Party in Panguitch, Part 2

We made it home safely just as everyone got sick and it started to snow. Wheee! 

Trip highlights:

I need to get a guest room for the Tiny Dark Lord to sleep in. Kid never got out of bed and slept like a log as soon as we put him down. Must have been a combination of exhaustion + nothing to get up and play with.

Also, the Tiny Dark Lord really is the best. He was just up for anything, and spent the whole time telling us how great everything was. "I love this bunk bed, Mom!" "I love hiking!" "Oh, this is so very beautiful!" "This is my one special rock from hiking!" I will cherish these memories when he's a teenager sulking his way through our family trips (or trying to get out of them altogether, which was my tactic as a teenager). 

Loki was also great, aside from the constipation issues. He was fine in the Ergo carrier and even fell asleep in it a few times. He's just so chill and happy. I love him.

Our friends John and Loni brought their little guy Max, who is around 18 months old, and he and TDL actually enjoyed each other's company. The best was when they both rode in a double stroller around town and just jabbered at each other. GH's theory is that the Dark Lord can still remember Max's language ("Baby") and so was comfortable conversing. (Or it has something to do with being a Parseltongue.)

Max also loved little Loki and paid him way more attention than the Dark Lord ever does. Loki, in turn, loved Max a whole bunch. 

Panguitch has lots of dogs and cats roaming around. And lots of red brick buildings.

We learned the small town business customs in Panguitch. The stores and restaurants don't list their hours. If it's dark and locked, that's how you know it's closed. When our friends asked an employee at Joe's Main Street Market (the local grocery store) when they close for the night, I think he said something about sundown. Plus you've got the whole tourism and not-tourism season happening. So I bet more places are open (and open for longer) during the summer.

Burgers at Henrie's Drive-In are good. And cheap. The friends who grabbed their shakes, though, said they were kind of icy. So maybe watch out for that.

Bryce Canyon National Park is pretty. And expensive. It's $25 per car to get into the park, but you get a 7-day pass. Of course no one could double up with us in the Accord because our two car seats take up the whole place. Yet another opportunity to dream about a Swagger Wagon. (The other opportunities involve TDL pushing open his door and narrowly and/or actually hitting the car next to us in parking lots. But I digress.) 

The couple who doesn't have kids did all the long hard-core hikes, and the rest of us did easy baby stuff. We did the Sunrise to Sunset hike one day and the Mossy Cave trail the next. We weren't there at a great time of year for Mossy Cave, because the waterfall wasn't running yet and the ice in the cave was almost melted. And it kind of seemed like you could do Mossy Cave for free, since it's before the park entrance where you pay your $25. Just a little something to think about . . .  There was a big group of teenagers there on a "prom date," which (I believe) is a Utah (or Utah-influenced) thing for extending the prom festivities all day

On our way out of the park we took Kim's recommendation and stopped for lunch and pie at the Bryce Canyon Pines restaurant. It was a little pricey for sandwiches and burgers, but everything was good and the portions were huge (like, you could probably share, especially if you're going to get dessert). GH got the chicken cordon bleu sandwich and I got the club sandwich on marble rye (which I could not finish). They also had some of the best fries I've ever eaten. I didn't want to ask how they made them so good, because it probably involves double-frying or batter or some other artery-clogging thing. Loni ordered Dr. Pepper and they brought it out to her in a quart-sized mason jar. And then gave her a huge refill for the road.

Sorry about the poor lighting . . .
And then . . . came the pie. It's about $5 a slice, which should be your cue to share. I wasn't picking up on cues, though, so GH and I each ordered a piece, like idiot people. I got coconut cream, which was tasty. He and John ordered the strawberry banana (plus ice cream) and oh my word. That stuff really was so good.

