Sunday, January 20, 2019

November: A Blog Post

November seems like a really long time ago at this point but, as I've mentioned in the past - my OCD on this issue just won't let me not write a recap post. So get ready cause you guessed it - November and December recap posts are comin' right up!

November started off with a bang because HEYO the midterms are here, the midterms are here! Voting day is always the best because it means you get to vote but it also simultaneously means that the campaign seasons are over and can I get an amen for that?! To mark the occasion here I am with my "I Voted" sticker:
Did you really vote if you don't take a picture with your sticker?? Although don't be fooled by my t-shirt here, I didn't actually vote for Reagan or Bush in this election because it's not 1984. Deceiving, I know. 

I put up my fall decor in my house on a Friday after work, and there's something about harvest-y vibes and open screen doors with a cool breeze blowing in your house that really puts you in the mood for some seasonal activities (or maybe that's just me I dunno). 
So I texted my mom and sister the following Saturday morning, explained to them my autumnal mood and BOOM, by Saturday night we were all at my parents house making caramel apples. 
How do like dem apples? they say. 

We celebrated Veteran's Day in November which is always a big deal for us since Nate is a combat veteran and we have many veterans in our family. If you missed my post celebrating Nate, read it here
I stumbled on a company via Instagram, called Mapiful earlier in the year (you've probably already heard of them, I somehow manage to be late to everything) and saw they make maps of literally anywhere in the world. Their Instagram feed is so beautiful and I just loved the idea, so I had one made of Tikrit, Iraq - where Nate was deployed for 15 months.
I also had a flag flown over the US Capitol for Nate (another thing I did not know was an actual thing), in honor of Veteran's Day 2018 . You can order a personalized certificate to go with it that indicates the date it flew, and then you can customize your message online when you order it. I thought it was a super cool gift, and something really neat to have to look back on!

We're getting good at taking our Christmas pictures in advance of Christmas these days - I know, what a concept! So as we usually do, because Jennica of aMaes Photography is so generous, and patient, and generally just absolutely wonderful, we all piled in the car (dogs included) and drove up north until we found a spot we liked and started taking pictures. I won't bore you with our Christmas card photos because you've probably already seen them all already on Instagram and perhaps your actual Christmas card that arrived in the mail...
...ok sorry, I lied I can't help it I love them so much. But anyway, what I wanted to show you were these pictures where Jennica had the best idea to use smoke bombs. SMOKE. BOMBS. Does it look like we're in the midst of the Hunger Games 'cause that's kinda what it seems like right:
I mean granted, a much more like, relaxed, romantic version of the Hunger Games considering the actual Hunger Games are about kids killing each other. I dunno maybe not like the Hunger Games forget I said that, but you know what I mean right?

And last but not least, we Thanksgiving'd the crap out of November - so much so, that I only got this one picture of my mom's beautiful table setting:
I got too busy stuffing my face with turkey, lots of bread, copious amounts of gravy, and way more than one piece of pumpkin pie. We then had an air hockey tournament wherein I lost the losers bracket which tells you everything you need to know about how good my air hockey skills are. But yolo I don't even care cause AIR HOCKEY IS THE JAM. 

You could probably apply the same logic to this blog post - it's late January and I'm posting a November recap...which tells you all you need to know about my timely blogging skills these days. But yolo I don't even care cause BLOGGING IS STILL THE JAM.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

He Won't but I Will

Today we celebrate Veteran's Day. My husband is a veteran. A combat veteran.
He probably won't tell you that but I will because like most veteran's, he never did it for the glory, but I think he deserves some.
He probably won't tell you about his 15 months in Iraq, where he lived the wars that are now in our history books, but I will. Missions all day, missions all night - heavy on the fire fights, light on the phone calls to home. Talk towards his good ear because gun fire blew out hearing in his other. I spent a lot of time at the post office mailing flat-rate boxes full of his favorite candy, and he spent a lot of time in an up-armored Humvee manning the 240 Bravo. I carried my cell phone with me wherever I went in case he called, and he carried his M4 in case duty called.
He won't tell you about all the doors he kicked down, houses he cleared, or terrorists he chased but I will. Because that seems like a scary job but "afraid" was never a word I heard him utter.

