Monday, July 29, 2013

Eagles, Industries, and Skiing

January always seems like a slower month after the party month of December.  Although, it doesn't stop us from living it up.  After we got back from Hawaii we needed another adventure.  Danny and Haley live by part of the Great Salt Lake and are lucky to have eagles make their winter home in a nearby tree.  We decided we like eagles, so we should get together.  Fortunately, they liked the idea as well.  We headed up to their house for the weekend of the 17th and were able to see four or five different eagles.  Mike and Danny felt like exploring the territory, probably because of their Carhartt's and hiking boots, so we packed up Danny's new backpack he was trying out and headed out to a section of the Great Salt Lake. It was frozen over so obviously we had to run and slide across the ice on our feet, bellies, and knees.  We also wrote our names in the snow and walked around the surrounding area, which happened to be supplied with ample amounts of cattails.  On this day, I learned how fun cattails can actually be.  We, primarily Danny and Mike, spent lots of time throwing cattails at one another and watching them explode.  By the end we were covered in cattail seeds.  They remind me of exploding hot dogs, how could that not be fun?

The next weekend we were hoping to go skiing.  However, it was not a good time for skiing.  The snow was incredibly low and the weather was not looking like it would cooperate.  We decided we would wake up in the morning and see what the weather was looking like.  As it turns out, it was going to be really windy and was even supposed to rain which didn't sound too appealing, especially since we would only be able to go five times during the season.  We later found out it turned into 15 inches of snow, which wasn't very comforting. So instead of skiing we were now faced with a free Saturday.  We stopped by Mike's parents and decided we should check out some of the famous industries in our area, Ikea and Cabella's.  It would be my first time at both shops.  Both are brilliantly designed, although, I must admit, Cabella's isn't my cup of tea.  It is made for the hunters of the world and as I have never been hunting you can see the dilemma.  Nevertheless, it was worth seeing.  They have an aquarium with lots of big fishes and mannequins which seemed so inviting. Can you blame me?  We also went to Ikea as well.  Another brilliant design.  They know how to lock you in their store and keep you shopping.  Thus, it is not so convenient if you want to do a quick in and out. However, if you have the time you can find practically everything and anything you need to decorate your home.  After wearing ourselves out shopping, we were hungry and joined Ryan, McKenzie, Dusty, and Michelle for lunch at the Red Iguana, one of Ryan's favorite places too eat.  It was wet and cold outside so the employees were kind enough to bring out some hot cocoa, which may have even been a better surprise than the actual food.  Although, it wasn't too shabby we will never quite understand his love of the place.  McKenzie, his wife, doesn't quite get it either.

The next few weeks we were ready to go skiing, again.  Although, this time we were ready to brave anything as the snow was still very low.  The first weekend we hit the slopes their was a base of 68 inches.  Mike said it usually will have an average base of 41 feet!  The first weekend we were trying to get back into the ski mode.  I hadn't been out for a full day of skiing in a really long time.  Mike is a really good skier though and was very patient with me.  He can fly down those hills, figuratively speaking.  It didn't take him long to get back in the swing of things.  By midday we had worked up an appetite and took a lunch break in the lodge.  It was a good thing for me because we had gotten ski boots that were just a little bit small.  They were so tight they cut off the circulation of blood to my feet.  By the end of the day, my feet had had enough and pulling the boots off was incredibly painful, if we had been ice climbing we would have referred to it as the "screamy barfies".  Despite the boots, it was still a fun day on the slopes.  However, you better believe that Mike would make sure I had the proper gear for the next time.

Within the next week, we returned to Sport's Authority.  Unfortunately, the main staff was unwilling to work with us.  In fact, the guy helping us told us that some other boots were much better quality even though they had plastic buckles instead of metal buckles.  Some imagination he had.  Luckily, Mike's friend Katy worked at Sport's Authority and was much more helpful.  She did us a favor and was able to call around and get us connected with a pair one size bigger.  Bigger boots made the next go around was much more pleasant, even though the snow was even lower at 62 or 63 inches.  Mike and I went off boxes and even got some air.  It was my first time trying the boxes and I must say it was quite exhilarating. For Mike, it was like a walk in the park-though as always he still had a good time.  We hit the slopes again and again.  One time as I was waiting in line, I leaned a little too far against the railing, which was not secure, and in slow motion toppled onto the ground.  Here I am supposed to be an athlete and I fell while standing in a line, pretty embarrassing yet hilarious. Don't worry this wouldn't be my last attempt at the slopes we still had more skiing in store.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Paradise in January!