On Sunday morning we packed up and drove home. When I wasn't driving I got to knit, and we watched the beginning of Saturday night's General Women's Meeting on my phone until I couldn't get a signal anymore. The drive home took a lot longer (6 hours instead of 4.5) because we stopped for lunch at In-N-Out in Centerville and then had some lovely snow to deal with. The boys were really good, though:

I had the iPad loaded up with movies, but I never had to give it to TDL. He was happy with his magnetic drawing pad and took a long nap.

On the whole, the trip was a success! We might try it again some day.


Party in Panguitch

We decided to some awesome parent-style partying this weekend, which is called "go be parents in a different place but at least your friends are there too."

We are in Panguitch, Utah, because our friends have access to an house in town. And it's a really nice house with room for the 6 adults and 3 kids.

Things so far that I was smart about:

Driving the 5 hours at night while the boys slept

Remembering to pack diapers and formula

Remembering the Dark Lord's blue potty seat, without which he refuses to go near the scary porcelain beasts that are toilets.

Things I've NOT been so smart about:

Forgetting the baby monitor

Forgetting a 2nd pair of pants for the Dark Lord

Showing TDL how to climb bunk bed ladders. (Good thing I only showed him how to go half way up! Oh wait, crap. He just figured out the rest.)

Not arranging to have a non-constipated baby.

Not realizing that constipation was the reason why little Loki spent all night crying before presenting us in the morning with the massive rock-solid Easter Egg he'd been passing.

This is me learning, see.

Today after a delicious breakfast of French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon, which I did NOT make, we took a drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and did a short hike with the kids.

(Friends' child not pictured in case they are not cool with that)

Now off to explore downtown Panguitch and wonder who exactly lives here and what they do for jobs.

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I tell you what, Costco never would have pulled this s***

Because I am bad at filling out W-4s (but adequate at producing babies) it turns out that the gub'ment people owe me some money this year. And I am using that money to get passports for the Gentleman Husband and myself. It's freaking me out not having one, because I'm sure I will end up missing out on some amazing last-minute adventure. (And yes, maybe I do have my life confused with the lives of TV and movie people and folks with, you know, money, but a girl can dream.) I realize it's not uncommon to be an American without a passport, and have previously defended my fellow Americans from the scoffs of the British on that very subject. But still. I want one.

Of course, once I get one I will want to go somewhere with it. That's the bit I'm still trying to sort out. But it won't matter because I will never get our passports processed and it's all Sam's Club's fault. They keep screwing up our pictures! We all went in on Saturday and took our passport photos (mine, GH's, and the two boys) because they only charge $5 per photo instead of the $15 per photo that the passport office charges. I'm trying to be thrifty. In my picture I'm trying not to smile but also thinking about international travel which makes me want to smile and so I ended up looking a bit smirky.

Today GH and I met up at the Post Office on his lunch break for our passport application appointment (which, yes, you have to make). Aaaaaaaand both of our photos were too small. Like, the girl who took our pictures didn't zoom in enough or something. So we made a new appointment for tomorrow and hauled ourselves and the kids back to Sam's Club for retakes. (Note: I had no make up on and was wearing a hat over my disgusting, matted down hair.)

GH: Yeah, but that's what most people probably look like after an international flight anyway.
Me: Tired and pissed off with crappy hair? Sounds right.

Unfortunately, the woman at the photo lab was the same one who took our initial pics on Saturday.We took the new pictures. (This time I looked like I was staring with dead eyes of hate at the camera, which, not far off.) We grabbed a not-at-all-healthy lunch at the food court while we waited for the new pics to process since that's all we now had time for. GH went back to work, and I got the new photos. The employee tried to wander off while I opened them, but I called her back over.

Me: My husband's photo still looks really small. It's barely bigger that the one from Saturday.
Her: No, it's fine. I checked it.
Me: Really? It's smaller than mine. I'm worried that they won't take it at the passport office.
Her: Well . . . I mean . . . I coooouuuuld resize it . . . if you really want . . . (translation: if you really want to be an anal cow about it) but I checked and double checked and I'm positive it's the right size.
Me: And if it's not?
Her: Then you can just come back in!
Me: Yeah, except that would mean I've been in here three times. I don't want to come in three times.

