Thursday, December 6, 2012

Elf On The Shelf

I've known about Elf on the Shelf for a few years now, but these episodes takes the cake.  Sorry Jenny.

PS - Why do these things look so creepy?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hello Milano

Why the crap are these cookies soooooo good?!?

Seriously, I have like no self control.  I determined that I've now gotten myself into a morning regimen of 2 milano cookies and a glass of water every morning.  I like to think that the glass of water and the orange in the cookie offset the unhealthiness of the whole thing.

Sure, I could just not buy them, but I blame Jeremy because he just keeps bringing them into the house.  Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that he knows I'd make him drive back to the store if he forgot them.  Nah, that can't be it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guess What....

I have a new blog!

Well, more like a second blog.  I'm going to do my best to keep up with them both, but the new blog is something unique and I wanted to try to keep this one still dedicated to the randomness that it has become.

So make the jump HERE to check it out!  You know you want to!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Today I was a computer genius... and then I wasn't

Today I was a computer genius. No seriously, I stopped time machine from being a little bitch, swapped out harddrives on my mac, restored the harddrive after formatting, and then successfully hooked up my wireless printer to the network, all of my computers and through air print to my iphone. Amazing. And then I tried to connect Jeremy's work laptop to the wireless printer and all hell broke loose. :-/

Okay, first things first. Time Machine. What you may, or may not know, is that time machine, by default will back up to your local drive. So if your drive is fairly full to begin with, its gonna get a very full very quickly.

Yesterday I moved 266GB of data from my external drive to my new laptop just for an hour so I could reformat the external drive. Once I was done formatting I moved the data back onto the drive and erased it from my computer (into the trash, then emptied the trash). So, you would think it was gone, but nope, every time I looked at my hardrive it said that it had 260+GB of data on it! It's a brand new drive, the only thing it had on it before the file transfer was Mac OS X and Chrome. It took me a while but I finally figured out that it had kept a local backup of that 266GB file and it was completely swamping my computer. To turn off this not so helpful feature here's what you need to do:

Launch Terminal from /Applications/Utilities
Enter the following command: sudo tmutil disablelocal
Enter the admin password when requested to disable local backups

This will also erase any local backups that may have already occurred (eventually). It took like 15 minutes for them to go away and then a few reboots, but eventually my computer was back to only 22GB full.

So I took a time machine backup to my external drive at this point so I would have something to restore to.

Next: Swapping out the harddrive in your 2012 macbook pro. I found you tube to be very useful for this. I can't find the exact video I watched but if you look up "2011 Macbook Pro Harddrive Swap" you'll find a bunch. If you have a new macbook pro you don't need to remove the battery at all, in fact, when you open it, there is a little note stating not to do this. Two things I learned, one, you'll need some very small screwdrivers (phillips head) and you'll need a T7 star driver. On the sides of the mac hard drive there are four silver screws (star heads). These hold the driver in place. You'll have to take them out and put them on your new hard drive, assuming your hard drive didn't come with them. Other than that, swapping was easy.

After swapping I started back up again, holding down the option key until I saw it jump into the "internet recovery" screen. After recovery (which took like 3 minutes) I tried restoring, but it wouldn't find my new harddrive at all. After a bit of research I realized that it was because my drive wasn't formatted (second key piece of information missing from the not-so-helpful screen) So, if this happens to you, go into disk utility and force it to "erase" the contents. When it does this, it will format the drive correctly. Shutdown and restart, holding down the option key. Once again you will have to go through the internet recovery again, only this time it will take like an hour. After that, go into 'restore from time machine backup' and you should be able to see your new hard drive.

I couldn't believe that everything worked... and it only took me like 4 hours. After getting that all up and running, I started reinstalling programs like Photoshop Express (easy) and Microsoft Office. Who would have thought that installing office would have been the most difficult part of my day. After purchasing online, and having my credit card company block the transaction due to possible fraud, I got an email telling me exactly how to download microsoft office, only never once in their email does it tell you that said "download" button will not appear until they send you a SECOND confirmation email in 2-4 hours. I spent 30 minutes looking for this stupid button and on the phone with 3 people from MS Office support before someone could tell me that I had to wait for a second email. Why the hell would that be so hard to put in the first email!