My parents Christmas gift this year was none other than a trip to Hawaii!  My dad had done some law work for a former neighbor, Mike Thompson, who just so happens to have a condo on Poipu Beach in Kauai.  Fortunately for us, he gave us a sweet deal so it made it all possible. We slept over at Mike's parents house the night before and Mark volunteered to take us to the airport bright and early.  Rumor has it he had to get us out of bed, which is debatable, but either way we were boarding the plane on New Years Eve day for the beautiful island of Kauai for a week in paradise.  We arrived late that night and were able to watch fireworks from our restaurant as it had no windows and was open to the nice ocean air.  Our waitress happened to have gone to school with Bethany Hamilton.  I don't think she was a big fan of all the attention Bethany Hamilton got because she said she should have known sharks were there because it was mating season.  To Bethany's defense a shark attack hadn't happened there in a really long time or even ever.  My dad being the wise crack he is, asked if she knew Carrie Underwood because of the movie Soul Surfer.

After dinner and fireworks, we found our new home for the week.  It was a nice big condo with three different bedrooms, a loft, a kitchen, and a living room.  We would be making most of our meals at the condo, after doing a Costco run, in order to save a little cash.  The condo had several different beaches within walking distance.  We spent lots of times in the waves- boogey boarding, body surfing, snorkeling, and even swimming with some big turtles right in the small beach by our condo.  At the other beach, just a five minute walk you could spot whales early in the morning just off the shore.  It was amazing to see so much wildlife in Kauai.  When speaking of wildlife in Kauai, you can't forget the chickens.  Chickens were everywhere.  One entrepreneurial spirit was wise enough to capitalize on the fact that chickens were all around the island.  He created a simple black t-shirt with an orange chicken on the back and the inscription underneath stating, "Stoopid Chikin."  It sounds simple, but he is racking in the cash at $28 bucks a shirt.

Two different beach experiences provided a scare in different ways.  One was caused by stupidity and the other was caused by fear of sharks.  Let's start with the stupidity.  We got away from Poipu beach and went to Shipwreck Beach on the other side of the island.  It had massive waves and was really pretty.  Mac and I were having a great time going out further and further in the surf.  Mike warned us to stay close so we don't get caught in the surf.  We were unwise and were having too much fun to listen to any cautionary advice.  As you can already tell where this story is going, we did exactly what we were warned not to do and got caught in the surf.  We were swimming and swimming but not getting anywhere.  Lucky for us, some surfers, which Mac happened to think were highly attractive, were out there who were a little more experienced.  They told us how to get  out of the surf safely by swimming at an angle.  Mike had told us so and we learned our lesson.  The second scare was with Michelle in the water.  She is not a fan of snorkeling around fishes.  It doesn't help either that she is terrified of sharks.  So after much convincing, Levi was finally able to get her to go snorkeling with him.  They were out in the water when an alarm starts to sound.  Panic arises in Michelle as she believes there is a shark in the water and she begins calling for Mike to help her- even though Levi was right by her side.  She claims Mike was taller and already at shore, we just think it is hilarious she wanted Mike to help out when Levi was right there.  As it turns out, they do a routine alarm once a month to make sure it is working.  It was just an unfortunate event that it happened to be as she was snorkeling.

One of our first days there we hiked the Napali Coast.  It was really cool.  My dad wimped out after about half a mile and said he was going to head back.  My mom volunteered to go with him as well while the rest of us got to see the cool stuff.  We hiked down to the beach area and Mike discovered a cave with one open end towards the beach and the other to the ocean.  To enter the cave, you had to climb in when the tide was low.  It was slightly dangerous because if a huge wave hit, we would be trapped inside this cave.  Luckily,  we didn't have to experience that misfortune and could just enjoy the cave.  Also on the hike was a cool waterfall where we were able to snap a few pictures.  The parents missed the best part of the hike, too bad for them!

