Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Celebration of Snow

We have had such a dry January that we've been praying for precipitation. Wanting snow probably sounds crazy to those of you who have more than you know what to do with it, but we haven't gotten any all month. So when we woke up this morning to snow on the ground, we did a little snow dance. Then Desert Girl put on her snow gear and we went outside.

The first order of business was to catch some snowflakes on our tongues. We were successful!

Then Desert Girl couldn't resist making some snow angels. (and catching more snowflakes on her tongue)

Next it was time to look at tracks:
Our dog, Henry's tracks

And can you figure out these?
 These are snow tracks. Meaning snow left the impressions--after it fell off a power line.

 We had to include a little snowball fight.

 I love looking at the snow patterns everywhere, although they can be challenging to photograph. We have almost two inches of snow this morning, and it's supposed to snow all day, bringing us a couple more inches.  Let it snow!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Outside Time

 We recently went to one of Desert Girl's friend's houses for a birthday party, and with the weather being so mild, enjoyed playing around in the yard. Even Jenny got into the swing of things. (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

 The kids thought the tire swing was the best.

 The birthday girl. She was content with short sleeves.

 The moms got into the action, and the dogs were so grateful!

 Desert Girl's time on the tire swing.

 They also had a large rope tied to the tree that was fun for all.

 Ava discovered she could climb a tree.

 So Desert Boy followed.

 Later they discovered the bar swing and developed some tricks. I was a little scared, but they weren't. I think they're getting ready for the circus.

What a fun birthday party!

We're ready for some precipitation, it's been so dry here! But we'll try to enjoy the warm weather as much as we can.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I can tell I've been procrastinating when Desert Boy comes to me and tells me that he has no pants to wear to school because they all have holes in the knees. So I attacked the rather large mending pile and patched six pairs of pants. The seventh was beyond patching so he now has an extra pair of shorts. The good side of this is that I know he's getting plenty of play time!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Unexpected Bounty

A high pressure has settled in over much of the western United States, which means sunny skies and 50 degree temperatures in the high desert. We are enjoying it! Today we cleaned some of the garden, and much to our surprise, found some carrots have been growing in the warmer winter temperatures. Yum, fresh local veggies in winter!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter Amtrak Trip, Day Two: Across Iowa and Illinois

 After the first day of our winter Amtrak train trip, crossing Utah, and Colorado, we fell asleep. We didn't have a sleeping compartments, but instead slept in the reclining chairs. The kids slept fine, but my husband and I didn't get great sleep. I didn't get great sleep in the sleeping compartment across Nevada either, I just don't think I sleep that well on trains.

I woke up very early in the morning when we stopped in Omaha, Nebraska to resupply. I quietly asked Desert Boy if he'd like to get out of the train and touch the ground, as our rule to add a new state to your list is that you have to touch the ground. He kept sleeping, and I figured it would be better to wait until he had seen more of it.

 However, when we had a stop in Iowa, we did jump out and touch the ground. Quite a bit of snow had fallen in Iowa and they had only shoveled the wrong platform, not the one the train actually used, so we all got a bit wet.

 As we crossed snowy Iowa, Desert Boy made new friends and played various games. It was fun to see the kids interact, and all the parents seemed glad to have a little free time to themselves!

 Iowa was more interesting than I thought, with rolling hills and farms interspersed with woodlands next to creeks. We were quite happy to be moving along steadily on the train, especially when we saw so many snow plows out and so many roads still to be plowed.

 We paid special attention as we crossed the Mississippi River on an impressive railroad bridge. Part of the river was frozen over, and bald eagles were everywhere.

 As we continued across Illinois, we moved around and did different activities. Desert Boy traced our route on the Illinois state map. Illinois really promotes Amtrak travel, and we were impressed with the numerous routes through the state.

 I had thought the second day of the train trip would be really tough, with everyone bored and crabby. However, it went well, and faster than I thought it would. We were blessed to have been able to make up time and even arrived at Union Station in Chicago a few minutes early. Pulling into the underground station was a bit dark and dreary and it was so noisy!

If you ever go to Union Station in Chicago, be sure to check out the Main Hall. It is so impressive!

Overall, we had a great time on the train. We won't travel that way all the time, but I'm certainly looking forward to another train adventure. It's a relaxing way to travel and the atmosphere is very different from car or plane travel.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's the Hands

While we were on our trip visiting a museum, we came across an exhibit about evolution of man. I noticed the hand of Homo neanderthalensis and said, "Hey, that's a hand I know."

We couldn't help ourselves and took a photo. Fortunately the rest of the body (and most importantly, the brain) has kept up with evolution!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Winter Views from the Train: Provo, Utah to the Rocky Mountains, Colorado

 Keeping with our travel theme, in this post I'll share some recent photos from a train trip we took. We departed Provo, Utah very early in the morning and arrived in Chicago, Illinois about 32 hours later. This post will cover just the first day.

