The sages have shared timeless guidance through the ages on how to prolong opportunities for loungewear wearing. Their great wisdom has taught us that if you can’t bring your nightgown to the shindig then bring the shindig to your nightgown. It was my turn to host Bunco this month and I decided to take this enlightened advice to heart by turning Bunco into a pajama party. Oh yeah, time to live it up like it’s 8 AM!
Pajamas and slippers are always in vogue at my house.
Breakfast and pajamas are kind of a packaged deal so I opted to make a morning meal our sustenance for the evening. Several years ago my mother-in-law Sue taught me how to make her recipe for British pancakes, AKA crepes, and I chose to share its deliciousness with my Bunco girls. Sue would be proud except I didn’t cover these goodies with her customary lemon juice and sugar. Oh the crepe corruption! Instead I concocted a variety of homemade toppings: caramel sauce, fat-free chocolate syrup, and fat-added chocolate syrup. I paired these condiments with ripe berries and freshly whipped cream for an even greater fat impact. Don’t tax your calculator by trying to count those calories; it might explode.
The creping went slowly and sloppily but pretty tastily too.
The preparations for this culinary endeavor went pretty smoothly. There were only two hiccups. Making individual crepes for 8 girls took a lot longer than planned and my hot buttery skillet coughed out more smoke throughout the process than a holey chimney. Luckily girls know how to talk so while I cooked away my guests were content chatting amid the lingering billows that made my kitchen resemble a seedy bar. I did complete the food fabrication though before we all passed out from smoke inhalation and the results were satisfying. My tummy would never accept a meal this rich in the AM but for a fake breakfast dinner it was pretty yummy. On a side note, I did practice my crepe making over the weekend and I think I’ve figured out a few tricks to make the process go considerably faster. So the next time I cook for a long line of famished ladies I believe I can fill their plates at a significantly quicker rate.
And the pajamas? So nice. Can we just play Bunco in our PJs every month? Seriously, it’s going to be hard to go back to rolling in regular clothes.
Thanks ladies for joining me for a cozy and stuffing evening. I appreciate your patience with the creeping creping and I hope your pajamas enjoyed their big night out.
I guess it’s time I face the depressing certainty that the mountain biking season is pretty much dead. Sadly, all it took was a little snow to squelch my delusions of cycling grandeur. It seems appropriate during this time of mourning to discuss our pedaling happenings over the last 6 months so, like it or not, here it comes.
Jacob may not have been the most graceful biker I’ve ridden with on the Pipeline but he kept getting back on his seat mishap after mishap and that counts for a lot.
Jason and I have always extended an open invitation for any daring souls that wish to take a shot at mountain biking to come with us on our adventures anytime. In recent years I don’t think we’ve gotten any takers on that offer. As many of our friends have become pudgier, lazier, or more timid their desire to attempt an extreme sport has dwindled I suppose. That’s why we were surprised when several pals simultaneously indicated that they wanted to try their luck in the mountains with us this year. Adam, Jacob, and Abigail rode with us on multiple occasions over the summer and lived to tell the tale…although some of their skin did not.
Millcreek’s terminus overlooks Salt Lake Valley. It’s an excellent spot for gawking and for taking photos of the conquering variety.
We took Jacob to the Millcreek Pipeline for his first singletrack experience. We picked this trail because we thought it would adequately introduce him to mountain biking without killing him. Technically we were right; it didn’t kill him but it sure hurt him more than we were expecting. Jacob crashed his bike and toppled down steep declines, AKA cliffs, no less than three times while we were on the Pipeline. He got scraped up and shaken but that didn’t stop him from happily hitting the slopes again after each tumble. Way to not be a wimp Jacob!
Adam may not have been thrilled about going up Big Spring Hollow but going down suited him just fine.
Adam and Abigail came with us up Big Spring Hollow for their mountain biking premier. This trail, I’ll admit, is a bit grueling in the uphill direction but its downhill bliss makes up for any ascending anguish. Adam didn’t quite reach the top but he made a valiant effort despite his regular neglect of regular exercise. Abigail, on the other hand, loved this path and asked to go down again after our first descent. Jason and I were happy to oblige.
