Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CROP walk

Here is another update from the weekend. I got my hands on pics from the CROP walk on Saturday. Yes, check out the "I am a famous person" look I have going on - very incognito! The picture to the right is the new La Puente shirts. It is a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. If you can't read it, click (or double click) to enlarge it.


Work at the Boutique was just another day. I have been trying to be exceptionally friendly as people come in the door. I figure that it is me being Jesus. It was a fairly slow day, but we did break $100, so that is good. We had softbally practice last night for 2 hours!! Apparently, our first game is next week. Are we ready? Ummmm... that's debatable. I feel like we are doing better than last week. I was put at 3rd base - probably so I get over my fear of the ball. It worked; I was fielding a bit better. I just need to get my glove to the ground when trying to pick up a grounder. My arm is a bit tired from throwing to first though. I am learning to hit. I am not so random, but worked on placing my hit... I know, very ambitious for my 6th attempt ever at softball. Jeremy, on the other hand, was catching fly balls in the outfield and pounding them over the fence when batting!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Skiing in Shorts

Well Erin promised that I would write more about our skiing trip yesterday. As she said I decided to take advantage of Wolf Creeks 1/2 off lift tickets /Local Appreciation /Last day of the season was supposed to be last weekend but its April 27 and we still have 130 inches of base why don't we stay open day. Jeff, Kendra, Debbie (she is a La Puente Volunteer from Germany) and I took off early to head over there.

We had beautiful blue skies all day, and the weather was gorgeous. The slopes weren't very crowded so we were able to try lots of runs. The only draw back was that we did have spring conditions, so the snow did get a little slushy and heavy as the day went on due to the warming temps, but it was good. I decided to do my last run in shorts (See Pic, I think the only thing whiter than the snow are my legs!!) It was a great day, and now i can say I am definetly ready for Spring and warmer weather!!!

Other then that things continue to be going great. Mike is keeping me busy at Restoration Project. We helped host a conference last Monday for folks who collect water quality data in Rio Grande Basin. We had about 20 people come, which apparently was one of the largest turnouts for these basin wide meetings in the state. Right now i am helping prepare some grant requests and paperwork requirements for grants that we have received, as well as some monitoring.

Well thats about it from me for now, we hope things are great with everybody.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend

So, this weekend....
Friday night we rented the movie Gone Baby Gone. Unlike Juno, I don't recommend this one. There was way too much language - it was hard even understanding what was said between the cuss words. There was also a good amount of violence (or should I say bad amount of violence...). The only thing I will say for the movie, is it made you think about a moral dilemma in the end - was what happened right or was it just that it could be justified as right. I know, now some of you will want to see it to figure that out. If you don't want to muddle through the language and witness the killings, you could just ask me about it personally.

Saturday morning, Jeremy, Emmy, and I participated in the CROP walk, which is a walk for hunger. It was a 5K (a little over 3 miles) and took a good hour or more to complete as a group. It was a good walk and gave us time to chat with one another. There were about 55 people participating, and we raised a little over $2600. So, that's good. (I think I'll get a pic or two to post this week. Until then, just have to imagine us walking.) Jeremy and I went grocery shopping for the house after the walk. In the afternoon, I just laid around and fell asleep randomly. It was a great lazy day - a bit overcast (or maybe it was just the haze of the dust), super windy, and generally not a nice afternoon.

Sunday, Jeremy, Kendra, and Jeff went on one last final hoorah on the slopes. I am pretty sure they just wanted to say they skiied "almost in May." Jeremy said the slopes were a bit icy in the morning, turning to slushy-like in the afternoon. Not ideal ski conditions, but with a base of at least 5 feet, they couldn't complain too much. Hopefully, Jeremy will add a bit more to this tomorrow, but I thought I would get something posted before Monday morning when some of you check. I stayed home; I just couldn't go skiing when I am waiting for greenness and spring to come. I will say for my decision, that I made a good one! It was so nice having the whole house to myself - no one here to worry about, listen to, compete for space with, nothing. It was fantastic! (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my housemates company most of the time, but sometimes you just need a little alone time.) I took my time getting ready for church. After church I went to get my hair trimmed up - first time I've had a scissors to it since coming here! I only had them take about a 1/2 inch off, but it looks "cleaner" than it did. Then, I came home and just chilled. At 3pm, I met the skiiers in Alamosa for a orchestra concert at the college. Our unit's leader, Alice, plays the cello, so we went to listen. It lasted about an hour and was very enjoyable. Our night finished with a unit meal (BLTs), a house meeting (blah, blah, blah), and a chat session with Emmy and me.
I hope everyone has a great start to their week of work. It will be May in only 3 days! Time is flying, and summer is approaching.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Week

