Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rock Hounds

I am not a soccer mom. I thought I would be, but I'm not. Not yet, anyway. My first two kids have not been super excited about sports teams, so I try to encourage them in whatever it is they seem to enjoy learning to do. This spring, instead of heading out of town for sports tournaments, we went rock hunting! This kid loves to watch science-y shows, and recently had lots of questions about geodes and fossils.
It just so happens that we live in Utah, which is a Geology hotspot if ever there was one. However, as every parent knows, kids lose interest in the obsession of the week pretty quickly. So, we tested the waters by buying a rock at our local Rock Shop, which we trusted would have a gap and crystals inside, because the guy said it would. We were only out $5 if he was wrong, or if the interest waned. As you can see, it was definitely a geode! My kid stayed excited by watching online videos of people digging and splitting geodes, so we took to the interwebs and planned an outing.

First, we borrowed a vehicle that had 4WD, in case it was necessary (thanks, Mom and Dad H!). Then we headed to the Utah Wonderstone quarry. There were so many eye-popping chunks of art just laying on the ground, but we brought out the "big guns" (sledge hammer) to try and get a bigger piece.


We brought enough hammers (and safety glasses, because we're nerds like that!) for the kids to break out pieces of their own, but there were seriously thousands of pieces just lying on the surface. I'm just in awe at how the sediments formed in every which way EXCEPT horizontal, how they normally do.

This is a marker along the trail of the Pony Express (and also the last bathroom stop for 25 miles there and 25 miles back!) at Simpson Springs.

Then we drove just an hour or two to the Dugway Geode beds. We didn't find the exact mound where the geodes are right away, but when we saw the ground littered with shards of crystally goodness, we knew it was the right place. We weren't extremely sure which rocks were geodes and which weren't, but we knew if we busted it open the wrong way that it would shatter, and not be as nice to look at. So, we brought home a couple of buckets of rocks with unknown innards, and cut them on a tile saw after we got home. 
My husband worked his guts out in the hot sun, hoping to find something amazing. Being the middle of March, it was only in the upper 70's (Farenheit), I'm guessing. I am positive people who go there during the Summer months roast themselves. 

The picture doesn't show it, but this is the glittering trail of leftovers that other geode hunters left us. Kids love all shiny things (kind of like rodents do), so yes, we brought home some of the shards, too.
 This is all the shards (upper orange towel) and mystery rock halves (printed towel and lower orange one after they were cut and washed. 
This is how many of the unknown rocks made geodes. My husband was pretty disappointed, but the trip itself was plenty rewarding, so he didn't stay down for long.

On the way to our next stop, we saw a band of wild horses! (Does 7 count as a band?) I like taking pictures of my husband taking pictures, because he's our photographer, and that's how we see him most often. But no, I don't have any pictures of the horses from his fancy camera, sorry. 

If you zoom in really closely, you can see two of my family members hiking waaaaaaaaaaaaaay over there. This is the place where we found nothing. Not one single thing. It's called Topaz Mountain. We looked on a map when we got back to internet-land again, and we were probably one canyon away from where we wanted to be, but the sun was setting, and we needed to drive over an hour to get to our hotel in Delta. We were hoping to find crystals or gems or fossils, but not so much.

This is me looking waaaaaaaaaay over there. I accidentally took it when I thought the camera was pointing at a lizard on the ground, but I didn't hate it, so here it is. Yes, I'm also nerdy enough to wear the sunglasses-that-fit-over-my-regular-glasses. Desert hair, don't care!

This is my crew, who behaved better than normal because Grandpa's car has a DVD player in it.