He won't tell you about all the "hearts and minds" they earned, or how they built up an entire Iraqi police force but I will; because that's borderline bragging and while Nate doesn't brag about his life of service, I do.
Nate probably won't tell you what it's like to roll outside the wire every day and never know if a buried IED somewhere is about to blow you away at any minute - and neither will I. Because I don't know what that's like, but Nate does. I don't know what death smells like but Nate does. I've never had people actually trying to kill me but Nate has. He won't tell you about all that stuff though. He barely tells me.

Sometimes when we go to baseball games and the PA announcer comes on and tells military service men and women to stand and be recognized for their service - Nate doesn't stand. He doesn't want to be recognized but I want him to. Because I heard the monotone in his voice on the phone and I saw the tired in his eyes when he mailed me photos and while I don't know much, I know that war changes a person and they deserve credit for that sacrifice. Nate won't call it a sacrifice but I will.
He won't take the credit but we'll give it anyway.

Happy Veteran's Day and thank you to all those who have served our great nation.

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Friday, November 9, 2018

A Road Trip You Need to Take: Utah's Mighty 5

Earlier this year Nate and I took a trip I'd been wanting to take for years. We road tripped through southern Utah and hit up the "Mighty 5" National Parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyon Lands. This is a trip that I 100% think you should do. Yes you, person reading this. I usually try to avoid being preachy and giving unsolicited advice on  this blog but I am making an exception here and I will preach the shit out of this road trip and tell you over and over again about how you need to take it. It.Is.Awesome.

As I was researching and planning, I quickly realized there's many different itineraries for this trip - length of days, route, order in which you visit each park, that kind of stuff. All the information on the official tourist websites are helpful and all but what I found most helpful was casual forums, discussion pages, or other people's blog posts detailing what worked best for them and their family. So because I so strongly believe that you, person reading this, need to take this trip, I'm here to tell you how we did it and what worked best for us!

Utah's Mighty 5: Townsend Edition
Total Duration: 7 nights, 8 days

Day 1: Depart home to La Verkin, Utah
Travel: 6 1/2 hours
Tip: on the way, before you get to Utah you'll pass through Lee's Ferry, the Navajo Bridge, and the Vermillion Cliffs. The Cliffs are a National Monument, and all are part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; make the stop and spend some time here! All are relatively close to each other and since your day is only a 6 1/2 hour drive, you aren't too pressed for time. The area is beautiful and worth your time!
Our first park in our Itinerary was Zion. When you research places to stay you'll notice Springdale is "the gateway to Zion." True - it is literally right outside of the park however, Springdale lodging is expensive. So, we stayed in La Verkin. I highly recommend this. La Verkin is about 30 minutes outside of Springdale and the drive to the park is short and sweet - a straight shot up the highway. We stayed at this La Quinta. We were super happy with the hotel and again, the drive to the park was easy.

Day 2: Zion National Park
Activity: hike The Narrows
Tip: Lots of them! Ok so, hiking the Narrows was probably the one activity I researched the most for this trip. I am here to tell you - you do not need to rent any of the equipment, including the waterproof shoes. Or the walking sticks. Or the wet suits. Seriously you don't need to rent any of it. Nate and I just wore regular 'ol clothes - if you can find moisture-wicking material that helps but even that is not required - and regular 'ol hiking boots. You will get wet so make sure anything you wear, you are ok with getting wet. I wore an old pair of Nike hiking boots and while they were completely submerged in water most of the time, they dried out just fine and are still wearable now. Make sure you have a waterproof pack or use dry bags for all your stuff inside a non-waterproof pack - it will get wet!

The walk to get to the mouth of the Narrows is a mile walk along a paved road (called "The River Walk") so, Nate and I packed an extra pair of shoes (I brought water shoes that could clip to the outside of my pack with some carabiner's) and socks so that the mile back to the shuttle after your hike is not made in sopping wet boots, socks, and feet. This makes a huge difference and we were so glad we had the change of footwear!

Lastly, the narrowest part of the canyon is called Wall Street. It is roughly three miles in from the mouth of the Narrows - go the three miles so you can walk through Wall Street - it is AWESOME.