So, it is Thursday, and I thought I would blog, although I don't know that I have much to say. PALS kids are learning about Hawaii this week (kinda). We made hula-like skirts out of fabric strips on Tuesday. Two of the girls and Anne (volunteer) worked on a dance, which the two older boys joined in with later. The dance was performed to the song "In the Jungle" - not really Hawaiian, but it worked. The two younger boys had fun tying the bands around their heads and playing "air karate." On Wednesday, we did nothing that related to Hawaii, but it was fun anyway. We watched a fairly cheesy production of "The Big 5, Little 5" where two guys were on a safari in Africa looking for the Big 5 (leopard, lion, elephant, rhino, and buffalo) and the Little 5 (elephant shrew, ant lion, leopard tortoise, buffalo weaver, and rhino beetle). Then, the kids went on safari in the park for pictures of these animals. It was a good day.

Jeremy says he is getting more work from Mike. The data sharing conference they hosted on Monday went well. So, now he has more projects, since they were told about some potential money available from the Core of Engineers for the Rio Grande.

Otherwise, the week is trucking along. We had softball practice on Monday. My batting is going well, still overcoming my fear of being hit by the ball while fielding it. Jeremy (aka, Big Tuna - reason for this nickname is unknown as far as I know) is hitting the ball almost over the fence, and fielding just fine. Claire's parents arrived last night and will be visiting through Monday. They will stay with us a few nights before venturing to Taos and Santa Fe. It is fun to meet families of those you are roommates with. Until later....

Monday, April 21, 2008

Denver/Vacation

Our trip to Denver was much needed break from life - work life, unit life, Valley life. We really haven't gotten away as "just the two of us" since we arrived; the exception being our travel to Albequerque to fly home. It was a weekend of luxury, city life, stores, cars, people, and food. If you can't tell, I loved it. It wasn't so much Denver itself that I loved; it was the breathing space from other people and the opportunity to reconnect with Jeremy. So, what did we do.....

On Friday, we checked into our hotel - Wyndham Tech Center... a really expensive place for business people during the week, but practically dirt cheap on the weekend. It was very nice; they had a great, well-equipped fitness room and a swimming pool. We went to the Boulder Running Company so that I could do a test run and get advise on the type of shoe I should be wearing. I have a normal (no pronation) stride. I have good shoes in general; I'll probably just stick with them. Then, we went to the bargain theater to watch Juno. It is a fantastic movie - for both men and women. I thought the story had depth, and the acting was well-done. We ate popcorn for supper. It was wonderful.

On Saturday, we slept in .. well, I slept in, Jeremy worked out in the fitness center. We went shopping at Steve and Barry's to pick up some cheap clothing. Then, we visited the Columbine Memorial. I included a picture to the left; it was almost 9 years ago on the day we visited (April 20, 1999). It was very interesting to read the inscription about the students and the teacher that were killed during the school shooting. There were a wide range of emotions conveyed within each inscription. Some of those who wrote still seemed angry and confused. Others seemed at peace with what had occurred. Many were very faith based and showed a deep trust in Christ. It was a very touching memorial. After this we lightened things up by going to the "Mother Ship" (the original Chipotle). Jeremy was incredibly excited (see picture to the right) Surprisingly, Jeremy agreed to share a burrito with me. It was nice not to feel so full you can't move. We went back to the hotel shortly after to get ready for our big night out. We had reservations at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. We took the train downtown. It was incredibly windy out, so our getting dressed and ready was a bit worthless, but that's okay. We had steak that was juicy and delicious, along with potatoes, broccoli, and a salad. Since we were celebrating my birthday, I got a free dessert. They brought out a HUGE apple tart - literally, 6 inches in diameter.. a minitature pie! It was a good night to feel pampered.

