Monday, December 29, 2014

Best Books of 2014

Well, I read 79 books this year. It’s down from last year’s 99 but I’m not complaining. As busy as I have been with relief society, I’m kind of surprised I got the 79 in. My average over the last 5 years is 80.5 so I’m right in line with that.  Anyway, this year I was supposed to read a classic, a non-fiction, and a Shakespeare play. I got the classic in by way of Maud Hart Lovelace’s “Emily of Green Valley”. I got some Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier, and Agatha Christie in there also, all of which could probably be considered classics. I didn’t read any Shakespeare or non-fiction this year.  My reading time became precious and I was not in the mood to branch out all that much.  

My favorites this year (in no particular order) are:
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black: I just really loved this take on vampires. I also love the cover and title.
Fangirl –  Rainbow Rowell: Without a doubt the biggest book hangover and the biggest book-boy crush. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read this book this year. I loved it!
Fortune’s Pawn – Rachel Bach: I read the entire trilogy this year. I think the first book was probably my favorite but I just really enjoyed this whole “romp in space” series.
Night Broken – Patricia Briggs: This series has just been consistently good and from one of my very favorite authors who never seems to disappoint.
The Road Home – Ellen Emerson White: This is the final book in a series set during the Vietnam War. I loved it. Talk about being transported to another place and time.  It’s my second biggest book hangover and I’ve read it multiple times also.
Silence for the Dead – Simone St James: I’ve really enjoyed her books and I think this was my favorite yet. I’m not big into ghost or supernatural stories but I do like the way she does them.
Every Breath/Every Word – Ellie Marney: I’m counting both books here. I adored them. Fans of Sherlock Holmes should read them.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Steifvater: The third book in an amazing series and I’m going to be sad when it’s over.
Honorable mention goes to:
The Shape of Desire – Sharon Shinn
Murder of Crows – Anne Bishop
Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor
Dreamer’s Pool – Juliet Marillier
A Grave Matter – Anna Lee Huber
There are a bunch of other books that I really liked. I have noticed I’m stingy with my 5 star ratings but I have quite a lot of 4 star books on my list. 
Most Anticipated books for 2015:
Vision in Silver – Anne Bishop
Dead Heat – Patricia Briggs
The Shadow Revolution – Susan and Clay Griffith
Every Move – Ellie Marney
The Tower of Bann- Juliet Marillier
A Study in Death – Anna Lee Huber
The Other Side of Midnight – Simone St James
My only reading goal for next year is to just keep digging away at my TBR pile. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it will never go away and that I add books to it faster than I can read them.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Popcorn Cake

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is popcorn cake. My mom makes it every year. She gives a lot of small ones away to neighbors and friends and always makes me one to share with the people at work. Then the final one is for us to eat during Christmas when we're all together as a family. I love it. It's got popcorn, and nuts, and spiced gumdrops in it and it's held together with marshmallows (like a rice krispy treat). Yummy!


I had a great Christmas, spending time with the family and celebrating the birth of Christ. It finally snowed for us during the night on Christmas Eve so we got to really wake up to a white Christmas. My 2 year old niece and I went outside and tried to make a snowman. We did make a small one, but the snow was so fine and powdery, it just wouldn't stick together.

Now I'm ready to spend the evening curled up with some cocoa and a good book.

Merry Christmas! (a day late)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cheesecake

This year I decided to get sick for Thanksgiving. I got a cold the day before and it stayed with me for over a week. It didn't help that the week after Thanksgiving I had to go to Kentucky for work. I'm finally feeling a lot better and wanted to post a picture of the cheesecake I made for Thanksgiving.


I got the recipe from this website. It was pretty easy to make and was very rich and tasty. My sister did the actual piping of the snowflake with the pattern provided on the website. I have to say it was a thumbs up all the way around. My mom had to take it to the dialysis center on Saturday to give away. We just don't have the people to eat it up and nobody could handle more than a small piece at a time anyway.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Christmas Comes Early

I was very excited when I got home on Saturday and found a package on my doorstep. Merry Christmas to me. I’m not even ashamed to admit I bought these books from the Australian publisher. I wanted them and didn’t want to wait. Plus, the US cover for the first book is not that great.  I like these covers better.