After all this, I figured I would press my luck and try to setup the new Canon Pixima MG6200 printer for wireless support. After a few issues and about 2 hours of debugging I couldn't believe that I actually got it to work. Over both my Mac's AND over air print for the iphones! It was amazing. I was feeling so satisfied... until I wasn't.

As the title states, I WAS a computer genius, but now I am not. Somewhere between all the printers and mac's being happy with each other, I had Jeremy install the printer software on his work laptop, which he uses at home quite frequently. And then all hell broke loose. Not only did that not work, it then somehow did work, and installed two copies on his computer. Then his computer just decided that it would start generating IP address conflicts with other things on the network. Now my computer and the printer are all generating IP address conflicts and the Netgear R6300 wireless router just keeps dropping out for the hell of it. Like 8 times in the last 30 minutes. Ugh. It's just too late to deal with this. Hopefully I can resolve it tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve Tasting

I should really title this entry "I finally have my fridge back." For those of you that don't know us, Jeremy has been using our cheese drawer to store his Saint Arnolds Divine Reserve stash ever since DR7 back in 2008. Of course as we made our way through DR8, 9, 10... up to 12 that little cheese drawer just wasn't enough, so it started to spill its way over into other parts of the fridge. Then Saint Arnolds started bottling special beers in big bottles. Well, those don't fit well in a drawer, so they displaced the ketchup, mustard and BBQ sauce on the sides of the fridge. Lets just say that by the end of the night I had gotten back a LOT of fridge space.

The boys started at 3pm the day after Thanksgiving for the tasting party. Since we only had a few bottles of some of them (like DR7) there were only 5 present at the tasting. Jeremy helped me come up with a menu and I stayed in the kitchen and cooked. I love hosting dinner parties, so I had enough fun just prepping the food and serving it. Before I get into the courses, here's what the beer menu looked like.

Yea, that really happened.

The Pairing:
(click on each picture to view larger)

Course 1: DR7 - Weizenbock

"This is a dark, slightly chocolatey weizenbock with an undercurrent of bananas and cloves." We choose to pair it with some Manchego and Gouda cheese and some walnuts and dried cranberries. Although there was a consensus that this pairing was the least matched of them all, the beer itself poured very smooth and had aged very well. And really, Manchego cheese is just awesome by itself anyway.

Course 2: Alaskan Smoked Porter

Although this is not a Saint Arnolds beer, Jeremy's friend brought it back special from Alaska just for us, so he wanted to include it in the tasting. "The dark, robust body and pronounced smoky flavor of this limited edition beer make it an adventuresome taste experience. Alaskan Smoked Porter is produced in limited "vintages" each year on November 1 and unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle much like fine wine." We paired this with a smoked salmon and cream cheese topped crostini. Smoked beer from Alaska, smoked salmon crostini, how could you go wrong?

Course 3: DR9 - Imperial Pumpkin Stout and Pumpkinator

The DR9 is a black beer with "some ruby highlights. The nose is full of pumpkin pie spices and some alcohol. There are notes of nutmeg, caraway and vanilla." The DR9 was the divine reserve predecessor to the Pumpkinator. It went over so well that they decided to make it a seasonal sold only in 22oz bottle. It seemed necessary to try these two side by side.
This was a tough one to pair simply because I wanted to try to pair it with something that wasn't a dessert. Though, as you'll see later, we did also throw it in with the dessert course. Here I made a spinach and arugula fall salad with pecans, pears, and a side of sharp cheddar cheese. For the dressing, I combined macadamia nut oil, olive oil and pumpkinator (yes, the beer) as well as cinnamon and nutmeg. The salad dressing came out AMAZING, though the salad itself only paired well with the aged DR9, while the Pumpkinator was a bit overpowering.

Course 4: DR8 - Scotch Ale

"This is a bold, malty, smoky Scotch Ale. The nose is full of smoky toffee notes. The taste opens with sweet malt and spice, then the alcohol comes up with a light residual sweetness on the finish." Unlike when we first sampled this beer, the smoky flavor had mellowed out quite a bit. We paired this with sliders made from 85/15 grass fed beef mixed with garlic powder and worcestershire sauce, topped
with aged sharp cheddar cheese served on a bed of arugula. Of all the pairings it was determined that this one was the best.

Course 5: DR11 - Double IPA, Homefront IPA, and Endeavour Double IPA.