On Sunday, we went to eat at IHOP for brunch. I know, really romantic, but it was my first time to an IHOP, and I liked it. I give them credit for great french toast. We then went to the Museum of Nature and Science; it was a free day in honor of Earth Day. The place was packed with families, stollers, running children, and mild chaos. It was still a good time. There were a lot of stuffed animals, many gems and minerals, and displays of Native Americans across the United States. Jeremy was able to pose with the mighty Polar Bear (Go ONU!). I was able to photograph a Beaver (Go Bluffton!).
Jeremy was caught like a mule deer in the headlights. And I was frightened by the sheer size of the walrus.
We took one last picture with the Denver skyline in the background before leaving for home. It is a long trip - 4-1/2 hours from Denver to La Jara. It was good to get out of the car by the time we reached home. Life welcomed us back quickly with a house meeting (legistics of the week to discuss) and chores to do. Work started back up today (great day at the Boutique for me - probably made the most money I have all year.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Snow

That's right - SNOW!!!!! This morning when we woke up, we were surprised by snowflakes falling steadily and accumulating on the ground. The ride into work was slow moving as the driving conditions worsened as we neared Alamosa. I took a picture at 8:30am for proof of the snowfall. About a half hour after the picture, it was actually snowing harder. Some of the passes over the mountains had accumulated 7 inches of snow! It was exciting, and strange in the middle of April. By about 1pm all the snow had melted, and by 5pm the sun was shining again. It is supposed to be a gorgeous weekend - 60s and sunshine! So, I am not complaining. Jeremy and I are headed to Denver on Friday. Some of our travel plans include... visiting the "mother ship" (otherwise known as "the original Chipotle"), catching a movie, going to the museum of arts and science, finding fishing gear at Bass Pro Shop, and eating a nice meal at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (thanks to a gift card we received about a year ago). We'll post when we return on Sunday, or possibly Monday. I thought I would post twice in one night to make up for the lapse in time to come. Have a great weekend everyone!

April 16, 2008

Hello, All. Today, I turned the big 3-0. Yes, I know most women don't tell their age, but I figure, why not! I am moving out of the crazy 20s where you have no clue what is happening to your life, and into the 30s where life gets into a routine, spiced up by whatever trip, dream, or adventure you can think of. I think that it will be a good year and a good decade for that matter! I went to work today and opened the door to a decorated desk, helium balloon, and a rose on my chair (see picture to left). Jeremy had snuck in the office while I was at PALS on Tuesday afternoon to decorate. What a great surprise... and what a great guy! For lunch time dessert, my co-workers surprised me with (store-bought) angel food cake and raspberry sherbert. They said I needed a cake after the disaster of the Monday night (see previous blog). They are a sweet group of women. We read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes at PALS and then folded origami. It was a pretty good day with the kids. After work, Jeremy and I ate at Ann's Cafe in La Jara. Definitely a very small town cafe. We were the only customers. It was pretty good food - a mix of Mexican and hamburgers. It was nice to not have to cook on my birthday night. The rest of the evening was equally low key. Although I did open the package my mom had sent me. It had arrived on Saturday, but she said I couldn't open it until my birthday, so I waited four long days. Inside were 30 bag-wrapped gifts. Some were silly - noise putty and glowing mouth pieces. Some were yummy - jelly beans and lucky charms marshmallows. Some were practical - envelopes and notecards. And some (my favorite) were meaningful - cards, notes, and paintings from my brothers' families, and a picture CD filled with 272 pictures of my nieces and nephews. It was awesome. I so miss being away from family on typical "gathering days." It helps to at least see how everyone is growing and changing. My family is such an encouragement to me. I went to bed at 9:45pm on my 30th birthday... and no, I am not getting old :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Oven mishaps...

Our oven works fine, or at least we think so. The high altitude seems to ruin most any baked good - cookies flatten; cakes deflate; quick breads cave in the middle; and the list could go on. Yeast breads rise... fast and furiously (less gravity to slow them down, lighter air).