 
I’m dying to get to Every Word. I’ve already read Every Breath on my kindle and loved it. I also just got my copy of Blue Lily, Lily Blue from the library so I’m afraid that book might have to come first. It’s not a bad thing to have two books I really want to read waiting for me.  Next week I’m having a staycation and even though I’m rapidly filling up the time off from work, I should have plenty of time to get some reading done.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Haunted Houses

And by haunted houses, I don't mean I went to one. I don't really do scary stuff.

The family tradition is to make haunted houses around Halloween (aka gingerbread houses during the Christmas season). We always have a good time with it.

This year I made a graveyard. Or tried to. I promise that my two year old niece helped with mine. Evidently, she decided I didn't have enough candy on it. The halfway eaten candy corn is definitely from her. :)  I would never eat just half a candy corn.


Don't ask why my tombstones have "blood" dripping from them. It just seemed like the thing to do. Anyway, we had a good time and ate lots of candy. The kids got to take home their haunted houses and they will sit and dry out and then get thrown out and we'll do it all over again next year.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn Days are Here Again

Woo Hoo! It’s officially autumn! The weather has been so perfect lately that I really don’t want it to change yet. But I’ve been getting antsy for fall weather to get here. I see the leaves starting to change colors and I’ve needed a slightly warmer blanket at night.

I’ve already got plans for how I’m going to hibernate through the fall/winter season. There are a couple tv shows I want to catch up on, books to read (of course), and baking to do. I’ve been looking for soup recipes to try and this year I think I’m going to try making my own hot chocolate just to see how it compares.  I think I’ll also work on finishing a couple crafty projects I have laying around. Really, this is my favorite time of year and I’m so happy it’s here again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Living the good times

A few years ago I made myself a collage on a piece of poster board and titled it “My Motivation to be Healthy”.  I hung it up in my bathroom. It was my way of reminding me why I wanted to take care of myself both physically and emotionally. It’s full of pictures of places I want to travel, clothes, motivational sayings, family, books, tv shows… just things that I like.  It’s still got some space and every once in a while I’ll add to it.  I took a good look at it the other day and realized something. I’ve told myself for so many years that I will be able to do certain things or go certain places when I am a certain way or a certain weight, etc.  But there are so many pictures on that board that I’ve already done.  I’ve been to Italy, Machu Picchu, concerts…done things with my family.  There are still a lot of things on the board I haven’t done but it’s not because of what I weigh or anything else.  I just haven’t got to them yet.  I’m glad that regardless of what I tell myself, I haven’t let these ideas that I’m not good enough stop me from actually doing the things I want to do.  I’ve been living my life while I was telling myself that one day I’ll really be living my life.

Anyway, all those things on my motivation board are still really good reasons to take care of myself and be healthy and keep working towards it (and they really have helped motivate me). But instead of waiting for the good times, I’m going to be more diligent in realizing that I’m actually living the good times.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Perfume

I love to wear perfume.  I wear a different perfume everyday depending on what I feel like, the weather, or what seems to go with what I’m wearing. I was in heaven when I discovered I can buy perfume samples on the internet. I haven’t counted how many I have but without seeing them I could name over 20. I have a problem, I know.  :)
Usually my favorite scents are the clean ones. I like green and citrusy scents. I like floral and other fruity scents too. Spicy and oriental scents are my least favorite but I do sometimes like them. I don’t like powdery and rose scented perfumes and I don’t like to smell like vanilla. But I’m really open to trying anything. It just depends on the individual fragrance and what I’m in the mood for.  Ha ha… and since my moods change, small bottles and samples are really great for me. 
My favorite perfumes right now are:
  • Stella by Tocca – love the citrus in it
  • After My Own Heart by Ineke – starts with lilac, one of my favorite flowers but I love how it smells on me after the drydown
  • Sea and Sky by TokyoMilk – this is another one that I just love after the drydown
  • Dahlia and Vines by Nest - fairly new to my collection, it combines flowers with green and I like it but it is really strong and must be used sparingly
There are a bunch more that I really like but those are the ones that I seem to come back to or have actually purchased regular bottles of.
Today I’m wearing Ed Hardy Love & Luck. I like it but I’ve had the bottle for years and I’m kind of tired of it. The bottle is almost empty though so periodically I get it out and try to use it up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Life is Good

Sometimes life gets extremely busy. I’ve been busy lately which is good and bad. I was talking with my sister the other day about how busy she is. She’s now got 3 kids in school and a 1 year old at home. Spencer is in boy scouts now and Livi has achievement days twice a month and my sister is trying to figure out bus schedules and manage her little family. While I don’t have kids, I still have a household to manage.  The advantage is that I can just talk to myself to get everything figured out.  I love the scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that says: To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. I like how life goes in seasons and cycles.

