Sunday, September 22, 2013

Apple Picking at Gizdich Ranch

On Saturday Clara and I went apple picking at an orchard about 45 minutes south of us called Gizdich Ranch.  Paul had planned on going with us but had a last minute project come up late Friday afternoon that required him to work late Friday and most of Saturday so it was just me and Clara.  We rode with our friends who live around the corner since her husband couldn't come either.  We laughed because the whole activity had originally been planned so that the dad's could go and then they had stuff come up so really we could have done this any day of the week, but whatever. 

I had no idea what it would be like but it turned out to be a great place to take Clara because there were loads of apples right at her eye level for her to pick.  We grabbed a big bucket and wandered through rows of Galas and Newton Pippins looking for just the right fruit.  Clara insisted on being the one to carry the bucket early on when it was still light enough for her to do it on her own.  She approached the whole thing very seriously.

Look at all those Gala apples ready for picking!  After some instruction on how to carefully set the apples into the bucket instead of just chucking them in there, Clara was very gentle with them and she didn't ever try to eat them because she was so intent on filling our bucket.

This was her concentrating face whenever she was trying to pull an apple off the tree.

I have never tried Newton Pippins before but they are supposed to be good baking apples so we got a bunch for making pies and crumbles.

This is Clara's "cheese" face:

One of Clara's catch phrases is to offer me something and say "here you go, mommy!" which is what she was doing in this photo.  Except she doesn't pronounce her "g's" so well so it sounds a little more like "dough" rather than "go".

Tongue sticking out in concentration.

Such a cheeser but I cannot get enough of her little face.  She is such a great little pal and I'm so lucky to do these kinds of fun things with her.

Unfortunately, we were quite a ways away from the nearest port-a-potty when Clara realized that she needed to go and she had been so distracted picking apples that I think she just didn't pay attention to her bladder because she had an accident, which is really unusual for her.  Sadly, I caught the look on her face just as she realized she couldn't hold it.  Fortunately, I brought a spare set of pants and underwear for her because even though she hardly ever has accidents I always like to be prepared when we are any distance from home. 

On our way back out of the orchards to the weighing station where we paid for the apples, Clara wanted to help me carry our bucket since she couldn't do it on her own. 

There were hay bales and an old tractor for the kids to play on.

We bought a half-gallon of fresh pressed apple juice (amazingly good) and a slice of apple pie a la mode (I taught Clara the important phrase "a la mode" this weekend which she pronounces "ah-ma-mode").  The pie was fantastic and Clara scarfed it down with me.  In fact, it was more like me trying to get my fork in whenever I could to get some before Clara ate it all.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

House Remodel 2013 (The Front Yard)

Each year since we've been in our house we have tackled a major remodel project.  The first year it was gutting and remodeling the bedrooms.  The second year it was our kitchen and living room redo.  This year we debated about tearing out the bathrooms, but after getting some bids for the work and weighing options, we decided that the front and back yards needed some love more than the bathrooms.  Maybe we will tackle bathrooms next year. 
I totally spaced taking "before" photos of our front yard, which is such a bummer because the change is drastic, at least to us.  We muscled out a ton of super-thick concrete scalloped border and reshaped the planter beds to have a much more modern look.  Then we tore out a wall of old bushes/hedges that lined the front of the yard so we could take grass all the way out to the sidewalk.  Paul spent a bunch of weekends installing new sprinklers and pipes and reworking the existing ones to provide water to all the plants and lawn that we were planning to plant.  Then it took a number of trips to the nursery to choose plants and trees.  Figuring out what plants will look good together is tough!  But we do love how everything turned out.  And finally Paul installed exterior lighting, which turned out way more amazing than we could even have hoped. 

Clara has loved "helping" while daddy has worked in the front yard.  I have helped where I could but Paul really did the brunt of this project.  My contribution was more on the design side. 

Here is the best (and pretty much only) "before" example I have.  We actually took this crazy bush down within just a few days of buying the house but you can see the cement scallop border and the plain dirt that we have just left alone for three years.  We have also replaced the windows and the door in previous remodel phases.  One of these years we plan to tear off the dumb scalloped gutter trim and replace the gutters and redo (paint? stucco? rock?) the exterior of the house.

And here is how our front yard looks now:

So much better. 

Here is another angle to show off the shape of the planter beds a little bit better (and all the new grass at the front is sod that Paul laid down where we used to have these huge old grandparent bushes):

Oh, and we LOVE having the blue bench on front so we can sit and enjoy the beautiful evenings and the mood lighting.

Now on to the next project...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reader Girl

Clara has really been making progress on identifying her letters, mostly thanks to the PBS show "Super Why".  I have been reading tons of books to her and focusing especially on alphabet books, but the little stinker prefers telling Super Why which "super letters" are on the screen when I let her watch an episode.  It is actually a really interactive show for her and she sings along with Alpha-pig whenever he builds an alphabet even though she will NEVER sing along with me, and she practices the sounds the letters make with Princess Pea (who Clara is OBSESSED with and talks about all the time).  It is hilarious actually because we were on a walk and passed an "S" stamped in the sidewalk and Clara got all excited and announced "S! Super letter! S!!".  She points out "super letters" on cereal boxes, on the computer screen, on signs around town, etc.  And I am typing this blog post on my "super-duper um-puter" according to Clara.