Mishap #1: Last Sunday, Claire baked up one of our Digiorno (sp?) frozen pizzas that we bought from Care and Share (providers of all our chocolate). She diligently read the box for high altitude adjustments and followed them to the letter. However, something went wrong. There was a big bubble rising in the middle, cheese was sliding, the oven was smoking. The pizza came out a bit charred, but the oven took the hit. For at least the next week, every time we heated up the oven , smoke would roll out the vent (or the door when opened) as the cheese slowly burned off the oven floor.

Mishap #2: In honor of my birthday, Jeremy promised to bake me an angel food cake with spoon dip - my favorite dessert... even over all things chocolate! So, Monday night we took the angel food cake mix down from the cupboard, pulled out the tube pan, and meticulously followed the directions on the back of the box - just add water. Jeremy set his stop watch to perfectly time the whipping of the mix, and the spooned it into the pan. I was impressed as he placed it in the oven. His comment was, "wow, that was pretty easy." Unfortunately, we noticed the very, very fine print at the bottom of the directions that said "high altitude." I realize that angel food cakes (and any cake, really) are a bit tricky with the altitude, but this print was so tiny the two lines it used probably measured less than a quarter of an inch! We were apparently supposed to add cornstarch, more water, beat for a longer time period, and then cook at a lower temperature for a longer time. We did the only thing we could do at this point - turn down the oven temperature and hope for the best. The best never did come. When I first looked at the cake, it was overflowing the pan and looked as if it had exploded in all directions within the oven (unfortunately, I missed that picture). We let it keep cooking because it still looked pretty moist. The next time (about 15 minutes later) I looked at the cake it had deflated to only a shell of itself. We took it out of the oven and I attempted to turn it upside down to cool. The middle promptly fell directly on the counter. I salvaged most of the 2 inch high angel food cake for the picture to the right. I did eat a bit off the top that was browned and crunchy.. yum. Needless to say, I will not eat angel food cake or spoon dip for my birthday, unless we try again on Wednesday. We'll let you know.....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend

Okay, so Jeremy and Taylor were going to go fly fishing, but ended up not going on Saturday. The weather forecast was predicting 42F temperatures still at 10am, and they were wanting to get an early start. Unless they were ice fishing or willing to really bundle up, this didn't seem too appealing. I am sure they will reschedule. Instead, Jeremy and I ran some errands around La Jara, watched the Masters (or part of it), and went to a meeting about the upcoming softball season. Softball seems like a pretty serious thing around here; much more serious than volleyball! (Side note about my women's volleyball league... Apparently, we got 3rd place last Monday night. I guess I didn't understand how the bracket was set up. So, I now have a volleyball shirt from Alamosa, which is pretty exciting. But more exciting is that we did get something for all our work!)

Today, we went to church and then played in the co-ed volleyball tournament. The team actually played very well, I thought. The passing was much more control than it had been, and we were getting to the ball to play it. Nonetheless, we lost our first game, moved to the losers bracket, and lost the next game we played. It was a pretty good season - fun, at any rate. Jeremy, Kendra, and Jeff went for a 23 mile bike ride this afternoon - trying to prepare for the Century ride in Santa Fe in May. I, on the other hand, took a nap. I am a bum! I need to get back to running, but I am a little nervous about pounding on my ankle a week after I twisted it. Maybe I'll test it out. Not much else happening. Pretty slow weekend. Next weekend Jeremy and I head to Denver for a getaway - everyone needs out of the Valley occassionally. :) I'll try to blog more than twice this week. Hope everyone has a great week.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday Already!

So sorry that I haven't written for a few days. On Tuesday at PALS, we learned about African instruments by watching a short video done by Ten Thousand Villages about the Djembe Drum. The kids really liked watching how they carved the base, stretched the goat/cow hide, and then played it. Afterwards, we made our own drums out of felt and coffee cans. The kids worked hard on their creation and then pounded out some rhythms together. On Wednesday, we read the Ashanti folktale, Anansi does the impossible. The kids listened to the whole thing without running around - this is progress! And then they each answered a question about the story; they gave great, detailed answers. On Friday, they are going to eat leftovers from our unit dinner tonight. Jeremy and I made Morroccan Chicken and Lentils (obviously, from Morrocco) and Chickpea Stew (from Kenya) served with couscous and pita. We'll see what they think. I will actually have to hear about it secondhand because I will be working at the food bank.