I’ve been busy managing my time since earlier this summer when I was asked to be the relief society president in my ward. I’m learning to love it but it has been a big adjustment for me to give up time that I had to do other things. 


One of the things that had me a little busy this past month has been the temple open house. I was able to volunteer as an usher a couple times and then I’ve had the opportunity to play the piano in the visitor’s tent. It’s been fun and I’m glad our temple is ready to be open again soon.  We took the kids to see it one night and then had to go for ice cream.

 
Anyway, life is good. Not without problems but really, really good.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I love rainy Saturdays

I spent the week in Charlotte, NC for work. I had a couple days of meetings and then because of when my flight out left, I did a little shopping and just enjoyed the afternoon. Now I'm home and it's a rainy, thunderstormy afternoon. And I love it.

I'm actually sitting in my spare bedroom where my bookcases are and I'm going through my books. I went to the library book sale this morning and picked up a few good finds. But I think it's time to purge again. Usually a purge will take me a couple hours because I find books I forgot I had or hadn't thought of in a while and I end up skimming to my favorite parts. So yeah, I'm basically reading bits and pieces of many books and I love it. It's an absolutely perfect way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Family Camping Trip

I spend the last weekend (really 5 days) camping with my family in Logan Canyon. It was fun and I love being with my family. We did a little hiking and playing in the river. The hike was hot and the river was cold but both were fun.

 
We hiked up to the Wind Caves one day.




The kids had a good time although I think they didn't expect it to be so hard for them. They did great though.  I just realized that I didn't get many pictures of the other kids. Oh well. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fourth of July

I spent the 4th of July weekend in the Uintah Mountains with my sister and her dog, Charlie. After the excitement of the Inca trail, I found myself purchasing gear for a backpacking trip. We were trying to do a trip to King’s Peak, which is Utah’s highest peak but that fell through and in hindsight I’m glad it did. I believe it is better that my first real backpacking trip was only 13.2 miles. Well, I consider the Inca trail a “real backpacking trip”, but this is the first one since I was a teenager where I carried all my own stuff.


We hiked up to Amethyst Lake, which sits about 10,740 elevation wise.  The hike is really not that hard although I did feel the elevation a little bit. It starts out pretty level with some minor ups and downs. Then a couple miles in the trail forks and we took the path up the mountain, which was the hardest part. It wasn’t super steep, but it was all uphill over a really rocky trail.  Then it leveled out again for a bit until we arrived at the meadow and lake below Amethyst. That’s where we made camp for the night.


 
We set up camp and rested a bit then we got up to explore again until it was time to make dinner.  In the morning we left camp after breakfast and hiked the last little bit to Amethyst Lake.  Then we packed back up and headed down the mountain.

 
 
 
Once we got down we put everything in the car and drove along Mirror Lake highway. It was a busy weekend. We had decided to camp one more night in a campground and we found a good place at the Trial Lake campground.   Then in the morning we packed up and went home.


 
The trip was fun. Again I’ve realized I don’t really love hiking (especially with the heavier pack) but I do like to be in the mountains and Amethyst Lake is just one of those places you can’t get to without using your feet (or a horse, if you have one).  I really wish I would have taken my book on the hike, but after putting my pack on, I didn’t want even a tiny bit of extra weight. We had some downtime that I could have used to read. We also didn’t light a fire the first night and I just really like campfires. I don’t know why, but sitting around a camp fire staring in to the flames is one of the most relaxing things.

