Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Great Truck Search

In June and July 2012, we hope to take a very long family vacation to New York.  It's in the planning stages right now, but if it works out, it's going to be great! 

We'd like to drive cross-country to Norfolk, Virginia, and spend a few days with Ed's brother Ken and his wife Eloisa.  From there we'd like to head north to New York City, stopping along the way to see the sights in Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After spending two or three days sightseeing in New York City, we'd drive on to Upstate New York to spend time with Ed's family and friends from his youth.  It will be especially exciting for Ed's mom Caryl to reunite with her mom, Margaret, and her siblings.  I look forward to seeing all the places where Ed spent his childhood, including Niagara Falls.

Finally, along the homeward route we'd like to stop and see the historic sites of our LDS Church, such as Palmyra, New York; Kirtland, Ohio; Nauvoo, Illinois; Council Bluffs, Iowa; and Far West, Missouri.  After a short visit at my brother's home near Springfield, Missouri, we would turn toward home at last.

That's if it all comes together as planned.  At this point, it's still more than 6 months away.

Our 1996 Ram 3500 and the fifth-wheel trailer on the right.

My husband has been giving a lot of thought to our transportation. We plan to haul our fifth-wheel trailer along with us so we won't have to worry about hotel rooms, but the cost of gas for our 1996 Dodge Ram 3500 one-ton diesel 4x4 truck is horrendous, especially when hauling the fifth-wheel. I shudder to think how much the cost of gas for such a long trip would have been!
So Ed has spent the last few months researching our options, and he decided we needed a newer, more efficient truck for the trip. The fuel will still be costly, of course, but definitely better. Several weeks ago he began the search for his dream truck: a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 three-quarter ton diesel 4x4.

Our room at Holiday Inn on November 12th.

His search eventually led us to the Phoenix area.  Two weeks ago we drove down to the Valley to check out a truck that looked like a good deal.  We decided to make a weekend of it and booked a hotel room for Saturday night through

I always get good deals by using priceline, but sometimes it's a surprise to learn exactly how great those deals can be.  While we were checking in, a woman came in and told the other desk clerk she didn't have a reservation but needed a room.  She explained that she had a AAA card and asked what the rate for the room would be if she used the AAA discount.  He looked it up on the computer and told the woman her discounted rate would be $104 per night, not including taxes and fees.

Ed and I looked at each other and smiled.  We'd paid just $45 for our room!

The truck that had brought us to the Valley was located in Fountain Hills, belonging to a husband and wife who owned a bicycle shop in this upscale community.  It was a beautiful shade of blue, in almost-perfect condition, and it had all the bells and whistles.

After some soul-searching and debate of pros and cons, we made an offer.  At the last minute, the husband admitted he wasn't sure he wanted to sell it after all.  (Huh?!)  It seems the wife decided she wanted to buy a camper that their smaller truck didn't have the power to pull.  They promised to call us when they made their final decision.

Blue Ridge wears the purple and gold.

Luckily, the weekend wasn't a total loss.  We went to the high school football championship quarter-final play-off game in Phoenix and watched our team, Blue Ridge High, humiliate the opposing team 41 to 14. 

(In fact, the final championship game is at 3:30 this afternoon at the Skydome in Flagstaff.  As usual, year after year, it has come down to Blue Ridge versus our arch-nemesis, Show Low High, which happens to be the alma mater of several of my nephews and nieces.  Ed has gone to Flagstaff--about 2 hours away by car--with friends whose son is on the Blue Ridge team.  I look forward to getting Ed's updates via text!)  [9pm Update: Blue Ridge prevailed, winning 35 to 14!  We are the new state champs!]

On Sunday we stopped by my sister Karla's house in Mesa and visited for about 4 hours before we headed back toward home.  Ed had heard of another truck he wanted to look at, so about halfway home we stopped in the tiny mountain town of Strawberry, near Payson.  This truck was white with a nice matching camper shell.  Although its options package was more basic, it was in perfect shape and had 15,000 fewer miles on it.  On the drive home, Ed decided he definitely wanted it.

The next day, Ed called the guy and told him he'd decided to buy the truck.  Imagine Ed's disappointment when the man said he'd just sold it to someone else.  Ed was getting frustrated and wondered if "someone" was trying to tell him not to get a new truck, but we decided not to worry about it.  If he was meant to have a new truck, everything would work out.  The right truck would come along at the right time.