Day 3: Zion National Park (day 2)
Activity: hike Angel's Landing
Tip: when the internet says this is rated as "strenuous" THEY ARE NOT LYING. Also, go as early as you can. Literally, at the crack of dawn. This hike gets SO crowded and most of the trail is only wide enough for one-way traffic. So, the more people there are, the more waiting you'll do on the side of a cliff face, gripping a chain for dear life as people pass by.
Travel: after hike in AM, depart Zion for Tropic; 2 hour drive

I chose to stay in the small town of Tropic for two reasons, 1.) again, it is cheaper that staying in Bryce Valley (i.e. right outside of Bryce Canyon NP) and, 2.) it was in between our next two destinations - Bryce Canyon NP and the Grand Staircase National Monument. We stayed here in Tropic and I loved it. Small quarters but easy to find, right off the highway and, a restaurant and convenient store are right across the road. Like, literally, look both ways, make sure no cars are coming and run across the road to the store and restaurant. It's also a short 20 minute drive to the park.

Day 4: Bryce Canyon National Park
Activity: hike Navajo/Queen Garden Loop
Tip: make sure and hike a "below the rim" trail - that is, a trail that takes you down into the canyon and amongst the hoodoos. All the lookout points are awesome, but being at the bottom of the canyon, looking up at all the hoodoos is incredible.

Day 5: depart Tropic for Escalante/Torrey
Travel: 2 hours total drive - 1 hour to Escalante, 1 hour from Escalante to Torrey
Tip: The Grand Staircase National Monument is not part of Utah's Might 5 however, it was recommended to me by my friend Charlene, and it was conveniently on our way to our next park. So, if you have the time, hike Lower Calf Creek Falls in Escalante. BEAUTIFUL see:

After our hike in Escalante, we continued on to Torrey. You'll drive along Scenic Byway 12 so enjoy the scenery as you cruise. We stayed here in Torrey - not the best not the worst hotel but, there's not a lot of options in the area. Ultimately, I had no qualms with the place.

Day 6: Capitol Reef National Park
Activity: general sight seeing within park
Tip: I don't have a whole lot for this park; Nate and I were so exhausted and sore at this point from all the hiking we'd done so far, we decided not to do any hiking this day and mostly auto-toured. The historic Fruita district was what I wanted to see most so we did - it was beautiful and serene.
Travel: after Capitol Reef, depart for Moab; 2 hours 15 min drive

We stayed here in Moab. I was a fan - it was a great location, nice, and super unique. The only downside was the AC unit was so loud

Day 7: Arches and Canyonlands NP's
Activity: hike Delicate Arch, Double Arch/general look-out points(Arches); hike Mesa Arch/general look-out points (Canyonlands)
Tip: we did Arches first this day, and Canyonlands second. Get to Arches EARLY. There is no shade. Like, anywhere. The Delicate Arch trail is super popular and so crowded but also so worth it, in my opinion. 
If you are doing this trip during the warmer months, I also recommend doing Canyonlands either super early, or perhaps at sunset. We went in the middle of the day and again, there is not much shade there either so it was pretty hot.

Day 8: depart Moab for home
Travel: 7 1/2 hours
Tip: Originally I wanted to stop at Monument Valley on the way home however, we were so tired and just ready to be home at this point so we skipped it. If you have the energy however, I would definitely suggest driving through Monument Valley since you'll be in the area on your way back to the Valley.

So, all in all we did:
2 nights in La Verkin for Zion
2 nights in Tropic for Bryce Canyon and Escalante
1 night in Torrey for Capitol Reef
2 nights in Moab for Arches and Canyonlands

If you wanted or needed to, you could probably condense this trip. For example, we got to Tropic from Zion early in the afternoon - we could've gotten an activity or sight in that day but we were so tired from Zion, that we took the afternoon to relax and take a nap. So, I think the duration worked out for Nate and I however, if you have extra energy, can't take a lot of time off of work, or don't mind a jam-packed itinerary, you could definitely cut out a night or two from this trip and still get all parks in.

I also wanted to note - we did this trip in mid/late May - coming home on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. The weather everywhere we went was warm. I would imagine any later - i.e. the summer months, would be straight up HOT. I also chose May because in researching the Narrows, it was the month with the least amount of likelihood that the Narrows would be closed. There is a science-y formula they have wherein if the waters of the Virgin River get too high and/or flow too fast, they will close the Narrows to hikers because it gets too dangerous. Early spring snow melt can increase depth and flow, and the summer months have a high likelihood of flash floods - both of which can close the Narrows so keep this in mind. 