 
It won’t be my last backpacking trip, especially after I bought some of the gear (although some I needed or has multiple uses) but I probably won’t do another one this year.  I am planning on a couple smaller day hikes when my family goes camping.  I don’t necessarily love hiking but I do like the views from the top and the physical activity is good for me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White


I recently finished the Echo Company series by Ellen Emerson White (I believe they were originally published under her pen name Zack Emerson).  I bought them on impulse from a kindle deal I heard about through a blog I enjoy reading.  I started the first one on the journey to Peru and quickly read through 3 of them on the plane.  I finished the last 2 after I got home. Then I went and checked out some books about the Vietnam War from the library.
I love it when something I read makes me want to learn more about real life things. We study the Vietnam War in school from a historical and political perspective but these books seemed so real in the details that I want to know what it was like to be there because it sounds horrifying and terrible and so very sad for the men and women who went there.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the whole series. I loved Michael and his gang of friends from the first time they meet. Michael tried so hard not to let them in because they could be gone in an instant. And some of them were. Then Michael meets Rebecca.  These two both go through so much and from the moment they meet I was hoping for a happy ending for them.
The Road Home is my favorite book of the series. I’ve already bought myself a used paper copy. It goes on the keeper shelf and the second half of the book has already been re-read multiple times.  It’s about Rebecca coming home from the war and how she deals with trying to get on with her life when she can’t get over her recent past. I loved it. I won’t say it has a happy ending, but it has a perfect ending.  Perfect, and hard, and hopeful, which is why it is one of the best books I’ve read all year and one that I’ll revisit often in the future.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Memphis

I spent 4 days last week in Memphis for work. It wasn't my first trip there, but it was the first time I've actually stayed in the downtown area. It was a nice week. The weather was beautiful, even if I don't like the humidity.




On Friday before I flew home, my friend and I went to Graceland. I'm not an Elvis fan but it was fun to see. I would say it's fun to do once, if you are in the area.




Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cusco

We were in Cusco for 3 days before we left on our hike. We planned it that way so we could acclimate. Cusco was fun. It was noisy and smelled like car exhaust and I think 3 days was plenty of time.  We spent 2 days there again after the hike which was fine because we were too tired to want to do much, but we both agreed that if we ever did it again, we would not stay in Cusco the whole time.

On Friday, our first day, we pretty much wandered around the touristy part of the city looking through the shops and just getting our bearings.  We learned pretty quickly that traffic is crazy and the lights and street markings and double yellow lines are pretty much just suggestions. Cars would try to go up and down a one lane street at the same time and would have to back up when other cars were on the road.

On Saturday we took a bus to the ruins above Cusco. The bus is where I lost my camera. I wasn’t very happy but there was nothing I could do about it and it was my fault for not sticking it back in my bag where it should have been.  My sister had her camera (many of my pictures are from her) and I still had my phone. We saw the ruins at Tamomachay, Q’enko, and Sacsayhuaman. The views were spectacular.


 

On Sunday we went to church. There was a ward that had sacrament meeting at 10:00 and the building wasn’t far from us. I ended up playing the piano for them for the meeting and it was a good experience. I hope they liked having live music instead of the recordings.  Later that day we had signed up for a chocolate making class at the chocolate museum. It was one of the most fun things we have done on a vacation. Our teacher was fantastic and she took us through the whole process from the raw plant and beans to the roasting and tempering until the final product.  We were able to sample the beans, and she made cocoa tea and hot chocolate. Then we finished by making our own chocolates in molds. I am very much a chocoholic and I had a blast.
On the next Friday after the hike, I was not feeling great and pretty much slept off and on for most of the day.  We did meet up with a few of our friends from the trail at a pub on Friday night and it was fun to see everyone again, even if it had only been a day. 

 
On Saturday, we checked out of the hotel but still had about 5 hours to waste before it was time to go to the airport. It was my sister who didn’t feel so well that day so we just meandered about and then we bought tickets for the tourist bus that drives around Cusco. It was nice to see some spots we couldn’t walk to and it was nice to be off our feet again for a while.


Then we came home. I’m finally back into my routine. I had a huge vacation hangover because it was really so incredible.  I’ll just be happy being home for awhile and then I’ll start badgering my sister about our next trip. We’ve already got a couple places on the short list.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Porter

As I have mentioned before, I was nervous to hike the Inca Trail. I need to lose more weight and until this past January, my exercising was sporadic at best. It was a challenge and I came up with a plan to get ready. I am happy with what I accomplished. Maybe I could have done more, but I had prayed that what I was doing would be enough and it was.

