our first grandchild was born. He is not wrong, although technically it was more like dropping out to play Nana than retiring. The fact that I never went back to work was just a bonus (for me). Now, at long last, he will be joining me in what I like to refer to as our “funemployed years”. What’s on tap? All kinds of things, starting with this:

WE’RE MOVING TO AUSTIN!

Austin House - Street View with Banner
We found our ultimate retirement home in the rolling hills west of Austin. It’s a beautiful 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath one-story home with all of the features we’ve dreamed of – an open floor plan, low maintenance, high ceilings, wood floors and sweeping hill country views. Oh, and did I mention the kitchen? I knew I was home the instant I saw it.

Austin House - New Kitchen

Austin House - Kitchen Island

Austin House - Kitchen Tile

That island! Huge is an understatement. By all estimates, I’d guess it should accommodate 40 pies, 400 cinnamon rolls (at least), and sleep 4 full-grown adults if we run out of beds. It’s insane. I also love the great windows, morning light, deep counters and that herringbone subway tile backsplash. I can hardly believe I’m going to get to live here. For real – it almost brings tears to my eyes.

I’m looking forward to baking with the kids and cooking big family dinners. The idea being close enough for regular Sunday Suppers with the family has been a dream since our daughter graduated from UT and settled in Austin. We’ll be able to take the kids for long hikes in the hills, ride bikes around the miles of paved trails, and spend quality time at the neighborhood pool & play areas. Something else I’m looking forward to – a covered porch where I can relax and enjoy a good book or a cup of coffee. Guess what? Dreams do come true, kids.

Austin House - Back Porch

Austin House - Hill Country Views

And because the new house sits on top of a hill, we have great views of our new neighborhood and the rolling hills out by Lake Travis. I can hardly wait to pick out patio furniture. Besides the new house, we are thrilled to pieces to be closer to our daughter, Jonah Bear and Lilly Bug. With her pending divorce, we’ll now be there to help out and that gives all of us greater peace of mind. The kids are already plotting weekend sleepovers and calling dibs on bedrooms. They’re not alone. The Complete Package & I are ridiculously exited, too.

Blog posts may be few and far between for a bit. We’re working to list and sell our home of 25 years in Houston and prepare for the big move to Austin. If all goes well, we’ll be moving in early April (fingers crossed). I’ll try to keep you posted on our progress, if you’re interested. My goal is to be back up to full speed by May, with as many posts as possible in between, until I’m firmly planted here:

Austin House - Kitchen Desk with Arrow

Once we’re settled, I’ll break in that kitchen, hit the back roads to explore, and bring you new content from our little corner of Austin. Oh, the places we’ll go!
If you live in the Austin area, be forewarned – I’M COMING FOR YOU!
And I could not be more excited. -jeanne

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Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

Sew Busy: Embroidered Tote Bags

Sometimes when I start on a craft project, I have a hard time stopping. Pacing is not really my thing. A few weeks ago, Big Sis came down for a weekend and I dragged out a handful of embroidery ideas I’d found on Pinterest, along with a few fabrics to pair them to. Once we gathered the supplies to pull it all together, I became obsessed. Like nine bags in a week obsessed. Intervention, anyone?

Now I’m not crazy. There is a story behind my stitching. These lined shopping totes are intended for our annual Hoegarden Weekend, that magical time when the females in our family gather to shop, antique, play board games, cook, snack and break out the croquet mallets. Here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to, and who’s already claimed what.

The “How I Roll” Camper Bag
Camper Bag

Camper Bag close-up

Sister #3 has already laid claim to this one, sight unseen. She has a thing for campers and as soon as she heard it was in the works, she called dibs. I love the colors – so whimsical and fun.

The “Runs With Scissors” Bag
Runs With Scissors Bag

Runs With Scissors Bag Detail

I made this one with Mom in mind. As a life-long quilter and seamstress, it suits her to a T. She has spent a lifetime teaching the five of us every type of craft – from knitting to sewing to embroidery to, well you name it. Red is her color, and this fun bag will be perfect for transporting supplies back & forth to her Cozy Quilters meetings each Wednesday. Hope she likes it!