Abigail didn’t let her hybrid bike get her down.
Ridiculousness sometimes speaks for itself.
We also took all three of them to Lambert Park, one of our favorite singletrack biking spots. Lambert Park is pretty technical but, surprisingly, we didn’t end up having to use the first aid kit I brought on this outing like I thought we would. Abigail and I both had little accidents but neither required bandaging anything except our pride and Jacob, miraculously, broke with tradition by not finding a fine precipice to fall off. Nice going gang!
It’s obvious from this picture that I am an expert. In fact, I expertly hit a root and catapulted myself into a tree just minutes after this was taken.
Along with taking our buddies on some awesome terrain Jason and I hit a few of our favorites solo. The best of those rides, in my opinion, was one we took up American Fork Canyon near the end of September on the Great Western Trail. Fall was in full swing and the bright scenery was gorgeous. The aspens formed a bleached blanket over our heads with their gilded leaves as we rode along. Vibrant yellows and reds consumed the landscape like a surging tide. It was an intense mix of color and cardiovascular.
It’s impossible to overstate the beauty of an unbroken sky above a canopy of twinkling leaves.
Rubbernecking is glorious when you’re tunneling through boughs of golden leaves.
Hooray for biking and hooray for some pals that didn’t let the threat of exercise and injury intimidate them. I hope next year they will hit the peaks with us again and not retreat when the peaks hit back.
When some people need to relax they’ll veg in front of the TV. For others taking it easy might mean going for a drive or hitting the driving range. But for me and Jason nothing says unwinding like biking 15 miles through desert sandpits, gnarly bedrock, and bouncy baby-heads. Yes, for us becoming exhausted in Moab is as relaxing as it gets.
Scampering on your haunches was sometimes necessary while ascending to Castleton Tower.
Isn’t he cute?
Jason and I just made our biannual visit to Moab. We waited to take our fall trip this time until the madness of our party had waned. The weather in Moab in November can be a little touchy but on this occasion it was utter perfection. And by utter perfection I mean t-shirts and shorts and huge smiles.
The way to Castleton Tower wound over quite a few stony ledges.
We started our excursion off with a hike to the base of Castleton Tower, a 400-foot monolith also known as Castle Rock, in Castle Valley. Castleton Tower stands on a cone of boulders and gravel over 1000 feet high, the kind of terrain that appears impassable when you’re looking at it from the bottom. This difficult trail was obstructed often by chunks of stone and hard to follow at times. Ascending it required some creative clambering skills. But, honestly, that’s what made it fun. There’s nothing wrong with strenuous when it’s part of an adventure. We were so enthusiastic about this hike that not only did we make it up to and around the Tower but we also chose to detour on a sketchy path to check out The Rectory, another outcropping of rock that rises above the opposite side of the ridge. We were pretty tired by the time we got back to our car but we were also pretty satisfied with what we had experienced in way of scenery and exploration.
The crest on which Castleton Tower stands provides a narrow division between two craggy lowlands.
The cracked barren valleys below The Rectory and lofty towers adjacent to it fashioned a strange rocky feast.
Our second day in Moab was spent biking the Kokopelli Trail to a place called Yellow Jacket Canyon. We had never ridden this path before so I was as intrigued by the prospects of its new terrain as Jason was by its name. I guess our intrigue got the better of us. We hit this 14.4-mile loop expecting it to be relatively easy in comparison to other Moab trails we have ridden but, although the route was wide enough for off-road vehicles, it was rather rough in places. Sand was the villain of the first third of this expedition. If you’ve never tried going up miles of steep hills on a bike while deep sand attempts to consume your tires you’ve never known frustraustion. Yeah, that’s what happens when frustration and exhaustion get together and produce deformed spawn. We were literally making our way at about 1-2 miles an hour for a while there. At that glorious speed we would have made it back to our car at about never. Luckily, downhill stone eventually replaced uphill sand and we cruised over the deformed bedrock quickly. Quickly, in this case, means we hit speeds up to about 13 MPH but mostly stayed around 6 MPH, which I realize doesn’t exactly fit the standard definition of that word. But hey, after creeping along practically slower than a grandpa with a walker that seemed pretty fast. Lots of bumpy stone and a series of baby-head infested hills later we emerged back onto the highway and from there we were soon back to our car. By the way, for those of you unfamiliar with biking lingo baby-heads are rocks the size of a baby’s head that can make wrecking practically effortless.