I knew she had to be sucking crack balls, so I drove straight to the post office, hoping that TDL wouldn't pee his pants, and showed the guy at the passport office the pictures. He burst out laughing and told me that not only was GH's picture way too small, but it wasn't centered and there's no way the government would accept it. Also my picture was now too big. And then I said the word of Whore and I really hope TDL didn't hear me. He says they get the worst photos from Sam's Club and Walmart (shocker). Your best bet if you don't want to pay $15 for them to do it at the office? Walgreens, who charges $12.

Ugh. So now I will call Sam's and speak to a manager and explain that they need to get their staff freaking trained if they are going to take people's money in exchange for something they claim is a passport photo. And when you don't know how to do your job the right response is not to tell the mom dragging kids around that she can just keep going back and forth between Sam's and the post office. And I want all my money back and I won't be giving them another chance to get it right because they are awful.

You know Costco would have gotten it right the first time. I'm just saying.

UPDATE: I just got a call from the woman at the passport office (the one we had our initial appointment with). I guess when she came back from her lunch break the guy there told her I'd come in. So she was calling to tell me to go to this specific store to get our photos tonight by 7pm because she knows that GH is rushed for time tomorrow and that way I can just come in by myself and get everything processed. THAT is some service! Way to be, government agency!


Whiny McWhinerston covered in vomit

Except it's not just vomit. It's also drool, and pee, and poop, and formula, and spit-up, and sometimes the food that I spill on myself all by myself without any help from children.

Little Loki has started projectile vomiting again. Am praying this does not mean I need to switch formulas again because the only options left are soy or hypoallergenic gold dust. Since he doesn't seem uncomfortable I'm hoping this is just a temporary weird thing. And that one day I will stop getting hosed down in cottage cheese.

It's hard being the most beautiful baby that has ever happened.

The Dark Lord and I are potty-training. He does really well, except for the part where he doesn't tell me he needs to go to the bathroom until he has already done it. In his pants. And then he's all, "I need to pee!" And I'm like, "Well, clearly you don't, because you already did it." I'd been putting a diaper on him at night but every morning the diaper was dry. So last night I kept him in his underwear with the plan of taking him to the bathroom as soon as he woke up. I make such awesome plans, I tell you. What happened instead was that he woke up with dry underwear, crept downstairs in ninja silence while I slept, started playing with his toys, and then released 12 hours of stored-up urine onto the carpet. That's when he called me.

I will not even TELL you about this morning's poop adventure. Just know that it involved a trail.

I swear I'm not cut out for this. There is so much less poop at the library. And when someone does poop on the library carpet or furniture there is at least a chance that I won't be the one to clean it up.

Plus GH's car has been in the shop for the last twelve million years (read: 10 days) so I'm stuck at home in the rain without a car and it is maybe turning me into a crazy feral kind of person.

Am living for tonight, because we have tickets to this fancy cool showing of Lawrence of Arabia put on by the Salt Lake Film Society at the Broadway. There is going to be champagne, which I will not be able to drink even though I could really use some I bet, and a red carpet which I will walk on in a dress not covered in bodily fluids SO HELP ME.

In other, also positive news, I finished knitting that cowl I was working on and I love it!

Here's hoping your weekends do not feature you wearing bodily fluids as accessories and/or perfume!


DIY Free Heart Banner

In an effort to stave off or at least minimize The Februaries, I am decorating for Valentine's Day. Here is what I made today:

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner

Cute, right???

It only took a few minutes while the Dark Lord and I hung out on the living room floor in our pajamas. (It's a snow day, which in my language means "day where it's snowing so I think I'm just going to stay in my pajamas.") I made a large one for the living room's bay window, and a smaller one for the window over my kitchen sink.