Her favorite letters (at least, the ones she always recognizes and tends to zone in on) are Z, W, S, K, A, O, R and H.  This morning she had unknowingly nibbled a square of toast into a rough R shape, which she recognized and got really excited about, adamantly holding it up for me and repeating "R! Super Letter, R!" until I figured out what she was explaining.  Things like that just boggle my mind - how is she so smart?! 

She also has started reading more and more books to herself, and she will always come sit to have a book read to her so we do lots of it. 

In other news, today was special because Clara came up to me while I was doing some stuff at the kitchen island, wrapped her arms around my leg, and said "love you mommy" without any prompting or me saying it first for the first time ever.  My heart just melted. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Paul's Fishing Trip (by Paul)

Last month my dad and I were finally able to make our fly-fishing trip happen after about 5 years of planning and then cancelling trips to Montana. Back when I was in high school, my dad took two of my brothers and I on a fishing trip up through Idaho and into Western Montana, stopping at different rivers I had identified in a couple of fishing books. We had a really great road trip but pretty much struck out on almost all the rivers we tried, until we came upon Rock Creek. For the style of fishing we enjoy most, Rock Creek is by far the best river we have ever found. It is absolutely beautiful, has tons of good-sized fish, the fish don't spook very easily and fight really well, and the river isn't too wide or deep. All in all, it is the stuff our collective fly fishing dreams are made of.

After that first trip when we found the river, my dad and I returned (just the two of us) for two different trips - one about a week before I left on my mission, and the other just 3 days after I got back from my mission. We took another trip about 7 years ago when my brother Dave also came with us, and ever since that trip we've been trying to get back but have not been able to for various reasons. After setting up this trip for late July, I ended up cancelling it when it looked like an adoption was going to happen, but when it failed I rescheduled for August.
Our preferred place to stay is in a very small historic mining town called Philipsburg, which is about 20 minutes away from the southern end of Rock Creek. We always stay at the same little motel (but I am not posting pics because I'm not sure I would be able to get Amy to ever stay there if she saw them). Here are a few pictures of downtown Philipsburg:

And here is a picture of the canyon that Rock Creek flows through, which has a number of working ranches.

We always see tons of wildlife in the canyon. On this trip we saw at least 6 moose. We also saw a couple of different herds of bighorn sheep, a bald eagle, osprey and some snakes.
Rock Creek has several types of trout. We both caught lots of cutthroat, brown and rainbow trout. I don't think either of us caught any bull or brook. If you catch at least one of each of these in a day of fishing it is called a "grand slam".
This was one of our more productive holes.

I think this was the biggest fish I caught. Not as big as some we've caught on past trips, but this one was about 15 to 16 inches.
After only about an hour of fishing on our first day my wading boots totally disintegrated. I didn't want to buy new ones at the fly shop because fly shops are so expensive, so I just walked around with this boot without a sole and tried not to put any holes in my waders. On our very last time on the river, I squeezed into one of my dad's old wading boots (which is a size smaller than mine), and after I had walked 20 steps the sole of that boot fell off too. It was pretty hilarious, but also annoying.
It was a little tough to bring my big camera with me to the river, so I only pulled it out a few times. Here are a few pictures of some of the fish we caught. The first is a cutthroat, the second a rainbow. I caught most of my fish on some San Juan Worm flies that I tied just before flying out to Utah. You can see it in the rainbow's mouth below.  Don't worry for these fish - we only do catch-and-release.
One of the things we love most about Philipsburg is The Sweet Palace - a huge old-time candy shop in a historic building. I had to be sure to bring home some stick candy for Clara.

After fishing Rock Creek for a few days, we decided to head south to West Yellowstone to fish one of the rivers there and spend some time hanging out in the town. Our family had a few really great trips to West Yellowstone when we were kids, and I have enjoyed going there with Amy's family a number of times since we've been married. We also stopped along the way in Virginia City:
We were intrigued by this double-decker outhouse:
I spoke with Amy almost every night, and she got pretty upset with me when she found out I hadn't had my dad take any pictures of me fishing yet. "How am I supposed to do your fishing blog post without any photos of you fishing?!" So, I made sure to have my dad take a photo or two of me fishing on our very last day (this is not Rock Creek - this is the South Fork of the Madison River, I think). We didn't see or catch any fish here, but it was really pretty. 
In the end, I think my dad and I each caught about 25 fish, over the course of about 3 days of fishing. We had a blast and are already planning our next trip - hopefully either to the Eastern Sierras or maybe Colorado so my brother Dave might be able to go.
Here's one last photo of my dad doing his best 'shadow-casting' on Rock Creek: