Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Month of Literary Abandon

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo. I am happy to report that I've written more than the requisite 50,000 words! My novel is in no way publishable in its current form (some characters had name changes and character traits shift due to memory lapses and the plot has some major holes). But it sure feels great to have another story, no matter how draft, down on paper.

What's next? I'll most likely try to edit and revise to have it ready to go for the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association literary contest in February. You have to pay to enter but get two good critiques on the beginning of your story. And maybe I'll try the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. That one's free, but you don't get as much feedback. Nevertheless, I've found it's always good to have a next step or you end up with manuscripts lying around. Yes, that is spoken from experience. And yes, someday I will get back to past writing projects and see what I can do with them!

And of course, in the meantime, I'll keep blogging so I can make sure I'm writing (almost) every day!

Good luck to you in whatever your goals are!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Advent! and Our New Nativity Advent Calendar

Today is the first day of Advent, which includes the four Sundays before Christmas. It's a time of preparation for remembering Christ's birthday. I've always associated it as a rather festive period, but after a little Internet reading I see that in past centuries it wasn't all that way.

We have an Advent wreath with four candles on the dining room table. The first week we light one candle each night, the second week, two, and so on. Desert Boy loves that we get to play with candles and fire.

We also brought out some Christmas decorations yesterday at Desert Boy's request, and the house is looking a little bit brighter, with our one-foot Christmas tree up, fake Poinsettias, and other assorted decorations. We'll keep bringing them out over the next weeks so we have new things to look at. One other thing we got out were Advent calendars, where we open one door a day to see a Bible verse and a secret picture.

I just haven't been happy with those little cardboard Advent calendars, so I was trying to figure out something more interactive. I saw that they had cool felt and magnetic Advent calendars online, but they were a little pricey. I found a neat design for making your own felt Advent calendar, but that looked like a little too much work (and I'm not particularly crafty). Finally, I came up with a rather easy idea for our own nativity Advent calendar.
The first step was to go through old Christmas cards. (Yes, I've saved them since we've been married. Do other people save their Christmas cards? I know some must. I just don't want to think of myself as a hoarder.) I found the ones that had Nativity scenes or things that could be put into a Nativity scene (like birds and dogs and cats). Desert Boy had the job of cutting them up.

We also had to clean off part of the refrigerator. It was nice to have a white slate.

I decided that I would put up a little stable on the refrigerator and then have pouches below with numbers and each day we would add something to the scene.

All I had was white posterboard, but we did find a variety of construction paper so we could make it colorful. Desert Girl was most helpful (okay, not really.) She wanted to be a part of it all.
Here's probably the most technical part of the project. I got a ruler and marked out squares 2.5 x 3 inches. Why that size? It just looked right. Fortunately that turned out to be a size that would fit well on the posterboard. Then I gathered up a big stack of construction paper and cut it out.
I drew a number in pencil on each piece of paper and Desert Boy traced it in permanent marker. It was good number practice.
Then it was time to attach the number pouches to the posterboard. The kids weren't really much help for this part. There is definitely a limit to one- and four-year olds can do. I also found out that even if the cap of a gluestick has been left off, if you cut the gluestick in half, there is some sticky part left. I stapled the numbers at the edges of the posterboard for a little extra reinforcement.

Then it was time to tape the posterboard to the refrigerator. (I still need to buy some magnetic tape. It's just that I didn't feel like driving 100+ miles round trip to the nearest store that might or might not have it.)

Desert Girl helped put the different cutouts in the pockets. She made some of the animal noises as she did so. We will have a lot of animals in our stable this year!
And here's the finished product! It will be fun to see how it goes.

And if we can keep Desert Girl, aka Emzilla, from destroying it.

Happy Advent! Do you have any Advent traditions?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Indoor Riding

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! We enjoyed a delightful day with family and friends. I even managed a 5k Turkey Trot that made me feel really good and guilt-free throughout the rest of the food-rich day.