The “Make A Wish” Dandelion Bag
Dandelion Bag

Dandelion Bag close-up

This one is mine. I love the color & patterns in the print, but most of all I love the simplicity of it. I’m not letting this one go, no matter how hard they wish.

The “Nerdy Hooter” Tote
Owl Bag

Owl Close-Up

I didn’t name this one, my daughter did when she laid claim to this bag. She fell in love with this cute, sassy owl. The bag is lined in a cute owl print, as well. As a first grade teacher, her class will love it. And it’s large, which makes it perfect for bringing her work home each night.

The “Sleep Under the Stars” Bag
Camping Under the Stars Bag

Camping Under the Stars close-up

I made this one with our Baby Sister in mind. She’s always loved camping, and with her son in Boy Scouts, they get the chance to practice their camping skills often. I especially love the animal print. Check out their cute chevron tails! If The Baby wants this one, she’d better mark her territory quickly.

The “French Knot Flowers” Bag
French Knot Flowers Bag

French Knot Flowers Detail

So…many…knots! But I love how the flowers turned out. I like to think of them as firework flowers. As a button enthusiast, this one makes me happy. The bright colors of the bag and lining are so cheerful.

The “Bee Happy” Bag
Bee Happy Bag

Bee Happy Detail

Speaking of happy…this cute bee was one of the first bags I tackled. To make the wings stand out, I painted a thin layer of iridescent opal fabric paint before stitching on the details. Extra layers of thread on the bee body make it slightly 3-dimensional and the colorful floral print seemed a natural choice.

The “Don’t Bug Me” Bag
Chevron Bug Bag

Chevron Bug Bag close-up

Bees don’t have all the fun. This little chevron cutie is paired with a vine & flower print and was inspired by the tiny bugs in the print. The eyes are vintage gemstone buttons scored at an estate sale this summer. Too cute.

The “Let’s Get Swept Away” Bag
Swept Away Bag

Swept Away Close-Up

And last, but certainly not least, this adorable ‘swept away’ bag was made with my niece (K) in mind. Big Sis thought her baby would love it. There’s so much promise in the design, and so many opportunities in life to get swept up in. It’s not just a bag, it’s a motto. No pressure, K. You can choose another bag if it speaks to you (even though she’s blonde & adorable like you).

Swept Away Detail

I got totally swept up in this project, and I’m not quite done yet. Big Sis is working on her own embroidered front panel featuring a vintage bicycle, and once she’s done she’ll send it back so I can finish it to match the others. There are also plans to make small bags for our two littlest girls (both 5 years old). Four generations of crafty females in our family make me so proud to be a part of it.

What was the last craft project you got swept up in? -jeanne

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Filed under Craft Projects, Family Stuff

The Uncommon Goods-ness of Gnomes

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Onesie & Blanket Duo - cutest baby gift

When opportunity knocks, sometimes super cute things await. Such was the case when Uncommon Goods asked if I’d be interested in sampling goods from their baby gift collection. Since my friend Madelyn announced she is expecting her first baby in January, the timing was perfect. I couldn’t resist, and chose these gnomes. I knew they’d be cute, but I had no idea they’d be so well-made.

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Onesie & Hat Close-Up

Both the onesie/hat set and the blanket are made of recycled fibers. If you think recycled implies a lesser quality, you would be mistaken. These were flawless in every way. The fibers are super soft and snuggly, the colors are vibrant, and the gnomes scored a solid 10 on the cuteness meter.

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Onsie & Hat - it's just too cute!

Here’s what I learned (and what I love) about Uncommon Goods:

1. Founded in 1999, they are headquartered in New York City in the old Brooklyn Army Terminal. I know where I’m going the next time I visit NYC.

