Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don't Laugh...It's Paid For!

A Quick Note to Those Still Paying Off Their Cars,

I've felt your pain. I've despised my car payment too. I've written that check every month and prayed for the day when that $300+ would actually STAY in my bank account, rather than make it's monthly march to my lender.

Friends, that day, for me, has come. And it came earlier than tentatively planned. In my original plan, I was going to continue making payments for several more months. But at the bottom of my monthly statement, in tiny font, there was a little phone number with a note saying I could call to find out what my payoff amount would be. Last week, on a whim, I called that number. I found that if I paid off my car immediately, I would save about $400. That was more than a whole monthly payment....YES PLEASE!

I know what you are thinking..." payoff amount is still so large, this isn't even an option for me."

Yes. Many are still in this situation. I was too, not so long ago. But you can still help yourself. In addition to keeping track of your payoff amount as you get closer to the maturity of your loan, you should be thinking about how much extra you can make on your monthly payment. Even $35-50 extra bucks a month can help so much (although $100 is better!) because extra money, especially at the beginning or middle of your loan period, will go directly toward your principle, not the interest like most of your normal payment. It is incredible how much more quickly you will get that title and save money doing it.

With the car paid off, I can now start dreaming about what I will do with that extra money that'll stay in my account each month. Conveniently, if we start saving that amount of money for one year, that'll be about how much money we need for a trip to Ecuador next summer. In the mean time, the car is all ours!

Doesn't that sound great? Here's hoping you'll do what you can to call yourself a true car owner too!

Keep It Real (and paid for!)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Midwest to Southwest: Good Eats

She has been mentioned from time to time but let me formally introduce to you my friend, Tonia.

After a couple months of discussion, Tonia and I have decided to co-author a blog with the intent of sharing recipes that we like.  There will be no regular posting habits, we'll just be posting as we find good stuff.  We will try to include pictures and perhaps other suggestions or things to keep in mind for a particular dish.  We usually strive for healthy stuff but every now and then, we all just need something a little less than healthy :)

Check it out!  There's not much up now but the more often you check back, the more there will be posted.  The new blog is here:

Midwest to Southwest: Good Eats

Keep It Real!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Ode to In-Laws

You might have read in my most recent post that, while in the great state of Wisconsin, we spent an evening kicking it with some old camp friends. At one point in this event, a toddler had gone to sleep so we had moved the party (previously in the living room) to the garage. It was warm in there but there were no mosquitoes. After about an hour, I needed some fresh air. I found myself back outside, around a little fire with Leni, and two other friends, who were married but not to each other.

Somehow, we got on the topic of in-laws. I was appalled at the horror stories they were telling. Such awkward relationships with in-laws, be they their spouses parents or siblings. It wasn't just the stories I was hearing. We've all heard horrible in-law stories. But I've always thought that the majority of those bad relationships were a two way street where all parties were fairly equally difficult to get along with. What I was hearing now, however, was tales of really good people dealing with in-laws that seemed to be incredibly unreasonable and unwilling to see another person's point of view. It was really sad.

While we were discussing this, all I could think was, "thank GOD I love Leni's parents so much and have zero issues with them." Leni told me later he was thinking the same thing about my folks.

So here's to wonderful in-laws and loving every minute we spend with both our sets of parents.

The Moores:

The Porters:

Keep It Real!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Weddings: Wisconsin Edition

For the past week(ish), I've been in Wisconsin. I had looked forward to this all summer long. Love me some Wisconsin.

The excuse for the trip was my cousin's wedding. But I tried to cram in as much Wisconsin goodness as I could:
  • A trip up to La Crosse to see dear college friends and their broods of children
  • Quick stop-over in Poynette to see a camp family I hadn't seen in years
  • A one-night stay at Camp Gray during a severe thunder storm that required moving children to storm shelters....and NOT having to deal with those logistics!
  • Enjoying my favorite Wisconsin brew while sitting at a table on State St. watching passersby
  • Chilling at the Memorial Union with a cone full of Babcock ice cream
  • Camp Gray alumni backyard-bbq-bash. Seeing some of my oldest camp friends, some I hadn't seen in many years!
  • Seeing my mom bawl like a little girl because she was so happy at her surprise gift: the unexpected presence of my best friend, Janelle
  • A tour of an incredible B&B in Madison, Mansion Hill Inn, that is under the general management of a good friend, Sarah. Her literal blood, sweat, and tears helped transform this building from a run-down renovation to the beautiful luxury that it is today. I'm so proud of her and regardless of the cost, I vow to spend a night in that place one day.
  • A visit to my favorite cheese shop
  • Seeing friend Tonia on a lunch stop while driving back with Nick and Claire
  • Staying overnight with friends Christa and Chappy in Wichita while driving back
Finally, the real reason for the trip, my cousin Chris' wedding.

