Sunday, June 26, 2016

Colorado Springs, Day 1

This morning we visited a local congregation for worship: Pikes Peak church of Christ. The people were very friendly and we enjoyed the sermon. We will definitely visit again next time we are here for a Sunday morning.

After worship we headed to the house to change clothes and then grab some lunch. We selected Larkburger after reading about them online last night. Man, was that a good choice! We were able to order our burgers in a beautiful lettuce wrap and the fries - oh the fries! They were skinny and coated in sea salt. I might have eaten a full pound of them if they have been in front of me, and I don't even really care for french fries all that much if they're not sweet potato fries.
We headed out to Heather and Will's cottage after lunch. They are staying about 20 minutes away in Cascade, Colorado up in the mountains. Will had gone into Denver today to spend the day with a college or Navy buddy, I can't remember which one he is. Their cottage is really cute and in a nice little residential area, but right up the street is this really awesome hiking trail that goes up, up, up....and up. A creek with a series of waterfalls comes all the way down along the trail, so we climbed and climbed, stopping to take photos and video along the way. At one point we reached an area Kate and Olivia couldn't safely keep going, so Don, Heather and I went on to explore a little bit.
Don has never been to Colorado and he was like a big kid today. He would climb on ahead of us and then turn back and yell "You guys gotta come up here!" and we would, and it would be beautiful, and then he would do it again. I think he really wanted to make it to the top of the mountain, but there was no way that was going to happen. My Fitbit said we climbed 33 flights of stairs today, and I'm feeling pretty much all 33 of them right now.

Once we made our way back down to a nice open area, the girls and Don took off their shoes and waded in the water a bit, but not for too long because the water was super cold. We rested for a little while and the girls danced around and played.
Hiking lasted about 2 hours before we were back at the cottage. Rain was starting to move into the area and the thunder was coaxing us down pretty quickly. We walked down the road a little ways after resting to eat at The Wines of Colorado restaurant. I had a bison burger and Nick chose the mahi mahi tacos. It was a pretty good meal, but the service was not all that great. It started pouring while we were eating so Nick had to run back up to the house to get the car and come back for us all. 

To say that we are all worn out tonight is an understatement. Tomorrow is Olivia's 6th birthday, so we are spending the day at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I can't wait! It's my very favorite zoo.

Road Trip Commence: En Route to Colorado Springs

For our family vacation this summer we decided it was time to head back to Colorado Springs. It has become one of my favorite places to be because it's just so beautiful and there are so many activities to do that we still haven't done it all.  This time Heather, Will, Olivia, Joyce, and Don are all coming too, although they have rented their own Airbnb house for the week and we aren't going to see each other every single day, but we will be doing lots of things together. They drove up separately because a road trip with us means getting up in the middle of the night and loading the car. In this case, it meant that Nick came home from work and was in bed by 6 pm on Friday. He set his alarm for 1:30 am, and that's when he woke me up even though I had only come to bed at 11 pm. I know, my fault. But someone had to finish packing and load the car, right?

I had some trouble getting to sleep in the car because I had been up for over an hour by the time we pulled out of the driveway at 3:05 am. After Wichita Falls I was able o sleep until Amarillo, which is where we stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, of course. Kate requested it, and normally Nick and I would have been all excited about it, I'l be honest though - after doing Whole30 a couple of times and changing the way we eat, the appeal of Cracker Barrel has gone. It took me forever to figure out what to order because nothing sounded good. I settled on a sausage hash with eggs over easy. It came with biscuits, and I will admit that I tried a couple of bites of biscuit. It did nothing for me. My eggs were fine and the potatoes too, but that sausage tore me up. Nick chose an egg scramble thing with veggies. Here's the kicker though- our bill was almost $30. I was like, holy cow! Do you know how much Whole30 food I could buy at Aldi for $30?? Having not eaten out much since February has made me realize just how ridiculously expensive eating out is- and then it wasn't even near as good as home cooked anyway!!
But I digress. We headed on from Amarillo and stayed about 45 minutes behind the Hooks-mobile the whole way. They left Amarillo about the time we were arriving at Cracker Barrel (they had driven down the day before and stayed the night). All along the way as we stopped for potty breaks and gas, we maintained about the same distance behind them it seemed. I drove for a while, until lunch time anyway, so Nick could get some sleep but then I started getting really sleepy myself because I just didn't get enough sleep in the car. After lunch in Trinidad, Nick took over again and I slept another hour or so.
Trinidad is such a beautiful little town, and every time we stop for lunch there I always comment on how I would love to spend some time there and explore. It's very picturesque. We ate at The Lunch Box, a local cafe for lunch. Nick and I each had a grass-fed beef burger (sans bun) with veggies and I ordered guacamole as well. It was a million times better than fast food ever thought about being.
We finally arrived at our little apartment in Colorado Springs. I found this garage-conversaion apartment on Airbnb for the week - it's only $42 a night. You seriously can't beat that. We have a small kitchenette, and I bought the cutest little electric skillet to bring for us to make breakfast each day. We picked up some groceries at Walmart once I had showered and Nick had napped a little while, and last night we sat out on our big covered porch area and had a picnic with some rotisserie chicken and sweet potatoes. It was pretty perfect, and it didn't cost us near the $30 we spent on breakfast that morning.
The view down the street.
Today we will visit a small congregation here in town for church and then we are going to spend the afternoon at the Hooks cabin in Cascade. They're in the woods and all nature-like (we are in town and 5 minutes from Walmart) so the girls are going to do some exploring today. Should be fun!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

We actually got to spend part of this father's day with Nick's dad this year, although under unfortunate circumstances. Nick's great uncle, Bill Korte, passed away after being ill for quite some time. His funeral was in Keller, and Nick's grandfather flew in as well as his great aunt and her kids and grandkids who came from Illinois. The Illinois bunch were all relatives that we had actually never met, so it was nice to meet them, and we never got the chance to meet or know Bill either. We went to both the visitation and the funeral. This all took place the weekend of father's day.
Since Joe was in town, we took advantage and had lunch with him on father's day at Hoffbrau House. It wasn't much, but since he's so far away in Colorado it was an opportunity we don't often have.