Like the Pumpkinator, DR11 was the predecessor to the Endeavour. "The color is deep amber with a light, creamy head. The nose starts off with a touch of citrus but then turns decidedly into peaches. The taste starts off with creamy malt resulting from the pale 2 row and caramel malts and Saint Arnold yeast." We choose to also pair this with the Homefront Pale Ale, brewed by Saint Arnolds but first brewed by Fremont Brewing Company. This is a west coast IPA brewed to help Operation Homefront an organization that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. For these beers I chose to go with grilled baby back ribs covered in Joe's Stuff, a low sodium seasoning from New Orleans, and a side of BBQ sauce. Mmmmmmmmm, Ribs! These were so tender I could barely cut them without the meat falling off the bone. Of the three beers, this pairing worked best with the DR11, which was very smooth.

Course 6: DR10 - English Barleywine

"DR10 is a big, strong, spicy barleywine with malt and alcohol dominating and a pleasant hop finish. The aroma has malt and spice from the alcohol. It was brewed with 6 different malts plus brown sugar." I'm not much of a beer drinker myself, but of all the divine reserves in the series, this is my favorite. Although it is very easily a dessert beer, we choose to pair this with a nice strong gorgonzola cheese. Since they recommend aging this for at least 5-10 years we only popped open one bottle of this one, so we could save the rest for a few years from now.

Course 7: DR12 - Old Ale, Pumpkinator, and Sailing Santa.

Well, we've made it to dessert. Here we started with the DR12, added the Pumpkinator mentioned above, and also paired it with this years Sailing Santa (a mix of Saint Arnolds Christmas Ale and their Elissa IPA with a hint of cinnamon)
The DR12 Old Ale color is "orangy amber with a light, creamy head. The nose has rich malt notes and a little alcohol that combines with a spicy hop note to create a complex bouquet. The taste has a spicy, malty beginning that smoothes out into a creamy middle and a warming finish." We paired this with an apple crisp and a molten chocolate dessert as well as some left over pumpkin pie. The pumpkinator went best with the chocolate dessert while the sailing santa and the old ale were best paired with the apple crisp.

So that was it. By the end of the night everyone was fully, happy, and probably slightly inebriated. Jeremy and his friends had a great time and I enjoyed cooking for everyone. I also enjoyed that Jeremy cleaned up all the dishes :)

Monday, November 12, 2012


Thank goodness for long weekends; without Monday off nothing would have gotten done this past weekend.

Saturday Jeremy and I, along with our friends John, Kelly, and Brandon, ran the Warrior Dash in Bastrop, TX. 3 of us had done it before, and while it's no Tough Mudder, its still fun, especially with a great group of friends. We all ran together and Jeremy wore the GoPro Hero2 on his head throughout the run.

(As a complete sidenote, this race may have justified my purchasing of a new macbook pro. Now that I have a GoPro and I'm doing so much more photo editing, my old macbook is just not capable of handling any of it very well at all, guess those iphone 5's will just have to wait a few more months)

Anyway, here's an after picture of us all muddied up.

And here's the video:

Warrior Dash 2012 from Shelley Rea on Vimeo.

Sunday Jeremy and I ran the Color Run in Houston, as if one crazy weekend activity wasn't enough. First off, I have to say, cleaning up after the Warrior Dash is WAY easier than cleaning up after the Color Run. That colored "flour" or whatever it is, just doesn't come off. But, we had a blast and I'm glad I finally got to run this event. In Houston the 5k run was what they call the Bridge Run downtown, apparently one of the most popular 5k courses in Houston. Every 1k there was a color zone where you got hit with a different color. Blue, Orange, Pink then Yellow. At the end there was a stage with a band and every 15 minutes or so they would do a huge color throw. During this color bomb, as I call it, everyone would take a few packets of color, rip them open, then all at once throw them into the air. At this moment, if you're in the middle of it, everything goes completely dark and for those brief moments you can barely breathe. But you emerge, covered in more color than you can imagine. I have to admit, it's pretty fun. For the rest of the morning as we walked around downtown for lunch and some shopping, we kept seeing everyone all decked out in color. There were about 10,000 people at the race, crazy! Here are some pictures.