The food bank has received a number of donations from various food drives in the last week. This is terrific! We have soups again and a variety of other goodies that give clients choices. Yesterday, Valley Co-op donated 18 dozen eggs and milk; what a great treat for people to get fresh food! We are working toward getting a refrigerated truck so that we can start receiving more dairy/cold food donations from grocery stores.

My new order from Ten Thousand Villages arrived yesterday. I spent about 4 hours this morning unpacking and rearranging the store. I think it looks pretty good, if I do say so myself :) I hope things start selling off the shelves. We have some fun spring planters, new hampers, little knick-knacks, and more stuff that I can't remember. If you have a Ten Thousand Villages store near you, go support the artisans; they have some really cool stuff.

That is about all in our super exciting life. I have no idea what Jeremy is doing at work... guess we need to catch up :) Right now there are no big plans for me this weekend. We have the co-ed volleyball tournament on Sunday. Jeremy (and Taylor) are going fly fishing on Saturday morning. We'll let you know how that goes. Have a great Friday!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Winner and Loser

Well, the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament is officially finished as of last night. I am, for the first time ever, a WINNER in my bracket pool (named: Menno Madness). I am glad the Jayhawks came through, and Memphis free throw shooting was bad. I am wondering whether my brother, Nate, a die-hard Jayhawks fan, was able to watch the game in its entirety. When they played Davidson, he shut it off with seven minutes left because he was so angry at his team. That is good anger management :) My dad called and left me an excited voice mail about staying up until 12am to watch the game! Way to go Dad!

I, however, did not see the winning game. The women' s volleyball league that I am in had tournaments last night starting at 7pm; therefore, no game watching for me. Instead, I played 4-on-4 competitive level volleyball from 6:45pm - 10pm. It was exhausting! Each match we play a minimum of 2 sets to 21 points by rally score. If the sets are split between the two teams, we play a third set to 15 points (still rally score) to decide the winner. Sometimes it feels like forever to get to 21. We won the first match. Then, we played the only team we had lost to during the regular season. It went three sets, but we lost. During this match, I came down on an opponent's foot when blocking. (I don't know who was under the net, me or her.) I took a short walk around during a time out. I could tell it was probably swelling and it hurt something awful, but I needed to keep playing for my team. So, I did. After this loss, we were bumped into the loser's bracket. We played two more back-to-back matches in this bracket, winning both. By this point it was 9:15pm and we had played 4 matches in a row with about a 5 minute break after our first loss. We assumed that we would go home and play for 3rd place next Monday night. The refs had different ideas. They said they were told to keep the games going until 10pm. So, there was no relief. We played our fifth match of the night on tired legs. Not that it is an excuse, but I think that every team we played after the first match, had been sitting waiting for us to finish up the game so they could play us... in other words, they were all resting while we were playing. We played the last team, winning the first set, losing the second and third. Meaning, we didn't even get third place after all that work. I will say that we played pretty good in all matches, with a few weak moments, and some slow moving moments in the last ones. It was a great group of girls I played with and I will miss that Monday night competition. I made it back to the house by about 10:25pm. I iced my ankle (thanks, Jeremy, for getting me ice), showered, popped some Advil for the swelling, and lay in bed trying to get my mind as tired as my body. I shut of the lights around 11:15, but I don't know if I really ever fell asleep. I am tired today - rejoicing in my WINNING bracket, but disappointed by our LOSS.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hiking the Rio Grande Gorge