This year we bought Nick a practical father's day gift. His sad little Black & Decker weed eater batteries had each died at various times so we were without one. Technically we couldn't really do the entire yard with it anyway, so it was time for an upgrade. Kate and I picked out a Ryobi that has separate attachments you can buy to turn it into not just a weed eater but a blower, edger, pole saw, hedge trimmer, etc. Later in the day we headed over to Yiayia's to see Bill and hang out a little while. In all, I think it was a pretty decent weekend despite the sad circumstances for part of it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fort Griffin

A few weeks ago some members of my camera club decided to meet up at Fort Griffin, just over two hours west of here, to do some astrophotography. I have never attempted to shoot the Milky Way before, so I was eager to go and see what I could capture. It takes all the right ingredients for astrophotography. First of all, the moon has to be in the correct phase so it's not visible because the light from the moon will block out the stars. The weather has to cooperate and give you clear skies, and you have to be willing to stay up reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally late if you want a bunch of shots to choose from.

I was not going to drive out there alone, so my friend Lola went with me to shoot as well. I brought us both a pair of rain boots to wear out in the grassy fields - they kept our feet dry once the dew started falling and protected us (hopefully) from snakes and critters. We looked cute.

She and I headed west earlier in the afternoon so we could explore Albany, Texas a little bit before heading out to Fort Griffin, where we were just in time to have the longhorn herd meander right by us. I had packed myself a picnic dinner and ate while watching the sunset. We had a little adventure looking for a snake in the women's bathroom that chased after Kim, but we were unsuccessful in finding it. One of the men had brought a garden hoe with him just in case. Good thinking!
Finally the sun went to bed but we had to wait until almost 11 pm for the Milky Way to rise in the night sky, which meant we had lots of time to light paint and goof around before we could really get down to business.
We had a lot of fun, and I have to say that astrophotography has a huge learning curve. Focus is the hardest part, to me. But it was fun to play around and watch the stars dance across the sky. We saw several shooting stars during the evening and some sort of satellite track across the sky, as well as the occasional airplane.

We finally tore ourselves away from the stars at 2 am. We still had to drive home and it was going to be a long trek back. Lola dropped me off at the house around 4, and I was in bed by 4:15. What a night! I can't wait to give it another shot, although I think next time I'll just spend the night out there.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Olivia's Texas Birthday

We are traveling to Colorado Springs soon, and this year we've convinced Heather, Will and Olivia to come too. So we will technically be in Colorado when Olivia turns 6, but Heather wanted to have a party for her at home for family and friends so we did that the day after the reunion. Having a swim party is always a good idea, and we had a great afternoon down in Tracie and Landon's pool.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

20 Year Class Reunion

We held our reunion in the banquet room at Two Senoritas Mexican Restaurant in Mount Pleasant. It was our first choice for venue to be honest, but once it was all said and one I'm really glad that this is the one we had to go with. Mount Pleasant isn't large, and June is wedding season - so this was our only option for the date we had set. The class of 1994 had also used this and they had a blast, so we knew it would be fine.  We had to decorate all of the cupcakes right before it was time for people to start arriving, and then it was time to get the events started. 
I had Nick man the door and check people off of the master list as they arrived. I did this for 2 reasons - first, I didn't want to have to make one of the classmates do this and miss out on chatting with people and secondly, since he didn't know any of the people coming it wouldn't be awkward for him to ask their name and not know them whereas if I had done it and didn't recognize someone, well that might have been awkward.

One of the things I was insistent that we have was a photobooth. It's kind of all the rage these days at events anyway, and everyone had a blast with them. I didn't want to hire just a regular photographer. In order to ensure that we would have our photobooth, I had to book it and put down a deposit months before we even knew whether the reunion was going to happen or not. It was a gamble, but I had some faith that it would all work out. It certainly did! Everyone had a blast.

 People stayed for almost the whole 4 hours that we had the venue, which was surprising. I figured if it was lame and everyone was bored, they would start leaving early. I'm happy that everyone looked like they had a genuinely good time, and I had dozens of people all night long thanking us for putting it together and organizing everything. It was a good feeling to know we were able to pull it off for everyone.

We will see if I volunteer for another one....right now, I'm in no hurry.

20 Year Class Reunion Family Fun

Reunion weekend finally arrived!! Heather and I have been planning this reunion for what feels like forever, although it's really only been 6 months. I didn't think it was ever going to get here, and the stress would ever end, but thankfully we made it.

We kicked off reunion weekend by finishing up centerpieces and getting chocolate paw prints ready to go on cupcakes the next morning on Friday night. Candy and Craig had come in from Pflugerville, so hey came over to Heather's to help us play. After we did all we could do, we decided to go eat Mexican food at Jorge's in town.
Saturday morning we started with a family fun event. Jacob Hatfield arranged for a private pool party at the city pool for our group from 10 am until noon. We really weren't sure how many people to expect, but we had a pretty nice turn out after all! There were about 15 families there or so...and some of those people have lots of kiddos!
 After the pool party we all grabbed food and headed back to Heather and Will's house to eat and then start showering and getting ready for the reunion later that day. Heather, Candy, Nick, Heather's mom, and I spent most of the afternoon decorating the banquet room while Will hung out with all of the kids. We managed to get it all completed in time!