I wanted to bring some color home and share the experience with some friends, but Jeremy was absolutely 100% against it. I guess I can understand why. We have also decided that we will NOT be having one of these parties at our house anytime soon, sorry friends, you'll just have to run it yourselves next time!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rocky Raccoon

From July through September the weather rarely dips below 95 degrees in Texas. However, if you can make it through the summer, the fall will usually reward you.

Earlier today Jeremy and Brandon, ran a 25k trail run in Huntsville, TX. We packed up the car and headed up north for the night for some perfect camping. This is the time of year when you don't so much mind living in Texas. 75 degree days, 60 degree nights. Never mind the gaggle of boyscouts taking over the campgrounds, the weather was too perfect to care.

The race started this morning at 7am. Being the supportive wife that I am, I told Jeremy not to worry about the tent, I would hold down the fort until he was finished running. I know, its hard work, but someone has to do it.

It's just too nice in here to really care about anything else.

This little guy kept trying to get in my tent.

I did manage to get up and pack up the tent with enough time to go meet them at the finish.

Here's Jeremy just after finishing. (The iphone camera was too slow to catch him in mid run, he's just too fast!)

Nice run Jeremy & Brandon!

Friday, October 12, 2012

NASA Introduces the X1 Exoskeleton

For the past 18 months I've worked on a project that was so cool and so inspiring, and yet I couldn't share it with you all. Well, now I can.

Yesterday NASA introduced the X1 Exoskeleton to the world. It was even a feature article on the NASA website! (full link HERE)

X1 Team Members - Chris, Roger, and Myself:

To give you a short recap: X1 is an Exoskeleton designed as a collaboration between NASA and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC). Started in 2011, X1 is a spinoff technology from the Robonaut 2 project, also developed in our lab and currently living aboard the International Space Station. Initially developed as an assistive walking device for persons with paraplegia, X1 also has huge potential as an in-space exercise device for astronauts. Astronaut muscle degradation and bone loss are huge concerns for space flight and we hope to add X1 to the list of countermeasure devices that are available to the flight surgens and crew.

Check out the links above to learn more about the device and the other awesome robots that we are working on in our lab.

And check out the youtube video below!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Music

I haven't been very inspired to bake lately. Probably because I haven't had enough free time. So instead of sharing a tasty dessert with you, I'm going to share some new bands that I recently discovered. I hope you like them as much as I do.

1: Here Come The Mummies

I discovered this band last year at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They played at a costume party that had the opportunity to attend. Amazing. Great, high energy music coupled with a wonderfully entertaining show. Not to mention the countless number of double entendre's. If you have an opportunity to go see these guys, do it. Tickets are usually only $25-$35. Recommended Song: Freak Flag or Boom Boom Room... or Jailbait... or Pants (ugh I love them all). Recommended Album: Carnal Carnival.

2: Cowboy Mouth

Last night some friends of ours invited us to see this band at the House of Blues in Houston, TX. A rock and roll band from New Orleans, Cowboy Mouth has been around for over 15 years, with the same drummer and guitarist (from what I can tell, the other guitarist and bass player have changed over time). What makes this band unique is that the lead singer is the drummer. He sits front and center stage and comes out always wearing a cutoff shirt, shorts and barefooted. Like the above band, these guys are high energy and put on a great show. They just make you feel good, and tickets are usually only $25 - $30. Recommended Song: I believe. Recommended album: Fearless or Are You With Me?

3. Miggs

These guys have a lot of albums out, but from what I can tell they are still only an opening act. They opened last night for Cowboy Mouth. I put them in the same genre as Goo Goo Dolls, maybe that's just me though. I enjoyed them enough that I bought one album, though I may get more in the future. I can see these guys playing festivals like ACL and South by Southwest in Austin, TX. Recommended Song: Fairy Tales & Miracles. Recommended album: 15th and Hope.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Go Pro Hero2

Last week my new Go Pro arrived in the mail. With Jeremy away for a few days, I decided to take advantage of my weekend off and checkout the trails up at Memorial Park in Houston. I've never been mountain biking up that way, but as far as Houston goes, its about as good as you're gonna get.

I hooked up my helmet mount, clicked in the camera, and I was off. Since I hadn't been on the trails before I wasn't sure how their rating system would match what I had ridden in Austin, so I started easy.