2. They are committed to supporting artists & designers; half of what they sell is handmade and most of their products are created right here in the USA. As a home crafter, I appreciate this more than I can express.

3. Approximately one-third of their products are made from recycled and/or upcycled materials. As an avid recycler, I love and support this.

4. They have B Corp status, which means they use the power of business to solve social and environmental issues. That B seal also means they meet rigorous standards on issues like wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community. A company with a heart? You betcha.

Even if you don’t buy into the mission, you would be a fool to miss out on the quality and variety of products offered. Even The Complete Package, my beloved husband, gasped aloud “Wow…that blanket feels amazing. It’s so NICE!” Who says men don’t notice such things? He’s all mine, ladies.

Uncommon Goods - Recycled Cotton Fibers

Uncommon Goods - Recycled Fiber Label - Green 3 Apparel

What I love most is how they pulled it all together – great design, recycled materials, handmade products with a high level of craftsmanship, and made in America. Seriously amazing. All of it.

Somewhere in southern California is a wee baby who will someday be swaddled and soothed by these sweet, cuddly gnomes. And somewhere in Houston is a blogger who is appreciative of the folks at Uncommon Goods and their commitment to quality, creativity, and community and who, just for a second or three, contemplated keeping that snuggly blanket for herself. (Hint: it’s me.)

Uncommon Goods - Gnome Blanket

Disclaimer: Uncommon Goods offered to ship products from their selection of Baby Gifts and/or Personalized Gifts. I chose the gnome items from the baby collection, which were sent at no cost to me. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own. Readers know I only share items I love and feel strongly about, and these sweet gifts certainly fit that bill. -jeanne

Uncommon Goods Info

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Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts

Utah: we really kept them hopping!

Okay, so I shared where we stayed in my last post. Now it’s time to share what we did during our vacation in Ogden & Salt Lake City. The question should be what DIDN’T we do? Here’s a rundown of our week with the grandkids and all the fun we had. And boy, was it fun. Exhausting, but fun. We wore those kids out!

A drive through Ogden Valley & the Pineview Reservoir:
The drive up Ogden Valley into the Wasatch Mountains began just blocks from our vacation rental. After a brief stop for Farr’s ice cream (the kids had Play Dough, which tasted like Fruit Loops) we were on our way to the scenic loop around Pineview Reservoir through the tiny townships of Eden and Huntsville. We stopped at a campground on the south shore so the kids could swim. What a breathtaking place to soak up the sun and take advantage of the clear cool water.

Ogden Canyon Drive

Ogden Valley Drive - Farr's Ice Cream stop

Ogden Mountain Drive - Wasatch Range from Pineview Reservoir

Pineview Reservoir - Lilly & Jonah in the sand

Pineview Reservoir - Sibling Love

Huntsville, UT - view of the mtns near Pineview Reservoir

A day at the Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden:
This fun park is located at the mouth of Ogden Valley on the edge of town. We arrived just before it opened and were surprised to see a pretty good line forming. As it turned out, we were there on a free day. Bonus! We started by walking through the indoor museum, but it was the outdoor area that the kids truly enjoyed. The paved walking path meandered through a beautifully landscaped and hilly area dotted with dinosaur statues. It wasn’t long, though, until the kids spotted the playground area and all bets were off. Still, they had a great time and we enjoyed the rolling hills and view of the mountains.

Ogden - Eccles Dinosaur Park

Ogden Dinosaur Park - Lunchtime

Ogden Dinosaur Park - Lilly tames the beast

Ogden Dinosaur Park - Meat Eater

Ogden Dinosaur Park - LOOK OUT!