Something fun that I have and took with me on this trip is this Passport to Your National Parks. It's a little booklet that has all National Parks, Monuments, Recreation Areas, etc. inside of it. The best part is most all parks have a Passport station with stamps and, as you visit each park you can stamp your booklet and collect stamps of all the places you've been. Is this a nerd thing to do? Am I revealing too much inner nerd-ness right now? Yolo it's fun and now I have a bunch of stamps from eight days in Utah so yay for me!

So, if you, person reading this post, decide to take this trip, I hope this post helps in your planning!

And last but not least - you know I'm not gonna go eight days in Utah amongst some of God's most stunning displays of artistry without GoPro-ing the crap out of it right?! So here's our vacation video that you may or may not want to watch because I am fully aware that watching other people's vacation videos can be boring and annoying but I thought I'd include it here anyway.

Happy road tripping! 
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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Blogging in 2018: I have Questions

So blogging is not the same as it used to be back in like, 2012 - 2014ish and I get a lot of complexes about it. I miss the way blogging used to be and I can't figure out if maybe it is actually the same and I am the one that has fallen behind and not changed with the times or that things are in fact different.

The one thing I always said was my favorite part about blogging was the community. Meeting new friends and getting to know people through their blog was the best. I met Mosby and flew across the country to Florida and we went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter together. I met two of my best friends to this day, Kailey and Brianna through blogging. I met some local bloggers at meet-ups and such. Any time you wrote a post there was often times a full on dialogue in the comments or via email. That is the kind of stuff I miss. Does that still happen? Is this blogger engagement still happening somewhere and I am just not looking hard enough for it? On that note,

Blogging in 2018: I have Questions

1.) Where have all the bloggers gone?
Really - where did you all go? How do I find you? Is blogging not a thing anymore? I used to find new bloggers back when people used to put buttons of other people's blogs on their sidebars (remember that?!), through link-ups, or through reading the comments section of blog posts but, it doesn't really seem like any of those things are a thing anymore (see #2 below).

2.) How do you keep your readers engaged?
I noticed years ago that people just sort of stopped commenting on blog posts. Again, I don't know if this is just a sign of the times, but I notice some bloggers like Chelsea and Amy still have a lot of engagement on their blogs - what is the secret?!

3.) How do you read your blogs?
I realize this sounds like a dumb question (i.e. with your eyeballs duh) but I'm talking about like, I used to have my blog reader on; then that went away and Bloglovin was the thing. I've recently come back to Bloglovin but I'm noticing a lot of new blogs I'm finding don't have the little Bloglovin icon as a means to follow them. Is Bloglovin still a thing? If not, how do you read your blogs? Do you just bookmark them on the internet and then go visit each one every day to see if there's anything new? Halp, tell me how you read your favorite blogs!

4.) What is Linktree and is this something I need?
This is also something I'm noticing and I don't know if it's just a weird coincidence but a lot of bloggers I find through Instagram say they are bloggers in their bio but there is no link to their blog. Am I missing something? Is there somewhere else to put the link to your blog? Perhaps in this mysterious Linktree in a mysterious forest somewhere in cyber neverland?

5.) Do people still blog just for the hell of it or is it all just a means to make money off of, and advertise on?
I do not mean this in a negative way at all. If you make money off your blog, more power to you girl!! Go on which yo bad self! What I'm just trying to say is - if you know any people that blog just about everyday regular-ass life stuff and are nice and funny and like to make blog friends circa 2014, can you point me in their direction?!

If you are a blogger I would love to know your thoughts on blog world in 2018! Do you ever struggle with any of these questions?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

October: A Blog Post

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are October recaps on blogs" -Anne of Green Gables kinda

If you haven't heard that quote that's probably not funny to you but let's get right into October anyway, shall we?!