Purple and Red are the easy trails, with Yellow at medium and Blue, Green and Orange at difficult. Purple is pretty much a carriage road, Red is an easy, flat single track. Yellow was riding very nicely with blue and green offering more roots and narrower trails but nothing much more in the way of difficulty. Orange was the only trail that I didn't try out, maybe next time.

After compiling all the video, here's a short movie that I made of the ride. I used the default settings on the Go Pro and used slightly less than high quality when exporting from iMovie to quicktime format. This allowed it to squeak by under the 500MB limit on free Vimeo. Not too bad, but some of it looks a bit blurry to me. Exporting at best quality looked great but produced a 900MB file. I'll have to switch to HD video on the Go Pro settings and perhaps upgrade my Vimeo account if I continue to use it a lot.

Here's an embedded version.

Mt Biking Memorial Park 9 12 from Shelley Rea on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Last Time

Last Wednesday the shuttle Endeavor flew over the Johnson Space Center one last time. It was another bitter sweet moment for the folks at JSC; home of manned space flight. So symbolic and so moving as it passed over Mission Control spending about 20 minutes circling the campus so everyone could come out for one final view.

I had never gotten to see a flyover before so for me it was very cool. Although as I stood there and listened to the folks around me, it gave me pause, realizing that I could never fully appreciate what those around me felt. To me it was a cool experience, but really, I'd never worked on the Shuttle program. And even still, it was only in 2005 when I first came to work at JSC. People around me had been working on the shuttle program since 1981, before I was even born. They remembered Challenger like I remembered Columbia. They remembered the sense of euphoria on that first Shuttle liftoff that I can only hope that I feel in my lifetime. With the current path that NASA is on, I can't say for sure that I will.

After the flyover the shuttle landed at Ellington Field just down the road from our house. After work we headed over with some friends to check her out up close. It was packed and hot. (September in Houston, go figure). The shuttle stayed for the night before flying out at sunrise to her final resting place in Los Angles. We were thankful for the stopover, but all secretly wishing it wouldn't take off again.

Trivia Question: Do you know who or what Endeavor is named after?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Don't get West Nile

Today my mom called and warned me to be very careful because West Nile virus was becoming very prevalent in TX. (Actually we've had quite a few cases this year already).

I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to be careful. It's not like I can tell the mosquitos "hey, before you were just annoying, but now you might kill me, so how about you stay away for a few months."

I suppose bug spray is an option, but that never works. Really, I should be more scared of the tiny little fire ants that rome the garden. Little shits.

Either way, it's now made the weekend list.

1. Sleep In
2. Tend Garden
3. Don't get West Nile

So much to do, so little time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

And that's why you shouldn't be responsible

A few days ago I headed over to and picked out a few new pairs of heels to try out, including these:

cute, right?

Anyway. Since I had just gone though this whole "pick out 5 pairs of running shoes and try them all on for a few days until I find one I like" adventure, I decided that I wasn't going to place my zappos order until I got the money back from the 4 pair of shoes I had just sent back to (also free shipping both ways BTW).

So I waited, and since I'm so bad about getting to the post office, I finally just got the box out yesterday afternoon. You could argue that I still haven't gotten my money back, but since my going to the post office was the long pole in that return, I considered it close enough.

I placed my order on zappos this morning.

But much to my dismay those cute shoes were no longer on sale. Instead they went from $64 back up to $79!

$15. That almost made me reconsider. Almost. But not really.

And that's why you shouldn't try to be responsible. Cause it'll just cost you an extra 15 bucks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I've been putting off writing this post for the last few days because I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and write a calm, sensible post without screaming for some reason or another. I needed to find a way to put aside the anger, hate, sadness, animosity, and sheer 'ahhhhhhhhhh' that came along with every news story about the "Penn State Scandal." Now I lay here in bed late at night, finally ready to express my thoughts.

First, lets get a few things out in the open.

1) I AM Penn State, and I ALWAYS will be. I have so much pride in my school, not because of its football program, but because of what it made me. Sure, I went to some games, and, I love having a team to cheer for. I will always remember the roar of the crowd on football day, which no doubt will be louder than ever this year, but football is not what define me. My friends define me. My education defines me. My experiences define me. Had it not been for this wonderful institution, I would never be the person that I am today. I would not have had the opportunities that have opened so many doors for me. I would not be married to a wonderful man and work at NASA, had it not been for Penn State. So no, I will not turn my back on my school. Jerry Sandusky does NOT define me, and he will NOT define my school.