Well, as promised here are pictures and a blog about our hike into the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico. The day was gorgeous for hiking. It was windy when we stepped out of the car on the ridge of the gorge, but as we went down, we were protected from the wind. The sky was cloud covered with hints of sunshine for most of the hike. Hiking a gorge is like hiking an upside down mountain in that you do the easy part first - going down! The trail was well defined with some cool purplish flowers (see picture below) and lots of rocks. It took about forty minutes to hike down. That included stopping to take picutres at a number of different places. The picture of Jeremy hiking is toward the rim of the gorge. At the bottom, the river was rushing, but probably not as high as it sometimes runs. I imagine if we went later in the year, after the snow thaws, the river would be much higher. The rocks were black and rubbed smooth from the power of the water. I am in the picture hiking along the river. When we got to the bottom, we started feeling the winds which were cool as they swept over the water. I pulled out my stocking hat and windbreaker for awhile. We hiked along the river for a short distance, and found where the Red River meets the Rio Grande. There is a narrow wooden bridge that goes over the Red River; that is where we are in the picture. We hiked back up in about an hour (although Taylor was clocking us, not me, so I am not positive on that). The sun came out as we were climbing out of the gorge. We found ourselves shedding our top layers of clothing because of the intensity. We went to find one of the geocaches in the area. It was hidden at the base of a tree. Taylor donated a dollar as our treasure, and we were surprised to find two dollars inside... great rate of exchange! We started to find the second geocache, but didn't have the right road when we turned in the direction of it. We had to get Kendra back for the Charity Ball put on by the Magnolia Society (proceeds go to purchase a refrigerated truck for the food bank). We'll just have to go back later.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sunrises

This morning was the first time in awhile that we went to the gym early - meaning that we left at 6:30am from our house. I realized that the best thing about going to the gym that early is that you get to experience the sunrise. The fall sunrises were spectacular. I am thinking that spring may not be as colorful, but it was still amazing this morning after so long without it. I am posting 2 pictures I took while riding in the passenger seat. I hope that you, too, can enjoy the view from wherever you are sitting.
Otherwise, I met the new food bank director today; he goes by the name "Muck". He is young and wonderfully relaxed. He seems to have a good sense of humor even when feeling overwhelmed by what he offered to take over. He had volunteered with La Puente for a year at the food bank for two years before we came. I think he will be a great addition. Jeremy had the meeting with the director of the NRCS today. Things went better than he and Mike thought they might go. They may have to find a new/private engineering company to work with for the next year of assessments. We'll see how that turns out.

Yesterday, it snowed and blowed viciously outside. There was even snow on the ground when we woke up this morning, which is what prompted me to take pictures of the April ground coated by snow this morning. The day today was a polar opposite to yesterday - sunny, little wind, and about 60F... gorgeous! Tomorrow, we go hiking. I will try to post pictures from that trip on Saturday night. Hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

week's work

Well, it is Thursday morning, and I have a little time before work, so I thought I would blog. Office work continues as normal. We have had an increase in donations - more than normal for this time of year - to help out with the expenses for the water situation. It is nice, but that means I get to write more thank you cards - I wrote 16 on Tuesday and 13 on Wednesday; my hand was tired! The town (in a crisis/annoyed) itself did not forget La Puente or other non-profits. We had people stopping to bring gallons of clean water from outside city limits, donations of towels, food, etc. It is a blessing to see how places can pull together in times of need.

The last two days I worked with the PALS kids. We decided to focus on a new culture each week for the next several weeks. This way we had something to plan with and they may actually learn something too! We started with ancient Egypt this week. They built sugar cube and frosting pyramids on Tuesday. It was a lot of fun to watch them do. I think more frosting was used to eat than to glue the pyramids together... but a little sugar never hurt anyone, right? On Wednesday, we went to the park to enjoy the sunshine, 60F temperature, and, of course, the wind! Some of us held batting practice; some played on the playground. The wind can whip the energy right out of you, and it did do that to most of the kids, which is kinda nice :) Thursday they will make paper and wrap each other up like mummies. On Friday, they are going to go on a treasure hunt! I will not be participating, since I will be at the food bank.

Otherwise, life continues ticking by. On Saturday our unit is going to go hiking. I think we are headed south into New Mexico. There is the Rio Grande Gorge there and apparently, there is a trail that you can take to the bottom. So, we will hike down in. I hope to get some good pictures that day. In the evening is the big NCAA final four tournament games. Exciting, I know. Hope everyone is having a great week. I will blog later.