Hiking Anniversary Snapshot

Just one quick update.  Fall is hiking season, you know, which is why blogging is sparse.  Too much living to do much writing!  I did want to show you one of the places we’ve been recently.  We have a tradition in our family of hiking for wedding anniversaries.  My parents started it, taking us to Escalante area and hiking during April for their anniversary, and we have continued doing something similar for our  anniversary.  Last year for our anniversary, Shandy and I took the older kids to Druid Arch in Canyonlands.  Because the hike was long, we left the younger kids with my parents.

This year for our anniversary (18!), we all went together.  We drove through Moab in flash flood, then camped near the Canyonlands entrance.  The 17 mile hike was just as wonderful as we remembered it, and the little ones fairly dragged the rest of us the last part of the trail.

Here are a few “anniversary pictures” from Druid Arch.

I know many of you will think this is a strange, unromantic way to spend a wedding anniversary.  I don’t want to further disillusion you, but Shandy’s present to me was a framed collage of hiking pictures, and my present to him was a homemade cheesecake.  (I have a magnet on my fridge that says “Say it with carbohydrates,” and I do!)

How do you celebrate your wedding anniversary.  Do you have a romantic getaway, or do you plan something for the whole family?  Please leave me a comment.


Sunday Snapshot

Just one beautiful snapshot from our camping spot this weekend.  After downpours through Moab on Friday morning, we got to our camping spot just in time for this wonderful sight.

Hope you’re enjoying October.


Happy Sunday

The autumn is so beautiful right now, I can’t believe my eyes.   Just a quick glimpse of what we saw on our way to our last week’s trail head:


Don’t sit there and look at your computer:  go outside and enjoy this beautiful weather.  It won’t last, you know!

Happy Sunday, everyone.  Leave me a comment to let me know how you are enjoying autumn!

Fall Hiking 2012

As the weather cools, we have been taking advantage of every hiking opportunity.  These are some random pictures to let you catch a glimpse of some of the beautiful places we’ve been in the last few weeks.

These are near Forsyth and Neff Reservoirs, close to Fremont, Utah.


From this viewpoint we could see all of Cathedral Valley and much of the San Rafael Swell.




Another weekend, we were able to hike the Tibble Fork and Mill Canyon loop trail in American Fork Canyon.

That same weekend, we stopped to see Cascade Springs on the Alpine Loop:

I hope that seeing these pictures inspires your own fall hiking!  Leave me a comment, let me know where you’ve been!  Have a great day!






Looking Down the Trail

Fall is a season when I spend a lot of time looking down the trail ahead of us.  We hold school planning meetings, I make pages and pages of schedules for the coming school year, and often shed tears thinking about how much work I won’t have time to do.

By late winter and early spring, the schedules have all been discarded, the plans have totally changed, and we’re back to our normal half-relaxed routine of deciding what’s really important for the week on Sunday night, and changing it three times before Monday noon.

Even knowing that’s how things work, fall is still a very stressful time for me.  I often wonder who arranged the traditional school year to coincide with harvest time?  Someone who didn’t bottle fruit!  Of course, as homeschoolers we have the freedom to ignore the traditional school year.  However, we have done that in the past and discovered that it doesn’t make us happy to be doing school in the middle of the summer.  So, we spend fall planning, starting big projects and working harder than is probably absolutely necessary.

Thank goodness for hiking trails like the one pictured above.  May all of our trails look as bright as this one.

Do you make big plans at the beginning of the school year, even though you know you won’t accomplish all of them?  Or do you try to keep things realistic?  How are things going for you right now?  Please leave me a comment!


Kids in the Kitchen — Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Eden is getting to be proficient in the kitchen.  She can read a recipe, follow the directions and come out with something edible almost every time.  She has been making this recipe for a while.  We enjoy them for breakfast, but today she is making them for a mid-morning snack break tomorrow, while we have friends visiting.

These muffins have two wonderful fall flavors:  cranberry and pumpkin.  The pumpkin adds sweetness, and the cranberries give a tart “pop” to the muffins.  They are much better chopped rather than whole.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Slightly adapted from The Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Hermann Loomis

Makes 12 large muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour (we use half whole-wheat pastry flour)

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¾ cup sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 ¼ cups canned pumpkin puree (we use fresh baked pumpkin)

½ cup milk

2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a muffin tin with pan spray and muffin cups.  Sift together the dry ingredients, including sugar.

Whisk together oil, eggs, pumpkin and milk.   Add wet to dry and mix quickly and well.  Fold in the cranberries.  Fill the muffin tins two-thirds full with batter.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding and serving.

These can also be made with frozen cranberries and (thawed) frozen pumpkin puree.  We have had good success substituting blueberries as well.  They give a great taste of the combinations of fall flavors that we love.

As a side note — the next step for kids in the kitchen after learning to read a recipe and put it together well is to plan a meal and be able to schedule the timing for each step.  That is the step we are working on with the older kids now.  Do you  have a secret trick for how to plan meals to be ready at the right time?   Please leave a comment.

Get Outdoors — How to Cope with “Winter Blues”

Is the approaching winter weather getting you down?  I find that as the days begin to shorten, and especially after the fall time change, my mood worsens.  Here in Utah, we can expect 3 or 4 months of hard winter weather, and some really rotten days in November and May.  It can be depressing to look forward to that much indoor time.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues) seems to be very common among us.  How can you cope with the winter?