A hike through the Ogden Nature Center:
On the northern edge of town, the Odgen Nature Center is a combination of a windswept prairie, desert garden and small forest. We enjoyed the collection of birdhouses that dotted the walking path from the parking area to the visitor’s center. Over 100 birdhouses that were part of a local contest were stationed along the path. After a visit to the gift shop and puppet theater, we hiked around the grounds following the paths to the bear den, observation tower and several ponds. While the only wild creatures we encountered were a swarm of rogue mosquitoes, we had a great time hiking the trails and looking at the local wild flowers and grasses. We also enjoyed the small collection of birds that were being rehabbed at the center, including a bald eagle, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, a few owls and a turkey that was allowed to roam the grounds freely.

Ogden Nature Center - Gift Shop & Visitor Center

Ogden Nature Center - Hiking the Birdhouse Trail

Ogden Nature Center - Lighthouse Birdhouse

Ogden Nature Center - Bee on Wild Flowers

Discovery Place Children’s Museum at Gateway Mall in SLC:
Best. Children’s Museum. EVER! You know when you spend five hours in a museum and the kids beg to stay longer that you’ve found a good one. Jonah & Lilly absolutely loved the Discovery Place in Salt Lake City. We played a few hours, took a break for lunch, came back for a few more hours and they STILL wanted more. Play stations they loved included the Construction Zone, the Farm-to-Market area including a grocery store, and especially the rooftop terrace area that included a real rescue helicopter complete with command center and mini-hospital with triage and ER. That rooftop terrace was their favorite, as they spent hours changing costumes, piloting the helicopter, and playing ER doctor, nurse and patient. They talked about it for hours after we left, and asked if they could go back the next day.

SLC Children's Museum - Construction Zone

Discovery Place SLC - rooftop rescue helicopter

SLC - Discovery Place - Dr Lilly on Call

SLC - Discovery Place - Triage Area

SLC - Discovery Place - Jonah in the Wind Tunnel

That last shot shows Jonah in a Hurricane Simulator. Even though it only lasted 60 seconds, wind in the tube peaked at 75mph, which was pretty intense. It also proved to be a valuable lesson for us. While Jonah loved it, Lilly got spooked and clung to him, screaming as the wind grew stronger. She was fine as soon as it shut off, but it helped clarify a few questions about our next adventure.

iFLY Ogden:
We talked about this with the kids before we left for Utah and at that point, both Jonah & Lilly planned to participate. After our museum wind tunnel experience, however, Lilly opted out and Jonah went full steam ahead. After sitting through the training video with a room full of adults, Jonah suited up and was ready to fly. He looks so grown up to us at seven, but next to his flying group, he looked so tiny. Still, he was pumped about getting into that air chamber while some of the teens in his group were nervous. Here’s our fearless flyer.

iFly Ogden - Jonah in his flight suit

iFly Ogden - Jonah Geared Up & Ready to Fly

iFLY Ogden - Jonah Waits for His Turn

iFly Ogden - Jonah in Flight

iFly Ogden - Jonah & Instructor Soaring

That last photo was snapped just as the instructor picked up his feet and they shot up to the top of the wind chamber. Twice! It was thrilling. After the students finished their rounds, the instructors played in the wind chamber showing off some of their moves. One guy would go so high you couldn’t see him, then shoot straight down like a rocket, turn just as he reached the cage floor, and fly out the door landing standing up on the bench just outside the air chamber. We all gasped. He was Super Man. Jonah came out of his experience high five-ing the instructors and bouncing with excitement. I think he will definitely remember his flight, and thanks to The Complete Package, who recorded it on his ION camera and the iFLY DVD, he can relive it over and over.

Speaking of flying, we visited Hill Air Force Base & Museum:
It’s hard to miss this museum when you see the planes in the outdoor exhibits from the highway. We passed it several times during the week and each time, Jonah would point them out and ask if we could go see them. Of course! We started with the indoor exhibits then worked our way through the airplanes outside. Besides the airplanes, we also had a great view of the mountains and saw several airplanes practicing for the air show that took place the next day. The kids enjoyed the exhibits and were thrilled to get a toy plane from the gift shop. Jonah picked a stealth bomber while Lilly picked a stunt plane.