We stopped off for dinner before bedtime, and one of us missed our sippy cup badly.
I just realized I didn't really get pictures of us splitting slate rocks to find trilobites (fossils). Oops. The thing is, we paid for two hours at that site, and we were pretty focused on gathering as much as we could. Listen, my husband and I are both quite "frugal." Not one-ply toilet paper cheap, but Use-it-up-wear-it-out, make-it-do-or-do-without cheap. It was kinda hard to pay kinda alot of money to dig in some rocks, but even WE thought it was so worth it in the end! I will be going to their website to leave an excellent review. After wandering around these other sites alone and unsure of how or where to find what we were after, it was such a relief to have extremely knowledgeable staff, and even a portable bathroom on the site! There was also a Chinese family there (who spoke English, as well), so my son got to use his skills from Dual Immersion Mandarin class to have a short conversation! (The mother was super impressed with his pronunciation, so high-five to the awesome teachers at our school!) But back to tri-lobe-ites!
This is what we were after. Trilobites! These are from the pre-Cambrian period, so basically dating to the time of PANGEA! (Hi, that's kinda the name of this blog, I was excited.) So back when this part of the Earth's crust was under ocean, these little guys would swim around! This picture is one Trilobite (on the left), and his imprint (on the right). The imprints aren't really worth anything, but it's fun to have both sides, in my opinion. So, if you are super careful, you can work the trilobite out of the surrounding rock, and even see the fossilized underside. If that sounds a little improper, so sorry.
These are some of the non-trilobite fossils we found. They are so tiny! Less than a half inch end to end. See if you can identify them on the fossil chart I posted above. The operators of the site said we were there at the best possible time of year, because after the winter, the slate is much easier to crack apart. After it bakes in the sun for a few months, it's apparently much more difficult to get to the fossils. It was so easy and fun! We got to take home anything we found during the two hours we paid for. We don't plan on selling any of ours, but I suppose there's a market for them. 
Here is our haul of fossils, waiting to be cleaned up, and maybe a few will get removed from the slate for display.

All this happened because this kid loves watching science shows.
(And doesn't play soccer.) 
We are living the dream, I tell you what! Life is so good.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Kitchen Renovation

Let me start by saying: I'm no Cook. Therefore, I did not choose any high-end anything for my kitchen, because food to me is just fuel so I can get back to wrangling kids, crafting or gardening. When we moved a year and a half ago, our new-to-us kitchen was smaller than the one we sold. It was also original to our new-to-us brick rambler built in 1977. Because I'm married to an extremely handy dude, we knew that we could make the kitchen into something we loved without breaking the bank (read between the lines: we are both tightwads). And so, I present our under $2000 kitchen makeover!

Here's the thing: You are expecting "before" pictures. But I don't have "before" pictures, because 1.)I hated the kitchen so bad I cropped it out whenever I could. 2.)We honestly don't spend most of our time there, but I have lots of shots in the living room! 3.)We kinda just got going on the renovation without cleaning up (as you can see). So enjoy these "during" pictures.

First up: We removed the bank of cabinets that throw shade on the entire countertop (they had doors on both sides).

Next, we removed the empty box the cabinets were attached to. WHY was that even there? Were people in the 70's that much shorter?

Then we patched the holes left after removing the useless box. We relocated the flourescent lights to rooms that needed them, put beautiful fan/light fixutres up, and installed the old cabinets over my hard working husband's tool bench. Re-use it ALL, baby!
My husband built all new upper cabinets from scratch. He chose MDF, and added 1/4" panels to the doors in the "Shaker" style. We used our car floor jack to help us mount them, because I'm not the burley broad I once was, and I'm the only help he's got.
The back of the cabinets is beadboard, and he scored BIG by finding 5 gallons of mistinted white paint for only $15! We added a few strips of 1/4" to the back of the snack bar, just for interest. I did most of the painting during my mini-tornado's naptime. Somewhere in here, we added crown molding around the top of all the uppers, but you'll have to look for it in a later picture.
Having a big project to focus on helped keep the S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder or "winter blues") away. But using our garage as a woodworking and painting workshop was slightly challenging, since the paint required 60 degree temps for proper use. We fully insulated the garage right after moving in, so we left our poor cars out in the snow while we used heaters to make a good painting environment.
The old drawers had lots of wasted space, so my Handyman decided to build those all new. We also made new doors for the lower cabinets, but we didn't demolish the main frame of the lowers. We did, however, spend a bit of time and effort evening them out, fixing gaps, and adding shelving inside them. I even got away with painting in the Living Room one night when all four of my monsters were sleeping.

Then we took a deeeeeep breath and dove into the countertops! I was ready to put up a fight to get what I thought I wanted (solid laminate!). But my husband fights dirty, and bribed me with a new sewing machine if I would agree to laminate that didn't look like laminate, but was 1/10th the price of other options. I remind you again, I don't cook, but I do sew. If I cooked well or often, high end finishes might make sense. So... we made our own countertops with *gasp* laminate... that looks like marble, and used special bullnosed edging made to match.
Goodbye yellow... the color of Jaundice! (reference to a comedy sketch by Studio C)
Goobye permanently stained sink and faucet that no longer swiveled!
Cut and "dry-fit" the substrate (particle board).