I didn't manage to get any photos of Thanksgiving as in the recent cleaning frenzy I misplaced both my cameras. I have since happily relocated them and downloaded photos from them. This set brought a smile to my face, hope it brightens your day, too!
We brought the riding horse into the living room, and the kids had so much fun bouncing on it one night. I'm not sure what caused their halos in the photo above, but I loved their expressions so much I decided to use the photo anyway.
This one's a winner. You can see how many teeth Desert Girl has now. In July she only had four, but they started popping out quickly after that. This was definitely a wild hair day for both of them. Desert Girl was wearing a shirt with a cowgirl and horse, so I think she was ready for a ride.

Part of the fun was that the horse kept bucking them off. Riding double made it happen even more frequently.

Oops! Off again.
I like Desert Boy's hair!
We might be getting a little out of control.
Off again! It's nice that on the cold days and evenings they can burn a little energy this way!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hello, Cows

 Desert Girl and I went for a little walk this afternoon. She soon found a very long stick and just had to drag it along. We went over to the little creek by our house and she busied herself throwing sticks in. She wasn't too thrilled that Henry thought it was a game and jumped in to retrieve the sticks. She wanted them to float down the stream.

 Meanwhile I was keeping an eye on the cows. They're in the meadow right by our house now (with only a stray cow or two adding some extra fertilizer to our yard). The cows are really curious and decided we were worth investigating.
 What's up?
 The cows came a little closer. Desert Girl was definitely paying attention now.
 She decided to go say hi.

Although the cows are many times her size, I knew they wouldn't let her get too close. She actually stopped at a reasonable distance, waved hi to them, then came back to me.
The cows shuffled down the road a bit and turned and looked at us again. We looked at them. It was an exciting scene.

Then they turned and walked away. And we did the same.
The end.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Leaf Jumping

A couple weeks ago--or was it longer?--it seems to be getting harder and harder to keep track of time--we decided it was time to go play in the leaves. We raked up the leaves under our catalpa trees and Desert Girl thought it was absolutely funtastic to fall into the leaves. She did it over and over again.
Desert Boy was also eager to partake in the fun. He helped Desert Girl dust the leaves off her clothes. It was precious to watch them play together.

The catalpa leaves were big and dry, so they didn't last too long. It's not so much fun to jump into shredded, crumpled leaves, so we decided to move to another part of the yard, under the apricot tree. The leaves at the top of the tree had turned a golden yellow and fallen off the day before, so they were still moist and perfect for jumping.

Takeoff again!

If you're wondering about the helmet, we were about to go on a bike ride and Desert Boy decided he just had to jump in the leaves.
The kids convinced me I had to jump in the leaves, too, but I found my favorite activity was burying them in the leaves.

Now we have lots more leaves on the ground, but they aren't as pretty as the first ones. They're mostly green and brown. Fortunately the kids don't mind at all.  If we somehow miss the snow and rain that's supposed to come this weekend, I have a feeling we'll be raking up more piles of leaves and jumping in them!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Random November Photos

 We saw about 70 pronghorn in one of our fields a couple weeks ago. I made my husband stop so I could take a photo of some of them. As you can see by the snow on the mountains, it's getting colder, so lots of the animals are moving to lower elevations. The pronghorn are found pretty low year-round, but it's not often that we see this many of them together.
 I liked the juxtaposition of this well against the dry desert behind it. In many places in the Great Basin desert the only water is underground, so if you want to grow something (or get water for your house), you need a well.
 It was a cloudy day, leading to the bleakness of the landscape as it prepares for a long winter ahead. This photo makes me want to curl up in bed with a good book and a pot of homemade soup on the stove, sending its delicious aroma throughout the house.

It was cold enough for icicles to form on this water trough. The cattle will use it for part of the winter as they're out grazing on the winter range. A small pipeline brings the water from a creek higher up on the mountain to this lower location.