Hill AFB - Aerospace Museum - Old Planes

Hill AFB - Aerospace Museum - Awesome Paint Job

Hill AFB - Outdoor Exhibits & Mountains

Hill AFB - Outdoor Exhibit - Cargo Plane

The Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City:
I’m not going to lie – we took the kids to this museum just to see the dinosaur exhibit. What surprised us was we found so much more and enjoyed all of it. With five floors of exhibits, we started at the top and walked our way down. This was a great place to spend half a day and it had just enough hands-on interactive exhibits to keep the kids interested. The Complete Package and I also enjoyed the architecture and views. The dinosaurs were still the star of the show, but the rest of the museum was terrific as well.

SLC Nat History Museum - Exterior

SLC Nat History Museum - Display Wall

SLC Nat History Museum - Dinosaur Hall

SLC Nat History Museum - Dig Site

SLC Nat History Museum - Ancient Bison

After the museum, we popped into a small cafe downtown for Belgian frites, burgers & waffles, then hit the LDS Conference Center to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly practice, which is open to the general public regardless of religion. After dodging thunderstorms outside and taking a brief tour of the center inside, we settled in to watch the choir. Growing up, I’d seen them from time to time on television and have always marveled not only at the sheer size of the choir, but how perfectly heavenly they sound. With approximately 360 vocalists and 110 orchestra members, it’s not just large – it’s HUGE. Seeing it in person was amazing and a really special treat.

SLC - Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Public Practice

A drive out to Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake:
Our last adventure was one I think The Complete Package & I enjoyed more than the kids – a drive to Antelope Island to see the Great Salt Lake. The geology and science behind the region was a little beyond both kids, but they enjoyed seeing the American bison (not buffalo, as I was schooled) and a few pronghorn antelope. While we found the landscape beautiful, stark and fascinating, the kids were bored and bickering in the back seat. Ahh… reality. Still, it was a ‘must see’ and we can only hope they’ll look back someday and remember seeing it in person. Here are a few shots from our day at the lake.

Salt Lake - lake& mtn view from Antelope Island

Salt Lake Park - Bison on Antelope Island

Salt Lake Park - Jonah & Lilly & the bison statue

That’s Jonah telling us if we find rattlesnakes, he’ll karate chop them.

Salt Lake Park - Jonah Master of All He Surveys

That’s Jonah, looking for rattlesnakes to karate chop.

Salt Lake Park - Pronghorn on Antelope Island

Salt Lake NP - Buffalo & Tourists

For the record – YES, that is a wild bison as big as a truck out on the beach, and YES – those are families with very young children getting dangerously close to him. WHY?!?! We had our own close encounter with the bison, even though it was unintentional. When we noticed a group walking near the road, we stopped the car so the kids could see them. When they turned and crossed the road in front of our car, we all held our breath collectively.

Salt Lake Park - Antelope Island bison crossing

We’ve been in bison jams in Yellowstone but it never ceases to take my breath away when they come so close. This small group with two babies crossed right in front of the car. We had to keep the kids from squealing with excitement. It’s hard to be quiet when you’re young and bison are right outside your car window. Heck, it’s hard for adults, too!

The Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island are really lovely. The contrast between the salt flats, desert flora and rocky terrain against the water and mountains is both surreal and stunning. It’s a little like being on the surface of the moon, with a view of Salt Lake City in the background. And that contrast is what makes the Salt Lake area beautiful. It’s a mix of high desert and mountain landscape. It can be lush one moment (Ogden Valley & the Pineview reservoir) and stark the next (the salt flats). It’s thrilling one moment (iFLY) and supremely relaxing in yet another (evening sunsets on the back patio). You can be as adventurous (mountains & rivers) or as zen (museums and parks) as you like, and have access to all of it within an hour’s drive.

We spent seven full days in Ogden and Salt Lake City, and still didn’t make it through our ‘must see’ list. If we are able to return, we’ll take those scenic drives through Big & Little Cottonwood Canyons up to Park City and Sundance. If you haven’t visited this part of Utah, maybe it’s time to add it to your bucket list.