Cut laminate to match substrate.

Glue the two layers together and roll out the air bubbles. Another go with the router to make all edges perfectly square.

Install the behemoth pieces and then add the rounded edging.

Finished countertop! The reinforcing tape just held the edges while the adhesive dried. It looks so much better than I feared it would, The white reflects even  more light from the tube skylight we installed
I got all the handles a few years ago at a thrift store...brand new in the package. All the ones we needed plus MANY more cost me just $28! Thank you to whomever donated them! Also, I HATED the floors and was sure I wanted them sanded and stained darker. But now...I like them! They are staying light. This whole project transformed a very dark, gloomy kitchen into a room so bright during the day that I don't even need lights.

I stole this next little trick from my in-laws. Tilt-out panels in front of the sink! I love them. A little place to keep scrubbers and such, so they can be out of sight but still handy.
Lastly, we installed a backsplash. I fell in love with what is actually a floor tile. It's made of porcelain, but screen printed to look like weathered barn wood. My maternal grandparents lived on a dairy farm in Ucon, Idaho, and every building on their property had beautiful old-looking wood like this someplace on it. I know Farmhouse style is popular right now, but I love it because it feels like I'm honoring my roots. I will still love it long after it's not trendy anymore. The tile still needs to be grouted, but today is the day I decided to blog, so... no grout!

That's the end of my kitchen renovation story. It's not glamorous. It's not expensive. But it now feels LIGHT. It feels calm. That's what I need from my space, and I'm so humbled my man worked so hard alongside me to make it happen. I'm so very blessed. 
Simple Abundance!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Facebook Fast

I recently did the unthinkable. I went for 5 days straight without checking my only active social media feed. I was neither camping, nor was my phone broken. I did it on purpose, or rather, FOR a purpose. The purpose was to reboot my brain.

Wading through my social feed during my country's Presidential elections was mentally exhausting, to say the least.

1980's kids like myself will remember the part in the movie "Neverending Story" where Atreyu loses his best friend (and horse, Artax) in the Swamp of Sadness. If you don't remember it, here's a refresher:
This is what I felt like as I watched everyone fight about candidates and policies. Then the election was over, and I was hoping to take a deep breath and keep moving forward. Instead, everything got even messier. I have no doubt it would have been messy in a different way had the other candidate won. Long story short, I realized a week ago that I was mentally DROWNING in conflict. I could tell that many Americans were also finding themselves in the "Swamp of Sadness." My efforts at trying to be cheerful and pull my friends out of the mud were like Atreyu's efforts, except even less successful. I needed a break, I took one, and here's a few things I learned:

Even if I control much of what I see on my social media feed, it is never going to be a bias-free/safe zone. For years now, I have given up on watching any broadcast television news whatsoever. I (perhaps foolishly) thought my social media feed would give me all the "news" I needed in order to stay aware of my surroundings and advocate for worthy causes. I thought I could choose to hear only from sources with whom I agreed on key points. Instead, I found myself losing respect for some of my friends, and also wondering which of my friends were losing respect for me. That's not why I originally chose to participate in social media, and taking a break helped me remember why I did/do.

It's such a miracle to communicate instantaneously accross the globe. It's a privilege, an honor. It comes with responsibility. I want to spread kindness. I want to multiply the goodness in the world. I need to do better and be more choosy about what I share. I need to type out the compliments I think in my mind when I read a friend's status.

My children prounouce it "toilet trees."
They think they are hilarious.

I have plenty of time to do what I need to do. While taking my break, I made an effort to replace my usual social media time with worthy activities that I have been telling myself I don't have time for. For instance, I got some Family History out. I'm getting more familiar with navigating . Reading about my ancestors' lives reminded me to catch up on my own journal writing. I prepared a 72 hour kit of food and toiletries for my family of 6, as suggested on . I spent even more time with family members, both immediate and extended. I read books; some to myself, some to my little monsters. I took care of myself. It was so much more pleasant than I feared it would be in the beginning.

God is in control. That is so easy to forget when I read more words from humans in a day than I do from His words. Have I made it obvious to Him that I choose to be on His team regardless of what the scoreboard reads at any given point? I can do better at that, for sure.