And last but not least. The freezing temperatures at night are creating some wonderful ice formations along the creeks. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Horse Canyon Hike

 We bumped our way up a really rocky road recently to go for a little hike. We were wishing that the new addition to our family was up to speed so we could get there in a little more comfort! Finally we arrived at the trailhead for Horse Canyon. I had been there before but had not hiked past the trailhead, and I really wanted to this day, despite the snow.

 So we trekked up the trail, which I found extremely beautiful. There were all sorts of things to look at, like this hornet's nest. I was glad it was winter and I didn't have to worry about them.

 Desert Boy thought it was fun to run. He had a lot of energy.
 He slowed down to get a stick. Why is it that every kid needs a stick to hike?
 We eventually got to the sign marking the Mount Moriah Wilderness. The kids thought that was far enough to hike, so they snacked with Dad while I went up the trail a little farther. I didn't want to turn around, it was so pretty. I will have to go back another day!

 They were still snacking when I got back. Snack breaks are very important.

 I couldn't resist a few candids of the kids.
 My, what big blue eyes you have, Desert Girl!
 On the way down Desert Boy wanted to run some more, so I went with him. (We teach the kids they have to stay in sight of us when hiking because we don't want them to become a mountain lion snack.) Desert Boy slid along just fine. When we got to this little branch across the trail, he decided he wanted to go under it. That required him laying in the snow, but he didn't seem to care.
When we got back to the two-track road that led to the trailhead, Desert Boy had so much energy that we kept hiking down the road, past the big, beautiful ponderosa pines. It was a really fun hike, more than any of us expected. It turned out that a little snow and cold didn't put a damper on the day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Snowy Adventure

We sometimes like to go on little drives on Sundays to go out exploring. Last weekend I wanted to check out a spot nearby to verify some information I have written in a non-fiction book of the area. I'm not going to say too much about it now (even though I am SO excited about it), except to say that I'm reviewing proofs and if all goes well, the book will be published in April 2012.

Anyway, we went up a canyon that my husband and I hadn't been up to since before the kids were born. It was funny comparing our memories--or memory lapses--of the canyon. On the way back down, I was amazed at the huge cave entrance that I had forgotten about.

I remarked to my husband, "I must have said we'll come back someday to take a look at it."

He agreed that I had said that. Apparently I say that often enough that I forget I say it. And I forget some of the holes I've said it about.
This time we decided we weren't just going to say that we'd come back. We were going to hike up to the cave that day, even though it looked like a really steep hike. And we had two little kids. And it was about to snow.
Desert Girl managed just fine on Daddy's back, but Desert Boy had a few rock climbing adventures.
The scree was especially difficult, as his short legs didn't let him get much farther up the hillside, and then he just slid back down to where he had started.
Nevertheless we kept getting closer and closer to the gaping cave mouth.
The storm clouds were swooping down the canyon as we made it to the cave entrance. We dug out our lunch and were glad to have a little bit of cover.

After lunch, I took a quick look around the cave. I'm not sure what its name is, but it wasn't too large. The big entrance room extended back about 70 to 80 feet, but I didn't locate any passages that went off from it.
I did find some nice frostwork. I also saw a few stalactites and stalagmites. There was one giant stalagmite, over ten feet tall and about three feet wide. It, along with all the breakdown, made us think that this once might have been a much bigger cave.
We did our best to get a family portrait (I wanted to be in at least one photo!). It turned out okay if you just ignore the Doritos bag.
While my husband was trying to find an easier way down, I had the kids stand and look at each other. Oh, they can be so sweet. I really like how this photo turned out.
Then it was time to head down. That part wasn't all that fun with two complaining kids. I don't think I'd go back with little ones, but I would go back to see what kind of birds are nesting in the cave in the summer. We saw the guano and ledges, but couldn't really see much more.

It was good to have finally checked out another hole in the ground (even if it was a hole I had forgotten about!). And we did spot a few more nearby that will warrant another visit.
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