I have 5 cousins. I've met 4 of them. The two cousins from my mom's side, Malia and Chris, are the only cousins with which I have spent any decent amount of time.

Chris' wedding was unlike any other I'd ever attended. When they got engaged last year, they decided to have the wedding in the beautifully landscaped backyard of the home they had purchased a year or two before. Chris built a beautiful pergola under which the ceremony would be conducted. The officiant was the bride's brother, who had gotten a license online. With the exception of mis-pronouncing his sister's new last name, he did pretty well. With the wedding being in a backyard in a small town, there would not be enough parking for the 80ish guests. So we all got onto a school bus at the hotel and made the half hour ride together. When we got there, everyone piled under the large tent under which many of us had enjoyed the rehearsal dinner the night before. It was 2PM and more than 90 degrees (and the sweltering humidity wasn't helping!) and we weren't going to spend one minute longer in those sun-pelted chairs than we had to. Soon, we got the word that the ceremony was about to commence, so we all moved into the chairs. It was so bright and so hot. Sweat was dripping down my body for the entirety of the event. I can only imagine what groom and groomsmen in their suits were enduring, not to mention Kim in her wedding dress. The couple's dog, Kona, was the ring bearer and he behaved incredibly well, doning his tie even! We'd all been taking bets on how short the ceremony would be (or should I say, how short we'd hoped it would be?). My bet was on 25 minutes. It went for 32. I hadn't taken into account how long the 2 songs, sung by Kim's former students, would be. Dang.

After the wedding, there was some more hang out time under that big tent while we waited for the bus to come back and get us. The bus ride back was horrible for me. More sweat and dirt brought in by wind from the open windows left me feeling nasty and definitely cranky when we got back to the hotel. While everyone else was heading for the ball room for the cocktail hour, I stormed up to the room for a cold shower.

When I emerged from my shower, I was a new person. The grumpiness had washed away and I was ready to party. I caught the end of cocktail hour and visited with my aunt and uncle which was nice. When the actual reception started, I was quite impressed. The dinner was DELICIOUS. We all ate until we were uncomfortably full. At one point, I slipped out and walked a couple laps around the place and felt much better. Instead of cake, there was wedding pie. A highlight for me was when the DJ announced that the bride and groom were going to be coming around and taking pictures with every table and that we should all scoot together around one side of the table to make this easy. The catch: this would all be done in under one minute. WHAT? How could this possibly happen? I was a doubter. But sure enough, some intense music started and they were off in a mad dash! The photographer and couple RAN from table to table! "Cheese!", flash, done. They made it around to every table with just a few seconds to spare. So impressed. Please...if you aren't married and plan on inviting me to your wedding, do this at your reception. I find it so entertaining.

Speaking of pictures, the couple had contracted for a photo booth (like the ones at malls) to be present at this reception. I'd never been to a reception with this before but it was awesome. People went into the photo, had their pictures taken, and then two copies were printed. One was glued into the guest book and the other was yours to keep. You could go in as many times as you wanted. There were so many funny pictures. I saw them online later and the bride and groom got in with a bunch of people and there were some photos with staggering amounts of people in the booth. I have no idea how much this service costs but if you are planning a wedding and have any extra money in your budget, I highly recommend looking into it. Here are some pictures from my family's trips into the booth:

While you are looking at pictures, here's one from the camp party at my friend Kelly's house:

Stay tuned for the Los Alamos Edition of Summer Weddings, coming to a blog near you in about 2 weeks.

Keep It Real!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trip Report: Mount Lindsey

The following events transpired during the 2010 4th of July Weekend. What you are about to read involved one 14,042 foot mountain, seven friends and three dogs.

It all started back in the Spring when everyone received an email saying "Hey! Let's all hike this mountain together!". This particular peak had been selected for its seeming ease in comparison with other 14ers in the area. The original plan was to do it over Memorial Day Weekend. As we approached that time, there was still a lot of snow on the mountain so we postponed the trip to the 4th of July weekend. Good move.

For reference, here's a picture, albeit small, of the profile of Mt. Lindsey:

The anticipated weekend in July arrived and found us all traveling on Friday: Chappy and Christa from Kansas, Josh and Kalyn from East TX, Reuben from West TX, and us from NM. Reuben had driven from TX to stay with us the night before and traveled the rest of the way to CO with us. Here is how packed down a 4Runner is with 3 adults, 2 dogs, and a whole lot of camping gear:

Josh and Kalyn arrived at the campsite first, followed by us about a half hour later. Due to a late start, Chappy and Christa didn't arrive until much later in the evening. Once they arrived, we helped them set up their tent and then we all went to bed to get rest before our ascent that would start in the morning.


