Tag Archives: Spin Cycle

Suddenly in Death Valley… {Spin Cycle}

Our stay at Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley did not start off well. Our hotel room was in a separate building from the office, quite a long walk away. The key was not opening the door, even though the light was flashing green. It was 124 degrees Fahrenheit, and there was no cell phone service. I flagged down a golf cart that an employee was driving and asked for help. The girl opened the door by pulling the door handle UP instead of down. That door gave us trouble for the rest of our stay!

Death Valley Natl Park

Do you really need proof that it was stinkin’ hot in Death Valley?

Our room was nice and cool, but the phone didn’t work. There was no way to contact the front desk when we needed more towels. (Hotels always put only three towels in the room. We are a family of four. Why do they do that?)

Another strange thing about that room was that the water coming out of the faucet was always warm. We brushed our teeth with warm water and filled up water bottles with warm water. At a place called Furnace Creek, I guess that was to be expected. Fortunately, the little refrigerator in the room worked very well, and the ice machine in the next building did made ice.

We ate a decent dinner, although it was overpriced, at the Forty-Niner Cafe. There weren’t many dining choices, and I imagine food is expensive to transport into the valley. The server was extremely nice and accommodating; I asked him if soft drinks were included in the kids’ meals. He didn’t know, so he threw them in for free.

Dinner had been early, so we decided to drive down to Badwater Basin. Badwater is the lowest elevation in North America, at 282 feet below sea level. It was hot.

Badwater Basin

By now, you are probably wondering why we went to Death Valley. Everyone knows it’s hot; why in world were we in Death Valley on a summer vacation to California, when we could visit the beach or the mountains or wine country?

Simply put, Death Valley is amazing. Death Valley’s heat is incredible. We carried a water bottle every time we left the car. We didn’t go on hikes. We couldn’t. But the places we explored were beautiful, amazing, awesome places…awesome in the true sense of the word.

I wanted to take the Artist’s Drive on the way back to the hotel. It is a 9 mile twisting road that goes back among the foothills, and it is most beautiful at sunset.

Death Valley

We thought that the range ahead of us shone brilliantly. The rocks were gleaming in the last rays of the sun shining into the valley. We thought we were already seeing the beauty of Death Valley.

Suddenly, we drove around the curve and an explosion of color was before us. It. was. awesome.

These colorful hills were already in the shadows by the time we arrived, so my pictures just don’t do it justice. This turn in the road is called Artist’s Palette, and it was easy to see why.

Death Valley National Park

The temperature, the hot wind pummeling us, and the gorgeous view all combined to make us literally breathless.

Artist's Drive

We arrived at our hotel room in a much better mood. The best part of the day was yet to come, according to Lily and Emmy. While the night air cooled down to 110 degrees, we swam in the huge, warm spring-fed pool, surrounded by palm trees. It was the place to be, and even with all the other tourists swimming with us, there was plenty of room to swim.

I took this picture of the pool the next morning from our hotel room porch.

I took this picture of the pool the next morning from our hotel room porch.

SUDDENLY! Link up your Spin Cycle posts here, and be sure to visit my Spin Cycle partner, Gretchen!


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More posts about our California trip:

Meeting Gretchen from Second Blooming in Los Angeles
Hiking the Lemon Grove Loop Trail in San Luis Obispo
Yosemite, Day One
Yosemite, Day Two

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I Admit It; I’m Happy {Spin Cycle}

Yesterday, I was going to go outside and take pictures of my garden to show you how happiness happens. Remember that huge, old willow tree in our backyard? The tree I loved but had to be cut down? Now there is just a big pile of mulch where the tree guys ground up the stump. It would have cost extra for them to haul it away, so we have been slowly loading our wheelbarrow with the mulch and spreading it in all our gardens and under trees. On Wednesday, I shoveled mulch so vigorously that my stomach muscles have actively been complaining. I’m still sore! Since I waited until the last minute to take pictures, however, I wasn’t actually able to take any. It rained all day, and so you will have to be happy with the picture I took a couple of month ago. (I’m hoping to sneak out early this morning and take one if the weather cooperates!)

spring garden

My raised vegetable garden and the big pile of mulch from the willow tree, along with the beginnings of our butterfly garden, in the spring.