The Castleton Tower is one of the most popular rock climbing spots in the world. We gawked at several scaling extremists as we navigated through the boulders below.
Yellow Jacket’s bedrock made for some fun riding.
The view from the top of Yellow Jacket Canyon wasn’t super impressive but it was nice.
Our final call on the Yellow Jacket Canyon section of the Kokopelli Trail? This trail was definitely not as pretty as others we’ve done in the area but the solitude was nice. We only saw one couple on a 4wheeler the whole day. The path was more of a technical treat than we were expecting but the sand sucked unimaginably hard. We’re glad we tried it out but I don’t think it’s going to be top on our list of redos.
The Flat Iron Mesa road went through some scenic spots like this sandstone-encircled grassland.
The scene from the top of Flat Iron Mesa was pretty kicking. Hatch Wash Canyon and Kane Springs Canyon merged below us in a panorama of colorful precipices.
On our final day in Moab we biked Flat Iron Mesa. This trail has a reputation for being an easy family-friendly kind of ride. But that reputation, in our opinion, is not deserved. I don’t know of any children that would willingly conquer Flat Iron’s endless hills. The level of complaining you’d get from the kiddos would make getting them to take the garbage out seem like a delight. No, Flat Iron Mesa wasn’t the easygoing ride we were expecting but I guess since we didn’t ride it for its easygoingness we can’t really grumble about its lack thereof. We were interested in this route because of the enthralling possibilities for sidetracking. Many enticing wilder trails shoot off from Flat Iron making it a great starting place for countless adventures. We took one of these options to an overlook above Kane Springs Canyon. The view from this lofty perch was mesmerizing but the 3.5 mile spur we had to ride to get to it made the rest of the desert look like downtown Manhattan. I don’t think anyone else had ridden this trail in months, maybe years. It was so overgrown in places that deciphering where to stick our bikes was like solving a Sherlock Holmes mystery. When all was said and done, Flat Iron Mesa, with our additional excursion to the end of the known universe, was a 17.5 mile journey that took over 4 hours and finished off any energy reserves we might have had. Fun? Yes. Family-friendly? No.
Jason is literally standing in the middle of the trail we took to the Kane Springs Canyon overlook in this picture. Having trouble seeing it? So did we.
From far above Kane Springs Canyon the vistas were beautiful. At least there was that pot of gold at the end of our eroded rainbow.
Our trip to Moab was predictably fantastic. We’ve never returned from our favorite vacation spot dissatisfied. We biked 32 miles of tricky terrain and hiked to the top of rocky ridges. Now that’s restful! Before you shake your head too much at our choice of relaxation though I should add that there’s not much to do in Moab once the sun goes down and these days the sun goes down pretty early. After dark Jason and I mostly just read books, watched TV, and typed posts. We’d never make time for hours of that at home. So, see, our idea of taking it easy isn’t too far off from yours. We just prefer to ride across the desert before we settle in to read a good book.
I think it’s safe to say that Halloween is our favorite holiday. Jason and I love reveling in the spooky. We’ll hit all the prowls of the season, from the corn mazes to the haunted houses, if time permits. Unfortunately, time does not usually permit much. October is often a crazy month for us due to our Halloween party and so our explorations of the spine-chilling are limited but we do typically manage to squish in a couple of creepers.