2) This has never been and will not be a "Penn State Scandal." This isn't even a "Football Scandal." It is a horrible tragic event that happen to occur at Penn State because of a few people, most notably and MOST importantly Jerry Sandusky. No doubt you have already made up your mind who you want to blame for this, and that's fine. Everyone will have their own opinion, just as I have mine. I won't even ask you to do the sensible thing and wait for justice to be shown in a court of law. Or to sit and really think about what you consider the "facts" of this case. Because, of course, we all know that the news media never sensationalizes anything. But I ask you this, do you honestly think that we are not already ashamed that this happened at our school? Do you think that 50,000 + people all gathered together and decided to cover this up? We are saddened by the tragic events that have unfolded, and we feel sorrow for the victims. But these things that have occurred, they do not change the academics of the school. They do not define the educators, the students, or the alumni. This is a Jerry Sandusky scandal, plain and simple.

3) I am disappointed in my school, and in my society, not because of what one man did, but because of the reactionary decisions of a handful of people. We used to believe that people were innocent until proven guilty. We used to believe that people would seek out the facts of a case before expressing their opinion. But it's 2012, and that's just not true anymore. I am disappointed that in the aftermath of the media breaking the Jerry Sandusky Scandal my school chose to fire Paterno but not Curley, McQuery, or Schultz. I am disappointed that my school chose to hire a PI who would no doubt give them the answers that they paid for with very little physical evidence. I am disappointed that the Board of Trustees at my school would rather react to the 24 news cycle instead of the United States Justice System.

But should I really expect any more than this? We have become a reactionary society. News is 24/7. We must have answers NOW. We cannot wait. We must blame someone, because of course, we are never responsible ourselves. But it is not good enough to blame someone who is responsible, we must blame someone who is visible, someone who will make a more sensationalized news story. Forget about those actually responsible, they are not news. Forget about those who hurt, for they are boring.

For two days I struggled with the latest NCAA sanctions against Penn State. Scholarships lost, bowl games missed, championships years away, 112 wins "taken away". Is it deserving, maybe. Am I severely troubled by the fact that the NCAA never conducted its own investigation, absolutely. Do I think that last punishment is ridiculous, yes. You cannot rewrite history. And in my personal belief you should not take away the wins from the hundreds of players who worked tirelessly to achieve them. This scandal had nothing to do with football, and in no way gave an unfair advantage to the players on that field. We all know that it is really about punishing Joe Paterno. So you want to take away his title as the most winningest coach, go ahead, because I can guarantee you he wouldn't care. Nor does he care about the statue recently removed from Beaver Stadium. What he always cared most about were the students at that school and the importance he put on the academics of his players, but unfortunately for most people they will never know that. Because it is just easier to trust what the media spoon feeds us than to go searching for the truth. I consider myself fortunate to have been at Penn State during the Joe Paterno years and I am appreciative of everything he did for the University during his time there. He may not be perfect, but are any of us?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Visiting the Canyons

Last week Jeremy and I made the trip out west to visit some of the national parks: Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. We had a great time and hiked over 41 miles and with over 8000 feet of elevation change. Click HERE to see all the pictures.

We started our trip by flying in and out of Vegas. The first night we stayed at Treasure Island, eh. However, the last night of our vacation we stayed at the Paris hotel. It was awesome. Our room had the most amazing view of the strip to the left and the Bellagio fountains to the right. The pool was also very nice and the hotel was just clean and surprisingly quiet, you know, by Vegas standards.

Zion National Park

The first three days we spent at Zion National Park. I vaguely remembered the park since I had been there 17 years ago (wow, I am old now). We stayed at the Cliffrose Lodge and Gardens. It's a pretty nice place with some quirky nuances but the view of the landscape and its proximity to the park totally make up for it. (The park entrance is a 5 minute walk from the hotel).

The first afternoon we hiked to Angels Landing. It is 5 miles round trip and 1488 feet in elevation change. Fortunately for us, having just come from sea level, the first half of the hike is up, the second part down. Unfortunately this would be pretty much the only large hike that we would do this way, since both Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon are down first. In fact they make a point of telling you "Down is optional, up is mandatory."

Anyway, Angels Landing. Highly recommend this hike in Zion. The last 1.4 miles are very steep with quick dropoffs on each side. The view from the top is not to be missed.