Salt Lake Park - view of causeway & lake

Travel Links from Our Trip (click to open):

HomeAway.com: Vacation Home Rentals

Farr’s Ice Cream in Ogden, Utah & images of Farr’s Ice Cream

Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, Utah

The Ogden Nature Center in Ogden, Utah

Discovery Place Children’s Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah

iFLY in Ogden, Utah

Hill Air Force Base & Aerospace Museum north of Salt Lake City, Utah

The Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, Utah

Bruges Waffles & Frites in Salt Lake City, Utah

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah

Antelope Island State Park & Great Salt Lake in Syracuse, Utah

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Filed under Family Stuff, Travel Tales

Utah: they wanted to see mountains

It happened because they wanted to see mountains. ‘Real mountains with snow on top’ they said. So last week, The Complete Package & I took our two young grandchildren – Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug – to Salt Lake City and Ogden in Utah to see the Wasatch mountains. Real mountains. With snow on top.

Wasatch Mountains - Ogden, Utah

Why Utah? That’s a legitimate question, I guess. Our answer is “Why not Utah?” It is beautiful, and the Salt Lake City to Ogden area offered us a unique opportunity to not only show the kids mountains, but also a high desert environment and the Great Salt Lake. More bang for our buck, if you will. While we stayed in Ogden most of the time, we were close enough to explore and play in Salt Lake City. And while the mountains were mere minutes away, so were the activities of both cities. It was a really good choice.

For this trip, as we do for most vacations, we found a vacation rental home at HomeAway.com. The craftsman style house we chose in the historic district of Ogden was perfect for us. It looks small. Don’t let that fool you. This house had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a breakfast room, formal dining room, sitting area, living room and a basement laundry room. It also had a great fenced backyard for the kids to play in when we spent time at the house.

HomeAway Rental - from the webpage

Ogden Rental House - Living Room

Ogden Rental House - Sitting Room

Ogden Rental House - Kitchen

Ogden Rental House - Kitchen Kitsch

Ogden Rental House - Breakfast Nook

Ogden Rental House - One of 4 Bedrooms

We loved the craftsman-style details of the home, but I especially loved the vintage kitsch that gave it personality. For antique junkies like me, it was a dream come true. Every room was adorned with pieces of the past and touches of fun. Check out the funky upstairs bathroom and some of the old paint-by-number pieces from around the house. They are a blast from my past.

Ogden Rental House - Upstairs Bath

Ogden Rental House - Vintage Paint-By-Numbers

The kids were really good about not trying to play with all the antiques. Instead, they were focused on the big screen TV, the fenced backyard and the front porch. Each evening, we spent time playing in the yard while the sun set. I’m including a diagram of Jonah & Lilly’s use of the backyard living space. I’m all for giving children a creative outlet, but if I hear ‘Let It Go’ one more time…

Ogden Rental House - Back Yard

Most mornings, their attention was focused on the front porch. Jonah loved to sit on the front steps and whittle the sticks he collected from everywhere we went. Sticks and rocks, sticks and rocks. That boy LOVES sticks and rocks.

Ogden Rental House - Jonah Whittles on the Porch

Lilly fell in love with the porch swing. If she wasn’t swinging in it, she was pushing it or laying across it. Some day, boys will line up to woo her on a porch swing like that, but not too soon. (Somewhere, her parents just shivered.)

Ogden Rental House - Lilly & the Porch Swing

Oh my gosh, we love these kids so much. They have our hearts, for sure.

Ogden Rental House - Lilly & Jonah on the Porch

When the weather was nice, we took evening strolls to explore our historic neighborhood. We especially loved the street behind ours, which was lined with huge trees and beautiful old mansions from a bygone era. To say it was lovely is to sell it short. It was like stepping back in time, which was magical.