I took my mom up to Flagstaff in early October so she could see the magic that is Lockett Meadow in the fall. YELLOW THINGS EVERYWHERE. Word on the street is they're leaves. Fall leaves. I know not of such witchcraft and wizardry where leaves change color in the fall. Such sorcery.
We knew rain was forecasted so we came ready with our rain jackets and hand/pocket warmers. It drizzled all morning and if Lockett Meadow was not magical enough, a thin haze of clouds and mist all around is enough to feel like you're legit walking through the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts. Although the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter is dangerous so maybe that is not the best comparison here on second thought. See look, we do not look as though we are in danger:
We didn't make it too far along the Inner Basin Trail before it started raining harder and getting colder so we decided to turn back. But please just look at this stunning blend of fall and winter as snow (snow!) was leftover on the ground from the weekend before:
 Arizona, you guys. I love it so much.

Our other October highlight that we (read: Nate) have been preparing for like, all year long, was our rifle deer hunt. The October rifle deer hunt is the hunt that Nate puts in for, and looks forward to EVERY. YEAR. And this year he invited me to come along and it couldn't have turned out more perfect.

Nate and I killed deer bright and early opening morning from the same spot, at the same(ish) time. My first deer ever!
I will not pretend that I am good at this or that I have any clue what I'm doing - I literally just do what Nate tells me and, only because he is a literal expert on Coues Whitetail and has them down to a science, was I able to take my first deer.

I joked with Nate that the dream would be to fill both our tags on opening morning and be able to take a picture together with them and I would frame it and hang it on my wall.
While the dream was realized, after I made my shot Nate said, "We just killed two deer why did we do that??" I replied enthusiastically, "'Cause that was the plan remember!!" I now know that packing out two deer with only two people is HARD and in fact, not actually possible for me unless I am on flat ground and not the steep face of a mountain.

We loaded up my pack with my deer and while I felt like I could carry the weight at that moment, once we started downhill it literally toppled me over. Twice. One time I landed right on top of some some shin diggers and they stabbed my ass and my hands and I started bleeding everywhere. And one time I landed in some dead Prickly Pear and bruised my knees and almost fell head over heels down the entire mountain. There were tears shed I'll be honest (shin diggers fracking huuuurt). We ended up switching packs - I took Nate's with no meat in it, and he took mine with meat in it and dragged his deer down the mountain until his brother Dan finally found us to help us the rest of the way out. So basically, Dan is an angel and saved our asses, and Nate is Superman and can carry two deer down the side of a mountain. The Townsend's are wonderful humans I tell you.

Hunting is literally nothing but work - hard work and hard hiking; but the reward is so awesome and you make memories that you can tell over and over again. Like hey, remember when I killed my first deer and we almost got stuck on the side of a mountain because I am apparently weak and couldn't carry it all the way down without falling into some species of cacti?! Good times.

Last but not least, the last day of October gives us Halloween. The gateway into "the holidays." Usually dressing my dogs up in costumes is my absolute jam but this October was so busy getting ready for the deer hunt that I ran out of time to find any good ones before 1.) they all got picked over, or 2.) couldn't be delivered by the 31st even by Prime standards. So, we settled for some Harry Potter themed bandanas ('cause remember I am HP obsessed right now). Gunther's says, "Gryffindog" and Maycee's says "Slobberin."
Here's the thing though - I am 100% sure that Gunther is a Hufflepuff (the bandana said "Hufflepup" and I really wanted it for him). He is loyal, kind, patient, and 'unafraid of toil' - literally all of the qualities of a Hufflepuff. But Nate likes to talk shit about Hufflepuff (literally not even an HP fan and tries to talk shit) and insists that he is a Gryffindor. I made Nate take the Pottermore Quiz and just because Nathan is a Gryffindor doesn't mean that Gunther is. And just because Nate thinks Hufflepuff is lame doesn't mean we are (WE ARE NOT). But whatever, that was not a battle I was willing to fight so I got Gunther the Gryffindog bandana. (also side note: I keep having to reread this to make sure I am not making any typos because 'bandana' looks an awful lot like 'banana')

Maycee on the other hand, is 100% Slytherin. She is cunning, ambitious, and will do anything to get exactly what she wants. 
So, happy Halloween from this motley crew of Hogwarts students!

Whew! And that, my friends, brings this 'ol blog up to speed. If you stuck around for all these recaps - my thanks to you. If you did not, that is totally cool but it is now safe to come back.

See you soon for a non-recap post!

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