Here are some things I do to help myself especially and my kids as well maintain a good attitude about winter:


  •  Get outdoors.  The number one recommended treatment for SAD is light therapy.  You can “do it yourself” by exposing yourself to outdoor light.  Yes, it is cold outside.  Put on your coat.  I find that if I bundle up more than is really necessary for the temperature, I am happier about being outside.  This time of year my body is extra sensitive to the cold, so I bundle up even more than I will need to by the time I have acclimated in January.  I bought a very warm down coat, I wear a scarf, hat and gloves even if it is only 30 degrees outside.   Often, I warm up enough while I am outside to shed one layer.  If I don’t warm up that much, that’s fine, too.  I just don’t want to feel the cold that much.
  • Only expect yourself to spend a few minutes outside, but have a definite plan for what you will do while you are out there.  For me, it is easier to drive to a walking path and expect myself to walk a certain amount – say, once around the pond.  If I’ve gone to that much effort, I usually go ahead with it.  Often, I find I am enjoying myself enough while I am outside to continue the activity.
  • Notice the beauty that comes with the changing season.  This time of year it is easy to look ahead to the long cold days and feel overwhelmed.  Instead, take time to smell the wet fallen leaves, notice the coating of new snow on the trees and the mountains, and enjoy the frost patterns on the puddles.  Take your camera with you on your walk, and try to find one beautiful thing for a photo op.  Take that picture back with you and remember it whenever you are feeling depressed by dreary weather.
  • The color of your winter clothing makes a difference in your happiness level.  I know that sounds silly, but just try it.  Instead of your usual winter grey, black and red, put on a bright yellow hat or turquoise gloves.  That extra spot of color really puts a spring in your step.  Don’t believe me?  Take a picture of yourself or a kid on a grey winter day in that bright color.  You smile, don’t you?  Our eyes see that bright color as a symbol of the light we are missing during our winter days.
  • Enjoy the sun indoors when possible.  Sit in a sunny window.  Find a place in the house where the sun comes through a window, and even if it’s in an inconvenient location, put your chair there.  Sit and read to the kids in the sunshine, enjoy the warmth and the light.
  • Remind yourself of the time to do indoor things that you won’t have when summer comes again.  Find things to do that you can do only in winter time.   For me, one of the things that I do in the wintertime is quilt.  I don’t do nearly as much quilting in the summertime when I can hike and picnic all my playtime away.  During the winter, I get real joy from finishing some projects and thinking of new ones.  I also enjoy helping my kids work on their sewing and art projects.  Reminding myself of my limited time for these projects helps me keep a better perspective on winter.
  • Eat winter foods, but don’t completely neglect summer foods.  Yes, I try to eat locally whenever possible, and winter is an ideal time for soups, stews and baked goods.  But just because it is winter doesn’t mean you should never have a salad or a sandwich.  Those lighter meals help to combat one of the symptoms of SAD – increased appetite—and perhaps with the increased drowsiness as well.
  • Exercise.  Exercise, especially outdoor exercise, is a proven therapy for winter blues.  I find that as long as the wind is not howling, I can usually bundle up enough to enjoy myself outside for my run.  One thing that has helped is to keep track of temperature and what I wore in my running log.  Then next time that temperature rolls around, I think, “Well, I was warm enough in just my running tights and long sleeves,” or, “I got hot in my sweatshirt.”  That helps me get back out with confidence.  When the ice makes it too dangerous to run outside, getting in a good workout at the gym will get my day started in the right direction.
  • Get out of town.  There’s nothing wrong with planning a break from winter.  Any time you can head south, you will gain day light and usually warmth.  We love to head to San Diego during the first of February for a couple days of softer weather and running on beaches.  If there is a way to escape even for
    a few days, you may come back refreshed and ready to face the rest of winter.
  • Pray for summer.


I’m praying, too.  Hope you enjoy your day.

Two Great Ways to Use a Cold and Sunny Autumn Day

Great way number one:

Go for  a walk/scooter ride.  One of our generous neighbors made a walking path around his cow pasture and wet lands area.  We walk there throughout the year and spot geese, ducks, cranes and blue herons.  Today we saw a kingfisher.

This is the kingfisher’s pond, even though he flew away from us.  Even at 36 degrees, it gets hot while we run, and that “gets some energy out”.


Second great way:  Come home and make Grandma’s Raisin Bars (substituting cinnamon chips for raisins since the chief cook, age 6, doesn’t like raisins.)

This is how we stir them up:


This is the way we lick the bowl afterward:

Sorry — no eating pictures:  We ate them too quickly!


Recipe:  Raisin Bars (or Cinnamon Chip Bars)


2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup melted butter

1 1/3 cups brown sugar

2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all purpose)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups raisins or cinnamon chips

Stir together butter and brown sugar, add eggs and vanilla and stir until combined.  Add flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir vigorously until smooth.  Add raisins or cinnamon chips and stir to mix.  Bake in greased 9×13 pan for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow to cool before cutting and eating.

Perfect fall breakfast– Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

I thought that I invented this breakfast when I needed to use up last year’s frozen pumpkin during the summer. Then I started watching my favorite blogs post about pumpkin in the last few weeks. Even so, I have to add my two cents.

The major differences between my recipe and many others I have seen are: Use honey instead of sugar, and because I am able to buy farm fresh eggs I add eggs for extra protein– we’re runners, remember.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Makes about 7 cups

2 cups milk
2 cups pumpkin
1/3 cup honey or to taste
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger and cloves
A handful of ice cubes (I don’t like too many. Add more if you like a brain freeze for breakfast.)
A banana
2 farm fresh eggs

Blend like crazy.

I serve this with cinnamon toast or muffins. The color alone makes it wonderful for breakfast.