Sunday, October 30, 2011

Balloon Fiesta

At the beginning of October, Little Sister and I went to the 40th Annual Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was amazingly fun! It is about a 10 hour drive from Salt Lake to Albuquerque, so we left as soon as Little Sister got off of her early shift, loaded up the car, dropped of her dog, and started the long trek on Friday around noon.

We both absolutely love road trips, so even though the hours in the car were many, they flew by pretty quickly. We stopped in Durango, Colorado, for dinner. After stretching our legs, window shopping, and waiting for the biggest slice of pizza I've ever seen, we got back on the road. We finally arrived at our hotel at about 2:00 in the morning. We made excellent time, actually, but we spent about 2 hours in Durango, and then got a little lost just over the border in New Mexico. Needless to say, we didn't make the 5:00 AM Mass Ascension the next day.

The first event we attended was the evening Twinkle Glow. It is a magical evening show where the balloons gather and at certain times, simultaneously light up.

Little Sister had the idea of coming to the Balloon Fiesta about six months ago. Even though it was a quick trip, I am so glad that we went! Little Sister has a fascination with hot air balloons. Her face looked like this pretty much the whole weekend:

The next morning, we made the Mass Ascension, where hundreds, and I mean literally hundreds, of balloons take off and fill the morning sky. The line up in big long rows, one after another, and one by one they lift off into the air.

We returned later that evening to catch the next Twinkle Glow and fireworks show. While we were there, we found the balloon that Little Sister rode in a few years ago with our grandma. (As a gift for graduating from high school, my grandma took both of us on a hot air balloon ride. It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had!)

The last morning we got up early to see the Dawn Patrol. This group of five balloons flies just before dawn. They do this to test the wind currants before the Mass Ascension starts after sun-up so the balloon pilots know where the winds are blowing, where to land, and so they don't crash into each other.

There was a giant Darth Vader balloon, accompanied by friendly bodyguards. 

It was a wonderful trip! After all of the balloons had taken off and we had our fill of morning sunshine, we got back in the car and started the long drive home. It was a fabulous way to spend a long weekend with my sister.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pay It Forward, Good Souls

Best thing of my work week: I work for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at my local university. One of my favorite professors is an old gentleman who has been teaching in this department for 50 years. (Literally, this year is his 50th.) I was running an errand during my lunch break and I ran into him on my way out of the building. He was heading back to his office after teaching class.

We chatted for a bit about how his class went. Then, He asked me if I was going to eat lunch in the next building over and I, thinking it would just be easier to say yes rather than explain my errands, said yes. He replied, "Don't eat lunch up there! I will make you some of the soup that I have in my office."

After talking this proposition with him and feeling awkward about this random act of kindness, he wouldn't take no for an answer. So we walked back to our building when he told me that he'd meet me in my office with his Indonesian soup. He was worried that "It might be too spicy but you might like to try something new."

I waited in my office for a short time. He brought me the soup he had heated up in his office microwave. It turns out it was some kind of spicy top-ramen. It was delicious. After I gobbled it up, he came back and wanted to wash my bowl for me. Again, he wouldn't take no for an answer.

I wish there were more gentle souls like his in the world. The spontaneous kindness of it all gives me such joy. I will have to make him cookies tomorrow.

It's nice to remember that there are genial folks like Dr. DeVries who are always kind, helpful, and smiling. Time to pay it forward.

Dr. Larry DeVries - the best professor I know.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Raw Food Challenge

Exactly one week ago, I decided to do a raw food challenge. I wanted to give it a try because I have been feeling really sluggish and slow, my face keeps breaking out like crazy, and despite my best efforts, have been gaining weight. Some of my friends have done various "cleanses," but I am extremely nervous about extreme diets that deprive your body of nutrients in order to loose a couple of pounds quickly. After asking around and doing lots of research, I came across this raw food challenge idea. Little Sister's boss, after spending several months in the hospital before they discovered she has severe gluten and diary allergies, is on an all raw-food diet. She gave me some information on the topic and convinced me to give it a try.

So, for the past week, I have been eating nothing but fresh fruit, lots of veggies, and some nuts and seeds. No dairy, no gluten, no meat.

Produce Road
Honestly, I feel great! I feel so incredibly healthy. My skin cleared up in a matter of days and I am already losing some of the weight I have gained. It sort of feels like my whole system is resetting. Don't get me wrong, it is tough. Breakfast, lunch, and snacks are no big deal. When dinner rolls around though, after a long day of work, all I want to eat is an awesome burrito. Or especially on chilly days, all I want is grilled cheese and tomato soup. But the more days that go by, the fewer things I crave.