Ed and his new baby outside the bank just minutes after making the deal.

It happened sooner and closer than we expected.  Just a few days later, Ed learned about another truck being sold by a cop in nearby Snowflake.  Ed made the 30-minute drive to check it out and came home enthusiastic about it.  Again, the truck was perfectly maintained, and this one had even more bells and whistles than the first truck had.

There was, however, a catch: the cop had a 21-year-old brother, and their dad was thinking about buying the truck for him.  It was very frustrating, but we decided to wait patiently and let things work out the way they were supposed to.  Two days later we got the call: the dad had decided not to buy the truck, so it was ours if we wanted it.  Ed wanted it! 

The old and the new trucks in our driveway today.

Yesterday we headed to Snowflake to attend the temple with Kyle, a friend of my son Jacob, who recently received his call to serve a mission in Argentina.  We arrived in Snowflake 30 minutes early and met the cop at his bank.  Soon the papers were signed, the check was deposited, and the truck was ours to take home. 

Ed was right.  It's a really nice truck that handles beautifully.  Just perfect for a long trip to New York! 

The fifth-wheel trailer, the 1996 Ram 3500, and the 2006 Ram 2500.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


16 Nov 2011: Dylan (age 14) in front of the George Gardner
Performing Arts Center after the big concert in Holbrook, AZ.

My son Dylan made the regional orchestra this year!  After weeks of daily practice at school, Dylan and other classmates headed to Holbrook, our county seat about an hour's drive away, for a full day of rehearsals.  That evening Ed, our son-in-law Chris, and I drove up to Holbrook to watch the final production.  (My daughter Sarah stayed at home to fight off a cold.)

Dylan is on the far right side of the stage, the 3rd bass player from the right.

The regional music festival features the best singers and musicians from many school districts throughout the northeastern section of Arizona.  We were treated to selections by a choir of 160 junior high students, pieces performed by about 60 orchestra students, and numbers played by about 60 band members.  These kids were amazing! 

Dylan is 3rd bass player from right.

I didn't find out until the next day that my niece Emma also performed at regionals, singing in the choir!  It was such a huge crowd (both the choir and the audience) that we never saw her.  She was also unaware that we and Dylan were there that night.  Dylan was quite bummed out that he and his cousin spent a whole day on the same campus and never saw each other.

Fitting Dylan's bass into the back of our small car was quite a trick!

It was quite a night!  I'm so proud of Dylan and the way he works hard to develop his musical talents!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Into the Frying Pan

Just a quick entry for anyone who was curious about our strange Mutt and Jeff eggs, which Ed fried up this morning. 

The tiny little olive-green egg (which, oddly enough, was exactly the size of a green olive) is visible at the very top left of the pan.  It didn't really have a yolk, just some yellow swirls.  Ed ate that one and said it was good.

The huge brown egg did indeed have a double-yolk, which you can see in the center of the pan.  I ate that egg as well as the normal-sized egg below it.  Yesterday we actually got a second big, long brown egg almost exactly the same size and shape as this one, so we must have one hen who likes to produce extra extra large eggs!

In fact, today Ed collected a total of ten eggs!  We have ten hens, so that means they are all laying now!  Before today, we never got more than five in a single day.

I don't think Ed had the frying pan hot enough before he cracked in the eggs, causing them to spread out so milky-looking like that.  I'm afraid it didn't appear too appetizing to me.  I told him I'm going to do the frying tomorrow morning.  I haven't had a chance to cook any of the fresh eggs yet.   I want to see if they cook up any differently when I fry them the old-fashioned Butler way, in plenty of hot, bubbling butter!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Long and the Short of It

I know, I know.  You're probably thinking, "How many more eggs can I stand to look at!?"  I don't blame you, but I just had to share the latest anomalies in our crop of eggs.

The two center eggs, turquoise and tan, are the typical size of most of the eggs we collect.  As our hens mature, their eggs have become consistently larger, about the size of eggs sold in the store as "large."

We went about 3 days without any new brown eggs, until yesterday.  That's when Ed found that huge brown egg on the right.  I have honestly never seen such a big, long egg before!  The amazing length is even more obvious in the photos below. 

Then Ed found the tiny little olive-green egg today.  He almost missed seeing it in the straw.  It's about the size of a robin's egg, maybe only slightly bigger.  I had no idea it was even possible for a chicken to lay such a tiny egg!

