Monthly Archives: December 2016


24 Dec

A New Halloween Hope

Posted by on December 24, 2016 at 4:17 pm

It’s easy, when you spend a substantial amount of time and money on a Halloween party, to feel a little crazy. Oh wait, that’s not where I was going with this. Rewind… it’s easy to feel a little disappointed when guests hurry off after such a shindig without helping pick up any of the 150 cups they left in your kitchen or when you hear a kid complaining about the lack of a food truck at the affair. Yes, it’s easy to feel a bit underwhelmed by thanklessness after you’ve organized an overwhelming event but that’s not what I would like to write about here. Instead, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the elixirs to our insanity.

I love our spooky lady.

I love our spooky lady.

Jason wanted to wear his Han Solo outfit for Halloween so I became a blonde Bespin Leia. If you don't recognize my garb, you aren't a true Star Wars fan.

Jason wanted to wear his Han Solo outfit for Halloween so I became a blonde Bespin Leia. If you don’t recognize my garb, you aren’t a true Star Wars fan.

We have about seven full skeletons in our Halloween arsenal, along with more spare bones than a can of salmon.

We have about seven full skeletons in our Halloween arsenal, along with more spare bones than a can of salmon.

We had more assistance with our party this time than ever before. Jacob, Lee, Sue, and Keith all came over one night for a party-decorating party. We got a whole room done that evening; it was miraculous. The creative juices were so abundant we were all a little sticky in the end. My brother-in-law also joined us, along with some of our nieces and nephews, on a few separate occasions and we had a great time putting up spider webs and lights. During the event, Jenny supervised the carnival games. For take down, Fran, Cam, Rowley, Lee, Sue, and Keith all offered their assistance one evening. With their help, we had Halloween packed away by Thanksgiving, or shortly thereafter. Thank you all! Not only was your help very valuable, it was a much-appreciated gesture of gratitude.

A lot of this hair was mine and a lot of it was not.

A lot of this hair was mine and a lot of it was not.

In honor of the new film, we fashioned a Potter area.

In honor of the new film, we fashioned a Potter area.

As for the party itself, here are a few of this year’s random stats:

  1. We had nearly 90 attendees, a new record I believe. But, for the record, we were not trying to break any records. Hopefully that upward trend stabilizes, otherwise we are going to have to institute an admittance process.

    Decorating for our party is both creatively stimulating and depleting.

    Decorating for our party is both creatively stimulating and depleting.

  2. We went through 30 liters of soda, in addition to an incalculable amount of water.
  3. Traditionally, about 30% of our attendees are kids. This year, children accounted for half of the partyers.

    These bags took longer to assemble than I care to admit.

    These bags took longer to assemble than I care to admit.

  4. We assembled six dozen party favors and gave out every single one of them. That was a first.
  5. We had a photographer taking old-time hand-developed pictures on black aluminum using a wet-plate collodion method, a process invented in 1851. The procedure was as interesting as the results.

    The Victorian photographs were eerie and interesting.

    The Victorian photographs were eerie and interesting.

  6. We had 18 flavors of gourmet cotton candy spun in our backyard. (No bratty kid, not a food truck this time.)
  7. A girl got hit in the face while the piñata was being hammered down. I knew that was going to happen sooner or later. For some reason, kids become animals over a few Twizzlers when a piñata is involved.

    I'm not sure why an orb filled with candy makes kids simultaneously both uncontrollably excited and destructive.

    I’m not sure why an orb filled with candy makes kids simultaneously both uncontrollably excited and destructive.

  8. After the gathering, Jason and I were up until 4:30 in the morning cleaning crumbs and food globs off our floors. Thanks Cam for coming back to help with the first rounds of sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and furniture replacement at 12:30 AM!
This pirates' cove was Jason's idea. He even made a swashbuckling soundtrack to accompany it.

This pirates’ cove was Jason’s idea. He even made a swashbuckling soundtrack to accompany it.

Who doesn't like a nice spooning?

Who doesn’t like a nice spooning?

And that is how we survived our Halloween party this year, with a lot of gratitude, and a little frustration, in our hearts. To all our helpers, thank you for being enablers of our madness! We can’t tell you how much your aid meant. You are awesome!

18 Dec

About Bellies

Posted by on December 18, 2016 at 11:48 pm

It’s December and here I am writing about Halloween. Blame it on a combination of lack of time and too much to post about. That’s right, I’ve been so busy with my exciting life that my many enthralling recaps have piled up… yeah, that sounds good so I’ll go with that.

We entombed Jim in corn or, perhaps, engrained him.

We entombed Jim in corn or, perhaps, engrained him.