Anyway, the day before the hike, we ran into some people in Cusco who had just finished the hike (only they did it in 3 days, not 4) and they kind of freaked us out just a little bit by telling us how hard it was. It did not help the nerves at all. Sunday night I think I might have gotten 2 hours of sleep but I doubt it was that much. So on Monday we were up and ready to go by 4:00 am and I was running on adrenaline. It kept me going all morning, but I was running out of energy fast. I was also used to exercising on an empty stomach and it was hard for me to force down food at lunch so I know I didn’t eat enough. I was definitely not feeling my best.
 
 
After lunch, we had a 4-5 hour hike all uphill to get to our camping spot for the night. My sister went on ahead because she wanted to challenge herself and I didn’t need her right there with me. We were only a couple hours in when I really started to not feel well. I just kept going because I had to, but eventually I ran out of steam. I got really dizzy and had to lean against a rock. Then my blood pressure dropped and I almost passed out. I started shaking and I sat down on the side of the trail and leaned against my backpack. Two of my fellow hikers came up the trail and stopped to help me. I put my fleece jacket on and they fed me candy bars and one of them went ahead and brought our guide, Edwin, back down to help me. Edwin took my blood pressure and sat with me until my color came back and I felt like I could get up. He walked with me a little bit farther and then I stopped to rest again because I didn’t feel good. Edwin gave me my options: I could either keep hiking up the mountain for another couple hours or I could stop and spend the night there and turn around in the morning. I would still be able to get the train and meet the group at Machu Picchu on Thursday. He wanted me to make the choice because I knew what I was capable of more than he was. I made the choice pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to stop but it still took me some time to let him know. I didn’t want to quit, but I also didn’t want to have to hike anymore that day.


So I started walking again. It got dark and I had to get my headlamp out. Thinking about it now, I’m glad I couldn’t see very far up the stairs. It was easier to hike them just taking a few at a time. Edwin had a porter come down from camp and made me give up my backpack. The porter hiked the rest of the way with me, carrying my pack and stopping whenever I wanted water from my hose. Edwin went on ahead so it was just the two of us. I started practicing my very bad Spanish on him since he didn’t speak English. I bet he thought I was crazy but it was actually almost kind of fun and gave me something to concentrate on besides the stairs.

He seriously has no idea how much I appreciated his help that evening. Muchas gracias just doesn’t cut it and that’s all I could say to him. The rest of the trip Edwin referred to him as “my porter”.  I was able to give him a hug and an extra tip our last night at camp. It really doesn’t seem enough. His name is Joselito and I’ve probably spelled it wrong and he has no idea that he impacted my life so much. Ha ha… he might have been helping me under duress for all I know.  The most I can do now is pray for him and trust God to take care of him. He doesn’t know it, but he has a friend for life even though I’ll probably never see him again.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Inca Trail Packing List and Tips

I have to give a shout out to our trekking company. We used Enigma  and I would highly recommend them. Our guides, Edwin and Elbin,were fantastic and very knowledgable. So were the porters. After hiking the exact same trail carrying much more weight, they cheered for us as we made it to camp each evening. And the food was excellent. I couldn't believe what the chef was able to do on the trail. We all wondered if the food was so good because we were so tired and hungry, but decided it would have been good anyway.



I followed the packing list they gave with only a few extras. I packed:
  • 2 pairs hiking pants
  • 4 short sleeved moisture wicking tee shirts
  • 1 long sleeved tee shirt
  • thermal shirt and fleece pants to sleep in
  • 5 pairs of SmartWool/Thorlo brand socks (and I didn't get any blisters)
  • clean underwear for each day, 1 sports bra, 1 extra bra (to get out of the sweaty one at camp)
  • fleece jacket
  • warm hat, gloves, and ear muffs (I prefer my earmuffs over a hat)
  • poncho
  • headlamp
  • sunhat and a Buff headband thing
  • camping toilet paper and travel sized tissues
  • hiking shoes, tennis shoes, and flip flops (I preferred the tennis shoes at camp instead of flip flops so I'd skip those)
  • insect repellent
  • sunblock
  • toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, ponytail holder, etc. (very basic toiletries)
  • Platypus water containter with hose (we had a 1 liter and a 2 liter)
  • snacks
  • rented trekking poles (these saved my knees - I wouldn't do it without them)
  • first aid kit (medicines and blister kit)
  • microfiber sleeping bag liner
  • ShowerPill athletic body wipes (loved these)
  • earplugs (the tents are close together and I did hear other people snoring)
  • passport
  • money for tips for the porters
  • small notebook and pen (I like writing a few things down while it's fresh)
  • sleeping bag (I rented mine, my sister packed her own)
  • plastic bags of various sizes (we had quart to 3 gallon size - everything should be in plastic bags in case it rains)
We paid for an extra porter so I carried just the things I needed for the day on the trail and the porter carried everything else. We had people who packed all their things, but they struggled a little bit. I couldn't have done it. Even my sister was glad she didn't have to carry everything.