On Wednesday, I was outside all afternoon, happily gardening. I love seeing how my plants are growing. In the vegetable garden, the hot peppers are turning red and the mild peppers are turning orange. The tomatoes are big and fat, just waiting for a touch of sun to make them blush red. The bees were buzzing around the new tomato blossoms, and I could just imagine them pollinating all my lovely green plants as they flew from flower to flower. Happy.

The girls had a half day of school that morning, and they wanted to go to the pool. But the pool is now on limited hours because the lifeguard are also going back to school. Lily and Emmy still got on their swim suits, and I turned on the sprinkler. “Look, Mama, I’m a water fairy!” Emmy shrieked as she sprayed me. “I’m controlling the water!” Even though I was getting wet, I was happy.

The news stories during the past few weeks have been so full of sadness; riots and suicide, a gruesome beheading, death. Some days I don’t even know why I read the news. Maybe that’s why the ice bucket challenge to benefit ALS research has exploded on Facebook; it’s something simple, something funny, and also something that does some good in the world. It adds a little bit of happy to my newsfeed. (I just watched Jude dump a bucket on Gretchen!)

I’m sneaking in the ice bucket challenge to my garden post, because Lily was nominated last night by her best friend, and rumor has it that I will be nominated to take the challenge later today. Does this make me happy? Yes!

I also was able to put on my rain boots this morning, and take a current picture of my garden.

My garden now, with some perennials I bought on sale that still need to be planted!

My garden now, with some perennials I bought on sale that still need to be planted!

Where are you finding happiness this week? Join Gretchen and me with your Spin and link up your post below!


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How Can Summer Be Over Already?

Last winter was so long and cold and we had so much snow that spring came as such a relief. School ended and I was so excited about spending the whole summer with my babies! And as always, summer just flew by. The girls start school next week. Here are some highlights of our summer!

Concerts I’ve Attended

Okay, so this really was more of a recital. Lily had her first piano recital in June, and she was amazing! It always surprises me how much Lily loves to perform. She had all her pieces completely memorized, and even played one of her own compositions.

first piano recital (2)

Activities We Did

Swimming – Lily signed up for the swim team this summer, and so I drove her to swim practice every day for about six weeks. At the beginning of the summer, I knew it was going to be a big commitment. The first week was cold and really hard for Lily. She had to swim laps for two hours and didn’t know anyone else on her team. She was worn out and lonely, and wanted me to come early to watch her swim. The weather was so crummy this summer that several swim meets had to be postponed and rescheduled. Lily persevered, made friends, and by the time she had her conference meet, she was already saying that she can’t wait to be on next summer’s swim team!

swim meet 2

Emmy continued her swimming lessons this summer, and even though she is resisting, she’s ready for swim team next summer. She can swim 50 yards with no trouble at all! We’ll have to see what happens, which means I’ll probably sign her up and she’ll complain the whole time. Her favorite activity? Staying at home to play!

Not only did we go swimming at the pool, but we also went swimming at Lake Michigan AND in the Pacific Ocean.

Blueberry picking When we go to Michigan to be with family, one of our traditions is to go blueberry picking! My daughters love spending time with their second cousins, and we weren’t able to spend very much time with them this summer. But we did go blueberry picking! We picked over 7 pounds just for my family, and have a freezer full of blueberries!

blueberry gang 1

Birthdays We Celebrated

Emmy turned seven this summer! She is heading for second grade next week. Can you believe it? Because seriously, I can’t. She is growing up right before my eyes!

7 years old

Books I’ve Read

One of my favorite things about summer is sitting by the pool and reading during my daughter’s swimming lessons.

The Goldfinch – The summaries I read didn’t even come close to scratching the surface of what this 700+ page book is about. It’s a good book, but it has too much drug use and fuzziness for my taste. There were several times when I just wanted to reach in and give the main character a good shake!

Destroyer Anger – I love Anna Pigeon, Nevada Barr’s feisty Park Ranger. While this book was fairly predictable, especially if you’ve read other Anna Pigeon books, it was a great summer read.