Ed says he's going to cook the huge brown egg and the tiny green egg tomorrow morning.  He's curious to see if the big egg has a double-yolk.  (One of our regular-sized eggs last week did have a double yolk.)  He's even more curious to see if the teeny-tiny egg has a teeny-tiny little yolk inside.

I think putting the eggs into a typical egg carton really highlights the differences in their sizes.  The lid won't even close all the way when the giant brown egg is in the carton!

And that's the long and the short of it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gone, Gone, Gonzo

31 Oct 2011: Gonzo 3 days before he was butchered on Thursday.

These are the final pictures of our rooster, Gonzo, taken 3 days before Ed killed and plucked him.  I think he was beautiful, despite his misshapen beak, with those tall green-black tail feathers and long neck feathers so fine they were almost like hair.

Gonzo with an acorn he'd scooped up with the bottom half of his beak.

I wanted to keep some of his feathers, but Ed said they weren't any good after he plunged Gonzo's body into boiling hot water to loosen the feathers up for plucking.  That made me sad.

Good-bye to Gonzo, our Silver Laced Wyandotte rooster.

After growing up on a farm and watching his grandfather butcher hundreds of chickens, Ed had thought it would be no big deal to butcher our own chickens when the time came.  That was not the case at all.  As an avid hunter, Ed has also killed many game birds in his lifetime, but somehow this was harder.  He was a bit traumatized by the experience and told me he never wants to have to kill any more of our chickens.  But he knows the time will come when he must.  

Ed estimates that Gonzo weighed about 4 lbs.

Thankfully, Ed took care of this while I was at work, as I'd asked him to do.  I told him I'd be okay if I came home and Gonzo was simply gone.  And it was fine, although it was a little shocking to look in the refrigerator and see Gonzo's carcass looking just like any whole chicken you can pick up at the grocery store.  Everything that made him the rooster we knew was gone.

5 Nov 2011: Roasted chicken stuffed with rice dressing.

So Ed prepared and roasted a chicken for us last night, and he was delicious.  Isn't it funny how we never refer to a chicken dinner as him or her?  I think I always kind of assumed that all chickens sold in the stores were hens, but I guess they can be either. 

Meanwhile, our egg count keeps rising.  We eat at least 3 eggs per day, sometimes as many as six, yet we now have more than two dozen eggs in the fridge.  Typically, we find about 4 eggs per day.  Ed thinks we may be able to sell our fresh eggs someday soon.  I didn't believe it was true, but the fresh eggs really do taste better than those sold in stores. Even the texture is different, less rubbery and more tender.

As you can see, the Easter Eggers are leading in egg production!  The brown eggs are a bit slower coming, but then we do have 6 Easter Egger hens and only 4 of the brown egg-layers (thanks to two of them turning out to be roosters!).  This has been quite the learning experience for our family!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Memorial

This morning we attended a very touching memorial for someone our family hadn't known for too long.  My son-in-law Chris's step-dad passed away almost two weeks ago.  After a long fight with cancer, Bruce Anderson left this world on October 24th.

Chris and his four sisters share the telling of their dad's life story.

Chris has a good relationship with his natural father, but Bruce is the man who was in Chris's home and in his life everyday from the time Chris was only two years old.  Bruce had two teenage daughters when he met and married Chris's mom Brenda.  Brenda had two small children of her own, Chris and his sister Sara.  Together, Bruce and Brenda had another child, Chris's younger sister Lori.

My daughter Sarah and a relative of Chris's perform a duet
while Chris's Uncle John holds the music flat against the breeze.

Bruce was a great outdoorsman and loved nature, so it seemed only right to have his memorial outdoors.  It was held in the backyard of their home, which holds so many things Bruce created and built.  He was quite a craftsman.

Some of Bruce's grandchildren and grand-nieces and -nephews sing "I Am a Child of God."

We were hoping for continued unseasonally warm weather for today, but after yesterday's snow it was quite chilly.  In fact, there was still snow on the trees.  But there were several fire pits burning in the yard to ward off some of the chill, and the cold did not detract from the beautiful spirit.

Chris shares some memories of his step-dad.

Dylan and Sarah at the back of the crowd, listening to Chris's comments.

Bruce had many loving family and friends who will miss him.

In happier times: Bruce with Chris and Brenda at Chris's birthday party.