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner
sink full of filthy dishes not shown

Want to make one too? Of course you do. We should call this "Crafts for the Cheap, Lazy, and Unskilled" ("Me, me, me . . . ")


paper (construction, scrapbook, whatever)
scissors (not the fabric kind--turns out that's a bad choice)
Baker's Twine (or sewing thread, embroidery floss, dental floss, etc.)

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner


Cut out lots of paper hearts using whichever method you learned in elementary school. 

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner

Thread your needle, then pull your thread through the heart from front to back, and then from back to front. Going through the hearts twice is how you will keep them facing front nicely instead of twisting and spinning all around.

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner

Now do a bunch more, get them adjusted the way you want them, and hang that puppy up! Then celebrate just how dang festive you are and maybe eat some chocolate.

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner

Voice of Reason: DIY Heart Banner

The Dollar Store has been my friend this Valentine's season. I bought a wreath that may look ghetto in this picture but is actually pretty cute on the door.

Voice of Reason: Dollar Store Heart Wreath

Other Dollar Store finds:

window clings
treat bags
Valentines for the Dark Lord which feature jungle creatures imploring us to save the rain forests
red and white candles
glittery heart confetti
red candy

Voice of Reason: Valentine's Day Decorations

 This lovely display is what happened when I tried to find three red and/or romantic things in my house to group together. That's candy in the vase on the left, our wedding album on the right, and a Christmas ornament that didn't make it back into the Christmas bins in the middle. But it has a glittery Eiffel Tower inside, and what could be more romantic than that? The Dark Lord is a huge fan of the glitter confetti--that's his handiwork.

So now my house looks very Valentinesy. It also looks very messy, which might possibly negate the mental health benefits of my decorations. So. Going to go address that now, maybe.


Book group 2014

Have I told y'all about my book group? It's only the best ever. Desmama and I started it back in 2007 and then I mourned its absence in my life after I got married and lived too far away. My sister Jenny did pour into my wounded bosom the balm of sisterly consolation, however. (Translation: she let me join her awesome book group.) I returned the favor during her brief stint in Logan by sending her to mine.

Only then I moved back to Cache Valley (why hello again, Smell of Cows!) and one of the things I was most excited about was getting back together with these ladies. It's such a great group. People have come in and out but this great core is still there. We've got single ladies (aaaand cue Beyonce, wow am I current), married ones, Mormons, not-Mormons, SAHMs, working girls (no, not that kind), liberals, conservatives, and everyone is just lovely. It would be great to find a lesbian and a woman of color to really round us out, but this is Cache Valley. There's only so much to work with.

I hosted in January, because we were supposed to read I am Half-Sick of Shadows during the month of December. And now we know not to do that again. Trying to read a book during the holidays, even a light page-turning Christmas mystery about English people, is just a dumb idea. It was probably my idea, which explains the dumb.

Because I was in charge of the food, I decided to make a cake. I did not choose the cake featured in the book, because when I looked it up I realized that like many other English desserts (bless them) the one the de Luce family ate suffered from some kind of inferiority/rationing complex. "If we add raisins and a pinch of sugar to bread we can call it cake! Lovely!" (No, no you can't.)

I made a pound cake instead. I made it from scratch after choosing the best recipe I could find. I put love into that cake. I wiped down the inside of the pan with butter and Pam. It was to be served with fresh blueberries and cream whipped by me. And here's how it turned out:


I texted Jenny to moan about the cake, and she suggested that I take the part that stayed in the pan and, like, glue it to the rest of the cake with frosting.

Here was my response to that:

this was after I ate half the crumbs with my hands because I was just that mad

So much for my cake. The ladies just carried on and ate mangled cake with blueberries and cream, much as an aristocratic English family fallen on hard times would have done (except their cake really would have been just bread.)

