Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sand Hollow Aquatic Center

 While we were in St. George last weekend, we had one nice day and one rainy day. We headed out to explore one of the fabulous trails in St. George on the nice day. This trail started at the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center, which is near Santa Clara. We were the only ones on the trail and enjoyed the great views. It's one of the shorter ones, about a mile long. When we got to the end, Desert Boy was amazed that I wasn't going to have him go any further and that all we had to do was turn around and go back!

 I liked the signs, and we talked a couple minutes about safety in the desert.

Then it was time to go to a destination the kids craved: an oasis in the desert.
 Being desert rats, we always are eager to find some water, especially when we can recreate in it. So we headed to the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center.  It has a very interesting construction that covers two separate pools, a lap pool that the swim teams can use (and that is slightly cooler) and a recreation pool with a variety of fun things (and that is slightly warmer). The light-colored roof and windows made it so they don't need lights during the day. Another feature I liked was the family locker room.

 When we walked into the pool area, our eyes immediately went to the water slide. You walk up two flights of stairs to get to the top, then have a relaxing ride down. The slide discharges you into four-feet deep water with quite a current, which made for a little extra swimming challenge for Desert Boy.

 I loved that Desert Girl could go down with me on the slide, as long as she wore a life jacket. In fact, they make all kids 3 and under wear a life jacket while in the pool area.

 Desert Girl also loved a slide that was a little more her size--the frog. She even got brave and went down face first, even though she ended up with a face full of water every time.

 Some water bubblers made for fun entertainment.

Desert Boy spent lots of time over at the lily pads. They had ropes attaching them to the bottom of the pool, but they moved quite a bit. A cargo net overhead helped provide a little extra stability as one tried to get across them without wiping out. (It was slightly reminiscent of the TV show Wipeout.)

 Desert Girl even gave it a try. (Isn't she getting big?!)

We spent a couple very enjoyable hours at the aquatic center. Desert Boy wanted to go back the next day, but we had other plans. Nevertheless, we will be back!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Food: Quinoa

So like a zillion other people, I made a New Year's resolution to eat better. In my case, I want to cut back on processed foods and eat more real foods (and with Hostess going out of business, my resolution is already slightly easier).

Recently, I purchased some quinoa. I had read it was a yummy grain. Now "read" is a key word here, because if I had "heard" quinoa pronounced, I probably wouldn't keep mispronouncing it. You see, this is an ideal spelling bee word in the final challenge round, because it's pronounced "keen-wah." And for the life of me, I can not remember that pronunciation. So I keep mispronouncing it, but fortunately there aren't too many "keen-wah" snobs out in this neck of the woods. Ahem, I mean isolated desert valley.

Anyways, I found a recipe for quinoa and made it last night. And I have to say, I really like it. Before I get to the recipe, let me tell you a little more about quinoa. It comes from Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, and Ecuador, up in the high country. It doesn't need much precipitation and it can survive freezing temperatures. As I read this off the package, my husband and I were both thinking--wow, maybe we should grow this in our garden! But then we got to the part that the quinoa seeds have a hard coating of saponins that is difficult to remove. Okay, back to buying it.

It was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago (how did those people get the coating off?). It's high in lysine, calcium, phosphorous, and iron. The Incas considered the grain to be sacred and called it chisaya mama, or "mother of all grains." Then came the dang conquistadores, who scorned that Incan foodstuff and even forbade them to cultivate it and made them plant wheat. Eventually the quinoa came back into favor, and over recent years its popularity has spread. The price of quinoa crops has increased substantially. According to Wikipedia, in 2011 a ton of quinoa cost an average of over $3000, compared to a ton of wheat at $340.

I can understand why it's popular, it's delicious. The salad you see above came from a recipe at 100daysofrealfood. I look forward to eating more of it.

Have you tried quinoa? What recipes do you like?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

St. George Birding Festival 2013

For the past ten years, St. George has held a birding festival. It's the last weekend of January, which means it's a great escape from the snow and cold of more northerly latitudes. I've wanted to go for several years, but with little kids, I didn't know how I could pull it off. Fortunately, last year I asked my mother-in-law if she would help watch the kids this year, and she said yes.

The festival was held from Thursday evening to Saturday evening. We drove down after school on Thursday. On Friday, I took Desert Boy with me on a shorter bird trip. Since he was missing a day of school, I figured he should do something educational.
Bird field trips are fun for several reasons. First, the leader is usually very knowledgeable and you can learn all sorts of things about birds that you never knew. This was definitely true for our trip. At our first stop we saw the huge gaggle of Canada geese out on a pond that's in the first photo of this post. Kevin found the lone greater white-faced goose in the group, and put his scope on it for us. Plus he made sure we all saw the canvasbacks and ruddy ducks and explained that the ruddy ducks only get the strange-looking blue bills during breeding season. 

Second, the leader knows the local bird hotspots. You see cool birds not only on the field trip, but know where to go when you return. You'll see a spot below to which I'd like to return.

Third, it's fun to meet other birders. Often people of all levels go on the bird trips, and it's fun to find out more about how people got into birding and if they've seen anything interesting lately.

 This is what I hoped Desert Boy would be doing for the field trip. I taught him how to use the binoculars and helped focus them. He looked through a few times.

 This is what he preferred to do, though--gather materials for a little boat made of bark.

He thought the pampas grass was cool and wanted to add that to his collection.

I enjoyed seeing an array of birds, including some that I haven't seen around here for several months, like the northern mockingbird, seen above.

Female and male house finches cooperated for us by sitting still on top of a tree so that everyone could see the differences in plumage.

 One of our locations for this trip was Halfway Wash, which has some nice riparian habitat. It's easily accessible, with a paved trail along it. This is part of St. George's extensive trail system, something I'd like to get to know better.