Saturday was the big day! Due to not having a watch myself, the times below are based on estimations and reports of time from other hikers who did have time pieces.

4:00 AM

Wake up, eat, get ready for the climb, load in truck and drive to trail head. We had to get on the trail so early in order to be off the summit by 1pm at the latest in an effort to avoid afternoon storms for which Colorado's mountains are notorious.

5:30 AM

Hit the trail head (10,700 feet). Also unloading at about the same time was another group of hikers. These folks were decked out with all kinds of fancy gear including ice axes, crampons, etc. We wondered if they were better-prepared or way over-prepared and the possibility of the former was somewhat intimidating. Only time and our observation of the trail would tell. GULP! Here are some pictures of the beginning of the journey:

People From Left to Right: Maggie, Leni, Josh, Reuben, Kalyn, Chappy, Christa
Dogs From Left to Right: Sierra, Lucy, Maya

Gorgeous Mountain in lower right corner

7:00 AM

After the meadow, crossing a freezing river, and having a search party for a "missing camera" (it had really just been moved to another pocket - no worries) the trail started to steepen. Like serious steepness.

If your eyes can read the profile picture above, this was just before the 1.5 mile mark and ended at about 2.3 miles. Half of our hiking party appeared to have little problem with this but some of us were really struggling. We stopped quite often (sometimes after only a few minutes of hiking) to rest and catch our breath. I have to admit that at this point, I was feeling light-headed due to the elevation climb and could have named about a million places I'd rather be. I was also concerned that I wouldn't reach the summit at this rate. Thankfully, the more speedy hikers in our group were quite encouraging and those of us who were suffering more were able to press on.

The trail then took a brief but ever so welcomed "flattening" in elevation. Here, we came upon another mountain meadow and started seeing snow. Thankfully, virtually none of the snow was on the trail, most of it being off to one side. These snow patches varied from the size of a rug to the size of a parking lot. Our dogs LOVED the snow and took every opportunity to roll in and eat it. After the meadow, the trail started climbing again, however with somewhat less steepness than we'd been hit with before.

8:30 AM

At about 3.25 miles, we were now above the treeline (which was higher than we had imagined) and the trail dropped a little into another grassy meadow-like area. This one had lots of boulders in and around it. The trail went right across the middle of it and it was about a quarter of a mile long but from both ends, looked much longer to all of us.

While it felt good to be walking downhill and on a flat meadow, I remember being irritated that it meant that we'd be having to walk uphill on the way back "down". How annoying. This gave us our first view of the summit.

This was also where we saw our first hiker coming the opposite direction. This person was a beast. He had earphones in and looked like a man on a mission so we never talked to him but assumed that he had already summited and was returning.

After getting to the other side of the meadow, the trail took another upward and steep turn. I again found myself struggling and needing to stop incredibly often. Having a history of dehydrating myself when doing recreational things outside, I'd been trying to drink a lot and was having to use some of my stops to relieve myself, not a task accomplished easily and with much dignity, given the fact that the trees were long gone and the large boulders were few and far between! It was on this portion of the trail that we again saw those intimidating hikers from the trailhead. They were coming back down and I assumed that they had summited already. We talked to them and found out that the clouds overhead were spooking them and that they had bailed on reaching the summit. I looked in the sky. Sure, it was cloudy but the clouds just didn't seem concerning enough to quit just yet. This combined with the fact that we hadn't seen anyone else jumping ship made me really think that quitting ourselves wasn't the right option, although I was prepared for the fact that weather might keep us from reaching the summit later. Thankfully, this was also the group consensus and we pressed on, with the knowledge that as intimidating as those hikers were at first, we were definitely tougher :)

At this point, we were just below the saddle between Mt. Lindsey and the next closest peak, the Iron Nipple (insert immature giggle here). A steep field of boulders and smaller rocks separated us from the saddle. This probably took us about 10 minutes to scramble across. Once across this, we were in the saddle.

The saddle was the windiest spot of the whole trip, both on the ascent as well as the descent. The gusts were staggering and did make me a little concerned for our safety, as we were about to begin the most dangerous part of the journey. The wind did, however, stay in the saddle and was not a problem on the final ascent to the summit. From here, we were only a quarter mile from the summit but still with 1000 feet to gain in elevation. As a result, this quarter mile was straight up, making the summit look almost within arm's reach from the saddle, as shown in the picture below. Also pictured is my elbow as well as our friend Reuben, to whom most photo credits go.

10:30 AM

We dropped our packs in the saddle so that we wouldn't have any extra weight while negotiating "the gully" (visible in the center of the face of the peak pictured above) which separated us from the summit itself. The gully is the part that goes right up the middle. It is a scree field of very loose rock on a steep mountain face...not a great combination.