The no-meat thing hasn't been hard at all. I was a vegetarian for about five years and have only recently (within the past year or so) taken up eating some chicken every now and then, and maybe a cheeseburger on special occasions. The dairy thing has been okay. I don't drink milk all that often anyway, but I do love cheese and ice cream. Both of those things are off limits, so I have been wanting a little bit of dairy occasionally. I'd have to say, the hardest part has been not being able to eat processed carbohydrates, especially in wheat form.

Currently, I am in Moab, UT, playing chauffeur for Roomie's half marathon. She is running "The Other Half" as we speak. I am chilling at a local cafe while I wait for it to be time to go cheer her on at the finish line. This is awesome for three reasons: a) I love road trips, b) I love cafes, and c) I love Moab. It's a win-win all around. Anyway, I decided when I started my challenge that I could have one meal that was still somewhat healthy, but not necessarily raw, during the trip. Sort of as something to look forward to on the All-I-Want-To-Eat-Is-An-Awesome-Burrito nights, and because it's a little difficult to find 100% raw foods in restaurants (besides salads, I guess.) I opted for a nice and light margarita pizza for dinner last night. It was great! But I am surprised how glad I was this morning to get a fruit smoothie for breakfast.

The most interesting thing about this experience was how exhausting the first couple of days were. The first day was difficult because I was not mentally used to eating that much produce, and nothing else. The two following days however, my brain and body were so mentally and physically exhausted that I couldn't focus on anything. I ended up having to leave work early because I could not keep my thoughts straight and my whole body was clammy and sensitive, almost like I had the flu. After that, however, my mental clarity returned with a vengeance and I have been more productive than ever. I am also feeling physically better than ever about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time I get crabby and moody because I forget that I need to eat again and keep drinking water. The amount of produce I eat is astounding. Seriously. I am eating several apples, bananas, oranges, and other berries, avocados, salads, and any other random thing you can think of daily. Whole Foods is my new best friend.

The goal of my own little raw food challenge is to make it two weeks, and then re-evaluate. I by no means intend for this to be a long-term lifestyle change. I love food too much to give it all up. However, now with the first week over, I imagine that I might extend the challenge by another week or two (why not make it a round month?), depending on how the second week goes. Twenty-one days makes a habit, right? And by that time, my body will have reset enough that I can continue to make good choices and feel as healthy as I do now.

What kind of food choices do you make? What are they influenced by? Do you think you could eat raw food for a week? More? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Leafy Greens

Friday, October 14, 2011

Goblin Valley

The morning after our hike in the swell, we headed down to Goblin Valley State Park. I wanted to hike around a bit and check it out before heading home. If you ever get a chance to go there, it's pretty sweet. I remember going there as a kid and loving climbing all over the formations. 

We didn't have a ton of time to explore other areas of the park, but I hear there are some fantastic hikes in the park as well as the Valley of the Goblins. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon Loop

A few weekends ago, Roomie and I went down to the east side of the San Rafael Swell to hike the Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon loop. We took off late Saturday morning, caught lunch in Price, and after setting up camp, started hiking around 4:00.

The timing was perfect. It is still pretty warm in the desert, so the late afternoon start was just cool enough that we weren't going to suffer from extreme heat, but still warm enough that we didn't freeze as the sun went down behind the canyons.

Fabio would be jealous.
"Help! I need your help... Get the camera!"
The whole hike took us about four hours. The evening light made the canyon extremely beautiful. I have done this trail three other times, but always in the morning hours. The slots looked completely different in the late afternoon.

It started getting dark right as we were completing the last part of the loop. Bats swooped above our heads, almost bouncing off the narrow canyon walls, chasing twilight bugs. We jumped down the last couple of drops and made it back to the car just as night came down around us. It was a fun evening and beautiful hike.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Everyone Loves the Fair!

I have made it a tradition to visit the state fair every year. I think I have gone about four times now. I love the fair! I don't do rides or any of those types of attractions, but the cows, sheep, goats, chickens, and, of course, the pigs are my favorite. 

I missed the fair last year because I was in Canada, but this year we had to go! I had been looking forward to it all summer. This year my mom was in town during the exact dates that the fair was running. I don't think she was as excited as the rest of us to go walk around in the rain through puddles of who-knows-what to go look at row after row of farm animals, but since the fair only comes once a year, she rallied and came with us. Little Sister, Roomie, Mom, and I spent a delightful evening engaging in my favorite late summer tradition.

First stop, the picture stands:

Little Sister and I having bushels of fun!
Mom, Little Sister, and I in the "family tree."
Little Sister and Roomie look more related in this "family tree" than I do.
I'm pretty sure I have this exact picture from 3 or 4 years ago.
Only I was the sheep this time around.
Second, there is general merriment on the way to the animal buildings:

Roomie wins!

Then, the main event!

Don't forget the veggies!

Fair food. End of story.

Roomie enjoying her fried cheesecake. 
I think in the long run, Mom had a great time at the fair.

Do you love the fair as much as I do? What is your favorite part?