Tennis was also a popular activity for the Swenson Clan.  They had some tennis courts right by our condo, however, you had to pay per hour.  The lady running the place also asked Michelle if she was 18 or older.  With those two strikes against them, we went elsewhere to find courts.  We were able to find two public courts, aka free tennis courts.  It also came with a homeless man that would sleep on the benches in the tennis dug out. The family, except maybe Mike, loved getting out and playing tennis together.  Mike couldn't understand why we would want to play tennis when there were beaches around.  Knowing Mike's love of the water, I can see his point.  However, we also liked mixing it up with doubles games, five misses, and ping pong style tennis where you take one hit and then pass the racket to your teammate behind you.  I played tennis in my Vans and still was able to come out victorious.  However, on the day we played a little 21 in basketball it was a different story.

Mike's favorite activity, which compensated for all of the tennis, was when we went surfing.   His surf book that we bought on our anniversary payed off royally.  He was surfing like a champ.  Mac and I were struggling a bit more but were at least able to get up.  Trying to catch a wave was exhausting.  Paddling out there took some energy, failed attempts to catch a wave took lots of energy, and then actual surfing or riding the wave in took little energy but was the most exciting part, not surprisingly.  I was getting a little frustrated because I was not excelling and kept failing time and time again.  I kept eating it in rocks and even have a scar on my left knee to prove it.  Mac and I can say we caught our own wave, but Mike did awesome and was finally able to fulfill all of his childhood dreams.

We also did the touristy things as well.  We drove around the island, tried some local taco stands, viewed the Spouting Horn, a blowhole, and went to the Grand Canyon of Kauai.  We drove the island and did the Grand Canyon on the last day so we didn't have to get dirty for the airplane.  It was pretty to see the Grand Canyon and fun to see the island.  We had a fabulous trip and grew to love Hawaii even more.  We spoke to a lifeguard on one of the beaches. She was heading up to Utah to go to Snow Basin and hit the slopes.  I guess everybody's Paradise is different, but Hawaii definitely isn't a bad choice!

A Month Worth Celebrating

December started out right with a Murder Mystery Dinner.  Mike and I had previously done one in our old ward in Logan.  It was fun (especially since I won the best dressed contest) however, we didn't necessarily have the right group. We didn't want to make that mistake again so this time we had the right group together, consisting of ourselves, the Skokos', the Hansen's, the Munn's, and one other couple.  It was the Aix La Chappelle clan.  Stephen Skokos, party extraordinaire, was taking charge.
 He borrowed the story/crime scene from a fellow co-worker and assigned us to our roles.  The crime took place in the 70's in a disco scene, I
played the part of a songstress and Mike was a disco star.  Don't worry his part was more manly than it sounds- and he was known to woo the ladies.  We were assigned our parts beforehand so we could come looking the part.  Luckily Mike's parents had actual clothes and accessories from the era.  I borrowed Debbie's graduation dress which she also used for her engagement pictures in the 70's!  Unfortunately,  I was a little thicker than Debbie was back then and couldn't zip up the back.  Thankfully, I had a sweet leather vest to cover my open back. Mike was able to locate a suave baby blue jacket and some retro plaid pants- not to mention a blonde Afro.  With a little eye liner, Mike had some pretty sweet facial hair and we were ready to go do the dinner party.

Everybody arrived at the Skokos residence looking fabulous and ready to play their part. Stephen played the role of host and struggled to keep an Asian accent, even though he tried so hard.  The other couple had made up parts that Stephen kindly wrote in so they could join the party- nevertheless, they didn't get to into it.  It could have been personalities or the fact that they knew they didn't really contribute much to the scene since they were, as mentioned, made up parts.  It is also debatable whether Stephen's part was made up as well since his martial arts character didn't make much sense but made it all the better..  However, everybody had a great time as we traveled back to the disco era of the 70's and put on our best acting.  The Murder Mystery dinner was a smashing success and a great kick off to the month of December.

The following weekend we did the Hill family Christmas progressive dinner.  We were assigned the role of the main dish- due to location- and the fact that I make an amazing pizza!  Although, the latter fact was a surprise to everyone in attendance.  We started off up north in Ogden area and worked our way to South Jordan.  The stops are quick as to keep stomach's satisfied and to make sure we get to see everybody's Christmas decorations.  As you can imagine, it was pretty tough for everybody to see our decorations in our one bedroom apartment.  But don't worry, we managed to wow everybody with our Christmas tree decorated in our wedding decor and our two stockings hanging from our entertainment center.  Weekend two, another success.