Sarah and Chris met one year ago this month.  We met Brenda a couple of times soon after their engagement in February, but we didn't meet Bruce until the end of March, when we attended Chris's birthday party in their home.  We've had several opportunities to visit with Bruce since that day.  What a good man he was and, I know, continues to be.  God be with you, Bruce, until we all meet again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Week in Review

2 Nov 2011: The ghostly image of a doe.

It's been a full week, and here are some highlights:

31 Oct 2011

Monday night was Halloween, of course.  With only one child left at home, I wasn't sure whether it would be much of a haunt, but it turned out okay.  Dylan never has been one to wear a costume.  Even when he was a small child, his older siblings wanted to dress up to the hilt, but I was lucky if I could get Dylan to wear a tee-shirt with "Trick-or-Treat" written on it.  This year was no different.  He decided to spray his hair green and draw himself a mustache with my eyeliner pencil.  Good enough.

31 Oct 2011: Chris texted me this picture of Diego
as Karate Dog on Halloween!

Dylan and a bunch of his friends (most of the members of his Teachers Quorum at church, in fact) went to the annual haunted house put on at the nearby fire station as a fundraiser.  It's the most popular haunted house on the mountain!  Dylan reports that it was actually scary and they had a blast.  After that, the guys went to one of the boys' homes and hung out until almost 9:00.  It was a school night, after all.

1 Nov 2011: Jeff arrives at the surprise party for his 50th birthday.

Tuesday was my little brother Jeff's 50th birthday.  His wife Dana set up a surprise party for him at a Mexican restaurant where, upon his delayed arrival, he was greeted by a room packed with family and friends.  It was a lot of fun getting together like that.  And the Mexican food was good, too! 

Dana, Jeff, and 4-year-old Callie, the youngest of their 13 children.

As Jeff pointed out, we only have one more sibling to hit the 50-year mark.  Our baby brother, Darryl, is still only 48.

Jeff's birthday cake.

The candles are lit!  Dana, Jeff, and the cake.

On Wednesday night, Dylan and I went to Mutual (youth group).  When we were leaving the church afterward, Dylan spotted a couple of deer on the church grounds.  We see a lot of wildlife in our rural area, but it's unusual for deer to come that far into the town.  As our car neared them, they crossed the street and we followed them, camera at the ready.  It was too dark to get any good photos, but the ghostly one at the top of this post came out pretty cool!

5 Nov 2011: Snow-covered pine in front of our house.

And finally, last night we had our first real snowstorm, the kind that lasts all night and sticks around for awhile.  We only got a little over an inch at our house, but I heard they got six inches in Flagstaff.

5 Nov 2011: Snow-limned oak branches in our front yard.

There was one more big event that took place on Thursday night, but I'll save that for the next blog post...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Wedding Luncheon

30 July 2011: Callie, Chris the groom, Dylan, Sarah the bride, Makayla, and Celesta.

The wedding luncheon was an informal affair.  Just some homemade eats to share with the wedding party, out-of-town guests, our close friends, and our beloved family members.

As you can see, we fed a good-sized crowd!

The meal was nothing fancy, but I spent 2 days preparing it!  We had the makings for tuna salad and ham-and-cheese sandwiches, along with homemade pasta salad and potato salad.  We also served potato chips, tortilla chips with salsa, and cheese-and-crackers.

30 July 2011: My 4-year-od niece Callie and my new son-in-law Chris!

We expected the luncheon to last only an hour or so, but we all had so much fun visiting and relaxing together that, before we knew it, it was almost time for the ring ceremony and reception to begin!  We had to tear ourselves away to finish up the last minute tasks before the rest of the guests began to arrive.

My sister Karla and my husband Ed share a special moment.

My step-mom Kathy, my dad Myron, my sister-in-law Dana,
and my cousin Sandra and her husband Albert.

Chris's Uncle John and Aunt Linda in the front.  Beyond Linda are
Chris's mom Brenda (Linda's sister) and step-dad Bruce.

My niece Genevieve with her son Max and my niece Brianna.

My niece Elyssa and her little sister Addison.

My niece-in-law Cami, my niece Mariah (the photographer),
and my nephew Julien.

My nephew Justin and three of his sisters: Elsie, Emma, and Brinley.

Next up will be the ring ceremony, but I didn't take any pictures at that event.  So that post will have to wait until we get the remainder of the wedding pictures from our photographer.  Stay tuned!