If I had to do it over, I would take less snacks. We had some energy bars that we didn't need. I liked the trail mix we took, but I would have added a few small candy bars or fast sugar. We did take a can of Pringles that were a big hit. Every morning we were given some fresh fruit and granola bars or cookies or other kind of snack so we didn't need near as much as we brought and it was just weight we didn't need.

I would also take waterproof gloves or I saw someone take latex gloves to put over their other gloves which I thought was a great idea. My knit gloves were fine until they got wet and then my hands did get cold.

There are cold showers available at the camp on the 3rd night. I thought the body wipes did a decent job until I got to a hot shower. Most of my group went and played in the waterfall near the ruins and they said that felt just as good as the cold shower would have. Plus, the toilet/shower area is kind of disgusting.

I had just about everything imaginable in my first aid kit and only used the Advil and Tylenol PM. I wouldn't change what I packed because if I had needed it, I would have had it and it was still small enough to be manageable. I took a half dose of Tylenol PM the first night and should have done it the other nights. Between the noises, the rain, and the hard ground, I didn't get a lot of sleep even though I was tired.



You can definitely tell which people hiked to Machu Picchu and who took the train, but I'm glad we did the hike. My sister and I have already decided that we need to go back to Peru to hike another area in the mountains. It was a great trip and I would love to do another one like it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Inca Trail

Hiking the Inca Trail was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The first day was hard for me due to lack of sleep and a few other things (my blood pressure dropped and I had to sit for awhile so I didn't pass out) and our guide actually gave me the option of turning around. I have to admit it was tempting but I knew even as I considered it that I wouldn't be quitting. One: because I'd like to think I'm not a quitter, at least not when it matters, and two: this was my sister's dream and I wasn't going to be the one to ruin it for her.


I managed to get some sleep the first night in camp and the second day of hiking was much better for me. In fact it was my favorite day of the trip. It rained off and on all day which actually made it nice for hiking, and the mountains were so beautiful. The entire day, I just kept thinking of the quote: "Mountains are temples without walls where God comes to meet His children." It just seemed appropriate.


We didn't know this before hand, but our guides prefer to make the first day of hiking the longest (and arguably hardest). We ate lunch where most people spend the first night and then we kept going to the higher camp: Llulluchapampa. I ended up liking this because that meant that the next morning we had only about a 2 hour hike to reach Dead Woman's Pass, which was the highest pass we had to go over. Then it was downhill until lunch. They say there are over 8000 steps on the Inca Trail and I believe it. Once we finished the first pass, it seemed like it was almost all stairs. We were either going up them or down them.


Also, because of where they planned for us to camp, we were able to be at camp on the third day around 1 or 2 for lunch and then we were done hiking for the day. It was so nice to finish early and be able to have some downtime.


And then of course on the fourth day, we were up freakishly early, mostly to give the porters a chance to get us fed and get camp packed up so they could go catch a morning train home. Once control opened at 5:30 AM, it was a mad dash to get to the sun gate. It was an absolutely beautiful morning.



Honestly, getting to Machu Picchu was like the cherry on top. It was fun to see the ancient ruins and hear about the history, but the journey was just as amazing as the destination. Maybe more so. The sense of accomplishment was worth every sore muscle.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lo Hice!

I did it! I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! It was probably the most amazing thing I've ever done.


 
I'll try to post pictures and more trip details later, but I just wanted to first write about my overall experience and feelings after finishing.
 
I was still quite nervous about the hike and worried that the hiking and training I had done for it would not be enough. But once we started, I just kept walking. It was hard, the hardest physical thing I've ever done. But it wasn't impossible and I wasn't the slowest person, and everybody had some part that was hard for them, even marathon runners like my sister. It was worth every single sore muscle.
 