Due to our anniversary's proximity to the Christmas holiday, we celebrated early.  Mike and I decided we would take turns planning our anniversary celebrations.  Yup, you guessed it, Mike was up to plan the first year.  We were going to head back to Heber/Park City as was only fitting since we did part of our honeymoon in Park City as well.  However, he kept the details secretive per my request.  We met at the Wal-Mart just off of the Junction so Mike could get some goodies.  Since he was working up there, Sam was able to drop him off and I picked him up.  We went to eat at the Loco Lizard in memoir to our honeymoon as well.  After dinner, we drove up to Heber and stayed at the Still Water Lodge by Jordanelle.  We arrived after the traditional check in time, so we were left to check ourselves in.  We called a number that was listed and they had a safe with our room key in it.  We could have had the choice of several different rooms of others who had not quite checked in as well.  But don't worry we were honest and took our own room.  Things got a little steamy as we enjoyed the hot tub and some hot cocoa.  Later, I fell asleep as Mike watched as he recalls, "a fascinating documentary on the Foo Fighters."  

The next day we got up in the morning and went to see the ski jumpers at the Olympic park.  It was fun to see them spinning, flipping, and flying through the sky.  They are really talented.  We then decided to head back into Heber as Mike had a surprise there that night.  We considered going ice skating, however, thought it was expensive for how long we would last with just the two of us.  So we drove up to the Homestead because Mike had never seen it. We walked inside the crater and Mike thought it was awesome and vowed that we should go back to go swimming one day.  Then on Main Street we saw a bookstore that I wanted to go check out.  We searched through the store and found two books of interest- one was Go Ask Alice and the other was a surfing book.  Go Ask Alice was a true story about a girl who struggled with a drug addiction.  The book was a series of journal entries.  Later, Mike and I read it together- except it got so dark that I couldn't finish it and had to have Mike paraphrase it for me.  The other book was a much lighter read- it was a surfing book from the 80's.  It told you everything you needed to know about surfing.  Mike was excited to get it because he has always wanted to surf and we were going to go to Hawaii in less than a month.  You could say it was meant to be.  So we splurged the $3 and bought our books.

We had a few more hours until it was time for the big surprise so we decided to grab a bite to eat at The Angry Bull.  It is a hamburger place on the historic Main Street in Heber.  We grabbed our burgers and got ready for the big surprise....Thoroughly Modern Millie!  Yup, Mike knew I loved plays so we saw a play in the little town hall.  Millie was a small town girl looking to find her way in New York City.  She got caught up in as Wikipedia puts it a "flapper lifestyle".  Trouble arises though as she checks into a hotel owned by a Chinese lady, who was hilarious I might add, who is a leader of a white slavery ring in China.  It was fun to see and Mike was kind enough to bear it.  First anniversary=Awesome!

The only down side to the month was Steven's Henager.  Right in the midst of all the holiday cheer my supervisor decided to tell me I was on a personal improvement plan (PIP), aka probation.  I wasn't getting enough students started and so basically if I didn't up my students the next month, I was toast.  So basically I decided it was time to really start looking for another job. However, it would have to wait until the holidays were over.  So lets get back to the fun stuff.

The next weekend was Christmas!  I let Mike open one of his Christmas gifts early as we were heading up Little Cottonwood Canyon to do some back country sledding with Jon.  You nailed it, it was a sled.  Mike was pumped.  So we headed up the mountain, Mike and I in our snow shoes, while Jon was in some basketball kicks.  We trudged up the Mountain and learned more about Jon and his mission.  He witnessed some pretty disturbing things on his mission.  It's surprising how much missionaries can handle.  After hiking up the mountain for about an hour or so, we decided it was time to come down.  We quickly realized the snow situation was lower than we even thought and we would basically have to walk down the whole mountain again.  We were able to find a few fun spots to sled down- and luck would have it that Mike ran over a rock and busted his brand new sled. Sad day.  As always, it was another adventure.

A few days later, Christmas had arrived!  Mike and I were able to celebrate our first real Christmas together at our little apartment.  We made French Toast and had a gift opening celebration.  We got lots of fun things from ski poles, to ski goggles, hats, shoes, bike pump and gloves, clothes, a watch, work out videos (including but not limited to Mama and Baby Yoga) and we can't forget the assortment bag of tootsie rolls for Mike- his favorite candy.  We enjoyed being able to spend Christmas together just the two of us in our apartment.  Our Christmas wasn't over yet though, for in a week, my parents would be taking the family to Hawaii for our Christmas present.  Like I said, it was a month worth celebrating.