That night we stopped by the outfitters and rented ourselves a pair of canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a trekking pole. (Well we had our own poles but they were included in the rental cost, so might as well use the crappy ones for the adventure we were about to undertake).

The next day we got up and did a hike through The Narrows. The Narrows hike follows the Virgin River at the far end of the park. As we were hiking I vaguely recalled hiking through that area 17 years ago with my mom and my dad. This time we did 7 miles round trip. I highly highly recommend this hike and even more I recommend hiking early. We were all finished up by 2pm which was great because the park was really heating up. It was the perfect time for us to return our boots and hit up Cafe Soleil for a turkey, bacon, avocado wrap. Oh yea!

Finally we finished up our stay in Zion with a hike to the Double Arch Alcove in Kolob Canyon off the Taylor Creek Trail. A nice 5.4 mile hike with only minimal elevation change.
Also while we were there we managed to eat some other great food at the Pizza and Noodle Company and Parallel 88. We also bought this awesome piece of pottery from one of the cute shops in town.

Bryce Canyon

I remember visiting Bryce Canyon when I was little, so I was very eager to go back. We spent two full days at Bryce Canyon and I would say that is plenty. It's a really cool canyon, and definitely worth stopping by, however most of the trails are very similar so there isn't much variety. Plus, there are a total of 5 restaurants within the 30 mile radius and they are all... um... well, you can probably figure it out. While we were there we did a 1/2 day mule ride throughout the whole canyon, as well as two hikes, one 5 miles and one 3. The three mile hike is written up as "voted the best 3 mile hike in the world." I think that's a bit much, but it was very cool.

Antelope Canyon

On our drive from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon we stopped at Antelope Canyon. I had totally forgot this was out that way until my Mom recommended we stop there, and I am so glad that we did! We started by taking a tour of the Upper Canyon. Both the upper and lower canyons you have to do by tour since they are on Navajo land. The Upper Canyon is by far the most crowded.
I think because the shafts of light come into the canyon much better, though after visiting them both, I can't say that I have a favorite. We did the canyon tour with "Antelope Canyon Tours" and it was pretty good. Our guide was Deborah and she was good at keeping us organized and keeping other people out of our shot while we tried to take our pictures. However, the whole thing is VERY rushed. They hurry you around each corner very quickly, giving you only about 2-3 minutes at each stop to take pictures. So have your camera attached to your tripod and be ready!

After taking the tour of the Upper Canyon we headed to the Lower Canyon. You can find a little bit about the Lower Canyon online, but here's the scoop. It's $26/pp to get in and if you have a DSLR and a tripod they will give you a photo pass and let you go in by yourself for up to 2 hours. However, if you don't, or if only one person in your party has one, then you can all go on the "tour." Our "tour" guide was really cool, basically he just walked through with us and let me take about a billion pictures. It was soooo much more relaxed than in the Upper Canyon. I highly recommend checking out the Lower Canyon if you are in the area. The only time that it is closed is when there is flash flooding potential because a group of people didn't heed the warnings a few years back and they all died from the floods. So, you know, probably good to stay out of the canyon if they tell you its not safe.

The Grand Canyon

I saved the Grand Canyon for the last major stop on our trip. Jeremy had never been to any of these places, so I knew he'd be most impressed with this one. Who wouldn't! We spent a total of 3 days here and hiked every day. Our first hike was the hardest, the Bright Angel Trail. In the side picture you can see the small cluster of trees known as Indian Garden. This is 4.5 miles and 3100 feet down from the rim. You can camp here if you have a permit, but we didn't do that this trip. It is also another 5 miles from the bottom, we also didn't do that this trip. While this is one of the longer hikes to the bottom, it is the one, and only one, that has water and rest stations (every 1.5 miles). We started at 8am and were finished around 1:30. It was HOT, but awesome.

The other two trails we did were Hermits Rest/Trail (4.5 miles round trip), and South Kaibab Trail to Ohh Ahh Point (1.8 miles round trip). After that last short hike my feet were done being in hiking shoes and my belly wanted a nice normal breakfast (read: bacon and eggs). After getting a late start on the first trail, the last two days we decided to get up to see sunrise (5am) and then start hiking, so we were done very early, but it kept us out of the heat, which was nice. We also treated ourselves to a nice dinner at El Tovar (reservations necessary).