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks1

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks3

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks2

I fell in love with the tiny barking squirrels in Ogden. They ran the phone lines each evening, and every time Jonah or Lilly started singing those squirrels would join in with their high-pitched yipping. It was hilarious. Throughout the week, they would come close enough to check us out, but not so close that we could touch them. This little guy ran circles around a tree, then started popping out of the knothole on the right like a jack-in-the-box. It was adorable. I tried to convince him to come home with us, but he was having none of it.

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks - Furry Friends with Arrow

Lilly, who loves all creatures, also found a neighborhood friend. Not as furry or cute, but just as friendly. Meet Turbo.

Ogden Historic District - Evening Walks - Lilly's Snail

Next up: what we did with the kids during our week in Ogden & Salt Lake City. It involves flying (but not in planes), swimming (but not in the Great Salt Lake), bison (not buffalo), and a few of these monsters. KIDS – LOOK OUT!!!

Ogden Dinosaur Park - LOOK OUT!

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The Complete Package: MotoGP Austin

Track Shot - Friday Practice - MotoGP Austin

Confession: I don’t know jack about motorcycle racing.
But I know someone who does, and that someone is my beloved husband, The Complete Package. Earlier this month, TCP and I went to Austin so he could attend the MotorGP event. While he was at the racetrack, I played with the grandkids. And thus we reveal the key to a 32-year marriage – compromise.

Because TCP had a great time, I thought it would be fun to share a few photos from the races on the off chance some of you enjoy it as well. The following photos were taken by The Complete Package at the MotoGP Austin event:

Track Shot - Lap Board & Stands - MotoGP Austin

Track Shot - The Tower - MotoGP Austin

Austin 360 Concert Stage - MotoGP Austin

Corn Hole Corner - MotoGP Austin

Traffic Jam - MotoGP Austin

Qualifying Rounds2 - MotoGP Austin

Coming Out of the Corner - MotoGP Austin

Here’s what I do know:
1. The Complete Package is a Valentino Rossi fan.
2. Our grandkids love everything TCP loves because they love him.
3. Lilly Bug is now in love with Valentine Rossi (all the ladies are).
4. Jonah Bear thinks Marc Marquez rocks because he’s the fastest in the world.
5. This next shot is of their favorites – Rossi (blue/green) & Marquez (black/orange/white).

The Kid's Favorites - Rossi & Marquez - MotoGP Austin

Valentino Rossi makes the fans go wild. People are crazy for this Italian racer, and I get it. He’s a maniac on a racing bike, has enough personality and charm for 10 racers, and is a world champion many times over.

Rossi - Going Going Gone - MotoGP Austin

Rossi - Signature Move - MotoGP Austin

But then there’s the up-and-comer, Marc Marquez. This Spanish biker is young, aggressive, and taking the racing world by storm. He is also the current World Champion and the winner of the Austin MotoGP event. How fast is he? Well, his top speed at the Austin event was clocked at 341.6 km/h. That’s 212.3 miles per hour. {gulp!} I. Cannot. Fathom. I wonder what his mother thinks about it.

Mark Marquez - Victory Lap

Mark Marquez - Victory Lap2

Three days of fun & sun at the Circuit of the Americas track was just enough for TCP. He had a blast, saw all the qualifying rounds and races including the big finale, and has the sunburn to prove it. Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug both got racing shirts (hers is a Rossi; his is a Marquez), got to hit the new Luby’s near the house, and spent some time in the hotel hot tub and at the park with their mother & I. We also hit Sandy’s Frozen Custard, so basically a great time was had by all.

Jonah & Lilly on the Swings

Okay, I lied. I took that last shot of Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug. But just that one.
#TruthInAdvertising #GratuitousGrandkidShot #HashtagAttack #NotSorry

Note: The Complete Package wanted me to point out that some of these photos were taken early on Friday during qualifying rounds, which is why the stands might look empty or sparse. For Saturday’s events and Sunday’s final races the racetrack was packed with spectators, as those in attendance can attest.

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