 Desert Boy found some friends, and they had a wonderful time digging in the dirt, gathering materials, and even pretend fishing. When I commented to another mom that Desert Boy wasn't getting as excited about birds as I had hoped, she reminded me that he was getting some good outside time. And much to my relief, he managed to keep his feet dry (especially since I had forgotten to bring any other footwear for him).

I saw two new birds for me: the greater white-faced goose and a quick glimpse of a verdin, a small bird just larger than a bushtit with a yellow head.

The next day I had planned on going on a five-hour birding trip, but early-morning rain discouraged me (plus I figured the kids might get a little too rambunctious sitting inside), so I changed to a three-hour birding trip to some other locations. Local birders from my valley happened to be on this trip, too, and it was fun to get to do some birding with them.

 Our first stop was at a golf course. It was beautiful, despite the overcast skies, with ponds and wetland areas. It all made wonderful bird habitat.

We got some good looks at ruddy ducks.

A song sparrow also let us get quite close. With the spot in the middle of its chest and a streaked breast, it's one of the easier sparrows to identify.

We stopped at several other parks in the Washington area, and found cool things at each: a hummingbird (probably a Costa's), American wigeons, a better view of a verdin, and another new species for me: Abert's towhee. Abert's towhee doesn't migrate and is found in a rather small area of the desert Southwest.

The rain started a couple hours into the trip and stayed steady through the rest of the day. It wasn't ideal for birdwatching, but the birds are still out there in the rain, so they can be found, it just takes more effort.

In the afternoon, I took the kids back to Tonaquint Nature Center for the bird house-making activity. Home Depot had donated bird house kits.
 Desert Boy couldn't wait to get started.

 He did most of his bird house all by himself.

 Desert Girl was lacking a nap and wasn't so enthusiastic.

 Such concentration! Fortunately he didn't hammer any digits.

 A lot of people turned out for the activity.

Desert Girl cheered up as the birdhouse neared completion.

Success! We'll put these in the yard and see if we can entice any birds to take up residence.

We'll definitely be going back to the St. George Bird Festival. There were so many programs we didn't have a chance to attend, plus field trips to many more areas. It's only $5 for adults and free for kids for the whole festival. And even though it was rainy, it was nearly twenty degrees warmer than home, and for me, that makes it an extremely nice winter getaway!

Winter Bountiful Baskets

I've had some friends wondering what a winter Bountiful Basket looked like. I finally was in a place where I could pick up a basket this weekend. This is what I got for my my $15. I sure would like to get these baskets more frequently!

Blowing In

After a lovely weekend in warmer climes, the wind blew us back to the ranch. And maybe blew a few tumbleweeds, too. (Like the one in the middle of the road? And two more are to the left of the road, and will soon be across it.) I have lots to write, so hopefully I'll find some energy soon. I hope you've had a good weekend!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Simplifying the Closet

In my efforts to get my house more organized, I'm tackling one little area each day. I read advice to spend 15 minutes each day decluttering. I can't quite seem to do that much, but just 5 minutes is making a difference. And some days I can get a few more minutes in.

One area that I recently organized was my closet. I had heard that I should get rid of clothes that I hadn't worn in the last year. Sounds simple enough, but it still didn't motivate me. What finally made me get to work was the suggestion to turn all my hangars around. If I took something out to wear, then I could put the hangar back in the regular way. After six months, I'd know what I still hadn't worn and could consider getting rid of those clothes. So far, this system is working great, and I'm taking a big bag of clothes to the thrift store tomorrow. It feels so good to see things leave the house!

So much of everything (clothes, dishes, space in your house, size of vehicle, size of yard) should you have? The Frugal Girl has a very reasonable answer you can read here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sheepherder's Party 2013

I had the opportunity to hear Sourdough Slim last weekend as part of the Sheepherder's Party. He sure is entertaining! He performed for the school kids earlier in the day, and Desert Boy enjoyed it so much. When he saw Sourdough Slim at the dinner, he went up to him and told him how much he liked the performance.

I was inspired enough to get out my old accordion and play a few tunes. It was fun, and I'll try and do it again soon.

For more about the Sheepherder's Party, check out my other blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2013 Fire and Ice

This past weekend we headed to Cave Lake for the annual Fire and Ice Festival. Down in the valleys it was frigid, but up in the pinyon/juniper zone, the temperatures were in the 30s and very pleasant.

The last two years I've entered the snow/ice sculpting contest, but the last two years it's been cancelled due to warm weather! (See what we did here and here.) Fortunately this year it was cold enough to have the competition. But alas, I did not enter. That was okay. It was great fun to go look at the sculptures and do some of the other activities.

 One of those activities was sledding. Desert Girl was ready!

I went down with her multiple times, and each time at the bottom, she said, "Let's do it again!" I have never seen her so enthusiastic about sledding!

She's quite relaxed, as you can see!

Desert Boy did some sledding too, and even managed to find a little jump. But he had much bigger plans than just sledding. He also wanted to do the snow bowling.

It was fun, but it sure made you appreciate the automatic pin setters in the bowling alleys!

We enjoyed some time with friends at the lake. Here's Sam on his way to what looks like a strike.

Of course we had to do a couple tours of the lake to see the ice sculptures.

A lake monster

Race car

Ore cars

King Kong

 And my favorite, an Icthyosaur (Nevada's state fossil)

Well, seeing all the snow sculptures made Desert Boy really want to do one. So he did.
 Gathering snow.
 More snow

 The great and fantastic snow volcano!

Maybe next year we'll enter again. This year's weather was super, and it was really fun to be out there.
To hear the music (and see the dancing and snow sculpture in action), check out this short video:
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