The train was scheduled to arrive in Provo at 4:30 am, so we set our hotel alarm for 3:30 am. Upon waking, the first thing I did was to check Amtrak's website, which said the train was running 45 minutes late, so we went back to sleep. When we reawakened, the train was reported as on time, so we got ready and headed out on the slippery streets to the small one-room station. A number of other people were also waiting. The station had some heat lights, but as we kept waiting and waiting, we decided to take refuge in the van to stay warm. Apparently there was another delay, and eventually one of the folks waiting with us called and found out it was another 45 minute delay.
 The snow was falling heavily by the time the train arrived, and we sure were glad to get on! About 15 people boarded the train.

The conductor said the train was full, but had saved us four seats all near each other. We put our suitcases in the luggage bins, and went to our seats, where we dozed off till it got light. Then we headed to the observation car to eat the breakfast we had brought and where we could be a bit louder.
 The observation car is on top of the cafe, where you can buy a variety of drinks and food. The observation car has lots of windows, so it's a great way to see the terrain. The assistant conductor hung out there, sharing his vast knowledge of the countryside we were passing.

 And my, it sure was beautiful! The early morning sun lit up the Utah desert. At one point, far off in the distance, we could even see an arch from Arches National Park!

 The kids didn't seem particularly interested in viewing the surroundings, but they were eager to work on their activities. We had packed a number of them for the trip.

 "You are here"--I just loved it.

 The frozen Green River.

 As we entered this canyon past Green River, the conductor told us to look for the steps American Indians had carved into the sandstone cliff. The snow highlighted them nicely, and we all wondered how they had traversed such a steep place.

The Colorado River was amazing. I had done this section of train trip in June, with a swollen river roiling over its banks. I figured the river in winter would be serene. I certainly didn't expect the jumble of ice on the river, piling up in places, cracked, buckled, and floating in pieces only to jam up again. The ice was mesmerizing, and I spent hours watching it.

 When we reached Grand Junction we got off the train to stretch our legs. I think I appreciated it more than the kids! We checked out the station and the gift store and almost missed the train! Yikes, with just one California Zephyr running a day, it would have been a long wait for the next train!

 Just past Glenwood Springs we entered Glenwood Canyon, a steep section of canyon with the Interstate engineered to cross the Colorado River repeatedly, go through tunnels, and even be double decker for a short while. It's some of the most expensive Interstate Highway in the country.

 At Dotsero, the tracks left the Interstate and headed north, following the Colorado River. In places the river looked more serene, without so much ice buildup.

 Desert Girl chilling out.

 Since it was Christmas break, there were lots of kids on the train, and Desert Boy quickly made friends.

 I kept watching the ice on the river, which was forming huge blocks, breaking apart, floating downstream, and getting mixed up.

 It was a fairly cloudy day so we couldn't see any distant peaks, but just seeing the canyon made the trip amazingly beautiful. The scenery surpassed my expectations.

Later we retired to our seats for a nap. Then the kids watched a movie while my husband and I read, waiting for our dinner reservation. Finally it was time to eat, and then to sleep, dreaming while we were gently rocked to and fro, speeding along in the darkness. be continued...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Views from the Air: Las Vegas to the Midwest

We're back from an extended trip and I downloaded my cameras, only to notice that I still had photos from November on one of them. In mid-November I was lucky to spend a long weekend with my best friends from high school. In order to get to the Midwest, I flew out of Las Vegas and took some photos along the way. The Las Vegas Strip stands out prominently from the air, surrounded by large blocks of development.

 What surprised me were the large undeveloped blocks not too far from the city center. The golf course certainly stands out as an anomaly in one of the driest cities in the country.

 Just west of Las Vegas is some amazing geology. I'm not sure what the names of these ridges are, but they certainly look rugged.

 Part of Lake Mead National Recreational Area. This reservoir is huge! The contrast between the parched earth and aquamarine-colored water is striking.

Next came a variety of desert vistas. Soon, though, the landscape transformed from brown hues to white ones, due to a change in topography and elevation, which encouraged snowfall:
 Crossing the Rocky Mountains. Clouds hung to some of the peaks, and the mountains seemed to continue forever.

Nevertheless, the mountains did come to an end, a rather abrupt end. Then it was time for:
 Farming! The round circles indicated pivot irrigation, which means that this farming is in an area where the rainfall isn't abundant enough or predictable enough to provide sufficient amounts for crops.

 The rivers grew larger,  a marked difference from the desert environment to which I've become accustomed.

Finally it was time for more farming, but in much smaller parcels. The fields are in rectangles, so probably no additional water is needed for the crops.

It was so interesting watching the scenery out the window that I didn't need many other distractions during the nearly-four hour flight. Crossing much of the country on a clear day in a window seat is a great treat.

Do you have favorite sights that you like to see from the air?
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