Besides throwing a party here’s how we celebrated the scary this year:
First, we went to a scallywag soiree. The owner of the company that Jason works for puts this on every year. The soiree always has spectacular special effects, yummy catering, and, of course, a whole lot of swashbuckling. Among Jason’s coworkers this party is the stuff of legends. It’s rumored between them that the guy that designed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland was commissioned to make the ghostly wreckages, firing cannons, and creepy crypts for this event. While that is quite possibly true, the props are of a quality that I could believe it, I will not present that information here as fact since hero-worshiping myths run rampant where this owner is concerned. But no matter who actually designed the decorations, they are certainly impressive.
Our pirate costumes were made by yours truly five or six years ago. They've gotten the most use out of any of our getups.
Jason and I had a great time at the soiree even though we spent a large part of the evening waiting in one line or another. The number of attendees was capped at 500 yet that’s still a lot of buccaneer hats and bellies to fit under one roof. But hey, when you’re with friends even waiting in line is a bash.
Adam and Jeremy Rowley work with Jason now so we had quite the bunch of scurvy blaggards to party with.
Jason and I also conspired to have our own private Halloween celebration after our party was out of the way. We decided that this would take the form of a dreadful dinner. Our plans to cook and relax at home, it turns out, fit perfectly with Jason’s plans to be sick. The morning after our party Jason’s exhaustion had turned into infection and he could barely talk. Poor guy. But there are few things that some eyeball taco salad and boo beverages can’t fix. Jason’s appetite for the eerie was not lessened by his illness and he ate more gruesome grub that night than I did. Eyeballs: they do a body good.
We had eyeball taco salad, boo beverages, and oozing chocolate cakes for our fiendish feast. I think I might need more practice eyeballing it.
And that brings me to our memorable visits to the cornfields and chainsaw guys…or not. We didn’t make it to any of the other places we love to get spooked out in. We had too many spider webs to hang I guess. Sad. But our limited free time still afforded a little fright, some wicked delight, and a Halloween that was reveled right.
October is a time of sacrifice and supplication for us. We sacrifice our fingertips to the pushpin gods and plead daily with the muses of dreadful décor just to entertainment you. Yes, Halloween for us means throwing our customary gigantic party and all the work that that entails. We put our lives on hold in order to deck out two floors of our house for this shindig. We start arranging prizes, ordering medals, and sewing costumes as early as August. It’s a massive job. What is wrong with us?
Jason and I dressed as Zuko and Katara from The Last Airbender this year. Unfortunately, I forgot to wear the betrothal necklace I spent a lot of effort making perfect. What a dummy.
Medusa was the centerpiece of our front room. We made sure she had plenty of snakes in her lair including a striking rattler.
This year marked our thirteenth time attempting this task. In honor of that woeful anniversary let me share some startling party stats that might have you screaming in disbelief or not screaming in incomprehension. Since the collection of decorations we use for our party varies slightly each time these stats aren’t necessarily exactly representative of every year but they should give you an idea of the magnitude of our undertaking:
The normal number of attending guests? 35-70. This year we had 66; that’s close to a record.
The adult to child ratio at our party? The number of kids in attendance annually increases at a rate proportional to the proliferation of offspring but right now about 38% of our guests are children.
The number of Rubbermaid storage bins used to stow our decorations? 24. We also have quite a few cumbersomely-large items that just won’t fit in containers.
Jason’s sister Carley walked away with the prize for best costume with her amazing Bender outfit.
The average amount of time Jason and I spend on party preparations? This year in the week before our bash alone we spent roughly 35 hours apiece arranging cobwebs, designing creepy scenes, creating a custom playlist, optimizing lighting, and removing our normal furnishings. Since there are two of us that means that 70 man-hours of labor went into those finishing touches. Keep in mind that that’s about a third of the complete time we consumed getting ready for this thing. So if I had to guess I’d say that we’re looking at something in the ballpark of over 200 hours in total prep. That does not include the time it takes to clean up and take down everything so add on another 50 hours, which makes 250, and you’re probably close to our entire time investment. Would you put that much effort into a gathering that only lasts a few hours? I think not. That’s what makes me and Jason so special and so stupid.