We also brought our book ideas for this year. Last year I suggested a spreadsheet voting system (because you know I love me a spreadsheet). I created a Google Drive document with all the suggested titles and a link to the Amazon description/reviews, plus notes about the title's availability. (Some suggestions turn out to be out of print, others have book club sets at local libraries or are really cheap on Kindle.) And, of course, spaces for each member to put an "X" next to the titles they would like to read. People have about a week to decide which books they are most interested in and vote for 11 of them. I count up the votes for each book and the top 11 are our picks. Then people shout out for the month & book they'd like to host (usually this ends up being the person who suggested the title in the first place).

Considering how complicated I made it, I think it's worked out pretty well and we've ended up with a good lineup, last year and this year. Each book has several people who really want to read it. And if a book turns out to be a dud then it's not like one person will feel responsible. A bunch of people will!

Here is what we'll be reading in 2014

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 
  2. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles 
  3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 
  4. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn  
  5. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans 
  6. My Year with Eleanor: a Memoir by Noelle Hancock 
  7. Wonder by R. J. Palacio 
  8. Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn  
  9. USU Common Literature Experience 2014 pick (they haven't announced it yet) 
  10. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 
  11. Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand

And here are a few suggestions that didn't get enough votes but I'm adding them all to my Goodreads list.

  1. The Hundred-foot Journey
  2. Tale for the Time Being
  3. Life after Life 
  4. A Winter's Tale
  5. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
  6. Navigating Early
  7. Tiny Beautiful Things
  8. Lean In
  9. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Anybody else want to add what you'll be reading with your group?


Bread makes you fat???

Have started trying to get this baby weight (and the last baby's weight) off, which is a delight. Things I have been doing:

1. Borrowing my mom's jeans, and also finding a pair of my usual Old Navy jeans in a bigger size at Deseret Industries for $4. (Note to self: Always check DI first for jeans, because I'm going to wear the knee out of the $4 ones just as fast.)

2. Bundling up the kids and taking them for walks. I went one day and my lungs were burning by the time I got home. Thought it was because I was out of shape but really it was because there was an inversion and I was doing the equivalent of sucking on an exhaust pipe. The other day we had the worst air in the country. Since then I've been checking and just about every day is a bad air day. So much for nature.

All bundled up and ready to go breathe him some cancer!

Fell asleep in the baby carrier. I cannot get over his lashes.

Remember my dream house that I will never be able to afford?
This was in front of it. In-sane. For scale, those noses are made of traffic cones.

3. Letting Jillian Michaels shout at me while I try not to throw up. Am alternating between 30 Day Shred and 6 Week Six-Pack and the one called Start Putting on Your Workout Clothes Only to Discover You Tweaked Your Back Out While You Slept Last Night So I Guess Never Mind. The only time I can work this in is during the morning when Loki is asleep and the Dark Lord is rotting his brain learning to read in front of the telly. I tell you though, I can feel now that there is something happening underneath my tummy fat besides my ribs. And that's a nice feeling. Plus, sometimes I have company:

4. Tracking my food and exercise on that My Fitness Pal app. If anybody else uses it and wants to friend me on there, my username is sjwestern. Except I think it's freakishly hard to look people up on that thing so my feelings won't be hurt if no one does. It is actually motivating to me, reading what everyone else is up to. "So and so lost 783 calories doing an hour of Zumba." "This chick burned 823 calories pulling cars up a hill." Because then I think, "Yeah, I'll just eat less today." I'm going to go try out a Zumba class this week, because there's nothing so fun and effective as standing confused in the middle of a bunch of stomping, gyrating women.

5. I did finally get back into my jeans, though. Rejoice with me! And yes, I still have to do the rubber band trick and may need to for the next while, but I'll take it. And now my sweet mom can have her jeans back.

Has anybody else worked out anything that actually helps you eat better and get in shape? I'd love any tips you have for me!

ps. I've linked in the sidebar to my Pinterest and Instagram accounts, since I bet that's where a lot of us are spending all that time we should be using to exercise or write a novel or solve world hunger.

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