The worst thing about taking pictures at Cornbelly's is that you can't really take pictures at Cornbelly's. You can't bring a nice camera that you care about or turn on a flash. The dust particles are everywhere and reflect more light than a disco ball.

The worst thing about taking pictures at Cornbelly’s is that you can’t really take pictures at Cornbelly’s. You can’t bring a nice camera that you care about or turn on a flash. The dust particles are everywhere and reflect more light than a disco ball.

Besides our all-consuming Halloween party, we took part in a few other traditional fall activities this year. For starters, we went to Cornbelly’s with our usual gang. The weather was abnormally pleasant, which resulted in even larger crowds than typical. Hence, the pumpkin-to-people ratio was objectionable. We carried on though and tried to misplace ourselves in the Peanuts corn maze only to find it a tough task given that the stalks were merely waist-high in many spots. We consoled ourselves by gobbling fried Oreos and playing corn ball with a ball too flat to grasp. Then, we concluded the evening by laying Jim six feet under, well more like three feet over, in a corny beach. It may sound like we had a nearly horrible time from my recount but that just wasn’t the case. Fun was had for friends can work wonders even with a stunted maze.

Even amid the kernel chaos one could find peace... or pieces of corn at the very least.

Even amid the kernel chaos one could find peace… or pieces of corn at the very least.

Jason and I, no matter how crazy October gets, always make time for a Halloween dinner… and by “always” I mean the last four or five years. This year, we made a Leatherface potpie and scissor finger cake. The potpie, with its homemade crust, was fantastic but the cake was not satisfactory according to my refined taste buds. You see, I asked Jason to buy some pasteurized eggs or pasteurized-egg product for the cake since it would not be cooked. He purchased an egg-white blend that was salted and seasoned with garlic. I never made it past my first scissor serving. However, Jason’s hillbilly tasters didn’t notice the unfitting flavor combinations so he got to finish the whole dessert.

Our Leatherface potpie was amazing! Our cake? It tasted like a chocolate omelet.

Our Leatherface potpie was amazing! Our cake? It tasted like a chocolate omelet.

I typically surprise Jason with some Halloween goodies every year. It shouldn't be a surprise anymore but, then again, he does have a bad memory.

I typically surprise Jason with some Halloween goodies every year. It shouldn’t be a surprise anymore but, then again, he does have a bad memory.

Although October was a while back, I’m pretty sure we had some good times during it between party planning and scholastic projects. If we didn’t, my memory ain’t what it used to be and you will never know the difference. Wahaha…

12 Dec

Moab’s Peaks and Plateaus Part II

Posted by on December 12, 2016 at 12:09 am

The next day we hiked the Gooseberry Trail, the most strenuous trail in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District. It dives 1400 feet from the top of Island in the Sky to the rim of Gooseberry Canyon, 1200 of those come in its first 0.7 miles. While this path is only 5.4 miles out-in-back, its enormous elevation change makes it relatively untraveled so we were eager to assess its rise and solitude extremes for ourselves.

A series of narrow switchbacks coiled precariously downward from the top of Island in the Sky.

A series of narrow switchbacks coiled precariously downward from the top of Island in the Sky.

The Gooseberry Trail is one of the steepest paths in any national park.

The Gooseberry Trail is one of the steepest paths in any national park.

It took us 4 hours and 40 minutes to complete the trek to Gooseberry Canyon and back; the average is 4 to 6 hours. Frankly, it was much easier than I expected. Based on website comments and Canyonlands’ pamphlets, I anticipated having to take numerous breaks just to keep my heart from going all Tommy Lee in my chest but my beater did just fine and didn’t need many pauses. However, this trail was not easier than Jason expected. Yes, my expectations are tougher than his.

The deep dip down was even more daunting than it appears here.

The deep dip down was even more daunting than it appears here.

The vibrant layers of the Kayenta and Chinle Formations splashed all around us.

The vibrant layers of the Kayenta and Chinle Formations splashed all around us.

The hardest thing about this path, in my opinion, was its fearsome heights. Gazing down from the top of the mesa, the trail looked like a skinny snake slithering on the edge of oblivion. It took some guts to tell that rising “no” inside me “no” but I shut it down slowly with one foot in front of the other.

Gooseberry Canyon falls just 100 feet from where its trail ends. What an ending!

Gooseberry Canyon falls just 100 feet from where its trail ends. What an ending!

The White Rim Road, a 4x4 trail, runs along Gooseberry Canyon for a bit so we got asked by a few confused off-roaders where the heck we came from.

The White Rim Road, a 4×4 trail, runs along Gooseberry Canyon for a bit so we got asked by a few confused off-roaders where the heck we came from.