Hoover Dam

I said the Grand Canyon was our last stop, but we did make a short morning trip on our last day to the Hoover Dam. Do you know it is one of the very few government projects that has actually paid itself off! Yep, the power generated from the hydroelectric generators and sold to California, Nevada and Utah has actually paid off the full cost of building the Hoover Dam and is now sold at cost to those states. In fact, power generation was not even on the table when they decided to build the dam, that was for flood control and later irrigation. The power plant was included specifically as a way to pay for the project. Who would have thought at some point in our history the Federal Government actually thought "we need to have a way to pay for this."

Anyway, I digress. We got there right when the visitor center opened so we could get tickets for the early Dam tour. They took us into the center (yep center) of the Hoover Dam and even into one of the access tunnels so we could look out. Pretty interesting looking out of the center of the dam. To the side is a picture of me holding my camera out of the little window shooting back up to the top of the dam. They originally made these access tunnels so they could monitor the concerete as it settled and over time.

Well that was it, our quick 10 day tour around Nevada, Utah and Arizona. I hope you found this story useful, or at least a bit interesting.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm not much of a gambler...

This past week Jeremy and I went on vacation out west with the first and last night of our trip spent in Las Vegas.  I'm not much of a gambler, mainly because I don't like losing money, but I'm pretty good at picking the colors of roulette.  Yea I know its a 50/50 shot, but I'm still really good at it.  

I made Jeremy stop by one of the tables so I could stand and watch.  I got the next four colors right. (I told you I had a gift)  Jeremy asked if I wanted to pay, but at $10 minimum bet I was sure my magical guessing abilities would disappear as soon as the $10 hit the table, so I walked away.   I hate loosing money.

I spent the rest of the trip not gambling at all, but by the time we got to the airport I felt like I just couldn't leave Vegas without playing a little.  So I decided to play the few slot machines in the terminal.  Here's a glimpse at how the next 5 minutes went.

Me:  Can I have $2 to play the slot machines.  I haven't played at all since we've been here.

J:  Yes.  Why don't you play those machines so it will last longer (pointing to the five cent machines across the way).

Me:   No, I want to play that one.  (pointing to the sparkle one for $0.25 standing near me)

Jeremy rolled his eyes and handed me the $2.  7 spins later...

Me:  Look, I won $0.25!

J:  (Looking at the machine and three blank spaces)  That makes no sense. 

Me:  Yes, but I still won.

2 spins and 5 seconds later, I turned back to Jeremy...

Me:   Can I have $1?

J:   No.

Me:   Please, I want to play those machines (pointing to the five cent machines)

J:   Why?

M:  Because it will last longer.

J:  Fine, I'm going to the bathroom.

(Jeremy returns)

Me:   At one point I was up to 21 credits,  it's like I won five cents at one point.

J:   But you only have 3 credits now.

Me:  That's not the point Jeremy.

10 seconds later

Me:  Okay one more dollar.

J:  No.

M:  Please.

J:  ugh   (clearly annoyed at my amusement with loosing money five cents at a time)

Me:  Look, I won ten because I played two credits.

J:  You should cash out now.

Me:   No, that's not fun.

(30 seconds later)

Me:  Okay, I'm done now.

J:   Good.  You have to carry the bag since you lost $4.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Knock Knock...

If you read my blog from June 4th and followed that to the story about the big metal chicken then there really is nothing more I need to explain. The picture says it all. If not, then you need to go read it. Now!

I found this beauty on Burnet road in north Austin. I tried to convince Jeremy that we actually did need a giant metal chicken, but unfortunately we had my car and that bad boy just wasn't going to fit. But then it got me thinking, metal chicken, pretty darn cool, but what about a giant dinosaur eating another dinosaur?

Or a giraffe? After all, our guest room is African themed. We could sneak it into the bedroom after our guests fall asleep and just hover it over the bed. Then they would wake up with the same level of horrification that Jeremy has on his face here...

(the little one is ONLY $250. I mean its almost worth it just to hear the screams from someone waking up to a tall giraffe towering over them. Or we could sneak it into our friends yards when they are least expecting it. Imagine opening the door to that in the morning) Hum. Maybe its a good thing I only have a little car now, otherwise who knows how that trip may have ended.