The last couple years the number of players has exceeded our stash of Bingo cards so sharing has been necessary.
Jason did a great job creating his Zuko scar with latex, tissue paper, and cream makeup only he put it on the wrong eye.
The number of strings of lights hung? 73. Yes, just putting up the lights for our party takes an enormous amount of time.
The number of ravens? 39. Jason’s a sucker for the crows.
The number of rats? 11. That’s a tragically small number. Who called the Pied Piper?
The Browns had great Toy Story costumes for which they won a prize.
The number of candlesticks? 39. Most of these are battery or outlet powered. Open flames, little kids, and Jeremy Rowley: that sounds like the makings of my own personal horror movie.
The number of pumpkins? 25. From the friendly to the sinister these are a Halloween necessity.
The number of skulls? 89. No, that is not a typo.
We were a little concerned that this hanging creeper might be a bit too much for the small tikes but I didn’t hear any screaming so I guess it was alright.
The number of tea lights? 28. Tea lights are essential to generating a spooky atmosphere while simultaneously creating focus on specific areas.
The number of eyeballs? 97. You were being watched.
The number of creepy cloths? 28, some of which are over 16 feet long. That amount does not include the yards and yards of cheesecloth we use every year. It would be too hard to tally up our cheesy bits because we use dozens of pieces in every room.
The final frontier of costuming.
The way I arranged the mantle this time might possibly be my favorite of any year.
The number of bats? 38. You can’t create creep without suspending some rodents.
The number of camouflage nets? 14. Jason loves these. I think he would form a swamp in our basement too if I’d let him.
The number of spiders? 52. You can never have too many spiders.
The number of batteries used? 88. It literally takes us half an hour to turn everything on before our party and even then there are always a couple lights or devices that get forgotten.
All three of the Rowley kids went home winners.
The number of creative geniuses behind this affair? 2. Okay, so we may not be creative geniuses but forming a unique atmosphere every year is quite the originality challenge. We never display our eerie decor the same way twice and that makes arranging everything significantly harder. My brain hurts just thinking about it. Jason and I are either ambitious or ludicrous…probably both. We do make one fantastic duo though. We keep working at the spookifying together until it’s done. We don’t get ornery with each other and we don’t slack off. I couldn’t make it through this madness without Jason and he definitely couldn’t do it without me. We are the best team ever!
Tonya and Abigail made a bewitching pair.
The festivities this year were another success. We had nearly a record number of attendees and a greater throng of kids than ever. My thanks to all of you that were part of that large mass of humanity. It’s rewarding to hear that so many of your children look forward to this event like they were waiting for Santa Clause.
Fran won a prize for her imaginative interpretation of a ladybug on a leaf.
And the costumes this time? Fantastic. I’m amazed at some of the things you people came up with. We had Totoro, Bloo, La Forge, and Bender present. The competition was pretty cutthroat so anyone that won should definitely take pride in their victory.
At our party Captain America finally reunited with his girlfriend Peggy Carter. I don’t think he was expecting her to have aged backwards though.
I’d like to shout out a big thank you to the kind individuals that aided in the maintenance of our sanity. Becca and Nicole assisted us during the party. Awesome! And Cameron, once again, came back after his kids were dropped off to help us sort out our kitchen disaster. Also awesome!
This mummy hand was one of the few new editions to our decor this year.
I’m not sure how my mom convinced my dad to don red yarn.
Owing partly to that help our event didn’t make us completely crazy but, days after the festivities, Jason and I are still totally exhausted. Yet we have a whole lot of take down and pack up left to do, which will probably take us weeks to finish. We survived another huge party production though and I’m pretty sure that some of you enjoyed yourselves at our shindig. So I’d say that at least a few of the ridiculous number of hours we spent on our gathering were justified. Two hundred and fifty though? Maybe not.