After our initial height-shock faded, the trail really wasn’t terribly terrifying but our awe remained. Mighty views kept hitting us until Gooseberry Canyon brought a new wave of wonderment and alarm. With its 200-foot plummets, it was an intimidating and spectacular spot to eat a victory sandwich. What an amazing hike with all the heart-pounding exertion and panic one could want in a day!

I made Jason look so tough. Photography is magic.

I made Jason look so tough. Photography is magic.

Stairs eased the elevation changes on the trail's gnarliest sections.

Stairs eased the elevation changes on the trail’s gnarliest sections.

Moab was superb once again. You aren’t particularly bright if you thought I would say otherwise. Where else can you freeze your caboose in an alpine meadow and the next day, just minutes away, sport a tank top in desert rapture. It was a little sad not to have our bikes with us but we managed pretty well on two feet.

3 Dec

Moab’s Peaks and Plateaus Part I

Posted by on December 3, 2016 at 11:19 pm

Jason and I couldn’t let fall freeze into winter without taking our traditional outing to Moab. However, my semester’s relentless presentations, papers, and team projects were creating quite an impediment so we chose to go to Moab for only two days rather than our customary three. Two days of fun is better than three days of no fun. You can check my math; it adds up.

Glorious summer sunshine seemed to seep out of every aspen leaf we came across as we traveled upward.

Glorious summer sunshine seemed to seep out of every aspen leaf we came across as we traveled upward.

We decided, reluctantly, not to take our bikes with us because of our shortened stay. Instead, we settled for two day of hiking in two drastically different climates. We visited the towering peaks of the La Sal Mountains and the deep drops of Canyonlands National Park.

Gold Basin held fantastic views of Mount Tukuhnikivatz or Mount Mellenthin. Maybe Mount Peale? It was hard to figure out which peak was which.

Gold Basin held fantastic views of Mount Tukuhnikivatz or Mount Mellenthin. Maybe Mount Peale? It was hard to figure out which peak was which.

Did you know that Utah’s tallest mountains outside the Uintas are not in the Wasatch Range? Don’t lie, you didn’t know that. The La Sal Mountains, barely east of Moab, contain 12 peaks above 12,000 feet, making them Utah’s second-highest range. Not impressed? What’s it with you and your desensitization to massive mounts? Despite our many trips to Moab, we had never been to the La Sals and that just wasn’t right.

This muddy pond marked the end of our path in Gold Basin, not exactly an inspiring stop spot.

This muddy pond marked the end of our path in Gold Basin, not exactly an inspiring stop spot.

At their lower elevations, the La Sal Mountains felt uncannily familiar and foreign all at the same time with sharp hillsides made scruffy by juniper and scrub oak. At their higher altitudes, the vegetation was more of an alpine standard with patches of aspens and bristly conifers.

It wasn't easy setting my tripod up on giant slabs of stone to get this picture.

It wasn’t easy setting my tripod up on giant slabs of stone to get this picture.

We picked a perfect time to visit the La Sals… well, it would have been perfect if our eyes were the overlords of our skin. The aspens were remarkable golden, almost fluorescent, but it was a bit chilly, as in 57 to 42 degrees depending on the elevation and sun’s inclinations.

Moonlight Meadow had already succumbed to winter's dreariness but it still provided some thrilling views.

Moonlight Meadow had already succumbed to winter’s dreariness but it still provided some thrilling views.

Nippy or not, we hiked three miles out-and-back along the Cirque Lakes Trail (Gold Basin) to a silty puddle our trail guide called a lake. Hence, the best part of this trek wasn’t its terminus but its lofty views of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, Peale, and Mellenthin.

The aspens forming this wall were the last sentinels of color that remained in Moonlight Meadow.

The aspens forming this wall were the last sentinels of color that remained in Moonlight Meadow.

Although temperatures were dropping into the low 40s as the afternoon waned, we opted to do one more hike, a short jaunt to Moonlight Meadow. Moonlight Meadow is, well, an alpine meadow. Did you see that coming? We took an easy one-mile out-and-back path to this grassy knoll. At 10,000 feet, its famous aspens had dispatched their leaves already amid winter’s incoming bluster but it was still an appealing wander. Isn’t it odd that trees go around naked at the times of the year when they could use their shady wardrobes the most?

The liquid hanging precariously in the sky all day poured down just minutes after we jumped back in our car.

The liquid hanging precariously in the sky all day poured down just minutes after we jumped back in our car.

Unfortunately, thanks to our frosty climbs, by the time we got back to Moab my body had decided it was done performing the fruitless task of keeping me warm. I was cold all night. I had to wear a t-shirt, thermal top, and hoodie just to keep the goosebumps at bay.

The following day we got goosed in a different kind of way. More on that next week.