The views were amazing! I honestly would turn around and do it again in a heartbeat just to be back up in those mountains.  Our guides, Edwin and Elbin, were excellent and the group of people we hiked with were so great. We all got along so well and really had a good time. And then there are the porters. Those guys are my heros. They have a hard job, from my perspective at least. They get up early to get breakfast ready, then stay up late getting dinner cleaned up, and they pack all the equipment and some personal belongings for us. And they run up and down those mountains! I must confess it was nice to see them resting on the side of the trail once in a while so I knew they were human.
 
 
Really, the trip was kind of life changing. I made myself do something I wouldn't have thought was possible a year ago. I have a broader perspective of how other people live, and I have a greater appreciation for God's creations. I have to be honest that this trip was hard to come home from. I was ready to be home, but not ready to stop the experience. There was just a sense of loss of new friends and places that I didn't expect. Now that I'm home and getting back into my routine, I am profoundly grateful. I'm grateful for the whole experience and I'm grateful for the good life I do have and the many opportunities I have to grow and challenge myself and be happy. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Waterfall Canyon

So I finally made it to waterfall canyon. It's a pretty popular hike in this area. It's just never been high on my list of things to do. But then, I don't usually hike for fun.

It was a beautiful morning though. We got up there fairly early. The sun wasn't even shining on that part of the mountain yet.

I'm glad we went when we did. There weren't too many people there when we got up there, but we passed quite a few groups of people coming up while we were going down.



It's not really a difficult hike, but it's all uphill. Short and steep. You do have to climb over some loose rocks, but it wasn't that bad.


Anyway, it was kind of fun to do once.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Sometimes you read a book and it pretty much takes over and moves in.  I look at my bookshelves and see so many old favorites that have been there for years, but I’m always kind of delighted when a new favorite gets a place on my shelf.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell did that recently. I bought it for my kindle last November when it was being sold on one of Amazon’s deals and read it this past February. Then in March I bought it in hardcover.  I had to have a physical copy and was going to wait for the paperback to come out but just couldn’t do it. I can’t even say how many times I’ve read this book. Well, ok, I’ve read it all the way through once and then most of it many, many times. I completely fell for Cath, Levi, Reagan, Wren, and their dad.

I think the reason I love this book so much is because even though I am not like Cath, I remember some of those feelings from my first year of college. Thinks like figuring out how to eat in the cafeteria, or finding your classes or the best spots to study in the library. All the new people you meet. I even had a roommate whose boyfriend was over all the time. Cath is so strong even though she doesn’t think so. Even with her stomach in knots she still does what she needs to and makes it through whatever she’s dealing with.  And then there’s Levi who gives out smiles just because he can and because it makes him happy.  Levi has been my biggest book crush all year so far and I don’t see that going away any time soon.  
The only small squabble I had with this book is the actual fan fiction Cath writes. While I would probably read the fictional Simon Snow series if it were real, getting just bits and pieces of it took me out of the story. I wanted Cath and Levi, not Simon and Baz. I’m not saying it wasn’t good, I’m just saying that now that I’ve read it once, I can skip those parts and go straight to everything else that I love.
I bought Eleanor and Park at the same time I bought Fangirl and while I didn’t love that one as much, I found out that I love Rainbow Rowell’s writing. I’ve got Attachments on hold at the library and when Landline comes out, I’ll be reading it too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hiking

So I've seen some interesting things while out hiking with my sister. This was on Birdsong Trail. There was another half buried Bug up above it, but it looked like someone had been using it for shelter so I didn't get too close.


I do have to admit it's been kind of fun to get out on some of the trails above Ogden. Since I've lived there for over 10 years now, it's a little too bad I haven't used them more. We see bikers, hikers, trail runners, families...all kinds of people. I would definitely like to go back to Birdsong when the trees have leaves. In fact, I just need to do more hiking in general. I still don't really love it, but it is definitely easier to go distances when there is something to look at or just being outdoors. I can't imagine doing that on the treadmill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Walking

I walked 11 miles on Saturday. I had to do it by myself so I put on some music and just walked. I didn’t mean to do 11 miles, but I was walking along the river parkway and I was almost to the top so I just kept going. Then I had to turn around and get back home. It wasn’t too bad, actually. Around mile 5 I could feel my hips getting a little tight but nothing bad. Of course, by the time I got home, I was stiff and sore. That didn’t last very long either, thank goodness.