Me Before You – Heartbreaking but also wonderful. I loved this book.

Movies We’ve Seen

We don’t go to many movies in the theater, so our pick this summer was How to Train Your Dragon Two. Even Ed liked it! (He is not a movie guy. He’d rather be outside doing something!) The girls loved this movies, and think Toothless is the cutest dragon ever!

At the movies

Places We’ve Traveled

Less than a week ago, we arrived home after a fun-filled two weeks in California! Our travels deserve their own posts, which I’m going to write soon. We went to four National Parks and visited some other great places. Not only that, but we dragged one of my sisters along for the ride!

Seriously, as I look back, I think it’s okay that summer is ending. We managed to pack a lot into a short amount of time!

Tell us what you did on your summer vacation, and feel free to link up any summer posts this week on The Spin Cycle! Be sure to visit my partner, Gretchen, to see what she’s been doing this summer!


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When Bloggers Meet

This weekend was the biggest blogging conference, BlogHer ’14, in San Jose, California. Unlike last year, I wasn’t able to go. Instead, I was at the southern end of the state meeting a blogger friend for the very first time! Gretchen from Second Blooming and I met in a little coffee shop kitty-corner from the Hollywood Tower. Not only did Gretchen meet me, but she met the rest of my family as well, and she brought Jude with her to meet Lily and Emmy.

Hollywood Tower

101 Coffee Shop

When I saw Gretchen and Jude walk into the coffee shop, it felt like I already knew them. As Ed told me later, “It was like you were two old college friends getting together after not seeing each other for a while.” It completely makes sense; when you read someone’s blog for as many years as Gretchen and I have read each others, you know a lot about them. And let me tell you: Gretchen’s son Jude is just as adorable in real life as he is on Gretchen’s blog! (I probably shouldn’t embarrass him like that, but it’s true!)

Ginny and Gretchen

Jude Lily and Emmy

See what I mean? Adorable!

As you have probably guessed by now, I’m on vacation. Gretchen and I have decided that in honor of our meeting each other for the first time, we are going to put The Spin Cycle on hold for two weeks. Yes, it’s kind of strange that after two bloggers meet we are now putting off blogging. But then, blogging is a strange business. It’s a place where you become friends with someone you’ve never even met. I’m just thrilled that Gretchen and I were able to meet in person.

I’ll still post a blog post here and there if I have wi-fi access or if I’m not too tired from all the hiking Ed is about to make me do. Will we have a relaxing vacation? Time will tell. And Gretchen will be writing about Camp Mama, so be sure to click over and go say hi! The Spin Cycle will resume its regular schedule in a couple of weeks. :)
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Parks and Recreation {Spin Cycle}

We never call a park by its real name. We use the equipment on the playground for identification. For example, we go to the “boat park,” the “flying saucer park,” or the “roller slide park.” The playground down the street from us is “our park” and the playground at the school is “the red park” because all of the monkey bars, slides and swings are the color red.

When I became a stay-at-home mom with Lily, I couldn’t wait to take her to the park. I needed activities to fill my days, besides the normal routines of changing diapers and endless laundry. I started reading to Lily when she was only three months old, and as soon as the weather started to warm up, I took my November baby to the park. I placed Lily into the baby swing and gently pushed her back and forth. Lily would look up at the sky, point, and say “Appy!” which of course meant “airplane.”

Traveling with kids takes on a whole different perspective. We could be at the most interesting tourist spot ever, but if the kids spot a playground, they’re begging us to go play!

playground car

Lily and Ed at a playground in Iowa

playground swing

Emmy on a moose swing in Fairbanks, AK

The weather doesn’t matter at all. We go to our park when it’s hot, when it’s cold, and even when it’s snowy. At the playground, my daughters magically get along.

playground swing

At our park on a mild November day

And so far, it hasn’t mattered how old my daughters are. At the ages of six and nine, they still want to go to the park to play! Now they prefer the monkey bars to the swings, however.

Do you ever visit a park in your neighborhood? Join Gretchen and me for the Spin Cycle this week and link up your Parks and Recreation blog post!


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