Friday, December 29, 2006

it was probably the lucky gnome

Our trip back from Kansas was both better and worse than our trip out. We started hearing the forecasts of another winter storm, and fearing a slow drive like the one we experienced on our way out, we left Kansas a little earlier than planned. Instead of making two day drives like we did on the way out (and which I hope to never do again) we planned to drive all night on Wednesday. We left Kansas just after dinner and planned to arrive home in Orem by 11am on Thursday. Traveling west on I-70 Wednesday night was uneventful. We had dry roads and clear skies all the way until we reached Denver. I wasn’t the driver at that point, but I did wake up long enough to see the still snow-packed city. The sky remained clear, luckily, until somewhere just west of Rawlins.

I was just cruising along at my favorite freeway speed (about 80 mph) when I started to notice that all the semi-trucks were traveling at speeds closer to 30 mph and had their hazard lights on. “What do they know about this road that I don’t know?” I wondered. It was when I watched the truck in front of me spin off the road and down the divider ditch that I realized that perhaps I was driving too fast for road conditions. Dang those icy Wyoming roads! I slowed down considerably, and after traveling only 100 miles in 2 ½ hours I had had enough. The fact that it was 7 am, still dark, and I’d been driving for 3 hours didn’t help. I pulled over into a gas station and we slept until the sun came up at about 7:30 a.m.

Somebody took the next driving shift and I drifted into a light sleep. I woke about half and hour later to our car spinning around on the road. First we spun to the right, then to the left, then again to the right, this time veering off the road enough to slam into a pole along the side of the road. The impact knocked us back to the left, and then we finished with a spin to the right and ended up completely off the road. I jumped out to check the damage and at first didn’t notice any. How lucky* were we? But then Somebody got out and showed me the dents in both doors and that the handle on the passenger door was mostly missing. But the car was facing the road, so I got in and laid on the gas while Somebody pushed, and we were shortly back on the road. It wasn’t until later that I thought that I should have taken a picture of our path through the snow. How lucky were we, though, that we spun off the road at 80 mph and didn’t flip, didn’t end up in a ditch, and were able to push our car right back on and continue our trip? Lucky that neither of us were injured at all. Lucky we left when we did, because the Interstate between Kansas and Colorado closed again yesterday and today. Lucky. We are lucky people. So we can’t use the doors** on the passenger side of the car. So what? Are those doors really necessary? Not for lucky people like us, they’re not.

*And by "lucky" I of course mean blessed. Watched over. Cared for. Blessed beyond all comprehension.

**I know, the damage looks freakishly minor. But truly, that back door won't open at all. I think the damage at the bottom of the car there is actually bent up and over the door, preventing movement.

Monday, December 25, 2006

we wish you a merry christmas

There's no place like home for the holidays.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

smokey would be so disappointed

One of my family’s Christmas traditions is a hot dog roast out at our farm property in rural Kansas. This year was no exception, but the event was extra enjoyable this year because the temperatures were unseasonably warm so we didn’t need parkas and mittens. Somebody, Russ, my dad, and I arrived before my brother Joe and his kids, so we started the fire and then decided to hike down to the lake while we waited for Joe. As we were preparing to leave, Somebody kept saying, “Shouldn’t we put that fire out?” And my dad would respond with, “No, it rained an inch or more this week and we will be fine leaving it.” And then Somebody would say, “Um, should we at least clear a space around the fire so there aren’t any leaves or anything that could catch on fire?” My dad, “Nope. It will be fine. It rained.” So we took off on our hike and left the fire. Almost an hour later, after hiking through no path, shoulder-high bushes, an empty rocky creek bed, and endless trees, we reached the lake. We took a brief rest and then headed back.

My dad was sure that the fire would have burned out and that we were going to have to restart it. Not so much. As we neared the clearing where the truck was, we could see smoke coming up from a large area--much larger than our fire had been. It turns out that an inch of rain is not enough to stop a fire from spreading. We had successfully burned an area about 40 feet by 40 feet, and the fire was moving into the forest area. Luckily, my brother Joe arrived just then and between all of our stomping feet and the use of a shovel, we were able to put the little fires out.
And then, like good country people, we rebuilt our fire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Ahhh, memories.

Friday, December 22, 2006

we don't care if the weather is frightful

While the drive from Utah to Kansas is always long, this year it was exceptionally so. Perhaps we should have modified our plans when we heard tales of the Holiday Blizzard of 2006. We should have taken caution when we knew we would be traveling through an area that had just been labeled a disaster emergency, with the Colorado National Guard being activated to rescue the people already stranded on highways. Thousands of people were stranded for days when the Denver International Airport and the Interstates out of Denver were closed. "This is a dangerous storm," Castle Rock Fire Chief Art Morales said. "Conditions are very dangerous for driving, for walking and being outdoors. Stay inside until the storm passes." So, what did we do? We drove right into it.

On our way to Kansas we changed our original plans of leaving late Thursday night and instead left early Thursday morning so that we would be driving during the day. We planned to arrive in the Denver area that evening and stay overnight with my friends Zach and Ginet in Colorado Springs. All day on Thursday, as we drove through Wyoming, we saw signs letting us know that all roads out of Cheyenne were closed because of the blizzard? Blizzard? What blizzard? Our roads were dry, the sky was blue and clear, and there was no snow. My dad was calling us periodically with road condition updates, and about half and hour before we reached Cheyenne, the Interstate into Colorado opened up. Nice, but still, we wondered where the blizzard was. Fifteen minutes into Colorado we realized that, uh, the blizzard was here. Travel slowed to 30 mph, and never increased. The drive from Cheyenne to Denver that normally takes just under an hour and a half took us three hours.

Luckily, taking that much time allowed for the road between Denver and Colorado Springs (which had been closed all day) to open up just in time for us to continue our trip south. The roads heading east into Kansas were still closed, so heading south was really our only option. It was eerie driving along the Denver highways during what should have been rush-hour traffic but was instead a quiet, snow-covered car graveyard. It’s only a slight exaggeration that there were more cars stranded on the side of the road than on the road. Malls, movie theaters, and restaurants along the road were closed; parking lots empty; everyone with any sense or option was sitting at home. The cars that were left on the road had drifts that were often as high as the driver's window. Cars left in the middle of the highways were just plowed around because the plows were out sooner than the emergency crews.
We crawled into Colorado Springs late in the evening and were welcomed to a waiting dinner with Ginet and Zach. It was the first time since they left Utah that I’ve been to visit them, and was delighted to be reminded of just how much I like both of them. Their home was beautiful (when is exactly what I expected from Ginet) and they were very gracious hosts—even pushing us out of the snow drift we ran into while trying to park on the street.

There is just no way to describe all the snow. When we left the next morning, (because the roads had finally opened up) there were drifts along the road higher than our car. Safe movement was almost impossible. We continued to crawl along the Interstate, but this time we were traveling bumper to bumper with all the other travelers and truckers who were finally able to leave Colorado. It’s a super-fun experience to have that many cars traveling on that horrible of a road. Even at our 30 mph speeds, we still saw several cars and trucks slide off the road.

After crossing the border into Kansas the road conditions improved somewhat and the scenery changed from five-foot snow drifts to ice sculptures. Every branch, fence, and blade of grass was covered with a thick layer of ice. Nice, Kansas. Nice.
Somewhere in the middle of Kansas we drove over the tiniest of hills, and on the other side was green everywhere. I have never seen such a distinct storm line. Driving conditions were smooth from there on, and we made it home with only a few pictures and our tense shoulders muscles to prove our journey. The trip that normally takes 17 hours on the road had taken us almost 24 hours.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

feel free to move about the world

I am now the proud owner of a brand-spankin' new U.S. Passport. Oh the joy. The thrill. The freedom to visit Canada and Mexico.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

please don't put that pile of vitamins in your mouth

Last night two of my friends came over for what was later termed a “Dump Party.” We made Chinese Dumplings (a.k.a. pot stickers, a.k.a. Ling Lings, and a.k.a. Shu Shu’s) and ended up having more wrappers than we had meat mixture. To use up the remaining wrappers we experimented with filling them with dessert ingredients like peanut butter, Nutella, chocolate frosting, raspberry filling, chocolate cake pieces, and caramels. Then we dusted them with powered sugar, deep fried them, dusted them with more powdered sugar, and ate them with ice cream. Oh good grief—delicious! Next time (and there will be a next time) we will not use the frosting or caramels, but we will try sliced fruit, marshmallows, soft dipping caramel, pudding, and pound cake. You should totally try it.

Also, it recently was brought to my attention that my husband had never had Cream of Wheat. What the? Is that even possible? I love it, so I made some for him to try. The first time around he didn’t eat much but I think that might have been because I added brown sugar to his bowl. Now I don’t add anything to his and he eats it without complaint. Sometimes his aversion to sweets makes me feel like I’m Buddy the Elf:
Emily: You like sugar, huh?
Buddy: Is there sugar in syrup?
Emily: Yes.
Buddy: Then YES!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

if you were a cupcake, you would definitely be scrumptious

A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to one of my best friends, Sarah.

Thank you for introducing me to New York City, theater, yummy cupcakes, good design, jackets, cars with tables for dashboards, and movie snobbery. Also, thank you for breaking up with the band so that we could be friends.

To celebrate the birthday, Sarah and I met Chloe for dinner and then we went to see a movie. Because a birthday isn't a birthday without cake, I had filled my satchel with tupperwares of cake (and one of whipped cream) so that we could enjoy a mid-movie treat. The only thing missing was milk.

Sarah's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cake
1 (18.25 ounce) package chocolate cake mix
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a Bundt pan.
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil, eggs, water, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

make your choice and be content

When Somebody and I returned from Idaho and I checked my email I discovered that I had been offered job from a company that I’ve wanted to work for for years. And it was a good offer. Somebody and I spent the rest of last weekend and the past three days talking about all our options and our plans for our future, and today I had to turn down the offer. I had been having the worst day—the kind of day where you are glad that you are in the car alone because you scream at everyone and everything around you. “Why are you going so slow?!?” “The light is greeeeeeen!” “Get out of my lane before I’m forced to ram into you and then kick your cat!” And so on and so forth. Well, I notified the company at the end of the work day today and immediately started smiling again. When I got back in the car it was all, “Oh, please, come right over into my lane.” And “oh, you just cut me off but it must be because you are rushing to a family emergency and I just hope everything turns out alright for you.” And “The black exhaust fuming from your large truck reminds me of sugar cookies and lollipops.” It’s nice to be so instantly rewarded for making the right choice.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

it's a nice story, but it is also sad and yucky

Somebody and I drove up to Rexburg this weekend for the wedding reception of one of my favorite cousins. Oh, wait, we drove up there for work purposes, and we did work all day on Friday, but we timed the trip so that we would be there for the reception. I’m not sure we would have took the time to go except that several of my aunts were there and Somebody has not met them all. When we arrived at the reception we learned that my aunts were all working in the kitchen of the church preparing the treat plates. We hadn’t planned on doing any actual work at this event, but because all the people we wanted to visit with were in the kitchen, that is where we ended up spending our time.

More fun than the reception, though, was the next morning when we joined all the aunts at my Aunt Julie’s home for breakfast crepes. There were a lot (and I mean a lot) of crepes left over from the reception, so my Aunt Elaine came up with the idea of put a piece of ham and a piece of cheese inside a crepe, heat it in the microwave, and top it with a fried egg. Divine. Then we spent the morning telling stories, laughing, and enjoying having nothing to do. I was once again thrilled to have married such an impressive man because all my aunts thought Somebody was wonderful. True. True.

On the way back from Rexburg we met my sister and her family at the Crystal Hot Springs and spent the evening running from the naturally hot pool (over 101 degrees) and the freezing pool that had water tube slides. In order to get to the slides you had to pry a mat from the frozen pile of mats, walk up 47 cement stairs that had a thin layer of ice on them, get into the chilled water at the top of the slide, then scream all the way down until you ended up in the cold water pool. Good times. So worth it. As the evening got later and the air got colder, the steam from the hot pool got thicker and thicker until we could see no more than 5 feet around us in any direction. This was great because even though there were other people there you couldn’t really see them or hear them (it was mostly adults) so it almost felt like we were enjoying the evening alone.