All this exercise I have been doing is starting to pay off. I have been seeing the scale go down slowly, but I really wanted to see a change in the way my clothes fit and its happening. I’ve been kind of thinking some of my clothes were getting looser, but with one of my pairs of jeans I wore yesterday, I can definitely tell they are looser. It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s still not easy to get up in the morning, but it’s getting easier to know that it’s not a question of if I exercise, but when I exercise. I’m actually making it a priority. There’s no way I could have walked 11 miles in January. I love that I can see improvements in my exercising also.
I haven’t changed a lot of my eating habits. Ha ha… if I could give up sugar I would probably see a bigger change. But I have been cooking. That may sound strange, but cooking for one person really sucks. And it’s so easy not to do it and just have cereal or run by a fast food joint… I can always come up with an excuse. But I have been finding a kind of sense of accomplishment by cooking meals that taste good and that I may want to eat again.  I have found if I can grab leftovers out of the fridge or freezer when I’m rushing out the door in the morning, it also saves me from the money and calories of eating out.  There is definitely room for improvement. I still need to eat more fruits and veggies and less sugar but I’m doing this with baby steps and making changes I will stick with over the long run.  And I’m happy with the progress so I won’t complain.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Progress with "The Plan"

So the exercise plan for my trip has been going on since mid-January. I’ve got to say I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m finally starting to notice a few changes and I’m feeling stronger.  We’ve had a lot of rain, so I’ve been doing my exercising indoors. With the time change and some sunshine, I hope to be able to get outdoors a couple days a week from here on out. I’m still nervous that it’s not going to be enough but I try not to think about it.  The preparation will pay off and every little bit that isn’t as hard as it could have been is because of what I’m doing now.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happy Mardi Gras

I spent last week in Louisiana. I flew out Monday evening and got back on Sunday morning. Most of the trip was for work, but my friend and I decided to make a weekend trip out of it also.

The weather was so beautiful. There was a little bit of rain, but most of the time, it was sunny and the temperature was perfect. It was such an nice change from what the weather in Utah has been.

We spent Friday morning at Houmas House plantation. It was one of the largest sugar cane plantations in its hey day. The current owner has really made the gardens beautiful. I can just imagine how lovely everything looks when the flowers are in bloom.

 
 
 
The live oaks are especially beautiful.

 
Then we drove to New Orleans on Friday afternoon. I must be one of the most clueless people on the planet, but I didn't realize that Mardi Gras was celebrated over a month-ish period of time. So we were there right in time for some of the festivities. Mardi Gras has never been on my bucket list, but now I can mark it off anyway.

We spent Saturday morning wandering around the garden district. Anyone who likes architecture and old houses would really enjoy that area, I think.

 
 
Then we ran across this little coffee shop with the best donuts. I got the chocolate blackout donut. I've never had to eat a donut with a fork before, but it was amazing. We could have easily gone back to try the food, but weren't able to make it happen. Ha ha... and yes, this picture is upside down.
 
 
 
Before we left the garden district we ran into an old cemetery. I had wanted to find one so it was fun to go look around. This was Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 founded in 1833.



 
We spent the afternoon wandering through the French quarter and then caught a few of the parades.

 
We did make it to Borbon street, which wasn't my favorite. I wouldn't have wanted to be there at night. Some of the other areas of the french quarter were nice, though.
 



 
I had to do a little reading up on the history of Mardi Gras before we got there so I knew what the krewes and things were all about. This was the Krewe of Choctaw.



 

This parade was the Krewe of Pontchartrain. It was kind of interesting to see. I had to cover my face a couple times because they really threw the beads everywhere. Some of them threw full packages of beads. And then some others threw the little rubber bouncy balls and I did get hit with a couple of those as they bounced. It was a little crazy.
 

  

Anyway, I had a little taste of Mardi Gras, ended up with some beads that I'm going to give to my nieces, and just generally had a good time. Louisiana was beautiful and I could definitly go back (I'd love to see some other plantation houses). I probably would skip Mardi Gras season though.