This scramble had to be done very carefully because the wrong move could leave a person falling down the mountain or, most likely, could send a rock tumbling down to hikers below. My largest concern here was the dogs. They were doing so well but still struggling in some places. I kept waiting for any of them to simply give up and refuse to go any farther but all 3 (our Lucy and Sierra and Josh and Kalyn's Maya) kept moving up, although they did let us know that they were stressed. This climbing, though difficult and, at times, scary, was easier on my body then what we'd done so far in the day. It was the steepest we'd seen but the loose rock and scrambling made it necessary for my arms to carry some of my weight instead of just my legs, which was a nice break for the tired legs.

Working in combination with the technical climbing was also an emotional head game. What we could see was actually not the summit. We'd get to what we thought was the summit, only to find another shear wall of more loose rock. This continued for about 3 false summits. It was made worse by people who were down-climbing. They kept saying, "just one more and you're there!". Liars.

We passed a group of three women with an 11-year-old chow. This dog, we're told, had summited 52 14ers in her time. Mt. Lindsey was to be her last. I was incredibly impressed. The owner asked me how many ascents our dogs had made. I told her that, not only was this their first, but it was also my first 14er. The woman's jaw dropped. She asked why I'd chosen this mountain for my first and I simply told her that it had been chosen by someone else in my hiking party. It was here, with 99.9% of the ascent behind me and only 2 minutes of hiking before reaching the summit, that I found out that Mount Lindsey is actually one of the harder of Colorado's 14ers. Later, I looked it up online and found that it is the 17th hardest of the 58. Finally, I felt validated in my previous struggle and was now, more than ever, ready and motivated to hit the summit and conquer this thing.

11:30 AM

Hello summit! I staggered across the last ridge to the very top of Mount Lindsey.

I was looking down on other high peaks and valleys filled with rocks, grass, and snow. It was breath-taking.

There was a group of hikers about to leave the summit leaving just our group there. I signed the register and laid down. Josh, Kalyn, and Reuben had been on the summit about 15ish minutes when Leni and I arrived. Chappy and Christa arrived 5 or so minutes after us. After their arrival, it was decided that it was time for a group picture. I stood up more quickly than I should have and got an incredible head rush from the high altitude. Here's Leni and me at the summit:

Proof that the whole group made it:

12:00 PM

After we took pictures and rested a few more minutes, we began our descent.

We were all a little freaked out about the down climb. That scrambling was one thing coming up but going down was quite another story. We were just extra careful and planned out our steps more carefully than before.

The biggest problem at this point was the dogs. Coming down head first for them must have been pretty frightening. Sierra and Lucy managed well enough, though with some whining from them and coaxing from us. Maya was struggling a little more, probably partially due to fear but also due to physical pain as some of the pads on her poor paws were splitting and bleeding.

Back in the saddle, it was really windy again. We picked up our packs and continued going down. The trip down, as one would imagine, had fewer and shorter stops. The steeper parts did concern me though. People were tired and sore and I knew that this would be the time that people were lazy about their foot placement and would be more likely to turn an ankle and hurt themselves. But thank God, everyone made it out safely.

5:30 PM

By this time, we'd hit the trailhead parking lot again, loaded back up into the truck, and returned to the campsite. We sat in our chairs around the campfire talking about getting the fire going for dinner but no one had the energy. We ripped through 2 bags of doritos and then, one by one, people made their ways to tents for an evening nap. When nap time was over, we got the fire roaring and then feasted on some delicious hobo dinners, courtesy of Josh and Leni. At this point, the dogs were passed out, Maya in a tent and Lucy and Sierra in the back of the truck. We enjoyed some more of each other's company and some s'mores and then turned in for the night.


Sunday found us traveling south to a campsite that was a little closer to civilization and, most importantly, food. After setting up our new camp, we drove into Trinidad, CO. In case you were wondering, Trinidad has about 4 open restaurants on the 4th of July: Wendy's, Sonic, a sketchy looking chinese place, and a mexican place called "Tequila's". We went for Tequila's and ate very well. We headed back to camp and parked ourselves around the campfire for the rest of the night.

Good stories, conversation, beer, more doritos, and s'mores were shared by all before retreating to our tents for one final night. Monday morning came quickly and those with long drives got on the road before 7AM. Leni, Reuben and I pulled out at about 7:20 and made our way home with a stop in Taos for fuel and some snacks. We got home around 11:30 in the morning, unloaded the truck, and said "good-bye" to Reuben, who still had a 5-and-a-half hour drive to get home to Lubbock. By noon, I was showered and it felt good to be home. I was definitely looking forward to a home-cooked meal for dinner and a good night's rest in my own bed.


Maggie: 1 Mt. Lindsey: 0

Keep It Real!